I’d like to continue with more observations and commentary on the conservative principles described in the essay “The Essence of Conservatism” by conservative icon Russell Kirk. As I noted in the last post, current events make clear that Kirk’s understandings are still as valid today as they were decades ago when first shared.
Conservatives argue that we are unlikely, we moderns, to make any brave new discoveries in morals or politics or taste. It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.
RELIANCE ON THE PAST
So how did these customs and discoveries which shaped mankind’s morals and political inclinations come about other than by first having been an individual’s thoughts, which were then discussed, evaluated, re-defined, and finally shared with an ever-broader audience? Who is the arbiter as to why any centuries-old precepts are still a better guide than today’s, which have been developed with additional centuries’ worth of insights and experiences and knowledge?
Why must we abide by prejudices and condemnations and limited perspectives which served simpler people in simpler times with simpler issues and simpler attitudes? Might that suggest instead an avoidance of more complex and deep thought/analysis in order to arrive at a quick decision/closure for the infinitely more complex issues and cultural/political challenges of the modern day?
What rationale is offered to suggest that this shortsighted, short-cut approach is at all of benefit to any other than the few? We’ll be waiting a long time for the proponents of these tactics to point that out to anyone. So the responsibility then lies with a citizenry already burdened with more than enough legitimate reasons for relying on those others.
UPDATING THE OPTIONS
The choice is still there, justifiable reliance notwithstanding, for more of us to take at least a little bit of time to assess whether new approaches and new efforts and new policies might serve more of us in more ways than by blanket dismissal of any such alternatives in favor of more of the same. What has insistence on tradition no matter what, and knee-jerk objection to “new discoveries” however categorized, gotten us so far?
The liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.
That’s a convenient analysis, and a blanket assertion with little basis in fact, not to mention being a wildly dramatic overstatement of liberal beliefs and objectives. Who—other than small fringe groups here and there—are intent on the pursuit of what most of us would even agree is a “dubious Terrestrial Paradise” as advocated some undefined “cult of Progress.” Talk about the broad brush application in order to keep things simple!
Shouldn’t we logically and rationally assume that if one is claiming to be in favor of “reasoned and temperate progress” that such an approach would include honest debate and a generous and willing examination of different needs, interests, and perspectives as part of the process of advancing Progress? Instead, we get heaping platefuls of fear-mongering and obstruction as both tactic and objective.
MAKING IT BETTER, OR WORSE?
Painting with a broad brush and/or cherry-picking facts and observations each and both serve the same purpose: they minimize analysis and understanding in favor of black-and-white, quick decisions. Period. Meaningful in centuries past, no doubt, but why should any of us be short-changing ourselves by ignoring the wisdom, experience, and knowledge we’ve individually and collectively assembled since the days of old?
Do we continue to make things worse for ourselves by relying on outdated approaches? Does it make sense to make current day challenges even more burdensome because we’d prefer avoiding the cognitive dissonance sure to appear when we take any steps which disrupt our established values and beliefs?
It should matter to each of us that we not only rely too often on ideological principles no longer serving our best interests, but that we also have the capabilities and opportunities to expand our understandings. They afford us a better future than the one we seem determined to pursue no matter what the cost.
~ My Photo: October storm clouds, Rockport MA – 10.03.15 ©
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein
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As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.
If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.
The late Senator Paul Wellstone’s observation continues to hold far more truth and power than we give it credit:
We all do better when we all do better
Why make setting up inevitable and enduring conflict the primary objective of policy and planning?
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Life Will Answer – Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name].