The Hollow Victory of Conservatives

Ponder the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

There is this idea out there that “Everyone is (more or less absolutely) a modernist”. Maybe instead you’ll hear it moaned that “Liberals won the culture war”. Closely tied to these is the idea that individualism, freedom, and a hatred of authority are the forces pushing evil social changes. But is it true?

Of two black “liberal” comedians I once wrote:

Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle traded their jokes on a conservative understanding of the world because they are (unknowingly) conservatives. So fundamental is their conservatism that as penance for causing whites to laugh at blacks they both took back-to-basics trips to Africa; that they might be cleansed.

Ethnic pride. Patriotism. Pilgrimages. Repentance. Those are traditional ideas. In the previous post I wrote:

What [sexbots and VRporn] will do is make homosexuality seem authentic. “At least,” they’ll say, “a man having sex with another man is natural.”

At the same time, robosexuality will make sexual perversion un-real. “It’s not really gay,” they’ll say, “to pretend to have sex with a pretend man.”

I imagine that many of those who agreed with me shook their head at such an impending liberal argument for more homosexual activity. But what I wrote was a conservative appeal. They have the shells of legitimate arguments, and so they will pass the muster for most conservatives.

Conservatism/traditionalism is essentially an aesthetic–an outward appearance–to control the pace of change; to establish our notions of legitimacy and authenticity. I may want it to be about conserving “bedrock principles” and “the wisdom of the ages” and so forth, but in practice it can only be about conserving establishment. Whatever is not established in my life or in the wider culture cannot be conserved. And a preference for establishment is not the same as a love of truth. If truth is roaming around unestablished (I mean not part of the culture) then acquiring it is not a conservative act.

Let me cite some other current examples of misleadingly conservative trends:

  • Egalitarian couples wandering around flea markets, plotting to “distress” rocking chairs with chalk-paint[1], and mooning over organic vegetables[2].
  • Hipster men of all colors dress in slacks, loafers, boat shoes, Chuck Taylor’s, button-up shirtsleeves, belts, suits, briefcases, cardigans… It’s Mr. Roger’s Catwalk out there.
  • Big-name pop-rock bands have that clean-cut, high-and-tight-with-the-combover hairstyle; as if  Harvard’s championship rowing team from 1918 just took the stage. With mandolins.
  • The acceptance of gay marriage among Most People is, I believe, not about homosexuality or marriage, but about establishing tradition so they can stop talking about homosexuality. There are villains and vandals who savor the destruction of marriage and family, but Most People believe that the topic of sexual deviancy will disappear under a license.
  • Individual liberty is on the wane nearly everywhere but inside churches. There is a direct correlation between the (naturally conservative) desire for more regulation, and the importance of the institution.

The beatniks, hippies, cross-dressers, crips, bloods, and all the rest lost the aesthetic argument. So if we are unhappy with the state of life and culture then part of the solution will be to address our complacency in regards to the inside of the cup.

[1] It must work because chalk-paint distresses me.

[2] That aren’t.

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23 thoughts on “The Hollow Victory of Conservatives

  1. to control the pace of change

    Pace is velocity. Velocity has a scalar and a vector (direction) component. What are the axes of change which tell us direction? The axes of social change and time set by progressives?

    Progressivism assumes a direction for and ultimate aim of social change. You have assumed the frame of progressives. The frame of Hegel. If you want to avoid the assumptions of progressivism, you have to assume a pre-Hegelian frame, such as a biblical frame.

    Avoid terms like conservative and reactionary and neo-reactionary if you want to escape the frame of progressivism.

    “Conservatives are just last decade’s progressives.” Of course, this statement assumes a progressive frame and is true within the frame.

  2. @CoRP

    It’s certainly never merely aesthetic.

    @theasdgamer

    Progressivism assumes a direction for and ultimate aim of social change. You have assumed the frame of progressives. The frame of Hegel. If you want to avoid the assumptions of progressivism, you have to assume a pre-Hegelian frame, such as a biblical frame.

    In my good ear?

  3. @CC

    Truth by nature produces an aesthetic as a result of substance creating such an aesthetic although aesthetics may also be merely superficial. In the same way lips that are naturally of a beautiful red in a young healthy and fertile woman is replicated superficially by lipstick.

  4. @asdgamer

    Conservatives and progressives are of the same Hegelian stripe. Why even discuss conservatism?

    Why even discuss Hegelian stripes?

    @iw1

    Truth by nature produces an aesthetic as a result of substance creating such an aesthetic although aesthetics may also be merely superficial. In the same way lips that are naturally of a beautiful red in a young healthy and fertile woman is replicated superficially by lipstick.

    Does red make lipstick good?

  5. @asdg

    You can discuss Hegel if you stand outside of his assumptions. You can’t do that and be a conservative.

    We’re not discussing what can be done, but why it has been chosen to do.

  6. @asdg

    I am trying to communicate to you that you have misunderstood my post because you have wrongly presumed my context. This post comes from the context that the conservative/liberal context is not only flawed, but hardly examined.

    Specifically, you have wrongly presumed that I agree with infowarrior1’s idea that “conservatism is just liberalism that is 30 years behind”; which you stated as “Conservatives are just last decade’s progressives.” That idea is not found within my post. That idea came from you, and it is an error to impute it to me simply because you found it within yourself at the time when you read my post.

  7. No, you said that conservatives aim to control the pace of change. Conservatives only differ from progressives about the pace. Your own points. Hence, conservatives have accepted progressive arguments from last year (or ten years ago or however long ago). You don’t differ materially from what either infowarrior or I said in your definition of conservatism.

    Are you attempting to appeal to conservatives that conservatism is unsatisfactory as a political theory?

  8. @asdg

    Conservatives only differ from progressives about the pace.

    This is what you processed. It’s not what I wrote, and it’s not what I meant.

    Are you attempting to appeal to conservatives that conservatism is unsatisfactory as a political theory?

    Here I have written about how–according to their own political theories–the so-called “liberals” are actually practicing so-called “conservative” traits; not a decade into the future; not three decades into the future, but today. Yet self-professed liberals and conservatives don’t see it.

    I gather that you want me to geek out an ill-advised and overarching theory, but I’m not going to do that right now.

  9. The acceptance of gay marriage among Most People is, I believe, not about homosexuality or marriage, but about establishing tradition so they can stop talking about homosexuality. There are villains and vandals who savor the destruction of marriage and family, but Most People believe that the topic of sexual deviancy will disappear under a license.

    Excellent insight. I would not have seen this had you not pointed it out. Your points on what is conservative are somewhat nuanced, but even still I’m not sure why so many are struggling to grasp your point (but perhaps it is me who is struggling).

    At its simplest, conservatism isn’t what we think it is, and many things are conservative in nature which we would identify as progressive. You did an excellent job of pointing this out in Sacred Cowgirls as well.

    https://canecaldo.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/sacred-cowgirls/

  10. After commenting it strikes me that perhaps the issue is that you are being misread for attacking conservatives for being disingenuous. As I read your posts on the topic, you aren’t challenging the sincerity of conservatives, but instead pointing out the confusion we have around the term, and more importantly, the impulse.

  11. @Cane Caldo

    ”Does red make lipstick good?”

    No. Its that the natural redness and fullness of lips that is a component of beauty of young women is actually the result of good health and youth that is only superficially replicated by lipstick.

    Makeup replicates the superficial cues of fertility and youth but does not replicate the substance.

  12. @Dalrock

    After commenting it strikes me that perhaps the issue is that you are being misread for attacking conservatives for being disingenuous. As I read your posts on the topic, you aren’t challenging the sincerity of conservatives, but instead pointing out the confusion we have around the term, and more importantly, the impulse.

    Bingo.

  13. Indeed, confusion around the term conservative. Its been both up-defined and down-defined largely by people other than those who would have once self identified as conservative. Conservatives allowed it to happen, and happen to the extent that they became to the ideology not unlike a white knight is to manhood. Cheering for its downfall thinking to earn the good graces of those tearing it down. (I am not swiping at Cane in that remark whatsoever)

    The things a conservative traditional person would want to preserve or conserve need to be put into categories. They range from mere social decorum to deeply held matters of their faith, and many… pull-over-scenic-views …in between.

    Above Cane is talking about people who wish to maintain a facade of conservatism….that the veneer of adapting the language to same sex marriage will assuage feelings of the violation of deep principle. These are folks who wouldnt say plainly that they are conservative, but they must coexist as corporate workers or members of the chamber of commerce and such so…best err to the side of not being , you know, liberal or progressive and such.

    All of the banter around this subject avoids talking to or about those folks who hold to the etymology of the term. there are few who claim it because it is scorned even by like minded people as the simpletons ideology. Lacking nuance. But isn’t that exactly what makes it good?

    This topic induces a general feeling of malaise.

  14. @empath

    Its been both up-defined and down-defined largely by people other than those who would have once self identified as conservative. Conservatives allowed it to happen, and happen to the extent that they became to the ideology not unlike a white knight is to manhood. Cheering for its downfall thinking to earn the good graces of those tearing it down. (I am not swiping at Cane in that remark whatsoever)

    No offense taken.

    Yes, there are those who cheer the downfall of the conservative movement because they believe it will earn them respect as clear-thinking anti-partisans. To me, they’re complicit in the very shallowness they decry. Because the inside of the conservative movement has been dead for a while and yet they’re still attacking it as if it were alive, and also because they too bought into the conservative/liberal divide as substantive instead of recognizing that it’s largely impulsive. (Hat tip to Dalrock for the word [“impulse”] that I could not find.) Americans are still mostly conservative.

  15. Pingback: Clash of the Nomenklaturas | Things that We have Heard and Known

  16. If conservatism has anything to do with culture( and how could it not?) then most people in any nation are going to be conservative. Most Chinese are conservative, as are most Japanese, or Indians, or Russians, or French.It is natural for most people to like the culture that they are raised in and to identify with their national identity. In the USA we call ourselves Americans. To do so is conservative, even if it is Nancy Pelosi doing so.
    Truth, as in Jesus, will put the axe to the root of conservative or liberal custom, such as Jesus destroying the Pharisees’ reverence for the Sabbath(not for God) by stating that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

  17. Pingback: Conserving Grammatical Orphans | Things that We have Heard and Known

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