Being a real Conservative in 2020 is more important than ever, but not because of the ever burgeoning left or populist right
Real conservatism is about the things we love, not reacting to what makes us afraid. Conservatives need to break the false narrative that we are determined by nostalgia and a hatred of change.
Willam F. Buckley, the everfading icon of the American right, famously wrote of Conservatism that
“It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so.”
Likewise G.K. Chesterton, the prolific Catholic writer, infamously wrote
“The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”
These caricatures have done much damage to the good name of Conservatism, not because they are false but because the people who often call themselves Conservatives have become persuaded that they are true!
In the popular imagination the Conservative is a stodgy grump, unrelentingly complaining about this damn rock music or how there used to be no blacks in this neighborhood (updated to Mexicans or Muslims today). He is always white, always male, always old and always looking backwards. Not that there is anything wrong with being an old white man who sincerely believes every film since It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is of inferior quality.
But that’s not what a Conservative really is. It’s what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. Many of us are munching on South Park’s ‘member berries and we should be mocked accordingly. But it’s not just our choice, the popular narrative continually adds fuel to the fire. Like the proud German who eventually succumbs to NeoNazi ideology because they’re tired of being told over and over that Nationalism is evil, many Conservatives have become the drunk uncle from SNL:
“You can’t even say ‘Merry Christmas’ any more. You gotta say, ‘Hey baby Jesus, you wanna do Pilates?’”
The Conservative can become trapped in nostalgia, because that is what we see when we see ourselves on TV or social media.
Never mind that the founder of Conservative philosophy, Edmund Burke, wrote
“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”
It doesn’t matter that prominent Conservative intellectual Yuval Levin wrote an entire book, The Fractured Republic, condemning right wing nostalgia. And who cares that Paul Robinson, a brilliant Canadian research professor, has argued that
“Russian conservatism is not a philosophy of the status quo. Rather, it is one that endorses change, but change of a certain, gradual sort that is in keeping, as much as possible, with national traditions.” Russian Conservatism of course being the biggest bugaboo of all to western liberals!
To all this the progressive school marm shakes a bony finger saying tsk tsk. You Conservatives, we are told, are always and forever opposed to change! Apparently we want to return to religious persecution, slavery, and serfdom. Don’t we understand that Brexit is racist and the Apostle Paul was a sexist homophobe? How can we call ourselves Christians when Jesus was obviously a socialist who gave out loads of free health care? #sarcasm
For too long the Conservative has ignored his own tradition of organic societal progress and allowed the ideological puritans of MSM (Mainstream Media) to determine what we are. Now more than ever it is important to embrace real Conservatism. Not because of an ever burgeoning leftism and not because the MAGAhats are secretly Klansmen, as boring old guard places like National Review seem to think. Populism always fades away and contemporary leftism beholden as it is to intersectionality changes so much (within a news cycle sometimes) that it has no ability to truly change anything at all.
The real reason it’s more important than ever to be truly Conservative is that the most important thing we can conserve is always our own soul, and the souls of those we love.
Governments come and go. France is currently on its 5th Republic, and South Korea is now well into its 6th. The Soviet Union dissolved. England is leaving the EU and the devolution of Great Britain would be a logical next step. The world has always been an ever changing place. Long ago Heraclitus wrote “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Conservatism has always been about the virtuous survival of change, never the preservation of the status quo at all costs. The world has changed, is changing, and will never stop. The secret to surviving change is caring for what your eyes can actually see and your hands can really touch. Look up from your phone, computer or however you’re reading this. See the people you work with, know, and love all around you. Maybe it’s not a lot of people. Maybe you need someone in your life. That’s okay, that friend is out there somewhere. They probably need you as well.
But that’s the secret and the real meaning of Conservatism. Sir Roger Scruton, the greatest contemporary Conservative philosopher, has always maintained that Conservativism begins with love. We conserve what we love. Find something to love and you will find yourself being a Conservative.
Burke used the phrase little platoon as a metaphor for how the individual is really connected to society. You can’t have a platoon of one. Jesus promised that wherever two or three gather in his name there he would be also. In 2020 don’t resolve something stupid that you know you won’t do anyway. Just love the people you actually know better. This is the foundation and principle of real Conservatism: to love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”