Friday, January 13, 2012

Power and Progress

Well. An FB friend forwarded me an anti-conservative article, wanting my opinion on it. I started reading it and had to put it aside because it made me angry. With my sleep experiment ongoing, I'm finding I need to be cautious about taking on such subjects -- I don't have the discernment and patience to discuss them in a reasonable way. But I re-read this morning and can at least make some general observations.

It's a very brainy article (that means it uses a lot of big words and purports to address a lot of big ideas), and I would probably need to read it a few times to digest it all. But the main thesis seems to be that conservatism is always a movement in reaction to progress, an attempt to keep things just as they are, and specifically, to keep the powerful in their positions of power. "For that is what conservatism is," the author tells us, "a meditation on, and theoretical rendition of, the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back." He references a lot of reactions to historical events, such as the French Revolution, and quotes a lot of people from long past (the guy's a poli-sci professor -- one would expect no less). Clearly, I don't know history enough to argue his perspective there.

But I will argue his implication that today's conservatives are simply the latest incarnation of the old cranky, power-drunk curmudgeon he's referencing.

He says conservatives are all about keeping power structures in place, and keeping those who should be submitting to those powers in their place . . . yet the role models for today's conservatives are the founding fathers, the people who orchestrated probably the most successful and influential revolution against a power structure ever.

He says that conservatives are all about the elite being the only ones capable of running a society . . . yet the frustration I hear from conservatives about the present administration's policies is that they give an elite few in government too much power over the lives of Americans. If the author were correct, why would they not cheer these policies and simply try to get themselves into office to hold all that power?

He says that conservatives just want to go back to "the good old days" and resist any change that comes along, preferring "the familiar to the unknown . . . the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible," etc. etc. Yet, the arguments I hear conservatives give to liberal policies point to instances where such policies have been tried and they have failed. Liberal policies are not untried -- they have been tried and found wanting.

And I'd like to point out as well that just because something is new doesn't necessarily mean it is progress. A good number of homeschoolers set up their schooling on very old educational theory and practice -- not because it's old, but because it works. Sometimes we can progress ourselves right out of effectiveness.

Well! That was a very calm and cogent discussion of the issues, yes? Gotta pat myself on the back for that one. Definitely have to get these sleep issues settled before the Republican primaries are over and the political ugliness really begins.

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