The same people who shriek “define your terms!” in any debate are perfectly comfortable living among entirely vague terms. Think of “equality,” or even “justice.” We have no simple, straightforward way to define these without referring to institutions, not their goals or the ideas behind them.
Conservatism fits into the same trap. As written here before, it descends from Plato, who wrote that our pursuit was to find the best life possible, that this consisted of virtue instead of pure self-interest, that it had a relative morality of “good to the good, bad to the bad,” that civilizations have a life cycle in which democracy is death, and that our best use of our time is to pursue transcendentals, or immutable yet ongoing goals such as excellence, beauty, goodness, accuracy and ascendancy.
This brings us into conflict with not just Leftists, but the world. In this life, we either have purpose, or we become agents of entropy, falling back into navel-gazing and pursuit of our own fascinations that are unrelated to the world. Conservatism emphasizes that purpose by focusing on order, which is naturally larger than the individual or materiality; the Left denies that purpose by focusing on universal acceptance of the individual, which by its equation of good and bad is a rejection of order, hierarchy and transcendentals.
With the French Revolution, the notion of “conservatives” arose to refer to all of those normal and learned theories that existed before egalitarianism rose and took over. Conservatives are a resistance movement in favor of tradition, classical knowledge, logical fact, truth and wisdom. But because it must collaborate with the Left in the new regime, it is compromised, and so most conservatives gave up on reclaiming their nations and focused instead on themselves with a “work hard, pray hard” ethos that emphasized business, patriotism, equality as a means toward meritocracy, and religion, but only as applied within the individual. They would never violate holy equality by suggesting a goal for civilization, only personal choices.
This confusion becomes visible whenever conservatives decide they like some egalitarianism, but that it can go too far. They forget that ideas naturally lead to others, and that any idea will expand in scope until it has the power it needs to implement itself, which in the case of universal philosophies like egalitarianism, is essentially world control. You can see this in action in a creative but misleading article which hopes to show us “good” egalitarianism versus that dark side communist stuff:
The American Revolution was sparked by the Enlightenment, Judeo/Christian moral beliefs, mixed with Greek and Roman philosophy and political theories. At its best, the American Revolution promotes universal human equality–a work still in progress–individual freedom, freedom of thought and speech, the rule of law, etc.
The French Revolution, in contrast, is Utopian, collectivist, authoritarian, intolerant, and punitive. It is anti-religion generally and anti-Christianity specifically. It accepts the belief that the ends justify the means.
Other than the obvious comparison to communism, which is not wrong so much as it is misleading, the above misses the point because the actual history is that the French Revolution and American Revolution were motivated by the same ideals, but the Americans choose to try to restrain them in the hopes that democracy would not take on its final form as they read about in Plato. The intent behind the founding of the United States seemed to be to create an extremely limited government that would hold democracy in check, and be run by the wealthy, educated and accomplished citizens arising from a natural aristocracy.
At its core, however, this does not differ from the French idea, which had an ideological heritage going back to the Enlightenment™ and the Renaissance.™ The individual is equal, in this view, and so all are treated the same under the law, which eliminates the privilege and power of aristocrats and the naturally more competent by degrees, essentially seeking to limit the power of those who are succeeding so that those who are not can participate as well. Instead of recognizing social order, this strives against it, and the Americans tried to re-implant social order in it through a complex series of rules designed to preserve the manor-based order that had bloomed in the new colonies.
In other words, like the French order, the American one was Utopian. Worse than believing that the ends justify the means, it believed that ends could be passed on by regulating means, at which point only the good and safe remained, which removes the need for society or its leaders to have agency and be working toward the good, as opposed to simply avoiding past known evil methods. The question of intent was not addressed, and so over time, as always happens in democracy, it was filled in by the default actions to which humans gravitate. This quickly asserted itself as mob rule, because if not driven by purpose, a human reverts to thinking of himself, and so will demand the ability to do anything he wants — despite not being able to name these things or their utility — and have an iron law where society cannot throw him out. And so, the American order fell into the same condition as the French order, because the two are different locations on the same continuum from hubris through full Soviet Communism.
A fellow anti-democracy analyst explains this in terms of what the founders did not see versus what they were able to comprehend:
It is not entirely unexpected that Dunning-Kruger cases like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have completely misunderstood what Plato was trying to warn them about. They believed that Plato was warning them that democracies always give way to authoritarianism, and thus built strong defenses against authoritarianism into the design for their democracy. But what Plato was really trying to tell them was that democracy inevitably devolves into such horrendous moral, social, and economic chaos that decent, smart, educated people will, with full deliberate intent, beg an authoritarian leader to take power and restore order, even if it does impinge on their liberties to some degree. The fear that these pseudointellectuals really did design a system that will make it impossible for a Caesar to come and save us is what keeps me awake at night.
In other words, if we do not have a purpose for our civilization, we fall back into being rabble, no matter how smart or educated we are. It happens in little stages, one year at a time, with those who are feeling alienated working like fanatics to dismantle whatever they can. They are clever, not intelligent, and so their methods are crude but effective in that they zero in on the support structures that keep society away from anarchy. For them, life is somehow not fair because they were born men and not gods, and it is this sense of hubris that makes them want to overthrow every order and replace them with anarchy where whatever is popular — that which gives in to the same impulse in others, since it is an infectious lowest common denominator among humans as it is with our simian ancestors — wins out every time, this being an order they think they can control since they share the disease with others, and so know what they want to hear, and therefore what they will support by making false elites and false leaders out of whoever says it.
Let us revisit Robert Conquest’s second law of politics:
Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.
With what we know, we can expand upon this: any organization which is not explicitly directed toward a purpose will sooner or later become infected with hubris, from that give rise to a collective of individuals called a Crowd, and through that, arrive on the spectrum of Left-wing beliefs which terminate in Full Communism. We either have purpose, or ourselves, and when we declare ourselves to be the end instead of a purpose, everything unravels into silliness and stupor. The individual fears purpose because if there is a goal, the individual can fall short of that goal, and this is the root of all of the social horror that humans experience.
It is likely that people push for socialism, communism, equality, feminism, and the like not for economic reasons, but simply because they want to avoid being judged as individuals, and in the anonymity of egalitarianism can escape notice of their failings. This in turn dooms them because by becoming solely inwardly-focused, as happens with hubris and individualism, they lose sight of anything that could give their lives meaning, and end up in a darkened room formed of desires and power but without any potential for growth or discovery.
Conservatives understand this fundamental spiritual truth of humanity, which is that we die inside if we are given too much power as individuals, much as civilization dies if power is given to the wrong people. It loses momentum and collapses into its own circular inertia. Then everything grinds to a stop, much as it is in the contemporary West, which gave up on any hope of greatness during the second world war and has focused on growing its economy ever since so that some of us can win the wealth lottery and escape the Brazil 2.0 that is arising around us.
But as with any human structure, “conservatives” are a varied lot. The Bell Curve applies mercilessly here as well, which means that perhaps one percent of conservatives are worth reading, listening to and following; the rest are repeaters, and because they are focused on self and not world, they are repeating excuses, scapegoats, superstitions, trends, fads, panics and stampede-inducing ideas. This means that by definition, most conservatives are mostly wrong about most things most of the time. That does not mean that conservatism is wrong, only that any idea as interpreted by a group gets reduced to what is most convenient for the individual to belief in the context of an imaginary justification of his life to other people in his social group. Tom Wolfe calls that the fiction-absolute, and we might categorize it along with justifications, excuses and superstitions as the human animal attempting to control, rather than understand, his environment:
Even before I left graduate school I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a “fiction-absolute.” Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world–so ordained by some almighty force–would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles. Politicians, the rich, the celebrated, become mere types. Does this apply to “the intellectuals” also? Oh, yes. . . perfectly, all too perfectly.
The human beast’s belief in his own fiction-absolute accounts for one of the most puzzling and in many cases irrational phenomena of our time. I first noticed it when I read a book by Samuel Lubell called The Future of American Politics. Lubell was a political scientist and sociologist who had been as surprised as everybody else by the outcome of the 1948 presidential election. That was the election in which the Democratic incumbent, Harry Truman, was a president whose approval rating had fallen as low as 23 percent. Every survey, every poll, every pundit’s prediction foresaw him buried by the Republican nominee, Thomas E. Dewey. Instead, Truman triumphed in one of the most startling upsets in American political history. Lubell was determined to find out why, and so he set out across the country. When he reached a small Midwestern town that had been founded before the turn of the 19th century by Germans, he was puzzled to learn that the town had gone solidly for Dewey despite the fact that by every rational turn of logic, every economic motivation, Truman would have been a more logical choice. By and by Lubell discovered that the town was still predominantly German. Nobody had ever gotten over the fact that in 1917, a Democrat, President Woodrow Wilson, had declared war on Germany. That had set off a wave of anti-German feeling, anti-German prejudice, and, in the eyes of the people of this town, besmirched their honor as people of German descent. And now, two World Wars later, their minds were fixed on the year 1917, because like all other human beasts, they tended to champion in an irrational way their own set of values, their own fiction absolute. The question Lubell asked was very much like the question that Thomas Frank asked after the election of 2004 in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? By all economic and political logic, the state of Kansas should have gone to John Kerry, the Democrat, in 2004. But it didn’t. Had Frank only looked back to Samuel Lubell, he would have known why. The 2004 election came down to one state: the state of Ohio. Whoever won that state in the final hours would win the election. Northern Ohio, the big cities of Cleveland, Toledo on the Great Lakes, were solidly for Kerry. But in southern Ohio, from east to west, and in the west was the city of Cincinnati, Ohio went solidly for George Bush. And the reason? That great swath of territory was largely inhabited by the Scots-Irish. And when the Democrats came out in favor of gun control, the Scots-Irish interpreted this as not merely an attack on the proliferation of weaponry in American life but as a denunciation, a besmirching, of their entire way of life, their entire fiction absolute. Guns were that important in their scheme of things.
Leftists have the same thing, only worse: for them, the best life can only be found in being defined by their opposition to the majority, and so they are addicted to and dependent on their image as Leftists to make them feel good. This is why they are fanatical and their cluster of opinions is narrower than people on the Right.
But on the Right, most conservatives still do not understand their own belief system. They have a gut instinct toward certain ideas that they think put the world in balance, like fairness derived from competition instead of government subsidy. They distrust anything that violates their local culture. Some of this is fiction-absolute, and some of it is common sense, ingrained over centuries. The Left can disrupt this easily however by shifting context, at which point the gut instinct gets a bit confused. To avoid this, conservatives tend to operate within a narrow context, which means that they always appear to be failing to answer the insane prevarications of the Left.
Because their beliefs are hybridized with Leftism by the very nature of having to work with a system — democracy, equality, tolerance — that is fundamentally Leftist, most conservatives have forgotten the nature of conservatism. To them, it is the methods it uses to fix human mistakes, and not the purpose of engaging in those, which is to create a virtuous civilization in which each person is rewarded for engaging in virtuous living. The point is to be good, not to have “muh freedom” or strong business and defense, and only secondarily is this related to defending Christianity, Israel, or even America. Conservatism is the same philosophy worldwide, but it is applied differently depending on where a society is in its cycle from birth to death, and therefore both what can be done and what must be done to address the problems of that stage are both relevant questions. That conservatives change strategy with context does not mean that their goal or principles change, only that they are using different methods to achieve them depending on their environment, but the problem with this is that most conservatives will understand only the methods and not the goals, which is why conservatism today is seen as a parody of itself scripted by the Left, even by its strongest adherents.
Even worse, conservatives succumb to a basic fiction, which is that if something is demonstrated to be logical or good, the rest of civilization will magically discover it and move toward it, a delusion which is a common solipsistic pathology of assuming the world will eventually agree with them that in turn makes them inert and unable to act:
“It often seems that partisans believe they are so correct that others will eventually come to see the obviousness of their correctness,” says behavioral scientist Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School, lead author on the research. “Ironically, our findings indicate that this belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality.”
…Data from over 800 people in China, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom indicated that the belief in a favorable future is a cross-cultural phenomenon, and additional findings revealed that the biased belief is distinct from other phenomena such as optimism and the false-consensus effect. Even when people are given an incentive to make accurate predictions about how people’s beliefs will change between now and the future, they tend to believe others’ attitudes will change over time to fall in line with their own current beliefs.
Importantly, field experiment data suggest that believing in a favorable future can influence people’s behavior in the here and now. Working with the Democratic Governors Association, Rogers and colleagues sent out two variations of a fundraising email to more than 660,000 supporters. Recipients were less likely to open the email if the subject indicated that a Democrat had the lead in a closely contested race compared with a message that suggested he was trailing in a closely contested race. Of those who opened the email, people were less likely to click the donation link and were less likely to make a donation when the Democrat was portrayed as having the lead compared to when the Democrat was portrayed as being behind.
What you are seeing here is the philosophical equivalent of the endorphins released when your body realized that it is freezing to death and cannot generate enough heat to save you. This triggers a dump of happy opiates into the bloodstream so that everything seems rosy and warm in those moments before inevitable death. This is mental state of the average conservative: in order to feel good about their existence in a dying civilization at all, they must rationalize their position by assuming that the rest of the world will someday agree with them. This allows conservatives to be individualists, or those who focus on their own working hard and praying hard, and ignore the fact that the world is falling apart around them and that if they do not intervene, we will all be doomed. Similarly, white nationalists spent generations waiting for that moment when whites would awaken and start the race war. Both of these are preemptive justifications, not realistic thinking, and represent a deep inner despair.
Coming from the ashes of an election in which Americans elected a man with almost no relevant experience, a shady past and obvious leanings toward the far-Left, the Alt Right attempted to fix these core problems of conservatism. Instead of confusing goals with method, it wanted solely to discuss goals and ignore method. Instead of focusing on the personal, it argued for re-taking society and making it healthy again, in a viewpoint that saw a temporary authoritarianism as better than a long-term one. It hoped to slide between the insanity of mainstream conservatism, which was trapped in hopelessness and a “work hard, pray hard” outlook that left it entirely impotent, and the non sequitur of the underground Right including white nationalism, which had no plan but endorsed and exhibited pathological behaviors that sent ordinary, upper half of middle class European-descended Americans fleeing to the hills.
After Obama, it is clear that Western Civilization is in decline, and as Samuel Huntington predicted, there was a “Berlin 1945 moment” for Leftism and liberal democracy which has created a void where we once thought our future would be. There is a space for someone to inherit the future which people expect will naturally follow this one, and so ideological conflict has broken out in the remains of the fallen West. For those who are conservative, but recovering from the errors of conservatives in the recent past, we realize that now is the time when we must seize authority and restore Western Civilization because any other goal will devolve into a variant of Leftism, and leads to defeat both for us and our people.