We blame language for many problems, but it is symbol itself that makes life deceptive: one tiny detail stands for the whole, and we use that detail as if it were complete because it allows us to seem (to ourselves) to be able to manipulate the whole.
Symbols are the equivalent of magic when you have a crowd present. Someone asks why you should do what you do, and you think and then proudly say, “To help the poor!” This is a simple: a complete binary between good and bad, even though it ignores all of the complexity of the issue. But now the crowd is on your side.
When people try to describe conservatism, they come up with a symbol. Conservatives “hate change” or “preserve the past.” While these definitions are not entirely wrong, they are not complete, either: conservatives conserve, or protect that which is functional against the onslaught of human intentions, judgments, and emotions.
Throughout human history, the basics of how to live well have been understood consistently. Humans chafe against these because they want things that benefit them personally, not just build civilization, which they take for granted. Most change is vainglorious conjecture and emotional signaling which disguises self-interest.
Conservatives recognize this and so we try to conserve civilization, including culture and nature, against the incessant flood of human desires for personal benefit by cutting corners and keeping the “extra” wealth. We are the ones who plant the seed corn, but most of humanity wants to eat it today and worry about tomorrow the next day.
As a result, we tend to be realists who separate what actually has benefit to civilization from the constant bickering, pleading, guilt, and manipulation demanding that we eat the seed corn. We see eternal principles as worth respecting, and are ends-over-means about achieving these.
The Left, on the other hand, are justification-over-ends, a form of means-over-ends which says that whatever you can explain away as being good for “The People” should take the place of eternal principles. This always conceals graft, grift, and other forms of parasitism. Society provides the seed corn; “The People” will eat it and blame someone else.
However, conservatives have forgotten these ideas because we strive to work within a system that, owing to its basis in democracy and civil rights in a mixed-economy, is not just liberal but Leftist and uses a quasi-socialist economy. Compromising with this makes you a conservative-flavored Leftist (CFL) and most conservatives are these.
It is gratifying to see others pick up on the fact that conservatives have no idea who they are as covered on this site for some years:
Many on the left would be shocked by how apolitical most of the Conservative party is. There is currently no theory in conservative politics. I suspect no more than a handful of Tory MPs have ever read Burke or Hayek, unless they cropped up on a PPE reading list. They will be far more familiar with Isabel Oakeshott than Michael.
Factionalism within the party is driven far more by aesthetics than by ideology. One (former) MP once told me that when he asked his association why they had picked him for a safe seat, he was told ‘It was the lovely way you spoke about your wife at the selection’. Many MPs come to parliament without any real belief other than a view that ‘good things are good, and we should do more of them, and bad things are bad’. I’ve met less than half a dozen mainstream Tories who could be classed as ideologues.
At its best, this makes the party flexible and pragmatic, able to pivot around the issues of the day. At its worst (and it really seems to be falling into the worst now) it becomes listless, incapable and slightly baffled by the power it holds. It’s the cat that has finally caught the laser pointer.
In other words, to them politics is a career based on getting along with the Leftist system and advancing conservative (“good”) things when they can, but not at the expense of making water cooler conversation in the halls of power awkward.
And yet, to be conservative, we have to stand against the trends and illusions that are popular because they make people feel “good” instead of doing good. As one commentator says, it is our job to stand up to pleasant half-truths:
One of the most shameful aspects of the constant lies told is the connivance of those to whose advantage it is to keep their heads down.
It is to our advantage, yes, to cuck and duck and pretend that the current system is working. However, it is not, and it has not for some time, mainly because after a certain number of years of eating the seed corn, future crops look grim. Our crop is people and culture, and we have attenuated both in the pursuit of social acceptance by cucking.
This means that conservatives must forever be un-trendy, antisocial, impolite, and offensive in our pursuit of what is real over what “most people” — really a small plurality — “think” is “good.” They may not be liars, but they are in the grips of illusion and will destroy civilization.
We face a real problem: civilization decline. That includes the loss of culture through diversity, the destruction of genetics through diversity, being overrun by Camp of the Saints style immigration, the loss of initiative through socialist-style entitlements, the death of fun through red tape and guilt-slinging nanny state “safety” nags, the destruction of the family through sexual liberation, and all the various social ills (crime, graffitti, pop culture) that come about through this preference for the trendy and popular over principle and reality.
Civilization decline has come under Leftism, which true to its basis in The Enlightenment™ seeks to abolish any order higher than the individual, specifically culture, family, heritage, class, faith, and civilization itself. In the current conflict, we are seeing “in the small” the struggle of civilization versus individualism:
He was careful to define his new candidacy by bookending it between his previous presidential term, claiming the country was then “at the pinnacle of power, prosperity, and prestige,” and the current moment “of pain, hardship, anxiety, and despair” allegedly ushered in by President Biden. When he was in the White House, “we were a strong nation and, importantly, we were a free nation.” Under the Democrat, “we are a nation in decline – we are a failing nation.”
Trump is not saying something new to us; all of us recognize. America fell hard in the 1990s under the Clintons and we all liked 1980s America — “sexism,” “racism,” “homophobia,” “ableism,” “classism” and all — better than the current centrally-dictated, ideologically-driven economy with the anti-culture of diversity and consumerism grafted on top.
In fact, the popularity of first the Tea Party (almost an outgrowth of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America”) and later the Trump campaign show us that people are tired of caring about woke, egalitarian, and popularity concerns and want to Make America Functional Again.
The challenge he faces is that our society is in decline and has been for centuries. You do not end up with democracy unless people are already individualistic after an Enlightenment™ and you do not get one of those unless people have already given up on any hope of finding a direction in common.
Some say the problem is technology, some size. More likely it is the growth of complexity. As time goes on, certain methods get entrenched and become goals in themselves, and in order to gain distinction people crusade against minor problems as if they were major ones. Soon you have a bickering horde of human individualists.
Individualism — this means the desires of the individual are most important, instead of frameworks like tradition, culture, nature, and the divine — is the natural tendency of the human. When we say that we have bad and evil inside of us, we mean individualism, which is not so much selfishness as a defensive egotism that borders on narcissism.
Religious people like to talk about a mass spiritual revival (these never happen; lots of snake oil salesmen create the fake versions, however) as our solution. However, what we really need is to remove the laws and institutions that promote individualism and focus on organic culture instead. Do that, and we fix the big long decline.
For the short term decline, Trump faces a tough uphill road because most people are used to “working within the system” and cannot think outside of it. For them, everything is fine except a few little problems that they manage with symbolic acts and writing checks, as in the case of half-Irish Chuck Schumer and his amnesty:
The last year and a half … have shown how vital our [illegal] immigrants have been to keeping our economy going during the time of crisis … We’re short of workers from one end of America to the other — one of the reasons? The Trump administration dramatically cut back on immigrants in this country. We need them. We need them in our labor force. We need them to continue American vitality. We need them because they’re part of the American dream.
He directs our attention to a non-problem. We do not have a shortage of workers; what we have done is through unions and immigration driven workers out of many roles that now can only be taken by impoverished third world people. We raised the cost of our labor with strikes, taxes, regulations, and affirmative action and priced ourselves out.
This, too, is part of the decline: by attempting to subsidize everyone, we end up raising the cost of doing anything, at which point we become paralyzed. This applies to both economics and politics. With pluralism, we must say very little except pro-pluralism content in order to avoid offending some special interest or another.
Our only “solution” consists of importing the entire world into the West in order to create equality but also, to replace the people who are dying out because costs got too high, culture died, and life became miserable. Their plan is a world without borders:
The three salient facts of human life on Earth today are that we are about to number 8bn people, we face enormous demographic imbalances between the old and the young, and climate change is upon us.
This calls for nothing less than a new human geography. We must shift away from the sovereignty that dictates our distribution across the planet towards a more dynamic equilibrium that favours collective human survival and productivity.
Since the 1970s, the global fertility curve has flattened. Where once we feared runaway overpopulation, the news that we will cross the 8bn milestone next week now seems almost anticlimactic. Some parts of Africa and south Asia remain densely populated but, even there, fertility is plummeting.
This tells us where Late Stage Democracy really is, namely “broke.” The money got spent on entitlements we could not afford so we printed more while neglecting to spend on things we really needed. In the name of symbolic victories, we drained ourselves, and then replaced ourselves.
In the long calculus, the Regime is coming to an end because it brought anti-prosperity, disorder, conflict, chaos, and failure. This happens every time people chase symbols of human contentment while ignoring reality. That is what conservatism was supposed to stand against.
Finally we have the touchstone event that may enable conservatives to discover what they are. We are realists who believe in pushing toward the good — evolution, quality, improvement, strength, health, sanity — even if we do not believe in “evil” but instead see most human thought as illusion that leads to bad results.
If we are to save our civilization, we must discard all of the symbolic gestures and focus on what works. Homogeneity and hierarchy work; diversity and equality do not. If we do not take a stand for the functional against the tide of dysfunction, we have no chance to succeed, nor to discover what we are and become the best possible version of it.