Conservatism is stuck in an amygdalic freeze.
We have not run, but – with only a few exceptions – neither have we fought. We have struck a pose and the wind has changed.
Part of why I believe Conservatism is frozen, is due to our narrow focus on occupying the Peak of Moral Righteousness.
Justifiably proud of the underlying tenets of Conservatism, we have sought to occupy a height from which we can gaze upon the as-yet-unenlightened. This is natural. We have not been satisfied with any height, however. Ignoring the peaks which could have delivered a clear vision and the opportunity to spread our values, we convinced ourselves – call it pride, ego, hubris – that only the very highest peak was acceptable. With passion, ambition, and excitement, we gained a foothold on the Peak of Moral Righteousness, and planted our flag.
Unfortunately, our state of mind during the ascent blinded us to the conditions our destination held. For once we caught our breath and patted ourselves and each other on the back for being ‘first’ we realised that not only was our peak surrounded by cloud, completely obscuring our vision in all directions, but at such an altitude, the percentage of oxygen in the air was greatly decreased. This lack of oxygen affected not only our cognition – our ability to reason, analyse, make decisions – but also our senses. We saw and heard things that did not exist; comforting acknowledgements that we HAD made the correct decision, and now that we had reached our destination, merely being a member of the tribe occupying the Peak of Moral Righteousness was enough. Though we cannot see or hear or communicate with those below us, we can feel secure in the knowledge that THEY can see and hear us. All we have to do is remain here, and in time, the unenlightened will realise that we are the LIGHT. They MUST KNOW that we exist. Our omnipotence and omniscience inform us so.
We put our faith in saviours like President Trump. We seek saviours who will rescue us, as against rescuing ourselves, rather than leaders. Leaders require followers who will ACT to implement a leader’s guidance.
We worship simplistic aphorisms such as that oft attributed to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte – “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” – as though uttering a piece of wisdom removed from context will assuage our guilt or shame at having nothing else to contribute.
The afore-mentioned aphorism, by the way, is profoundly misunderstood when used in the socio-cultural/political arena. Observing an opponent’s mistake – in any competitive scenario – will achieve nothing if the observer is not prepared to take advantage of that mistake. Inaction will allow the opponent to recover (if they are reasonably competent and their mistakes not terminal), perhaps re-engage more effectively, or flee the field without being annihilated. In which case, you will at some point, need to compete with them again.
What then, is to be done?
The first step must be an acknowledgement that we have not placed ourselves in a competitive position. Note the acceptance of responsibility. If we truly DO believe in what we claim, we are obliged to not only defend, but share and spread the same. A shield wall will not be an effective barrier if every second shield bearer is behind the ridge having a prolonged nervous urination. A quick glance back at the last several decades suggests that Conservatism has endured profoundly disruptive continence issues.
We must descend from our remote peak, to a position where we may see more clearly, think more clearly, and be heard more clearly. This does not require us to freefall into the abyss, shedding our values and senses of morality and ethics. These are foundational strengths that can never be discarded.
The possession of a height is only advantageous if it offers further opportunity to the possessor. At the moment, the enveloping clouds and lack of oxygen ensure we can not only NOT see clearly, think clearly, or share our values and beliefs, we are also unaware of what our opponents are doing. Despite convincing ourselves otherwise (that’s the altitude sickness talking), we do not know if they are building a wall below us, or tunneling into the peak to lay explosives and blow us into oblivion. If we DID know what they were doing, we would counter it, right?
Of course, there are always exceptions, as there are in this conservative freeze. Exceptions, however, are not enough. The occasional berserker is not enough if there is not a substantial effort made by others to take up the fight once the berserker is inevitably slain. (The role of the berserker is to gain time, not defeat an opponent single-handedly).
What is required is a radical RESHAPING of Conservatism. Not a reinvention, but a reshaping.
Conversely, we could remain where we are (gasping for oxygen), keep doing whatever it is we are doing (not winning, in any sense of that word), and become the subject of myth.
I saw an Abominable Conservative once. True story. Me and the blokes were camping, and …