T Nation



Ok, rant time... S'been a while.

Anyway: The Conservative mindset. I'm not about to sit here and go completely post-modern. I'm not going to deny evidence supporting 'grand narratives'. You're a fool to ignore evolution for instance. Equally you're a fool to still argue from a Marxist perspective that 'the man' has been subverting the impending proletariat revolution. No, the truth is the world is probably a mix of the two, there are occasionally grand narratives, and maybe even maxims, and you can't deny the passage of time! But, to be too rigid, to be too structuralist is simply idiotic too. This is the Conservative mindset.

'Conservative' by definition means 'averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values' according to the OED. Being averse to change implicitly suggests a perception of the past being better.

How is this true?

'Traditional values', what like feudalism?

I know that you may think that be a pedantic example but it really isn't, I mean which traditional values will you choose to cling to, those of the 1950s (despite the racism)? Those of the 1850s (even more racism)? The 1750s (burn the witches!)?

I guess the question is really how much has humanity progressed, ever? We have just come out of the bloodiest century in history in which the most pronounced human advances were made in the field of killing, all other technologies followed. So a conservative wants to hold on to the values of the most disgusting century in history?

Now let me put this to you, was it conservatives who formed the civil rights movement of the '60s? Of course not, even though now they claim the victory. Was Gandhi a conservative? Clearly not! Who are those who give impetus to terrorists in the Middle East? Religious conservatives. Who is waging the Western war over there? The conservative government of the United States. I mean Christ, I see why people are conservatives. If you have a nice house and decent car why would you want that extra 12% of American's who fell below the poverty line in 2004 to be helped using progressive methods (i.e. changing the system)? Why would want the possibility of higher taxes which might slightly alter your life? You are represented myriad ways beyond simply voting. Your purchasing power speaks in high decibels and if that speech is not asking for change there won't be any. That is conservatism. Maybe because of the near obscene level of middle class individualism we're all aspiring toward progressive, things, or maybe just more money, but if your aspirations don't reach outside toward other people you're a conservative, and that simply isn't vary humane. 'Compassionate conservatism' by its very definition is an idiotic oxymoron. Compassion by its very nature means something has been done wrong and you enact a change to correct that to the best of your abilities. How can you enact positive change if you are averse to change?

Now I know despite the best efforts of the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King Jr., Che Guevara and all the other people who have had the agency to try progressive reform we still had the bloodiest century in history. Women are still discriminated against, ethnic groups are still discriminated against and the U.S. has continued its imperial policies toward the Americas, respectively. The progressively minded person could also be the nihilist, but what else is there to strive for?

Surely it is not simply compassionate to enact change but honourable too? Conservatism appeals to a 'pop. honour'- the past has 'authenticity', therefore its values must be better. Those who stand up for lack of change (i.e. conservatives) simply advocate rose tinted glasses. Real honour would be striving to help those that the old order has forgotten, that demands reform.




"Now I know despite the best efforts of the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King Jr., Che Guevara..."

I couldn't get past you putting Che Guevara in with this group. He was a murderous scum bag. I don't remember the last time MLK had people tortured to death.


You could make a similar rant against liberals. They advocate change. Yet they are too limp wristed to make it happen.

I also thought the use of Che Guevara to be an antithetical to the overall message of the rant.

Emu: Great comment. You really made an interesting contribution to the topic.



Among other whiffs in the post - the bloodiest century in history was caused primarily by radical elements promising paradise-on-earth if only we would shake off our traditional mindsets and antiquated ways and zealously buy into utopian blueprints through overhauling society - the very defintion of anti-conservatism. Go do the math on how many people were liquidated by a regime that had the word 'Socialist' in its name.

Conservatives don't like radicalism and never have - why would conservatives want to preserve all the floundering and murderous radicalism of the 20th century?

Conservatives aren't adverse to progress - they just prefer a cautious approach. As one philosopher put it, there are many more ways to make society worse than to make it better. 'Progress' is not inevitable linear march through time - societies can get worse and rot.

Moreover, the caricature of 'conservative' is bad - by Gullick's definition, China's Politburo is conservative, Castro is a conservative, and the faculty at Harvard are conservative. Nonsense. 'Conservatives' are better explained to be conservators of Western liberal institutions, not just people who don't like change.


Interesting post. Thunder, as far as I have seen in history, Conservatives cling to the old ways all the time- they're not for going about things, "cautiously" they're for not going about things at all.

If not for the radical MLK's, conservatives would have been more than happy to keep the blacks at a point of subjegation.

If not for the LaFollete's, who led progressive movements, or the Eugene Debb's, that proved the hypocrisy of the country, this country would not be a better place.

The one consolation is that humanity seems to be moving forward at a constant rate, dragging the crying tough guy conservatives along with it (on social issues at least).

The gay issues and the abortion issues will not be issues in 20 years.


This whole thing seems premised on the assumption that change, in and of itself, is a good thing. There is no reference to an underlying evaluation system by which to evaluate change.

There also seems to be an idea that there is a vector to change, but that is an assumption.

For example, would a change away from open civil rights toward new sorts of restrictions based on some new category be a good thing, simply because it is change?

I tend to agree with Burke (or at least what I know of Burke) -- people shouldn't assume "change" is an inherent good, especially if they don't clearly understand the reasons why things developed to be as they are (this is broad principle - and please don't try to argue against it by pointing out good changes, as that would be a non sequiter).


Then keep reading. Burke and Kirk both had lengthy commentaries about the importance of measured progress.

Not all traditions are worth keeping. Not all change is automatically positive. The failure of the French Revolution and its progeny are a good start.

On some levels, this is true - those trying to 'conserve' segregation fought against it.

Debs was barely a blip on the radar.

This is absolute garbage. Progress is not linear, nor is history on some deterministic path. Nor is progress defined as reaching a society of unfettered libertinism.

Moreover, how can we have recently had the bloodiest century in history and yet humanity is moving 'forward' at a constant rate? That is a contradiction on its face. The millions who died at the hands of those promising utopia - socialist radicals who kill in order to extend their mania to people stuck in their old fussy traditions - don't agree with you that their slaughter was a great leap forward for humanity (pun intended).


The failure of the Revolution? Or the Reign of Terror? Because the French Revolution was as noble a cause as the American Revolution, maybe even more so, because the oppression of the French with gluttonus kings at their head was far more evident than the taxes that inspired our own.

There is a difference between overthrowing the government because of taxes, and overthrowing the government because there is no food for the people, of course, but the ideas were very, very similar.

They just took different paths immediately after the prospective revolution.

Not at the time he wasn't. When a socialist got 1 million votes for president form behind bars, especially in that time period, it was quite a big deal. Where did you get this from?

There are always steps back. But as knowledge and technology increases, things progress. Yes, the Nazis and the Soviet Union were abominations, and no one country was without fault during this (or any other century). But things have progressed alot since 1945, even since 1992.

Why does bloodless correlate with "forward"? We know the mistakes not too make. We understand that radical islam is an evil thing, and what happened with the Nazis and Stalin is what is telling us it is evil. We measure things against history. This may have been one of the bloodiest centuries, but it was also one of the most remarkable. The defeat of two empires with totalitarian aims, the massive and unprecedented advances in technology, and the information that is now available to people....

I think history is on a better course than it was before the 20th century. Blood is sometimes needed, wars are needed to remind people how terrible they are, and how easily we can annihilate one another. If those two horrible wars convince countries to stay away from another poterntially worse one, weren't they worth the price?


Yes, that is the point - the principles underpinning the French Revolution led to the chaos. The point wasn't just to end an unjust monarchy - the point was to redefine the entire society according to the almighty Reason and scrap all the rest. The lust for 'progress' led to the carnage.

Debs is a historical footnote. There has not been a legitimate socialist movement in America.

Yes - my point is that those behind the slaughter were all doing it in the name of 'progress'.

Yes, but not because of your version of 'progress'. Your version - characterized by your admiration for the 'progressive' Che Guevara - is what caused the body counts. Your version was not fighting to quell the slaughter - it was perpetuating it. If there has been any true progress in the 20th century, it has been accomplished by those willing to take arms against the radical 'progressives' who have given us nothing more than mass graves and misery.

In short, your 'progressives' were the problem being tackled, not the solution.


Let's not lose perspective that "the bloodiest century ever" was certainly helped by better technology.

When all fighting was done mano-a-mano, it's was quite an undertaking to slaughter a million people.

The first guns made is easier, but they took a long time to reload. As weaponry progressed to automatics, tanks, airplanes, bombs, etc. It became easier and easier to kill a large amount of people with little effort; culminating with the current situation of having enough nuclear weapons stockpiled to wipe the whole human population off the face of the Earth many times over.

Armies have better mobility; they have better intelligence; supplies are better organized, etc.

I don't think you can attribute the 20th centure being "the bloodiest ever" simply to changing values, be they conservative or liberal.

We simply got much better at killing each other.


Why do you care? Do you want to argue about it?


Fighting Irish, you've made some very good posts in this thread.


What is there to argue about?


This rant about the conservative mind set is flawed in that having conservative values does not mean that new and innovative approaches are not accepted or supported.

Approach is much different than a moral foundation on which to make the decisions of how to approach issues, problems, etc.

So conservative values do not equal a conservative approach.


That's bullshit. What was America's Revolution about if not progress?

I've read alot into the whole Burke- Paine war. Its important to rememeber that at the point of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke was no longer the the man he was before- he was far more conservative, especially in the face of revolutions that overthrow monarchies. His philosophical beliefs about helping the lower classes took the backseat to keeping power- the last thing they wanted in England was a workers' revolution overthrowing the King (I think it was still George III at the time).

When Paine went to Paris in 1787, he was in the company of people like the Marquis de Lafayette, who shared the enlightenment principles.

Burke was, in 1789, writing Reflections on the Revolution in France where he attacked the ideals of freedom, celebrated tradition and hierarchy, and rejected equality and reason.

If that's your model for a conservative, then you better pick one who didn't "hate freedom" (as you Conservatives love to say).

The progressive had his neck on the line, and almost got hanged twice trying to start countries overthrowing their governments in favor of democracy and freedom.

The conservative bravely picked up his pen and bashed him. Sounds like the whole argument in a nutshell doesn't it?

I never said there was. But Debs is footnote to you, because you don't believe in his cause. To me, its impressive to get a million votes from behind bars, and to have the government completly unhappy about it.

Not too mention that the government had him thrown in jail because of his beliefs, and condemned a sixty five year old man to ten years in prison. But then history is written by the victors, isn't it?

O c'mon. Anyone can use the word progress for whatever they want. The Nazis, the Soviets, the Chinese in 1949, the Japanese in the 30s, they all used "progress" as a rallying point. Thats a bit different from America's progressive movement.

How does Che Guevara have anything to do with the World Wars that America fought in? I know you love to mention that all the time, but it really has no place here. Are you going to stay to the subject, or do you want to get into an argument about Guevara (again)?

Lefties all over this hemisphere are rising again against the US. That's progressive- they're trying to make their countries better. How does this have anything to do with what we're talking about? Guevara wasn't responsible for anywhere near the amount of deaths that the US was in Vietnam.

"Mass graves and misery"? There would be many in the world that would think the US is responsible for that too. Its all a matter of historical viewpoints. If you want to look at everything through a Pro-America paradigm all the time, then don't be surprised when other countries hate us.

What? I call the movements we stopped "totalitarian", "fascist", and "evil". You can't trade those for "progressive".


Che was brought into this by the original poster that tried to equate his murderous ways with the peaceful protests used by MLK.

The fact that the "lefties" revere this guy so much shows a sickness in their philosophy.

If some jackass wanted to portray Hitler or even some tin horn right wing latin american dictator as a great man you would be up in arms about it.


I never said it wasn't. Your mistake is that you think the French and American Revolutions were of the same character. They weren't.

Burke didn't hate freedom - and he supported the American Revolution and the colonies against King George III. Burke's warnings about the French Revolution were not about democracy per se, but about the dangers of shredding society and trying to remake it by redefining human nature into an artifical construct based on Reason. He warned it would end in disaster - and wouldn't you know, he was dead on.

Nonsense - American revolutionaries put their neck on the line, but they weren't revolutionaries by your criteria. Washington was certainly a revolutionary - actually our lead revolutionary, and one that certainly risked his neck - but he did not approve of the French Revolution.

You are locked into this cartoon of a revolutionary as this radicalized warrior who envisions paradise at the end of his war - but Washington, American revolutionary number one, was a Virginia planter that wanted no part of a blowing up of society's traditions, norms, and institutions. Or murder the clergy, for that matter.


Surely, and I am sure Debs would have written history differently, but alas, he lost.

You are changing the subject. My point was that we haven't been on this historical path of progress. The most murderous events of our bloody century have been perpetuated by those claiming 'progress' through radical change. Gullick originally mentioned the nasty wars of the 20th century as something conservatives were likely to conserve - inexplicably - and my point was that why would conservatives conserve the ideas that led to the carnage when it was the anti-conservative forces originally causing the carnage?

Well, since Gullick brought him up, seemed like a worthy avenue to explore (see above). Further, ole Guevara is the classic example of 'progressive' hypocrisy.

I am not sure - you are the one talking about it.

See above.

Nice punt with the relativism - they are welcome to make their argument.


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