Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Progressive Culture vs. Conservative Politics

In National Review David French makes the point that conservatives have made a decent fist of politics, but  have failed in the culture wars. Yes, the SJWs are a pest, snarling at everyone in the public square.
But the most effective progressives also happen to be among the friendliest, most engaging people you’ll meet. Even apolitical colleagues find their idealism infectious.

That’s how you get local bar associations celebrating Earth Day, or third-grade classes doing a whole semester’s worth of art projects on climate change, or corporate HR departments running extended, celebratory profiles of transgender employees. It’s the agenda, always and everywhere.
Well, yes, but.

The problem is that conservatives, or people of a conservative persuasion, do not experience their culture as a world-saving movement. We do not expect to transform the world with our conservatism. But the progressives do. They believe in saving the planet as a moral necessity. They believe that what we do to transgenders right now is hate. And they are driven to transform the world to make it safe and ethical.

Indeed the whole point of conservatism, going back to Burke, is the turn away from the idea of culture or religion or politics having a use in healing the world. The conservative idea is to heal yourself, and let the rest of the world learn from your example. The whole point of limited government is to limit the ability of government to embark on millenniarian crusades like saving the world with environmentalism and climate change.

French ends his piece with a theme from The Shawshank Redemption, the idea of "get busy living, or get busy dying." Yes, that certainly applies at the personal level. But what about at the cultural level?

The fact is that conservatives are not cultural innovators. We are the people of the responsible self and what we do is live ordinary lives that do not try to scale the heights. So the limit of what can be expected of us is to doggedly keep on living and resisting the attempts of liberals to marginalize and oppress us.

It is from the ranks of the people of the creative self that we should hope for a cultural movement away from cultural Marxism and its totalitarian combination of culture and politics.

And maybe the only way to get beyond progressive culture is for progressive culture to win and impose its totalitarian ways upon the American people so that, at some point, a genuine movement, not just of rejection but of affirmation, arises.

This movement of creative culture would start by rejecting and marginalizing the petty nabobs of progressive culture. But then it would start to celebrate something higher and better, and it would not try to do it with totalitarian methods learned from the then-modern equivalent of the Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse.

This movement would rediscover my catchphrases. It would understand that government is force, and government spawns injustice with its force. So it would want to dial down government. It would recognize that politics is fighting and division, and a true creative culture could not thrive if it was based on a political movement to conquer and divide. So it would want to dial down politics. And it would understand that system is domination, and any bureaucratic system, governmental or corporate, is essentially trying to put humans into a straitjacket. So it would want to dial down big systems.

For two hundred years, conservatives have been saying that progressive enthusiasm leads to the gallows, just like the French Revolution. But progressive enthusiasts keep coming up with the idea that This Time is Different.

We are not going to solve the progressive problem by naming and shaming the progressives as they always do for us. We are not going to solve the progressive problem when the progressives wake up from their progressive dream. Because that is something they will never do.

We must wait and hope for a new movement, a new generation like the generation of 1848 that rejected the culture of their fathers and dreamed a dream of a new world. We wait for a generation that will reject the progressive dream as a nightmare, and start to build something new finally free of the stupidity of imagining that you can build the future on the basis of force and political will.

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