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When I was young, I rapidly learned to hate conservatives. They were bloated people of rigid minds who devoted their lives to earning money and owning things, and they had a little list of what was OK and they lashed out against anything that was not visibly on it. In fact, what bothered me the most was their categorical mindset. They had no flexibility of thought. You either taught Creationism, or you were a devil; never mind that evolution could be proof of the infinite genius of their God. You were either married, or a slut; you were either Christian, or a heathen. Not to imply that they should have seen middle ground - after all, that is in itself a complete fabrication in matters of ideals - but that they did not see the whole of the order of the universe. They had an invariant, one-size-fits-all outlook that was convenient for condemning others. It was like a sick little clubhouse.
Fast forward some years. I've now learned to hate liberals. They are not bad people, as conservatives aren't bad people, but they are misinformed. Even worse, they are motivated by emotion and not holistic thought, and their responses are as kneejerk as those of the conservatives. Either a certain belief is on their whitelist of accepted ideas, or they lash out against it. They cannot see how traditional lifestyles fulfil much of the liberal dream: local communities, ruled by leaders selected for wisdom and not (George W. Bush) popularity with the lowbrow crowd, and a furtherance of culture, justice, knowledge and art. In fact, liberals are willing more than anything else to destroy, even destroy all hope, so long as their one precious hot-button issue is preserved: revenge against those who have more than others through equalization and subsidization of the less-capable. They want to even humanity out into a race of clones, so that none are above others.
This leaves me even more of a misfit than before, and unlike those who see politics as their personal identity (most people from New York or London), I don't want a political identity, least of all misfits. I am not concerned with the label of ideas, but the ideas themselves, and more importantly, the structure of belief systems into which these ideas fit. There is no place for such thinking except in philosophy, and it like all other aspects of Western culture, is steadily being absorbed by those who have the disease liberals and conservatives have in common: rigid categorical thinking, based mostly in a desire to justify their own lifestyles and empower their own self-image, e.g. "I am right for thinking this, and everyone else is wrong, so whatever I want to do to them is justified."
I have more in common with the average people of the West than most politicians in that I seek not power, not identity, but a practical lifestyle. Those of us with enough experience and mental focus to think through the questions of life have long known that the flashy lifestyles of the city and entertainment culture are meaningless; what matters in life are the intangibles, like friends, family and personal experience, especially in achieving triumph over that which we fear and through that, ascendancy to a higher state of mind. They used to call this transcendent thought, and all the writers and thinkers I've ever loved have idealized this state of mind. Interestingly, so did the knights of ancient Europe as well as the Zen monks of ancient Asia.
When we think in practical terms, it no longer makes sense to passively look for a side to join and hope that They will figure it all out through some mechanistic process. Wouldn't it be nice if life came down to selecting one of two choices, and everything got basically peachy after that? Reality is more complicated: both right and left are rotted like a gangrenous limb, and there is nothing we can do to redeem ourselves by blindly supporting them. The only path is to pick the values we find meaningful, to envision a better society, and to support that through any and all agencies that make themselves compatible to its aims. With this in mind, it's hard to want to be a conservative, or a liberal.
Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Ronald Reagan, recently took aim at the war in Iraq. "We ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes," he said. What he's referring to is the same thing Francis Fukuyama referenced in his book The End of History and the Last Man, in which he suggests that the final state of human history is one of liberal democracy, human and civil rights, and free economic enterprise and personal economic competition for all. Fukuyama and Scowcroft (and Bush and Reagan and Clinton and Carter) repeat basically the same doctrine: we have found a Utopian "progressive" design, and that is the society driven by equality of individuals and their competition in open markets, open social situations, and other linear challenges. Like the conservative Christian moralists, they see one way to redemption, and anything not on that holy ordained list is "bad" or "evil" and must be crushed. This is the crux of modern Western thought, which combines the idealism of the past with a focus on the individual and material comfort derived from Judaism, coming up with a belief system that is anything but holistic. When we're feeling nice, we call it "anthrocentric." When we're not, we say it's a kingdom of individual pretense that has no leadership, but is a circle of sheep chasing each other in an attempt to manipulate popularity for personal profit.
History tells us that this revolution has been ongoing for two thousand years in the West, and that identical breakdowns have happened in every great society, most notably that of the Greeks, who collapsed shortly after discovering populist democracy and international trade. The individual - all individuals - became kings, and thus, there was no consensus, and shortly, the mechanisms of society broke down and the weakened civilization degraded itself to the point where it was quick work for foreign conquerors to destroy it. This revolution has gained momentum since World War II, when superpowers competed on the basis of which was morally more "progressive" than the other, and conservatism comprises one half of its pincer attack. Like a wrestling match, the outcome is fixed, and the "competitors" bought, but they make a good show of it because, win or lose, they'll take home a ton of money from keeping the proles amused.
Now we get into difficult territory: liberals allege that recent conservative electoral wins (George W. Bush) have made some kind of vast difference. They haven't. Bush and Clinton are brothers in advancing the agenda of worldwide liberalism, even if George W. Bush cloaks his agenda behind mumblings to the evangelicals and traditionalists, and Clinton hides his own impetus behind platitudes to civil rights and "freedoms." They're the same animal, because they've been produced by the same system and the same assumptions, and therefore are not independent thinkers/leaders but those who fulfil a role. Their job is to make money for themselves and their allies, and whatever window-dressing they use to obscure their actual intention is fine, as long as it is popular. As a consequence, they've neatly paralyzed the electorate by dividing it into two camps who form personal identities based on their political orientation, and forget the underlying values and lapse in keeping their leaders accountable for upholding those values. (It's redundant to point out that populist democracy, which hands the vote to any unqualified person over a certain age, is destined mathematically to failure by the inability of that group to make decisions of the complexity required. It's for this reason that history shows that every populist democracy ever created has rapidly collapsed into selfishness, infighting, bickering, theft, graft and deception, then been conquered by more literal minded - did I say The Chinese? - neighbors.)
How could such a system take place - is it a vast conspiracy? I'll say, firmly, it is not. People can collaborate unconsciously if they work toward the same ends, or uphold the same basic outlook. For example, there was no conspiracy to build housing, yet every early human group figured out how to do it. There is similarly, no conspiracy here; what we are seeing is an emotional reaction that is inherent to any human group, and its triumph over the past two millennia has been a product more of its simplistic, lowest common denominator message - and swelling numbers of people who can live well within civilization, but lack the discipline to survive in the wild, a product of civilization's strength in increasing ease of access to food, shelter, medicine, and "learning" - than any grand plan. In fact, we could call it the "anti-plan." Instead of providing an ideology for the future, or a holistic vision of how we could live better, its impetus is a gesture as old as humanity: dividing up the spoils in such a way that every member of the crowd is satisfied. It is pacification.
The disorganized, anti-plan, anti-conspiracy movement has triumphed through something I call the voodoo doll approach. When you are faced with an enemy that unifies its constituents through a belief system, there is one way to take it down that works every time. You build a replica of that belief system, but you change a few things so that like a Trojan horse it slips into the population and like a virus, begins infecting others with the changed outlook. It may take centuries, but gradually it will gain power, because most people cannot tell the difference between it and the real belief that enabled the society to prosper. Even better, sweeten it a bit and appeal to cognitive dissonance - tell people that they've been wronged, and they deserve something for nothing, and they will rapidly fall in line behind the new belief. One can only imagine that cancers in the human body act the same way, appearing to be normal cells but having an agenda of reckless growth (the "anti-plan") which is not discovered until too late. Yet no one calls cancer a conspiracy.
Conservatism is the voodoo doll that emulates traditional beliefs, but sells them out at its core. It is not radically different except that its philosophy incorporates a different scope, and thus creates a changed motive in those who uphold it. Where traditional societies were idealistic and holistic, meaning that people did what was right by the whole of the society and its environment, instead of trying to do right by the individual, modern societies are individualistic: their goal is to gain wealth and political equality for the individual above all else, including all holistic concerns. The individual does what benefits him or her, and lets someone else worry about the consequences. Conveniently, no one is worrying about the consequences - where's the personal profit in that? - which makes it a perfect system for those who wish to accumulate wealth, especially through means that while not illegal are, in a holistic sense, unethical. I include pornographers, politicians and sellers of plastic garbage alike in that indictment.
Where tradition proposed a complete design of civilization, conservatism is a rider to the general agenda of mass empowerment that is the revolution described above that has been consuming the west for two thousand years (the West has died hard; it has taken a long time for this concept to have any momentum; luckily for those who push it, they have no other options, and thus will attempt it perpetually). Conservatism says, yes, let's go forward with the liberal society, but let's make our personal list of what is approved include only things that sound like traditional values. But, of course, in a society of mass revolt, the list needs to be something even an idiot can understand. So it is dumbed down, and then made even dumber, until it reaches the point of being a list of categorical knee-jerk responses. At this point, it makes perfect fodder for the wrestling match of politics, in that its categorical responses are blind to reality, and therefore it constantly fails and gives its twin, liberalism, a chance to get in a few shots. The "voters" - a term that implies that they make actual choices when casting votes - are bewildered and baffled, and thus become increasingly balkanized, clinging to political symbols and emotions with which they can identify. (It's only fair to mention again that populist democracy casts the responsibility of rule on those who are inherently unable to do it; while they are fine people in everyday life, and it is not a character defect of theirs, they are as out of luck as a car mechanic attempting to perform brain surgery. It's an entirely different task from everyday life to lead a nation, or to pick a belief and political system which benefits it holistically. Thus the voters do not even attempt it, and vote selfishly, casting their society into an early grave through the resulting internal division, graft, etc. that this engenders.)
The Neoconservatives - mostly Jewish intellectuals and evangelical Christian drunkards and cocaine addicts like George W. Bush - have formalized this membership. Conservatism is liberalism. Like mint iced tea, it's still liberalism, just flavored with a sprig of token traditional values. If you don't believe this, ask what conservatism has done for traditional values lately. Abortion? Banning abortion has not stopped the problem of desperate people, trashy casual sex, and thus unwanted babies. Drugs? People are miserable and bored and find their lives pointless, thus take drugs excessively. Conservatism hasn't addressed that issue at all. What about crime? Depending on which way the wind blows, the statistics claim it's up or down, but that does not change the base reality that it's out of control and impacts our lives negatively. What about corporate power? A decline in culture? Lack of shared cultural values? Conservatism has failed on all of these issues, and always will, because conservatism does not take the stance necessary to control these issues: we need some form of society other than the mass individualized kleptocracy of liberal democracy.
Consider another issue: women. We are divided, permanently and inextricably, between feminists and conservatives. Feminists want women and men to share a role in equality, have abortions and lifestyle flexibility, and generally, to treat each other like commercial products in a jockeying for power. Conservatives lash out with a doctrine that translates similarly into ownership of women, but this time, in theory, women are given to men, who must then serve them and their corporate overlords alike in tedious, conservative jobs. It's clear that feminism is deleterious to women, in that in the name of avoiding a minority of marriages that were abusive and unhappy, it has converted women into a zombie army of faceless single dropouts in their 30s and 40s, burned out sexually and emotionally and romantically by a series of failed relationships in which both parties fought to keep power and, in the grand tradition of crowds, shouted each other down and obliterated any possible direction. Feminism is crowd revenge - equality - for women. It's not really any different than "White Supremacy," which supposes that if one is mostly white one is entitled to rule over the other races of earth, except that it address only women.
Feminism has destroyed what made women unique, and what gave ancient cultures the ability to see them as having a unique and invaluable role, and has made them more grist for the mill of commerce, throwing them into careers like men and thus keeping both sexes in competition. Who benefits? Those who use them for labor, of course. Did women benefit? There are all these rules about equality now, and a literal smorgasbord of rhetoric, but in the end, what has happened now is that most of them are ending up in unhappy relationships and the graces of femininity and its unique place in the universe are destroyed. Once again, the crowd clamors for equality and thus destroys quality, dragging us all down to the lowest common denominator. But when the choice is seemingly between blockhead conservative ownership, and blockhead liberal ownership, are women given much of a choice? Not bloody likely.
Tradition saw no one-size-fits-all role for anyone. Women were not equal to men, but men were not equal to men; each person was seen as having unique strengths and weaknesses, and thus a permanent position in a social hierarchy. There was not economic competition, but this meant that people worked less and spent more time developing themselves. There were unhappy marriages and abusive husbands, but those were in the minority (and, amusingly, they still exist, showing us the complete failure of liberal feminist rhetoric). Women had a role which was granted to them by nature and which could never conform to the demands of ownership. It was not a function; it was not based on external traits alone; it did not assign them a linear value through "competition." It granted them something that has been so wholly taken away few now would even recognize it.
In the traditional worldview, one must look at the world as whole. All of us, and all of the elements of our environment, work together to provide a singular reality which is seen as the greatest form of holiness possible. It transcends the difference between gods and humans, as it includes both, and it is more than mere ideas or mere physical reality, but an order which encompasses both. In this context, you did not own a woman, nor did you compete with her as an "equal" as fodder for the capital machine. Men and women together created something holy, which was the family and continuation of the species, and were not obligated to each other but paired as a matter of opportunity (note to feminists: there have always been single women and lesbians living out quiet lives, through all of history, and for the most part, they were unmolested). A woman was something that graced one's life, and a partner in a lifelong quest to continue that which made a life that not only created both partners but had treated them well. A woman and man were the basis of a family. You did not "own" your woman, nor did you serve her, nor did she serve you; it was an attitude of mutual worship grounded in worship of the whole, which was seen as greater than the individual. Women had a unique place and were respected for what made them different, not what made them workers like everyone else who could be owned by some dollars-and-cents business. What we've lost in modern times is this reverence for life, and this mutuality, whereby a man and woman could see each other as gifts to each other from the gods. Contrast that to "Sex and the City" and you'll see how shallow modernity really is.
I call the mass revolt, the equalization, the pity culture, and the Jewish "individualism" by a more rightful name: Crowdism. It is giving power to the crowd, and excluding the individual, most specifically an individual who wishes to live on his or her own terms and be valuable for achievements, having beaten fears and conquered doubt, and having sculpted out of raw existence a life which is rewarding. Crowdism fears those who might be satisfied, and its solution is that we all - "equally" - are dissatisfied, and forever snapping at each other and competing in trivial ways. The only people it makes happy are those who do not and cannot think about the consequences of their actions, as they are simply glad to have revenge over those more gifted by nature, and feel that this compensates somehow for their failings. Crowdism is cowardice, because it denies to all of us the need to assert ourselves as individuals, conquer our demons, and create in ourselves and our communities a sense of benevolence and higher order. Not everyone can do that, and out of deference to those few (and a need to use them as footsoldiers in the revolution), Crowdism wishes to drag us all to that unsatisfied, self-doubting, paranoiac level.
There are multitudinous other examples of why conservatism is garbage. It denies that the environment is part of our whole existence, and wishes to sell it, also, to the machine. It denies the differences between individuals and the fact that it's a stark choice between raising up the lowest, or promoting the highest; with the latter, a civilization always has new mountains to climb, but with the former, the mountain is reduced to a foothill so that everyone can climb and thus feel good about themselves. It's an illusion within the human mind, an anthrocentricism so crass that it motivates people to treat their world and each other with a subtly disguised form of scorn. Conservatism even fails in Iraq, where under the guise of bringing "progress," we bring death and Coca-Cola, and absorb an ancient culture into our economic machine whereby we all serve the low-brow interests of the Crowd. But hey, at least their women have "equality," so they can now be single and bitter in their 30s and 40s while patting themselves on the back for having been handed their new rights.
The Crowd reminds me of an unstable family, where regardless of the consequences, it is felt that if everyone is doing the same thing, "control" is in place and therefore, it'll all work out okay, somehow, sometime, somewhere. The Crowd therefore has as its first tenet equality and the enforcement of one-size-fits-all logic, and for that reason justifies that logic as "progressive," even if these people under freedom seem more neurotic, single, desperate, sad and lonely than ever before. The Crowd doesn't care; it is motivated by fear, not a desire for higher things. Those who have not been infected with the dogma of the crowd think in a holistic sense, and realize that "One law for the ox and the raven is tyranny," and that, much as there are many different species in nature, there will be many different types of humanity. It is entirely OK for the women of Iraq to live as they have according to their tradition, and for some parts of humanity to live according to the liberal-consmopolitan rhetoric that Judaism and liberalism endorse. The holistic doctrine suggests that in different places, different orders will prevail, but the corollary to that is that they will achieve different results. The Crowdists want a lowest common denominator, and the conservatives want a form of that Crowdist logic, but me, I want it all. I want a society that constantly rises to higher orders, based on reverence and mutual rhetoric, and I both desire and work toward that end. For this reason, I'm a traditionalist. Conservatism is a subset of liberalism and I want nothing to do with either of those revengeful, petty, blockhead doctrines.
November 5, 2005