I will begin this blog with a post dedicated to conservatism and also sharing some of my thoughts on why they should, as the title suggests, blame themselves.
I wouldn’t be a conservative, nor Catholic, without recognition of an objective reality in which truth may be found without failure, and upon which we all depend to guide our consciences. Having read Russel Kirk’s Conservative Mind cemented the convictions that were gathering by reading Christopher Lasch and online publications like First Things or The American Conservative. Cracking open Conservative Mind again for the first time in I cannot say how long, I find a sentence directly relevant:”‘Nature’ is not simply the sensation of the passing moment; it is eternal, though we evanescent men experience only a fragment of it.”
Here Kirk is discussing our nature as beings. I won’t presently repeat the overwrought, copious, and too-often quoted misconceptions certain Liberals have about nature. It is enough to say that some just think our nature changes, or is changeable. I found myself falling into this pattern of thought at one point, much to my eventual dismay. If my nature is changeable, and I can change it or develop it — or if the society to which I unfortunately belong could — why hasn’t it? Or has it? If it has, why am I not happy?
In Kirk the hint at an answer could be found, as well as a warning. He continues: “We have no right to imperil the happiness of posterity by impudently tinkering with the heritage of humanity.” The modern world is in many ways an island. It has really sought to set itself apart from the past in as many ways as possible. Those who consider themselves Traditionalists know the result, some of them from their own experience: a feeling of desolation and alienation, as if you have no place.
I expect that none of this is new to many people reading, at least not the conservatives. That is why I hold conservatives largely responsible for the way America has turned out. Degradation does not occur in a vacuum, a culture doesn’t decline by it’s nature. If that is what someone believes, I should hope they’re another nihilist blasting crust punk or something, banging their head to emotive rhapsodies about humanity being shit.
As a mostly religious group, conservatives should be the last to hang their heads and say there is nothing left to do but wave a white flag (such as the progressive wolves among the right) or insulate themselves in faith groups and those of like minds (like many traditionalists and many other conservatives).
The right can complain about the liberalization of every institution all they’d like, but where is the thrust of anything else into the midst of these liberal-infested parts of society? Moreover, where are conservatives actually attempting to embrace the good outside of their own faith and in a secular society? The truth is they are not. And for such despondency, they suffer along with the rest of America — that is, if anyone still believes sin leads to suffering, not just damnation.
But I don’t know that conservatives do believe this anymore. People have been very eager to hear my own story of conversion, and I don’t doubt that many people I know or have met really understand suffering is inevitable in the life of a person who takes seriously the basic tenets of liberalism, but with all that knowledge, all I can see is that they’ve avoided liberalism and liberals, instead of clarifying a way forward for them.
Thus, if conservatives want to look for causes for our modern predicament, they ought to blame themselves. Over the years, they’ve withdrawn from every art form, the public expression of ideas, politics, the sciences, and public life in general. What’s left is a smorgasbord of liberals and republicans who used to identify as liberals. That is a behemoth of a subject to be tackled another day. Presently, it should concern conservatives how we are to get a remotely conservative society — child-safe music and film, pro-life laws, modest fashion, novels and stories ranked among alongside classics, lower crime rates, lower imprisonment, lower debts for our nation and ourselves, greater church attendance, more respect for the Constitution, and a standard of living that isn’t numeric and economically grown but virtuous — if conservatives are merely content to resign to inside jokes about the risibility of liberalism, church on Sunday, and knowing you didn’t commit any sins today.
This is a failure that keeps repeating itself with no end in sight. The most recent event which suggests some sort of change is the election of Trump, which is hardly a change so much as the culmination of defeated spirits sighing all for too long. Trump is only the man who promised more positive changes (a la Obama) to the right audience. Hell, it couldn’t even be called the right audience with a margin of a few percentages separating Trump’s victory from Clinton’s defeat.
If conservatives wish for things to change, they will have to start acting like the truth is not a blunt object to beat over the head of an opponent once their backs are in a corner. The right will have to find a temperament more akin to Christ’s although still rather human — a painful middle that is moderated by a desire for joy and the readiness to suffer to do the right thing.
We can start by no longer apologizing for capitalism or borrowing logic from liberals to baptize everything a wealthy person does with their money. It should be the greatest shame of conservatives that more CEO’s aren’t fired more often, that a free market clears the way for strip clubs, pornography, gentrification, underemployment, and welfare for those perfectly capable of working, the rising cost of food, a diet no doctor would recommend, and, among plenty more, allowing their own offspring to be saddled with debt before they’ve even entered their career. But for them to see how greatly these things conflict with the Gospels and their conscience, the right will have to encounter them somewhere outside of the internet, outside of the news, outside of any medium less palpable than the human heart.