Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A paragraph to ponder.

Anthony Daniels, otherwise known by his pen name, Theodore Dalrymple, is perhaps one of the best conservative writers out there. Should it interest anyone to know why I started blogging it is because of him. It's not that his work inspired me, rather, I wanted to also confirm what he wrote about in his articles, as an independent blogger. My writing is no where in his league and I never expected to get the audience that I have but it was my intention to second the observations that he made whilst working with the underclass and social services as a physician.  I had analogous experiences here in Australia and I felt almost duty bound to give support to his views. I imagine that there are doctors in the U.S. who could report the same.

Daniels regularly writes for the Salisbury Review, which purports to be the Quarterly Journal of the Conservative Anglosphere (it too, seems to be soliciting writers, so arid in thought is Conservative Britain) and his writing is generally quite perceptive and well reasoned.  But imagine my surprise when I saw this paragraph in a recent work of his;
The other question to which I have found no satisfactory answer, despite having been asked it many times, is what is a conservative. My reply is that a conservative has no fixed doctrine to which he must subscribe. He has, rather, a general attitude [Ed], namely that man is fallible, that regress is as much to be feared as progress is to be hoped, that human action always has unforeseen consequences so that prudence is a virtue, that ignorance is always greater than knowledge, that those who came before us were as intelligent as we, that tradition contains wisdom as well as irrationality, that life cannot be lived according to a preconceived plan, that wickedness lies in wait for all of us, that man is imperfectible.
Strange, how one of the best conservative writers out there has a difficulty with understanding the nature of conservatism. I don't think Daniels is alone in his view of conservatism. I have a lot of respect for Daniels, and his understanding of conservatism as consisting of tradition, caution and the preference of the familiar seem to be the predominant themes in contemporary understandings of itself and itself reflects the Burkean tradition of thought.  Personally, I think that this is conservatism's fatal flaw.

The problem with this temperamental view of conservatism is that it is bound to no fixed principles, rather, this type of conservatism exists to act as social retardant to innovation, regardless of whether this innovation is good or bad. A temperamental does not have fixed prinicples but rather a fixed attitude. So while a temperamental conservative may oppose moral relativism initially, if enough people come on board, if it is implemented slowly and if it appears to work, he'll slowly come around to the idea and then, he will be resistant to having the principle changed. This type of conservatism does not really afford any protection against the slouch towards Gomorrah. The Conservative impotence at events in Rotherham is a case in point. As I've said before, modern conservatism is simply the Right wing branch of the Left.

15 comments:

Remnant said...

You don't draw the explicit conclusion but I interpret what you are saying as pointing to the fact that Daniels / Dalrymple does not explicitly subscribe to the doctrine of inherent inequality.

That is the characteristic that really defines the new right, or real right or whatever you wan to call it, as opposed to the mainstream right (of which Dalrymple is an outlying member).

He never writes in racial terms or similar terms that imply a lack of belief in human inequality. So to that extent, I would have to agree with you that is not really in the camp of the alternative right or neo-reactionary right.

Remnant said...

You don't draw the explicit conclusion but I interpret what you are saying as pointing to the fact that Daniels / Dalrymple does not explicitly subscribe to the doctrine of inherent inequality.

That is the characteristic that really defines the new right, or real right or whatever you wan to call it, as opposed to the mainstream right (of which Dalrymple is an outlying member).

He never writes in racial terms or similar terms that imply a lack of belief in human inequality. So to that extent, I would have to agree with you that is not really in the camp of the alternative right or neo-reactionary right.

Hubbard said...

Paul Gottfried once suggested that when classifying someone's ideology as liberal or conservative, you had to think about what society he was in. For example, Vladimir Putin is a reactionary today, but he would have been a radical in the Russia of 1894 and a centrist in the USSR of 1954.

Conservatism is a tricky thing because the boundaries of our politics keeps shifting. Neither Burke, who was an Old Whig rather than a Tory, nor Chesterton, who opposed Capitalism and Communism alike, considered himself a conservative, but today's conservatives are probably their biggest fans.

In an annoying sense, everybody has at least a few things he'd like to conserve, making him part conservative, and some thing he'd like to quickly and drastically reform, making him a radical. The focus on conservatism might be less important than a focus on first principles.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"The problem with this temperamental view of conservatism is that it is bound to no fixed principles, rather, this type of conservatism exists to act as social retardant to innovation, regardless of whether this innovation is good or bad."

Spot on observation.

This definition of conservatism...that conservatives seek only to preserve the status quo...is the Left's framing. It's a trap.

There is precious little about the present hegemony that the Alt Right, NuTrads, Paleocons, whatever moniker is hung on them, wants to conserve.

Then there is the question of where to place these folks on the political spectrum...if these political groups themselves want to discard the status quo and replace it with something else, does that make them Left? Or Right?

What's more, since Liberalists are The Man now, do their efforts to defend their hegemony make them Right, by their own definition?

The Social Pathologist said...

@Remnant

I don't think of Daniels along your lines. You've got to remember he spent a lot of time in Africa and I have no reason to suspect that the experience left him with a jaundiced eye when it came to issues about blacks, unlike many of the HBD crowd who subscribe far too much to genetics.

He is a humanist and can see both the good and bad in people. I don't know why he doesn't write about race, but perhaps it is not high on his priorities, especially given his history of psychiatry and his experience of the degradation of the white lower classes. His specialty is disease of the mind, and hence, I imagine, his focus on cognitive and ideological pathology.

I still think that he belongs to the Right but he's one of those members who belongs because he intuitively feels its "rightness".

@Hubbard

The focus on conservatism might be less important than a focus on first principles.

I agree. Right now, the Right has become a mixed bag of ideologies whose common cause seems to be a rejection of the Left rather than any common principals. The problem is that many of these members are either cognitively retarded or temperamentally retarded. Hence, the modern Right is largely composed of both the stupid and those who are slow to embrace (but eventually will) new ideas because of the novelty, not because of their content.

It's this second group who are particularly dangerous, as they appear as ostensible allies but will buckle towards the Left once they have become "comfortable" with a novel, yet stupid idea.

@EW

This definition of conservatism...that conservatives seek only to preserve the status quo...is the Left's framing. It's a trap.

I don't think it is a wholly Left wing thing, I think it is a serious "in-house" problem which conservatives have been unable to recognise.

I think the reason why modern Conservatism is such a potpourri of factions is because nearly everyone can belong as long as they don't like the Left. What's even more a problem is that Conservatives can't stop infiltration by the batshit insane because membership qualifications are so damn low.

As mentioned above, the Conservative "temperament" Trojan Horse is a serious problem which, in my mind, has not been addressed at all in conservative thought. It surprises me that very few in the conservative camp have bothered to understand why they have a fond affect for men like Burke, Chesterton and Mencken when they themselves would have distanced themselves from their future audience.

As for the the Left, they are now The Establishment.

Novaseeker said...

I really agree with your assessment, SP.

Conservatism in the contemporary political parlance really just signifies slow-boat-ism. Just slow the boat down, regardless of where it is going. It is therefore a moving thing, and something which moves based on its supposed "antagonist", which is, in reality, the driver of the boat. In truth, contemporary conservatism really acts as a (likely needed) foil for the progressive/liberal/left in our political systems -- it is kind of like the sugar that helps make the left's medicine go down, because over the course of time, as you note, issues that were once championed by the left and opposed by the "right" morph into issues that are championed/accepted by the "right" as part of what is to be conserved. (Feminism and most of the sexual revolution are huge cases in point for this.) It's almost the perfect political foil for the left, when viewed in this way.

In and of itself, it stands for nothing, it innovates nothing, it has no fixed principle other than change should happen slowly rather than quickly, or that the most recent changes made by the left should be rolled back. In the end, it is really a hollow kind of politics, and when one realizes this, it becomes obvious that the actual right really desperately needs a new politics that is contra to the left in principle. A right that actually has fixed principles, and is not just about slowing down the boat, or even turning the boat around, but instead has its own agenda for how the boat should be steered ahead (time's arrow points in only one way after all), albeit in a different direction, and in a different way.

This is urgently and desperately needed. Its lack is one of the core reasons the West finds itself in the crisis it does at the moment.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Nova

It's almost the perfect political foil for the left, when viewed in this way.

Yep, conservative "reaction" needs to be seen as moderating force for the left, keeping "progressive" policy proposals within the Overton Window, all the while the Overton window is gradually moving left, a bit like a creeping box barrage.

Conservative moderation thus facilitates the incremental implementation of left wing policies slowly habituating the proles to radicalisation.

Only 30 years ago, the concept of Gay marriage would have been thought of as insane, yet, here we are.

Novaseeker said...

Conservative moderation thus facilitates the incremental implementation of left wing policies slowly habituating the proles to radicalisation.

Only 30 years ago, the concept of Gay marriage would have been thought of as insane, yet, here we are.


Precisely.

The gay marriage issue is one way to observe this in real time. As recently as 5-10 years ago, conservatives were openly and adamantly opposed. Now, they are mostly silent on the issue as the window on the issue has moved. Scroll ahead 10-20 years, and we will see conservatives championing gay marriage as a pillar of modern society -- "underscoring the central and critical role of marriage and families in our country" bla bla bla, as the hetero marriage rate continues to tumble and so on.

Not only are they worthless from the perspective of posing any real opposition, they are downright harmful because they actually facilitate the changes they would claim to oppose. It's a truly ridiculous situation.

standingagainsttheworld said...

@Novaseeker

Case in point we now have pro-gay and conservative:

http://gayconservative.org/

We have anti-immigration far-right geert wilders:
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/03/07/backlash-dutch-mp-wilders-welcomes-new-anti-islam-party-australia

Who supports same-sex marriage,euthanasia and abortion:
http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=5478

MarcusD said...

So, it looks like conservatives are already defending gay marriage:

http://www.theage.com.au/world/gay-groups-angered-as-heterosexual-men-marry-to-win-rugby-trip-20140912-10fu3t.html


Gay groups angered as heterosexual men marry to win rugby trip

Two men got married in New Zealand this morning and people aren't happy about it.

Heterosexuals Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick tied the knot on Friday morning as part of a radio competition to win tickets to the Rugby World Cup. The "best mates" got hitched at Eden Park stadium in Auckland before a crowd of 60 family members and friends, with tens of thousands listening live.

But the stunt has prompted a rare union between gay rights groups and social conservatives, who have both condemned the sham marriage - for very different reasons.

raphael-a said...

1. Similar to Daniels, William F. Buckley wrote, "A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so."
But there is no reason to stop good innovation. That is why a more appealing axiom is that of Dr. Thomas Sowell, who wrote,"There are no solutions,only trade-offs." That way, three out of four romantic yet fraudulent panaceas can be discarded in favor of one that has been shown to work.
2. My problem with conservatism is that here in America, religious candidates now equate an unfettered free market with a higher morality. But if humans, as the Bible teaches, are born with an inclination to evil, than CEOs of private companies need to be minimally and effectively monitored. Privately run prisons here wind up with as many belated calls for "greater oversight" as the scandal-ridden government ones.
Arguably, the last religious conservative president of the United States was Theodore Roosevelt, who helped form the Food & Drug Association, created the national park system and was known as a "trust-buster."

Robert What? said...

I would say that true conservatism consists of choosing a fixed point in the past or several fixed points in the past, where man was generally considered to be at his best; choose the best attributes of those points and attempt to adhere to them. Whether it is classic Roman or Greek periods, early American (Revolutionary), or Biblical. Does that sound like it might work?

The Social Pathologist said...

@RobertWhat.

Conservatism= True.

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