Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Last Crusade: A Liberal Pondering of Conservatism One Night Before Election Day

“A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation. But we insist that further change be organic, rather than revolutionary.”
-Edmund Burke (Political Theorist and Philosopher, 1729-1797)

That was said about 300 years ago, when the core values of what soon came to be known as the conservative movement came into fruition. While it is undoubtedly difficult to distinctly label and establish the defining values of what constitutes a conservative (due to different cultures and societies defining core values due to their own cultural perspective), the strains of modern day conservatism can be laced back to its very beginnings, during the Age of Reason and the temerity of hostile events such as the French Revolution. In other words, most, if not all, modern day forms of conservatism all trace back to what some dead dude said back in the 1700s. Edmund Burke isn’t just the name of LOST’s Juliet Burke’s husband that was inexplicably run over by a bus, thus allowing Juliet to continue her studies in fertility on the island (the trippy thing is that Juliet actually told her island recruiter, Richard Alpert, that she wishes Edmund would get run over by a bus. ISN’T THAT WEIRD?)

Sorry. I miss Lost. I really do. What am I supposed to do? Pushing Daisies is on hiatus. They expect me to watch HEROES to fill my sci-fi fix? Really? Heroes? Fox News is more entertaining. At least they know they’re full of shit.

Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish statesman, philosopher, political thinker, activist, and Fox News Political Analyst (jk), who relocated to Great Britain and served at the British House of Commons. Following the coattails of such Reformation thinkers like Richard Hooker, Burke believed in the moderation of government/political influence, in order to obtain social harmony and the common good. In addition, Burke emphasized the idea of inherited institutions, customs, norms and mores as the quintessential answer to a harmonious society. For example, author Robert Putnam emphasizes in his work, Bowling Alone, the importance of what he calls social capital and civil society (i.e. “..the quality of public life and performance of social institutions…are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement”).

In layman’s terms: Small government + Civil Society = GOOD TIMES!

Moreover, Burke and other conservative scholars, such as Carl B. Cone’s work in “Burke and the Nature of Politics” put an emphasis on individual rights; especially when it came to the right of property.

So to update our equation: Small Government + Civil Society + Having a lock on our bedroom door = GOOD TIMES! WITH CONSERVATIVE THEMED APPLEBEETINIS!

Conservatives. They don’t sound so bad right? Good neighbors, takes care of their own bills, and lets you beat off to whatever your heart desires in your own room. Sounds pretty good to me. Only thing is that the conservative party that Edmund Burke and other European thinkers envisioned would be virtually unrecognizable today. Instead, we have a party that has been hijacked by money-hungry, money-spending, God-fearing and socially-imposing demagogues that do nothing but stand on a soap box and spew out didactic, false and polarizing sentiments to further maintain what they believe is the core value of conservatism: to conserve. In a nation that was built on progressive thinking, the idea of keeping things the same seems a bit paradoxical.

The most profound, almost convincing, critique of democracy comes from Plato, in which he stated that a society ruled by the hand of democracy would eventually be dictated by unruly passion and pervasive ignorance. To a certain extent, the man was right; the modern day conservative movement (i.e. The Grand Old Party), for the past two decades, have won elections based on facades, convincing (i.e. tricking) the American people into thinking that they are economically, socially and globally voting for a greater good, but only putting more money in the deep pockets who don’t need it, repressing unalienable rights which the founders of the conservative moment would frown upon, and ostracizing a nation from global allies based on a false sense of smug superiority.

The most telling of all signs that the conservative party has been hijacked is the recent conversion of John McCain: The “maverick”, the real Jack Bauer, and the next Dwight D. Eisenhower (the last great Republican President). McCain was supposed to be the catalyst to healing the GOP, a return back to calm, reason and prudence that made people such as Eisenhower an affable candidate. Instead, McCain left his independent roots and decided to pander to the base. He promoted Reagonmics (i.e. staunch proponent of trickle down economics), attacked individual rights (i.e. putting religious practice into political action [gay marriage, abortion]), continued to pretend to be ignorant of middle eastern history, used guilt by association and ad hominem attacks to stir fear into the public, and finally, what has turned out to be the most detrimental move in his Presidential run, pick a Stewardess that thinks the Vice President runs the Senate, doesn’t know what the First Amendment does, and thinks the Bush Doctrine is a murder mystery by Dean Kootz as a Vice Presidential running mate.

Let’s be clear.

From the years 2002-2006, there was an 863 billion dollar growth in the American economy. 626 billion dollars of it went to the top 1 percent of Americans. 90 percent of Americans got less than 10 percent. In the past two terms from which George W. Bush has been in office, 5 trillion dollars has been added to the national debt with an addition 32 trillion dollars to be paid off by us (by us I mean the most recent college graduates). Not exactly small government.

Individual rights and decisions, such as sexual preference and abortion, are constantly being bombarded by people that deem themselves conservatives. When, traditionally, conservatives would be in favor for any citizen to practice individual rights as long as those individual, and unalienable, rights do not present a moral hazard (i.e. imposing on a fellow citizen’s unalienable rights). The idea of moral hazard has been twisted by modern conservatives; while traditional conservatives believe in the idea of improving oneself for the benefit of all others, modern day conservatives believe in the reverse: improving everyone else so that one can personally gain from it. This distorted view in reason has been put into practice in American society since its conception, ranging from slavery, the suppression of racial minorities, and now to the subtle bigotry of anti-gay marriage proponents (i.e. Yes on 8).

The war in Iraq has largely become a modern-day conservative cause, with most of its proponents sitting on the right side of the aisle. While the majority of Americans understand that the middle east is wrought with ideological conflict stemming back from 3rd century AD over whether or not some dudes were actually cousins of Muhammad or not, many members of the GOP refuse to pull out. While implications of a new religious crusade may be overreaching (even though Joe the Plumber said two days ago that Iraq was successful because we saved Iraqis like Jesus saved us), there is no doubt that there is a fundamental difference in the ideologies of the West and the East, and, arguably, those ideals stem from the extremities of each respective religion; and while not causal, there is certainly a correlation.

The hijacking of American conservatism has had a causal effect on all these situations. Modern day conservatism has turned into nothing but an amalgamation of rich men with deep pockets and poor men with God-fearing ideals. It’s a perfect storm of smart and rich people, knowing how to stay in power by using fear and manipulation as a tactic to get the dumb and poor people to continue to vote for big red, despite going against their best interest. The cycle continues. They get to stay in Iraq as long as gay marriage is banned in 11 of the 13 swing states in 2004. They get to carry record amounts of windfall profits as long as abortion remains a prevalent issue in every major election for the next thousand years. They get to own 40 percent of all the world’s wealth as long as God remains the focal point in our American discourse. Traditional conservatism is dead and this dangerous path to modern day conservatism, if kept alive, will further isolate and tear us apart to the extent where today’s great empire will wither into obscurity as tomorrow’s ashes.

Burke and his peers never denounced change. The idea of change was demonized by Hannity, O'Reilly, Coultier, etc., those who have a skewed and twisted view of what makes this country great and will do anything to preserve that false view. Burke believed in "organic change", believing that any attempt to influence the complex intricities of society would be more harrmful than benefitial, subsequently leading to the risk of "the iron law of unintended consequences". With an economy based on interest, debt and income inequality, a violent and overly-obtrusive foreign policy, and social/domestic policies that continue to alieniate the American public, "unintended consequences", such as the denegration of our society, has taken its final toll.

But hey, maybe this Obama character does have enough of an aura to provide the person that Americans so badly need: a strong leader. I think that’s why some people are voting for him,but I think for the most part, they're just voting for him because they like the idea of a black man cleaning up their shit. Why do you think North Carolina is a swing state?

(art by Kevin Wada: www.kevinwadaart.blogspot.com)
(everything written above is a culmination of cheap wine, cheese curls, and insomnia. happy voting)

1 comment:

C.M.E said...

eric. you're legit. forever.