Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stream of Consciousness - Conservatism

The maintanence of a political system is based upon the assumption that the vast majority of citizens agree with the basic system of organization, and its superiority to other systems of organization. The types of attacks upon the system itself we see from the right are the reason for the profound level of partisanship and polarization that results from our modern politics. The new right, the neo-conservatives, the theo-cons, whatever you choose to call them, have emerged as a powerful force.

This is forboding because the new right disagrees on a fundamental level with the most basic guiding principle of our entire civilization. Not marriage, as they so flippantly claim, but the rule of law itself, the one thing which keeps civilization from collapsing under its own weight. Little surprise then that today's politics are so visceral and divided. On one side are people who are dissatisfied with the basic assumptions of civilization itself, and on the other side are people who recognize that the alternative to civilization is anarchy.

The deepest of ironies is that, in the most traditional sense of the word, the centre-left are the new conservatives, attempting to preserve the current order from attack by fundamentalist theocrats, anti-constitutional radicals and their allies, the cynical pro-torture, anti-habeas corpus, police state sell-outs. The left of centre, on the other hand, are simply allowing civilization to adjust naturally, the way it has since time immemorial. Habeas corpus started as a tradition in the Magna Carta, and centuries of wisdom have shown us that it was a profoundly good idea.

The new right, the radicals, oppose habeas corpus, preferring a system where the state's power to detain is unchecked. Gay marriage was a long time coming; the gay rights movement emerged naturally (better late than never, I suppose) and organically, as Montesquieu, one of the founders of conservatism, wrote about. It did not happen overnight; society did not go from hating homosexuals and locking them in prisons to accepting them as contributing members of the community in a year or two. It took decades, about a century in fact, to get to where we are today. It is not radical for political change to occur over the course of a century - it is natural.

The new right does not care about this. They attack the very structure of valuable and necessary institutions, most specifically the courts, but also the constitution itself. They do not realize, or they don't care, that attempts to bring about radical change have usually ended in failure, and caused more harm than good. They are not conservatives. They are radicals. True conservatism understands that radical changes are rarely a good thing.


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