There are cultural battles that cannot be taken for granted without seriously risking freedom.
The left clearly feels comfortable with conflict. Their campaign slogan is always the same: Change, no matter what. It reminds me of those shampoo brands that present a “new formula” and stop making the old one just as you had gotten used to it, making you feel stupid as you try once again, to adapt to the smell of aloe vera, peach, sesame seeds, or whatever they have decided to add to the ingredients this time. As conservatives, we reluctantly adapt and remain discreetly silent about the trampling of our hair rights, instead of doing what the left would: fence off the factory for weeks and burn thousands of “new formula” shampoo bottles, demanding the status quo return to our showers, minus the darn sesame seeds. Hold that thought… conservatives wouldn’t do this; they don’t fight righteous wars.
Modern progressivism was born from the bloodbath that poured from Robespierre’s guillotine and has been fueled by confrontation ever since. Without conflict, chaos, or resentment, progressive ideology fades away. The conservative, on the other hand, is a guy who doesn’t want trouble. He usually likes to live in peace, keep his nose out of other people’s business, and make things as peaceful as possible. In other words, being conservative is the opposite of any given New York Times editorial.
Conservatives often feel that their ideology should be kept private—not out of fear but out of education. You know, good manners discourage discussing politics and religion at the table. The bad thing is that many conservatives have been interpreting all places as the table for years. Maybe that’s why G.K. Chesterton wrote his own code of conduct on the subject: “I never discuss anything else except politics and religion. There is nothing else to discuss.”
But while one part of the world remains silent, evil does not rest. Edmund Burke, whose ideas led Winston Churchill to launch a war for freedom, seemed to address the society of 2020 in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; otherwise they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
A revolution by force
Action is one of the main differences between progressive and conservative ways. For most of our era things have been like this. The left grows by taking to the streets and marching. It doesn’t matter if it’s marching for better working conditions, for the rights of the pangolins in times of the coronavirus, or the intolerable fascism of English Grammar. If there is no turmoil, progressivism becomes unnecessary. That’s why since the socialist dialectic of class struggle, marching a lot of presumably angry people through the streets has been their only way to take power.
It is no coincidence that the late Roger Scruton embraced conservatism in May ’68, while watching paving stones fly. He explained it like this in The Guardian years ago: “What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.”
It seems that May ’68 is the current model for the mobilization of the postmodern left, but its basis is a Marxist invention. To confront it, as Scruton did, it is important to understand it, to go to the origin. The most important thing you need to know about the Communist Manifesto comes at the end of it. It goes like this: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” But the German-English translation includes a little sleight of hand. In the original document, Marx and Engels speak of gewaltsamen Umsturz, which translates as “violent overthrow” of the established order. The Colombian Gómez Dávila knew this well, and issued this diagnosis, so familiar to us today: “The left does not condemn violence until it hears it pounding on its door.”
Stay out of trouble
As the left continues its desperate search for “causes,” the right doesn’t want any trouble. Most of the time, the conservative is the sort of guy who thinks, “Okay, there are a lot of people screaming out there, and I can’t concentrate on putting my stamp collection in chronological order; please, somebody go out there and give them whatever they want, just make them shut up.” I don’t blame them. The conservative has enough on his plate getting up in the morning, earning his paycheck with the sweat of his brow, and raising his family. On the other hand, he assumes he pays his taxes to “someone” whose job it is to solve “all that”. And, unless he is under the influence of whisky, it would never occur to him to go out into the street with a banner and engage in a slanging match with people who think otherwise. Contrary to what the progressive media reports time and again, the conservative media abhors violence. Even verbal violence. If not on principle, out of laziness: “Arguing with an imbecile is very tiring.”
Generally speaking, staying out of trouble is a good approach to life. That’s what Mom and Dad would tell me before I’d go out for a drink as a kid, and at the end of the day, it’s usually wise to follow Mom and Dad’s advice. It reminds me of a funny piece of advice that General Franco once gave to a newspaper director: “Do what I do, and stay out of politics.”
However, sometimes getting into trouble is necessary. There have been wars that prevented totalitarianism or stopped horrendous crimes, just as there are cultural battles that cannot be taken for granted without seriously risking freedom. We are in a cultural civil war. Yes, the image of a peaceful world is fine. But when you have a bunch of barbarians setting fire to your country’s streets with the complicit backing of many politicians and millions of citizens, you have only two options: collusion with barbarism or culture war. The fine rain of feminism that stigmatises men, the photo of world leaders taking knees, the homosexual proselytizing during children’s TV time, Greta Thunberg’s climate sect, the demolition of statues, the censorship of Trump on social networks, or the ideological extortion of The Federalist and Tucker Carlson, are not simply anecdotes, if one recalls the saying that “two anecdotes make evidence.”
Europe is full of mostly conservative countries that considered all these things simple anecdotes. Because of this, these countries are now moral graveyards where, although left and right alternate in government, politics is always social-democratic. Almost every politician seems to be taken from a factory churning out Hillary Clintons. Thus, the European centre-right parties do not dare take back the ground they gave up to cultural Marxism when it invaded universities and media. And so they lost small battles that later became discreet laws that, in turn, legitimised bad consciences with power, until they crystallised into a real change in public opinion on serious issues such as the right to life, family, or taxes. Yes. Europe is a victim of the Boiling Frog Syndrome. Progressivism slowly cooks the conservative frog in a lukewarm broth called “social peace,” the basic food for any self-respecting relativist. The left raises its voice, the right looks away. The frog is at ease, everything seems peaceful and in order, everything is surrounded by an aura of consensus with very low levels of tension. The conservative frog is happy. And it doesn’t know it, but it’s being boiled. It’s definitely gonna be the signature dish tonight.
But, I have some good news: America still has time to avoid becoming another boiled frog. You have to jump out of the pot, you have to defend your principles to the end, you have to engage in the dialectic of culture warfare. Freedom, nation, law, order, property, faith, tradition, beauty. We must defend all of it without any kind of complex or fear. It is possible that, after all, we conservatives will continue to lose some battles. The best consolation in this regard was written by Russell Kirk: “I am a conservative. Quite possibly I am on the losing side; often I think so. Yet, out of a curious perversity I had rather lose with Socrates, let us say, than win with Lenin.” But nothing will be definitively lost as long as there is a man standing in the face of savagery, as long as there are some, like the much-maligned McCloskeys of St. Louis, serene and hateless, fighting to defend what legitimately belongs to them.
I’m not suggesting that you go out into the streets wielding a sword. It’s enough to go out into the streets wielding your conscience.
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