Divided We Stand: A Traditionalist Manifesto

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke   2/3/14
Conservatives are generally very nice people — who never saw a culture war they couldn’t lose. That is to say, we often hear cracks about how Barack Obama and his ilk may “evolve” on issues, but conservatives exhibit that tendency, too, and their evolution goes something like this:

“Marriage is between one man and one woman, period!”

Five years later…

“I can accept civil unions, but marriage shouldn’t be redefined.”

After five years more:

“The states can do whatever they want, just keep the feds out of it.”

And 10 years further on:

“People can do what they want. How does faux marriage affect me, anyway?” (This is the point British “conservatives” have reached.)

And at an even later juncture it’s, “Why shouldn’t homosexuals have the right to ‘marry’? It’s a matter of equality.” (Just ask some “conservatives” in Sweden.)

Oh, this isn’t limited to marriage or anything else some dismiss as “social issues.” Conservatives were against Social Security (in FDR’s time) before they tolerated it before they were for it before they demanded it. And they are against socialized medicine. But should it endure for 15 years, their children will tolerate it and then accept it and then expect it — as today’s conservatives do in Western Europe.

This gets at the only consistent definition of conservatism: a desire to “conserve,” to preserve the status quo. This is why while 1950s conservatives in the US were staunchly anti-communist, conservatives in the USSR were communist. As the status quo changes, so does the nature of the prevailing conservatism. And it is liberals, as the agents of change (without the hope), who shape tomorrow’s status quo.

Here’s how it works: the liberals come to the bargaining table demanding a change. The conservatives don’t like it, but being “reasonable” they give the other side some part of what they want. And it doesn’t matter if it amounts to 50 percent, 30, 15 or just 1 percent.

Because the libs will be back, next year, next election cycle, next decade.

Again and again and again.

And each time the cons will get conned, giving the libs a few more slices, until the left has the whole loaf and those ideological loafers, conservatives, are left with crumbs and a crumbled culture.

In a word, today’s conservatives are generally people who have assimilated into yesterday’s liberals’ culture. And every time we compromise — on civil unions, big-government programs or whatever it may be — we assimilate further. And what is the nature of this evolution?

It is nothing less than a superior culture being subsumed by an inferior one.

Now, all this perhaps sounds hopeless. Are we damned to inexorable and irrevocable movement toward the “left,” at least until the complete collapse of civilization is wrought? Well, there is an alternative to assimilation.

Separation.

There has been some talk of secession lately. But note that there is a prerequisite for political separation: cultural separation. Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Slovenia didn’t become their own nations because they suddenly thought the name Yugoslavia was no longer cool, but because of profound cultural differences. And Catalans in Spain some time back empowered parties that have called for an independence referendum this year because of cultural differences. Make the cultural differences great enough, and separation (assuming you can avoid bondage via a governmental iron fist, which is the other possibility) is a natural by-product.

But a key to increasing that cultural divide is avoiding assimilation. Did you ever hear of an Ainu (Japan’s original people) independence movement in Japan? No, because they’ve been largely absorbed by the wider culture, sort of how traditionalists get absorbed by our modernistic culture and end up having, at best, children who’ll reflect today’s liberals and be called tomorrow’s conservatives. So how can further assimilation be avoided?

We only need to look at how it’s done all over the world. And there are two ways. To illustrate the first, consider how ardent Muslims avoid being subsumed. They don’t view fellow citizens in a host nation as national brothers.

But as the “other.”

Oh, the others may occupy the same borders, but they are as alien as anyone outside them. Their culture is to be rejected not just because it’s decadent and despicable — and our liberal-created variety is certainly those things — but because it is of the other. So it is with the others’ laws, social codes, and traditions, too: they are born of an infidel, alien culture and are to be viewed with extreme suspicion if not hostility.

And this is precisely how leftists should be viewed.

For this to work, our instincts must be thus: If liberals say left, we go right. If they say down, we say up. If they scream “Change!” we shout all the louder “Tradition!” and then push for our own change — tradition’s restoration.

Note here that I’m not speaking of a cold intellectual understanding of the issues, which, don’t get me wrong, is important. But just as it is passion that makes a man fight for a woman, it is passion that makes you fight for a cause. Loathe what the liberals stand for, meet their agenda with animosity, cultivate a visceral desire to wipe it from the face of the Earth. Hate, hate, hate it with the fires of a thousand burning suns.

One drawback to this tactic for division, however, is that it constitutes a blind defiance that could conceivably reject virtue along with vice. An example of this is when elements of the black community dismiss education, Christianity and higher culture because they view embracing them as “acting white.” Yet since liberals are right only about 0.4 percent of the time (and I’m perhaps being generous), this isn’t the greatest of dangers at the moment. Nonetheless, this brings us to the ideal method for separation.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” A good example of love-driven separation is the Amish. They do try to avoid hating anyone (although I suspect they hate certain ideas), yet their love for their culture is so great that they remain a people apart. Of course, where they fall short is that they won’t fight at all, even politically. And this philosophy will not yield separation on a wide scale because the left simply won’t allow millions of people to live “off the grid.” Someone has to fund the nanny state, after all.

But the proper combination is obvious. We need sort of an Amish jihad, a deep love of the good and hatred of the evil that translates into action. But there is a prerequisite for this, and it brings us to something both the Amish and Muslim jihadists have in common.

They believe in Truth.

Sure, the Muslims may call it the will of Allah; the Amish, God’s law. But the point is that they aren’t awash in a relativism that, amounting to the Protagorean notion that “man is the measure of all things,” is unduly influenced by man. They don’t see a large number of people lobbying for some loony social innovation and figure that, with man as arbiter, they have to “get with the times.” Rooted to what they see as eternal, they don’t bend to the ephemeral.

Quite the opposite of G.W. Bush, I’m a divider — not a uniter. If this sounds bad, note that Jesus himself said He had not come to unite the world but as a sword to divide brother against brother. And while I certainly don’t claim to be God or even godly, I do know that tolerance of evil in unity’s name is a vice — and blessed division a virtue.

We can hate what is in front of us, love what is behind us, or both. But if we’re sheep and not soldiers, compromisers and not crusaders, Western civilization’s days will be behind us — and in front, perhaps, a thousand years of darkness.
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9 Responses to Divided We Stand: A Traditionalist Manifesto

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    The steady legal push (building on compromise one year to move further the next) in one direction (the political equivalent of Moynihan’s “defining deviancy down”) is an example of the Overton window in action. To be sure, one can push backward equally gradually, but it’s harder and therefore much less frequent. I suspect that this is also one reason for increasing conservative hostility to “compromises” with liberals — we know that no such compromise is ever final.

    Nevertheless, some of these evolutions (at least among conservatives) are weaker than it seems. I oppose homosexual marriage, though I can accept that it may be workable in the long run (though the record so far of homosexual intolerance for those who oppose it in their businesses makes that very unlikely). But I would be willing to accept civil unions — if homosexuals could accept that as a compromise. They don’t (and in fact have used them as a weapon in court to impose their will on the public in places), so I no longer support them. But in legal terms, I do see this as primarily a state matter. (The purpose of DOMA was to prevent one state’s decision being used to force everyone else to accept it.)

    Some years ago, I wrote a parody in FOSFAX on separating the US into liberal and conservative zones in which laws (moral codes, tax laws, criminal justice, freedom of expression) in each zone reflected the ideology. (Thus, in liberal states the criminal justice system would assign guilt or innocence based on group ID rather than the facts of the case.)

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    By strange coincidence, I was thinking about this exact subject yesterday. And I wondered why I had never seen anything written about it. I am glad that Selwyn has filled in that blank.

    I believe modern politicians, in particular, believe they must be seen to be doing something. As a result, even so-called conservative politicians too often give away the game simply to justify their elected positions.

    Another point which should be made is that imperfection will forever be with us. This being the case, it is easier for the Left to point out an immediate problem which evokes strong emotion, whereas long term decay is far in the distance and it is difficult to get people with short attention spans and little foresight to consider broader distant problems which result from poorly thought out change imposed through the government.

    • steve lancaster says:

      “I believe modern politicians, in particular, believe they must be seen to be doing something. As a result, even so-called conservative politicians too often give away the game simply to justify their elected positions.”

      Exactly, the point. Our political leaders, on all sides of the isle seem to think that re-election is dependent on “doing something”. The most honest answer I ever received from a politician was from House Majority Whip, Vic Fazio (3rd) CA., in the 1990’s. Vic was running for reelection, a race he would loose. I ask why congress never repeals laws, his response was, “nobody get elected by seeming to do nothing”.

      I once told our senator, John Bozeman, that I would willingly pay the entire congress to go on vacation for their entire term and pass no law, and do nothing to us in the name of doing something for us. He did not get it, and the whoever runs against him that is not a progressive will get my vote.

  3. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    Fine article, Selwyn. In fact, we have become two cultures, but the Left controls so many of our institutions that it has been slowly devouring us. (They ate Jonah Goldberg for lunch some time last year). And I agree with your basic idea: we need to become far more militant, we need to loathe and despise everything about the Left. And then we need to start battling for control of at least a few institutions, or found our own.

  4. faba calculo says:

    “we need to become far more militant, we need to loathe and despise everything about the Left.”

    No, you don’t. Either find common ground for a compromise, or bait them into publicly demonstrating that it is THEY who are full of hatred and despising. While red meat may motivate the true believers on either side, it doesn’t win the center, which is where the balance of power is held.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Well, faba, if we could get the center to hate the Left, that would certainly bring them over to our side, wouldn’t it? And why shouldn’t they hate those would enslave and impoverish them? The only reason they don’t now is because they’re never been educated to understand what the Left is trying to do – and that’s something we need to fix.

      • griffonn says:

        There’s a natural swing back and forth in the history of ideas – a culture veers leftward and then tacks back toward the right.

        I think it’s actually a cultural shift: those who want changes introduce a wish list of what they feel has to happen. First, the best or most urgent ideas get implemented, and the culture swings toward “progress” and “change”.

        But the guys who want change aren’t content with half measures, and that’s what I think we’re seeing with the Left right now: they’re out of steam, but they’re not yet to the point where they are forced to reexamine & update their agenda. They are still trying to implement the original vision – a vision that probably looked pretty good back around the turn of the century.

        The best political movements aren’t based on making people hate your ideological rivals. They’re based on making people forget about or not listen to your ideological rivals.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Griffonn, you remind me of a subject that has long been on my mind: Defining and describing the cultural or sociological aspects of society and politics.

          I don’t know if this can be made a science. I think even the best practitioners can do no better than phrenology. But it would be an interesting subject to take up. It’s our job, in part, to step out of the crowd, as it were, and take a look at the landscape.

          To his credit, I think Jonah did some of this in his book, “Liberal Fascism.” You see how people are always trying to live out their life via some great cause (often making it a government cause). It leaves one thinking that if most of these people would address their issues on a psychiatrist’s couch rather than in the public forum, we’d all be better off.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Nik gets the Gold Star for his slam of Jonah.

    Selwyn sounds a lot like me. It’s the appeal to “stand athwart” rather than incrementally giving ground to bad ideas. But I admit, I’ve gone through a few of those stages. The idea of civil unions doesn’t bother me.

    But time doesn’t stop. I got a kick our of reading a section in Steven Saylor’s “Roma” the other day. During a play being given as part of a celebratory affair in honor of Scipio Africanus, Cato the Elder (an archenemy of Scipio) stands up and addresses the assembled crowd in the wooden amphitheater (there were no permanent ones yet constructed in Rome….such things as the theatre were still generally considered a bit of a Greek perversion).

    As a marvelous reactionary, Cato takes a pretty good whack at some new customs (including theatre) that were being adopted in Rome as Rome acquired (often for purely political reasons) some of the habits and customs of conquered or allied territories. So Cato the Elder gets up and (at least in this historical novel) gives a great speech about the degradation of Rome due to adopting various foreign customs, including having a place of honor in the front row of this very play for a delegation of dignitaries from back east, including a dozen or so eunuch (something even the Romans apparently hadn’t thought of yet).

    We could make the same kind of speeches today. In fact, Selwyn the Elder has just given a tremendous one himself. But can speeches turn back the tide of a changing culture that is more and more a “pop” culture tied to vulgar fads and fancies, where it is not Greek scholars who inform and ennoble the gentry but Jon Stewart, movies such as “Jackass,” and vacuous intellectual cul-de-sacs such as “gender studies”?

    That, I think, is a rhetorical question. As long as the idiot box (TV), comedians posing as journalists, and vulgarity-as-high-culture form the minds of Westerners, we can look forward to a long, slow collapse. (Or, if Glenn Beck and Mark Steyn are correct, it might not be so long.) The problem is, the West no longer believes in itself. We are eating the seed corn of our civilization while going off on tangents of absurdity, including gay marriage. But so long as the plebs are fat, dumb, and happy, who can give a care for the future?

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