by Brad Nelson
How would one define the species Homo Sapiens? Wise? Well, smart, maybe. But certainly Homo Westerner, as a sub-species, is defined by his quest for novelty and distraction. This quest for “change for change’s sake” has led us away from our founding principles and to a type of socialism that will prove disastrous.
But change isn’t necessarily bad. A key element not understood by most regarding American conservatism is that it is not about protecting the status quo. Indeed, conservatism throughout time has usually been exactly that. It’s been the very drive behind entities such as Islam in which the general vibe is to keep things the same. And what a remarkable feat if you consider that there are Muslims today living not all that differently than they did 1400 years ago.
American conservatism, instead, is about conserving the basic framework such as the Constitution and limited government. A house’s interior may change as you change the carpet and drapes. But only a fool would think of knocking out the supporting beams in the walls simply for the effect of novelty. American conservatism is about keeping the integrity of the walls while allowing for all the change you could possibly want — in the free market. It’s also about acknowledging the persistence of human nature (good and bad), and about an awareness of the need for the wisdom that comes from the accumulated knowledge as expressed through institutions, cultural habits, religion, and various virtues (truth, hard work, self-responsibility, integrity). The opposite to this awareness of the need for accumulated wisdom is perhaps best expressed in the bloodbath of the French Revolution where they tried to create a New Man and scrapped all previous modes, methods, and institutions. They were left with nothing with which to anchor themselves but their own passing fads and fancies about how things should be with little regard for how things are. They forgot about man’s human nature and instead tried to create Utopia.
American conservatism is a dynamic thing, and no less so for being grounded in reality rather than in passing fads and fancies. It is founded upon something no less substantial than the idea of liberty and is hardly just a protector of the status quo, for one cannot forget that America was born of a revolution. But it was a different type of revolution. John Adams and George Washington are hardly stereotypical revolutionary figures in the Che Guevara or Vladimir Lenin sense. Adams and Washington were trying to conserve the liberty that Americans had carved out for themselves, not prop up a banana republic, a fanciful utopia, or a despotic regime based upon the fumes of class warfare as lesser men do.
Today’s American conservatives (what relatively few there are in government now) could be said to be doing the same thing against another type of King George. The Left (as well as “Progressive” Republicans) are also piling up a long train of abuses and usurpations, including a vast debt that threatens to destroy the very foundations of our country. In America, conservatism is about protecting the structure of society that allows for dynamic change the way you would protect the shell of an egg in order to allow the embryo inside to form and to eventually hatch. No one quite knows what freedom will produce, but freedom as a value has been enormously successful in America and around the world at producing good and great things. Jefferson was this type of conservative: a staunch protector of liberty and of the Constitution. And yet he was an innovator extraordinaire including his creativity in mechanical inventions, architecture, and horticulture.
There is nothing at all incompatible in this. This is quintessentially American. We hold onto our liberties (including our various institutions, ideals, virtues, and founding documents) on the <em<governmental level so that we may pursue the meaning of our own lives and play out the talents we have in the private sector. And in order for this to happen, government itself must be limited in purpose. It cannot be chasing naive visions of Utopia even if such visions are marketed as “change” or “moving forward.”
Change in America is as omnipresent as the air and only a deluded or deceitful despot could run on a platform of “hope and change” as if change were something new to America. It is not. But when a people are reduced by a sub-par education system intent more on instilling socialist ideals than “reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic,” when minds are belittled and narrowed by a mainstream media that is the propagandizing equivalent of Pravda, and when far too many indulge in eternally-juvenile pursuits with no mind to nurturing nobility of character, what you get at the end of this process is a naive receptivity to the “cool buzz” of some politician who may speak well but is otherwise an empty suit. Our civic pursuits become the equivalent of the American Idol television program. We become a novelty-driven species of primates, and not novelty in the sense of innovation, but novelty in the sense of light and superficial diversions away from the task of being something more substantial than a vegetable.
We become an a-mused culture, which is the root of the word “amusement” — not-mused. The Muses in Greek culture were thought to inspire our best efforts in literature, science, and the arts. But to be an a-mused culture is to be passively entertained. The lifeblood of one’s creativity is thus sucked out instead of being nurtured and enhanced. We become dumb sheep who are amenable to the siren-song of political demagogues who promise the greatest and most fundamental of all vacuous novelties, “change.”
This is the generation that elected Obama. This generation can either grow up or they will have to continue to reap what they have sown, or have allowed others to sow due to their inattentiveness. This is appropriate biblical language for a debt and a state bureaucracy that is truly growing by biblical proportions. Homo Westerner must return to his roots and cultivate himself in noble ways. And if he wishes novelty, let him produce it himself in his own life via The Muses. Let him learn to thus distinguish what is real from what is transient, what is important from what is trivial. Novelty for novelty’s sake just isn’t working. • (662 views)