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October 29, 2004

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Blimpish

As I recall, Hoffman's character is the perfect dramatisation of a neocon moment - a liberal getting mugged by reality.

In terms of my gay - er, sorry, conservative transformation... it was very different. I was a Right-wing libertarian from probably 17ish onwards, all the way to some time about 23, 24, 25 - there was no one day, just a gradual submission to the basic truth of conservatism. Family background militated against all of this, by the way - my dad was a union member and neither of parents had ever voted Tory in their lives, or even considered it. (Proudly, I can say that I know my dad is a solid Tory voter every time after my many conversations with him.)

So, for me, it was never a case of facing up to the possibility that there might be some wisdom on the Right - that happened pretty early on. As a sound Hayekian, I'd regularly argue the merits of the small state, free markets, free trade, and low taxes. But I'd dress it up in a solidly social liberal 'tolerant' agenda - "oh, I'm not like THEM, you know - I don't have a problem with X." - this where "X" could be multiculturalism, drugs, gay subculture... whatever turns you on I guess.

This is, by the way, my own Clemenceau journey - I think one day libertarianism will replace socialism as the materialist ideology of choice for the young, exuberant, and stupid.

My gradual change then was not about accepting the facts of the case, but seeing them without the dessicated lenses. Part of this was growing up. Young libertarian I was, but also a late starter as a person - I was a bit of a loner, and so the economistic worldview kinda made sense. Engaging more with the world, with people, even falling truly in love (don't ask), made me realise the softer side of life (in a heterosexual, conservative kind of way) - and also made me appreciate what we have in this world, and how much it is all worth.

This was my own mugging by reality - not that I didn't see it before, but that I hadn't quite grasped its implications. Everything we have is an achievement - of ourselves, yes... but also of our parents, their parents, those that govern us, those that care for us. Strangely minded of Brezhnev's dismissal of ideology (in his case, in defence of Soviet power in conversation with Dubcek - but the words work): "Don't talk to me about socialism - what we have, we hold."

Once the change happened, I began to find the most important thing about conservatism as against liberalism: you can appreciate such things as truth, beauty, mystery, and the simply good... and see them in the world around you. Reducing the world to neat systems is no way to live, and denies the political dimension; realising the joyful chaos of experience forces us to appreciate order and look to find common cause. Once I had learned this lesson, I could only be a conservative.

Sir Reverence

I would like to be able to treat you to an inspiring conversion story, but I am a cradle-con. Years ago, my father gathered the five of us together and said he could accept whatever we wanted to do with our lives, as long as we remained Catholic and conservative. He needn't have worried; we have all been cheerful crusaders ever since.

Blimpish's excellent post reminds me of a quote by Paul Johnson: "The road to hell is paved by self-apotheosis."

Mrs. Peperium

Blimpish, I think you are grand.

Mrs. Peperium

Sir Reverence, your father was brillant and it looks like the fruit has not fallen far from the tree.

Misspent

While not as pure blood as Sir Reverence, I'm fairly close. Mine was never an ideological home, we were simply Republicans--one could say Country Club Republicans (we had the membership but not the money).

When did I realize I was a Conservative? I would say, in contradistinction to Blimpish, it didn't happen through a feeling of connection with the world, but rather through a realization that I don't belong. The realization that the world in which I believe does not exist--that it is gone. Unfortunately, by temperment I am a Conservative who looks back and sighs.

There are times when I am a Morning in America Conservative, but they are fleeting. I am quickly mugged by reality back to my old declinist ways.

But I don't know, really. If I were in a better mood you would probably get a different answer from me. I think that says something about my Conservatism. It isn't something I discovered. It isn't something I learned. It is innate. Like my faith it is just something I know. It is written on my heart. I just am.

Enoch Soames

My Dear Mr. and Mrs. P, I am typing this on the word processor in order to forestall any heckling out of the peanut gallery (Misspent One)…I, like my Lord, Sir Reverence, never really had a choice in the matter. My father, Magnus and my mother were both devout Catholics who attended Mass daily, and like me, refused to attend anything other than the Latin Mass, when a choice was provided. They had married late, and were a generation older than my childhood friend’s parents. So they were in the world, but not of it. I think that still applies to me. Anyway, we were all expected and directed to be dyed-in-the-wool Orthodox Catholic conservatives from the moment we were breeched. Magnus also taught patriotism, and was always fond of telling us that he loved his country, he just hated everyone who lived in it. We were allowed no television, no cinema and under no circumstances were we to listen to that ‘African music’, although he loved baseball passionately, and had even played professionally at one point. So my brothers and I spent many a day at the ball park, learning to keep score on the scorecards which were given out for free back in the day. We were allowed the Classics of literature, art and music, and he would turn a blind eye to novels that were written by Catholic writers (except for Graham Greene). Magnus was old school, when one of my sisters (who had decided she was for women’s rights) went into the billiard room at his club, which was all male, and refused to leave, he called security and had her arrested for trespassing. He disowned her for a time, but my Mother (my poor sainted Mother) talked him out of it. He would also troop us all out to dinner on Sunday afternoons, to save Mother from having to cook. Most of the time we would march in, be seated, say Grace, look up to see Magnus walking out of the door. He would spot something amiss, a spot on a glass, dirty flatware, wilted flowers, something…so he would get angry, berate the management and walk home. We would all continue with our meal, my Mother looking nervously about, and then pile back into the car (a big car) and usually swing by and pick him up a few blocks from the house. Old Magnus was the cross my Mother chose to bear, I guess. Magnus also laid down the law concerning the spiritual direction of the lives of his 10 children. I received 18 years of education, courtesy of the Benedictines and when goaded by my Mother into discussing the ‘birds and bees’ with my brothers and I (we were all over 25 at the time) he just lowered the corner of his newspaper, glared over the top of his bifocals, and said, ‘if any of you boys get some girl with child, don’t come crying to me’. He paused for a moment to let it sink in, as it were, and then went back to his paper. He was something of a road map, was old Magnus. He was very serious too; I have an older sister who married, against his wishes, outside of the faith (yes, the same that was in the billiard room)…He has neither seen nor spoken to her since, and that was 25 years ago. Recently, he took one of his grandsons downtown to get some ice cream, and the child talked back to him (not a bright kid) so Magnus got in the car and left him. He got home that evening sans grandson and told my Mother what an ill mannered child he was, and cast dispersions on one of his sons parenting skills (not me)…So, my Mother had to drive the 30 miles back to the ice cream stand to pick the kid up, he was still there, although the stand had closed. So you see, we really had no choice, being the children of Magnus. And don't get me wrong, he is a good man and we all love him dearly, although he is a little odd sometimes. Well, I guess 9 out of 10 is not so bad in today’s world. So you see, for me, it is in the blood.

Blimpish

To Mrs. P: you too.

To all: whether we were born to it or discovering it for ourselves, don't you get the feeling that this is all about coming home? Becoming genuinely, gladly human, comfortable in just being - even if that means we are very much out of sorts with the late-modern world we find ourselves in?

stephenesque

Consevative? Me? I'm just a money grabbing bastard who doesn't care about the poor.

Sir Reverence

It's a big tent, Mr. Esque.

Blimpish

Yeah - let's not forget the puppy-eaters too.

Mrs. Peperium

There are so many good things here to respond to and they haven't gone unnoticed by us. It's just this is Mr. P's post so he gets to post before me. He is just awaiting a block of time to do it properly. Then it's my turn.

D. C. Burton

I have very much enjoyed reading these posts.

The beginning of Mr. P's trek is marked by a gnawing in the gut that visits all men at some point. It is the realization that whether your liberal "open mindedness" wants to admit it or not, masculinity is very separate from femininity. But in a way that's marked by chivalry, not chauvinism. This separateness is profound and necessary for everything that makes the world go round, be it love, war or a million shaded points in-between.

Of course, this recogntion goes to the core of ancient social structures and can be most jarring to the mollycoddled, hermaphroditic sentiments of any latter day progressive. Once this ray of light gleans the mind, it cannot be denied and one instantly knows (no matter how aggressive an attempt is made to suppress it) that not only gender differences, but the whole system of liberal beliefs one has built --the whole rotten system-- is a lie that must be discarded.

Blimpish has taken a journey with which I am quite familliar --beginning as a self-centered libertarian and then growing up to realize that the essence of the conservative mind isn't defined by self interest, but by appreciation and gratitude.
Which is why true conservatism cannot be defined ideologically the way liberalism can be. Conservatism simply isn't an ideology, it's a bent of mind, a style of life --it is habits, attitudes, appreciations that are all wrapped up with families, friends, ancestors, associations. While liberalism rants and raves and, quite literally, lays down the law and sets up the rules, conservatives are off fishing with an old school chum, or rooting for Arsenal because "our family has always rooted for Arsenal," or reading Chaucer's tales for the hundredth time. This isn't ideology, it is love pure and simple --love for one's family, neighbors, school, country.

The true conservative is fundamentally connected to life. He recognizes that he stands on the shoulders of his ancestors as he gazes toward the future. His love of life enlivens his faith in the past and this, in turn, strengthens his hope for the future. Nothing so defines the conservative heart as gratitude.

Isn't it telling that in all the posts that comment on Mr. P's early conservative awakening, none are ideologically based. Even the comments that reference political or economic matters, do so in passing, and do so, really, only to cite a brief example or set the stage for moving on to a higher plane. Imagine if this were an exercise in recalling one's first liberal awakening. Just the thought makes me wince. I can hear the strident drum beat of self-righteousness, social engineering, political hand wringing, and the bitter enumeration of cultural enemies who'd best watch out "come the revolution." Honestly, they are a collection of sorry souls as tiresome as they are dangerous.

What could be more conservative than the reflection Enoch Soames offers on his formative years? Just listen to the words he uses to close: "And don't get me wrong, he is a good man and we all love him dearly, although he is a little odd sometimes." And this: "So you see, for me, it is in the blood." This is a conservative disposition to the core. To the liberal, blood is something cheap -- something to be spilled in any amount on the way to achieving the greater good. (How many did Hitler, Stalin, Mao have to obliterate for the greater good?) To the conservative, blood is that which connects you to the past, present and future. Nothing is more precious than blood, whether literally or figuratively --the spilt blood of patriots or that which connects us to them.

What about Misspent's lament about his conservatism: "it didn't happen through a feeling of connection with the world, but through a realization that I don't belong. The realization that the world in which I believe does not exist -- that it is gone." And yet, it's his connection with the world through affection that allows him to believe in the past, in that world that he mourns because "it is gone."

And then he tells us this about his conservatism: "It isn't something I discovered. It isn't something I learned. It is innate. Like my faith it is just someting I know. It is written on my heart. I just am." What is this other than the affection discovered by Blimpish or the blood that ties Soames?

What Misspent feels is homesickness: "the world in which I believe does not exist --...it is gone."

This brings me to the second post Blimpish made. And this wonderful observation: "...don't you get the feeling that this is all about coming home?" Yes, I do.

Coming home --connectedness, belonging-- is what the conservative disposition is all about. It is why we cling to, love and respect all that we know that is good. It is the way in which we build up our heaven here on earth. That's what home is: Heaven on earth. --Our little outpost in this world while we await our final destiny with our Father in heaven.

Our whole purpose is to know, love and serve God in this world, so that we may be with Him forever in the next. The whole purpose of life, in other words, is to find our way home.

There is much more that I'd like to say but it is one in the morning and I'm simply too tired to continue for now.


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