The most important point for traditionalists
In discussing a taxonomy of political types, a correspondent provided the following definitions, and wondered in what manner traditionalist conservatives were represented by these definitions or some combination of them:
Conservatives: try to keep what they have.
Reactionaries: try to return to what they had.
Fascists: want to rebuild it, by force.
While elements of these three definitions may all play a part in our views and hopes, none of them describes what I think is the most important course of action for traditionalist conservatives at the present moment (given the seemingly unstoppable power of the dominant culture, it may be the only available course of action)—and that is, knowing the truth, refusing to yield to the lies that surround us, refusing to yield to the prevailing mentality of our society, no matter how victorious it may seem.
Everybody today, particularly Republicans and mainstream conservatives, is echoing the same refrain: “Diversity is happening, immigration is happening, moral liberation is happening. We cannot return to the past. To exist and get along in this society we must accept these things.” Traditionalists must entirely reject such accommodationism. The starting point, the indispensable condition of any conservative or traditionalist movement, as well as of our personal spiritual survival, is that we say NO to the prevailing values of the liberal order and that we keep saying no, that we never accept them inwardly, even while recognizing the fact that they exercise effective control over society at present and that we may need to accommodate ourselves to them to a certain degree in our external interactions with society.
That inward refusal, that inward, spiritual independence of our environment, shared among enough like-minded people, can become the basis of a new community. And then other things, more active and external things, may become possible as well.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 30, 2002 01:51 PM | Send
At least they can’t brainwash you, at least not yet. The trouble I see with this mentality is that you wind up something of a gnostic. The world is going down the toilet, but at least the life of the mind survives.
Maybe one can’t roll back the managerial state right now, but steps can me made to restorew sanity. You find a good church, start a book club, homeschool your kids, give money to politically incorrect causes, etc. Think globally, act locally and all that.
I expected that my remarks would be mistaken, at least by some, to be a recipe for defeatism and withdrawal. I am not addressing the question of activism versus withdrawal. I am saying that whatever form our resistance to the prevailing order takes, ranging from counterrevolution to cultural secession to personal withdrawal, the absolutely indispensable condition for our own integrity and moral and cultural survival is the determined rejection of the lies that surround us. Lacking that grounding, a person who engages in activism and then fails, as is often the case, is likely to throw up his hands and surrender to the forces that be.
I agree that maintaining independence from the outlook that now passes for authoritative is absolutely essential. One difficulty though is that we don’t think or know in perfect independence but by reference to a community and tradition. Without those things we can’t do much more than negate, which is better than supine acquiescence in evil but still not very satisfying.
It follows that a very basic task for each conservative (sorry for proposing so many basic tasks!) is to decide what his tradition and community are. The America of the Founders? European Christendom? Some better America elicited from what we see around us? It’s rather an awkward stage for conservatism when so much comes to depend on individual choice, so in a way it’s not surprising many conservatives find it hard to make a decisive stand against the tendency of events. To do so is to become not-precisely-conservative.
I disagree with the suggestion that to reject a lie means to do not much more than to negate. To reject a lie is the most positive act! It is to stand by the truth.
All around us, people are accepting the lies of liberalism because liberalism has become so dominant that it seems futile to resist it. So D’Souza, for example, has now fully signed on to the Rousseaian “authenticity” of the Cultural Revolution and says we should not criticize or oppose people who wear metal rings in their lips and tongues.
Of course we need a comprehensive articulation of reality and tradition. It is the utter absence of such articulation in the case of the neocons that has led them to surrender to the Cultural Revolution. (The intellectual slickness and superficiality of D’Souza’s book, for example, is stunning.) At the same time, how much of an articulated sense of community and tradition does one actually need to know that people shouldn’t put metal in their faces?
” … the most important course … for traditionalist conservatives … is, knowing the truth, refusing to yield to the lies that surround us, refusing to yield to the prevailing mentality of our society, no matter how victorious it may seem. … The starting point … is that we say NO to the prevailing values of the liberal order and that we keep saying no, that we never accept them inwardly … .”
Not only are these words most essential truth and wisdom for our side, but notice they also describe EXACTLY the precepts by which the other side lived and breathed, but in reverse, during decades of uninterrupted toil dedicated to overthrowing what we held dear.
As they somehow found strength to prevail against morality, justice, truth, and patriotism surely we would be forever shamed and disgraced, did our side not find even greater strength to overthrow the ghastly, unclean thing they’ve wrought in place of all that.
I really like what Unadorned has to say. My life has been so invigorated as I’ve come out of my shell and started taking people on daily. I’ll debate anyone, anytime, anywhere. I’ve lost some “friends” for standing up against their liberal dogma. Lonely? No. Support is their when you need it. The battle has just begun.
While we are reasserting our white values and culture, lets also take back the word “liberialism” from those who perverted the word invented by the western civilization.
I invite you to read the book Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises.
You will enjoy this book.
“While we are reasserting our white values and culture, lets also take back the word “liberialism” from those who perverted the word invented by the western civilization.”
The word “liberalism” has not been perverted. Modern liberalism is not identical to classical liberalism, but it is its natural and rightful heir. Kill off one son and you’ll just have to deal with another, and you may find that you like him even less.
No, the right response isn’t to make war on some putative enemy without while congratulating ourselves within. The right response — and the proper traditional Western Christian response, by the way — is to both fight the enemies without AND repent of the enemy within.
In the long run, liberalism is already dead. Trads ought to make an exception from our principled stance against assisted suicide and help it along.
If Matt would not mind, I would like to hear a little more from him on this point. It seems to me that traditionalists are liberals to some degree. They prize liberty as the opportunity to discover and do God’s will within a society striving to attune itself to the divine order. Modern liberalism is a reaction to the intrusive, dogmatic, persecuting totalitarianism of the Reformation and Counterreformation, exploited by despots for their own aggrandizement. (The great Catholic liberal Acton thought that both sides in the Reformation gave up a thousand years of civil and philosophical progress.) I think there is no contradiction between Christianity and a liberalism constrained within Christianity. Self-government is a Christian ideal, meaning self-control in sight of God. Those capable of self-government on an individual basis should be qualified to volunteer to provide leadership and judgment for the purpose of resolving disputes and defending the society against evil-doers. Caste, blood, dynasty, force—these are traditional ways of regulating human relations, but it is more attuned to the divine order to reward merit, where possible, is it not?
It may be I am quibbling and presenting a definition of liberalism so narrow as to be meaningless. Our liberal forebears—the British colonists and revolutionaries—maintained a liberal order of self-government by the qualified, where every man did what was best in his own eyes, but just about everyone also belonged to a church and was responsible for, and to, his neighbors. We throve. Modern anonymity is the opposite of that and breeds license, not liberty.
Voegelin looks at liberalism as largely a history of gnostic error, but there is a Christian liberalism that, educated by knowledge of sin and human frailty, gives people some opportunity to choose the right without shifting the costs of that liberty on to the heads of those who justly should not bear it (e.g. in the case of epidemic divorce, in which other divorcers as well as children, grandparents, schoolmates, and their parents bear the costs).
The accommodationism Mr. Auster mentions (popular new bumper sticker: Viva Bush) is a descendant of a basic error Voegelin identified, the belief that salvation will come in worldly history. It has devolved into a dumb acceptance of identifiable trends as representing an inevitable historical process. Everyone accepts historical trends as what “is” without acknowledging the role of moral choice on a massive scale.
Bill has made a fine statement which captures why, within the limits of my present understanding, I cannot go along with Matt’s absolute condemnation of liberalism.
“[Traditionalists] prize liberty as the opportunity to discover and do God’s will within a society striving to attune itself to the divine order. Modern liberalism is a reaction to the intrusive, dogmatic, persecuting totalitarianism of the Reformation and Counterreformation, exploited by despots for their own aggrandizement. (The great Catholic liberal Acton thought that both sides in the Reformation gave up a thousand years of civil and philosophical progress.)”
I knew that the religious wars triggered by the Reformation were so horrible that they gave birth to modern, Enlightenment liberalism with its agenda of driving Christianity from public society. But I’ve never heard the Reformation and Counter-reformation described in such dire terms as Bill and Acton do here. Could Bill direct us to Acton’s work where he discusses this?
“They [traditionalists] prize liberty as the opportunity to discover and do God’s will within a society striving to attune itself to the divine order. Modern liberalism is a reaction to the intrusive, dogmatic, persecuting totalitarianism of the Reformation and Counterreformation, exploited by despots for their own aggrandizement.”
Both excellent statements with which I am in agreement. I think the line is drawn at _political equality_. I don’t think that one can claim to be a liberal without asserting some sort of _political equality_, and that under that understanding of liberalism it should always and everywhere be rejected.
“It may be I am quibbling and presenting a definition of liberalism so narrow as to be meaningless.”
In the very lengthy thread entitled “The Good Liberalism” a few weeks back I argued that the only sort of liberalism that would be acceptable would also be superfluous or tautological; and that even a superfluous liberalism is unstable because people don’t like the things that they assert as important to be superfluous.
I’m sorry, Matt, but I discovered the thread you speak of too late, and never went back to read the whole thing. I’m sure you carried yourself with distinction, as usual.
I have been reading alot of John Henry Newman and Lord Acton recently. Both were Catholics (Newman a convert of course), but were arrayed as antagonists over the question of Liberalism. And it was that period of time (the late nineteenth century) when I think it is fair to say that Liberalism underwent its “Great Switch” as the historian Jacques Barzun describes it, into collectivism.
I admire both men immensely (Newman was the better writer by far, however, dispite Acton’s gift for the epigram), but it is clear in my mind that Newman stands taller today. His vision was wider, his penetration deeper, his arguments more forceful, and his project more noble and inspired. It is not surprising, then, that Cardinal Newman may soon be a saint.
(An interesting note: If memory serves, I believe that Acton’s bishop demanded some sort of confession of faith over the dispute. Acton had publicly opposed some of the ideas promulgated at Vatican I; one of his great teachers, a German, was excommunicated; but Acton himself faithfully confessed.)