Declaration of Cultural Independence
In June 1999
, I was among the participants at Paul Weyrich’s conference on cultural separation held at the headquarters of the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C. Most of the approximately 40 people attending were evangelical Protestants, which gave the discussions a distinctive flavor I hadn’t expected beforehand. While the meeting did not result in the initiation of a cultural separation movement, it did produce this interesting document
, drafted by Paul Weyrich’s associate William Lind, which lays out the principles and some possible specific goals of a cultural separation movement. The conference also resulted in a Declaration of Cultural Independence
—a Declaration for a movement that doesn’t now exist, but may some day. Since it’s often said that traditionalists complain too much and don’t lay out any positive ideas, these two documents may at least serve as a springboard to creative thought and discussion.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 06, 2002 11:38 PM | Send
Although there’s no analysis of why things went wrong, both documents seem soundly traditionalist conservative in spirit.
One of the documents makes an excellent point that a purely electoral strategy is unlikely to succeed when the cultural institutions are so solidly liberal.
It’s also true I believe that a lot of natural conservatives are demoralised by isolation, which is why even small-scale traditionalist refuges could have a significant impact.
Some of the practical ideas are quite good. I’ve thought myself that it would be possible to have a “one-stop culture shop”, where you could buy or hire CDS, vidoes, DVDs etc that had been selected for more conservative values.
But for this to work you would need such a shop to be supported by an organised local community. You would need at least a few dozen families in a particular area to successfully launch such ventures.
I still believe that the first step is to present the underlying principles to the intellectual market place and build up an intellectual leadership.
Some nice ideas. An overall problem though is that like everything else conservative ideological entrepreneurs put out it’s a fusionist document, and fusionist cultural separatism makes no sense.
The idea seems to be that skeptical conservatives, people who talk about Judeo-Christianity, Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, people who like order, decency and comfort, Straussians and what not are going to come together and collectively build up a separate way of life with its own institutions, standards and culture. That’s not what separatist communities are like though.
Think about the Orthodox Jews, gypsies, Amish, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and what not. Those people all have some basic principle of identity based on religion and usually ethnicity, together with authoritative rules that make mixing with outsiders difficult. I don’t see that disgust with much of how things are together with a memory of better times when there were better habits and implied understandings will be enough.
The particular ideas are worth pursuing. If they catch on like home schooling that will be all to the good. But still on the whole a separatist community has to be based on something to which people are willing to give their lives and which they feel constitutes what they are. How many people are ever going to feel that way about Cultural Conservatism?
Back in 1999, I think a lot of conservatives thought Weyrich was just giving up on politics. But I think he has a point. He may be ahead of his time:
1.) Churches. The bland nondenominationalism of the past 50 years is dying out. Traditionalism is on the rise, albeit in small, tight-knit groups.
2.) Demographics. Big cities are dying out. People are moving fatrher away from city centers — beyond even the suburbas — which means less urban influence.
3.) Homeschooling. This is an underground, secessionist movement that elites actively ignores. Parents get to micromanage how their kids lears, which meansthey can lock out liberalism.
I think Mr. Kalb somewhat misconstrues the coalition idea. It’s not that people of all the different sub-groups would merge into a single group and withdraw together from the larger culture. It’s the recognition of common concerns and the construction of a shared supportive network among those different groups. The coalition idea was something I proposed at the Weyrich conference. It may turn out to be unworkable, but I think it’s something worth talking about as an attempt to find common ground among all the types of conservatives who, for a variety of reasons, reject the current dominant culture.
When the threat gets bad enough there is the possibility of unity simply in being against it. I don’t see how that holds up once the threat is dealt with, but not having a comprehensive alternative society ready to snap into place doesn’t constitute a positive reason to do nothing in the face of evil.