The Conservative Turn

I’ve read quite a bit of nonsense in the press lately about the conservative turn and how it is supposed to exemplify a growing “maturity” of the public discourse and society… (not just an aging of the population). This alleged “maturity” in anything but simple biological and physiological terms is pure self-serving bunk. More likely, this skewed perception of  “maturity” (by which they intend us to understand “wisdom”) approximates more closely to senility and debility.

There are indeed times in the life of society when a conservative mood and turn is exemplary of political maturity. At other times when it is not. It is, like today, merely mindlessly reactionary. The universal and absolute character of this judgement that conservatism necessarily represents “maturity” (or “wisdom”) is itself exemplary of a childish insensibility and political immaturity.

In Rhetoric, Aristotle was of a much different opinion — and probably more to the point in the context of our times — than the weary and dreary conservative pundits,

“Because they have lived many years and have been deceived many times and made many mistakes, and because their experience is that most things go badly, they do not insist on anything with confidence, but always less forcefully than appropriate….

And they are small of soul because they have been humbled by life: for they desire nothing great or excellent, but only what is necessary for survival. And they are ungenerous. For property is one of the necessary things; and in, and through, their experience they know how hard it is to get it and how easy to lose it. And they are cowardly and fear everything beforehand – for they have, in this respect, the opposite character of the young. They are chilly, and the young are hot; so old age prepares the way for cowardice, since fear, too, is a kind of chilling… And they live for advantage and not for the noble, more than is appropriate, because they are self-loving. For the advantageous is good for oneself; the noble is good simpliciter … Their desires are gone and they are slaves to profit… And the elderly, too, feel pity, but not for the same reason as the young; for the young feel it through love of humanity, the old through weakness – for they think every suffering is waiting for them, and this inspires pity. For this reason they are given to grieving, and are neither charming nor fond of laughter.”  Book 2, chapter 2, 13, pp. 174-6

Aristotle was writing at the twilight of classical Greek civilisation. I suspect he was describing that twilight here also as a kind of conservative turn or “maturation”, but not towards political or social wisdom.

The essence of political maturity is the question of timeliness and timing — of acting at the right time, or waiting until the right time. As the man in The Book of Ecclesiastes put it: there is a time to every purpose under heaven. Those who wait when they should rush, or rush when they should wait do not particularly exemplify either maturity or wisdom, but only a decadent sloth or a rash and premature impulsiveness. “Maturity” can also be the moldy rottenness of the over-ripe fruit that has exceeded its shelf-life and sell-by date.

But any absolute judgement that conservatism itself represents maturity or wisdom is itself a piece of foolishness and senile stupidity.


11 responses to “The Conservative Turn”

  1. amothman33 says :

    Let us not be harsh. The purpose is not to defeat or kill them, but to make them realise the ugly bottom of the abyss they have dragged humanity into, to invite them as Charles says to join the convivumm.Not all the wealthy bad ,nor are all the poor good. I admire the wealthy German who responded to participate in the convivumm.

    • Scott says :

      I (or Aristotle) am not nearly as harsh as reality will be when it finally overtakes and runs down our collective delusions about our historical situation 🙂

      I don’t know “the wealthy German” you refer to, but I certainly don’t advocate violence. The “rules of engagement” I promote are contained in William Blake’s poetry, especially in his “New Jerusalem”

      And did those feet in ancient time
      Walk upon England’s mountains green?
      And was the holy Lamb of God
      On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

      And did the Countenance Divine
      Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
      And was Jerusalem builded here
      Among these dark Satanic Mills?

      Bring me my bow of burning gold!
      Bring me my arrows of desire!
      Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
      Bring me my charriot of fire!

      I will not cease from mental fight,
      Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
      Till we have built Jerusalem
      In England’s green and pleasant land.

      It is a valid observation by the MSM (mainstream media) that OWS etc, is not politically mature. But that is no objection to it and is a faulty and self-promoting prejudice anyway. No mature or ripe fruit has ever reached maturity or ripeness without passing through stages of immaturity or prematurity, and sometimes this process (considered in historical terms) may take generations in order to bear fruit. The real political problem is the problem of too early or too late.

      Some writers in the MSM have suggested that OWS is the defining movement/moment of the new generation. It may well be, but it is another articulation or progression that began with the Beats in the 50s, (especially in its main spokesman, the Beat poet Allan Ginsberg). Each generation since has built upon that initial foundation articulating its own “defining” character (Hippies and Yippies, then the Punks) and attempting to resolve its inarticulacies. This may have happened through music or art, not necessarily overt political programmes or overt ideologies. There is a certain continuity in which each generation from the Beats until today explores a different social aspect of the single vision or idea still in formation/transformation. This is, in the broader sense, the process of maturation and it is multifaceted because we ourselves are multifaceted and multiform. Each generation seizes upon one of those facets and seeks to articulate it as thoroughly as it can. This is why you often get different musical styles or variations with each generation, for example. They have all been variations on a single theme.

      The present generation had to await its opportunity until certain conditions arose that would allow its own participation in that recent generational history to unfold. That development was the global internet and “social media” which has now reached its mature form or realised potential. The proof of that is that, it is quite difficult to think of Egyptian revolution or the present global protests against greed and abuses of power without reference to it. Even the iconic #OWS bears witness to that as well as the strange heroic/iconic status of corporate heads like Steve Jobs or Zuckerman.

      The aspect of the single idea that the present generation is exploring, that was unavailable to its forbears, is Indra’s Net — the problem and opportunity of interdependence and interconnectivity. This is the issue that you see raised in Charles Eisenstein’s essay which is, as far as I’m concerned, the autobiographical or defining statement of this generation’s consciousness.

      • Scott says :

        Ah… might have been more explicit in that last paragraph. “Social media” or the internet is the model of society reconceived as a global “convivium” where everyone has an invitation to become “table companions” of a new, more equitable (less greedy, less self-interested) transformed civilisation. In short… the Beats (Ginsberg) explored history and found it wanting. They looked back. Their successors, the Hippies, turned inward and took “the Journey to the East” (Hermann Hesse) in psychedelics. The Punks (Sex Pistols, The Clash as examples) turned away from the inner towards the outer, but found the future empty (“no future, no hope”). The present generation now, explicitly, looks towards the future because backwards, inwards, outwards have been explored territory.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      The purpose is not to defeat or kill them, but to make them realise the ugly bottom of the abyss they have dragged humanity into, to invite them as Charles says to join the convivum.

      I agree. Being clueless doesn’t mean incapable of hearing, seeing, speaking and acting upon the truth, but “they” are as much a product of societal conditioning as the vast majority of us.

      “[That] is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.” ~ Chris Hedges

      In fact, “they” are as much constricted and affected by ‘The Matrix’ as are we all and, in the words of Martin Luther King, “no one is free until everyone is free.”

      A reactionary is [just] a somnambulist walking backwards.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

      While I can appreciate Blake’s sentiments, “fighting” language turns me off. It merely puts egos on the defensive, if not the offensive, whereas peaceful communication just sails straight through those invisible walls and lodges in the heart.

      “The Planetary Era” must accommodate the “sacred feminine” alongside the “sacred masculine.” The larger struggle (in the truest sense of “jihad” or “holy war”) is just as internal on a cultural basis as it is on a personal one, and the fact remains that, despite all our vaunted reasoning about it…

      “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” ~ Anonymous

      • Scott says :

        I like Roosevelt’s description of a reactionary.

        While I can appreciate Blake’s sentiments, “fighting” language turns me off

        Did someone whose moniker is “InfiniteWarrior” actually say that? 🙂 Well… thems fightin’ words.

        The reference to “being clueless” above is a broken link that leads to an error message. Here’s the corrected link.

        Hedges is correct, in that quote you gave. It resembles the quip Marx once made, too, about how the capitalist would sell you the rope that you were going to hang him with. The play of delusion often ends in tragedy, or what’s an apocalypse for? It’s also called “hell to pay”.

        In fact, that NYT article on the attitudes of the bankers (or maybe Dead Man Walking) pretty much says it all…. clueless and even arrogant. Pride goeth before a fall. But I’ve read many more such articles, too. I’m building up quite a file of articles, actually. These folks better get clued in pretty quick, otherwise what Amy Chua described in her book “World On Fire” is going to spread here pretty quickly.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Did someone whose moniker is “InfiniteWarrior” actually say that? 🙂 Well… thems fightin’ words.

          “Warrior” doesn’t necessarily mean “fighter,” though nearly everyone presumes it does. It’s patterned after the naming conventions of the East, and I may have mentioned in the past that the ultimate aim of the Martial Artist is not to fight, but to avoid having to do so. Also, as you’ve mentioned, reality is harsh enough.

          Thanks for the link correction. I knew it wasn’t linked properly, but couldn’t edit it.

        • Scott says :

          One of the things I found revealing in the NYT article, was the statement of a money manager quoted:

          “He added that he was disappointed that members of Congress from New York, especially Senator Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, had not come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns. ‘They need to understand who their constituency is,’ he said.”

          Ah, yes… the politicians and the generals are really only the pimps and shills of Wall Street who should know better and know also who butters their bread. Marvelous statement of the meaning of “military-industrial-government complex”. Of course, General Smedley Butler came to realise that long ago.

      • amothman33 says :

        God has no gender.the ocuppiers have been deconditioned by the conditioning. It is the reversal of the devaluation of value.

  2. amothman33 says :

    I admire your navigation in history to prove the inevitability of the march.Here I am thousand of miles away, but feel near, happy in joinihg the table.

    • Scott says :

      Speaking of joining the table, did you know that one of the Knights of the Round Table and one of the Grail Knights — in the medieval legend of King Arthur — was a Muslim? Sir Palomides. He was actually described as a “Saracen”, but by that time the word meant generally “Muslim”.

  3. amothman33 says :

    saracen are heathens so I read in a book called english heritage used in english schools, long ago.the wall street uprising is a spiritual uprising as it is described by one of its main speaker,so I am joining a spiritual table,aspiring for truth and justice.

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