The Art of Politics
Given other times and other circumstances, I would probably subscribe to the kind of conservatism espoused in the American Conservative Magazine. The magazine describes itself as the “home of independent and intelligent conservatism”, and I agree. They have published some very eloquent and articulate articles concerning the problems of capitalism and Late Modernity.
I appreciate that the editors describe it as the home of “intelligent conservatism” and not “principled conservatism,” which is that all too typically unintelligent and debased form of conservatism that is the current home of the unscrupulous — scoundrels, rogues, and scammers, who all insist on being perceived as “principled” precisely because it is vulgar and unintelligent (much like those persistent Nigerian spammers who appeal to your greed and your “faith in God” simultaneously to help them in their money-laundering schemes). And it is precisely because the mainstream “new” conservatism in Late Modernity is diseased, decadent, and reactionary and the home only of political spam, that the conservatism of The American Conservative must be dissenting and contrary, and describe itself as being “independent” and “intelligent”.
Read, for example, former GOP analyst Mike Lofgren’s very fine article about “The Revolt of the Rich“, and you might think you were actually reading Naomi Klein (or, for that matter, this blog). We are in essential agreement about the crisis. Where we differ lies in what the appropriate response to the situation might be.
As mentioned, given other times and other circumstances I could subscribe to that kind of conservatism. I am quite sympathetic to it. But these are not those times and not those circumstances. The time for the conservative virtue of patient “prudence” has long passed. The need for change has now become urgent.
To my mind, the essential issue of politics was raised in the most unlikely of places — in Castaneda’s apprenticeship as a sorcerer to his teacher don Juan. Don Juan once remarked on Castaneda’s lack of sense of appropriate timing: “you rush when you should wait; and you wait when you should rush”.
But is that not the essential political problem? “You rush when you should wait” is often the deficiency of the impatient and imprudent progressive or revolutionary; and “you wait when you should rush” is the disease of the overly hesitant and over-prudence of the conservative and the reactionary. In essential terms, don Juan is saying that “Western man’s” sense of time and timing is askew, in the sense of being, respectively, “too soon” or “too late”.
The art of politics is, then, the art of acting at the right time, neither too soon nor too late. If I have chosen, instead, the revolutionary option, it is because the clock is ticking down on us. We are facing the abyss. And in the present circumstances “he who hesitates is lost” is, indeed, the societal problem of our contemporary decadent variety of mainstream conservatism.
So, the best description of my own brand of politics would have to be “counter-reactionary”, as Rosenstock-Huessy also once described his own approach. To cling to “precedent” where there is no precedent for these unprecedented times we now live in is to be reactionary. Creativity and imagination are required of us. Clinging to antique, obsolete and decayed models which are no longer relevant will not help us survive into the future. We definitely need to learn from them, yes. But learn from them precisely to emancipate ourselves from them.
With insight comes liberation.