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Saturday, May 10, 2003
I quite often read an article and become enthused by the way the author has made a particular point with which I vigorously agree. In such cases, I often bring the article to the attention of readers of this blog.
Less often, but often enough, I read an article that makes a point I hadn't thought of, with which I also enthusiatically agree. This I almost always try to bring to the attention of my readers.
But I don't know if I've read a piece with an effect exactly like this one by John Derbyshire on National Review Online. This brilliant analysis expresses a point of view I've held for some time - without really knowing it. Derbyshire ponders the question "What kind of conservatives are we?" By "we," he means the NRO types.
Derbyshire concludes that he's a "Metropolitan Conservative." That's less illuminating, though, than the process by which he arrives at this conclusion.
Like Derbyshire, I'm not very religious - but I am passionate about defending the so-called "Religious Right" against the slanders and indignities against which it must regularly battle. And I'm not a Southerner, but I'm a strong supporter of those who fight for the Confederate flag. I know there's no contradiction here, but I've always wondered at some level why these issues strike me as so important. Well, Derbyshire nails it, and the shoe fits me, too, so I'll wear it. Here's a particularly powerful section:
"....Most of us, in temperament and outlook, are either metropolitan or provincial, either blue or red. I myself was raised in a small provincial town, but I have spent most of my adult life in big cities or their shadows, and have a mostly metropolitan cast of mind. I dislike modern American liberalism very much, and believe it to be poisonous and destructive; yet I am at ease in a roomful of New York liberals in a way that, to be truthful about it, I am not in a gathering of red-state evangelicals. Setting aside our actual opinions about this, that or the other, I am aware that in the first gathering I am among people with whom I have, at some level, a shared outlook; and in the second gathering, not. I suppose I would have been more at ease among the wits and boulevardiers of first-century Rome than with the dusty Hellenized provincial intellectuals of Judea.
"I'd even go further into this dangerous territory — and I emphasize I am speaking strictly for myself here, not for anyone else at NR. We conservatives like to scoff at lefties for their "noble savage" fixation — the way they go all misty-eyed and paternalistic at the thought of the poor helpless victims of capitalism, racism, colonialism, etc. etc. Well, I think I can see some similar strain of condescension in my own outlook. What the heroic worker was to an old-line Marxist, what the suffering Negro was to civil-rights marchers, what the unfulfilled housewife is to Hillary Clinton, the Vietnamese peasant to Jane Fonda, the Palestinian rioter to Edward Said, so the red-state conservative with his Bible, his hunting rifle and his sodomy laws is to me. He is authentic, in a way I am not.
"There doesn't seem to be much point in apologizing for this condescension, and I am not much given to apologizing anyway. It's worth noting, though, as a fixed component of, I think, the entire outlook of metropolitan conservatives. I don't think it is any cause for rancor or antagonism. The metropolitan conservative and his provincial cousin both have their part to play in keeping what Sir Kenneth called 'the balance of ends and means.' Sitting in New York cooking up argumentative commentaries is as useful, in its own way, as running a Christian home-schooling group in Knoxville.
"Probably not as critical to the future of conservatism, though. Looking across the pond at the country of my birth, where there are no powerful conservative lobbies — no Second Amendment warriors, no Christian conservatives, no Right-to-Life chapters — I see what happens when conservatism becomes a merely metropolitan cult: conservative politics becomes marginalized and impotent. That's not going to happen here; and it won't be me and my big city pals that prevent it, it'll be the legions of real, authentic conservatives out there in the provinces. God bless them all for keeping America strong, free, and true to her founding principles. If the price to be paid is a sodomy law here, a high-school Creationism class there, well, far as I am concerned, that's a small price indeed. People who don't like those things can always head for the metropolis, after all."
That last paragraph strikes me as especially good in that it explains why even the UK, which has a "Conservative party" after all, has never really had a conservative movement. Indeed I wonder if there is another country that has had such a movement. Part of our situation in the U.S. is just a fortunate historical artifact, I think. Europe was too far gone by the time Hayek, Von Mises, Rand, Friedman, and Bill Buckley began laying the groundwork for an intellectual counterrevolution from the right. As a result, European conservatives are pretty much stuck with Burke's "cake of custom." And that cake is leavened in a century of leftism at this point.
Too soon old, too late smart.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
The Left Craps Out Again