Conservatism is a defense against the moral excesses of the left; today’s upheavals have all happened before

Conservatism is a defense against the moral excesses of the left; today’s upheavals have all happened before. By Ed West.

We’re less social than the Left; we’re also not credal about core beliefs which everyone must sign up to, which is why the Right is far more politically diverse, being more an alliance of groups that fall foul of the orthodox Left – from libertarians to Christian socialists.

Conservatism also provides far less of a moral lodestar, which is why the decline of Christianity has drastically shifted people’s politics to the Left – because when religion is no longer a moral anchor, politics fills its place. …

Our philosophy is more of an anti-religion, if anything. The origins of English conservatism lie in the conflict of the 17th century and in opposition to “enthusiasm”, or the politics of Puritanism. The Godly, as the Puritans called themselves, wished to overturn the social order by basing status not on land or ancestry, but on religious fervour, and their moralising made them hugely unpopular.

Later, most famously with Edmund Burke, the Tory worldview was articulated into a coherent philosophy about the wisdom of preserving institutions, even those — especially those — which in theory didn’t make sense.

The Conservative Party then evolved into opposition against the Whig and Liberal Party merchant interests, and in defence of crown and altar, before becoming a coalition of liberals and conservatives opposed to socialism. Thatcherism was part of that struggle, but with the Great Realignment, we’re now back to where we started, with the Tories there to oppose moralising fanatics who are creating an atmosphere where dissenting opinions feel threatened. …

I vote for a Conservative government I dislike mainly because the Opposition are sanctimonious fanatics. Except the difference is that there are far more progressives today, and Rick from The Young Ones is no longer an aberration but the norm. …

As long as Labour is captured by a relatively extreme minority and spends its time debating the dictionary definition of woman, the Tories are able to cruise along with their winning mixture of centrist policies and reactionary vibes.

The outlook is grim, however:

But time is not on their side, for the least Tory social categories are now the most demographically ascendant — the young, the single, ethnic minorities and renters.

The cohorts born after about 1975 and especially after 1990 tend to hold a range of views that will make it hard for the Tory Party to win their support, without abandoning their values to the point of meaninglessness. On most of the key identity issues, such as racial diversity, immigration, sexuality and gender, and (increasingly) our treatment of animals, there is a generational shift that dwarfs anything seen before.

The causes are varied; the globalised digital economy and the rise of English has weakened nation-states; the decline of religion has made utilitarian arguments about bodily autonomy impossible to resist; increased urbanisation makes people more liberal; progressivism financially suits the ruling class in a way it never did previously, and because politics is much to do with status, others imitate them.

Such a generational shift has only happened twice before in European history; during the Reformation, and in the period when Christianity itself replaced polytheism.


Roman pagan temples still exist, but nobody believes


Just as with progressives in our own time, in the fourth century Christians had started off as a small, cranky minority, but had come to dominate the education system; they won because they were popular among the young, and especially young women, and were concentrated in cities where they could control institutions.

Their numbers grew until, at some point, in the words of one Christian apologist, the pagans would have to “wake up” to the fact that they were now a minority. Soon the temples were left to rot not, most likely, because of Christian persecution, but because no one believed anymore. It would seem absurd, and embarrassing, to profess a belief in Jupiter. Julian the Apostate had tried to turn back the clock, but it was impossible to fight Roman institutions which were now controlled by Christians.

Just as in Rome, conservatives today face professions that are dominated by their opponents, the most profound example again being the education system. Like Julian, Boris Johnson has recently made attempts to ensure that cultural institutions are not entirely controlled by the new religion, but he is fighting a losing battle.

He who controls taboos … gets to cancel his opponents:

The problem is not just with institutional control; the most important comparison with the last days of Rome is in the control of taboos. Whoever owns society’s taboos comes to win, and Christians just believed with greater force that to blaspheme their God was an offence against public morals, while the polytheists had stopped caring to defend theirs. And the ancient world impiety was often viewed as a worse crime than murder.

Today it is progressives who own taboos, and those who offend the sacred ideas of race and sexual identity face the terror of being charged with impiety (or “cancelled”, to use the secular term). And if you don’t control society’s taboos, it doesn’t really matter how many elections you win — you won’t shape the future.

And so, there you have it, it all went wrong in the fourth century.

Rod Dreher:

Historian Edward J. Watts’ The Final Pagan Generation [is] the story of the last generation of Roman elites born before Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the year 315. It might as well be the story of the Baby Boomers in American life: the last generation born when America was still identifiably Christian, before the great 1960s shift.

In Watts’ account, the pagan elites of the fourth century did not see the civilizational shift coming. Nearly everything remained in place — pagan temples remained open, for example — but everything changed, because Roman civilization had lost the old religion. People just didn’t believe anymore. …

Watts points out that members of the final pagan generation in Rome suffered from a failure of imagination: they simply could not imagine that the religion that had served Rome from time out of mind could expire. …

Man is a religious creature who has to live with some connection to transcendence, even if he denies transcendence. But absent a miracle, it won’t be Christianity. The young have been raised in a world — and conditioned by institutions and popular culture — in which traditional Christianity at best makes little sense, and at worst seems bigoted. …

As with the Tory party in the UK, the Republicans here might manage to hold onto power simply by positioning themselves as less crazy than the Democrats. But their move leftward on cultural issues will be unstoppable, absent a rebirth of orthodox Christianity, or some other unforeseen event that shatters the worldview of Americans born after 1975.

What if one of the central tenets of woke, that global warming is due to man’s evil carbon dioxide, is revealed as bogus?