I spent some time already this morning searching for conservative values and ideologies. Even Wikipedia had a terrible time nailing them down because, it said, There is a great deal of disagreement about what those views are, and meanings may vary with context. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics states: “the label right-wing has many connotations which vary over time and are often only understood within the particular political context.”
The blog, The Conservative Citizen Project says of conservatism, “Despite the attempts at labeling and hairsplitting many of us fail to easily fit into any one particular category but yet we are undoubtedly a member of the Right. I like to use the label “common-sense conservative” for myself as I believe that common sense and logic form the firm foundation that all of the various conservative sects are based upon.”
Then there are those angry, reactionary conservatives who we saw and heard at the GOP presidential debates who clapped in approval of Texas’ high execution rate, booed a gay Marine and shouted, ‘Let him die!’ as an answer to a hypothetical question regarding an uninsured man. Or, more recently, those who applauded Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ condemnation of a law student.
Sadly for the ‘thinking conservative,’ the conservative ideology is being broad-brushed, unfairly by these reactionary characters.
While doing research, I came across the website, the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Kirk posted an article titled, Ten Conservative
Principles, and the tenth was most instructive: Tenth, the thinking Conservative. Apparently Kirk separated the reactionary conservative from the type he represented. He was a ‘traditional’ conservative and expressed his views of that political philosophy in his book, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana. His disdain for neoconservatives was evident the inception of Gulf War when he stated: ” “Not seldom has it seemed as if some eminent Neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.”
The tenth principle, The Thinking Conservative, perhaps summarizes his ‘traditional’ conservatism. He wrote:
The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge called its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate.
Therefore the intelligent conservative endeavors to reconcile the claims of Permanence and the claims of Progression. He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.
Change is essential to the body social, the conservative reasons, just as it is essential to the human body. A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die. But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host. The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism. Just how much change a society requires, and what sort of change, depend upon the circumstances of an age and a nation.
Change, he writes. Not cemented ideology. Not undue clinging to the past as an idealism which must be worshiped. And clearly not ignorant shouts from the audience nor vile personal attacks on the other.
…Russell Kirk rolls over in his grave