Isn’t it strange how these days conservatives are the radicals and heretics? Traditionally (in every sense) preservers of the old orthodoxies and institutions, many conservatives are now railing against them and calling for their overthrow.
And little wonder. Parliament might be another world away, preoccupied with issues far removed from Joe Public, and singularly failing to address the issues with which the population at large is concerned. The law does not favour the majority; criminals (if caught in the first place) are treated with a disastrous, ‘enlightened’ leniency – unless, of course, the culprit has perpetrated a notorious hate/thought crime. Education wants to decolonise everything and distort history for its own woke ends. And dear old Auntie Beeb has abandoned her afternoon sherry socials to take to the barricades of Net Zero jihadism as she now disseminates mass disinformation.
But perhaps this should not be too surprising. Heresy in the original ancient Greek, hairesis, means ‘choice’. And isn’t that what conservatives are largely about: individual choices and freedom? Normally conservatives would look to the institutions to defend these rights. But now the institutions no longer do that – indeed, they are instead hell-bent on imposing a uniform woke ideology on us all that strips away our individual choice and freedom – they are no longer worthy of preserving, and need to be challenged and radically changed. And thus they treat conservatives as heretics to their new orthodoxy.
One of the most important works on medieval history this century is R.I. Moore’s The War on Heresy: Faith and Power in Medieval Europe. The conclusions he draws at the end are remarkably apposite for our modern times. He wisely notes how heresy accusations stem from the elites. Read the follow and think of Net Zero, lockdown and wokery:
The imperative of maintaining ‘unity’ – that is, of refraining from questioning the authority of current office-holders and the conventional wisdom that sustains it – can always be made to trump the merits of any issue. Accordingly, the most enduring legacy of the war on heresy has been to entrench heresy itself as the crime of crimes, and the heretic – the person who in his heart does not subscribe to the prevailing ideology – as the most untrustworthy of people, a habitual liar and secret plotter, the most dangerous and insidious of traitors.
Is not today’s culture one of delegitimising opponents through pejorative name-calling, thereby silencing the messenger so that the message cannot be heard? This is our social media deplatforming, cancellation-culture and ostracization that denies people freedom of speech and even their livelihoods in the name of preserving the new orthodoxy. As Moore notes: ‘The accusation of being a sympathiser with such people [heretics] remains powerfully delegitimising’. He also writes that the ruling elites ‘became adept at convincing themselves and each other that resistance to their authority’ – and hence their leadership – ‘was the work of the devil’. Indeed, so: demonisation then and demonisation now.
So conservatives, in being today’s diabolical heretics, are appropriately enough upholding a fine tradition. Hugh Trevor-Roper, another eminent historian, this time with a specialism in Early Modern witch-hunting in Europe, wrote that heresy is ‘the only guarantee of continuing thought’. Conservative heretics are fighting to ensure that guarantee.
Our definition of ‘conservative’ shifts all the time. Take dress sense. A true rebel nowadays has a clean white shirt and a tie, with polished shoes…clean shaven of course].
And a neat but comfortable suit. Worn with style of course.
“And isn’t that what conservatives are largely about: individual choices and freedom?”
No. That’s what libertarians are largely about, and it’s also what neo-Marxists largely pretend to be about.
Proper conservatives are about traditional limitations, both in the ruler’s ability to restrict “individual choices and freedom”, and in the subject’s right to exercise “individual choices and freedom”.
For conservatives, any right or responsibility that isn’t grounded in centuries of tradition is bogus.
PJR – Interesting point to raise, especially in the strictest, (pre-?) orthodox sense. I am focusing on how perceptions of conservatives (and hence radicals) are changing in this topsy-turvy world, hence the emphasis on conservative heterodoxy against the new progressive orthodoxy. I feel that the old certitudes are wavering. By extension to your point on “traditional limitations”, one might apply heterodxocial behaviour with an aim to restore those tradtional limitations, but to get there we have to have enough people with the freedom of expressing their choice to do so – which is highly problematic in the current oppressive environment. How does one conserve conservatism in a practical way? Perhaps through heresy?
Yes. We are not merely heretics, but radicals and revolutionaries, protestants and iconoclasts. Alas, there are so few of us that we have no way of rising up and putting things right.
The Few have often won the battles in British and European history.
I repeat the advice I have given repeatedly on websites over two decades: (1) Breed healthy white children; (2) secure the heritage in every possible way; (3) master the technology and content of cyber communications. We have to work together and organise in a lawful manner. No faltering at the final hurdle. Never give up and never give in.
Neo Marxists don’t care about individuality. They don’t even pretend to care. They are destructionists, and they are only interested in the centralization of power.
The libertarian party is really a derivative of “classical liberals” (locke, smith).
The term Conservativism isn’t really clear anymore; burke more or less was a classical liberal who was worried about the pursuit of abstraction over practicality, and he’s often cited by conservatives as their model. Well, he wasn’t a conservative; he was a classical liberal who was not a radical, like Paine, and there were many of them. Burke was simply more sensible than Paine; he saw no point in “revolutions” because they generally produced poor outcomes with a few rare exceptions (The U.S. being one of them). Burke knew that the early american settlers were rugged individualists, that the colonies didn’t have 1000 years of tradition and culture, and that their aim (taxation without representation) was a real and tangible policy goal. This was very different than the French revolution which was predicated upon some fantasy around the common good/common will, and the total destruction of french history and culture. This is why Burke supported the U.S. revolution and why he didn’t support the French revolution.
The left is now socialist/communist and they only differ in degree. There is nothing “liberal” about the left today.
The right is now a combination of classical liberals/libertertarians and a group of “others” who don’t really have a coherent framework. You wrongly state that libertarians don’t support restrictions on liberty (of course they do, the whole a point of a contract between people and state clearly requires some restrictions upon individual liberty). There is no libertarian, anywhere, that supports unadultured liberty. That is a false statement.
You say you support tradition and culture (classical liberals would too); conservatives and libertarians generally support a constitution (either codified or not codified) predicated upon tradition and sensible policies that produce harmony and economic stability and they expect the government to abide by those universals.
There is not much difference between the classical liberals (libertarian) and conservatives today. There are subsections; people who are anarcho syndicalists, for example, call themselves “left libertarians” (weirdly) and the anarcho capitalists might subscribe to a right libertarian view (rothbard camp), but the classical liberals and the conservatives today have a lot in common.