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.