I really try to understand the conservative mind. I understand the history of the terms liberal and conservative both of which come out of the 18th century in Europe and specifically England. I did a good bit of graduate work in the history of the Enlightenment from which those terms came and of the French side of the Enlightenment that began to transform liberal into something like what we call Progressive and then went much farther in the Paris Commune with the birth of socialism and ended up with Napoleon as Emperor. And, no, I’m not drawing any connection to the walking yellow wig of our day. We’ll leave the Whigs out of this, too, except for Edmund Burke who was responsible for a lot of the definition of classical Conservatism in opposition to the Jacobean ideas in revolutionary France. I grew up in the Midwest under Eisenhower and Kennedy and learned to respect Eisenhower even though my family were farmers and Democrats. And I’m very troubled by the fact that Obama is to the right of Eisenhower which is not really his fault but is just basically wrong. But this is about my trying to understand the current conservative mind and that I’ve finally had it with the sheep thing that seems to be the essence of what’s left of conservatism in 21st century America.
The puffed up bag of shit that is the Republican party has degenerated to nothing but fear and racism and general hatred as a platform. We all know that. Yes, I have finally gotten upset with this thing of calling people ‘sheeple’. That seems to be the only surviving insult left to the angry, aging white people who made this mess and are now trying to blame someone for it all. The problem is that we need to learn to respect sheep if by that you mean people who respect other people and our social commitment to each other and all the other living things. We are the dominant social animal on this planet and it is our ability to act in small and large social units that has made us both dominant and able, just barely, to see that we are totally dependent on our fellow humans and every other living creature in our planetary ecosphere. We didn’t get here as lone predators. We got here as thinkers with masculine strength and desire for risk combined with feminine organization and social skills. One of the great ironies of human social huistory is that extreme patriarchies are also crypto-matriarchies. If men rule in public there is a place where women rule and men obey. Human society got knocked out of whack with the agricultural revolution and rise of greed about 10,000 years ago. Hunters became hoarders of grain and then bullies who became rulers and then politicians subjugating females in the distorted communities. But our social groups go back thousands of years and we know we need to balance these things out one way or the other. If it is all one way it won’t last. And we have always understood that those sexual characteristics are only loosely connected to the sexual anatomy we were born with. Anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong and ignorant but dangerous. Enough of this immature bullshit.
This is no longer about rights or freedom of speech or religion that is worthy of discussion or valid issues for public debate but the recognition that there are attitudes and ideas along with actions that are simply not acceptable in our public forums. I remember Lenny Bruce and this is not about propriety or the cheap religious morality that is only oppression driven by ego and glorified self-righteousness. Classical conservatism is a legitimate political and economic position based on respect for social tradition and individual rights of ownership. It is not about bigotry, hatred, ignorance, misogyny or greed. Well maybe it is a little too accepting of greed but I’m willing to give that the benefit of doubt in the interest of diversity. The Progressive agenda is equally valid with a focus on change and social well being with public tools to maintain greater equality. It is also not about bigotry, hatred, ignorance, misogyny or greed. While any idea may be discussed in private or in open academic discussion, people in public positions or running for public positions must be held to a higher standard. And all of us must hold ourselves to those standards when communicating in those public forums. If this is beginning to sound old fashioned that is because we have allowed the wrong people to hijack the language of human morality and we are paying a huge price for this and may cause our species to pay the ultimate price if we don’t get this shit straightened out.
Anyone who has managed to learn anything about living and the universe of which we are a part knows that our individuality is also a bunch of bullshit. Our conception of self is an illusion along with the whole imaginary thing about free will. We have more than enough experimental research to show that conclusively. While that individuality stuff has given us a tremendous edge in dominating the planet the realization of the limits of that edge is the beginning of species maturity. IF we haven’t learned that by now we have run out of time. We need to grow up enough to clean up our mess. And that means ending the pampering of the immature elements of our societies starting in the USA. This is not about oppression nor about laws against saying fuck in public. This is about taking public ethics back from the vestigial religious blowhards and restoring it to our secular society. People can worship their invisible friend or the Sacred Cat or give up sex on Thursdays because a tree told them to but they can’t do anything more than say that and put up with people laughing at them. But those people also can do no more than laugh and I would hope that they laugh gently and with self mockery. We are creative sheeple with great imaginations and many quirks who have finally begun to learn that there is a reason for our diversity. We need that creativity and imagination as it is about the only thing that may save us from our self inflicted disasters. Diversity is not a minor thing to be put up with reluctantly. It is critical to our survival on this planet.
Diversity reminds us that we are not normal. We are not that different from each other but we have spent too many thousands of years following the yellow brick road of our cranial evolution reaching the absurdity of believing our own individualistic bullshit. We need to separate out the juvenile egotism of childhood from the mature understanding of our strengths and weaknesses and accept responsibility for our planet. We created the concept of inalienable rights that is a product of our imaginations and the result of centuries of practicing with mythological tales to expand our evolutionary primate ethics. It’s time to quit playing around with old stories and that agreeing on a growing list of inalienable rights is the highest action and the center of human society. And greed is not one of those rights. Damn, we all already know this. Why are we letting the bad kids who haven’t figured it out get away with running things?
So how do we do this? I think the first step is reclaiming language. That means recognizing the power of our words and the reality of language as the one thing we really do better than any other creature on this planet. We need to stop accepting people who try to manipulate our public conversation with hatred, bigotry and lies. This includes racist “dog whistles”, misogyny, stereotyping, and religious mythology presented as anything other than a proof of human imagination. We need to stop allowing the repetition of this stuff as if it is somehow legitimate discourse. It is not. And people using this type of language need to learn the limits of our acceptance.
- Stop repeating racist statements. That is not “discussion” or “political discourse” or “balanced journalism”. That is repeating hate. Call it out when it is done.
- Refuse to listen to others who repeat or speak racist language. Simply say that speech is unacceptable and stop listening or reacting.
- Demand that media that carry such statements stop. Don’t link to, comment on, or post such statements directly. If it is part of a news worthy event refer to it only indirectly and why it is being referenced only indirectly. (Because it is unacceptable, in case you didn’t get that.)
- Media people can’t take being ignored. They will start talking about not talking about these things. That’s a step . . .
- Police are to protect people and maintain security for human society. Brutalizing anyone is not acceptable. Killing people except in anything but the most extreme situation is not acceptable. If someone thinks that is a problem they have no business being involved in maintaining a peaceful society.
- We need to start the legitimate political discussion of what rights we share. Political decisions should only be made to expand rights not to remove them and those rights are equal to all. And I think that extends to all life forms on the planet with only very careful exceptions. That is a very large debate that is just starting.
Is this naive? If we cannot do this we deserve our fate. Each of us has potential but only in close cooperation with others. That takes a very sophisticated combination of individual and social skills and knowledge. It is time to end the pretense of discussion and implement universal rights to save this planet from ourselves.