Sunday, July 15, 2007

Conservatism - A Mighty and a Grand Illusion

Here's a great topic for discussion. And I hope y'all are sitting down because you are now reading the latest edition of the great trifecta I had predicted (only last night) may be forthcoming. Not only is this strong indication that I may well rank among the prophets of old as to my accuracy concerning the fulfillment of my predictions, but it marks the first recorded trifecta in the short yet distinguished history of this blog. Y'all must be positively sitting on the edges of your seats waiting to read what my next prediction is going to be, right? Well, you can relax now because it ain't gonna come in this post. I like to keep my readers in suspense. lol

As my wonderful step-mother used to remind me quite frequently when I was a youngster, and as she still does from time to time to this very day, and in her own unique way of expressing the thought: "It don't take much to entertain you, does it boy!?" Well, I can't rightly say that I disagree with that. I'm pretty easily entertained, as is clearly documented in the above paragraph. But now that I've managed to get that out of my system, let's move on, shall we?...

During a visit to Savage's blog yesterday (that's BNWW if the name Savage isn't ringing a bell), and while scanning through his rather voluminous list of latest posts, I ran into one title that I'd simply overlooked during my former visits. This isn't at all unusual for me since my habit, particularly when I'm in something of a hurry, is to scroll down the page, stopping at new post titles as they appear and reading the first few lines to see whether I'm particularly intrigued by it. During that process it's easy, I've noted on several occasions, for me to fly right past an independently posted title only to realize I'd done so during a later visit. And that's what happened with this particular post, the more intriguing part of which (to me anyway) is shortly forthcoming.

I'm going to take the liberty to quote John here without having obtained his express permission, but I'm fairly certain he's not going to mind, and if he does, I guess we can hash that out later. By far the most intriguing part of John's post to me as I read it is contained within this interesting excerpt from the post itself. Says he:

I think it’s actually reasonable to believe that conservatives often become conservative because they have struggled against a stronger tendency toward sin. They’ve shown a stronger need for God’s help, as well as that of a "judgmental" society, and they naturally sympathize with others who have had the same experience.

Y'all see why I found it so intriguing now, don't you! I've said this before, and I'll say it again because I think it bears repeating: it's a lot easier to go around picking apart someone else's quality posts than it is to write one, at least for me it is. This recognition of mine can be said to account for most of my effort to exercise the quality of moderation when challenging someone on an assertion that I believe to be wrong. And this is the very reason that I approached John fairly cautiously in raising a question as to the validity of his argument. I reasoned that either one of three things was likely the case: 1. John had mispoken a thought; 2. I had misinterpreted his intent; or 3. John had intended it just as I had interpreted it. John has graciously confirmed that indeed, the third option is the correct one in his latest reply to my comment to the post which you may read at the link provided.

So, now that we have that cleared up, let's move on to some more meatier stuff here, shall we, 'cause I fear I'm about to lose some of you, or to bore you with details that you can read for yourselves...

As you're thoroughly aware of by now, John asserts that 'conservatives' are drawn to conservatism by what he terms a 'greater tendency toward the greater sin.' In other words, and to expand upon John's theory a bit more, John's thinking is that conservative people tend to be the more sinful people matched up against their liberal counterparts who naturally tend to sin less than do conservatives. Something about human biology I think.

According to John's logic, it's a grand struggle with a greater, more egregious form of sinning that draws eventual conservatives away from their left-leaning/embracing youthful polity and more toward the right. In strict adherence to the natural laws of magnetism, persons with a greater tendency to commit the greater sin are simply naturally drawn toward the positively charged poll on the political magnet, while those who are less inclined to sin, or exhibit a more 'sinless' tendency are quite naturally drawn to the negative, or the liberal side. I suspect that this answers to John's mind the question of why people tend to be more left leaning in their youths, and to begin to move more or less to the right later in their lives.

Now, while it may be argued that I have effectively mixed those up -left and right; positive and negative charged polls- the analogy works to my mind because I see a greater tendency to sin (whether I accept John's logic or not) as negative, and a desire to control it with respect to oneself as positive, and vice versa.

But as I related to John, I can't say as I agree with his logic here. I don't necessarily think it illogical to theorize this way, nor do I think it illogical to conclude as he does based on the ideas he proposes. However, I do think it illogical to form that conclusion in the absence of thoroughly considering other options. And while I find John's theory to be quite intriguing, probably because I don't recall having ever run up against it before, at least not in his exact form, I find it to be somewhat dishonest with all due respect to John. And that's not at all a dig at John, I just think he may be engaging in a little self-induced denial here.

But here's a little food for thought that I'll throw into the mix, I can't say as I've ever truly embraced liberalism. Oh, I entertained it some during my youth, and a bland sort of mixture of it and conservatism appealed to me for a relatively short while during my more promiscuous days. But to claim that I ever actually embraced liberalism as such as a youngster would simply be an untruth. The more truthful history of my formidable years is that I actually and really acted in defiance of what I knew to be the better way. And here's a key point that I don't want you all to miss...

You'll note in reading John's posted profile his honest acnowledgement that he was a liberal until about 2005. Now, either John exposes in himself a greater tendency to commit the greater sin by his ultimate conversion to conservatism (unless of course he's some kind of odd exception to his own rule, and I assume that he does admit of such exceptions as I do), or he exposes a real weakness in his argument, i.e., that all those years he was fondly embracing and likely propagating the idea of liberalism he was somehow shielded from his own self-awareness of his own more sinful tendencies, only for them to come to bear upon him at some later date. BTW, the weakness exposed in the argument better stated is this, that it necessitates that a great many people who would describe themselves as liberals have yet to come to this realization about themselves. Yet indeed they are the greater sinners, to which eventually many of them will be forced to conclude, embracing in that wake the more fitting ideal of conservatism. So how can it be concluded that liberals are the lesser sinners when indeed they are the greater sinners in a state of unawares?

There's another point I'm driving at here as well, and it is that my having never actually embraced liberalism as opposed to John's having actually done so by his own admission, I think presents us with two naturally opposing perspectives on the subject. And that while by comparison I might be considered the more 'experienced' conservative between the two of us, John would certainly be thought of as the more experienced across the spectrum of political philosophy. He has an understanding of the idea of liberalism that I just can't possess given my lack of personal experience with eagerly embracing the philosophy. In either case I think there is something to be learned of each of us. It is often stated within Christian circles, as an example, that we know the better way because we've experienced both worlds - the commission of sin without redemption, and of course its opposite. And I admit that I've always embraced this idea to some extent or the other. This idea necessarily works under the assumption that 'all men are more or less on an equal sinning field,' however, John would simply not accept that idea. But there is yet another conclusion which John draws on his conception worthy of note...

To John's mind, liberals, given their tendencies to be less disposed to sin, are naturally in need of less government than are their conservative counterparts. I find it extremely interesting, with this view in mind, that in John's espousing of the traditionalist conservative idealism he also, and by necessity of the philosophy itself, espouses a view of government less restricting, less powerful; less controlling. This to me is yet another weakness in his argument. For if conservatives actually need more government due to the comparatively egregious nature of their sin, and therefore embrace a political philosophy which tends to recognize this need more than its counterpart, then why does the philosophy itself vie for more self-government, and less external manifestations thereof? And of course given that this is indeed the case, then why would 'conservatives' be drawn to this political philosophy as opposed to the liberal kind? The question of course may be asked as well in the reverse - why does liberalism promote the idea of more government, and why are liberals who need less of it, according to John, drawn to the liberal philosophy and ideas of the same?

The only reasonable answer I can formulate on the proposition is that John must believe as well that liberals also possess a very keen and unique sense of recognizing in their more sinful brethren the very sinfulness that they themselves wrestle not with. Since liberals magically possess this more perfect awareness of the true nature of sin and of the sinful, liberals naturally embrace and actually demand a form of political philosophy which directs itself more to the control of the more egregious sins and the more likely perpetrators thereof, i.e. conservative doctrine, and conservatives. There's nothing wrong or immoral about this approach, of course, because liberals actually must possess this distinguishing and more righteous characteristic, while it must elude the great majority of conservatives given what we and our resulting philosophy are - sinful in the extreme. While we conservatives recognize and own our sinful tendencies, according to John's theory we possess a very imperfect understanding of its nature as compared to liberals.

Well, it won't surprise y'all that I simply reject this idea and all the related mess that naturally follows it. To my mind it is simply dangerous to assume one group of people to be more sinful than another. Eventually one must arrive at the ultimate conclusion that that group -the more sinful one- must be controlled by the other when in fact the opposite may be the case. I think the more reasonable approach is to count all men equally disposed to sin irrespective of their political philosophy. I don't deny John's assertion that certain individuals possess certain tendencies to commit certain kinds of sins, while others possess lesser tendencies in those areas. What I do deny though is his conclusion on that truth that these factors are indicative of an attraction to a certain political philosophy. This assertion necessarily denies mine that conservative people are simply more aware of their sins and the need to govern them, than are liberals generally speaking; that the two groups are more or less equally disposed to sin, yet unequally aware of the same.

But I wonder how liberals, not actually experiencing sinfulness to the extreme degree that conservatives do, can have such a keen awareness of the extreme sinfulness of conservatives and conservative idealism when their own experiences would lend to them little insight as to that which uniquely affects the latter group to the greater degree? Wouldn't logic dictate under these conditions that those who possess these characteristics to a greater degree would in turn most likely possess the better understanding of their causes and effects; or at least a greater degree of resolve to discover them?

In any event, and as per the usual, liberals are way more everything that is good and holy than are you and me less evolved conservatives. I can't say as that is much of a revelation to me given that I've been pounded over the head with it more or less all of my life. But you know me, I'm pretty thick headed.