Sunday, August 4, 2013

Against Dogmatic Politics: Conservatism (Part 1)

According to Patrick Allitt, in his book The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History, the modern American conservatism movement did not exist before the 1950s (2). It is an ideology that has existed for only 60 years, still developing. Many people in the nation submit wholeheartedly to the conservative dogma for many reasons. I am aware that there are some who pick and choose a few characteristics of the movement because they agree with the said virtues. However, and more dangerous, there are those who call themselves conservatives because they have finally settled, fanatically, within a mindset that they refuse to escape. I wish to critique the conservative dogmatists. I do not wish, in this section, to criticize fiscal conservatives (often associated with capitalism). There is a time and a place for that; but here, I want to show the foolishness and nativity of the social policies.

Gregory Schneider, a political historian, claims that a few criteria make up the American conservatism movement. In his book The Conservative Century: From Reaction to Revolution, Schneider suggests that conservatism revolves around the respect for tradition, securing Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian government, and the dignity of law and the Christian religion (xii).

Using Schneider's criteria for conservatism, one can see some foreseen weaknesses. Respect for tradition brings many problems of concern; they should be willing to ask: what kind of traditions are beneficial? Rather, many dogmatist conservatives will accept tradition solely for its own sake, and completely ignore the possibility of harmful customs. Instead of proclaiming "Guns are supported by the constitution," they should ask "What kind of authority, if any, does a quote hold from a document in a time where technology was not as developed as today?" Many conservatives, to the harm of the greater citizenry, accept outdated traditions. As sheep blindly accept the command of their shepard when going to slaughter, radical conservatives accept the stupidity of tradition; I believe it is the main impetus for harm within the conservative view.

Schneider's second point, that conservatism strives to secure Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian government, is probably less dubious than the other principles. It is true that there are numerous reasons why modernism and totalitarianism are harmful. Modernism gave rise to such horrendous devises like the hydrogen bomb, while failed totalitarian regimes during World War II are objects of obvious detriment. I do not wish to further address the harmful nature of totalitarian rule, but I must comment on the benefits of modernism. Where the hydrogen bomb claimed many lives in disgusting warfare, it has also caused progress in many sectors. Medicine, for example, is one modern breakthrough that continues to show positive results. Social progress, like the civil rights movement, continue to cause one to question their inner motives. Such social introspection, in my personal view, is a crucial criterion for any flourishing society. Modern conservatives are wary and paranoid about the implications of this introspection.

As for Schneider's last criterion - that modern conservatism holds a dignity for the law and Christian religion. There is, unquestioningly, the need for citizens to obey well-constructed laws. Without them, society would live in the ruthless state of nature. However, just like the constitutional act that declares the right to bear arms, conservatives should always ask themselves: is this a good law? Just because an authoritative document says that a law is enacted does not mean that it requires moral surrender. If a law is destructive, it should cease to exist. Dogmatic conservatives credulously cling to the "absolute" laws of famed scribblings.

Speaking of "absolute" laws, doctrinaire conservatives cling to Christian ideals. It is no doubt instigated by their love for tradition. These deleterious beliefs have led to violence against the homosexual and transgender communities. They are not interested in psychology, but they are interested in hatred against the outgroup.

 I oftentimes hear them say that "America is a Christian nation." This is not entirely true, and anything that is not entirely true is, in my mind, false. Many of the founding fathers of the United States were deists. Most of them were influenced by thinkers of the European Enlightenment. Critical figures such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson wrote about the horrid nature of Christianity. So, it really does not make sense to make everyone succumb to the standard of Christianity in order to seem more traditional or pious.

This is the foolishness and naivety of modern American conservatism.

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