One of my favorite op-ed writers used to be Charley Reese whose tri-weekly column, filled with old-fashioned common sense and conservatism continued to be syndicated by King Features for several years after his career at the Orlando Sentinel
ended in 2001. Much to the loss of the reading public he gave up his column and went into full retirement a couple of years ago. He believed that an opinion writer should make a full disclosure of his convictions to his readers, and around New Years each year would write a column containing such a disclosure.
This essay will be along those lines.
I am 34 years old, was raised in rural Manitoba and live in the capital city of Manitoba, Winnipeg. My formal education after High School was in theology at Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne. I am a patriotic Canadian.
Theologically I am an evangelical Protestant and a small-c catholic. I am a Protestant in that I affirm the supremacy authority of the Bible and the soteriological doctrines of the Reformation (note the nod to Luther in the title of this essay). I am an evangelical in that I stress the importance of personal faith in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospel. I am a catholic in that I affirm the ancient creeds – Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian – shared by all major branches of historical/traditional Christianity as the basic doctrines of Christian orthodoxy.
Politically I am a Tory in the original sense of the term – a supporter of the monarchy and the Church. This does not mean I endorse the present Conservative Party. Being a true Tory, I revere royalty, and despise politicians and bureaucrats. As a classical conservative, I believe in an organic rather than a contractual society, regard the family rather than the “individual” as the basic unit of society, and believe in the need for a strong but non-intrusive government. Government should be strong enough to enforce the law and preserve the security of the country. It should not, however, become “big government” which intrudes into the authority of other social institutions such as the Church and family or into people’s personal lives. With regards to government and other social authorities I believe in subsidiarity – that all matters should be handled by the smallest authority competent to handle them. With regards to government and people’s private lives I affirm the “harm principle” – that human laws should basically prohibit actions which are directly harmful to other people and their property. I affirm this as a general principle, the way it is found in the Summa Theologica
of St. Thomas Aquinas, not as the individualistic absolute that is found in the liberal manifesto of John Stuart Mill.
I am a High Tory not a “Red” Tory. I despise all forms of socialism – National Socialism (Nazism), Communism, Proudhonistic anarchism, Fabianism, the welfare-state (or rather “The Servile State” as the prescient Hilaire Belloc dubbed it before its creation). Socialism has been tried by countless societies and it has always failed. Selling itself as a “spread the wealth and prosperity” movement, it only ever succeeds in spreading human misery and magnifying it exponentially. I reject “socialism on paper” as much as I reject “socialism in practice”. Socialism’s ideal world – a classless society where property is owned in common – is as ugly to me as socialism in actual practice.
Which is part of the reason I reject capitalism as well as socialism. Capitalism is far more effective than socialism in weakening and eliminating social classes and the hierarchical principle in society.
I do not reject everything in capitalism. I affirm private property and private enterprise as institutions of society. I affirm economic freedom over government planning. I affirm the principle of competition. Capitalism is more than these things however, which would all be found prior to capitalism.
Capitalism is a set of values which is subversive of traditional society, of family, community, religion and any other “rooted” institutions which bind successive generations together and give a sense of permanency to human life and society. Capitalism values quantity over quality, consumption over production, and change over permanence. Its effect upon aesthetics and culture has been devastating. Capitalism has given us the world of concrete and steel buildings, of asphalt and smog, of pop culture and modern and post-modern art. For this we should annually burn an effigy of Adam Smith.
I believe there is an obligation upon the upper, privileged classes to contribute to society as a whole and that there is a Christian moral obligation upon the Church to see to it that the needy are provided for. I reject the welfare-state as being a fulfillment, in whole or in part, of these obligations. It is rather a rejection of these obligations. The welfare-state involves the wealthy voting away their moral responsibilities and obligations to the poor and placing them upon the state and it involves the poor voting to themselves the wealth of those more privileged than themselves. It kills the spirit of charity and creates an underclass. It is loathsome to the core.
I am a social conservative in two senses. In the first, and primary sense, I believe that authority in traditional institutions like the family and the Church should be preserved, and where it has been lost, restored if possible. In the second sense, I believe that the customs, morals, and values of Christendom, which have come under attack in the Modern Era, and especially in the decades after WWII, should be preserved where they have been retained, and restored where they have been lost. I do not believe, however, that government legislation is the best vehicle for preserving/restoring either traditional authority or those customs, morals and values. Government in its contemporary form, democratic bureaucracy, is particularly ill-suited for that purpose, having proven itself to be the social progressive’s most consistent ally and most effective vessel in bulldozing down the old social and moral order.
I am not a pacifist, nor do I believe in “conscientious objection” or “non-resistance”. I believe with Socrates and Alasdair MacIntyre that patriotism is a virtue and have nothing but contempt for the abuse of sacred texts in which verses are pulled out of context and used as a justification for the vice of shirking one’s duty to one’s country. I am not however, an enthusiast for war, and cannot off the top of my head think of a war within my or my father’s lifetime that was not a wicked waste of time, lives, and resources.
I do not believe in progress in any of the following three senses: 1) The prevailing idea of the Modern Age from the “Enlightenment” to World War I that through reason mankind would continually improve itself, 2) the idea connected with classical liberalism and capitalism that through new discoveries and technological advancement science will solve all problems that come man’s way, or 3) that through the use of state power a better world can be socially engineered through the elimination of discrimination, poverty, inequality, and ignorance. All such ideas are doomed to failure because they look for the source of human suffering outside of human nature. The primary source of human misery is evil in the human heart which comes not from inequality, lack of education, or poverty but from the fallenness of human nature. Human nature cannot be changed through political means. Mankind is a fallen being, exiled from Paradise because of sin, who must look for a spiritual answer to his condition in the grace of God.
I am a reactionary. While that word is largely used as a term of opprobrium by progressives (reason enough to claim it as a self-label) I use the term to mean someone who sees through the “you can’t turn the clock back” rhetoric of progressives. Imagine a person driving down a highway who sees a road that he thinks might get him to his destination faster. He takes the road but soon realizes that it ends at the edge of a cliff where a bridge used to be but which has collapsed. Keeping on the road, continuing in the direction he is going, will lead him to disaster. The only sane thing for him to do is to turn around, go back to where he got on the road, and get back onto the highway. The reactionary wishes for his society to make that kind of decision when necessary. The progressive allows for motion in only one direction – the direction which will take society over the metaphorical cliff. This does not mean that the reactionary tries to artificially recreate an era from the past. Rather he looks to the past for inspiration, seeking principles that can be re-applied and institutions and traditions that can be recovered in forms appropriate for the present.
I believe mankind is a limited being living in a limited world with limited resources. I do not possess the faith of the technological progressive (who frequently considers himself to be a “conservative”) in an infinite human capacity to find replacement resources and develop technological solutions to his problems. The present generation owes it to posterity to responsibly conserve essential resources for the future and not to recklessly use them up, blindly and naively believing with Mr. Micawber that “something will turn up”. In this, I agree with the ecologists.
I am also in aesthetical agreement with the ecologists that we should not uglify our environment by littering, polluting the air, rivers, lakes and oceans, and turning the planet into one giant megalopolis of concrete, steel and asphalt.
Having said that, I have no use for political environmentalism, the “Green” movement. Like all other obnoxious save-the-world, do-gooder movements, the environmentalist movement is far more about social engineering, socialism, and big intrusive government than about finding genuine solutions to ecological problems. Privately owned resources are always kept in better condition and conserved better than resources held in common by the community, yet the Greens are overwhelmingly biased in favour of more common resources, with greater government control. I am skeptical of many of the environmental doomsday scenarios like “global warming” that political environmentalists have been warning us about in recent decades, but I am far more skeptical of the environmentalists proposed solutions to the problems. If the rise of almost 1 degree Centigrade in the average global temperature over the last century indicates that the industrial output of greenhouse gasses has created an imminent threat of melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels then agreements to cut back on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions of the kind that are constantly being proposed are not going to help one iota.
I hold contemporary fads and fashions in scorn and I loathe political correctness.
I have no sympathy with any form of feminism. Societies differ in what roles they assign to men and to women, but the fact that they assign different roles to men and women is a universal. The differences in the specifics of gender roles from one society to the next are derived from differences between the societies in terms of their traditions, organization, and economy. Constant from society to society however, is the fact that gender roles are based upon the fundamental and permanent biological difference between the sexes – women get pregnant, give birth to children, and nurture children with their bodies, and men do not.
Liberal feminism seeks to eliminate this universal and reduce men and women alike to “individuals”. Radical feminism interprets everything society has done to support women in their vital role in society, from marriage in which men are made to support and take responsibility for the women who bear their children to society’s sending its young men out to fight its wars while protecting its women and children, as an attempt by the “patriarchy” or “male power structure” to oppress women. Post-modern feminism tells individuals they are to define for themselves what it means to be a “man” or a “woman” (whichever they chose, their biology being irrelevant if they so choose it to be).
In contrast I believe in patriarchal authority and in chivalry. With the exception of combat service in the military, I do not believe the state should pass laws saying “this occupation is reserved for men, this occupation for women”. Combat service is an exception because society, in the interests of its own survival, has a stake in protecting its women and children. Men and women are quite capable of separating into gender-appropriate roles suitable for their society at its stage of development on their own. Or rather they would be if government would abandon its foolish policies and programs aimed at producing equal representation of men and women in all occupations and all levels of society and/or at reducing men and women to generic individuals..
I am an anti-anti-racist. While I think that the idea that one person should be considered “better” or “worse” than another because of a morphological trait such as skin color, eye color, or hair color to be extremely silly, I don’t think I have ever encountered anyone who actually believed that idea. Physical traits like skin color are trivial but race is not trivial. The word race is derived from a French word denoting lineage and ancestry and when we apply it to groups of people who are identified by physical traits like skin color, we do so because the particular set of physical traits that distinguish that group indicate their descent from a common ancestral population.
We should never make the mistake of regarding “race” and “society” as being synonymous but we need to recognize that identifiable descent from one generation to the next is an essential element of society. Every society requires continuity across the span of generations, a sense in which the present generation is descended from the last and all previous generations and consists of the ancestors of the next and all future generations. Without this sense it is not a society, just a bunch of random people who happen to live in the same territory at the same time.
This does not mean that a person or family cannot be successfully integrated from one society into another or that a society should be completely closed to newcomers. It is unhealthy for a society to be completely closed on a permanent basis but it is even more unhealthy for a society to be so open that it eliminates continuity in its core identity from one generation to the next.
The category of “nation” is more helpful than the category of “race”. Both categories depict a group of people that have a common identity that persists across the generations. The identifying traits of a nation, however, are primarily cultural – language, religion, customs, and manners.
Anti-racism is a fundamentally dishonest movement that has capitalized, since World War II, upon people’s legitimate sense of moral outrage over the atrocities of the Third Reich. It seeks to break up people’s sense of identification with their ancestors, posterity, and larger society by treating all expressions of such natural loyalty and affection as being no different from the hate-filled ideology that brought about the Holocaust. It points to examples of where state power was used to treat people unjustly because of their ethnic identity to justify using state power to reeducate and reprogram people away from traditional loyalties to one’s particular kin, community, and society which are passed on in the home, towards a universal loyalty to mankind and the world. It supports using state power to silence and punish people who resist anti-racist indoctrination, not for acts of violence, but for the expression of their views. It seeks the people who are least likely to win much public sympathy (admirers of Hitler for example), pretends that these represent a realistic and grave threat to society, makes a public spectacle out of exposing and/or silencing them, and then pats itself on the back about how it has saved society from becoming the next Nazi Germany. Meanwhile it has trampled over traditional rights and freedoms, made a mockery of traditional standards of justice, and intimidated the public into erroneously believing that its views are the only legitimate views to be held on matters of race, ethnicity and our common humanity.
A society should be “multi-cultural” only in the sense that it allows and encourages local and regional variations to develop within its broader culture. Multi-culturalism in its more usual meaning, however, is the official attempt by the government to create an artificial and unnatural diversity by importing immigrants by the thousand to millions from backgrounds different from each other and from the society they are entering. This kind of multi-culturalism breaks up the social cohesion of local and regional subcultures and demands that every local community and culture abandon its distinct core identity and become a microcosm of the larger multi-cultural society. This is as evil as the kind of nationalism which seeks to eliminate local and regional identities which it regards as rivals and threats to its own.
I am an elitist in two senses of the term. First, I believe that it is inevitable that in every human society and organization a small minority will rise to forefront, assuming leadership and making the actual decisions for the society or organization. Robert Michels called this the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” and adequately demonstrated its veracity in his Political Parties
. Vilfredo Pareto demonstrated that in every field of human endeavour a minority would excel, this minority being the elite in that field, a political elite being the minority that excels in the field of assuming power in society. This is classical elite theory and it is a description of reality that is born out by history, every day observation, and statistical analysis.
Secondly, and more importantly, I am an elitist in the sense that with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and more recently Anthony Ludovici, Evelyn Waugh, and Sir Peregrine Worsthorne I believe that society needs aristocracy.
An elite, however, is not necessarily an aristocracy because the people that excel at obtaining power are not necessarily the same as the people who excel at exercising power. In a society where the democratic principle dominates the constitution it is inevitable that the two will not be the same. We can see this today in the Western world where the democratic principle has triumphed over all balancing competing principles. The actual ruling class (not necessarily the same as the nominal ruling class) in each Western society is using its power treacherously, not to govern its society but to tear it apart and dissolve it into a transnational New World Order. This is the exact opposite of what an aristocracy would do.
I hesitate to say anything about the arts here, because there is always a danger of mistaking one’s tastes, which are in large part personal and subjective for universal standards of what is good and beautiful. Today, however, the greater danger is to accept the widespread idea that the beautiful and good are entirely subjective matters and that there are no external and universal standards by which art and taste can be judged.
Art is the creative expression of a society’s culture. It is therefore an indicator of the health of a society’s culture. The subjectivism, relativism, and even nihilism that is found in so much contemporary art and art theory is a reflection of the collapse of social and cultural continuity and cohesion into atomism and alienation in the societies producing such art.
Against the barbaric aesthetic nihilism of the day I assert the classical standards of clarity, order, and balance. The best architecture, drama, literature, music, painting, and sculpture throughout Western history has been that which has followed the light of the standards established in Greco-Roman civilization. Classicism recognizes man’s limitations, prescribes forms and ideals through which excellence can be achieved. In saying this, I do not mean to identify the current morass with romanticism, classicism’s traditional antithesis, or to blame romanticism for such morass. While romanticism is inseparably tied to erroneously and naively optimistic views of man, his nature, and his limitations, it is by no means nihilistic. It has a reactionary as well as a revolutionary side and actually serves the interests of the classical ideal of balance by providing balance to classicism itself, balancing the classical universal with the romantic particular, and classical order with romantic creativity.
I do blame, however, commercial capitalism and the triumph of the democratic/bureaucratic state for much of the cultural decay that is reflected in the poor condition of the arts today.
Commercial capitalism has brought about the replacement of traditional popular culture (the customs and habits of the general populace of a society reflected in folklore, folkmusic, etc.) with “pop culture”. “Pop culture” finds its primary expression in new media opened up by technology like radio, cinema, television, and the internet. Like all other creations of commercial capitalism pop culture is manufactured to be sold to the greatest number of people at the lowest price. This appeal to the lowest common denominator inevitably gives the product the characteristics of vulgarity and cheapness –which are the primary characteristics of contemporary pop culture.
If commercial capitalism has had a deleterious effect upon popular culture and the arts which reflect it, the growth of the modern state and its increasing democratization and bureaucratization have had a deleterious effect upon high culture. Democratic/bureaucratic “big government” began at the start of the twentieth century to take over the role of the aristocracy as the supporter of high culture and its artistic representation. The result has been an extraordinarily long dearth of excellence in the fine arts and a proliferation of mediocrity.
It is traditionally the role of the aristocracy to encourage, promote, and subsidize high culture and artistic excellence. This is by far the most important element of noblesse oblige – the moral obligation upon the upper, privileged classes to contribute to the rest of society. It is a role that democratic/bureaucratic government is not suited to fill. Ever since government took over the funding of the arts, artists have been answerable only to bureaucrats who are notoriously tasteless people. This is akin to being answerable to nobody, and they have developed the unhealthy habit of producing aesthetically unappealing garbage (in some cases literally) and expecting to be paid out of the public treasury for it.
These are the convictions that I hope to express more fully in my essays throughout this year.
Happy New Year.