Conservative indifference

The phenomenon to which I will devote today’s squib has been known to me from childhood. It has a place, but not in my heart. I do not necessarily refer to “conservatism” in its political form. It is an attitude mostly indifferent to politics, as it is to most other things. By its nature it is hard to stir up. (When finally stirred, it gets pretty ugly.) To use it as a party label was clever, in principle: for the idea of doing nothing, and keeping things the same, was often a good one, in the past. Unfortunately, the label did not come into use until the nineteenth century, which is to say, much too late. To use it as a slogan, in the twentieth-century Anglosphere fashion, is downright obtuse. Why would we want to conserve or preserve all this wicked modern nonsense?

Pressed, I cannot remember ever having admitted to “conservatism.” In decades past I called myself “a Tory.” Pressed further for a definition I would quote the opening of Praeterita, by John Ruskin: “I am, and my father was before me, a violent Tory of the old school — the school of Walter Scott, and Homer.” This wasn’t precisely true, but had the right flavour. Later, I found the term “reactionary” would serve.

In my generation, the mutation of the notion of “conservation” into the notion of “environmentalism” revealed the tragic flaw. The soi-disant “conservatives” allowed this to happen. They thought somehow the revolutionists had adopted their ideas, when in fact they had appropriated them for their own “progressive” cause. The love of nature was quickly transformed into interminable agitprop about “endangered species.”

John Stuart Mill famously explained that he did not think conservatives were stupid. He only thought stupid people tend to be conservative; and of course he was right.

The great majority are, and have always been conservative. This includes people on the Left. They do not actually like any of the “progress” they have been advancing, by their votes and their drudgery. They are as apt to moan about “bureaucracy” as anyone on the Right. But they are conservatively committed to playing along. Really they’d be happier as mild heretics in the Middle Ages, lacking as they do the spunk to get themselves burnt at any stake. The air was fresher then, and the instructions on how to live were not only simpler, but harder to defy. They might have found peace, in those circumstances.

When it comes to “lifestyle,” I cannot detect much difference between conservatives of the Left, and conservatives of the Right. Both lazily buy into every consumer convenience, and to the general convenience of consumerism. It is not hypocrisy. Some energy is needed for that. It is just indolence. Our ancestors would have bought in, too; and when you think of it, they did: over several generations. We are the result of our ancestors’ “progressive” lethargy, of mind and body.

No, gentle reader, “I am not a conservative,” as many have tried to claim before me. At least I aspire to be a lupine, implacable reactionary. I want everything associated with “modernity” destroyed — starting with the earth-moving machinery that is digging up my street yet again, as I write. I want the ice cream truck with its amplified jingle to be, likewise, rusting in some bush. Though I think, to be practical, we should start with “post-modernity,” and work methodically backwards from there.

Since the year of my birth, as I understand, the biomass of the lumpenproletariat (i.e. the conservatives) has more than doubled. I am a pro-life Catholic, and can hardly object. Over the same period the lumpen mass of machinery (chiefly cars) has increased perhaps tenfold. No reason to panic: it is made of iron mostly, and will quickly degrade. If we want to save the Earth, I think, keep the people, but get rid of the cars. And this can be achieved not by banning them — which would be controversial — but by merely neglecting the roads. Most become unmotorable within a decade or so.

And so on: through a strategy of “heroic neglect.”

In judo, as in most martial arts, we learn to use the enemy’s otherwise intimidating weight to our advantage. (“Asymmetric warfare”: learn how it works.) The trick is to exploit the conservatism of the masses. Being human, they are dim, and easy to sucker and con. That is the great secret of democracy. The revolutionists have done a much better job of this than have the reactionaries, over the last few hundred years, and the task for us is to master their tricks. The best one is to bring the whole weight of the lumpengeist down on their heads — the way they have been doing to us.

We must master the genius of dullness. We must, as in many successful societies before, put dullness once again at the service of high art. We must rebuild civilization on conservative indifference.

How we do this, I have no idea, but the principle of the thing seems clear enough.