Prog cons

Ontario is governed by a party that calls itself the “Progressive Conservatives,” and has a peculiar Canadian national history. The title is rather appropriate, however, even in a philosophical sense. It helps explain why I hate the current “Ford” party almost as much as I hate the Liberals and the N-D-Pee. (Of course, it is not humanly possible to hate them equally.)

The word “progressive” is not absolutely decisive here. I am a Reactionary and a Traditionalist — as readers may have guessed by now — and neither a progressive nor a conservative, except that I use that latter word colloquially, sometimes, to mean “reactionary” and “traditionalist.” The philosophical distinction was neatly made by Karl Mannheim, and others.

Indeed, the word “conservative” was a modern invention, made by that delicious Frenchman, François-René de Chateaubriand (who came from Saint-Malo, the way Canada did). In the early XIXth century, he launched a journalistic movement for the restoration of French civilization. It was a political movement, in opposition to what we would now call the progressive revolutionary movement. The word, “conservative” caught on, first in Germany and then in England, in the mid-1830s.

Now Chateaubriand, who wrote a magnificent, romantic defence of Christianity, may be recommended to the reader who is getting tired of C. S. Lewis, though it will help if he reads French. He will be taught that catholicism is not anything “mere.”

But back to Mannheim, the movement of conservatism is what marks it as an exception from instinctive traditionalism, “the original reaction to deliberate reforming tendencies … bound up with magical elements of consciousness.” In other words, traditionalism is not a movement. It is as old as time, and essentially undefeatable. The most revolutionary characters are (typically) set in their ways; they are only stimulated by “the programme.” Paradoxically, the political conservative will often be progressive in his private life.

The secret of tradition is those “magical” things, which the progressive is always jawing against. The most humans can achieve, individually or collectively, is a trade-off. Something worth keeping must always be sacrificed. The idea of progress is that of continuous, accumulating good, without trade-offs. It is an example of the fallacy of perpetual motion.