Recently I have been thinking of the difference between the belief of Conservatives and our actions. We talk about our Nation, race, ethnicity, society, family, about things that are big and collective, not about individuals but about collectives of people. Liberals on the other hand talk about the Individual, about how it is not the collective that is powerful but the Individual. Which further got me thinking about cats and dogs, cats are individualists, while dogs are collectivists, so what are we, cats or dogs?
Cats were domesticated sometime between the last Ice Age and the birth of Civilization, when Man began to settle in one place and grew crops instead of hunting and gathering. Settlements allowed food to be stored, but stored food also brought rats and mice, who ate our food. It's believed that cats became domesticated because they started to hunt closer to human settlements and humans came to see them as a protector, even as a sign of the favour of the Gods. By nature cats are loners, they live alone and they hunt alone. It doesn't take much for a domestic cat to become feral. A cat is a wild animal who lives in our homes and by and large we both benefit from this relationship. But they are very individualistic, very selfish, they like things their way, they like their own space, they even get jealous. The joke about a cat not having an owner, but instead of cats having a human, rings true because that's how cats seem to think.
Dogs have been domesticated for tens of thousands of years, the relationship between Man and dogs is Ancient. Dogs were domesticated because they could help with hunting, but over time we have trained and bred them to perform numerous tasks. Dogs have been used for hunting, herding, as sentries, for pulling loads, and for companionship, they also made camp life more hygienic by cleaning up stray bits of meat. Dogs are collectivists, they live in packs and humans are simply another pack to them. Dogs need to know their place in the pack, they need to know who is in charge. To a dog your family is his pack and a dog will defend the pack whether it is made up of dogs or humans.
I said earlier that Conservatives are collectivists and that dogs are collectivists, but I don't think it's that simple. Conservatives have always found it hard to form groups, or to maintain them, why is that?
Liberals and others further left seem to find it much easier to form groups, although maintaining them can be another story. While most of these groups end very messily some have remarkably long lives. Some have marked their centenary, how many Conservatives, even Liberal groups that call themselves Conservative can claim that? Some but not many.
Why is it so hard for Conservatives to form groups? My theory is that we are cats, we are individualistic. I don't know about you but I found Conservatism on my own, I didn't read lofty books on Conservative philosophy for example, maybe that's why I never fell for the Liberal trap of confusing the two. But it did mean that I had many Liberal beliefs, which I thought of as exceptions. I won't say I don't still have any but I will say I have very few left. But so much was done on my own, without other people, sometimes despite other people, because I knew what they were saying was wrong. I remember as a teenager hearing it said that "you should be able to do anything you like as long as it doesn't hurt other people". Even then I knew it was wrong but I didn't know why it was wrong, I now know that it's wrong because actions and ideas have consequences, I also know that it isn't possible to live and not to hurt people, it's not even possible to live and not hurt yourself.
I don't think I'm alone in coming to Conservatism by myself. I think many, maybe most come to it alone. They know they are hearing lies, they know that the world is not as it should be and they search for answers. It means that we aren't very good followers, if we were we wouldn't have gone looking for answers. We would have accepted what we were told but we didn't. The great irony is that we believe in collectivism but we are individuals.
Of course that also means that Liberals, who believe in individualism are collectivists, they follow the leader. I have always been amazed by how they know what is the latest "fashion" within Liberalism. How could they see it so quickly, but I guess it isn't hard when you follow the leader. Of course there isn't a Grand Master of Liberalism, there are many leaders in different fields, but it is these leaders who provide the next "fashion".
So how is Conservatism going to move forward if we cannot form groups, if we cannot put aside our individualistic nature? Or to put it another way how do we herd cats? If you've got any ideas I'd be very happy to hear them.
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This is a significant point to make, Mark. Liberals seem to have a knack for organising, even when they are marginalised. Plenty of conservatives are willing to criticise the society they belong to, but shy away from the thought of organising to change things for the better.ReplyDelete
There's something in this, but it depends on what is meant by conservatives.Delete
Traditional societies are very collectivist. The collectivist impulses are (or were) centred on family, community and religion. And also on social hierarchies. Feudalism (a much misunderstood concept) was a system of mutual obligation. The various social orders all contributed towards society although in very different ways. All had their responsibilities. The peasants had duties and obligations, but so did the gentry and the nobility.
The problem is that the structures around which collectivist impulses were organised were severely weakened by the beginning of the 20th century. By the end of the Second World War they had largely been destroyed. The family survived a bit longer but the nuclear family was a very different animal compared to traditional concepts of the family.
Once these traditional collectivist structures were undermined and then destroyed conservatives were faced with the problem - what do we replace them with? Conservatives have not come up with an answer.
On the other hand the destruction of traditional structures was an opportunity for leftists and liberals to create new collectivist structures of their own such as the bureaucratic state and political parties that took over the functions of the church. From the 70s onwards social identity groups became a major focus - homosexuals, blacks, etc.
A true conservative is probably inherently collectivist although in a very different sense from the way leftists think of collectivism.
The trouble is that we now have a new form of "conservatism" that is individualistic, atheistic and materialistic - and that rejects traditional structures and beliefs just as strongly as leftists do. Modern "conservative" political groups celebrate greed and selfishness because they have nothing else to believe in.
I think conservatives are akin to wolves. And you don't herd wolves. Rather you organize them into packs.ReplyDelete
Hence All-Male Fraternal Orders and the military which conservatives are attracted to.
Teams of men organized for specific purposes like fireteams each playing their role in the grand scheme of things.
Wolves hunt in packs, when was the last time you saw or heard of a Conservative wolfpack?