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The Purpose of “Conservatism”

by Peter A. Belmont / 2023-01-13
© 2023 Peter Belmont


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What Is The Purpose Of Conservatism?

I was once told that the nature of “Political Conservatism”, the purpose of it, is to keep things the way they are, to avoid experiment or change.

This is not accurate as a definition of today’s American Political Conservatism, which I shall flag with scare-quotes as “Political Conservatism” because of my desire that decent conservatives would wish to conserve the natural environment, preserve life on earth against the threat of climate change, etc.

The Actual Purpose Of “Political Conservative”

The more accurately stated purpose and program of American “”Political Conservatism”” is to preserve the prerogatives, the privileges, the wealth, and the psychological and other comforts of the “Political Conservative” class. Especially wealthy white males.

And a derivative purpose, of course, is to convince enough voters to allow them to accomplish all this whether or not this program benefits such voters.

Conservatives Do Not Oppose All Change

This protection of privilege does not work out to keeping things from changing.

Quite the contrary.

The industrial revolution began immense change and experiment, which is still happening, and this revolution was welcomed by “Political Conservative”s because many of them, especially their leaders, became quite wealthy as a result. And one aspect of their “”Political Conservatism”” has been to keep industry (“the economy”) going strong, in spite of industrialism’s many negative side-effects. As a rule these negative side-effects harm lesser people, people of no concern to “conservatives”, poor people, the natural environment, animals, waters, air. These side-effects, so warmly embraced by “Political Conservatives”, are undoubtedly “changes” from the vantage point of, say, pre-industrial society.

Similarly, the very recent invention of Social Media have been embraced warmly by “Political Conservatism”, and these inventions have profoundly changed society and politics.

The whole global warming and climate change phenomenon (GWCC) is a particularly vivid side-effect of industrialism, a change so great that it should be written in all-caps, “CHANGE”. And “Political Conservatives” have been leaders of the fight to prevent any steps being taken to reverse GWCC.


Conservatives Do Oppose Social Change That Might Reduce Their Privilege
But They Do Not Oppose Change That Will Increase Their Privilege.

In the recent (post-Trump) political upheavals in states governed by “Political Conservatives”, we see an avalanche of legislation aimed at preventing social change that might weaken “conservative” (and mostly white male) privilege, preeminence, power, wealth, etc.

The overturning, by “Political Conservatives””, of Roe v Wade and their enacting of state laws to limit or terminate any right to abortion re-establishes male dominance (and of course the power of mostly male “conservative” legislators) over women and girls.

They’ve learned a lot from the Taliban and Iranian Mullahs, haven’t they?

The removal of books from libraries to limit children’s awareness of race and racism and of the existence and nature of LGBTQ+ experiences aims to prevent children (of all races, but especially “white” children) from learning about the long established social and legal mechanisms that promote, maintain, and “normalize” white privilege and white male heterosexual privilege in American societies.

The voter-suppression laws and regulations recently enacted in many “conservative”-run states aim at preventing poor people of non-white races from voting (and thus from changing the status quo of white privilege). Of course these laws and regulations also prevent many poor white people from voting, but “conservatives” don’t care much for poor people even if they are white.

The Trump-led blaming of, fear of, hatred of, and blatant discrimination against, immigrants, black and brown and Asian people, Muslims, and Jews, taken as a whole, are a political device to keep poor white people (and wealthy ones, too) feeling endangered by, fearful of, angry at, and justified in taking discriminatory actions against black, brown, and Asian people, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews, making many feel that their jobs are threatened by these people, thus keeping those who can (still) vote inside the “conservative” tent, a “tent” in which seem to be heard promises to protect “privileged” white people against all these alleged dangers.

The fact that jobs have been taken away and wages reduced (or not raised) by ever-more-wealthy corporations goes unmentioned because mentioning these facts would show up the social theory under-girding the discrimination so dear to the “conservatives”.

A Big Change Brought To Us By “Conservatives”

Lying and deception have always played a role in politics. But a decent respect for “truth” and “facts” has until recently seemed part of general political behavior. Or so I imagined. “A Chicken In Every Pot” political promises, of course, excepted!

But Trump and the MAGA crowd have “normalized” blatant lying, over-the-top disregard for making sense, telling anything as-it-is, etc. Maybe this all started with talk-radio, long ago, with Rush Limbaugh, but now it seems that all Republican politicians (who call themselves the “conservative” party) have adopted the consistent prctice of over-the-top lying and bullshitting and “normalized” it so that their political “base” expect it and have no regard any more for truth, science, facts, etc. Politics, for many of thenm, now, is all theater, but “scare” theater.

Indeed, it seems possible that lying and a casual disregard for truth are by now so ingrained among “conservative” law-makers and their “base” that they assume that everyone else is also lying so that they can no longer understand the nature of the scientific or medical establishments’ general (if never entirely fault-free) resting on a foundation of experience and well-established fact. Certainly the “conservative” reaction against COVID restrictions suggests distrust of academic truth-telling rather than, as it may also be, merely dis-inclination to lead restricted lives (“Live Free or Die!”). In other words, post-Trump, many people resist inconvenient “facts” or inconvenient social/legal restrictions, or both. (“Me me me me me, my truth, my truth.”)

All politicians have paid lip-service to limiting government spending, but politicians of both parties respond to the desires of corporate donors (and billionaire donors) by raising expenditures for “defense” whilst decrying (if they are Republicans) big spending for anything else (such as social security and medicare, IRS auditing, environmental supervision,etc.). In fact the Congressional rule requiring balancing of spending against revenues explicitly exempts “defense” spending from such balancing.

And then Republicans (“conservatives”) call themselves the party of small government. Meaning, I think, government that doesn’t cost too much, doesn’t tax them too much, and which keeps out of their lives and livelihoods. “Conservatives” say they oppose regulation. “Keep out of my life!”

Well, yes, they do oppose some regulation. They oppose regulation which limits business’s ability to make profits without regard for side-effects (worker-safety, environmental trashing, and environmental racism, etc.).

Regulation Of Speech

But “conservatives” delight in regulation which limits women’s right to abortion, gets in the way of rights to medical care of LGBTQ+ people, limits what books children can read and what things teachers may teach, limits where and when and by what means (and how easily) people may vote. Many “conservative” governments have limited the power of government employees to study certain things (GWCC), to say or report certain things (“Don’t Say Gay”).

Many governments have responded to pressure from well-connected pro-Israel groups to discriminate against pro-Palestine or anti-Israel speech, even to the telling of actual factual materials about Israel’s foundation in 1947-50 and its behavior thereafter. Anti-BDS legislation and action (for instance by dollar-conscious universities!) is wide-spread. All this is consistent with other “conservative” behavior since it aims to preserve the power, preeminence, etc., of the powerful and authoritarian “Jewish State” over the Palestinian people—even though American “conservatives” are often antisemitic (disdaining or even hating Jews and Palestinians equally).

Conclusion

My “take” on “”Political Conservative”” is that its proponents are willing to see us all dead (or at least to limit the longevity of the human race on earth) rather than give up an iota of the wealth, political power, white privilege, or prerogitives and preeminence of established “conservative” people, businesses, and holders of wealth.

Sixth extinction? Phooey! Stop using plastics? Make me! GWCC? You kidding? Hoaxes, all! Stop burning fossil-fuels? Not in my lifetime. Spend money (and raise taxes on the very rich) to reverse GWCC? Not if I can help it.

I’ve been re-reading the Earth’s Children series of books by Jean M. Auel. These books are (among other things) lessons in racism as they describe the hatreds and disdain of humans-like-us against people-not-like-us (as I imagine, against Neanderthals).

But they are also a lesson in ecology. In “The Shelters of Stone” we find in the central religious teaching, their origin story, this stanza:
      
To woman and man the Mother gave birth,
And then for their home, she gave them the Earth
The water, the land, and all her creation
To use them with care was their obligation;
It was their home to use. But not to abuse.


We have taken the gifts but have failed to observe the obligations to take care and not to abuse. We live in a world where there are consequences to our actions and our failures to act. And no amount of “white privilege” or “”Political Conservatism”” will stave off the consequences that Mother Nature is already exacting because of—as the principal instance—humanity’s failure to reverse GWCC.

I looked up a familiar phrase and here repeat a definition which gives my “take” on “conservatives” w.r.t. to conserving the earth:
      
”Après moi, le déluge”:

Used to express selfish disregard for problems that may occur in the future, especially after one’s death or reign of control. This French phrase literally means, “After me, the flood.” Attributed to both King Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour, the phrase likely refers to (and foreshadows) the difficulties that would befall France after years of the aristocracy’s lavish living.

I don’t hear “conservatives” saying much about the very recent (January 2023) severe flooding (“ le déluge “) in California which seems a clear consequence of GWCC. But we do hear the oil companies and other “conservatives” say, w.r.t. GWCC and the continuation of the oil-burning economy: “Drill, Baby, Drill!”.







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