Conservatism Isn’t about Preserving Privilege

Submitted by Adrian on Sun, 05/20/2018 - 12:08

Based on article:    https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/corey-robin-book-reactionary-mind-caricature-of-conservatism/

I found this article quite interesting.  When I first saw this article I was curious about hearing the thoughts on how “conservatism” might be about conserving established privilege and power.  Facebook has “labeled” me as being an “ultra-liberal”, although I have never thought of myself as such.  My self-evaluation is being someone who leans more liberal in regards to social justice, equality, and standing up for the rights of all humanity.  I try to keep an open mind, but once I became aware of the information-skewing that comes with excessive time on Facebook, I started using an app/website called Feedly to better control my news sources.  I feel it is much more balanced than what one gets on Facebook - which thinks that we all are better off with echo chambers that don’t challenge our ability to consider other thoughts and viewpoints.  This is how my Facebook Ultra-Liberal-self came to be reading from sources like “Fox News”, “The Hill”, and the source of this article, “National Review”.

When I started reading the article I expected to hear the “conservative” views on the merits of the subject, and I did get what I was expecting.  But I also received more than that, which I feel is the TRUE REASON for being exposed to other thoughts and ideas. This article has given me new perspective on the Liberal/Conservative conversation/battle that is in progress today.

I’m a Bahá'í, and one of our primary beliefs is the Unity of Humanity. As Bahá'ís we are told not to become embroiled in partisan politics.  This makes a great deal of sense since the nature of partisanship is to divide, not to come together for the common good or work towards the best solution for ALL parties rather that one side or the other (as is being  played out by our current political law makers/politicians).

In his book, “The Reactionary Mind”, the author, Corey Robin writes:

  • “conservatism . . . is not a commitment to limited government and liberty — or a wariness of change, a belief in evolutionary reform, or a politics of virtue.” 
  • “opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere.” 
  • “conservatism is about power besieged and power protected,” 

These statements match what I have observed from watching current injustices and oppression of people who are not members of the ruling class/party.  

Also in the article Christian Gonzalez writes:

“Leftist movements have struggled on behalf of the oppressed and the downtrodden against entrenched power structures and their rightist apologists. Modern history for Robin, then, is the tale of an unceasing leftist struggle to defeat the Right; presumably, once that defeat is accomplished, human societies can finally set themselves to the task of turning capitalist depravity into socialist utopia.”

What Mr. Gonzalez states is what I understood about the more liberal slant of things.  

Then Mr. Gonzalez goes on to make a statement that caused me to re-evaluate my previous ideas and understandings:

“…who today but the most recalcitrant Marxist can take seriously the description of the French and Bolshevik revolutions as emancipatory movements? It is true that Russia and France saw ghoulish monarchs overthrown by popular uprisings; it is also true that both countries descended into dictatorships far more barbaric than the ones they replaced. To call the French and Russian revolutions emancipatory is to ignore Jacobin terror and Leninist tyranny.”

I don’t know much about French or Russian history, but the point is well taken about the fallacy in thinking that the history of liberalism is any better for the majority of people than conservatism.  But along with this realization came a moment of clarity for me, and it has me looking at things a bit differently than before.

Conservatism against Liberalism is not a “good vs. evil” scenario as I earlier believed, with conservatism being bad and liberalism being good (for the most part).  As I now realize, historically there was a power struggle on both sides, both manipulating the general population into following a charismatic leader/ideology, both making their respective followers think they are on the side of the people.  The truth to the matter is that this is a perpetual power struggle, and both sides will keep the general population as much under their control and as repressed as the previous leaders did, if not worse.

This revelation puts into proper perspective the DIVISIVENESS of labels that continue to be thrust upon people who do not seek power, but only wish to work towards solutions for the problems and ills of the world -- those who seek justice, fair play, and equality for all people no matter who they are, no matter what their gender orientation or ethnic origin, and to respect the individual’s right to decide their own way of living without judgement or persecution.

As a Bahá'í this is what I believe and as a Bahá'í I resist being classified and pigeon-holed.  I believe our future does not lie with conservationism or liberalism but that it lies with exercising and defending the belief that ALL people have the same rights, that no group should be privileged over another, and that we all have the right to be treated as valued members of the greater tribe, that of HUMANITY.