Sunday, March 26, 2006

"Conservative" Conscience II

Now it will come as a surprise to anyone who has read this blog, but I have deep affinity with true conservatives, having been raised by a pair of them, that is to say people with very traditional values and ethics, people with a powerful belief in education on the boarding school and Oxbridge or Ivy League models. My father, from whom I received many of the the better aspects of my character, has served this country for over sixty years in many capacities, engineer, soldier and physician, was proud to have been commisioned "an officer and gentleman" by Congress. He once abstrated his ambition for myself in the hope that I would turn out "a cultured gentleman." Toward that end I have associated myself with some of the world's most conservative cultural institutions, so as to acquire some culture, even if the gentleman part is pretty much out the window.

Still, in light of the recent Domenech affair and its associated controversies I think we might fairly wonder: Are today's self-described "conservatives" more dishonest than people who describe themselves differently?

I'm going to query some social scientists on this score, but I suspect strongly that the answer is: yes. For one thing the self-description itself seems quite misleading. A conservative is, according to the Oxford English dictionary, "one characterized by caution, moderation, reluctance to make change." According to Oxford American Dictionary, conservative means "holding to traditional attitudes and values, cautious about making change or innovation." Conservatism according to Merriam-Webster: "disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change3 : the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change."

None of these things is congruent with the practices, policies and beliefs dearest to people who now proudly call themselves conservatives. How is the ongoing trillion-dollar experiment in pre-emptive war and enforced democracy conservative? Likewise, how conservative is the suspension of citizens' rights and awarding a callow, talentless rich boy dictatorial powers? How conservative is cutting taxes and raising expenditures? How conservative is the idea that "free markets" will solve all our problems, essentially providing something for nothing? All of these things seem like lunatic departures from caution, moderation, stability, tradition, et cetera and so completely at odds with conservastism per se. Of course, even some certified Conservatives have begun to notice this. But many more have not.

It's telling, perhaps predictive that the Dittohead has no idea that the things he favors are antithetical to the term he chooses for himself. He's unconcerned with the real meanings of terms (-- though nothing is more conservative than concern with fixed, definite meanings rooted in traditional usuages) because his language is Newspeak, Spinsprecht, Advertese. Truth is neither mood nor voice in this lingo which does not really assert, it simply sells. In the massive gravitation lensing of the One Party, we can see the full 360 degrees, so a thing can be apprehended quite comfortably as both itself and its opposite (War is peace! Arbeit Macht Frei!), thus ludicrous nation-building-with-bomber projects are seen as conservative. In a discourse where words can suddenly mean whatever Humpty Dumpty chooses, "honesty" is perhaps less meaningful than almost anything else. So, an unscientific prediction: the Dittohead "conservatives", unconcerned with truth, will be less honest than most.

In the second place: there is the "conservative's" fondness for governmental regulation of private moral issues, their unseemly concern with other peoples' peccadilloes. This can only be hypercompensating projection, of the precisely the sort which links virulent homophobia to the conscience troubled by homoerotic ideation. This leads me to suspect that the so called "social conservative," so very worried about who is having sex with whom, about abortion, about gambling and who is catchign a buzz on what, is quite often the troubled conscience. Exhibit A: that darling of the conservatives, former drug-czar and now morals maven: William Bennett, former four-pack-a-day smoker and compulsive gambler. Exhibit B: W. David Hager, adviser to the President on sexual ethics and rapist. Exhibit C, Junior League: Ben Domenech

Now just how would one test my hypothesis: self-described conservatives are more likely liars?


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