Flat White

Punk rock conservatism? Pretty vacant…

14 March 2017

7:35 AM

14 March 2017

7:35 AM

My dear darling Daisy,

Thank you for your lovely letter. Please understand, when I say you’re not a conservative, it’s not from any misconceptions about your beliefs. On the contrary: I understand perfectly why you have this delusion of leading a resurgent, postmodern, counter-cultural Right. You’re working from a warped, myopic definition of conservatism that’s been foisted on young people by our elders in the conservative movement.

If you were twenty years older, you’d fall into the same clique as Rod Liddle, Brendan O’Neill, and Christina Hoff Sommers: leftists with an emphasis on rescuing leftism from its Millennial excesses. I only wish you didn’t cast yourself as a spokeswoman for ‘millennial conservatives’, my dear, and that ‘boomer conservatives’ didn’t encourage your doing so. It’s simply not the case. You’ve fallen victim to a phenomenon I call ‘The @Nero Fallacy’:

Anyone who criticises or mocks the left is now automatically deemed a conservative, even (and sometimes especially) by conservatives themselves. If they’re rude and lewd while they do it, all the better. We invite them onto our talk shows, publish them in our magazines. We allow them to represent us, our priorities, and our beliefs.

Why? Because the Boomer cons have no faith in themselves. They believe (as you do, Daisy) that social, cultural, and economic traditionalists are sterile. They don’t think they can reproduce, and are prepared to die out within a generation. They fought against modernity in all its corruption, and they reckon they’ve lost. The most they hope for now is to pass the reigns to anyone who doesn’t buy into the gender pay gap.

As far as they’re concerned, everything else is disposable. We shouldn’t worry about marriage and abortion. We shouldn’t worry about music, art, and architecture. We shouldn’t worry about the breakdown of the family, the community, and the nation-state. We shouldn’t worry about the commodification of friendship, intimacy, and sex. Just as long as some young’un is willing to ‘trigger snowflakes’.

And so young traditionalists who complain about this wholesale disinheritance are (to use Terry Barnes’s phrase) ‘dismissed as reactionary fogeys’ by both the Left and many influential Boomer cons. We’re like Cory Bernardi: too stubbornly attached to our principles, too unwilling to compromise with yesterday’s Leftists in order to put up a united front against today’s. Why can’t we just admit we’ve lost? Go down to the Mardi Gras Parade and give Bill Shorten a big ol’ hug.

Never mind those kids from the Sydney Uni Catholic Society forming a ring around St Mary’s Cathedral so the tolerant LGBT marchers don’t pelt it with eggs. They’re old tack. Christianity is out; black cock and Kitten D’Amour are in.

So I guess you’re right, Daisy, when you say:

The Left has a stranglehold on mainstream culture. Every institution that influences the way people think has been hijacked by the so-called ‘progressive’ establishment, from universities to Hollywood. This is in large part thanks to the traditionalist right remaining silent in the face of a decades-long cultural onslaught, assuming eventually, the masses would come around. Sadly, this did not happen, and conservative culture was relegated to quiet corners, off the record dinner parties, and Fox News.

Hence why you’re here, darling. You’re a product of that surrender, not a reaction to it. That we can imagine anything but the most superficial relationship between the ‘punk rock right’ and conservatism – a term coined to describe the philosophy of Edmund Burke – shows how degraded the conservative movement has become, and how desperate conservatives themselves are to remain ‘relevant’.

Again, none of which is to say I don’t think you’re immensely valuable, or that (God forbid) I don’t like you. I have many friends on the Left, most of whom are even less critical of its current trajectory than you are. But this is a question of whether conservatism will remain relevant to Millennials. And the answer is: not like this.

As I said in my last note, conservatism has one appeal, and only one: it’s the ideal means of ordering our society according to the laws of God and nature, grounded in the wisdom of our forefathers and the institutions of our civilisation. There’s no room for improving on the philosophy, and that goes especially for this notion of jettisoning ‘social conservatism’. It can’t be done. You can’t have a conservatism sans social issues any more than you can have a functioning human body without a heart.

And that, Daisy, is where we depart once and for all. You write:

Our ‘social libertarianism’ traditionalists loathe and mistrust is not the same as the hedonism the so-called ‘progressives’ advocate for. As such, perhaps the punk rock right should call themselves socially ‘centrist’. Rather than pushing for a total absence of restraint, we simply don’t think it’s our place to regulate what people choose to do with their private lives. To be honest, we simply don’t care.

This is why you can’t be a conservative. More than anything, it’s your apathy. As Russell Kirk said:

What binds society together? The libertarians reply that the cement of society (so far as they will endure any binding at all) is self-interest, closely joined to the nexus of cash payment. But the conservatives declare that society is a community of souls, joining the dead, the living, and those yet unborn; and that it coheres through what Aristotle called friendship and Christians call love of neighbour.

Conservatism is about love, my dear. That’s what binds us, and it’s what drives us. It’s not the desire to be left alone, but the need to be together. We feel powerfully the deep bonds of love that hold our society fast – bonds so strong (to paraphrase Dr Johnson) that they can’t be felt until they’re weak enough to be broken. And we feel them breaking – in part, yes, by the hammer of cultural Marxism, but mostly with the rust of apathy.

The truth is that conservatives can’t declare themselves neutral where the spiritual, moral, and cultural health of their countrymen are concerned – not any more than we could be neutral to the physical health of our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. We can’t help but care whether they listen to Lady Gaga or G.F. Handel, whether they read Fifty Shades of Grey or Brideshead Revisited, whether they watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Richard III, whether they have a thousand sexual partners or one lawful spouse, whether they dispose of life or cherish it, whether they embrace the Devil or renounce him and all his works. To be honest, we simply love them too much.

And you may be right, Daisy, to say, ‘you cannot sell classical, traditionalist, and social conservatism to the centrist, mainstream, Facebooking, movie-going, atheist, pro-LGBT millennial masses.’ But if you were a conservative, you’d know there’s only one reply: what choice do we have but to try?

I see you don’t grasp our values or priorities when you write:

It’s the punk rock right fighting the culture war, not traditionalists. We’re frantically fending off hordes of blue-haired, piercing-ridden social justice warriors in Antifa headscarfs. For that, we expect a little gratitude. We are the ones who will reclaim the West.

But reclaim it from what – or for what? What common cause do we have? Small government, free speech, and low taxes, you say. And that’s perfectly true. But even if we achieved all three, conservatives wouldn’t feel like we’re even halfway to victory. Our civil society would still be in ruins. Our cities would still be lifeless grey lumps on a dead earth. Our movie theatres, televisions, galleries, and concert halls would still peddle nihilistic smut. Our churches would still be empty, and those that show any signs of life would still be outposts of cultural Marxism. Our birth rates would remain perilously low, and our population would still be replaced by mass immigration. We’d still shove pass each other on the streets, dressed in hoodies and yoga pants, grunting inarticulately as we gape into the void of our selfie camera. The West would still be a wasteland; it would just be a wasteland with a slightly higher GDP.

That may not bother you one way or the other. You may think this all pretentious or narrow. And that is, generally speaking, okay. That’s the way most people feel. Most of the public is too worried about feeding their families to worry about fighting the culture war. Others (perhaps like you) are more concerned by the growth of the overweening state. But Eliot said it best, as he so often did: “Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.” That’s the culture war we’re fighting. We fight that our lives might mean something.

You don’t have to join our ranks. By all means, sit on the sidelines and watch. But don’t ask us to lay down our arms and strike our banners because the fight is too hard, and the Enemy too strong. This isn’t our war to surrender. Ours is the sword of generations past, and those yet to be born; we have no right offering it to you or anyone else. There are too many sacred bones on this field for us to abandon it, too much precious blood spilt in its capture.

This is the irresistible power of love. Once it plants its standard in your heart, Daisy, you’ll understand why we refuse to quit the fray.

And that goes for the boomer cons, too. You’ve spent decades ceding more and more land to the Left, hoping to die in your beds before they surround your bunker. Remember us – the Young Traditionalists – who, like you, want nothing more than to raise the West from its desolation. Come back to the front lines. See for yourselves the armies that are massing there. If you do, I promise you’ll never go back. We’ll give you the courage you lost so many years ago. We’ll teach you the battle-songs you’ve long forgotten. And there will be war, horrible war; and at the end of war, triumph.

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