Friday, September 4, 2009

Of Sharks and Seals

As part of a largely reasonable discussion of a bit of revisionist twaddle from Rod Dreher -- the specific twaddle in which a contemporary American conservative pines for a bright day of yore when everyone thought and believed as contemporary American conservatives now think and believe, from magical thinking about the revenue-generating potential of endless tax cuts down to balling up their own shit and throwing it at anything FoxNews has idiotically equated with "socialism" -- TBWBoSRaDH* concludes this way:

To me the critical issue in a robust and vibrant culture which is one worth fighting for has less to do with acceptance of a particular metaphysic rooted in supernatural claims, and more with a shared canon from which one derives mores and allows for common cultural currency. The liberal assumption of individualism, that we are utility maximizers who wish to optimize the lifetime hedonic values I think often results in a whole society be trapped in an aesthetically squalid rut. My conservatism is rooted in the acknowledge that the majority of the human race is fundamentally a high social and collective beast which flourishes due to their embeddedness in a comfortable and familiar matrix.
Which is to say, TBWBoSRaDH's conservatism -- identical with Dreher's for purposes of this observation -- is rooted in an elementary misconception that's difficult to distinguish from rank denial.

In some moods, conservatism is all about capitalism, which has quite a bit to do with these notions of "utility maximization" and "optimizing" and "hedonic values." The drive to reduce taxes and erase regulations comes from this mood.

In other moods -- the one from which Dreher was more consistently speaking -- conservatism pretends capitalism out of existence and declaims against its deracinating effects in the course of blaming them on liberalism.

Contemporary American conservatism, in other words, can't decide if it loves runaway capitalism or social life rich with "embeddedness in a comfortable and familiar matrix" more, which is more or less akin to being unsure of whether it loves the sharks or the seals more.

It wants big box stores selling nothing not made in overseas sweatshops and it wants even bigger banks placing bets unencumbered by, you know, rules, but it also wants the world of It's a Wonderful Life and an unchanged and unchanging mom n' pop store that once sold hardtack to 19th century pioneers. It's willing to throw its own shit and believe any ridiculous lie in the defense of either, and unwilling to notice its incoherence.

* Cf.

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