The few thoughts below were first aired on my Facebook.
I spend an interesting afternoon with another French speaker the other day, an author from a poor country. (More on him later.) He is a thoughtful, creative and energetic man. Then, I had a brief conversation with well-off typical Santa Cruz liberals at a pleasant dock event in the harbor.
The thought crossed my mind that in the world today, leftism and conservatism are not symmetrical intellectual or moral positions. In most of the Third World, in much of Europe, and increasingly, in the US, if you are able to read a newspaper you become almost automatically a leftist. It’s in the air and on the ground. Speaking of air, the position often allows you to put on airs without having to read any books. Leftism is the default option for the semi-educated and for many of the formally educated but lazy.
Because there are so few guides to it, conservatism, by contrast, requires intellectual initiative, even occasional heavy lifting. The asymmetry is also found in the baggage each side carries: Conservatives are well informed about liberal programs because they cannot help but be. Few liberals however avoid being pathetically dependent on gross stereotypes of conservatism as a political doctrine. Few even know that it’s a political doctrine based on a well-defined moral stance. I think most of my former colleagues, university professors, know that. Of course, it’s not reasonable to expect their students, your kids, to know any better.
We are not equal. Conservatism requires effort. Liberalism is passive. (“Progressivism” is the label of those who want to sound cool and vaguely dangerous without taking risks.)
Below is a comment o to the original Facebook posting by an American artist who lives in Japan.
The U.S. is now experiencing one of those tectonic shifts of political sentiment that typically befall presidents midway through their second term (if they are unfortunate enough to be elected to a second term). With the U2 incident Khruschchev made a fool of Ike. Johnson fumbled Vietnam, Nixon, with Watergate, after declaring himself not to be a crook, was forced to resign, Clinton was neutered by Monica, and Bush Jr watched cluelessly as the house-of-cards financial system came down around him. Obama’s downfall is already upon him, rather early as these things go, but unmistakable. And with him the entire politically-correct project is discredited. This avatar of liberal values has been exposed by this moment of glasnost as a serial violator of the Constitution, a snoop of the lowest order, even worse than Nixon. For the first time, his rhetoric is unable to mask the statist agenda. These massive violations of the Fourth Amendment (barring ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’) are utterly indefensible in law or policy, and — here’s the big difference now — everyone knows it. The ‘consent of the governed’ is evaporating before your eyes. Those who have placed their faith in the current statist ideology are about to experience another ‘god that failed’ moment.