Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Evolving conservatism

Anthony Esolen on the election:
I fear that the battle, not always but all too often, is between a radical materialism and a softer materialism, a radical worship of Progress (to where, is never specified) and a softer worship of Progress. For instance, I saw the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, on television with Geraldine Ferraro, the two of them commenting upon the difficulties of being a woman in national politics. One of them said, "There are still some Neanderthals out there who believe that it is impossible for a woman to have a family and raise her children properly while embarking on a political career. We hope that they will soon evolve beyond that position." Those italics are mine. Note the assumptions here. People in previous generations were bigots. What they actually believed about the relations between men and women, and their roles in private and public life, can be dismissed with a sneer. We, who divorce half of the time, when we bother to marry in the first place, we whose cities are sinkholes of sexual and familial chaos, we can safely ignore the so-called wisdom of past ages. We have evolved, don't you see. Just as, I suppose, our understanding of freedom has evolved beyond that of that fellow Jefferson -- that ascetic and patrician landowner, to use William F. Buckley's words, whom we can call upon to justify denuding the public square of all expressions of religion, but otherwise dismiss.

The person who made that comment, of course, was Governor Palin. I guess I shouldn't single women out for the collapse of our political thinking -- that we are not producing even an eloquent and somewhat addled populist like Bryan, or a stubborn constitutionalist such as Cleveland; and those fellows are rather dwarfed by the political intellects of the Adamses, or Jefferson and Madison, or Webster and Calhoun. Yet I wonder sometimes what a Palin or a Pelosi can be thinking. Are they entirely unaware of the great (and sometimes failed) statesmen of the American and British past? Are they not embarrassed by the vulgar cackling of the commentators on that show that is inevitably on the screen when I go to the doctor's or the dentist's, The View? Cackling which makes Rush Limbaugh appear like Demosthenes. Or are they aware in the slightest of the collapse of the American family, which in certain sectors of our population is evident in the disappearance of responsible men, the should-be fathers of their communities?

...Ah well. The fiscal conservatives have no idea that they lack a proper understanding of the human being and of the common good, and that they therefore play the secularist's game on the secularist's own turf. The social conservatives have either bought the idea that "government," for good or bad, means management by bureaucrats from afar, or have bought so much of the sexual revolution that their residual opposition to killing children remains utterly unmoored from any consistent vision of what a good human life or a virtuous and just human community looks like.
Read the rest here.


KyCobb said...

It sounds like Mr. Esolen's conservatism is moored primarily in controlling women and keeping them in their place.

Martin Cothran said...

Or maybe just allowing them another paradigm than the reigning one.

KyCobb said...


Women are not required to have a career, I have known many who have stayed at home, especially when their children are young. So it would seem that Esolen's problem is not that women lack a traditional choice, but that they have non-traditional choices.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

"Why would any woman who would refuse, properly, to take the marital vow of obedience (on the ground, presumably, that subservience to a mere human being is beneath human dignity) then regard as “liberating” a job that puts her under the authority of a boss (man or woman) whose authority specifically requires and expects obedience? It is easy enough to see why women came to object to the role of Blondie, a mostly decorative custodian of a degraded, consumptive modern household, preoccupied with clothes, shopping, gossip, and outwitting her husband. But are we to assume that one may fittingly cease to be Blondie by becoming Dagwood? Is the life of a corporate underling— even acknowledging that corporate underlings are well paid—an acceptable end to our quest for human dignity and worth? It is clear enough by now that one does not cease to be an underling by reaching 'the top.'"

-Wendell Berry, "Feminism, the Body and the Machine".

Hannah Lashbrook said...

I really like that quote, Thomas. I hadn't been planning on reading any more Wendell Berry for a while, but I may have to change my mind..... where is that quote from?