Friday, April 17, 2009

Conserve Man

At the core of every conservative intellectual is the terror and awe of the horrendous lessons humanity has learned throughout our history. We understand that the little wisdom humankind has gained so expensively after so many thousands of years of mass murder, tyranny, slavery, brutality, ignorance, cruelty, stupidity, starvation and error ought not to be thrown out for each new revolutionary notion of social justice. The fool’s hope de novo guarantees only one more round of tyrannical oppression by wicked old cynics. In the words of Edmund Burke, “People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”

Unlike the dewy liberal, the conservative intellectual knows revolutions inexorably kill more than they save. We remember that Stalin always follows Marx, and fascism always follows the fasces. The individual is not better lost in the collective, nor is the state strengthened by destroying the individual. That is the Jacobin seduction; it is the ancient wickedness grinning mendaciously behind each new revolution. And it always precedes its own unique Reign of Terror. They will love me and I will become a rhinoceros. There is nothing charitable about enforced charity, nothing; never, not even “service learning” is charitable when it is mandated.

“…the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property…. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community. For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own. This is one of the chief points of distinction between man and the animal creation, for the brute has no power of self direction.” Rerum Novarum [Of New Things], Pope Leo XIII, 1891.

For the new green liberal that essential distinction between man and beast has vanished. And animal has assuredly not thereby been elevated to the level of man, but rather man has been reduced to the state of an animal. The image of catastrophe suffered last week by our closest Vermont friends comes to mind. Their farm caught fire and burned to the ground, and all their sheep and their new-born lambs, at first safe in the open field, became terrified by the flames and smoke and ran –undeterrable-- driven by inflexible instinct and habit, back into their burning barn to die needlessly each and every one. For sheep it is always today, always new, no lessons are ever learned from their ancestors.

“Falsehood is a perennial spring.” Edmund Burke

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