Friday, April 21, 2006

Diesel and Widdershins

Conservatives are comfortable with individual power. Self-reliance, rugged individualism - all reflect the idea of the capable man. Liberals are very uncomfortable with the idea of some one person having lots of power. They're comfortable with collective power - group decisions, shared responsibility - a frankly corporate ... dare I say, syndicalist, mentality. We might caricature either of these trends of thought, these character traits. The conservative is selfish. The liberal is cowardly. One lusts for power, the other fears accountability. There is truth to all such criticisms, when applied to the unwise and unbalanced examples of these types. But both modes of operating are necessary, in their place, depending on conditions.

Consider Hamilton and Jefferson. Hamilton the money-man, the guy who wanted a big government to make lots of internal improvements - roads, canals, ports - because these would benefit commerce. Jefferson, the rural idealist, in favor of an agrarian nation of small and self-reliant towns knit together as a loose economic confederation within the greater national federation. So the question is, who was the conservative?

The term doesn't really apply, does it. The stereotype is that conservatives want small government, like Jefferson, but great economic prosperity, like Hamilton. Liberals want big governmental programs - but somehow we just know that Jefferson was a liberal. The confusion resides in the misapplication of labels. Hamilton might be the liberal - he wanted to reshape the world using corporate power. Jefferson wanted to conserve the rustic nature of the country, with its small town ideals.

Consider then our Mr. Bush, so Big Government, so profligate with money, driving up the debt, never saying no to a spending bill ... well, how Hamiltonian. Another way of looking at it, is that he's not afraid to spend a dollar, to make a dollar. Again, he is that anomaly, a conservative activist. It doesn't fit into a little box of orthodoxy, but we need not be dismayed by this. We live in revolutionary times, and new paradigms are emerging. For the good or the bad, I can't say. But that's the reality.

Big Lefty liberals, on the other hand, have simply absorbed the values of Marx and the philosophy of Rousseau. Free love and socialism. What the New Age religion is to Hinduism - a westernized, psychologized paganism - the modern liberal is to the old-time radical. The revolution most certainly will be televised. In fact, it's all television will show, and all LA NY Times will print. The revolution has become institutionalized, like the Mexican political oligarchy - like Castro's Cuba. Ours isn't a banana republic, but a ... oh, say, latte republic.

Manliness is a great virtue. Machismo is pathetic. I see manliness as a conservative trait - steadfast, stoical, great-hearted, easy-going, humorous ... well, sounds like every good thing, doesn't it. I'm trying to think of a fair-minded counterpart for the left. Compassion or sensitivity won't do, because these are part of what true manliness is - think Jesus ... one tough hombre. Ah, I see the confusion. Both Hamilton and Jefferson were manly. Both were conservative. I use the word conservative to embody the masculine ideal. The counterpart to that need not be liberal, but it is certainly disloyal, self-centered and licentious. Wow. Contemptible, right?

But maybe that's just my bias.


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