Saturday, October 30, 2010

Will and History

With election day looming near, politics is in the air and on the ads. Every election is a huge crisis, the most important one yet! Conservatives and liberals sow seeds of fear and cast visions of doom. Hearing this rhetoric and reading their tripe, it makes me wonder if there is any other way? Is this it?

There are many ways of viewing history. Will Durant gives his in The Lessons of History. Fascinating insights. One particular paragraph in his chapter on the growth and decay of civilizations prompted me to consider a core difference between conservatives and liberals.

History repeats itself, but only in outline and in the large.
We may reasonably expect that in the future, as in the past, some new states will rise, some old states will subside; that new civilizations will begin with pasture and agriculture, expand into commerce and industry, and luxuriate with finance; that thought will pass, by and large, from supernatural to legendary to naturalistic explanations; that new theories, inventions, discoveries, and errors will agitate the intellectual currents; that new generations will rebel against the old and pass from rebellion to conformity and reaction; that experiments in morals will loosen tradition and frighten its beneficiaries; and that the excitement of innovation will be forgotten in the unconcern of time.
History repeats itself in the large because human nature changes with geological leisureliness, and man is equipped to respond in stereotyped ways to frequently occurring situations and stimuli like hunger, danger, and sex.
But in a developed and complex civilization individuals are more differentiated and unique than in a primitive society, and many situations contain novel circumstances requiring modifications of instinctive response; customs recedes, reasoning spreads; the results are less predictable. 
There is no certainty that the future will repeat the past. Every year is an adventure.

Just some observations:
Conservatives want to conserve. Liberals want to liberate. Conservatives want to keep things the way they were. Liberals want to embrace whatever is next. Conservatives are slow to accept change. Liberals are eager to accept change. Conservatives prefer the tried and true. Liberals prefer the new. Conservatives want to hold on to what they have. Liberals want to give away what they have.

Some more observations:
Conservatives and Liberals wrangle over Economics, Culture & Morals, Governing Policy, Military, Religion, and more. There ought to always be tension between Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to these vital issues. It's the tension that prompts reflection, research, arguments, challenges, and insights. The point isn't to decide who is wrong and deride them. The point is to deal wisely with the complex situations at hand. Conservatives need Liberals and Liberals need Conservatives. We need the tension, but we don't need the hate, the arrogance, the stereotyping, the simplistic slogans, the quest for power. 

History repeats itself as it moves forward. Progress is the hallmark of the liberals. A civilization is always moving towards death, but in the centuries in between, there is the constant march towards innovation and discovery and adventure. 

So what is the role of the conservative in this reality? Is it to always raise the caution flag? Is it to alway cry: "Beware" and "Watch Out!"? Is it to sow seeds of fear about what might be around the corner, about the danger of changing too fast, about new-fangled ideas? Is it to remind the next generation the lessons of the past? Is it to insist on sifting and sorting what is helpful and prudent amidst the turbulent changes of civilizations?

I ask with sincerity. What is the role of the conservative?

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