Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ten ways of being conservative

  • Politically. The current system is a shambles but, if we mess with it too much, we are liable to end up with something even worse.
  • Fiscally. Though debt has a crucial role to play in modern economies, over-indebtedness - especially on the part of governments - is threatening future prosperity. Fiscal conservatism should be less contentious than other forms of conservatism, as it is based on simple rationality and prudence rather than on subjective feelings or convictions.
  • Socially. Traditional ways of relating and communicating have proved their effectiveness. They are also to be preferred on aesthetic grounds.
  • Religiously. Religious fashions (like happy clappy Christianity) are anathema. Like social conservatism but with a metaphysical dimension.
  • Scientifically. Mainstream scientific opinion is taken seriously as a provisional best guess.
  • Artistically. Varies of course with the art and the context. The conservative likes (some) old art not because it is old but because it is good. Anything showy or meretricious is rejected. A painter like Mondrian, I would say, is deeply conservative.
  • Sartorially. There are fashions and fashions. The sartorial conservative takes heed of the slow underlying fashions and ignores the fads.
  • Gustatorily. Adventurous eating is seen as not only unnecessary and potentially wasteful, but as suspect - perhaps indicative of an empty mind (or worse). Ludwig Wittgenstein, in this as in so many other aspects of his life, combined conservatism with its opposite. He didn't mind what he was given for dinner so long as it was always the same.
  • Alcoholically. The right drink at the right time.
  • Sexually. Let's face it, sex and conservatism have been and always will be in an awkward relationship. Uneasy bedfellows?