Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk

I gave a little preview of this book that I re-started on back in November, and I have now finished my 3rd reading of this heavily tabbed and marked work which I first read in 2005. The book was first published in 1953 -- so it is three years my senior.

I pulled these quotes from page 470, but not in order -- I'm bad with the little [...] and such and I think they hold together pretty well anyway.  
When faith in a transcendent moral order, duty to family, hope of advancement, and satisfaction with one's task have vanished from the routine of life, Big Brother appears to show the donkey the stick instead of the carrot.
There are many in all parties who look forward to time when virtually the whole of the population will be dependent on the State for the whole of the amenities of life.  
But moral systems are not constructed readily by social engineers. The old religious and ethical imperatives demolished, compulsion must take their place if the great wheel of circulation is to be kept turning. When the inner order of the soul is decayed, the outer order of the State must be maintained by merciless severity, extending even to the most private relationships.  
If Democracy cannot be persuaded, then Democracy must be intimidated. 

Or as TS Eliot put it; "If you will not have God (and he is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin". I would add, Satan.

There is no way to capture the scope of this book -- the highlights of conservative thought from Burke to Eliot (as in TS), but that isn't the half of it. The various authors harken back to Greece, the Bible, Natural Law, British History and much more. The names from history flow like a wide and very deep river of genius -- Acton, Adams, Babbitt, Balfour, Coleridge, Disraeli ... and I'm only selecting a starting few from an already selective bibliography!

Conservatism is rich in history of both fact and thought because conservatives believe in the importance of history. They deny that the last instant is a privileged position to observe what is of ultimate import for man, mankind, families, communities, nations or other associations that are the essence of truly human life -- all often atomized by the oppressive Benthamite Statism we exist under today. Conservatives look for historical, even transcendent perspective, searching for principle and the hope of providence.

They deny that man is the measure of all, but oh, what men of what great measure have we been blessed to have seen rise up to contain the horrors of the French Revolution, Fascism, Communism and the ongoing onslaught of  increasingly godless, centralized,  and intrusive Statist power.

The thought upon which Britain and the US rose to our previous heights was conservative thought. Will our civilization hold out against the destructive envy of the masses, the machinations of the "sophists and calculators", those that would destroy all that transcends day to day existence and thus make our lives no more than those of the "flies of summer"? (Burke)

THAT is the ultimate earthly social question, the eternal one is like unto it -- Will you sell all you own (give up the idea of this is MY LIFE), and follow Christ!

That question is never securely settled, and has Reagan so correctly put it, the potential loss of all is never more than one generation away!

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