A successful ideology to dissect
—Crazy times, my dear Winnie. Words change so much that we are going to finish not understanding one each other.
—Now it turns out that in Europe a liberal is a rightist and in the United States a leftish.
—Very leftish indeed, my dear Franklin.
—Man, not so much.
—Not so much? I´ll tell you more, those are the losers.
—Liberals, losers? Which ones, Europeans or Am…?
—Losers. In our times it might have been different, but you must understand this: future belongs to the conservatives, the real winners.
—I see, could you explain that?
—Conservatism victory was forged in the 70s and 80s in our Anglo-Saxon world. The collapse of communism was the definitive accolade.
—But in recent years, the Great Recession, the populisms, even the whole capitalist system is put on the block …
—This cigar makes you choke.
—Capitalism in question? You’re clueless, Franklin. If anyone is doing really badly this is traditional progressives.
—Ha! Dou you realize it? Progressive and traditional… simply doesn’t fit. Of course, that is why those poor things are confused.
—Go on, drink a little of your Johnnie Walker, Winston. Let’s see if your throat clears.
Breath of pure splendor anticipates the grandiloquence.
—We’re not in the 30s, my good Franklin. Victory is near. Conservatism triumphs rampant everywhere. In Germany it governs undaunted since 2004; in France it rises over the socialist corpse and prepares the spirit for larger endeavors; in Austria it rides spiritedly on the back of a young leader; in Spain, in the absence of one, there are already two alpha parties, conservatives, of course; In the United States, the decline of middle class and inequality brought us Donald Trump. Change hemisphere and you’ll find the same. In Japan, the lost decades of deflation have brought nothing but the return of the liberal democratic party, the deep-rooted lifelong party, and Premier Shimzo Abe visits the Yasukuni Shrine. China protests because it says that war criminals are buried there. Oh, China! Egrrr.
The cloud sprouts magnificent from the Havana cigar, a Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real.
—Errrr Oh, China! Xi Xinping imposes iron authority and many see already a return to the essences of Mao’s time. Communist conservatism, my friend. Curious, isn’t it? Communist conservatism, traditional progress. Yes, you’re right, Franklin, crazy times.
—And yet. all these conservatisms are not the same. Are you sure all them fit into conservative?
—I don’t know. It seems we’ll have to see what we mean by conservative; don’t you think so?
Two misleading tracks
—Our first inquiry must be the dictionary, Franklin. For the philologists of the conservative RAE of Spain conservative means … “it is said of a person, a party, a government, etc. especially favorable to the continuity in the forms of collective life and adverse to abrupt or radical changes.” And my friends from Cambridge tell us that it is “who does not like or distrusts change, especially the sudden and abrupt change.” Edmund Burke would sign this and as you surely know Burke is the father …
—I do not agree, Winnie.
—With whom, aim at the dictionary or with Burke?
—With the dictionary and your taxonomist arrogance.
—Now you have it in for the dictionary.
—I think those years of inactivity …
—Oooh, come on. It seems to me you equate conservatism to moderation, though, is Trump a moderate? Is Xi Xinping’s authoritarianism soft? You will agree that your assessments raise a reasonable doubt, Winston Leonard Spencer …
—Are you sure, Franklin Delano.?
—Absolutely, and I’ll tell you more, words can sound very confusing sometimes. In the paper dictionary, conservationist is very close to conservative, it sounds similar indeed, but conservationist means ecologist.
—Well, nowadays we have right-wing environmentalists too.
—A fellow named Joan Serrat sang the ecological disaster of the sea and wondered «where are the wise and the powerful who name themselves, guess what, conservatives.»
—Conservative, conservationist. A play on words, it is understood.
—What is understood is that dictionary is not enough.
—Thus, we must look elsewhere. If you do not like the arid taxonomy, let’s try the supernatural. In my times we said God, Country and King.
—Conservative is one who has beliefs, faith. Faith in the hereafter inoculates against the desire for change. From very old conservatism and faith go together. There you have the judgments of God of the Middle Ages, the contemporary religious fervor of the United States that charges against Darwin and the Christmas congratulations of Trump that return to be confessional. And look in Spain.
—Certainly, a special case. They deemed themselves the spiritual reserve of the West and, not happy with that, they spoke of the crusade against the Freemasons, the Jews and the Communists. Besides, in former Spanish pesetas it put «Franco, caudillo de España by the grace of God». Even today they keep that giant cross in El Valle de los Caídos. Definitely, religious equals conservative just as atheist equals progressive, Franklin.
—Naturally, of course … though, some years ago I went to a seminar on Confucius.
Mouth open, the incendiary Havana cigar rolls on the ground.
Starts another Romeo y Julieta. A gorgeous cloud of filigree comes out.
—It is extinguished already… on the carpet.
—You’re going to drown with so much cigar smoke.
—Confucius, the Chinese sage? What has he to do with all this?
—I raised my hand and said just what you said right now.
—Well said then, Franklin.
—«You are very wrong,» the speaker replied.
—Oh, how could he dare?
—«You are a prisoner in a tiny spot of space-time: twentieth-century Spain.»
—But in the pesetas put …
—»Travel, man, travel, travel in time and space and you will see,» he told me.
—And how is that done?
—»In ancient China —he began very calm— dynasties depended on the favor of Heaven, which bears a certain similarity with that of the leader of Spain by the grace of God, but I assure you that depending on the grace of God Heaven is not as good a business as it seems. Belief in the afterlife makes earthly power less absolute, more contingent. After all, you must consider that, if Heaven gets angry, say goodbye to the dynasty. Consequently, they devoted important resources in securing good augurs to interpret eclipses and storms in the convenient way for the ruler. However, omens are risky and the outcome was that dependence on celestial favor meant that in the history of China very few dynasties lasted more than 300 years. However, in Japan, where Heaven matters much less, the imperial family has been in power for more than 2,600 years, which is much closer to… divine eternity. » I would add that this also happens in our lay times.
—Very indeed. Today the well-off finance ruined newspapers and make them say what they want. Many analysts, thinkers and writers who suffer economic hardship will say whatever they are told to say in exchange for a piece of stale bread. Rulers are better off indeed, laypersons of nowadays are more stable than old time believers since they no longer depend on the hazard of the little genie of rain. It was not you who complained of meteorologist’s forecasts before battles?
Astonishment is less and the Romeo y Julieta holds in the mouth.
—Interesting, Franklin, interesting.
—You watch movies, Winston?
—I read books and I take Johnnie Walker red label.
—In the film «Chariots of Fire», Scottish runner Eric Liddell does not want to run on Sunday for religious reasons. Neither the Prince of Wales nor the lords convince him, God is above the fatherland and the king. That of «Chariots of Fire» is by the chariot of the prophet Isaiah, the second Isaiah who wrote chapter 40. And I tell you that there is nothing more transgressor than Isaiah 40. «The nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust in the scales (…) Before Him all the nations are as nothing (…) He brings princes to naught and reduces the judges of this world to nothing». Earthly power is not comfortable sharing authority with the hereafter. Religion, not superstition, is a bad ally for immobilism.
The illustrated track
—I see you’re hard to convince, Franklin D. Let’s go to the illustrated origins of conservatism. Let’s go to Edmund Burke, the English thinker who criticized the French Revolution and whom many consider the father of conservatism. He defines conservatism in six points. One, preponderance to freedom versus equality; two, and almost as a corollary, he prefers a small government, which interferes the least in the affairs of the people; in third place is patriotism; in fourth, the rejection of the idea of progress; in the fifth, the elitism and, in the sixth, the acceptance of the established institutions and rules.
—Go on like that, Winnie, you might even convince me.
—If in the American case we dissect the triumphant conservatism of those Reagan, Bush, Krystol or Ted Cruz by this metrics we will find that, surprisingly, this new-minded conservatism only meets the first three points of Burke which, interestingly, are the most attractive and easier to sell. Freedom is more seductive than equality because we all want to be special and to be able to do things our way, it sounds good. Minimum government means less taxes, no need for explanations. As for the homeland, it is also a safe value, flags enjoy a long-lasting appeal. Besides, it is not incidental that American new conservatism disdains the three less attractive points. American new conservatism is not elitist, at least in its manners. Ronald Reagan, George Bush junior or Donald Trump are easygoing. Neither does it reject the idea of progress, far from it, economic growth and long-term welfare have a central role in the proposal. Lastly, it does not comply with the sixth point since, in a certain sense, it is revolutionary. Unfettered wild capitalism abhors castes. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State with president Bush was an example for the black minority. The you are worth the money you have relegates nobility, seniority and the Grays to oblivion. From this standpoint, the success of this kind of conservatism is well understood, it only takes those things that sell well.
—Go on like that, Winnie, but hurry up, you’ll drown me with this smoke of yours.
—To find a more integral and pure conservatism, an old-time conservatism, you should look at Spain, since it meets the six points of Burke metric as a whole. Poet Antonio Machado defended progress with the tune that «past times never were better». They payed not much attention to him, he died in exile.
—But, Winnie, you must agree that Burke’s conservatism metric can be applied to everything that moves, even to ourselves. How well do you qualify as a conservative, Winnie?
—Well, it’s not necessary either …
—You do not reject progress and although you’re a duke, you like people. Regarding to established ideas, well, you buried many. A three of six, just pass. You’re not as conservative as you look, Winnie.
The smoke screen becomes really dense.
—Well, ahem … And your friend Confucius —the Englishman strikes back.
—Here we do not judge anyone, Winnie, it’s just a metric.
—No, of course, and… Confucius?
—He draws with the Americans, three out of six. But…
—Well, it’s precisely the three points Americans do not meet. It is elitist, past was always better and, before taking any action, you always have to look at what was done in the past. It does not put freedom ahead of equality, it doesn’t seek for minimum state, and the issue of patriotism goes in a very peculiar way.
—Then, Confucius is the opposite of a neocon, Franklin Delano.
—And are both conservatives.
—Now I’m confused again, Winnie.
—I will drink a little.
—With this smoke, I can’t stand anymore.