Whenever you do any posting on the Internet, you need a bundle of words and phrases that tell the world–in no wasted space–exactly who you are and what you’re up to. Good luck with that! In starting this blog, I was once again faced with the chore of distilling myself into keywords, a ritual which is but one of the e-world’s resemblances to tribal primitivism. What feathers are you wearing? Do you wipe your warpaint over the cheeks or the forehead?
I have hazarded the word “Christian” on these occasions before… but I won’t go that way again. About twenty years ago, I wrote a novel titled Seven Demons Worse and tried to market it through a tiny publishing company which had been assigned a FAX wherein 666 appeared prominently. My “Christian” clientele crucified me–even though the seven demons are an allusion to one of Christ’s parables. Generally speaking, more often than not, somebody in my part of the woods who wants to assess your religious faith will ask, “Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior?” And if you return the serve and ask him, “Have you?” you’re likely to get such a cataract of mawkish, quasi-narcissistic sentimentality that you’re reaching for an umbrella with one hand and disinfectant with the other. Yet if you should ask this person further, “What is the Christian calling? Is it to help others, or to serve the spirit that others are often trying to throttle in themselves? If that spirit is the key to our identity, then what comtribution to it does our individuality make? And do we live eternally only in one great spirit, or does our unique nature continue to color reality beyond this life?”… well, you’ll soon be rid of your companion. Such questions are received with the same smiling, nervous, arm’s-length discomfort as an outburst from a Turret’s Syndrome sufferer.
So that’s a “c” word which I no longer pin to my lapel when I go audience-hunting.
The one I avoid most cautiously, however, is “conservative”–and not because I’m averse to conserving. On the contrary. I want to conserve a pace of life measured by human steps, where people pass each other on sidewalks and speak civilly. The new “conservative” wants more cars on the roads because more businesses will be reached and drilling for oil will provide more jobs. I want to conserve an independent way of life where my needs are few and basic enough that I can meet them mostly through my own efforts. The new “conservative” mocks people like me while proudly confessing his addictions to the latest i-gadgetry and the most convenient remote-control mechanisms. I want to conserve my dominion over myself and also a certain stilted system of manners that keeps us from grating upon each other too directly. The new “conservative” wants his appetites satisfied without government intrusion and increasingly allows himself crude displays under the guise of free speech.
That’s not the world of my grandfathers. I see nothing in this new dog kennel that I want to hold tight. Indeed, I see an ideology of flux trying to distinguish itself from progressivism by disdaining every centralized–and centrally promoted–vision of the “common good”. I don’t like thought-police, to be sure: not in the least. But I want to preserve my freedom of thought precisely so that I may think.
If conservatism is merely intellectual moonshine, then… then I’ll just drink water, if it’s all the same to you. And even if it’s not.