What gives Jake Meador hope

Fear is not a Christian habit of mind

Marilynne Robinson

It is a strange thing to cheer disruption while being a conservative. Our biases run toward stability and caution, even hesitation. To cheer those who would storm the Bastille does not come naturally to us. But, of course, conservatism is not merely an ethos of caution, a desire to conserve whatever it is that currently exists. It must also possess a positively stated account of the good—an ability to define what the good life is, what the good community is. For too long, the post-war consensus has avoided attempts to identify those goods. It has, rather, tended toward negation, to the preservation of negative forms of freedom at the expense of more positive (and socially realized) forms of freedom. Because of this, our communities have been impoverished and lacked a clear sense of purpose or identity. Due to this lack of self-understanding, these communities have become brittle and vulnerable. They, and the land that sustains them, have far too often been left to be picked at by capitalist vultures.

Prior to 2015, I did not expect that order to be challenged in any meaningful way. I thought it was too entrenched. The events of the past five years have shown that that is not the case. There is danger in this, of course: the post-war consensus emerged for a reason, just as did classical liberalism. Decades of religious war (in liberalism’s case) and apocalyptic world wars (in the post-war consensus’s case) have a way of chastening our political ambitions, attuning us to the value of negative liberty and the dangers inherent in trying to advance positive forms of freedom on the political level.

It is for this reason that I also worry over the disruption of the past five years—if we simply recover what Rusty Reno calls the strong gods’ of the pre-war era, then we may well end up with a system even more inhumane than that of the post-war consensus. And given the rise of the alt-right in America and of various genuinely far-right parties in Europe, that is not an idle fear, but a very real danger that genuine conservatives must attack at every turn.

Jake Meador

February 3, 2020

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