Passing Bull 115 – More bull on conservatism


Some time ago, I quoted Simon Blackburn’s definition of ‘conservatism’ in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.

Conservatism :Originally in Burke an ideology of caution in departing from the historical roots of a society, or changing its inherited traditions and institutions.  In this ‘organic’ form, it includes allegiance to tradition, community, hierarchies of rank, benevolent paternalism, and a properly subservient underclass.  By contrast, conservatism can be taken to imply a laissez-faire ideology of untrammelled individualism that puts the emphasis on personal responsibility, free markets, law and order, and a minimal role for government, with neither community, nor tradition, nor benevolence entering more than marginally.  The two strands are not easy to reconcile, either in theory or in practice.

The word has been rendered worse than useless by reactionary elements in the Liberal Party, and apostles of the IPA in the Murdoch press.  People like Abbott and Bernardi are doing their best to work up sectarian strife, although fortunately now, most sane people cannot be bothered.  In two generations all the cranks, theorists, ideologues, and Catholic trouble makers have gone from the Labor side to the Liberal side.

As best as I can see it, these reactionary souls stand for the following: they dislike Muslims, gays, and wind farms; they loathe the ABC and the Fairfax Press; they are consumed by hate for anything to do with human rights and they gaze with the utmost suspicion anything to do with fighting corruption.  They adore God, Her Majesty (even though she is by law a Prot), the flag, and coal.  What any of that has to do with any version of conservatism is not clear.  What is clear is that they have no interest at all in conserving the planet.

In their worst manifestations, they even like Trump.  Two particularly vile commentators on Sky salute him.

Trump is nowhere near being a Republican, much less a conservative.  If you had to put a label on him, it might be something like Leninist nihilist.  But in one of those trumpet voluntaries that we get every now and then from the female cadres of the IPA, Janet Albrechtsen said this about Trump and Islam after his speech in Riyadh ( in a visit which led to regional unrest in record time):

Trump offered up the kind of moral clarity that drove the West to defeat Nazis and Soviet communists. What has happened to us in the interim? Paralysed by political correctness, we walk on eggshells so as not to offend. Ask hard questions about immigration? You’re a racist. Talk about Islam and terrorism? You’re an Islamophobe.  Keep calm and stay quiet? Not anymore. It’s time to get angry.

That newspaper was having a field day about Islam then, but Trump offering clarity on anything?  On morals?  Does anyone read this nonsense before it hits the streets?

Students of commedia dell’arte will be familiar with Scaramouch.  He indulged in grimaces and affected language.  He was what the English would call a bounder or a cad, even if he did play it for laughs.  Someone described him as ‘sly, supple, adroit, and conceited.’  Donald Trump, the darling of conceited nuts in Australia, has just appointed his namesake. The man looks to be exquisitely in character for the role.

Poet of the month: Walt Whitman

A clear midnight

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best.

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

One thought on “Passing Bull 115 – More bull on conservatism

  1. Dear Geoff

    I thought I should tell you just how much I enjoy your Passing Bull column. Your latest, on Conservatism, should go to one of the podcasts like “Lovett or Leave it” or Slate’s Trumpcast

    Very best wishes Julian

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