Sunday, May 27, 2012

Conservatism: A Solution

Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
If it ain’t broken, why fix it? This maxim describes conservatism to perfection.  Often known as traditionalism, conservatism is another ideology that plays a crucial role in history. One of the most famous conservatives, Edmund Burke, spoke out passionately against the French Revolution. The British conservative’s opinion was a common one at the time, but a viewpoint deemed unacceptable to many seen as an opposition to natural rights and freedom. Conservatism has many negative connotations, including bigotry and oppression of freedom. However, conservatism is actually not about equality or freedom at all. Rather, it is about the necessity of change.
Unlike democracy which involves constant changes, conservatism seeks to guard the society against changes that deemed threatening to the culture. Despite the common opinion, conservatism does not oppose every change, but rather changes that would create instability. Preserving the status quo (also known as how things have always been) is crucial to conservatism, as tradition is held in high value by the conservatives. Why? The conservatives believe that tradition is an accumulation of human wisdom, thus following the tradition means following the best practice, the most effective way of living.

The conservatives perceive the liberal’s ideas of desirable change to be dangerous. While the liberals want change to free the people from oppressive authorities, the conservatives believe that proper authorities form the foundation of human societies (seeing that they had been working for a long time), and that liberal changes would bring destruction to the established morality and order. Chaos is the conservatives’ greatest fear, and must be prevented at all cost.

Joseph de Maistre (1753 - 1821)

In an ideal conservative world, everything will be in a nice order. Respect for tradition and authority will be the most fervent belief, and chaos would not be tolerated. This does not mean change is intolerable, however, as changes that bring humanity closer to traditional wisdom would certainly be appreciated. But there will not be too many changes, as upsetting the natural order is disastrous. Indeed, the world might be harmonious and orderly, but at the same time too little change is not healthy for humanity either. Without change, there cannot be progress. People cannot develop without evolving. There will be little inventions in the world ruled by conservatives, as innovation would bring drastic and chaotic change. Furthermore, history is not perfect, and the traditional wisdom is not infallible. Trying to preserve status quo can lead to us repeating historical mistakes over and over, since we would not believe that any alternative can be better.
Conservatism has surfaced many times in history, in various forms during different eras. It had existed in ancient Greece and Rome, the Dark Ages, the French Revolution, and even today. While its history might not be the most prominent, conservatism has been one of the most persistent ideologies of all. Conservatism’s rich heritage comes from a long period of accumulation, uncannily similar to its belief of traditional wisdom. Today conservatives learned and adapted from the past conservatives, keeping up with the quest to bring back the golden past. And in this blog, we will examine how conservatism co-exists with other ideologies, especially the one as change-addicted as democracy. We will go back once again to Athens.

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