Still thinking about the left/right, liberal/conservative duality. Let’s say that it had its modern beginnings in the French Revolution. And let’s say also that ever since there have been those who, placing themselves on the left, would not hesitate to tear everything down in the all important effort to rebuild from scratch a better society. And there have been those who, placing themselves on the right, would be fixated on holding onto things as they are, changing as little as possible of present rules, laws, governing institutions and procedures, not to mention schools and prisons.
Efforts of both those on the left and those on the right, the ones who would undo and rebuild, and the others who would to preserve and strengthen, have in the various societies where they have been tried by and large failed, their visions having been made subservient to the wishes and ways of an endless series of flawed leaders at their head. Tell me quick, when and where since the Enlightenment have we had a successful left or right government? And yet there are still those who would go on making the same mistakes of judgment.
What we still have not understood is that liberal and conservative are not, or should not be opposed. Human beings by their very nature can’t be all one or the other. Why is this so hard to understand both by the people and by their leaders. The optimists among us would like to say that now things are different, and that before long the politicians will be wearing both liberal and conservative labels in their renewed attempt to govern.
Why is this so, that liberals and conservatives are opposed? Here is perhaps a reason. In the Student News Daily I read this:
Now isn’t it true that we all want the same things in life. We want freedom; we want the chance for prosperity; we want as few people suffering as possible; we want healthy children; we want to have crime-free streets. And any number of other goods.
The only argument is how to achieve these and other benefits, and hence on the one side there are the liberals who would not hesitate to begin again, and then there are, opposed, the conservatives who would not begin again, but begin by protecting what we already have.
Then this, also from Student News Daily :
Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.
And following that:
Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. Believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.
Couldn’t you, shouldn’t you hold both positions simultaneously? The respective roles of the individual and the government, aren’t they both just as essential? That no one be left in need when help is available, that individuals have the freedom to achieve their own goals?
And in fact the liberal/conservative duality, our differences, only show up when we answer the question How. And more important there is our general agreement over What. Shouldn’t we be working together from this underlying agreement over what, not fighting over our superimposed differences over how.
Roger Cohen, of the NYTimes, made this beautiful statement in an op ed piece of April 1 of this year. “The essence of liberalism,” he wrote, “is acceptance of our human limits and our human differences. It is acceptance of multiple and perhaps incompatible truths.” Wouldn’t he have better said that “the essence of our humanity is acceptance of our human limits and our human differences….” Also why is the acceptance of multiple and perhaps (not perhaps but surely) incompatible truths not just as much the essence of conservatism? Again these are two sides of the same coin that is man.
Then we have all those politicians and pundits, on one side or the other, speaking what they believe is the truth. They are only speaking their own truths. What we have in common, what they pretty much overlook and ignore is our humanity. How often do you hear our politicians talking about this? rather than about our differences, most of the latter being only skin deep?
I believe the world is closer now to coming together than ever before, that people are closer to understanding they are only one species (as opposed to their cousins on the evolutionary tree, the beetles of whom already some 350,000 different species have been identified). This, our being just a single species, should make it easy for us to come together. Unlike the beetles, for example, we have only one and the same set of appendices, and pretty much all of the same size, brains and hearts, endowing us with similar potential for thinking and loving.
But instead of trying to work together our political leaders go on trying to make the superficial separations, of color for example, and political belief, become all important and thereby grow what are only artificial separations.
Finally, I give you the example of one politician, that of “Jim” DeMint (and he is just one probably among hundreds of thousands who think like him) a former United States Senator from South Carolina, a leading figure in the Tea Party movement, and currently president of the “conservative” Heritage Foundation.
What is he doing now after having left the Senate? Well sending emails such as the following to me and probably to hundreds of thousands of others. Does he have any idea what it means to truly unite with others when he asks, “What will happen if conservatives don’t unite?” What about people, what happens to people when they don’t unite. Isn’t this the question he should be asking?
From a Heritage Foundation email:
Philip (by the way I don’t know the guy),
You know what will happen if conservatives don’t unite.
Liberals will continue to use intimidation tactics and their unyielding hold on the media to systematically dismantle the conservative movement.
To many conservatives will be convinced that our movement is shrinking, and will stay home in November.
All of the conservative momentum from the last eight years of oppressive liberal policy will be wasted.
You can stop this. You can support the Conservative Census, a bold Heritage Foundation project that will unite the movement in a way that hasn’t been seen for decades.
But we must act now. That’s why we need your support before midnight on May 6.
Make your donation now to help unite—and grow—the conservative base into a force that liberals and the Washington establishment cannot avoid.