Skip to main content

Interrogating the Dark

It has been written that conservative parties are appealing to social conservatives - their support base. I am not sure what the difference is between social and religious in the conservative camp but Wikipedia says "Social conservatism is a political ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values". These seem to be based on Ambrahamist values, which are mostly about a prescribed morality particularly opposing sexual permissiveness. 

Over the years there have been many values attributed to social conservatives which include:
  • making abortion absolutely illegal (even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is at risk)
  • that prisoners should not receive any support spiritually, psychologically, or intellectually
  • that we should bring back the death penalty
  • to spare the rod is to spoil the child
  • that welfare for the poor is a disincentive to work
  • that unions are destroying the economy
  • that personal wealth is a measure of the extent to which you are blessed by God
  • that same sex marriage is a threat to America
  • that we live in a Christian nation and immigrants should not be allowed to practice the religion they left behind. 
  • that only Christians are capable of morality
  • and we should defend Christianity by going to war with nations that are not Christian (except Israel)
  • teaching children and adults to think for themselves and develop their own opinions is an affront to God's laws as laid out in the Bible. 
The theme threaded through this list is about how people should behave, meaning other people. 

Values imposed on others remind me of the dark ages when men were obliged to join the crusades, and their women to wear chastity belts. Or times of war when helping or caring for people who were labelled as enemy, is treason. Or on the battlefield, where refusing to murder is wrong. These are, of course, extreme examples, but when does morality no longer arise from the conscience but from an ideology requiring unquestioned obedience? At what point does the sensitive, feeling, thinking being become a robot for the benefit of something else?

Looking at the above list, replacing "Christian" with "Muslim" does this look like conservatism or theocracy?

The problem I have with the notion of conservative values, is that I once considered myself conservative.  As a young adult in my early twenties I began reading about current issues. I felt confident I knew what was best for others and felt it my duty to give advice, even to those who never asked for it. It was the honest thing to do, I thought, because I cared. What I could not, or would not see in those days, was my ignorance, all that I did not know.

As a child growing up in England, I remember believing that I should not be emotional, irrational or demanding to men, traits I was told belong only to the weak or women. I should not be like other women. Even more disturbing, and a devastating example of my ignorance, is when I heard about Nazi Europe I asked - what did the Jews do that was so wrong that everyone turned against them? This is how naive I was. I could not see the centuries old anti-semitic and misogynist indoctrination which forms the perimeters of society, and informs my views.

My code of ethics was simple - if I hurt someone it was my fault, if someone hurt me it was my fault. All suffering was a punishment for bad behavior.  This oversimplification was a result of political and historical illiteracy. An adult deprived of any meaningful discussion or interrogation of why things happen, is still a child.

The more I read, heard and saw of the world, the more fearful I became because it shone a light on my own powerlessness. If I knew nothing how could I make the best decisions? Oh, how the shopping mall, the Christmas planning, lifted my spirits, because in these things I could forget the really important, larger problems I had no tools for, no means to fix.   

So I have some sympathy for social conservatives.  I understand their visceral anger. They are naked against the machinery of hegemony. If they cannot see their part in the game, they will seek the scape goat who will offer some relief to their pain.  But it won't be enough. It won't last. They will need to look for another. They will put all their energy into eliminating the 'enemy', avoiding at all costs, the evidence that these choices destroy their own civil society. They will embrace austerity, they will punish themselves in order to punish the other.

They, we, will keep doing this until we interrogate how power has kept us chained to the cave, not just by the ruling elite, but by our inability to stare down the monster that is half of this contract - that we seek leaders to protect us from the shadows in our own sight-lines. 


Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

Albert Camus: Our task