December 6, 2005

"Conservatives should study the ideas and arguments that prevail on the left."

"There is always something to learn from these arguments, if only which way the wind of resentment is now blowing. And lifting your eyes from this joyless stuff, you will thank God that you are a conservative."

So says Roger Scruton, in part 2 of Right Reason's interview, that marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of "The Meaning of Conservatism."

Do you seek joy from politics? Or are you just lucky if the politics you embrace in the pursuit of something other than joy turn out to inspire joy? Do you worry about people who find (or seek) joy in politics?

But Scruton is worrying about people who express resentment in politics. Is resentment your political magnet? Or have you just found that the politics you've embraced for some other reason brim with resentment?


XWL said...

For some, politics is a means, for others it is an end unto itself, and for still others it is theater (both stage for the actors and seats for spectators).

I have moments where I view politics from any one of those perspectives, or from a combination of them.

If you view bigger governments as worse governments like myself, then your most common perspective will be one of mild disgust at the petty power grubbing, pandering and pimping. So from my perspective politics is a means with which to lessen governments influence where it doesn't belong and strengthen its ability to serve the functions it should concentrate. (national defense, sound monetary policy, etc.)

As far as learning from ideas from the left. . .

(the frosted side of me wants to say, 'ideas? they have them?' but the shredded wheat side wants to say, 'If politics is ever going to move beyond competing monologues, then of course both sides need to absorb the wisdom that they both have to offer')

Conservatives have no trouble hearing the arguments of the left as they pervade the Media and Academia (I know, that's just right-wing crack-pottery). Learning the methods, understanding why the impulse towards greater Statism exists despite the evidence against its utility, and absorbing all this so that those arguments can be refuted to those who still have an open mind is a worthy goal, trying to sway the true believers on the other hand is a waste of breath.

XWL said...

All the above was a roundabout way of saying I harbor no resentment against those with views that oppose my own. Pity, maybe, indifference, usually, exasperation, frequently, but resentment, no.

reader_iam said...

For being both shredded and frosted, XWL makes a number of good points.

I think part of the reason I largely, overall, for the most part, with exceptions on both side, come down in the middle is that I really believe either extreme is in and of itself the mulch, if not the seed, of resentments. And I find that counterproductive and a little scary and so I shy away from those extremes, and, sometimes the people who represent them.

As for studying ideas and arguments, I have always considered it a point of honor and intellectual integrity to thoroughly learn about and work to understand what both sides are thinking and saying.

Luckily, I find that self-imposed duty largely a joy, if not politics per se.

the pooka said...

re·sent·ment (ri-zǝnt'mǝnt) n. Indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance.


I suspect Scruton places at least tacit emphasis on the "imagined" part; indignation over real grievances would lack the pettiness he's seeking to paint liberals with.

The problem with his statement, of course, is that if this is how one views resentment, then the contemporary Right is at least as great a source of resentment as is the Left. That is, the fact that liberals are treasonous, Godless, limp-wristed, anti-American / war / Christian / male / capitalist / the troops / white / Christmas / motherhood / apple pie / whatever baby killers represses conservatives in society -- and, dammit, they're not going to take it anymore!

More reasonably, the Right -- after seeing their effectiveness when used by the Left in the 1960s-70s, began coopting the tropes and tactics of repressed minorities. Scruton's failure to recognize this is symptomatic of the larger split on the Right, between think-tank conservatives (who never really got the "we're repressed too" memo) and the rank-and-file red-staters who gobble up all the righteous indignation F-xNews and its ilk can offer.

Bruce Hayden said...

I concur with XWL's comments. To some extent, I view politics as somewhere between football and theater. So, when I find myself rooting for Hannity over Colmes, it is akin to rooting for Denver as they went down to defeat last weekend against Kansas City. Of course, our guys are great, and theirs are bums. And even if we do have bums (e.g. Tom Delay), they aren't as bad as the other side's bums (the Clintons, Dean, Kerry, Kennedy, Pelosi, Reid, et al.)

But I do have some resentment, and that involves this war. My view is that all this talk about unconditional withdrawl being cloaked as "strategic redeployment" just emboldens our enemies, and, in the end, is going to cause additional American deaths as our enemies again underestimate American resolve.

Buck Pennington said...

Scruton's comment about "joyless stuff" rings true when one reads the diaries at dKos or the rantings over at DU. "Resentment" is a gross understatement.

I was a liberal once upon a time; I'll submit as evidence the fact I voted for McGovern in '72 (my last liberal vote). I was also a "charter" subscriber to Mother Jones Magazine back in the '70s. One of the things that turned me away from the Left was the culture of The Perpetually Offended...the liberal worldview essentially consisted of arguing that everything about America was wrong. No joy there, none at all.

Now, that said, I ceased paying attention to politics from around 1980 until I quit working three years ago. I was simply too busy prior to retirement trying to achieve a balance between a demanding civilian career and other priorities in life, like family and friends. As an election drew near I busied myself reading party platforms, examining voting records and paying (more) attention to editorial opinions in the newspapers and magazines I read. Not much joy there, just civic responsibility.

The closest thing to joy politics has given me lately were the results of the November '04 election. It wasn't quite joy, more a profound sense of relief that Bush won. And that feeling was driven by a profound distrust in the Democratic party's ability to successfully prosecute the war.

XWL's take is pretty close to mine. I might add that one of the blessings/curses of aging is realizing that nothing is black or white. It's all gray, these days. Take that as a pun, if you will.

Buck Pennington said...

As a matter of full disclosure, I'd like to add that prior to 1985 I was career military. And military folks are essentially apolitical. It's a "culture thang."

david bennett said...

I think the politics of resentment are very heavy in factions of both sides. And they by their nature tend to be very loud.

It amuses me that the right with people like Limbaugh and O'Reilly who are forever the victims of victims of victims can discern no resentment in this. But then again equally bitter factions of the left see only righteoud anger in their perpetual diatribes.

I think most of us in balance think that we are fairly lucky, that despite many flaws our lives are wealthierm freer and with more opportunity than has existed throughout history.

XML as for ideas on the left. Why are you here? The individuals that developed the net tended to be vague leftists with strong ideas of individual freedom and power.

Their model for development was cooperative, a successful application of anarchy in which government, universities, corporations and others shared bandwidth, computer power, software and administrative functions.

Indeed it rests on "open software" and rested on it before the term was formed.

In conservative circles open software is bad, yet they use the net. They don't use the propietary systems of companies like AOL or Compuserve.

The founders of ebay were also vague leftists wishing to open markets to the people. These themes have certainly been a key part of a number of leftist ideologies ever since 1968 when Stewart Brand (the whole earth guy) assiste Engelbart in his demo of the first modern compuyer with mouse, fine grain linking etc.

Also Wozniak and others of the Home Brew club considered themselves leftists when they started designing machines to bring computers to the people as opposed to being the monopoly of large institutions.

I think you may be reading the concept of leftist rather narrowly. Certainly such people are not conservatives since they desire to unloose forces which wil threaten structurally mantained concentrations of private wealth and power.

Much of the left does believe in the power of markets, it simply wishes to open them up. This is far more threatening to status quo wealth that government control since that can always be distorted through lobbyists etc.

knoxgirl said...

XWL said:

"the frosted side of me wants to say... but the shredded wheat side wants to say..."

I love how your frosty side is all knee-jerk, and the shredded wheat side is crusty and oh-so sensible. Brilliant!

chuck b. said...

I'm surprised this post generated so few comments. Too abstract? Too introspective?

I think a lot of liberals resent feeling guilty for having it so good. Esp the middle- and upper-middle class ones. And I think that resentment drives a lot of their politics.

I think a lot of conservatives often fear someone's going to take something away from them and that fear heats resentments that drive their politics.

Both approaches lead to a similarly bitter, hardened state if followed out to logical conclusions. (sometimes it's better *not* to follow things out to logical conclusions!)

That said, I think today's conservative resentments derive from actual historical examples, whereas today's liberal resentments derive mostly from histrionics. I don't think it was always this way, but I'm not old enough to speak w/ wisdom. Just some thoughts.

Laika's Last Woof said...

@David Bennett:

I think you're confusing "vague leftist" with "libertarian".

There's nothing "leftist" about libertarians, although libertarians often describe themselves as "liberal".