Conservatism can be just as radical as liberalism. Conservatism does not necessarily have a criteria for what is being conserved. It picks a plot on the ideological landscape, builds a homestead there, and sets out to defend it. The language of this defense is often borrowed from tradition – may even include the word tradition. But the actual vetting process involved in real tradition is missing. Conservatism is essentially intellectual and therefore incomplete.
Liberalism is essentially rootlessness. It is forgetting. Liberals don’t see the reason for anything – it’s their chronic state.
Conservatives always see the reason. They are positive, they are striving. They chronically gather up things to be saved from the losing and forgetting openness of liberals.
Tradition alone is stable. Stability alone is mobile – only a baby that can stand is able to learn to walk. Tradition remembers and forgets based on an organic self-organizing system.
Conservatives have yet to discover tradition – and the shame is that what they are conserving is often an earlier position of liberalism. Liberalism knows tradition and hates it because just like conservatism is the reaction against liberalism, liberalism is the rebellion against tradition.
Tradition does not necessarily produce truth, nor does it want to. While Liberalism and Conservatism are ultimately concerned with questions of ideology, tradition tries to clear a space in the psychological realm where people can live with comfort and ease and order and understanding. It automatically creates identity. As a self-organizing system it tends to lose what doesn’t work and what can’t be sustained, and in so doing it tends to regard nature. Natural tradition produces primitive societies and is always in danger of enshrining obscenity. A holy tradition regards spiritual nature and produces civilization.
Only a world divided between liberalism and conservatism as ideological playgrounds could be as sexually confused, for instance, as our society is. Nature, in regard to sexuality, is quite simple. There are, in the human species, two sexes. These two sexes include exactly the variety which is experienced by their members. Conservative ideology constantly seeks to constrain the two sexes with words of absolute definition and proscription regarding sex, while liberalism tries to run an equation that converts sex to gender so that sexual identity can be infinitely differentiated and eventually there can be as many genders as there are individuals. Conservatism in this sense, never seems to have insightful answers for individual experience, while liberalism causes massive widespread dysfunction in the global human organism.
My husband and I could both be described as a bit psychologically androgynous. He’s sensitive and artistic and emotional. I’m rational and methodical and think emotions are deceptive. Left to ourselves, we found one another, and married. It works – and it creates, which is part of the working and makes things so much better. Marriage, although it is defended by conservatism and sometimes scorned by liberalism, was created by tradition and as such there’s really not much to it that people don’t already do on their own. The Church addresses the spiritual component of marriage, and it is in reference to this component that extra-marital sex is so problematic. But people who are not religious still tend to end up in arrangements that are more or less marriage even without reference to the Church.
Moreover, while Josh and I may do things a little differently in our house than the average couple, our arrangement allows us to live on the psychological ground where human beings tend to live, with adjustments for our individuality, and meanwhile it does not leave us open to anguish over gender identity by either conservative or liberal criteria. (It also does not necessitate destroying and manipulating one’s physical system in search of an elusive inner sexual truth.) It is completely unproblematic until outside definitions or concerns are introduced. Man and woman are man and woman in our household, but man and woman as they are and not as they are idealistically represented in various media, literature, and religious doctrine.
Tradition does not begin with words and ideas, like ideologies do. It begins with the thing itself – with men and women living together and having babies and dividing labor in specific climates and specific economies and under specific spiritual provisions. What survives the centuries will probably fit most people like a well-made garment, while allowing for a little taking in and letting out regarding roles, for individuals that are different.
However, not all spiritual provisions are equal and not all economies work and not all climates are equally friendly to human life. As I tried to say before, I don’t think that tradition automatically bestows truth. I think it bestows a way of life that may have flaws but will inevitably be more comfortable for most people then a fabricated way of life built from a pattern derived from a wild guess. But the fabrication from a pattern from a wild guess is the eagerly-longed for and expected desire of our present society.
I consider that to be a sickness.