Traditional Conservatism in the Crosshairs

Edmund Burke described society as “a partnership … between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Conservatives feel this keenly, believing they have obligations to generations past and to come.  Enemies of conservatism, often driven by deep resentment of traditional values, prefer to uproot established customs and replace them with something — anything — perceived to be better.  And these enemies of conservatism now dominate both wings of politics.  To my mind the most dangerous of all are those whose confident materialism has almost smothered their social consciences, yet left behind a spark of guilt which is tidily assuaged by devotion to the modern pseudo-religion of political correctness.

Can you spot a person’s beliefs from one bumper sticker?  It’s a safe bet.  One favourite and fashionable belief usually lines up with a whole raft of other superficially unrelated but predictable dogmas.  For example, left-leaners think that climate change is the most serious ‘existential threat’, that the killing of infants prior to natural birth is OK and may even be socially responsible, that conventional bonds such as marriage are outmoded, that gender is fluid, that animals should have rights commensurate with our own (particularly if they’re whales or koalas), and that opinions deemed false should be cancelled and silenced.

What do right-leaners believe?  Conservatives now struggle to find much difference between Left and Right.  Sure, they have different heroes and villains, but neither group seems to hang on to a strong belief in what used to be called ‘the sanctity of marriage’.  Abortion has never been a big concern for either the Left or secular Right.  All are sentimental about animals — you can find plenty of vegetarians on both sides of the socio-political divide.  You would have to be seriously naive to imagine that susceptibility to tyranny is the exclusive property of either wing.  And if you think that the Right is keener on freedom of speech you’re dreaming: they might disagree on what constitutes misinformation, but they would suppress it if they could.  Arthur Calwell once insulted an American diplomat by saying that US voters had to choose between two bottles (Democrat and Republican) with the same contents but different labels.  It’s not very different now in Australia.

There was a time when the gulf was wider.  The Left was the natural orientation of the poor and the workers; the Right the preserve of wealthier people with business interests.  It wasn’t a hard and fast distinction (Hitler was a hero to many working-class Germans) but there was some truth in it.  In recent decades that gulf has narrowed to vanishing point, at least in the prosperous West.

Virtue-signalling is the new test of probity. Today, devotion to a noble cause may be a less powerful driver than the urge to distance yourself from something that embarrasses you.  People on the left seem to have no ongoing interest in nationalising industries — in fact they’re as likely as anybody else to invest in industry, property and shares.  People on the right also want to be on trend, distancing themselves from any whiff of old-fashioned social conservatism.

This is bad news for genuine conservatives who have a principal orientation and focus that is neither politically left nor right.  They are more likely to think for themselves and make decisions that are not fashion-driven, but based on ethical, religious or scientific criteria.  In consequence they have to contend with a high degree of hostility from both the left and the right spectra: for many today conservative has become a dirty word.

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has been sworn in and is taking up his heavy duties with verve, energy and much personal charm.  We wish him well and hope that he will have the strength to strike a just balance between those who long for radical change and those who fear for the erosion of our Christian heritage. 

David Daintree is the director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies

  • Alistair

    With respect to the Liberal Party – It strikes me that everyone is avoiding the elephant in the room. That is – the World Economic Forum. It is well known that Scott Morrison is a graduate of Klaus Schwab’s / WEF’s “School for Global Leaders.” As such he, and the Liberals in general, are now signed up to the Great Reset Agenda, but of course it would be electoral suicide to admit it openly. Zero emissions, higher fuel prices, higher electricity prices, higher interest rates, higher inflation, more bankruptcies in small business, more people driven out of their homes into rental, WHO treaties for vaccine tracking, single international digital currency, total personal surveillance, a social credit scheme,…. and so on and so on, The Libs have NO policies they can possibly take to an election. And it shows. Nor will they ever have any they can admit to into the foreseeable future. At least the Labor Party can pretend to be socialists.

  • GG

    What ill-informed, uneducated nonsense. Conservatives have clear delineation from the Left, as never before. It has never been so stark in over a century. This reads like a childish puff-piece from the wet Left.
    Conservatives believe in less government intrusion into lives.
    Conservatives believe in the sanctity of children and the prosecution and imprisonment of child sex offenders who try to groom children under the fake guise of gender re-education.
    Conservatives believe in achievement and reward based solely upon merit, not on race, gender, or the endless grab-bag of victimhood-loser statuses that the Left tries to promote.
    Conservatives believe in vigorous debate and yes freedom of speech, and also in he punishment of those who seek to censor free speech. If the State will not deliver such sanctions, Conservatives will. Unlike the Left we are not just all talk. Poke the bear and see what happens.
    We are fortunate that Dutton is the new leader, so he can now systematically and surgically remove the metastasising cancer of “moderate” Leftists from the Liberal Party.

  • Brian Boru

    GG, yes conservatives might equal those qualities you enumerate but Liberal Party does not.
    Liberal Party politicians generally equal wanting to be elected and to stay elected. Hence, if Labor moves left or woke, Liberal politicians will also move in the same direction. And the reverse is true with some rare statesmen being the exception.
    To get real change in Australian politics, it is necessary to work on the Labor Party but that’s probably anethama to most here.

  • Brian Boru

    I should have said, the rare statesman exception is in both directions.

  • STD

    Great comments- GG you nailed it.

  • Claude James

    GG and STD, Dutton will not be able to eject the Leftists from the Libs.
    That will take efforts by tough, smart Lib voters/supporters at branch level, willing to fight for ever and a day.
    And there is no sign that a critical mass of such patriots actually exists.

  • Alistair

    The main problem that I see is that nobody correctly defines the terms they use eg the term “conservative” these days actually implies those who want to “conserve” the gains of the “Enlightenment” – that is, they are true liberals. Dutton may be a true liberal, but he will be white-anted and eaten alive by all the ill-liberal members of his own party, either by those chasing a socialist utopia or by those signed up to the WEF’s “Brave New World” of the Great Reset.

  • pgang

    GG I doubt very much that you read the article carefully. None of your criticism has anything to do with the words on the page.

  • 27hugo27

    Thought the same myself . pgang , GG , in his? rage missed that the author was pointing out that conservatives were distinct from the “establishment”Libs/repubs/tories . everything else GG pointed out is what we here at Quadrant espouse of course,

  • 27hugo27

    To affirm Mr Daintree’s point on the bumper sticker brigade , Tim Blair’s recent piece here with the top photo is a perfect example . “Queers against nukes” sign with a little “Abolish ICE” sign thrown in . What these two signs have in common ? Nothing – except a blanket contempt for the west. I often see the cars on the street , or in traffic with all the usual activist insignia , driven by aging hippies or middle aged females with severe haircuts in later model cars , and think . what idiots , then get on with my day , but toy with the idea of buying an old bomb and covering it with stickers like “Stuff the reef”, “Don’t save the whales” .”Dont free Tibet” .”Go nuclear yesterday “, “No more refugees” etc. and see if my vehicle survives the day . I’d wager it would be trashed by lunchtime .

  • Brian Boru

    27hugo27, “land rights for gay whales” might be another. Not my own but one I noted many years ago.

  • Brian Boru

    You could improve it to include”black gay and trans whales”.

  • 27hugo27

    Tee hee ! Actually BB, you may have hit on something there . the possibilities to flummox the left would be endless ! “Save the Babies” , ” NIMBY ” with wind/solar farm pics. “No borders” featuring a stateless map of Oz (Take that Mcgowan!) “Gun rights for refugees” “Muslims for trans rights” etc etc .

  • Necessityofchoice

    Meanwhile back at square one, Alistair has identified correctly Australia’s WEF directed 2 party but uni-direction State.

    Dutton can prove me wrong by abandonin Nett Zero and the Apartheid voice.

  • Claude James

    Now, let us deal with Obvious Reality.
    The erstwhile/nominal non-left of the Australian political parties have lurched leftist-wokeist-greenist -because that is where increasing proportions of the voters are going.
    The public services from Fed down to Council levels are brimming full with leftist persons who do leftist things despite what a nominal non-leftist minister might request.
    And the public services include not only the folk occupying space in clearly designated “public service” offices.
    The public services also include:
    The state school systems, the universities, and TAFE, the ABC and SBS, and the legal system.
    The thought that Dutton (or Trump) could stop leftism/wokeism/greenism/anti-Westernism all by himself is an erm, anti-factual thought.
    And here’s another terrible truth:
    Almost all civilians of the nominal non-leftist/non-wokeist/non-greenist categories expect a some bloke/blokette to arrive and fix everything.
    Note that this requirement is similar/same in nature to all the left/woke/greenist/parasitic people who want Big Daddy/Big Mummy to fix everything for them, at no cost to their themselves.
    But the fact is this:
    Western Civ can be saved only -only- if critical masses of contributing/productive people in all walks and stations of life to get on the job -and sacrifice their precious leisure hours doing the hard work to get the political, legal, media, and education systems -all the public service systems- to function on behalf of Western Civ.

  • Petronius

    The Morrison government thought they were fighting the occupants of the opposition benches. They were also fighting a wave of postmodernism which had completely transformed the character of Australian society. They did not understand it so had no weapons to attack it. Morrison himself said he had no interest in the culture wars. This might serve as his famous last words.

  • 27hugo27

    Sad but oh -so-true , Claude . The libs purge any conservatives in their ranks , and Dutton is on a hiding to nothing , however much i hope he succeeds , That so many in the west take the greatest hoax ever foisted upon us as fact is beyond disturbing , because the only explanations are pure evil or breathtaking stupidity or a combination of both . The plandemic is the trojan horse , and to see even now a huge percentage of the population still wearing masks is as chilling to me as it is euphoric for our “leaders”. A second middle ages is inevitable given the tone of madness in society from gender/race/sexuality/environment ,history re-writes and big tech /big brother intrusions into our lives . all this at accelerating pace.

  • andrew2

    Quadrant does sometimes seem to be a snow globe displaying a nostalgic view of things, incapable of interacting with the reality of the present. Conservatism has failed and the sooner you realise it the sooner you might be useful. The reason virtue signalling is so powerful is because it gives people, who do nothing to help others, a feeling that they are helping. Conservatives are happy to not help others and be proud of it. The evidence is all around you. When a need is not met by genuine caring people, government fills the void. They are two sides of the same coin. Jesus presented the only alternative to the left/right problem. Maybe have a look at how hard he worked on the problems of the poor and then pour your personal energy into that, freely. I was confronted with a sjw in my business recently. She had no power because we actually help the most downtrodden in life while she does nothing but draft popular taglines to appear at the bottom of her emails.

  • Farnswort

    “Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy, and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious, and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.” – Roger Scruton

  • andrew2

    I think were conservatism fails is the lack of realisation that sometimes you have to let go of your possessions in order to follow God. Conservatives are like the rich young man who turned away from Jesus instead of following him because he loved his possessions too much. The left/right divide is a political divide. It is about power and money. It isn’t about people. Do conservatives truly seek to conserve the collective assets that Roger Scruton mentions? If they did, why are children forced to resort to Tinder or hookups at seedy nightclubs? Why are there no conservative dance halls for the more chaste young people to meet and set a course for their lives, knowing that the community has their backs? Where are the elders who used to devote time to creating such avenues for a more moral life? Where are these “conservatives”?

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