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The Conservative

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Critique by Punkerslut

From RadicalGraphics.org
Image: From "Politics" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

Start Date: April 30, 2005
Finish Date: January 4, 2006

"Moreover, so deep is the foundation of the existing social system, that it leaves no one out of it. We may be partial, but Fate is not. All men have their root in it. You who quarrel with the arrangements of society, and are willing to embroil all, and risk the indisputable good that exists, for the chance of better, live, move, and have your being in this, and your deeds contradict your words every day. For as you cannot jump from the ground without using the resistance of the ground, nor put out the boat to sea, without shoving from the shore, nor attain liberty without rejecting obligation, so you are under the necessity of using the Actual order of things, in order to disuse it; to live by it, whilst you wish to take away its life. The past has baked your loaf, and in the strength of its bread you would break up the oven. But you are betrayed by your own nature. You also are conservatives. However men please to style themselves, I see no other than a conservative party. You are not only identical with us in your needs, but also in your methods and aims. You quarrel with my conservatism, but it is to build up one of your own; it will have a new beginning, but the same course and end, the same trials, the same passions; among the lovers of the new I observe that there is a jealousy of the newest, and that the seceder from the seceder is as damnable as the pope himself."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

     I'm an honest man, so I will let the conservative give us his arguments. I will give him ample time to complete his statements, to finish his sentences. And, once he has finished his ode to the ways of tradition, I will respond to him in the way that I feel is most fit and elegant. The arguments of this self-declared conservative are clear, apparent, and obvious. There is no doubt that this makes my task at hand slightly easier. When a man hides and conceals what he believes, it makes it difficult for those who oppose his charges to argue. For this reason, deception reigns supreme as the most effective method of politics, particularly in America. Here, in my opinion, is the summary of the opinions of Mr. Emerson: the radical of today is building on the foundation laid by conservative thinkers. The evidences he uses are the ones you'd imagine. He points to the factories, the manufacturing buildings, the hotels, the homes, the streets, the museums, theaters, libraries, parliaments, schools, colleges, and universities. All of these things are stepping-stones to the youth of today, preparing to be the rulers of tomorrow. These are the processes and the systems that allow the next generation to become bold, courageous, and willing; to become radical thinkers and actors. With all of this understood, I think the argument of Emerson can be grasped with simplicity.

     These are the thoughts of the so-called non-conformist author that make me believe in my heart that he was little more than the rebellious son of a king who wasn't willing to leave behind his wealth or slaves. Radical reformers have never built themselves upon the libraries, the museums, or the schools of their world; they have always bore themselves in to the social world by destroying and burning down these institutions. They might be responsible for erecting, building, and otherwise constructing an organization that would help spread knowledge, wisdom, and education. The systems of libraries and charitable organizations are all the ideas of Freethinkers and revolutionaries. They came from the thoughts of men who thought that Jesus Christ never existed; they came from the ideas of individuals who were always antagonistic and opposed to government, authority, and established systems of power. The accepted methods of a world, in the form of technology or organization, are not the creators nor the facilitators of revolutionary thought. The advent of the wheel was not the precursor to the idea of a government formed by the people and for the people. Radical thought developed in response to the inability of the ruling power to satisfy the interests and the wants of the majority. While the conservative of today may be a radical 1,000 years ago, that doesn't change the fact that the system of the conservative is harmful and detrimental to the peace and happiness of the majority. Instead of adopting the idea that the Conservative paved the way for the Radical, we should probably say that the Radical follows in the steps of the Radical.

     Take the Conservatives of our world, for example. They are parasitic. All of the freedoms, the joys, the liberties that they appreciate in their world are all due to the activity of revolutionary thinkers. There was once a time that Jazz music was considered inspired by the devil. If the Freethinkers, the Secularists, and the other Anti-Clericalists of the past centuries, including Voltaire, Ingersoll, and Paine -- should these people have never existed, we would see in our streets today the persecution of all self-declared Conservatives. They would be dragged out of their houses in the middle of the night by the authorities of the church and tortured to death, for their "sinful appreciation of the devil's music." Perhaps there would be some pity or "sympathy" for Conservatives in high-ranking positions. "Well, the president is a Conservative, but we know he likes rock and roll music..." the inquisitors would say to themselves, "We shall grant them a reprieve. They are working on their sinful nature. We will give them the time necessary." But, should the Conservatives of today be without the activity of revolutionary Anarchists and Communists of the world of yesterday, they would all be jailed, tortured, and executed.

     That is only one example. All expression of thought, ideas, culture, music, literature, are expressions which exist today in a somewhat free condition, purely due to the activity of revolutionaries. Should the soldiers of revolution have been silent, should they have been still and idle, the freedoms that we appreciate today would be denied by all. It is ironic, that those who labor to construct missiles and nuclear attack systems, their right to freedom of speech and thought, is purely due to those who always opposed war, who have been the ardent enemies of government, in mind and in body. The representatives who today allege to represent the interests of people who they are mostly unfamiliar with, their freedoms are due to the activities of those who have worked long and hard to establish better systems of civilization. Flag-burning, screaming "fuck sexism," telling the clergy that they are fools for living and dying alone, falling in love, building a garden, reading the Bible in a language you can understand -- men, women, and children have all been slaughtered en masse by authority for trying to accomplish these freedoms of speech. The life of the radical is not built up on the world of the Conservative. It is built up on the revolutionary activity of the Anarchists, the Jacobins, the Communists, the Socialists, and all others who were willing to die for the freedom of the people. Your museums and libraries are simply dead wood collaborated together in "beautiful structures." Without the spirit of the people to infuse them with wisdom, they are meaningless. And finally, should this evidence ever fail, try this theory: remove the ruling class and the Capitalist class from our society, and see if all the beautiful aspects of modern-day life disappear. To the contrary of Ralph Waldo Emerson's words, the miseries of the present world are sustained by the Conservatives; they are the sad experiences of daily existence that the radical thinkers of yesterday were incapable changing. Hope springs eternal...

     What should the real reformer say to the Anarchist bomb thrower? Should he look him in the eyes, passed the bars, and say to him, "No, to hell with you, I've never felt that emotional about what I believe in." What should the political philosopher of the people say to the illegal stencilist, the defenders of the syndicalist union, the protestors of peace marches, the labor leaders, the organizers of the community? What are they going to say? "I believe in their ideals, their hopes, their desires, their needs, their wants, their ideology... but the moment they took a direct step in changing the world around them, they became my mortal enemy." I want to see the leader of the Socialist Party spit in the face of a kid arrested for shoplifting from grocery stores to feed the homeless. There are so many things I need to see to make me believe that everything I know is wrong, that everything I've learned is little more than self-indulgence coupled with apathy. Yes, it was the hands of conservative men who built us our homes, our workplaces, our cities in all of their marvelous concrete splendor. But, it was a lack of compassion and understanding that allowed society to be governed by an oppressive situation. Before there was organized society, mankind lived as the other beasts did. Many tribes developed tools and kept the premise of agrarian and communal living. To subscribe them to a dictatorship, or slavery, or any other type of injustice would not be revolutionary. It would be a change, but so long as that change does not work to alleviate the misery of the majority, it cannot be called revolutionary. In this light, the conservative is simply the maintainer of a cruel and barbaric order; the radical sacrifices himself so that the next generation won't have to suffer the same fate.


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