“Since at least the World War II generation, most parents who held conservative values either did not think they had to teach their children those values or simply did not know how to do so. Most still don’t. If asked to define conservative values, most conservatives will be tongue-tied.”
That’s what I wrote in Part I in explaining why I am writing “Explaining Conservativism.”
I discussed the preeminent value of conservativism — freedom, and the preeminent freedom — of speech.
In Part II, I will discuss an equally important conservative value, which derives from the word itself.
Conservativism attempts to conserve the best of the past — the best art, literature and music, the best standards, values and wisdom. Conservativism then passes the best of everything to every succeeding generation.
The Left — meaning progressives, not necessarily liberals — loathes the fact that conservativism preserves the past. That is why “change” is one of the most cherished words in the Left’s vocabulary. There is nothing more threatening or, perhaps more important, boring, to a leftist than preserving the past. “New” and “change” provide leftists meaning and excitement.
As one involved in the music world (I periodically conduct orchestras), I have always been struck by how important it is to orchestra CEOs, music professors and especially music critics that as much “new” music be played as possible. If a conductor prefers to program the classics, he is deemed a reactionary, while conductors who regularly program new music are heroes in the music world.
Music critics rarely discuss the question that preoccupies conservatives: Is this new piece of music good, let alone nearly as good as the classics? What matters to music critics is that the music is new — and, these days, that it was composed by a nonwhite person, ideally a woman.
Conservatives ask whether new music is good enough to warrant being played. They are preoccupied with excellence, not with newness or “change.”
This difference between conservatives and leftists/progressives applies to virtually every realm of life.
It explains the decision of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of English to remove a large mural of Shakespeare and replace it with a mural of a gay female poet of color. No one in his or her right mind thinks that this poet is the equal of Shakespeare. But the members of the Penn English Department are not concerned with literary excellence. Shakespeare’s picture wasn’t replaced because his writing was surpassed. He was replaced because he was male, white and straight. And most of all, he was replaced because he was old. He is an “old (or dead) white European male,” in the words of the Left.
Change and newness are so vital to leftists that a progressive who cared first and foremost about excellence would cease to be a progressive.
Why are “new” and “change” intrinsic to leftism?
One reason, as noted, is excitement. Excitement is important to human beings because it provides an adrenalin rush and because it seems to be an antidote to boredom. When your child complains that he or she is bored, your child is really saying, “I want some excitement.” It is difficult to overstate how important boredom is in shaping human conduct. As I have long argued, S+A=B: Secularism plus affluence equals boredom. And boredom, in the contemporary world, leads to leftism. Leftism is an endless search for exciting causes such as saving the world from alleged extinction; fighting “racism” and “white supremacy” in a largely nonracist America; combating “fascism” in what was — for more than 200 years, until the Left changed it — the freest country in the world; trying to force society to accept a brand-new definition of human sexual identity — namely that, contrary to all of recorded history, it is nonbinary. All these exciting causes are led by the affluent and secular. In other words, the bored.
A second reason for the Left’s love of the new and love of change is that if traditional standards of excellence are preserved, the talentless will fail. Just as the cultural Left fought to award every young person a trophy whether or not his or her team actually won, the Left declares every piece of junk “art.”
The conservative wants to pass on to every generation the best that human beings have created. Depriving young people of the greatest art, literature, music and ideas is a form of child abuse. The result has been generations of ignorant and foolish people, many of whom are actively working toward the opposite of what the “progressive” label suggests: taking society backward.
I would wager a serious sum of money that most American college students could not spell “Beethoven,” let alone recognize any of his music; has never heard of Dostoevsky; and would not recognize a single sculpture or painting by Michelangelo. Instead, they learn about “preferred pronouns.”
For these reasons, the end of conservativism must lead to the end of Western civilization. When you don’t conserve the ideas and art, the religious moral values, and even the nuclear family that made Western civilization the most advanced civilization — materially, morally, scientifically and artistically — ever devised, you will no longer have that civilization. You will have morally confused, emotionally broken, lonely and angry young people — who will eventually wreak havoc on all that is good and worthy of surviving.
We conservatives want to conserve the beautiful, the profound and the wise.
What does the Left wish to conserve? The answer is: nothing. That’s why everything the Left touches it destroys. The less you conserve, the more you destroy.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His commentary on Deuteronomy, the third volume of “The Rational Bible,” his five-volume commentary on the first five books of the Bible, will be published in October. He is the co-founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.
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