Posted by: jackslife | April 13, 2009

Conservatism, Responsibility, and Modernity

The inimitable Sharon Astyk has a post up that ponders our Modern condition.  This post dovetails nicely with a conversation that I had with some friends over the weekend.  We were talking about the mindset that we have in this country and my contention that conservatives should be operating as the breaks on the runaway train, regardless of whether it prevents them from achieving presidential election victories.  This is one example of the situation that I was referencing –

The whole premise of modernity as we practice it now is that future generations won’t mind the fact that we are using resources they will require, polluting and destroying the future capacity of the earth.  The whole and most fundamental premise of modernity is this – that because progress always goes forward, there is no need to consider the future.  And thus we create a culture that reverses the ordinary human desire to pass down to one’s posterity more than one already had – now we arrange life so that the future serves the present – children as yet unconceived will pay our debts and clean our messes.  The future is always and inevitably enslaved to the present, and since we do not wish to acknowledge this, we do not enjoy looking at the moral consequences of this, there is no reason to think much about the future at all.  Thus, modernity at one blow disposes of any future that doesn’t look like a science fiction movie.

I think that two of the defining characteristics of conservatism should be a reflective approach to the longterm effects of policies and technologies, and a sense of responsibility for our actions.  Sharon is spot on when she talks here about the way that we have desided to borrow against future generations with the expectation that technology will somehow magically continue to support our level of consumption.  No thought is given of curbing our desires or making any kind of sacrifice to provide for the future.  We see any problems that arise in the future as someone else’s problems.

There are some other interesting points in Sharon’s post, which really focuses on the strange bedfellows that have been created by varying types of anti-modernist perspectives.  I find it exciting to see the common ground that can be occupied by the Rod Drehers and Michael Pollans of the world.  I’m more than happy to work with folks of different political stripes in areas that we agree, and to have reasonable conversations about the areas that we don’t.

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Responses

  1. What?!? How dare you be willing to work with the “enemy” or be open to the possibility of reasonable and respectual discussions on issues you obviously can never agree on? Rush would not approve of this foolishness. Be careful, I hear you don’t want to make that guy upset.

    Seriously though, I agree with the quote you posted. We do live in a culture that promotes the philosophy of live for today, don’t think about tomorrow (have a good time in America- Gomarrah :). Of course Christ calls us to “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself…” but somehow I don’t think what’s happening in our country is what He was teaching.

    Most people that actually take time to contemplate what we’re doing would acknowledge it’s not a good idea, but no one is concerned enough to take steps to actually change. It’s like we discussed Saturday night, how do you begin to educate people to re-shape a country’s mindset?


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