Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Smart Lefty Warns Against Alienating TradCons

In recent decades that kind of authentic conservatism has not been much in evidence. It has been displaced by a "movement" version that is politically expedient and cynical to the core. Movement conservatism is really market worship that embraces the disruption of traditional mores and values so long as corporations are making money in the process. It channels the truly conservative impulse into a few red-meat issues - abortion, gays, school prayer - that pose no threat to the corporate moneybags who bankroll the Republican party.

Most leftist writers are tone-deaf to these distinctions. They sneer about "conservatives" the way right wingers sneer about them; and in the process they do their adversaries a favor. Ann Coulter is to conservatism what she is to chastity. She is a screaming polemical Jacobin; and the same goes for most of the Right Wing crew. To call them "conservatives" just helps keep their act going, at the very time it is starting to fray.
-Jonathan Rowe, reviewing American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia

via Mark Shea.

One of Mark's readers objects to Kirk's condemnation of automobiles as "mechanical Jacobins." Here's my fleshed-out response:

Considering the car was and is enabled by huge government subsidies of a possibly unsustainable road and highway system, what is all that conservative about it?

Highway construction demolished the least organized, most vulnerable ethnic neighborhoods and promoted rootless commuter life in their place. Automobile-designed cities rendered most difficult the lives of those limited only to their own two feet. No longer were churches, schools, stores and jobs within walking distance or at worst within the range of public transportation. The rise of the car made poverty more expensive than it had been in more pedestrian times.

Note how the relations between the sexes changed with the advent of the car: two teens drive off on a date, get away from the folks, away from snooping eyes... Well, let's just say the automobile is the technological foundation of a promiscuous and resolutely immature youth culture.

In a phenomenon also related to youth culture, the car radio shaped music. The medium favored simple, repetitive sounds which could be heard above the roar of the motor and the wind. Subtleties, lyrical complexity, and attention spans suffered. Personal, local talent found itself swamped by the mass-produced mediocrities of the music industry.

The car is the vehicular equivalent of the remote-controlled satellite TV: one has too many choices of destination to commit to any one place. The variety of neighborhoods encountered and the lack of time for any of them encourages superficial comparisons and merely cynical criticism. Automobile culture is a prime generator of unfounded discontent.

In a final burst of crackpottery, I now suggest that we might even be better off with horses: at least a good horse can get a drunk home safely.

(And in answer to certain petty responses: yes, I'm a hypocritical, tiresomely self-conscious car driver)

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