Saturday, 2 January 2016

"So we...may of our love create our earth and see that it is good" - Conservatism and the pursuit of love

Roger Scruton quoted here;

“My view is that the most important thing for conservatives is to be in alliance with each other, not to have witch hunts over small points of doctrine, not to identify heresies and persecute them and so on.

I think that, in the end, there is something that unites all conservatives, which is that they are pursuing something they love. My view is that the Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on. And what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we’re up against people who want to destroy them, and it’s very simple.”

I absolutely endorse this view. I have said many times that the central force in conservatism is that we care - love as Scruton puts it - about the place we are sufficiently to want to protect and preserve its essence. I always get back to this poem:

GOD gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Belovèd over all;
That, as He watched Creation’s birth,
So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
And see that it is good.

Here Kipling sets out his view that, while we should (and do) love all the earth and all mankind, our deepest love and care is reserved for that special place and those special institutions that make our world so fine and grand. And we believe that this love results in strange and good things - or as Giovanni Guareschi put it:

"...I want you to understand that, in the Little World between the river and the mountains, many things can happen that cannot happen anywhere else. Here, the deep, eternal breathing of the river freshens the air, for both the living and the dead, and even the dogs, have souls."

Guareschi described a world where a priest and a communist could co-operate - when they weren't berating each other - because the place, the 'little world', was more important that their beliefs and ideologies. This is again central to conservatism - that love is more important than the words in a book supposed to guide us.

I've always felt that, stripped of our public ideology, we are all essentially conservative. We are suspicious of change. We respect heritage and tradition - to the point of inventing new heritage and new tradition. And we regard the institutions of our culture as matters above business, religion or politics. And in the end it's about our place and about what people really want:

Wherever you go in the world you'll find people who hold as important such things as family, neighbourliness, independence, duty and effort. That you should work hard, contribute, look out for the neighbours, bring up your family as honest, self-reliant and care for those less fortunate.

And these are conservative values, the building blocks of community. None of them are about government, large or small. None of them see society as greater than the sum of its individual parts. And none of them are predicated on knowing better what is good for your neighbour. I know that, compared to changing the economic system or destroying the capitalist state, this is all pretty boring but it's what most folk want.


1 comment:

asquith said...

Scruton is not someone I'd hitherto had much time for, but have you read Green Philosophy? He argues that environmental problems are important, more so than a lot of conservatives have thought, and argues that it shouldn't be monopolised by the left- whose policies on environmentalism often won't help the situation- and conservatives should be as concerned as liberals and socialists and of course the pope.

As a liberal, I found some of his ideas uncomfortable, but he challenged me and that's maybe why. I recognise the challenge that I'd need to deal with, it was a very thought-provoking work.