Tuesday, 2 December 2014

We need more merry men to fight the evil of imposed order...

His Grace writes about Tory Satanists:

But what is interesting is the reason given for Satanists supporting the Conservatives: the party “best represents my own standards of stability and law & order”, explained one. So Satanists incline toward conservatism, presumably because Lucifer himself knows and understands the principles of Natural Law and the preeminence of organic and incremental societal development in accordance with the the traditions and mores of an established culture.

So it is with evil. The problem is that the preferred portrayal of evil is as a destructive force, as the very antithesis of order and civilization. Yet the idea that evil is incompatible with adherence to law and order is misplaced. Imagine the scene - perhaps in some football stadium - as a woman is about to be beheaded for having sex outside marriage. Understand that this act of violence is entirely lawful - according to local interpretation it complies with religious and secular laws. Up to and including the prescribed punishment.

Imagine then some hero - perhaps the woman's lover - galloping into the stadium, sweeping her up onto the saddle and, ducking to avoid the shots fired at him, charging off into the desert. We cheer with excitement, tears dampen our eyes - the woman is rescued from the clutches of evil. Yet that hero has broken the law, has acted against the established social order and is threatening the stability of civilization. The agents of law enforcement must seek him out, along with his lover, so as to conclude her punishment and deliver a suitable punishment to our hero.

Our cultures are filled with examples of such chaotic challenge to the forces of law - Alladhin, Robin Hood, Jesse James, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Raffles, Hereward the Wake, Rob Roy. These people of myth (mythagos as Robert Holdstock called them) exist as a symbol of challenge to oppression. And it is small acts of defiance as much as the wholesale overthrow of government that we celebrate. None of these rebellious sorts - perhaps with the exception of Alladhin - became kings or emperors. Rather they provided people with a rallying point - two fingers firmly stuck up at 'The Man'.

Gordon Dickson captured this idea in 'The Way of the Pilgrim':

"A human who went about the world anonymously, like Shane, in pilgrim's robes; but unlike Shane, exacting vengeance from the aliens for each wrong they did to a man, woman or child."

So it was that a movement - a resistance - began with the daubing of a sign on a wall. We're familiar with this act of resistance - the lionising of graffiti artist, Banksy (for all his folksy lefty-ness) is an example - and with other acts that defy order. The man standing before the tank in Tiannamen Square, the photograph of another man stood with his arm firmly down amidst a sea of Roman salutes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos making a different salute or Rosa Parks sitting on a bus.

All this serves again to remind us that the law is not necessarily good, indeed that some who use and enforce laws do so in a manner we can describe as evil. Sometimes this lawful evil is stark and clear - the holocaust, Aztec mass human sacrifice, the gulags - but on other occasions it is more subtle, less murderous but still destructive of the human spirit. And there will always be a place for defiance, for standing our ground and saying 'sorry, no futher' to the agents of law.

And there is a deeper law, something essential about our relationship with the land and with our place. The laws of men are good laws when they work with this essence rather than seek to direct it. The Satanist His Grace quotes isn't conservative and merely corrupts the stability conservatives crave to create his place of 'law and order', to conjure up Judge Dredd ramming his gun in your face and yelling 'I am the law'. The true conservative doesn't seek to know better, to control or to direct - he works with the grain of the place, smoothing and shaping, helping and guiding. A little change here, the merest adjustment there, all the while working with the people and with that deeper law.

So when someone defies authority, says 'no sir I won't do that', I'm with you smiling, perhaps doing a little fist pump and a sub-vocalised 'yeah!'. I'm there in spirit with those people who carried on celebrating May Day when Cromwell's men tore down the maypoles, I'm with the workers who flocked to pubs in Shipley because Titus Salt didn't allow drinking in his perfect village, and I'm with all those people crying foul at the removal of ancient rights for the convenience of the law.  This isn't for some sense of revolution, a search for change. Rather, it's defending that which has always been.

Those who think conservatism is about the law or laws are wrong. Worse still you undermine the idea of place, of honest endeavour and of community that sits at the heart of what we believe. Which is why Steve Huxley reads this in his father's journal about Ryhope Wood:

"The mythagos...remain in the natural landscape, establishing a hidden focus of hope - the Robin Hood form, perhaps Hereward, and of course the hetero-form I call the Twigling, harassing the Romans in so many parts of the country. I imagine that it is the combined emotion of the two races that draws out the mythago, but it clearly sides with the culture whose roots are longest established..."

Or - less prosaically - Kipling:

I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish—but Hobden tickles—I can shoot—but Hobden wires.
I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege,
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o'er the track-betraying dew ?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew ?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran,
And summons him to judgment ? I would sooner summons Pan.

His dead are in the churchyard—thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made;
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.
Yet the truth - the sad truth - is that many so-called 'conservatives' will join the socialists in hounding Hobden. His poaching, hunting and scrumping - the ancient rights of place - are frowned upon. We like the old idea of the poacher as a proud countryman complete with tatty oiled jacket, boots and dog. But the modern reality - untidy, grumpy, a bit rude - is to be suppressed, replaced by an idealised and historic idyll. There must be order, security above all things. And it is in this space that the roots of evil thrive - replacing joy and pleasure with enforced conformity, supplanting tradition with a plastic present and a pretend past, and indulging the busybody or the snitch.

I don't know who the mythago of this age might be - perhaps it's the plastic Guy Fawkes mask, maybe it's the anonymous blacked out man or the angry blogger. I see it in the spirit of mischief - the bloke who mows the verge despite the Council telling him not to, the couple who get the right care for their child by defying authority, the partying folk who organised raves in barns or concerts in a wood. Faced by a catalogue of tutting and head-shaking these people do something - it may not be world-changing but it matters - for their community. Above all they remind us and remind government that we are free people not a herd of mindless drones to be herded by our masters.

There is nothing unconservative about resisting oppression, about rebellion against the order that others would impose. We are concerned with our own order, our own place - its traditions, its relationships and its community. It is for us to decide, to manage how we live together and to defend neighbour, friend and tradition. It is not for you - unless you are part of us - to say how we should live, to smash your gun in our face and force us to do your will. It does not matter if you believe this is for our own good or for the good of society or community - it is not your place, even if you are government, to make this judgement.

In the end we aren't chasing law and order but something calmer - peace, independence, neighbourliness, community. It may sound folksy but there's more truth in discussing the doings of the village with a neighbour that pontificating about macroeconomics or, worse, in demanding something should be done to someone somewhere else in the righting of some perceived wrong that is none of our business. And what comes from that discussion about the doings of the village will be more useful, more practical and more beneficial that all the grand words of the great and good.

We need more folk who say 'no I won't be told'. More merry men, poachers, no hopers and rogues.



asquith said...

Not a bad post this, albeit it certainly doesn't fit with my definition of conservative, unless you're after calling me a conservative, which no one has ever done, ever.

Historically, you are very right. The Glorious Revolution is the epitome of what you're talking about. And it's easy to sneer that they were hardly fighting a selfless fight for representative democracy, and Simon de Montfort and friends were even further from what we in 2014 want. To which the only proper answer is "so what?"

Because it is the direction of travel that matters, and we should support people who set things straight and put us on the right path even if they are imperfect human beings whose motives are far from pure.

I like Banksy too. But I think a movement in line with what you're talking about is the whole rewilding business, which I'm fully in support. It is, essentially, about restoring tracts of the country to what they always were and sweeping away artificial impositions (literally so, since much of the land to be rewilded is very low productivity farmland that only exists thanks to subsidies).

I don't know if you ever read the book Feral. One of the best passages is an "argument" between Monbiot and a Welsh sheep farmer who makes his case so eloquently that Monbiot has to go and think hard about the matter, before he goes back to the theory and decides that reform/abolition of an especially obnoxious subsidy would keep them both happy.

You (and I address this to anyone that might see this) may like to read "A Radical History of Britain" by Edward Vallance. He makes the point that although many of his subjects have become left-wing cause celebres, most of them can inspire people of all traditions. It was written in 2009, a time when Tony Benn and David Davis shared civil liberties platform...

... and in fact, we still have Pete Hitchens and Nick Cohen, to name two supremely unlikely bedfellows, united against Teresa May, who is the most illiberal and un-conservative person I could think of (or would be in a happy world in which the Yvette Coopers of this world weren't politically active).

JW said...

A lovely post, thank you. It's true that many self-professed conservatives are rather selective about what they want to conserve; abstinence, sobriety and other such Puritan virtues have not been the historical norm, and yet you would be hard pushed to find many defending raves in barns.

That said, conservatives should, recognising that practically all societies have had some (cultural, not legal) restrictions governing sexual and other conduct, resist as well the current trend towards anomie and relativism in such matters.

zippgun said...

asquith is right about May. She makes even Blunkrett and Straw look like icons of libertarianism in comparison. I don't even know if Cooper could possibly be worse in the home office.

zippgun said...

asquith is right about May. I doubt even Cooper would be worse.