Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Editorial


Conservatism as we know it today is a far cry from that of Theodore Roosevelt, and further still from the party of Lincoln. These were great two men for their times.

American conservatism has been hi jacked by the extreme wing of the Republican Party in its quest to dominate the world, to bend it in their ways. A similar phenomenon has has captured the left in the eyes of many. The main difference is that the right-wing extremists have George Bush as a popularizer who is a political polarizer as well. School is still our about how much affect he will have on the thinking political center.

If you lived through WWII and its aftermath, you would know that it was:

  • FDR who enabled the atomic age. This Liberal gave Mr. Bush the ultimate clout, a military utopia -- or dead end.
  • Marshall and his plan built the bulwark against Communism. This liberal action saved Europe, thanks to the men who conquered it. Europe today seems like utopia compared with the Europe of 1944. This too was a liberal accomplishment.
  • Harry Truman who stopped Stalin cold with his Berlin Airlift. [Again a Liberal stood up for Jeffersonian democracy, not to be confused with the Neocon variety, an elite ruling class expounded by Plato and Wolfowitz.]
  • Free enterprise and democracy that enabled America to become a super power. No utopia here; just tons of hard work by the free people motivated by the First and Fourth Amendments, now under fire.
  • Inherent defects in communism that led to its implosion in Russia. The Marxist/Leninist "utopia" became corrupt even before it could discover that communism does not mix with our genetic makeup as well as freedom and liberty do.
  • Communist China that began liberalizing its institutions unilaterally after the death of Mao. China recognizes why the Soviet Union failed. The race goes not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running. Just now, China is moving more swiftly than the rest of the world. China today is yesteryear's utopia. This liberalization is not conservatism.

Beyond all that, the human history of the last 10,000 years has been one of steady liberalization from the constraints of earlier times, with a few hiccups of course--like the Crusades, Inquisition, and Witch Hunts by conservatives of those times. Slavery, human bondage and bigotry continue in our day.

Islam is/was a another conservative hiccup; it has been bucking liberalism (modernization if you will) for 1370 years to little avail. Islam is the arch typical conservatism of any age. But conservative Islam seems to believe utopia lies in the provenance of Allah as expounded in the Koran, Hadith, and Shuria as well as by conservative mullahs. Mohammed Atta was expecting 40 virgins waiting for him in utopia. THAT WAS FANTASY.

No liberal or conservative worth his salt believes in a literal utopia. For a conservative to accuse liberals of being unreal is unreal in itself given historical facts and trends to the contrary.

An Educational View

The drums beat; national standards for schools to match become the rage; meet the standard and your school is rewarded; fail and your funding is reduced or cut off. Responding to the call, teachers can only drill and drill until the answers come out right--no matter how, automotons can do no less. This satisfies the Authoritarian mindset. The schools have a standard. The kids achieve that standard. OK?

Well not quite. Most kids are able to memorize facts about anything they have to. As well, they can memorize how to solve problems by knowing procedures by rote. Addition and subtraction come first in arithmetic. Multiplication and division come later with new short cuts that bear no self-evident (to a kid) relation to adding and subtracting. And so it goes. The typical high school graduates in America miss the insight nto how the two latter techniques are most simply applications of the first two. Algebra and geometry add further complexity. For the most part the solving formulae are easily taught and remembered. So also for chemistry, physics, and even more especially, history and political science.

Contrast teaching by rote with mrthods that lead students to think about how to come up with the the algorithms in the first place. For sure, the first exposures will go much slower. For sure also there will be numerous false starts. But with each success a sense of self develops that becomes stronger and clearer with each new success. After algebra and geometry, trigonometry can almost be self-taught! After reading some anthropology, a cursory excursion into socialolgy and psychology can lead to an "AHA" in the reader's mind--these belong together.

Quacks (the rote folks) abound in all professions, especially politics that is based on emotions. Understanding politics (and more espeically, terror) with insight requires more depth in psychology and sociology than most people are exposed to in introductory courses. The rote thinkers will not know that, how could they? Even if they live in the White House, they might not.

Quackery is not limited to politics; you can find it in medicine (the reason for the high cost of malpractice insurance), in engineering (why colossal flops occur), in business (the expensive CEO who bankrupts his company while lining his wallet), and in many other professions. Even science is plagued with plagiarism and conclusions that arise more from wishful thinking than sound logic. Science is renowned for its discipline, and rightfully so. Still, rote teaching sets back it progress.

So do laws conceived by rote-thinkerb politicians that prohibit research that would enhance our knowledge and ability to deal with nature on its own terms. This is not what made America great, but it will affect who will be leading in future times. South Korea is setting the example.

The terror connection is obvious. The rote thinkers can only repeat past mistakes. Palestine is a prime example. Arabs and Jews have been shooting at one another for most of a century, with plenty of terror on each side. Oddly enough, Zionism produced the most insightful thinker about Palestine -- Jabotinsky predicted not only the present situation, but the events leading up to it. There was nothing rote in his learning or teaching. But rote thinking is evident among his readers, at least it seems so because none seem to take him seriously as the prophet he was -- his view does not fit their stereotyped view of the word. They may well revere him, but for the wrong reasons. His followers have many precedents -- among the disciples of Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammed. Rote thinking and teaching are hallmarks of Authoritarians--that is how the achive and maintain control and a hierarchy.

Imposing national standards that reward rich white schools at the expense of the poorer disadvantaged schools seems a recipe for social unrest, not a salvation from terror. (It is sold as the opposite, of course.) But what can one expect from rote thinkers who can only see the immediate political effect of any action, not what it means to the future of America, Finland, Zambia, Peru, or humankind.

A Natural History Viewpoint

Social and political conservatism, maintaining the status quo or regressing, is at odds with Natural History -- which is all about nature and its hallmark, evolution. The rise of higher organisms is surely progress, and progress is liberalism in action. Neither conservatism nor stasis results in progress, which we define as leaving the world better than we found it, especially on the social and scientific fronts.

Maybe the God of many monotheists denies this possibility. But consider this: Requiring our presence to came about through evolution takes more power of God than otherwise, not less. Believing in a God that can accomplish evolution is a greater faith than one based on denial of scientific facts. The God of evolution gave each of us self determination that must survive our early years to mature into wise actions. The God of evolution gave us another billion years or so on this lonely planet to get our house in order. We truly do live in a graden of Eden and the serpent is human avarice with touches of envy, jealously and lust for power.

The question of government in this age of terror is most critical. Complacency, innocence, outright bias, self-righteousness, self indulgence, and arrogance born of ignorance on the part of the voting public have potential for destroying the very foundations that made America today seem like utopia to the have-not world.

Where does America's political center stand? Too many seem to be complacent, remain ignorant of society trends, go with the flow, do not care enough to vote, or practice denial. Why is the center important? Throughout history, extremes from both the left and the right have botched it.

If the average American voter is not well enough informed to make wise choices in the voting booth, s/he will make naive or narrow-minded decisions in the guise of patriotism. Great danger lies ahead if we continue to vote for promises instead of actions, most particularly when those two features in any candidate do not match well. Substance lies at the root of modernization, not macho-photo-ops in a hallowed dressing.

Do we vote for the march of history or just another hiccup?


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.