Sunday, September 09, 2007

"Isn't it obvious?..."

It seems to me these are the three most common words which occur to a conservative minded person.

Conservatism seems to be a habit of mind, in a way. Because it is a habit of mind, the idea that something ought to be obvious is often dismissed as thoughtlessness by the liberal establishment (the idea that today we have a liberal establishment is really a banal observation, given that great efforts have to be made to make the common view assent to the ministrations of that establishment. Good examples would be the death penalty, and EU membership, where the public feeling must be routinely turned aside by a combination of media, legal and political types). A "habit", after all, sounds rather boring, instinctive, not at all the grand effort of mind which humanistic liberals like to imagine.

And this, in turn, leads to a kind of self-censorship, especially today.

It might be better to call conservatism a discipline. Sometimes self-imposed, sometimes imposed by reality. Best when the two are combined. Most people have a bit in them somewhere.

I was thinking of this in response to reading about the latest film from Brian De Palma, a smash hit at the Venice Film Festival (inaugurated by Benito Mussolini, by the way). It's called "Redacted" and it's an Iraq war "expose", and the Financial Times raves about it here.

Well, knowing De Palma (The Untouchables), it'll be blood and guts and moral fervour, just as the FT describes.

But how about that reality? It comes from all directions, you know. In addition to the insecure, unstable and ill-disciplined, we have the disciplined, incredible and the brave, the understanding and the educated, the vainglorious and dishonest- and, the thing that real conservatives never forget, the enemy. And, under it all, the fallibility of things, which we all forget sometimes.

It was always going to be that way. Nothing has surprised me so far about the Iraq conflict. I am not pessimistic, but I will end on a conservative note:

As Bad as a Mile

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.


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