- by Gitabushi
I took a quiz I stumbled onto from Twitter last night. I can’t find the link now, but it was something about 8 Political Traits. You took a quiz regarding your reactions to several political statements, and from that, it judged your position on 4 different paired-trait spectra. Like, Authoritarian/Libertarian, Economic Freedom/Control, etc.
One thing I was struck with was that it got Conservatives/Traditionalists completely wrong. Of course, Progressives usually get Conservatives wrong…it has been shown over and over that those on the Right understand the Left much better than the reverse. Charles Krauthammer’s formulation is the Left thinks the Right is Evil, and the Right thinks the Left is Stupid. Which makes sense, of course: the Right thinks the Left is stupid because they understand the Left’s viewpoints and find them immature or unworkable; the Left thinks the Right is Evil because they can’t understand how anyone can oppose the compassion of a $15 minimum wage and free birth-control for women.
Anyway, what bothered me was they characterized Progressives as believing that the human race can and should progress toward enlightenment. The implication is that the past is always ignorant, and as we learn things, we can improve. What is the opposite of that? Why, that some people think that we should cling to the past because that’s how we’ve always done it! Meaning, the quiz assumed that conservatives are conservative out of fear or reflexive adherence to tradition out of belief that Tradition is simply a Good.
That’s not my view at all. Maybe I’m projecting to the rest of the Right and/or conservatives, but I think I’m not alone in this. I’m convinced conservatives are Thinkers, and spend time questioning and trying to understand everything.
In my opinion, Conservatives conserve Tradition because Tradition arises out of What Works. Humans are humans: we are biologically programmed (whether by God or Evolution) to exploit/game any system to its extinction, but also to require systems to reach our individual and social goals. We are biologically programmed (whether by God or Evolution) so that in our interactions with the opposite sex, any/all errors of judgment result in pregnancy, because *anything* that results in reproduction is a successful reproduction strategy, and those traits of selfishness, sloppiness, pettiness, dishonesty, manipulation, etc, that assist in reproduction will be passed on.
As such, I support Traditions because those are time-tested ways to avoid pain, disaster, chaos, poverty, loneliness, heartlessness, death, despair, depression and Justin Bieber.
That doesn’t mean Traditions are immutable. We can learn as a society, and do. We can rise above our selfishness and pettinesses, and do.
But you have to make the case. You can’t just insist that there is an end goal of perfect equality between all people and all preferences, and anyone who obstructs that progress is wrong. You have to explain how the direction of progress you want is helpful to everyone involved. You have to make the case for overturning Tradition. You have to move slowly when you do make changes, so that we have time to adjust to changes, and to reverse if it proves to be more harmful than helpful.
And most of all, you have to insightfully analyze and clearly identify and explain who pays the price and who benefits. Assertions are not acceptable as proof.
If something benefits 1% of the nation and makes things worse for 60% of the population, it should not be done. More time should be taken to ensure that the benefit is worth the cost, and to minimize the cost as much as possible.
So in the quiz, seeing that they characterized Conservatives as preferring Tradition simply because it was Tradition, it lost any/all credibility with me.
Closely related: Chesterton’s Fence.