Healthy conservatism promotes the continuity of civilization, the importance of community, the dangers of thoughtless change. It does not, or should not, assert the right of white, Christian heterosexual males of a certain age to limit the rights of everyone else. The past 100 years of social history has been dedicated, on good days, to constraining the dominance of this minority. Yesterday was a good day. John Ibbitson, www.globeandmail.com Wed. June 29th.
The world moves at a pace quicker then most of us can handle. Whether breakthroughs in the science of how we understand ourselves, medical research, or the use of technology in our lives, something new is announced on an almost daily basis.
Careening along we ascend the heights of knowledge, desperately attempting to assimilate and acclimatize to the new altitudes. To a race that for thousands of years was relatively static the past hundred or so years has seen an unprecedented explosion of change.
Technological changes have given rise to societal changes. Through our advances in labour saving devices more and more people have been liberated from the drudgery of mind and soul destroying labour. With more people being exposed to education and it’s accompanying knowledge and awareness, more have craved the privileges so long confined to a few.
Demands for equal treatment in the eyes of the law no matter race, creed, or sex have resulted in massive societal shake-ups and opened the door on issues that had never been considered. The fight for equal rights for women resulted in the issues of abortion and day care to either rise from obscurity or come into existence. Before women worked en masse what need was there to be concerned about children during the day when school was done?
Traditional rules and mores that have long been held dear by so many are being discarded in the face of these new realities. It seems that although the technological changes have the potential to impact our quality of life and our very existence in some circumstances, it’s the social changes which cause the most consternation.
There are weapons that exist today that if deployed could destroy the world through explosive power and radiation sickness. Others could wipe out whole populations through the spread of disease. We have bombs that will kill people but leave infrastructures intact.
The amounts of coal and gasoline burned by our industry and private vehicles has risen to the extent that respiratory ailments are now commonplace. The effluence of industry and our inability to dispose of our own waste material has effectively turned many lakes, rivers, and streams into toilets.
Deforestation, agribusiness, and strip-mining have combined to destroy the habitats of countless species of animal and plant. Forcing the remainder into small pockets of land where they are in more danger from disease and over population thus eroding their chances of survival even further.
For some people these issues aren’t relevant. Either they refuse to recognise their reality, or they simply don’t care. Those who don’t care are usually those who are more focused on issues that they seem to believe affect them personally. Ones that they feel threaten them in some manner or another.
What’s truly puzzling is the fact that for the most part those matters that they feel most threatened by have nothing to do with them as individuals. Even though they may be neither female or gay somehow same sex marriage and abortion concern them deeply.
So concerned are they with ensuring the maintenance of the status quo at all costs that only those issues that threaten their power base, even indirectly by giving rights to others, are all that matters. They don’t worry about society as a whole, no matter what they claim to the contrary, they just worry about their place in it.
If women are allowed to chose what happens to their own bodies, and homosexuals are treated the same as everyone else what does it harm anyone else? Nobody is about to make anyone marry someone of the same sex or have an abortion.
But that’s not the issue. If they are no longer able to impose their morality on others what control can they exert on the direction society takes? What would happen to the power of the pope if no one cared what he had to say about day to day issues? Their power is based solely on what they are allowed to influence. Take that away and they are no different from the rest of us.
Claiming to speak for the good of society, they’re truly seeking only to preserve their own position. Under the guise of moral protectors they fight to keep alive an untenable position. They are entitled to their beliefs but not to the exclusion or denial of others.
Fear of the unknown makes the familiar all the more attractive. But every now and again the time comes when we have to take a leap in the dark into something new. Faith should give one the ability to enter new territory with humility and respect. Blind faith will only prevent the fulfilment of potential.
While there is no denying the need to conserve certain values in the face of the technological onslaught that we are experiencing they should not be ones dictated to the many by the few. The intent to move forward must be tempered with the need to ensure the preservation of cultures that have existed for thousands of years. There are many beautiful and precious things we risk losing if we are not careful, and it will take all of our efforts to keep this world in balance.
John Ibbistson’s quote at the beginning of the article was in reference to the passage of same sex legislation in the Canadian House of Commons. It seems that some of us have been conservatives all along and haven’t known, while others who claim to be are something else altogether. I’ll leave exactly what they are for someone else to decide.