Saturday, February 17, 2007

Progressives and conservatives

OK, OK, on "what is a progressive" I'm about to give up. The horse is dead, like our friend the parrot:

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

But what is a conservative?

The word derives, obviously enough, from the verb "to conserve." But when we look at the words and deeds of so-called "conservatives," here is what we see (and please note that not all conservatives subscribe to any one of these positions):

  • Blatant disregard for the environment, to the point that ex-professors speaking for the oil and coal industries have more credibility than thousands of climatologists

  • Enthusiastic support of war, now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no doubt someday in Iran and Syria. Many conservatives have supported in lock-step every single American imperial adventure in living memory

  • Anti-evolution thinking (sometimes risibly called "Intelligent Design") that entails a radical departure from two centuries of meticulous scientific observation, substituting blind faith and misrepresentation

  • The destruction of civil discourse, and its replacement with vilification and screechy namecalling

  • Opposition to the notion of human rights, to the point of defending security certificates, the Guantanamo concentration camp, permanent special measures and torture
One might be forgiven for asking what, precisely, these conservatives want to conserve.

Well, wait a minute, in all fairness: they do want to conserve traditional forms of marriage (to the exclusion of any other form), traditional forms of sexuality, and the dominant culture. But that's too easy--none of these need conserving, because they're not under attack in the first place. Claims to the contrary are just tactical: a man and a woman can still get married as easily as ever, heterosexuality looks like it will soldier on somehow, and the dominant culture, allowing of course for the fluidity of the notion of "culture," is not about to give way to one of mad mullahs, stoning and beheading, at least the last time I checked.

So perhaps we need to re-draw the political map. Conservatives, at least the ones I have been referring to here, don't want to conserve, but to destroy. It's leftists, at least the ones who are these conservatives' favourite targets, who want to conserve: the environment, human beings, respect, scientific inquiry and human rights.

Do we have here the key, perhaps, to resolving that "progressive" problem I mentioned? Let's call ourselves Canada's New Conservatives [tm] and really throw a spanner in the works--just in time for the next election.

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