I stake my claim to conservatism on the grounds that my philosophy and outlook on the world might actually be described as conservative. My worldview is two nuanced and multifaceted--ok, so its a Hydra--to say that there are just one or two elements which define my world, but there are a couple dominant threads in my political thought. In the first place is a healthy respect for things received. Being the thoughtful student of history that I am, I understand that the mores, customs, and laws of a people do not come about by accident, but in order to prosper and knit together the community. Note, however, that I do not say that I hold these things in reverence. The customs of men are always flawed, and will require adjustment from time to time, especially as the community changes.
The other dominant thread, which defines my outlook as conservative--and puts the lie to many pretenders--is moderation. Just as we do not engage in ancestor--say Founding Father--worship, it is also foolish to rush into any change without first considering all of the possible consequences.It is, after all, the mistake of an enthusiast to confuse the intent of an action with its consequence.
This definition of conservatism could actually accommodate any number of minor political opinions and persuasions, but I feel that it should stand as something of a rebuke to the reactionaries, who would claim conservatism as they tilt at windmills.
It is my opinion, however, that the ideas above must necessarily stand in stark contrast, and opposition to, globalism. How can I mean such a thing, and why do I deal in such vague general terms? No, you are right. Let us begin with something we may all agree is evil, and I will develop my point from there.
Of all of the things which we have received, not one of them is greater than the earth. That might seem obvious, but with our modern attitude toward the earth, it seemed to need restatement. It is our home, our means of subsistence, and the inheritance that we will leave to our children. It is also beautiful, and, as a certain Someone once saw, it is good. Amongst the greatest duties of man is the careful cultivation and tending of the earth.
I am not an environmentalist, I am a conservative. The earth is something good that we have received, and which it is our duty to preserve for our posterity. I also understand that the wellbeing of men is tied up in the wellbeing of the land. That is not to say that we should ever value the land above the people, but that we should understand the importance and dependency of the one upon the other.
Our global orientation has no consideration for the land. The commercials on the radio advertise that best poisons, for both pests and weeds, so that farmers will get the maximum yields. And since those alone are not enough, they also should use--and almost without exception do use--petroleum based fertilizers, all in order to get the maximum yields.
But these yields do not mean much for the farmer, because the farmer is essentially a share cropper for an Agra-industrial conglomerate, like Mon$anto. The farmer scrapes by, and bulk agricultural produce sits in silos and waits for what is left of its lessening nutritional value to deplete, at which point it will be shipped over seas or turned into microwave dinners.
No matter what the other effects, things never look great for the farmer. The prices he sells his grain for must be competitive, not just with his neighbors, or with the surrounding countryside, but with the whole world. He must sell his product cheap. There might be some who say, good, that means cheaper prices for the consumer. I will remind you now: you get what you pay for.
In order to scrape by each year, the farmer is using genetically modified crops, which certainly produce more, but which deplete the soil faster. Instead of rotating crops and allowing fields to lie fallow, which responsible farmers have been doing for millennia, he must use all of his land, every growing season. He continues to pour poisons into the ground, even as the crops he grows diminish in nutritional value, and the soil is stripped to the point of exhaustion.
This process, the demeaned position of the farmer, the destruction of the land, the degradation of our food, is carried out to feed the needs of the global market.
Corporations like Monsanto are not particularly concerned with the state of the land; they hold no affection for it, and so long as you can force the sufficient quantity of metric tons out of it, they will never see any reason to change their practices. Indeed, at the point that they see lower yields, they will probably resort to stronger chemicals.
I might demonstrate this with other areas later, but I believe--in congruence with my conservative tenants--that the care and maintenance of something requires understanding and respect. These are categorically impossible at a global level, and so the only truly sustainable and healthy economic and political arrangements are found at a local level. I might look at our government structure and the development thereof as an example later.
But I think the most important, quite possibly, is a local food economy.
Examine the farmers markets which have sprung up in Fort Wayne, and which do a relative bustling trade. Nothing like what we need, but a start. For prices competitive with those at the grocery store, we buy unpolluted, nutritionally superior food from local farmers. The difference for these farmers is that the entire profit from their yields is their own. The corporate farmer is splitting their share with two middle men, their Agra-industrial handler and Kroger. The local farmer can make more money on a smaller yield, and so, does not need to abuse his land. In the meantime, these farmers markets lend to an almost festival air, one sees familiar faces at the local farmers market, and one develops relationships with the vendors. There is dignity. There is community. There is a genuine love for the land.
The global has no consideration for the local; it cannot. It is a large sum game, and quantity must always trump quality, to say nothing of decency.
As a conservative, I also recognize that we probably cannot legislate our way out of this hole. What would we do? Tell a farmer how much of his land he is allowed to use? Do we own his land? Has he not lost enough of his dignity that we should also set ourselves over him? Do we outlaw fertilizers and pesticides and watch in horror as tired soil no longer produces sufficient yields to make our microwave dinners, let alone enough for global export?
No. Like most things, sudden change would not be beneficial either, and it is not wise to force such a thing. The only answer to this problem is for people to change the way they live. People need to turn their eyes to their own communities and buy local goods and local produce. I do not speak of "the market" as some talismanic force which will set the world to rights, but behind that word is the reality that all movements start with individual choice.
Healthier communities and healthier food are not going to come from global initiatives, which understand neither the land nor the people, but only from the concerted effort of individuals, who are willing to give of their time, talents, and money in order to bring about a more morally sound and sustainable system. Communities do not come about by fiat. They are necessarily organic; they intimate knowledge, care, and the active participation of individual members.
It takes more time, and it takes more effort, but the essence of conservatism lies in patience, moderation, and respect. But to what end? A community is a small thing and delicate. It cannot make war. It cannot change the world. It cannot even forward the aims of peace and democracy.
No. It will not be able to do any of these things, and it is not going to be a paradise, but, at the very least, it might just tend its garden.
It is insufficient for such a topic, but I suppose that is enough for now. I'll write about another facet later.