Liturgies Of Hate And Longing
The Uneasy Soul Of Contemporary Conservatism

by Phil Rockstroh

April 12, 2004   


"All conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservative."
—John Stuart Mill
"Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea."
—Mahatma Gandhi
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, isn't 'Eureka!' but rather 'hmm....that's funny.'"
—Isaac Asimov

The term "conservative" has become a misnomer. What exactly is being conserved by policies of expansive militarism and environmental plundering? That is -- other than conserving policies of expansive militarism and environmental plundering?

To claim this is conservatism... is analogous to claiming that an army of rampaging fire ants are, only, at times, prone to becoming a little excited about property rights.

Since when is a rampage regarded as a world view?

To live in a system ruled by the values of unfettered, global post-liberalism is to be confronted and controlled by those who call exploitation -- freedom.

Yet, the conservative mind set is obsessed with the notion that life could and should return to values of a simpler era. Perhaps, this is a compensatory fantasy, an attempt to escape the enervating machinations of their own desperately rationalizing minds: a means that allows scheming cartels of aging frat boys to be in denial of the ruthless desires of their own rapacious ids... that wish to slip the entire planet a date rape drug and ravage her along with their frat house brothers.

It is unnerving to come to the conclusion that -- we are being led by a collection of totalitarian, frat boy, date-rapist fire ants.

The rightist mind perpetually yearns for a return to the verities of a simpler, Christian past.

But if the Christians truly returned to traditions of the past -- wouldn't they become Jews?

Of course, if every religion on earth returned to its roots and traditions -- they would all return to worshipping the sun.

This, though, would be a step forward -- since, at least, it can be proven the sun exists -- and, without it, the world would not exist. When was the last time we got a good (and quantifiable) day's work out of any god?

We live in the midst of a vast collage of the past and present -- that is constantly being remade by the artistry of future possibilities.... There are infinite possibilities -- except for these: The present will pass into the past and the past cannot return.

According to the laws of physics, there are sound reasons for this fact: otherwise, to paraphrase one wag: The only reason that time exists... is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

If this were not the case -- then the Pledge of Allegiance might be uttered as follows: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of Britannia and to the Holy Roman Empire to which it stands one colonial outpost under Zeus with slavery and divine retribution for all."

Though (it would seem that) to live in a world where the past never recedes would be the fulfillment of the most fervent wishes of the conservative (oxymoron alert) imagination.

The collision of conservative cognitive dissidence and the rapid dissemination of information and imagery of the age of virtual reality has endowed contemporary life with a dream-like quality, a fever-dream frenzy of political ravings, suffused by a phantasmagoria of hallucinatory graphics and non-sequitur sound-bites.... Consequences become diffuse; history carries no more weight than a commercial for chewing gum or toilet paper....

We toss fitfully from within this dream, in which the past and present merge and mingle -- as if the laws of physic have been overturned.

In this dream, we see:

The Fleet of the Spanish Armada stranded in traffic on the Jersey Turnpike on it's way to plunder the oil of Iraq; Roman Centurions employed as security guards at the mall; Caligula shows-up on a so-called Reality Television program and plots to usurp the reign of Donald Trump; we watch a new game show titled "Who Wants To Be A Savior," created by Mel Gibson in collaboration with Pontius Pilate, whereby contestants suffering from messianic complexes, vie to be crucified on live television -- starting, of course, with Gibson himself.

Outrageous fantasy, you protest. Personally, I'm not so sure.

At this moment: Movie and television screens flicker with Medievalist passion plays; the Bush administration seems to believe in the divine right of the succession of dynastic kings; the press has become a Praetorian Guard protecting the established order of the corporate empire; and the triumph of the tenets of post-liberalism condemn the people of the world to toil as de facto serfs.

To live in these times is to be subject to a world were the Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada has been given access to high-tech surveillance devices, the European colonialists have global communication satellites at their disposal, and Genghis Khan has acquired the duplicitous talents of public relation firms to clean-up his image by spinning the media.

If the corporate media had existed in Khan's era, it doesn't strain credulity to imagine the 13th century's equivalent of CNN's Kyra Phillips (who asked the attending physician of an Iraqi child who had lost three limbs and suffered the loss of his entire family to Coalition bombs: "Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning? Does he understand it?") asking the orphaned children of sacked territories -- if they understood the reasons for the great Khan's Operation Enduring Plunder.

The means, methods and weaponry change, but the rationalizations of the oppressors, and the resulting suffering of anyone in their path, vary little.

This is what they said then: The savages of the world must be saved from their heathen ways... But these wretches must not only be freed from the shackles of heathen sinfulness -- but it is our solemn duty, as their Christian, civilized betters to unburden these simple creatures of the riches and resources that their native lands just happen to be located upon.

This is what they say now: We must bring democracy to Iraq.... and if the Iraqis happen, just happen to need a little help (or violent persuasion) to allow the oil that just happens to lie under their country to make its way into our gas tanks... well, you know, the price of freedom is not cheap.... And as long as the price of freedom remains more expensive than the price of crude oil -- then we are in business.

Then: The end of slavery and the granting of the Negro full rights of American citizenship would destroy the white race and thereby the world will be doomed to savage darkness.

Now: We are in a cultural war. Granting homosexuals the right to marry would destroy the family which is the foundation of American life and the world will be doomed to savage darkness -- and other over-the-top tyrannies of the decoratively inclined.

Then: Immodest women who dare to show a bit of ankle will corrupt the young and drown our culture in moral turpitude.

Now: Immodest women who dare to show a bit of tit will corrupt the young and drown our culture in moral turpitude.

The struggle today is the same struggle it has always been: One against the insanity of the prevailing order, and its delusion that things must remain as they are....

Yet, paradoxically, the conservative keepers of this order insist that the world must be returned to what it was.... But, inevitably -- when these fervent desires are thwarted (How is it possible to restore what never was?) -- the desire grows into an endless feedback loop of aggression and self-justification, thereby creating the self-resonating circuitry of tedious triumphalism and perpetual paranoia that passes for the belief system of the contemporary conservative.... As, all the while, the looping feedback continues to build in pitch and intensity within, insisting that the world be changed back to what it never was to begin with... then, again, being thwarted by reality... then, once again, building in pitch and intensity... rinse and repeat... ad infinitum... ad nauseam....

Torturous to follow, huh? Yes, if the Zeitgeist were personified and was endowed with a thought process mirroring the belief system of contemporary conservatism, the poor bastard would have to be provided with massive doses of anti-psychotic medication to be prevented from roaming the streets raving -- or the contemporary version of such -- given a forum on right-wing radio, a job in the Bush administration, or the position of a pundit in the corporate media.

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Published April 12, 2004
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