Apr 18, 2013

How to "Win" a Culture War

  A lot of ink is spilled every year in America over what they call a 'culture war'. Now, America tends to be rather inward-looking at the best of times, as evidenced by their belief that Libertarians are "right-wing", but this is perhaps most obvious in the assumptions behind their discussion of the "culture war". First, there is an assumption that a nation the size of America (third largest and third most populous in the world) is meant to or even can have a culture. Second, that contention between various cultures can be arbitrated by public discussion and media articles. Third, that extant cultures aren't always in some level of contention with one another. And, lastly, that the two positions defined by the media are "cultures".
  In reality, America has a wide range of cultures that cannot be shoehorned into the false dichotomy of 'Democrat/Republican' without making legitimate discussion almost impossible. This can be seen by, again, looking at the Libertarians. Libertarians hold liberal social positions and liberal economic positions yet are called "conservatives" merely because they oppose the Democratic Party's economic platform.
  Yet people are heavily invested in this 'culture war'; people from various (real) cultures are quite busy in aligning themselves into opposing camps and slugging it out. And not just in America - similar elements may be seen all over the world, particularly in what is called the West. So what is really going on?
  We contend that the real conflict is between what can be broadly thought of as Progressive thought and Conservative thought. Not precisely what Enlightenment philosophers taught, nor precisely what Romantic philosophers thought, but very similar ideas. More akin to 'the natural consequences of Enlightenment philosophy vs. the antecedents of Romantic philosophy', but handy as a shorthand description.
  So there is a very real conflict going on, a conflict that is important. The Conservative ideals focus on life, emotional health, social stability, family, moral fortitude, justice, religion, self-control, and prudential judgment. Of course, its opponents claim Conservatism leads to hierarchy, stagnation, and prejudice. Progressive concepts focus on change, rationality, science, growth, and the erasure of class differences. Its opponents claim that it leads to moral relativism, chaos for its own sake, and unaccountable elites.
  Note: Libertarianism is thus properly Progressive.
  For the record, Edan is thoroughly Conservative; God, king and family are the cornerstones of Edan as they are for Conservatism. Hierarchy is inevitable, so plan for it and associate it with more duties and responsibilities than privilege; ensure that stability doesn't become stagnation; aim what prejudice there is against injustice. The fruits of Progressivism are the Terror of the French Revolution, the corruption of modern democracies, and the slaughter of the 20th Century.
  As a true Conservative I hear many other self-described Conservatives asking each other (and us) questions along these lines,
  "How do we win the Culture War?"
  "How do we gain a voice in the media?"
  "What is the most effective way to garner votes for our position?"
  "Why is our lobbying not as effective as that of Progressives?"
  These questions tell me that these self-described Conservatives have a problem that transcends their concerns. That problem is that they think like Progressives, not like Conservatives. Bear with me as I explain.
  Let me begin with an example. As an adult convert and trained theologian I encounter a fair number of outspoken atheists, atheists that wish to engage me in a debate. A far too typical beginning to such an attempt at 'debate' is something along the lines of,
  "Everyone knows there is no evidence for the existence of God."
  These people are always confused by my reaction, which is natural and unforced. That reaction is loud laughter. As someone with formal training in logic, philosophy, history, and theology such a statement is quite funny and I react as such. The mere statement demonstrates that the speaker is either ignorant or dishonest to the point that discussion is almost worthless. I have a similar reaction when someone speaks of 'The Problem of Evil'. I usually bluntly tell the speaker that Theodicy is a topic over 2,500 years old with many a volume written about it. If they cannot demonstrate their familiarity with the topic I will not waste my time discussing it with them.
  Does this surprise you? Perhaps even upset you? Does the fact that I bluntly reject ignorance or dishonesty as positions anger you? Then perhaps you are part of the problem, too.
  When a Creationist argues that the Second Law of Thermodynamics 'disproves' evolution, I similarly reject their position as ignorant or dishonest. When someone refers to the Boston Massacre as an attack by soldiers on innocent, unarmed men I also reject their position as ignorant or dishonest. Why?
  Justice demands it.
  One of the concepts of the Progressive is that consensus is or has a sort of truth about it. If enough people agree on a topic then that position must have some truth to it. This is a natural outgrowth of both Enlightenment philosophy and of Democracy. After all, Democracy largely is 'reality by consensus'. Because of this unconscious assumption we end up with such stock phrases as,
  "Well, that may be true for you but it isn't true for me."
  "If we frame the argument properly we will win people over."
  The first bluntly states that truth is purely subjective. The second subtly informs us that the speaker values agreement over accuracy; they see being agreed with as on par with, even superior to, being right.
  But this isn't how either reality or Conservatism work. If 10,000 people think a falsehood true, it is still false. Repeating a fallacious argument many different ways until it convinces some that it is true does not make the argument true - it just means you have hoodwinked a few people. There is even a word for repeating lies persuasively until they are believed; propaganda. Such tactics deserve no other response than contempt.
  Yet Progressives have not only continued to use them, many self-described Conservatives not only fall for it, they participate! When abortion supporters say things like,
  "A fetus isn't human."
  "A fetus isn't alive."
  "A fetus is a parasite."
  The general response isn't incredulous laughter, or mockery of the speaker's ignorance of basic biology, the general response is to act as if the speaker has uttered a reasonable position that deserves, even requires, a response! What has happened is that the Conservative has accepted the one of the core concepts of Progressives; that all ideas - even false ones - are equally valid if enough people repeat them; as valid. In other words, they start the argument by implicitly rejecting the core tenet of Conservatism; that truth is objective.
  The belief that engaging Progressives in rational debate to persuade people of the truth isn't supportable, either. Remember, Progressives believe that what they believe is valid because they believe it. Changing the mind of such a person is quite difficult and virtually impossible by appealing to logic and reality. Experience has shown that the undecided typically side with the very emotionally-charged Progressives over the unsure Conservatives. And why shouldn't they? The Conservatives start be accepting the Progressives' core tenets as the first step.
  Another example can be found here. In this article a Conservative man struggles to explain why Conservatives appear to be losing the "Gay Marriage Debate". Mr. Jalsevac comes across as a good, dedicated man who wishes to do good and help Conservatives. Mr. Jalsevac also has a very good point - the key is to be consistent in your beliefs. But he doesn't go far enough because there is no "debate" about 'gay marriage' any more than there is a debate about white really being black or up including down. Simply engaging with Progressives on the topic yields ground to falsehood by allowing them to pretend that their outrageous position may have some merit.
  So how does one 'win' a culture war? Let's look at history. The Roman Empire was a juggernaut; its military was unbeatable and its culture (language, art, economy, religion, etc.) overwhelmed its neighbors, sometimes before its military. Being Roman was almost a 'default position'. Then Christianity came along.
  Christianity rejected many core concepts of Roman culture, such as the traditional religion, ethics, attitudes toward marriage, legal concepts, and more. The Romans, seeing that Christianity opposed and would undermine the very idea of what 'being Roman' meant, outlawed Christianity. But in the end old Roman culture collapsed and was replaced with Christianity. How did Christianity triumph?
  It wasn't by lobbying, or stacking courts with sympathetic judges. Nor revolution, violent protests, or sit-in. They didn't picket, bribe senators, create PACs, hire criers to shout their positions in the forum, or create other 'alternate media venues'.
  What did they do? They lived their own culture consistently and refused to engage in the corrupt Roman culture except when (often quite literally) forced to. And the level of force required was often lethal. Sts. Peter and Paul didn't start their sermons with 'while granting that others may differ', they explained the truth and why the truth must be adhered to.
  Christianity prevailed for the simple reason it is better than paganism. Roman culture was already tearing itself to pieces, which is why it feared Christianity. That is also why early Christians refused to participate with it or engage with it.
  Consensus as a replacement for truth; manipulation of media; use of biased courts; enacting biased legislation by purchasing votes via donations; these are tactics of Progressivism rooted in the core concepts of Progressivism. To engage in them is to give credence to the false ideals that underlie Progressive thought. Conservatives who do this with the expectation that there will be a net gain for Conservative ideals are as misguided as Libertarians that claim to be 'real' Conservatives.
  Progressivism is also tearing itself to pieces, right before our eyes. From internal conflicts to the brute fact that Progressive just don't have very many children, it is doomed to failure and collapse by its very nature. Conservatives who attempt to engage with this culture, especially on its terms, are also doomed to failure.
  Conservatives will 'win' by simply being Conservative and not being Progressive; by living within their own Conservative paradigm and culture they will survive while Progressives self-destruct. Progressives pass a law on 'gay marriage'? Treat it with the contempt it deserves and ignore it. Progressives pass a law demanding that Catholics must pay for sterilization? Ignore it and refuse to pay until the prisons overflow with Catholics. Abortionists claim that unborn children aren't human? Mock their ignorance and raise your children to love life.
  In the end Conservatism and Progressivism are, really,  Reality and the Tinkerbell Effect. The Tinkerbell Effect refers to things that don't really exist, people just pretend that they do. Reality, however, it that which doesn't go away when you stop believing in it.
  Conservatives have to stop believing in Progressivism.
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