There are no conservatives.

There are no conservatives.

Someone can choose to be a regressive, rather than a progressive. A reactionary, rather than a radical. A right-winger, rather than a left-winger. But it is impossible to be a conservative in the world today.

We live in a liberal era. It is what frames our entire sense of reality, at least since the Enlightenment, although the basic framework has its roots in the Axial Age. There are many varieties of liberalism, and at this point all of us are liberals of some kind.

One of the most radical liberal ideas ever implemented is capitalism. So-called conservatives have embraced it, even though there is nothing conservative about it. That is because they aren’t conservatives, no matter what they claim.

We live in a world where there is nothing left to conserve. We’ve had continuous ‘progress’ and creative destruction for a very long time. Nothing has remained untouched and unmoved. Even fundamentalist religion is a modern invention. Tradition is an empty word, a talisman we shake to fend off the monster lurching out from the future’s shadow.

We can embrace this brave new world or fight it. Either way, conservatism isn’t an option. Change is inevitable, like it or not. Fantasies about the past are simply a form of entertainment, as the world collapses around us… and becomes something else.

* * *

If one reads carefully what I wrote and thinks carefully about what it means, it becomes obvious that this isn’t a paean to liberalism. It is simply noting the world we live in. Liberalism must accept the blame as much as the praise for where we find ourselves.

The past is gone. It won’t be saved or revived. I don’t think that is necessarily a good thing. Part of my motivation for writing this is that I wish I lived in a world where conservatism was possible, where there was something capable and worthy of being conserved. But the changes we are making to society and environment are permanent.

There is no turning back. We are past the point of no return.

* * *

“If Homo sapiens survives the next millennium, it will be survival in a world unrecognizably different from the one we have known for the last 200,000 years.

“In order for us to adapt to this strange new world, we’re going to need more than scientific reports and military policy. We’re going to need new ideas. We’re going to need new myths and new stories, a new conceptual understanding of reality, and a new relationship to the deep polyglot traditions of human culture that carbon-based capitalism has vitiated through commodification and assimilation. Over and against capitalism, we will need a new way of thinking our collective existence. We need a new vision of who “we” are. We need a new humanism— a newly philosophical humanism, undergirded by renewed attention to the humanities.

“Admittedly, ocean acidification, social upheaval, and species extinction are problems that humanities scholars, with their taste for fine-grained philological analysis, esoteric debates, and archival marginalia, might seem remarkably ill-suited to address. After all, how will thinking about Kant or Frantz Fanon help us trap carbon dioxide? Can arguments between object-oriented ontology and historical materialism protect honeybees from colony collapse disorder? Are ancient Greek philosophers, medieval poets, and contemporary metaphysicians going to save Bangladesh from being inundated by the Indian Ocean?

“Perhaps not. But the conceptual and existential problems that the Anthropocene poses are precisely those that have always been at the heart of humanistic inquiry: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to live? What is truth? What is good? In the world of the Anthropocene, the question of individual mortality— What does my life mean in the face of death?— is universalized and framed in scales that boggle the imagination. 21 As environmental philosopher Dale Jamieson puts it, “The Anthropocene presents novel challenges for living a meaningful life.” 22 Historian and theorist Dipesh Chakrabarty has claimed that global warming “calls us to visions of the human that neither rights talk nor the critique of the subject ever contemplated.” 23 Whether we are talking about ethics or politics, ontology or epistemology, confronting the end of the world as we know it dramatically challenges our learned perspectives and ingrained priorities. What does consumer choice mean compared against 100,000 years of ecological catastrophe? What does one life mean in the face of mass death or the collapse of global civilization? How do we make meaningful decisions in the shadow of our inevitable end?

“These questions have no logical or empirical answers. They cannot be graphed or quantified. They are philosophical problems par excellence. If, as Montaigne asserted, “To philosophize is to learn how to die,” then we have entered humanity’s most philosophical age, for this is precisely the problem of the Anthropocene. 24 The rub now is that we have to learn to die not as individuals, but as a civilization.”

Learning to Die in the Anthropocene
By Roy Scranton
Kindle Locations 141-166


8 thoughts on “There are no conservatives.

      • ah, OK. I finally found your blog and the “follow” button, I thought that might have helped, because it was still giving me grief. No message about your blogs rules, just about my comment: “Sorry, this comment could not be posted” or something. But it’s good now, I think.

        • I don’t think it should give you that message. It obviously was being posted, even though it was waiting to be moderated.

          I never get that message when I post on other people’s moderated wordpress blogs. It will usually show the comment as posted, along with a message stating it is waiting for moderation.

          I do know a couple other people have said they’ve had problems commenting here on my blog. They weren’t sure their comments were getting posted. But their comments were also waiting to be moderated. It seems similar to your problem.

          I’m usually fairly quick about moderating comments. Except when a genuine comment accidentally ends up in the spam folder. But that doesn’t happen too often. I do need to check my spam folder again, as I’m always forgetting about it.

          • me too, in fact that’s where all your comments were going. I think I’ve finally convinced it you’re OK. Yeah, the other thing was weird, but it seems to be over. . . . so did you see a comment somewhere, the slavery one, I think, where I’m concerned that influence means editability, right, that why are we looking for permanent changes, permanent influence on malleable things? Also, not sure I sent you one of mine you might like, this thing –

          • “so did you see a comment somewhere, the slavery one, I think, where I’m concerned that influence means editability, right, that why are we looking for permanent changes, permanent influence on malleable things?”

            I think I know what comment you’re talking about. But I’ve been responding to various comments in different places. It’s hard to keep track of different conversations.

            I still need to read more about your views. I’ll need to look through your blog and check out some of your old posts. I’d appreciate any further recommendations.

            “Also, not sure I sent you one of mine you might like, this thing”

            Just finished it. A nice piece. Once you start paying attention to language, you have endless reasons to be irritated. We are always being manipulated and most people never notice.

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