Conservatives need a vision of the future rooted in the past

by Svein Kjetil Haugset

It is not difficult to see that opponents of conservatism are united under an overarching goal: the social re-engineering of society.  They may all not agree on the details, they might even hold contradictory views, but their effectiveness lies in that they adhere to the same universal, overarching goals.

Do conservatives have equivalent overarching goals? Do we have something that unites us, inspires us, enables us to visualise what our end-goal is? I am not sure we do. It is even hard to define what conservativism is. The most universal description I have heard is that conservativism is a way of thinking and state of mind aimed at preserving the social order and opposition to unnecessary change.

The problem is that preservation as a goal and resistance as a strategy are responsive and defensive. In warfare, defensive actions are necessary, but wars are never won by only defending. To win a war, effective offensive action is also necessary. I cannot possibly imagine that conservativism will be able win the ideological struggle for the future without goals and strategies that allows us to be proactive. 

The first necessity is to unite. We need a clear definition of our universal goals: what it is in social order we must preserve, why is this necessary, and what the result would look like. We need a description that can be used both as a compass to guide our policy direction and as a source of inspirations to spur us on, and it must inspire passion.

When you think of it, it is not that difficult to inspire passion. We are those who represent the unity of mankind, the unity of generations from ages past and present. We are those who represent diversity, we strive to protect our diverse cultures – forged by history – from those who would replace them with a universal, homogenous, progressive culture. It is in this understanding we need to define our universal conservative goals.

We must describe what we are fighting for, not just what we are fighting against. That is the difference between being active and being reactive. If you asked random people what conservativism wants to achieve; they might say we want to return to the past or are xenophobic and afraid of change, as well as other equally uninformed notions. But if they are uninformed, whose fault is that?

Do we blame our opponents for not presenting us, their antagonist, in a fair light? No, we are to blame. We have failed to express ourselves effectively and sometimes I get the feeling that our opponents are right, some conservatives are frightened, see no hope, and find solace in the past.

But we are not fighting to return to a “Golden Age”. It sounds tempting, but it is impossible. Moreover, we should not glorify the past, because that was when the seeds were sown that eventually brought us to today.

The Golden Age needed change, but the conservatives chose to be defensive, fighting to preserve a set order, rather than choosing to build for the future. I wonder how the world would be if generations of conservatives before us have lived by a clear vision of what needed to be saved, as well as how things could be improved upon, rather than a state of mind that resisted change, even when change was quite obviously necessary. Maybe then flaws that the progressives use to attack social order would have been mended?

I believe conservatives strive to create societies whose social order is based on the history that stretches back beyond our current generations. I believe that if our societies could be brought back to this goal, there would be a renaissance that would restore the societies that suffer under the yoke of undue progressivism.

We must start by explaining that we stand in the middle of humanity, past, present and future. That we are really stewards whose duty is to pass on society to future generations, richer than we received it.

Then we must lay out the specific answers and solutions to the challenges of our time and show how they are found in our shared cultures. We must show that we represent new solutions, rooted in the lessons of the past.

This does not mean copying specific solutions from the past. After all, the problems of the past were what brought us to where we are today. We must also remember that the progressives have succeeded in immediate and synthetic change. To reintroduce solutions from the past would be just as bad. As conservatives, we know that organic development is far better than abrupt change.

We must paint a picture of what a conservative future means. Such picture would unite us, inspire us, and enable us to effectively address the needs of today. This future will empower us to persuade those who do not yet have a conservative state of mind.

It would not be the past, as although it would contain the values and experience from the past, and effectively be the past, it would be adapted to the present and ready to change to embrace the future.

This is my challenge to the global conservative community: let us work to define our overarching goals, use them as a standard to rally under, and use them to paint a picture of the future we are striving towards.

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