The key question of our time is ‘Who is God?’ Who decides what is right and wrong?
Communists and socialists answered this question on their terms. Surely, Marxists preach, the State is God. It is to be worshipped at all costs, even past the deaths of countless innocent people. Stalin and his comrades benefitted exclusively from this social arrangement, and even then, only with the bloodstains of millions on their sleeves.
Unchecked capitalism answers the question differently, arguing that money is God. Uncritically adopting Darwin’s theory ‘the survival of the fittest’, it suggests that morals and virtues do not lie in the service of the State – that was for communists – but in the service of your own materialistic ambitions. Again, it is devoid of any real social responsibility beyond the maximisation of personal want.
Communism and capitalism adopt different methods, but sometimes achieve similar outcomes. With pitchfork in hand, Lenin’s loyalists demanded that the Russians give up their ‘imperialist’ culture, their private ownership of land, and their family bonds. All this had to be sacrificed in the name of State production, where the proceeds disappeared into the hands of a few. Similarly, capitalism, with chequebook in hand, demands that the West give up its culture and tradition – where it is an intractable obstacle to money-making – and turn to renting ad infinitum, and spending energy, resources and creativity on production. ‘Work like slaves for scraps and do not rebel’: a slogan haunting the walls of the Kremlin in the 1950s and the modern boardrooms of Wall Street alike.
Lurking in the shadows of these two wounded beasts, the liberals turned up on the scene and gave their response. You are God, and much like the story of Eden, you can decide what is right and wrong. You can choose ‘your truth’, your purpose in life, your identity, even your sex, let no one tell you what’s what! For example, time and again the woke will insist that everything is a social construct except conveniently, same sex attraction, which is biological fact. This attitude is riddled with contradictions rarely exposed in a cowed social and political arena. By mainstreaming the supremacy of the individual, we pitch gods against gods, completely annihilating any form of common interest.
Naturally the shortcomings of this steadfast belief in liberal values are embarrassingly evident: after all many, particularly “trans rights” activists and “anti-Islamophobes” are all too quick to pick up the phone and call the police, when they disapprove of competing answers to what is right and wrong. In the postmodern dystopia, it seems, some are more God than others.
This question of authority is the defining question of our age. Moving far beyond the squabbles over Brexit, Trump, and climate change is the question of who decides. Who decides what our lives are worth living for, and who decides what is right and wrong? It does not take a genius to realise that just as communism and rampant capitalism have been found wanting, the writing is on the wall for liberalism.
Do not be convinced by the ignorant assumption that liberalism is a harmless and bloodless philosophy. Through the scourge of abortion, reliable estimates suggest as many babies die around the world each year as the entire death toll of the Second World War. Combined with the lives damaged through a culture of divorce and social disunity, and an obsession with open borders accurately mirroring that of its non-existent values, I cannot see much left to commend in the horror show of self-autonomy. As familiar as we are with the evils of communism and nazism, let us not be oblivious to its even uglier sibling.
Any philosophy that teaches the meaning of our lives is to be found in ourselves alone is a philosophy with an imminent expiry date. In the coming years the driving force for conservative thinkers, politicians and public servants alike must be to answer firstly the question of authority and purpose, and secondly to bring back our lost heritage of community and relationality.
This is the rediscovery that we are a link in a chain. We are neither beginning nor end, master nor slave. We are defined in relation to others. We are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends, and citizens. Others have given us life, and others depend on us. Inasmuch as we can redirect society to this realisation, we will succeed in conserving all the good we have inherited.
Conservatism begins with the understanding that what we have received, we did not create. It is a gift to be used properly and passed on for the benefit of our descendants. This imposes an authority and a responsibility on us we did not and could not choose. Yet it is precisely in this authority that timeless beauty lies, and where the gods of chaos and self-worship can be put to rest.