In countless online debates – about Ukraine, Israel, “social justice,” you name it – the same theme comes up: I, and other true conservatives, attempt to uphold the interests of common Americans; our rivals look beyond America’s borders, overlooking their own kin.
It’s worth defining what political radicalism is: A radical is he who is loyal to an abstract idea and is ready to sacrifice, re-shape, and re-engineer one’s society to promote that idea. Radicals exist both on the left and the political right. All share the same readiness to conscript society on behalf of their utopia.
Such utopia may be universal justice, the “international rules-based order,” NATO, the EU, “de-colonization,” securing the stability of Eastern Ukraine. For the radical, the ultimate goal is something that transcends ordinary society and exists beyond it.
Hence both progressives and neocons have no interest in America’s southern border, or in the urban blight of Detroit, or the de-industrialization of the American heartland. All of that is too close, too concrete, too mundane. It serves no high purpose, it promotes no abstraction.
A classic Dickensian radical, pursuing social justice abroad, is Mrs. Jellyby. Her neighbors and family suffer, yet she is obsessed with the well-being of the Borrioboolah-Ghah people, on the faraway banks of the Niger river.
The leftist Jellybys are obvious. But the right has them too – Graham, Crenshaw, and McCain types who are always eager to look abroad, where things are much more exciting than the opioid epidemic at home.
Since I’ve never been a radical, only what Curtis Yarvin would call a “hobbit,” I can’t completely understand the eagerness to look beyond one’s Shire with its pleasant and familiar faces. Roger Scruton would call the true conservative mentality Oikophilia and its opposite Oikophobia. A love of home and hate of home.
If I may attempt to theorize, the “hate of home” has a clear sophomoric element to it. That of a teenager refusing to go to church and insisting on getting a tattoo. Most of us grow out of the need to battle with our parents by our mid-twenties at the latest. But radicals never do. Home for such types is an anti-gravitational point, something to push away from, not to pull back into.
To have radicals in a system of representative government is obviously a paradox or a contradiction in terms. Who do they represent? Clearly, not ordinary people. Yet they get elected to represent the public. Think about the grotesque scene of Congress approving about $60B to Ukraine without hesitation, yet doing zilch about our southern border, our opioid epidemic, our criminal justice abuses, and our de-industrialization. Sophomorically, our Congresscritters look away from home.
I am not sure why this is so. It seems to run deep. Like Eric Cartman, I can only wonder, “Where do they all come from? Why can’t they leave this land alone?”
Perhaps the idea of Caesarism, short-circuiting our dysfunctional system of representative government, is not a bad one after all. But it does sound a bit too radical.
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