Monday, 21 December 2009

Plus ça Change...

Andrew Sullivan, reflecting on conservativism in the 1990s:

A society able to devote itself to the core question of perjury in a civil suit and to enjoy Seinfeld and the Simpsons: isn't that kind of era what conservatives really want?

Not all of them, I found out. For those conservatives deeply troubled by modernity and its pleasures, for those who see war and conflict as key motivators for civic virtue, a society pretty happy with itself, and a government actually running a surplus with no wars, is a problem. It saps "national greatness"...

There are conservatives who are always girded for war or suspect all peace as some kind of hidden war; and those who are happy at peace, grateful for its blessings and hopeful that it will last.

This split in the character of conservativism sounds strangely familiar...

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures...
But I,--that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;--
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore,--since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,--
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

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