In my capacity as Western Civilization’s principal moral compass and intellectual lighthouse, I thought I might explain politics once and forever. There are altogether too many television shows about politics, too many books by people who would better pass their time in drinking. Newspapers have gotten above themselves. They are full of columnists. A final explanation of all things political will allow the papers to concern themselves entirely with coverage of ghastly murders, divorcing celebrities, and the incursions of space aliens into Puerto Rico.
In America, politics breaks mostly into two groups, both of whom probably do not have enough to do: liberals and conservatives. I will explain each.
The liberal believes that the group has a right to control every aspect of everyone’s life. He may permit many freedoms, but only those of which liberals approve. Abstract or general freedom holds no appeal for him. The limbic instinct of the inveterate liberal is to harry, regulate, and stifle the individual, of whose penchant for independent action he is profoundly distrustful.
Of course he does not think that he is stifling and imposing, but improving and instructing. For the unwilling he has no patience. The liberal is a creature of the homiletic herd, like a gnu wielding tracts, and believes in the u201Cthe masses,u201D in their infinite plasticity and potential for uplift and betterment, guided by him. Particularly he wants to uplift those who do not want to be uplifted, as their independence might be infectious. He sees himself in the capacity of the patient mother of a society of wayward two-year-olds who must be diapered, formed, and taught.
Thus his love of government in all its meddlesome intrusiveness, pedestrian witlessness, and unrestrained drive for dominion. He — or rather more often, she — knows that without coercion, some people will not do as they ought: that they will besot themselves, behave wrongheadedly, teach their children heaven knows what, and march off in all different directions. They must be restrained. And since the restrained usually find ways of evading the constricting tentacles, ever more and more-detailed laws must be enacted to thwart each new escape. Thus the government will eventually come to dictate the altitude, material, color, shape, texture, and compressive strength of toilet seats.
Liberalism is a feminine creed, embodying the kindness, short horizons, modest familiarity with reason, and placidity of the sex. It wants to buy people nice things without reflecting on how to pay for them. It believes in goodness but doesn’t often get much further, being benevolent while falling short of beneficence. As good mothers will, it tries to protect everyone from everything.
This is why the Democratic Party unrelentingly promotes security. Children must wear helmets while riding bicycles, swimming pools must not have deep ends, canoeists must wear life preservers, we must outlaw guns, and smoking, and drinking while driving, and we should all wear sunscreen so as to avoid melanoma. We must worry about safety until there is nothing left in life but its preservation.
With the seldom-recognized totalitarianism of the female, liberals seek to impose happiness, whether desired or not, by therapy and mood-altering drugs, whether desired or not. People must be happy, must be safe, must be forcibly socialized to a life of orderly boring routine whether they want it or not. The herd will provide for all; the price is that all must yield to the herd. Thus the liberal aversion to any form of self-defense, whether conducted with a gun or a baseball bat. Self-defense is distressingly individual.
Conservatives by contrast believe that the individual has a God-given right to rob others. As the liberal has good intentions without rationality, the conservative has rationality without good intentions. He worships at the shrine of personal freedom, by which he means only his prerogative of making money regardless of damage done to others. He dislikes government as he dislikes anything that might inconvenience the pursuit of private rapine. He believes in the sanctity of private property, unless someone buys the lot next to his and builds a hog-rendering plant, when he will see the merits of zoning.
Conservatism is a masculine faith, hard-eyed, coldly logical, frequently bloodthirsty, and typically out of touch with any reality beyond the commercial. The conservative has no concern for the less fortunate, who he believes probably deserve it anyway. There is in conservatism a strong streak of social Darwinism.
Conservatives are fond of war, partly to be sure because of the consequent flow of contracts but also because war is an age-old, genetically mediated hobby of males. A robust conservatism embodies all the brainless pugnacity of the male. Note that history is chiefly the record of armed bands of men poking each other with sharp objects, after which the survivors drink mead and tell themselves how glorious it was. The Iliad, Beowulf, the Song of Rolland, and the Old Testament for example all read like the annals of teenage gangs in Chicago.
In the conservative mind, martial derring-do is wrapped like a birthday present in notions of glory, valor, sacrifice, virility, and transcendence. Women and most Democrats seem to see it in terms of deeply rooted and intransigent idiocy.
Conservatives conspicuously lack esthetic sensibility, a love of beauty being a concern of women and homosexuals. Show the conservative an Arcadian idyll of rolling fields and ancient oaks and he will see a site for several garish hotels, a parking lot, and a Wal-Mart. Like a congenitally deaf man watching the inexplicable sawings of a symphony orchestra, he is puzzled by conservationists. A dolphin, an elephant, a panda he calculates in terms of cans of dog food at thirty-seven cents per, and, for an additional three cents a can to cover legal contingencies, he would pack his grandmother. He sincerely has no faint idea why anyone might object.
He is likely to be a Christian, though not to the extent of letting his faith moderate his misbehavior. For him faith is a justification, not a limitation. While conservatives generally do not engage in herd behavior (note that they seldom hold demonstrations, while liberals seldom stop) they do believe in military aggression. Christianity provides moral cover as he does things that might otherwise raise nagging doubts, such as dropping large bombs on other people’s cities. I was only following orders, from on high.
The solution to the conflict between the two groups should be obvious to all thinking people, if any: Drop them down an abandoned oil well, pump large amounts of potassium cyanide after them, and stuff Oprah into the hole as a plug. A cap of cement couldn’t hurt. The silence alone would justify this wise deed.
All correspondence regarding the foregoing luminous insights should be sent to General Delivery, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well.