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I’m a conservative and I’m prejudiced, I admit it. This isn’t something I’m going to take to the confessional though, since judging certain things to be worse than others or downright bad in themselves isn’t just natural to humans — it’s necessary for human flourishing.
I prejudge the killing of innocent babies in their mothers’ wombs to be bad. It would be an evil whether the mother wants the child or not. Similarly, I judge the chemical or surgical mutilation of children (or anyone at any age, really) to be wicked. It, too, would be an evil whether the person is in mental and emotional confusion about his biological sex or not. [Remember when we used to be repulsed by the castration of men?]
But, mostly, and vehemently, I’m prejudiced against liberal pieties, progressive ideology, political correctness, “wokeism,” or whatever the latest corruption of language is used to describe the Left. And the Left is just as prejudiced against my beliefs (or more), although adherents cast it as my being a “____ist” or “____phobe” rather than admit their bigotry, since not being a bigot is one of those liberal pieties they’re so proud of. Pride being the deadliest of deadly sins.
Roger Kimball writes about writing about Russell Kirk in the new preface to his book, The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia for his American Greatness article, A Just Prejudice. Now, I’m not particularly well-read in these matters and am unlikely at this point in my life to “catch up.” I have at least 100 books I’ve started and likely will never finish. Which is why I so appreciate articles like Kimball’s familiarizing me with Kirk and others, and I find myself saying out loud — “Yes!” — when I read things like this:
John Stuart Mill had once referred to conservatives as “the stupid party.” Kirk’s book helped restore conservatism’s patent of intellectual respectability. A brief introduction outlines the six touchstones of Kirk’s conservative vision: “belief in a transcendent order”; “affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence”; a commitment to ordered liberty; a recognition that “freedom and property are closely linked”; faith in prescription against the putative expertise of the “sophisters, calculators, and economists” that Burke memorably anathematized in Reflections on the Revolution in France; and the understanding that change is not synonymous with betterment (Kirk would have liked Lord Falkland’s observation that “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change”).
It was from Kirk, I believe, that I first absorbed Burke’s idea that prejudice is not, as we have been taught ad nauseam, synonymous with bigotry but, on the contrary, that “a just prejudice”—a “prejudging” based on convention, custom, and tradition—is a good thing because it renders a man’s “virtue his habit,” a nugget of wisdom whose lineage goes back to Aristotle’s teachings about prudence and habit in the Nicomachean Ethics.
The philosopher Roger Scruton once observed that Kirk showed that conservatism is fundamentally not an economic but a cultural outlook, and that conservatism “would have no future if reduced merely to the philosophy of profit. Put bluntly,” Scruton said, “conservatism is not about profit but about loss: it survives and flourishes because people are in the habit of mourning their losses, and resolving to safeguard against them.” I think that is correct. It is an observation whose relevance can be discovered throughout the pages that follow.
Coincidentally (or not — God speaks; do we listen?), the Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Mass was Jesus’ three parables of losing and finding according to Luke: the one in a hundred sheep, the one in ten coins, and the most famous of which is the Prodigal Son. The meditation accompanying the Gospel in the Magnificat devotional magazine is from Saint Peter Chrysologus (+450) who says, “Finding something we have lost gives us a fresh joy, and we are happier at having found the lost object than we should have been had we never lost it.”
That strikes me as profoundly true, whether the finding is a sheep, a coin, or a lost son. And it gives me great hope for the America that has lost its way so far down the road of “progress.”Published in