Traditionalist social philosophy – a sketch of an idea (Part Five)
By Mark Wegierski
(The earliest drafts of this essay go back to the early 1980s. – Author's note)
In terms of "practical" results (as well as professed first-principles) liberalism seems very far from the horrors of Nazism or Bolshevism. The first principles of liberalism, in liberals' self-understanding, consist of nothing but "compassion" -- goodness, sweetness, and light. But, is liberalism so much better in "practical" terms? As society loses its grasp of first principles, and the barriers of law and custom are dismantled, there will be more and more of the various horrors which are taken as commonplace in late-modern society. It is time to think seriously about what present-day Left-liberalism, pushed to what is probably its logical and necessary conclusion might mean -- the complete atomization of society; the destruction of family, morality, and religion; the deriding of patriotism, virtue, and authentic cultural achievement. Indeed -- in so far as it could exist -- a wholly liberal "society" would probably dissolve in a matter of years -- to be replaced by a dictatorship, the alternative which the "politically-correct" would undoubtedly offer. Or perhaps there would be an evolution to a liberal/left-liberal consensus (which is practically in existence today), where there would be freedom for dissent "in a leftward direction", but traditionalist conservative ideas and notions would either be completely ignored, or cruelly ridiculed, by the mass-media, and the institutionalized leftism of the government bureaucracy, the academic world, the mass-education system, and the wholly co-opted business world. Even supposedly "moderate" liberalism could become distinctly "totalitarian" when dealing with sharp traditionalist or conservative dissent, which would be seen as such a brazen challenge to its philosophical basis.
From the traditionalist standpoint, the spectrum of practical political discourse in Western societies is extremely narrow -- consisting mostly of varieties of liberalism and left-liberalism. At the same time, various types of radical left ideas are often seen as legitimate "alternatives", but conservatism is not. Liberalism, with its horror of traditionalist absolutes, or even of too clearly defined ideas, admires the supposed "idealism" and the "principled stand" of the current-day "politically-correct". Liberalism does not seem to have the philosophical depth and moral strength to resist the totalitarian temptation which is always at hand -- interestingly enough, liberal and Leninist societies are in many aspects far more similar to each other than to any premodern society.
At the same time as the spectrum of political (and philosophical) discourse is narrowed, it is also pushed leftward, thus doubly weakening traditionalism. As technological and social change overwhelms a given society, only a residuum of true traditionalist or conservative ideas and notions remains. Positions and attitudes which were once diametrically opposed become virtually indistinguishable from each other in terms of the generally liberal mass-society. The massive historical struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, or between Christianity and Islam, is subsumed into the conflict between what could be seen as the spiritual and the material. The struggle between Romanticism and Classicism (and, later, Modernism) is subsumed into the struggle of cultured persons against the deadening mass-culture. The perennial premodern conflict between the aristocracy and the priesthood, and of these two estates against the bourgeoisie, in early modernity, is completely forgotten. Shallow media pundits call libertarianism, "extreme conservatism". It is difficult to conceive of the libertarian cult of egoism, and of its hostility to religion, as symptomatic of traditionalist ideas. Furthermore, any exclusively economic approach to life, whether philistine pursuit of wealth, or doctrinaire Marxism, is not traditionalism. Following your basest passions is not traditionalism. Unabashed greed and selfishness are not traditionalist impulses. Mindless hatred is not traditionalist, but righteous anger is.
In the Christian view, history does not unfold without a higher purpose. From the Christian perspective, it may be suggested that the role of this period in history is to test the Universal Church. The more revolting society becomes, with outright blasphemy and violence and perversions, the greater the chance there is of a total overturn of this so-called "freedom", this anarchy, which characterizes liberal society. The "vital center" may be able to re-assert itself.
A quasi-Hegelian view of history also allows for such dramatic, "dialectical" turns. In a moment of acute crisis, genuine traditionalism could unexpectedly resurface. On the other hand, what may happen is a partial renewal of certain traditionalist ideals without a decisive impact on society.
Whatever happens, authentic critics of the present-day system (regardless of what they choose to call themselves) must continue to speak out.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.