They crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched.Luke, Chapter 23
I recently had a pint of beer with a friend who told me that he wasn’t sure if the culture was changing or if he was becoming more conservative. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed a number of times over the past several years, and the character and weight of the sentiment often exceeds the words being traded over beer.
The sentiment is obviously not expressed by a conservative, who already feels at home in their conservative outlook. The sentiment is similarly not expressed by a leftist, who would sooner die than adjoin themselves with conservative thought. The sentiment is most often expressed by naturally introspective people who have faithfully modelled the external features of the society in which they live, yet are nevertheless experiencing an existential homelessness in that society.
The statement itself implies two things which are often inaccurate. The first is naming the sense of homelessness as political in nature, and second — and by extension — that the transformation being experienced reflects a responsiveness to the changing external features of our society. The sense of homelessness actually reflects a responsiveness to the underlying internal features of our existence.
Neither science nor politics have proven particularly responsive to the underlying esoteric reality of human existence, which is that many people simply have no idea what they’re doing. People learn forms and perform them (per the form) like machines going through the motions, hollowed out of their own humanity, with little regard to the substance the form is meant to address. This is the underlying truth of the situation that will ultimately require responsiveness, and for this reality there is no obvious political solution, since no substantive political solution is immune from being misdirected toward some automated form. People who are merely going through the motions aren’t substantively experiencing the world they may wish to bring to heel politically, and are therefore not really capable of being responsive to it in a fully human way, no matter what they may signal on social media or claim in parliament.
They may signal endlessly that they oppose misogyny or support trans people; that they support the Ukraine or that they recently received their fourth COVID-19 vaccine booster. They may signal that they oppose racism or stand against hate. They may cheer when the local hockey team puts on rainbow-coloured equipment or offer a standing ovation when the announcer talks about the efforts of the local women’s shelter. The simple reality, however, is that many of these people aren’t experiencing any of it in a fully human way, they are simply going through the motions in the same robotic and unconscious manner that made human rights advocacy necessary in the first place.
It must be stated that this adherence to form is neither compassionate nor is it malicious; it is simply absent. This is the irony of our time: that the human rights movements spearheaded by conscious and courageous people have been coopted by those who are existentially elsewhere and are being actualized in a way that blatantly marginalizes others and makes authentic human rights advocacy and the spark of responsive sentience it comes from necessary once again.
This is the reason that no amount of converts to feminism will assure of us gender equality and that no amount of critical race theory in schools will render harmonious race relations. Many of the people involved are simply unconscious and this will naturally be reflected in the quality and trajectory of the respective social movements. This is why anti racist or egalitarian advocacy so easily becomes racist or blatantly hateful: it is because the people involved aren’t fully experiencing what they’re doing, they’re often either guided by resentment or just robotically “standing up for justice” in a socially prescribed form, devoid of self reflection. So, while it is true that the world is filled with injustice, no amount of bias training rituals will ever generate the necessary emotional responsiveness to address it in a way that isn’t blind.
The political transformation beginning to sprout among the existentially homeless does not reject the stated goals of human rights advocacy, it has simply noticed that many of the people involved in such efforts may not have the bare minimum existential competence to experience what they’re doing in a way that is conducive to improving the state of human affairs. It does not oppose the notion that misogyny is negative, but criticizes foolish people acting unconsciously and robotically to support a self image of “protecting women.” It does not oppose the notion that some people may be genuinely transgender and that the society can accommodate such people, it realizes that many people — particularly children — are confused and that making such far reaching modifications to one’s body should not be undertaken lightly. It does not oppose environmental efforts, it simply realizes that many people don’t know what they’re doing and it may criticize financing an expensive circus performance.
It is true that those who are coming to realize the underlying nature of the situation are aligning themselves with the conservative side of political discourse more often than not, but this is more as a function of the bulk of human unconsciousness currently dominating the culture from the political left than it is of innate conservative proclivity.