What is Conservative vision?
I’ve been (slowly) reading through the new IM-1776 publication. If you haven’t seen it, take a look. I’ll post a longer review later, once I’ve (finally) gotten through the entire thing. For now, though, I’ve got a little brain worm wriggling around, inspired by Lola Salem’s “The Right Patronage”.
Of course, I read this and thought ‘okay. I’ll write something, a short story, a microfiction, a something that expresses this conservative/right/dissident narrative for the future.’
And I came up completely blank, because what is this vision? What is this narrative to evoke? Which is a frightening question to be unable to answer.
There’s this online scene, you may have stumbled across them, of ultra conservative traditionalists. They have very lovely instagrams, usually, full of print dresses and fields of flowers and baskets of produce. A million kids.
When I think conservative vision this is the image my mind evokes. Depending on where you sit, politically, you’ll react to it with horror (barefoot and pregnant) or by scrolling through Insta, looking at what seems to be a quieter life, a more peaceful life, a slower one.
The trouble is, this is not a vision that is either wanted or achievable by most people. When pressed for answers, the conservative side tends to fall back on defending the latter obstacle—achievability—by explaining how to reduce material needs, have children share bedrooms, grow more of their own food, stop shopping, etc. It is possible, they declare, to be a single-income family by leaving the city, and saving on daycare costs, or growing more potatoes in the backyard.
Well, perhaps. But as someone who was a stay at home mother for two years, the problem is that many people simply don’t want any of that.
Most people, generally, like their lives. Yes, everyone has discontents. Everyone thinks their taxes are too high, gas is too expensive, the lines at the hospital are too long. Everyone wants more free time and less credit card bills at the end of the month. But most people—despite Instagram—are not reacting to these pressures by radically simplifying. They are not downsizing to a two-bedroom home or selling the extra car.
Conversely, the liberal side has no issues expounding on their vision. This is, I think, why they’re been so preternaturally successful over the past years. Most people, if you polled them on the street, want things to be ‘fairer’. Most people, again, man-on-the-street type people, want those in poverty to have help, want children to be fed if their parents cannot, and want people to feel safe.
If you position yourselves against these arguments, by arguing that, say, welfare creates dependency, or people should be encouraged not to have children they objectively cannot care for, or that there is no right to feel safe from violent words, then you’re (in essence) simply bolstering the opponent. These facts may be true (I believe they are, anyway). But I, too, want children to be fed! They’re here now: what sort of monster doesn’t feed hungry children?
So what is the vision? Where is the conservative policy for feeding the hungry?
Just compare these.
The Conservative platform has five vague non-issues (does the man-on-the-street care about the division between federal/provincial responsibilities?)
The Liberal platform has more then ten super feel good items that affect just about anyone and everyone in the country. Who doesn’t want more houses? Healthy environments? Fighting racism? Now, these may be vague uncosted and probably unachievable (certainly unmeasurable) platitudes. But they are issues that will improve lives, in the vague sense that if we fight racism, things will be better. Who doesn’t want to fight racism, right?
A thought experiment. What if the conservative party, wherever you live, the USA, Canada, the UK, wherever: what if they won a majority, a supermajority? What if they couldn’t be toppled from the pedestal of power for twenty years? Fifty? What would your society look like? If there is no target to aim at, the arrow cannot hit it. I’m certain that some aspects of life would be better and some worse, just as we have now, and as we had fifty years ago. But which, specifically? Would we all have a dozen children, lined up like a staircase? Would we all be single income households? Would people be happier?