In grad school it often struck me that most of my intellectual partnerships were with self-professed conservative grad students, despite my own left-wing politics. Similarly, some of the most interesting blogs I’ve found have been conservative or right-wing.
It took me a while to figure out the reason for this, but I came to see it quite clearly: for most left-wingers, the good is fundamentally political. The place to focus our efforts, in changing the way that things and people are, is on the inequalities, oppressions and pollutions of the state and the corporations and wealth it regulates. Conservatives, at least social conservatives, often do not think this way. Our big problems are with ourselves. It matters that people become better, more virtuous; even when they do obsess about politics, it is as an attempt to make people better in some sense. An interesting example is Rod Dreher, one of the conservative bloggers I linked to in the earlier post: while his blog was originally called “Crunchy Con” (as in “conservative”), it later just took on his name, and now is called Macroculture – the emphasis has been steadily less on politics and more on culture, and the blog has gotten steadily more interesting (though less popular) as it went. This is an attitude I tend to be largely in agreement with. My deepest debt to Buddhism is that it saved me from politics, made me focus on problems with myself and not with the world.
The question I’ve then come to ask myself is: why haven’t I become conservative myself? Continue reading