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In Defence of Conservatism

defence conservatism

Guest contributor Alexei Kettell in defence of conservatism.

Walter Bagehot famously described the role of the English monarchy as ceremonial yet integral to the sustenance of the English constitution. While his ideas may be dated in some regards, considering he was writing in the early 19th century, their relevance in today’s world should not be overlooked.

 In the modern-day, unlike the times of Bagehot where the monarchy was subject to nationwide veneration, there has been an increasingly hostile attitude to the monarchy. The most recent criticism emerged after the death of Prince Philip. There were multiple complaints about the BBC broadcasting a special service in honour of the Prince which interfered with regular television timings. Throughout social media platforms such as Instagram, thousands of memes were produced mocking the Prince posthumously.

This public outcry was dwarfed, however, by the scandal involving Meghan Markle and the Royal family. The racially infused argument between the former actress and the monarchy was followed by the majority of public opinion supporting Meghan and defaming the royal family. Any form of dissent, such as Piers Morgan’s comments against Meghan’s integrity, was met with fierce backlash in the form of overtly aggressive death threats. 

Public opinion regarding the Monarchy is becoming increasingly hostile and less tolerant of debate. This is a dangerous trend. However, it is not reserved for discussions about the monarchy; it permeates throughout society. 

The new digital epoch that society has entered has brought fantastic innovations in the form of technology and science, yet in my mind, modern-day society has undergone severe intellectual degradation. This degradation has become normalised and encouraged, with any form of dissent being met with an iron fist. I see this new wave of political thought as an expression of Liberalist autocracy. This phrase refers to the contemporary idea of societal governance through a liberal agenda that cannot be challenged or disputed. My thoughts can be criticised, as the label “Liberalist autocracy” might be hypocritical, yet that is the adjective that perfectly describes the political age we have entered. Liberalism is no longer associated with self-determination, emancipation, or liberty; it has moulded into an ideology that promotes the opposite. Society is engaged in a perpetual war that is fought for legitimising either conservative or liberally autocratic ideals; with the conservatives on the retreat.

The sparring between liberals and conservatives had entered a new stage focused upon Britain’s colonial past. The liberal autocratic movement proposed the effective suppression of Britain’s past as a remedy to contemporary issues regarding race. The strategy consisted of the removal of statues and calls to “decolonise” the educational curriculum. Initially, the destruction of statues and its supposed link to the mitigation of current racial issues is incredibly flawed. The removal of living history from the streets in the UK, such as depictions of Edward Colston or Thomas Guy, does not improve the lives of minorities in the UK; it makes them worse. In the long run, the disappearance of statues from our streets will prevent the average onlooker from questioning why those statues were there in the first place. Hence, the strategic goal of the liberal side, in this aspect, is to eradicate discussion or debate through the elimination of living source material from Britain’s colonial past. The assumption made is that people who were engaged in the transatlantic slave trade should be implicated by laws and customs that underpin our modern society. This anachronism dominates modern-day debate and fails to recognise the different social norms of the 18th century. Instead of convicting men that have been dead for over 200 years, society should make an effort to understand why statues of those men were built in the first place. The statues should act as a living reminder that the course of history is forever progressing but should not be forgotten. Nevertheless, the Conservative party in the UK has failed to make a staunch defence of their position regarding the issue, with Boris Johnson simply defending and preventing the removal of certain statues, such as that of Winston Churchill. A rigorous intellectual campaign should be waged to combat this misinformation that is spread by liberal autocrats.

The Guardian is at pains to remind us that this process of “decolonising” the agenda is slow, with only a fifth of UK universities implementing it. However, Rome was not built in a day, and this new wave of decolonisation only began to return to the wider public consciousness in 2015 with the demand to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford. Hence, in the foreseeable future, it is likely that this wave of political thought will be all-encompassing and will penetrate every university within the UK. Fope Olaleye, the black students’ officer at the National Union of Students, said that decolonisation of the agenda would “empower universities to confront and reject the status quo and ensure knowledge production reflects our diverse society”. There is a huge issue with her proposal. The claim that “knowledge production” should reflect our diverse society is systematically wrong.

History is an academic subject that involves the study and debate of our past. “Knowledge production” is achieved through academic debate that is underpinned by Friedrich Hegel’s idea of a thesis, antithesis, and subsequent synthesis. It is a rigorous process that requires comprehensive source analysis and facts to be validated. However, it is not something that should reflect a “diverse society”. A diverse society and a society’s history are two separate issues that should not be mistaken for the same. Liberals propose a conflation of these issues, which will result in the production of distorted history. A history that does not reflect the past, but the present. This risks the discipline declining into obscurity, as colonial historians will no longer use the past to inform the present; the present will be used to inform the past. The implications of this will be felt for decades to come, with future generations being unable to question or dispute the past. Removing the aspect of critical analysis from history will, by default, culminate in the robotisation of society, as individuals will be programmed to think a certain way with no room for debate.

I understand that perhaps my comments are exaggerated and may come across as extreme. However, I am simply promoting the conservative mindset that has been so neglected in our modern-day. The Conservative party in the UK has thus far failed to counter these claims by the liberal class. This signals the current victory of the liberal autocrats. This victory can be understood through fear from the government. Boris Johnson and his current cabinet are petrified into submission. They are unable to mount an effective defence, as “liberalism” penetrates our society. This autocracy can perpetuate its flawed ideas about history or deconsolidation precisely because it has monopolised public opinion. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are consumed with liberal autocrats that wish to impose “cancel culture” on people who disagree. The government is only able to respond with televised statements or reports that validate their opinion, which provides more ammunition for these liberal autocrats to fight their battles with. If the Conservatives are unable to respond through critical debate, then society will degrade into intellectual deprivation.

 As George Orwell warns us, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past”. A victory for the liberal autocrats in the present would result in their control over the future of society; It is time for a response from the conservatives.

Alexei Kettell

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