I have been thinking about conservative arseholes a lot recently. That is, arsehole people who are conservatives, not the arseholes of conservatives.
Over the past few years, the right wing of politics has been, if not ascendant, then certainly worryingly bothersome. Obviously in this country (that’s the UK, hypothetical reader) we have the pretty right wing Tories plagued by their extremist cousins in UKIP, but further afield, the Democratic government of the USA (hardly the most left wing government ever as it is) has been dogged by a pig headed Republican congress. Politics in Mediterranean Europe have lurched right as well. These things come and go in phases; this is not a piece about how afraid you should be about hypothetical (or quite literal, in the case of Greece) fascism.
What I want to waffle about is a fairly simple thought, set in motion by all these obstructive, angry, bellicose right wing arseholes in the news: Despite all the time and energy conservatives put in to combat change, social liberalisation and general improvement in the average of human ethical behaviour, they never win the war, so to speak. They may win many battles, but civilisation continues on an ever more compassionate and ethically responsible course. My line of thinking from here is this: Is this continual improvement in spite of these cranks, or in some way aided by it?
Now superficially, you could just dismiss the question by saying that all this has more to do with the rising quantity of stuff being proportionate to the rising quality of ethical life, and I would agree this is partially true. Civilisations will inevitably become less restrictive and less conservative as the people have fewer and fewer reasons to consider revolution. But that is more Big Picture than what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is moronic criticism being a genuinely useful mode of pop-speak scrutiny, due to people’s reaction to it. I’m talking about the law of tipping points, past which a vocal minority becomes the head of a massive backlash. I’m talking about obnoxious jerks accidentally causing rebellion against themselves.
Think about it: If the likes of Nigel Farage and the more advanced partially fossilised members of the Conservative party did not exist, we would have no mad-eyed lunacy against which to compare the relatively sane acts of government.
Without climate change deniers, the sheer, astounding weight of evidence supporting human causation would not be in the headlines; sure they might have slowed the process of action somewhat, but the absolute proof of the necessity of action could possibly never have become so public. Also, the blazing inarticulacy of many from the denial camp has been a marvellous tool for showing quite how fragile their argument truly is.
They serve as a negative benchmark above which we can act, and as our global civilisation improves its lot and its ambitions, conservatism only has the current set of ethics and actions against which to compare itself.
So, in a way, those negative jerks that irritate the hell out of everyone might actually be the grumpy, reactionary motor behind civilisational betterment.
Or maybe not.
It’s quite a satisfying way of mentally interacting with them though. “Complain and protest as much as you possibly can, you’re just accidentally making the world a better place, you miserable jerk.”