I’ve set aside Tom Nichols recent book and started Andrew Sullivan’s new one made up of his past essays. Sullivan and I share an appreciation for a political philosopher, Michael Oakeshott. In fact, this site’s title is an Oakeshott understanding…You can’t practice poetry; one is either writing poetry or not.
Here’s an Oakeshott quote I sling about, and have highlighted often in website/blog sidebars.
“To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.”
So that begs a question. Am I a political conservative? The answer is an easy no. But to confuse the issue further, Oakeshott’s proffer is in tune with how I rhythm my political understandings of the day.
My default take on new political and civic demands, events, and circumstance are tempered by tradition, customs, and set beliefs. And I think most people react the same way, until they don’t. When they fail to appreciate the profound truth in this observation from former United States Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”
― Daniel Patrick Moynihan
I find this, and that Oakeshott quote most helpful and insightful when thinking about the politics of the day, here in these U.S.of A.