Credo for Conservatives Part III: Order, Tradition, and Loyalty
III. A social order, being a natural expression of human sociability, should not be undermined, overturned, or rejected on frivolous grounds.
A. Man is not a purely natural creature and he never lived in a state of nature. Thus, since there is no such things as universal human rights or natural equality, it is not, generally, up to "individuals" (if such beings can be properly said to exist) to judge which laws should be obeyed and which disregarded. Setting aside marginal cases of purely evil societies, most tribes, cities, provinces, and nations defend the members from aggression, punish crimes against persons and property, and provide a variety of useful services, such as police and fire protection, construction of roads, bridges, supervision of the marketplace. Man being man, all societies are riddled with self-seeking and corruption, but dishonesty and corruption—particularly since they are universal—cannot justify resistance to the law, much less the overthrow of a regime.
B. Loyalty to a particular place and regime is a normal and healthy outgrowth of our loyalty to kinfolks, friends, and neighbors. It is through love and loyalty that our moral sense is nourished and developed. We do not develop our moral conscience by memorizing lists of rules, much less by learning to reason morally. We become moral human beings by participating in a series of communities that command our loyalty and, sometimes, our obedience.
C. To undermine such loyalty—as has been done by every movement of illuminists, liberals, libertarians, Jacobins, Marxists, multi-culturalists, prohibitionists (the list is endless)—is inherently wrong, even where a regime or ruler is manifestly corrupt and oppressive. We are, naturally, justified in defending the interests of kin and friends and co-religionists and in trying to change bad laws and policies, but the revolutionary overthrow of a regime can only be justified in extreme cases, e.g., where the regime requires us to participate in what we—note the significant use of the first person plural, not singular—we have always regarded to be evil. If Pharoah or Herod orders the murder of our children, we cannot comply and may indeed have to take up arms to resist. If Pharoah wants to let other people kill their children, that is an entirely different story.
D. Civil disobedience, then, is an unmitigated evil, the doctrine of anti-Christian ideologues like Thoreau, Gandhi, and King. No conservative, much less a Christian, could invoke such a doctrine without discrediting himself.
E. This is not a doctrine of non-resistance. Constituent communities that enter a federal union have the moral authority to decide whether they stay or leave. Inevitably, the union will have something to say, if the decision is secession.
F. We may personally or as members of a group decide to withdraw our allegiance, but then, we are probably required to leave the sovereign jurisdiction we are abandoning. We cannot simultaneously be protected by the American army and refuse to serve, if drafted.
G. Revolutionary movements that overturn good old governments may compel our obedience but they do not necessarily command our loyalty. This puts the loyalist or reactionary in a difficult position. Should a supporter of the Bourbons collaborate with the enemies of his country? On balance, I think not, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Should he break the law by sheltering fugitives? Absolutely, especially if he can do so without endangering his family.
H. The fate of a Roman under Lombard or Frankish rule, a Tory under American rule, a Confederate under Reconstruction, or a serious and civilized Christian living in this savage anti-Christian country is very hard. On the one hand, he should be trying to hand on to the next generation some sense of their heritage, while on the other he is obliged to obey laws imposed by the conqueror. A wise conqueror—like Theoderic the Visigoth—will seek the loyalty and affections of his conquered subjects, but we are not always so fortunate.
This is only a rough sketch, which needs the help of questions and challenges to make it right. What I wish to establish is that loyalty and obedience are in themselves good, though political loyalty is sometimes limited by prior moral claims of family members and friends and by the moral sense that we have received from the traditions in which we were brought up.
J. One element I have omitted so far in this discussion is race, for which I have been taken to task. Although race is clearly a reality that goes deeper than skin color, nose shape, and hair texture, it is not, in many cases and in many circumstances, a palpable reality that guides our conduct. For example, a person living in a racially homogeneous society will not be motivated much by race, especially by the rather silly distinctions that racialist anthropologists have speculated upon.
Ethnicity is an obvious reality in most societies. Even though the French and German speakers on either side of the Rhine were and are closely related racially, a great deal of blood was shed in efforts to determine their ethnicity and language. Ethnic loyalty and ethnic conflict are very real, and much of what is described as religious conflict—in Ireland and the Balkans—is really an ethnic struggle in which religious affiliation is the badge of ethnic identity.
This is not to say that racial identity never can be the basis for loyalty, but this happens, precisely, when race comes to represent ethnicity and can serve as an organizing principle. In addition to the social and political hierarchy of identities—Texan, Southerner, American, European—there are also religious hierarchies, such as Baptist, Protestant, Christian—each one defined by opposition to rival religions, class distinctions, professional and guild loyalties, and, as more important than any of the above, ethnic and racial loyalties. In 17th-18th century North America, it is easy to study the conflict between French Catholics and Anglo Protestants, but the dichotomy becomes more complex when we take into account the double game sometimes played by French Huguenots, or the unfortunate habit of both French and English in setting their native allies against rival European settlers. A little racial loyalty, in such a case, would have been a good thing.
Some societies are structured along caste lines that have an ethnic or racial component. Upper caste Indians were quite different ethnically from lower caste and no-caste people. It is perhaps in colonial societies that these distinctions become more significant. In South Africa and Rhodesia, it is hard to understand the position taken by English liberals whose efforts on behalf of Africans reached entirely predictable conclusions. In the post War South, a very basic struggle was engaged between Whites and Blacks. The old Bourbons—who were hardly less racist than the populists who succeeded them—made some attempt to protect the interests of Black people, especially the small middle class and those whose families had been attached to them. There was also a sense of noblesse oblige. These honorable sentiments, however, seemed a bit antiquated in the midst of Reconstruction, and the ill effects of the Second Reconstruction, still being experienced in acute form in most of the USA, is a warning against social revolution.
Race is clearly not everything or the most important thing or the card that trumps all other cards, but when one is counting up the cards in one's hand—kinship, friendship, religion, citizenship, etc.—ethnicity and race will have some importance at some times. When race is turned into "the whole ball of wax," as one racialist acquaintance of mine used to say, life is cheapened. I strongly recommend a careful perusal of Madison Jones' brilliant novel, A Cry of Absence, which says as much as anything I have ever read about the problems of anti-white and anti-black racism and the ill effects they have on character and community.