One of the many characteristics modern society associates with conservatism is an unwillingness to change. Liberals and non-partisans alike will often attempt to compel you to change your morals by claiming that you shouldn’t be clinging to antiquated philosophies. They say things like, “you’re just stuck in the past,” “you just need to be more open-minded,” and “but it’s 2016.”
The problem with this view is that it entirely misses the point of what conservatism is as a philosophy. We are not people who simply want the status quo or some romantic “return to the past,” but rather, we want change to happen slowly, reasonably, and in accordance with the truth.
The conservative has many ways of navigating modern society, all of which can be illustrated by taking a metaphorical trip to the beach. Consider body surfing. The conservative is the man in the water watching as the waves change. He is faced with three options: stand your ground, attack the wave, or ride the wave. There is a fourth option of going back onto the beach which I attribute as conservatives saying to modern society, “I’m taking my toys and playing somewhere else,” which I simply cannot advocate, because there will come a time when the tide rises to your feet and you will have nowhere to go.
The man who chooses to attack the wave is much like the fanatic, who, in pursuing the true, good, and beautiful, may conquer smaller waves in the immediate, but will eventually be toppled or become weary and return to the beach, accomplishing nothing.
The man who simply stands his ground is admirable in his courage and virtue, yet will also, like the fanatic, fall victim to the one wave that is stronger than his will.
The only man who can truly withstand the waves and remain afloat is the one who decides to ride the waves, ready to face the next one.
I, like most everyone in their life has embraced these fanatical and stubborn philosophies at one time or another, trying to find solace in immediate gains, or always standing on principle no matter the circumstance. I have even returned to the beach at times.
Conservatism today however demands finesse; in practice it is prudence, in politics, statesmanship. Being radical or stubborn in today’s modern world, trying to win the big fight, ends up costing conservatives’ ground in the long run. Conservatives need heed the words of Lincoln, remembering that,
“When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a ‘drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.”
Abraham Lincoln, Temperance Address
Only when these words become re-rooted in our philosophy can we begin to sway the tide of change in our favor.