In my last post we had a look at the opening of Cory Bernardi’s book “The Conservative Revolution”. In this opening we discovered new meanings for some very commonly used words and learnt about a crisis in our affairs that seems to have gone unnoticed by all but the conservative portion of society.
Today, I’d like to take a look at what Cory believes are the four fundamental pillars of a conservative society: Faith, Family, Flag and Free Enterprise.
Like many religious politicians, Senator Bernardi is both confused and confusing when it comes to the role of faith in politics and society. He believes that Australia is a Christian country, citing the preamble of the constitution as evidence of this. He goes on to state that being a Christian country simply means being one of those countries whose cultural, moral and legal basis derives from broader Western Judaeo-Christian roots. So far, so obvious.
Despite the fact that he spends an inordinate amount of time explaining and justifying this -an idea that is pretty well known and accepted by everyone over the age of 9 – there is nothing all that revolutionary about what he has to say so far. Unless, of course, being mind-bendingly dull can be considered revolutionary. It is at this point, however, that he begins to ramble.
Less than two hundred words into his dissertation on faith, he begins to mumble about family, which indicates a worrying inability on the part of the author to think in an orderly manner. The whole discursus on faith is a rambling, confused expedition reminiscent of the picaresque wanderings of a character in one of Sterne’s novels, only without the wit, humour or intelligence. After some careful reading and unpicking, however, I have been able to distill the essence of the ‘argument’ into the following dot points.
- Australia is a Christian country.
- People get their faith from their families.
- It doesn’t matter if your values derive from Christianity or some other source.
- Only Christian values are acceptable so you should derive your values from Christianity.
- ADHD is not a real medical condition.
- Abortion will infallibly lead to state sanctioned mass murder.
- Islam is an evil cult that is not, in fact, a religion, but a conspiracy to take over the world.
He also points to some trends in modern thought that he describes as ‘alarming’. These include pathology based medicine, secular ethics, pro-choice advocacy and, weirdly, Islam. I, however, think that the most alarming thing about this whole section is the fact that he believes Mosaic law is an appropriate standard by which to order a modern society.
Senator Bernardi believes in the nuclear family. He believes so strongly in it that he feels that the increasing prevalence of ‘unconventional’ family units will eventually spell the end of society as we know it. His belief is so strong, in fact, that it blinds him to the distinction between the nuclear family, extended family groups and tribal clan networks. He cites disparate and questionably relevant authorities with gay abandon – no, strike that. There’s nothing gay about the Senator’s vision for the future. It is painfully obvious that, to his mind, anything gay is to be considered an unfortunate anomaly that should be tolerated with Christian fortitude. And possibly eradicated by some humane means that he leaves unspecified.
He trots out the old tired arguments about marriage being the exclusive property of the Church (without specifying one) with the difference that it is unclear whether he is sufficiently intelligent to be deliberately disingenuous about blurring the line between sacrament and legal contract.
If we ignore the strange byways that he wanders down in order to rail at leftists, cultural Marxists, progressives, homosexuals and, weirdly again, Islam, we are left with a sad and simple truth. Cory Bernardi believes that we should all go back to living in a Norman Rockwell painting. He feels that we should go back to a sort of rustic, nuclear family based paradise where the strong, breadwinning father rules a household of compliant women and children, regardless of the fact that such an ideal very probably never existed outside the pages of a Victorian novel. It would appear that, on this front at least, the ‘conservative revolution’ involves the systematic fictionalisation of the entire country’s home and family life. In support of this he cites some very suspect statistics that would seem to indicate that divorce and single parent families are the root cause of all crime and suicide in Australian society.
I agree with almost everything Cory says in this section. He says that Australia is a great country and that we should be proud of it. Agreed. He says that modern nation states need to be robustly defended. Agreed. He says that trade is the lifeblood of a modern state. Agreed.
My agreement stems partially from the fact that I am a patriot, and partly because disagreeing with truisms is very difficult.
The rest of this section is devoted to an explanation of Australia’s constitutional structure at a primary school level, which is worrying, considering that the author is, in fact, one of our lawmakers.
This is by far the shortest section of the book, which is a shame as it is also the least loopy. It can be summed up as follows.
- Australia is a democracy.
- The constitution is important.
- Diversity should be celebrated.
- People from diverse backgrounds should assimilate.
- John Howard was right about everything.
This entire section is devoted to an explanation of what free enterprise actually is. Cory painstakingly explains, in terms that are calculated to be understandable to any mentally impaired child, that trade involves the exchange of money for goods and services and that Adam Smith was an economist. He posits the idea that capitalism is essentially a benevolent undertaking, and that we should cease regulating against greed and corruption and allow this benevolence to operate freely at all levels of society.
Breathtakingly stupid as this is, it does pose a few key questions.
- Is the Senator using primary school economic theory because he believes it fits the intellectual level of his readers, or because it represents the level of his own understanding?
- Is the Senator aware that nearly two centuries of economic history have consistently disproved the notion that laissez faire capitalism will result in a self-regulating market that benefits all through enlightened self interest?
- Does the Senator seriously believe that a single employee negotiating with an employer is in a position to bargain on equal terms and therefore gain an equitable outcome?
- When the Senator talks about ‘over-regulation’, does he, in fact, have any sort of concrete benchmark that represents an ideal level of regulation or does he, like all other neo-cons, believe that the slogan ‘small government’ is sufficient unto itself?
If my analysis of the meat of Cory’s book has seemed scatter-gun, disordered and fragmentary, I apologise. In my defence, I can only say that one is generally limited by the material that one is given to work with. Reading this book reveals no new information, no new ideas and certainly, no coherent arguments supporting the conservative cause.
The most revealing aspect of this book is the insight that it gives into the confused self-deception of the author’s mental processes. His is the sort of mind that starts with a given set of prejudices and disguises their nature by attaching to them the labels ‘natural law’, ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’. In this respect, I believe the book actually does serve a useful purpose. It lays out clearly, and unmistakeably, the actual mental framework that is operative in the worst and stupidest of reactionary conservatives. If you ever see a conservative saying or doing something unutterably stupid and wonder, “what was he/she actually thinking?”, I would suggest that ‘The Conservative Revolution’ is an excellent place to go in order to discover the answer to that very question.