The Case for Conservatism

The Case for Conservatism

The Case for Conservatism

The Case for Conservatism

Excerpt

To an impartial observer it would seem paradoxical that any sober critic of our times should suppose, that we might change too little or too slowly. For in all parts of the world the past forty years has been an age of revolutionary change, rapid, radical and cumulative. All humanity has come within its ambit. It has affected all peoples, nations and languages. No aspect of human life has seemed unaltered, neither the purely mechanical and external, the artistic, the intellectual, the social, the moral, the political nor the spiritual. Nor does it appear that any human being can arrest its course. In so far as it can be brought under control it would seem that it can be moulded only in accordance with existing trends.

Although exceptional, such periods are not without precedent, and from such precedents we may even venture to generalise. We remember an earlier age like ours in Periclean Athens, precariously balanced on the fragile foundation of her supremacy at sea. The stormy hundred and fifty years preceding the fall of the Roman Republic was just such another, and such no doubt was the renaissance in Italy, the Elizabethan era at home, or the revolution in France. Such periods are brilliant, bloody and sensational. A generation may mark an epoch, setting the course of human history for centuries. High drama is their constant characteristic, wars between empires, races and languages, internal convulsions and civil strife, clashes of religions and systems of thought. These, it is said, are times for greatness, and indeed they are ever distinguished for the high demands they make on human nature. Hence they are noted for sharp and tragic contrasts: high courage and pitiful cowardice; supreme devotion and hateful cruelty; contemptible betrayal and glorious loyalty. In such an era nothing seems excluded from the ambit of human experience except perhaps the monotonous or the well assured.

But, above all, in times like these the signs and symbols which have guided the lives of men for centuries suddenly become . . .

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