Yes, Conservatism Is Common Sense

Yes, Conservatism Is Common Sense

A pondering on conservatism vis-à-vis knowledge

I think we can all agree at this point on the nature of the political climate in the United States, and how it has been carving a deeper impact on the lives of families and communities around the country. With that being said, it seems very difficult for me nowadays to perceive myself as a moderate, let alone a conservative for that matter. I remember when I was high school, being obsessed with Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom," and simply enchanted with Will McAvoy's definition of what it means to be a Republican.

"Republicans believe in a prohibitive military. We believe in a common sense government. And that there are social programs enacted in the last half century that work but that there are way too many costing way too much, that don’t. We believe in the rule of law and order and free market capitalism."

As a foreigner, I could not say, even today, that I can fathom on what it means to be a Republican, or even a Democrat for that matter. Nevertheless, as someone who harbor deep interest on political issues, and not just simply because I am a political science major, I am currently trying to understood what it actually means to place the label "conservative" over one's thinking cap nowadays.

With Donald Trump's ascendance into presidency, I began to wonder whether his actions over the past month can be labeled as genuinely conservative. But more than that, I began to ask myself whether someone with a conservative label nowadays goes no further as those who can take the necessary steps to rationalize whatever argument anyone who professes to be on their side will say, no matter how irrational, if not illogical those arguments may be. For if it is the character of a conservative (particularly in America) nowadays, then it is, to say the least, a very low standard to adhere to.

It is at this point when I encountered another frame of thought that perceive conservative through a different lens. In his academic commentary on the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Prof. Kristof Nyiri argued that it is a paradox to assimilate conservatism with traditionalism, owing that traditions, in its most basic form, are instruments for preserving knowledge in the form of oral lore, when alphabetic literacy could not be obtained yet. Instead, Nyiri argued that during its historical progress, conservatism mainly strives to preserve factual knowledge, particularly the knowledge that is needed to preserve the survival of future generations. Finally, Nyiri concluded that if conservatism wants to reaffirm their understanding of the contemporary world, it must overcome the stereotypes of the ideology as backward-looking or status-quo preserving. Instead, he claimed that conservatism should reinvent itself as a framework that is not so much political, as it is ontological and epistemological, with respect to the preservation of knowledge.

As I read through Nyiri's argument, I could not contain the bewilderment upon the stark irony as I placed Nyiri's concept of conservatism side by side with the current reality of alternative truth, denial of climate change and war on the media. Granted, there are multitudes of other arguments that could counter Nyiri's and added additional claim that there is much more to conservatism than an understanding of knowledge. Nevertheless, shouldn't both spectrum of the argument at least have a similar perspective on the importance of common-sense knowledge, and shaped the debate from there? Because at this point, it is hard to deny that even the concept of knowledge has been politicized so deeply, just as with every other aspect of life, that instead of debating around how to best preserve or extend the knowledge for future generations, this society is stagnated on the arguments around the legality of the knowledge itself.

When asked by my cousin back in Indonesia on whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I answered that I'm somewhat of a social conservative, but moderate in nature. In addition, I am economically, I'm advocating for state capitalism, with social democracy as the safety net for it. Or to put it in a summary, a lean democrat/independent might be precise for now. Nevertheless, when I took a political typology survey from the Pew Research Center, I was categorized as a Solid Liberal, which surprises me, since I always felt that I have a more conservative tendency in my judgment, as shown in my elaboration above, but that matters little. What matters more at this point, for me at least, is to reaffirm the ideology of conservatism as Nyiri have framed it. Because when both side can have the same common-sense understanding on the importance of knowledge behind the growing issues, then a more constructive debate can be framed.

But alas, there are but my opinions.

Cover Image Credit: Reddit

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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