A Response to Absurdity

Kevin Ssonko ’20, Opinion Columnist

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The story of modern conservative thought is the story of telling lies. These lies can be about any number of things. Sometimes the lies are about masculinity, race, or the economic system. But nonetheless all of it is lies. In most areas of life to tell a lie is to forfeit one’s legitimacy, but politics isn’t the real world. Politics is the make-believe world invented to substitute for what is actually taking place, the violent competition for scarce resources. Nonetheless politics is what we have to deal with, and by extension we have to deal with the thoughts and ideas of modern conservative thought. And all of it is lies.

For the past two semesters Dickinson College has been subjected repeatedly to lies. These lies came routinely in the opinion section of the Dickinsonian by two students who I feel comfortable labeling as right-wing thinkers. Week after week these students wrote for the Dickinsonian to voice their social and political thoughts. In these articles, these students told stories about the world that are in no way real. In fact, for the most part they were and are mythology. The stories they told were stories about a wide range of identities and people groups. They castigated what they called “Identity Politics”, the attacked reproductive rights, they attacked pretty much anything slightly egalitarian in thought. They had the right to do this of course, because we are a society that fully supports free speech. But in the aftermath of these articles, I believe the question should not be whether or not the authors had the right to write them. But rather what do these articles tell us about conservatives and reactionaries more broadly. 

When I think about the articles that have been written in the opinion section over this past year, I can’t help but think to myself, why are people who by all evidence stand in opposition to human rights, allowed a platform? Repeatedly these authors penned ideas that if implemented would make it impossible for any person not a member of the ruling class to exist freely. To add to this it’s not like people in the Dickinson community, at least those bold enough to speak, were fond of the ideas in these articles either. Most detested their ideas, and denounced anyone who bought into them. But then again I can’t help but not be surprised. The condition of the conservative movement throughout history is rooted in the belief that human beings are fundamentally unequal. And in the world of politics where everyone gets a voice, it’s inevitable the those advocating on behalf of the powerful will be allowed to say whatever they want regardless of facts. From its inception conservative thought argued in favor of the aristocracy and against the interests of the working class. If these articles confirm anything, it’s that these people are not in any meaningful way committed to the ideas of freedom and democracy.

This of course presents the great hypocrisy of America. This is a nation that touts to love liberal concepts of freedom, justice, and equality for all human beings. Yet in its material practice by its toleration of tyrannical and despotic ideals, has organized itself in opposition to these very things to most of its citizens. And so we are caught in the paradox of espousing high ideals, only to have those ideals be met with fierce stagnation as the superstructures of power reinforce the status quo. In this spirit Malcolm X’s claim that if one is not careful media will have on “Hating the oppressed and loving the oppressor” makes a lot more sense.

My point is this, if these articles should tell anyone who cares about justice anything, it’s that the conservative movement is not and has never been interested in equal rights for all people. These are not people promoting any values of which would be positive for all people, and they are certainly not friends of democracy. For anyone who cares about the ideals of love and justice of which many freedom fighters have died, then to buy into the deliberative democratic notion that these people’s ideas add anything of value would be unwise. John Adams once said “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws”. No statement better sums up the actions and motives of the modern conservative movement. If we are to promote to any meaningful extent a better world for all people, it will begin with recognizing that this is what we are up against. To do otherwise would be to go against the categorical imperative to always to what is right, even when it is hard.