Everyone today is constantly told that he or she must care about something, about many things. The TV anchor, sincerity oozing from every powdered pore, tells him ‘this, right now, is important.’ The talk show host, the politician, the professional do-gooder, the fundraising letter from the advocacy group or even the missionary: all beg him to respond emotionally to the cause of the moment. 1% of the profits of this overpriced merchandise will fund medical research. This terrible bill shall become law unless you call your representative right now. Is your lifestyle carbon neutral? Made by Indonesian women entrepreneurs. There are starving African children who would be glad to eat that. Endangered Species. Are you doing enough?
Conservatives are of course sceptical of the ‘liberal elite’ and what they decree ought to be of concern. We are mostly not uneasy about the Climate, the Polar Icecaps, or the Rainforest, the impossibly vague problem of ‘income inequality,’ and the ‘right’ to ‘choose.’
But conservatives, and specifically evangelical conservatives, believe nevertheless in the importance and urgency of Doing Something About Something. We think we must get into politics, boycott this, protest that, keep Christ in Christmas and Prayer in Schools. We believe we must do charity on a global scale promoting what, following the liberals, we lazily term ‘human rights.’ (What we probably mean is the dignity of the human person made in God’s image, but maybe we’ve gotten so used to translating our concerns into secular rights-babble as to forget what this means.)
But both liberals and conservatives, once we get all lathered up about all these things, find that there is hardly anything that can personally be done about any of them by us. Immediately guilt arises over our privileged position and comparative freedom and wealth. The young person today seems to have two choices: Either resolve to get a job working for a ‘non-profit’ charitable organization ‘Making A Difference,’ or get a regular job and find ourselves guilty of Not Doing Enough.
Modernity has played us a trick. It promised to liberate us, by its conquest of nature, politics, and society, from an uncertain and dangerous world. Feudalism, war, disease, and intolerance have been put to flight. Yet we depend for these benefits on a complex and powerful, yet ultimately fragile, global system of ideas and institutions. Most of the grand causes of the present day are ordered towards extending this system to those who live outside or on the fringes of it. In a kind of Faustian bargain, in return for reaping the benefits of science and liberal democracy, we feel guilty if we do not enlist in the struggle to expand modernity’s empire of technology and ideology.
The Hipster Conservative, as we are calling our collective persona, is not interested in changing the world, nor do we seek to motivate you to ‘do’ anything. There is far too much energy spent on doing things, and far too little on thinking about them. We aim in these pages to promote the life of the mind, virtue, scepticism, and beauty. Although we are as concerned as anyone about the direction of the political current, we do not intend here to promote any political program. Any change we promote will be personal and inward change. We hope you will join us; not in political action oriented toward some goal, but in reflection and self-improvement.
In this inaugural issue, Paul Odradek considers what ‘hipsters’ and conservatives have in common, Bede reviews the Country Music Association’s award ceremony and presents a cultural history of country music, Ellis Burden contemplates the religious character of American politics, I ruminate on our Puritan past, Sordello discusses the themes of freedom and happiness in Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, and several of our contributors review books. Enjoy!
—Holgrave for the Editors.