Saturday, April 16, 2016

Can We Learn Something From Russell Kirk?

Fusionist "movement" Conservatism is pretty much an outdated and useless way of looking at the world. Its primary focus is on America's problems circa 1960's to the 1970's. The Traditionist/Libertarian fusion is a disaster. Are there some conservative figures of the post-WW2 generation, however, that alt-right folks might find congenial to their views? One possibility might be Russell Kirk, the author of "The Conservative Mind, From Burke to Eliot" the great 1950's conservative classic. The Conservatism of  Kirk was one of a deep respect for tradition, proscription and capital "C" ultramontaine Catholicism. Kirk believed that any healthy society must be what he called "a democracy of the dead" that consults its ancestors when making decisions about the present.

    I had the pleasure of meeting the "Wizard of Mecosta" at a meeting of the West-Side Conservative Club at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan back in the late eighties or early 90's. It is interesting to note that Donald Trump had some financial interest in the venerable Plaza Hotel at the time and let the club use the facilities for free. A little later, an old high-school friend, who would later become a renowned Physicist, introduced me to a young student who he was sharing expenses with in renting a house. The man's last name was Kirk and I asked if he was to the great thinker and he said "yeah, that's my uncle Russell."  The young fellow related to me how esteemed Kirk was in the family councils.  A few weeks later during another visit to my friend's house the Kirk nephew introduced me to his sister as "one of Uncle Russell's people".

  Kirk remains worth reading. Even his fiction was pretty good as I remember. Very late in life Kirk supported mild nationalist Pat Buchanan for president and in so doing forged connections between the Traditionalist thinkers of the past and the antecedents of the alt-right. He heartily disliked the Neo-cons and wrote what was probably the best description of the breed: "Often clever, never wise."

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