What if you were always wrong? Not even wrong most of the time, but always wrong. Can you imagine what a miserable existence that would be? Some of us (myself included) have days or even weeks when we feel like we can’t do or say anything right, but at some point the pendulum swings back and you win a few small victories or experience the emotional satisfaction of an “I told you so.”
It’s not easy always being wrong, what with chance and dumb luck, but one major group of people has managed to be on the wrong side of virtually every issue related to the evolution of humans since the dawn of time. Conservatives. That’s right. What is today considered a political ideology was once simply a state of mind, an inclination that has always afflicted a fluctuating portion of our species. It’s not a glass-half-empty or half-full issue, but more about who has control over the glass and its contents. If I have it, I want to keep it. Anything that might change that situation is bad.
I can imagine a conversation in our distant past going something like this:
Bork, Tark has made fire.
Made fire? Only the gods can make fire.
Tark has made it at the entrance to his cave to keep warm.
The fool. He will set himself on fire.
No. It is a small fire and he does not touch it.
Our ancestors survived without fire. When the gods want us to have fire, they send it from the sky.
But Tark can make fire anytime to keep him warm during the cold days and nights of winter.
Do not contradict your elder. It is not our way. A fire maker is a troublemaker. Soon there will be fires in every cave and no one will want to leave their caves to hunt. Hear me. Fire will lead to the death of us all.
Bork could be talking about allowing women to vote, regulating child labor, civil rights, Galileo, anti-poverty measures, a radical preacher named Jesus, environmental protection, the wheel…you fill in the blanks.
Nothing is certain in life except that conservatives will always be on the losing side of human advancement. Always. Yet there they are, eternally sniffing at change, stubbornly dismissing the latest leap forward as a fad or lower class affliction, until it washes over humanity in its inescapable truth.
Then, long after the fact, the conservative will embrace it as a given, pretending to have had a hand in generating such obviously beneficial change. They will feign shock, shock I tell you, if you should intimate they might have had a racist, intolerant or curmudgeonly bone in their body.
Perhaps, just perhaps, humanity needs conservatives. In the same way that repetitive resistance with weights builds muscle, it could be that repetitive resistance by history’s champions of the status quo actually helps foster the environment for change. Are these willing dupes the cow shit that fertilizes change or are they merely full of shit? Consider that for every Martin Luther King, Jr. in history there is always a J. Edgar Hoover. You can’t have a comedy duo without a straight man.
It seems possible that Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, the Zeus and Athena of conservative cranks, actually serve a useful purpose.
But of course, I could be wrong....