If I have to read or listen to one more commentary about Trump’s coprologism for corrupt, impoverished Third World nations, I’m going to eject something malodorous from the other end of my digestive tract.
I’ll say this much, though, about the so-called conservative contempt for living close to nature: it isn’t conservative at all, and it has made my own alliance with the political Right very unstable at times. Face it. There’s a very vocal strain in “conservatism” that wants to burn energy and build highways the way any normal person would relish describing in front of a snowflake how he killed a squirrel. (Squirrels eat baby birds, by the way, dearie: that’s why mockingbirds hate them.) In other words, certain self-styled conservatives are reactive. They say and do things because they know the other side will be ticked off. Rush Limbaugh leaps to mind. How many times has he discussed smoking his cigars, turning on all the lights in his mansion, and driving about in a gas-guzzler just for the joy of making his political adversaries change their diapers?
Now, I don’t know if the president made the specific comment attributed to him or not. I know, however, that many who have sprung to his defense leave me feeling a little skittish with their implied judgment that life without cell phones and Netflix must be hell on earth. The ancient Stoics viewed a man as free and true to his natural purpose to the extent that he could eliminate his ties to material needs and assert the superiority of his will. I have always deeply admired that perspective. To my mind, it comes very close to describing the essence of manliness (a word which literally translates the Latin virtus). That’s one reason, by the way, why I have never found it very masculine for men to go chasing addictively after women: that is, if they can’t control themselves, then they deserve to be considered something more on the level of a dog pulled on an invisible leash behind any pooch in heat who wanders through the neighborhood.
Part of the independent life is being able to supply most or all of your needs for food, shelter, and defense. There was a time when certain parts of what we call the Third World were very good at such self-sufficiency. True, most of those places have since been transformed into hellholes; but they have been so courtesy of the USSR, the PRC, and—yes—sometimes the USA piping sophisticated weapons into the region and enabling (unintentionally or otherwise) tinpot dictators to subjugate their populace. I am NOT willing to brand such spots the anal sphincters of the globe just because farmers have to use their hoes manually and don’t have iPhones in their pockets.
Any real conservative, on the contrary, would be very concerned about the inroads that frivolous high-tech is making into the lives of our children. When a teenager plunges into deep depression and withdrawal syndrome just because he or she is deprived of Internet for a week, then we should not be proud of the new kind of dependency we have permitted to corrupt a once-independent citizenry, even if it “creates jobs”. If said teenager were truly using the device to become better informed about the world, then a case might almost be made for the addiction… but remember where this ramble of mine started: in a news cycle that hasn’t for a week been able to let go of one badboy comment uttered in a supposedly private conference. Meanwhile, China is sentencing a blogger to twenty years in prison and water has been incontrovertibly discovered on Mars—but who has time for that?
We don’t need more jobs: we need more nut-bearing trees, more hands that can turn sun and rain into potatoes, more minds that understand how to get an egg from the chicken to the table: that would be a conservative’s view. But no, let’s all just keep piling into our own urban hellholes. That’s the approach, by the way, which is drawing all the Third Worlders here—and the loss of traditional skills and social structures in their own homelands is what’s driving them to emigrate.