Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 09:57 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 09:57 | SYDNEY

Resilience and 'discipline'


Sam Roggeveen


4 March 2009 11:13

Global Dashboard contributor David Steven has responded to my criticism of a post written by David's GD colleague Jules Evans. To dispense with one minor point first: I said in my post that I opposed consciption of the nation's 'youth'. But for the record, I don't think it really matters whether one advocates conscription of teenagers, baby boomers (as David recommends) or the elderly. The same arguments about personal liberty apply in every case.

David's more substantial point is about the demands that resilience makes on various political doctrines, whether conservative, liberal or social democrat. But David's description of conservatism is one I would demur from slightly: it is not so much that conservatives instinctually resist change, but that they instinctually mourn it. As Oakeshott put it, all change involves potential gain but certain loss.

But conservatives recognise that change (preferably slow) is necessary to preserve and build a society. Indeed, in an earlier essay in which he defined resilience, David Steven himself hit on this conservative disposition:

The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks.

That's a pretty good description of what motivates conservatives to take political action: suffering necessary change so that society and its institutions can retain a long-held identity.

I said in my earlier post that the suggestion of introducing conscription had raised my libertarian hackles. But that makes the whole thing sound too cold and abstract. I think what really disturbed me was the slightly sinister claim that the UK lacked 'discipline', since I've always thought of that lack of discipline as one of the great virtues of English life — a part of its identity, you might say. In fact, Orwell did say it:

The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty, the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above. The most hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker. It is obvious, of course, that even this purely private liberty is a lost cause. Like all other modern people, the English are in process of being numbered, labelled, conscripted, ‘co-ordinated’. But the pull of their impulses is in the other direction, and the kind of regimentation that can be imposed on them will be modified in consequence. No party rallies, no Youth Movements, no coloured shirts, no Jew-baiting or ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations. No Gestapo either, in all probability.