Those who contend that conservatives, in particular, overstate the threat on campus make several claims. These are the works of only a handful of misguided “college kids,” they contend. The few instances of extreme behavior on campus are not suggestive of any broader societal trend and don’t merit much attention. In fact, the limited scope of the problem, therefore, suggests that that conservative indignation is false–a convenient way to avoid confronting anti-social behavior among their ideological compatriots. All of this is fallacious.
Everyone believes that slippery slopes exist. We just disagree on their precise location and steepness. Or, you could say we’re all frogs in a pot of water, arguing over whether the temperature has noticeably increased in the last few minutes. Talented sophists can certainly make plausible cases for prioritizing attention toward almost any area of concern, from social to economic to environmental ills, but there’s no objective standard of proof that would settle these arguments with finality. Hume’s famous problem of induction still haunts us here — the fact that we can identify a developing trend doesn’t guarantee that it will continue. We’ll only know who was right with the benefit of hindsight one day. However tiny it may be, there’s still a leap of faith involved in choosing which issues are worth our attention and which can be safely ignored. And in our frivolous culture, where, despite all the sturm und drang, no one honestly expects things to drastically change one way or the other, arguments over what right-thinking people should properly be focusing their limited time and attention on become just another way of flashing our tribal I.D. badges.
I’m a conservative by temperament, if not by party affiliation. If I vote at all, it almost certainly won’t be in any election beyond the state level. To me, our sclerotic political institutions are like the Olympian gods of ancient Greece, completely beyond our control or fathoming, only worth keeping a wary eye on in the possibly-vain hope of not being crushed underfoot as they pursue their mysterious goals, heedless to the destruction they cause down below. I think that despite endless bipartisan ranting and raving, life is generally pretty good in this country, even for people without a lot of money or power, and that it provides a fair amount of freedom for people to live as they wish. The idea of man as a fallen creature prone to weakness and vice strikes me as portraying a psychological truth if not a religious one. I don’t believe that any amount of money or comfort, let alone any new sociopolitical arrangement, will make people content, because it’s too easy and tempting for people to be weak, lazy and prone to blame their unhappiness on something else. While not a Stoic, I do agree that the only thing most people achieve by complaining is becoming proficient at it and prone to practice it relentlessly. Obsessing over politics in particular causes most people to walk around with their own personal storm clouds permanently thundering in their heads. Work hard, treat people well, do your best to accept and ignore things beyond your control, and just get on with it — that’s the basic framework of my approach to life.
Most of all, I share the typically-conservative tragic view of life, in which perfection is inherently unattainable. It’s more than enough work for most people to cultivate the character and practice the good habits necessary to keep from accidentally or maliciously destroying the fragile blessings in life. The game always ends in defeat, so to speak, so it’s more important to play it well. To this end, art, music, and literature, also known as the humanities, are the greatest source of succor and solace this side of the River Styx. This is why I make my stand there. The humanities are the greatest respite we’ll ever have from our worldly tribulations, and these abhorrent philistines only care about turning them into just another branch of radical activist politics, with all the misery that entails. In everyday life, with limited time, energy, and resources at our disposal, it obviously makes sense to prioritize problems and tackle them in order of importance. In the big scheme of things, though, when we’re talking about problems that are global in scope if not existential in nature, that sort of one-at-a-time approach won’t work. Adolescent barbarians vandalizing their cultural heritage will never rise high enough on the list of pressing issues to be considered worthy of attention. Prioritizing be damned; some things are simply worth fighting for on principle, and this is the one I choose.