The dichotomy is striking. Perhaps this makes you uncomfortable. It probably should. Our society has been ruining the lives of millions. It is reasonable to yearn for a return to an earlier, simpler age.
But that isn’t going to happen. There is no return. You cannot turn the clock back. That world is gone. Ultimately, the conditions of 1950s America led to the 1960s and so on and so forth up until today.
This is not a call to despair. This is not a call to A C C E L E R A T E. Neither of these things work. Intensifying the contradictions of our current system is more likely to lead to a neo-feudal hellhole than anything actually worth fighting for.
It is understandable to retreat into aesthetics when the world seems hopeless. Beauty has an allure all its own that cannot be matched by the toil and grind of political machinations. But the world has changed. Our networks, our interactions, our communities, our jobs. All fundamentally different.
You cannot simply shield people from aspects of the modern world. You can’t look at products or services you don’t like and just say “don’t use these.” They only exist because there are no widespread viable alternatives that provide the services they do. A true conservatism cannot be a mere yearning for the past. It must be a positive project of building institutions that fulfill the values of conservatism through the technology and material state of the world today.
What we need to do is understand network dynamics and re-create those same kinds of dynamics using the new technology that has emerged. American cities look so different from European cities because of cars, etc. Can we build new American cities structured like European cities in the face of this?
If we want to rebuild dynamics like strong families, what might a strong family structure look like in the modern age? For example, might advances in technology allow for greater connectivity (and therefore development) of homeschooling networks? Should our zoning laws be entirely revamped? Perhaps there should be subsidies for multi-generational families living close to one another as opposed to being tossed to the wind. Could we facilitate multi-generational families and communities staying together by allowing for more remote work if we had a national fiber program? Could we establish a digital Agora as a utility, allowing for small businesses to sell their goods directly to the public without the f*ckery of Amazon, Uber, etc.? Perhaps ban commingled inventory too, to punish these megacorporations for their negligence.
Ultimately, an aesthetic vision of your ideal world that simply adopts dated iconography is never going to be sufficient. You can desire to have those strong families. But perhaps the suburbia of the 1950s so closely associated with those families, that whole “white picket fence with 2 kids and a dog” fantasy, actually undermined family structures in the first place. Perhaps separating people into their own homes, isolating them from each other, obliterated any sense of community we had. Trading community and identity for security and comfort. Suburbia is a hellscape after all…
So, we have current technology. I am not saying be a techno-optimist. Technological innovation will not save us. But increasingly innovative uses of current technology to recreate pre-tech network dynamics is indeed possible. Take your aesthetic vision, take your values, and figure out how to build that in the modern world. Not only does your system have to be able to grow with technological progress, but it needs to actually fulfill your values. The contradictions of the 1950s led to the 60s and up to today’s mess. It’s time build a better world. We have values and visions worth fighting for. It is time to put them into action.
There is no return. The only way out, is through. The genie is out of the bottle. We can’t put him back. But we can slay him. We just need a sword.