Over at The Belmont Club Richard Fernandez has an excellent article on the perishability of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is what everybody knows to be true because everybody believes it and that many people can’t be wrong. He does not use the term, but essentially it is the phenomenon of social proof. Every advertising and marketing professional worth his salt understands and uses this mechanism (For an excellent treatment of the subject read Influence by Robert Cialdini). The Left has used this among other ways to shape the mind space of America and the West for generations. The nature of the beast is that the more people believe it the more people tend to believe it, a self reinforcing feedback loop.
This is not an evil phenomenon in itself, it is simply a mechanism built into the human psyche. The Founders understood this and used this as one of the means at their disposal to form a people steeped in the ideas of individual liberty and the virtues that enable a society to exemplify those ideals in the life of the nation. The fact is that groups of people have foisted an alien ideology on Americans which is inimical to those values propounded by the Founders to such an extent that those foreign values have become normative for vast swaths of the population.
Guiding principles can be good or bad or somewhere in between. Critical thinking, never really a strong point of the mass of Homo Sapiens (ironic that sapiens means ‘wise.’), is not only generally absent from public discourse but is shouted down when it rears its perspicacious head. Just as the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, so the truth value of guiding principles is in the success or failure of their implementation. Bad ideas have bad consequences which when taken to their logical conclusion (as they always are) have catastrophic consequences, just ask the exiles of the Babylonian Captivity or the former inmates of the USSR. In the US today the failures of the Left have not been felt strongly enough to have been seen to fail catastrophically. Detroit would be an indicator of such a failure, but it is too localized to serve as a general warning to those in the thrall of Progressive conventional wisdom.
So what’s a conservative to do? Exercise the prophetic voice (egad, how Biblical!). In Biblical times the prophet was God’s spokesman who spoke to His people what was on His mind. I suggest that in to day’s world the prophetic voice speaks truth to people about what’s going on. A prophet isn’t a predictor of the future save in a very limited sense. The classical prophetic utterance consisted of four parts: denounce apostasy and sin; threaten punishment in consequence; call to faithfulness and virtue; promise of consequent blessings. I need hardly mention the fact that the lives of the prophets never lived comfortable lives nor did the prophetic gift rest easily on them.
It may be that the collapse the insane principles of the Left are moving us towards may yet be avoided, or it may not. If it is avoided it will be through the sounding of the prophetic voice by Americans faithful to the Founding vision. If not, those who emerge from the rubble will be shattered men in search of leadership. At this point a strong, tyrannical leader who gets things done will be the preferred choice of most people, unless the prophetic voice, once so annoying, can still be heard calling for a return to true principles and true hope.