My name has appeared on the masthead now for almost two months, but i have hesitated to pen an inaugural entry, especially since, unlike some of the others in the group, i have no full-fledged manifesto to announce. And — as these things go — the longer one waits, the more difficult it becomes to take the plunge… the waters begin to look colder and less inviting by the minute. 

Part of my delay is also because of technical difficulties; despite encouragements from the Poulos to “fire away,” it took me three weeks or so to figure out what to click in order to get into the system. After several counseling sessions with the staff, the therapy succeeded and I managed to gain access. I have begun now to catch up with some of the ‘threads.’ 

Another reason for delaying was the election, which preoccupied me for some time. Well, that is finally done and my anxieties are all over. The only thing worrying me now is who will be walking the Obamas’ new dog. I know that David Remnick, Chris Matthews, and E.J. Dionne, among others, have all volunteered for the job, but I am not sure I would trust any of them. 

But the deeper reason has been my ambivalence about the title of the blog itself — postmodern conservatism, to which I would add the odd, gothic-style font on the homepage, reminiscent of the opening epigraph of Conan the Barbarian (that will be the one and only film reference that you get from me, since it is the last film, other than Red Dawn , that I have seen). But to get back to the title, isn’t it an oxymoron? I have long considered myself a conservative; what would it mean to be a ‘postmodern conservative’? The whole prospect has been troubling my soul, dividing it into two parts: the traditional conservative core and the liberating prospect of a new postmodern identity. These two parts have been engaged now in mortal intellectual combat, relentlessly arguing with and interrogating each other. The pain has been greater than anything experienced by agonistic liberals. 

CONSERVATIVE: Forget for the moment about all that metaphysical stuff, whether you are going to anchor your beliefs in tradition and/or natural right or whether you are going to go post-al with Hancock and Lawler and start talking about being and Heidegger. Forget all of that. Just tell me about how you plan to dress. A conservative is supposed to wear a coat and a tie, better still a bow tie like George Will, so that way you can be both traditional and ever so slightly iconoclastic at the same time. I want to know: how you are going to dress? 

POMOCON: in a word, and you only need a word, noir . Different shades are ok — to the pomo a lighter or darker noir can make a real statement. Did you see when Zizek and Bernard-Henri Levy (that’s BHL) showed up at the New York Library? I mean it was noir, but different noirs. Plus you should carry a walking stick. M. Robinson is important for us pomocons, and you will observe in Gilead — p.25— that when Edward goes pomo, he comes back from Europe with a walking stick. But dress is not as important as you think, that’s a conservative conceit. For us, what’s important is whether you have gone stemless or not, especially for your reds.

CONSERVATIVE: Stemless? You must mean rootless. And here is where you go astray. The odd notion that there can be a crunchy something or other, with no firm basis in one’s heritage, is just the stemless path down which pomoconism is taking us. Say what you will, I’m clinging to my stems — and my guns too, for that matter. And by the way, not btw, Edward comes back from Europe, having written a thesis on Feuerbach, as an atheist. That’s p. 25 too.

POMOCON: You have us all wrong. You think that just because we can be conversant with a new age and new technologies — that just because we can facebook and Twitter with the rest of them — that conservatism cannot survive. Just look at how McCain scored with the youth. Pomoconism is nothing more than conservatism for the young, for the cutting edge, for the urban professionals, and for the multiracials.

CONSERVATIVE: You mean it’s like old wine in a new glass. But what then about this manifesto stuff, and all the concern about being — on — time? I never thought pomos cared about punctuality. I’m troubled about this, and about “manifestos” too, which are for people on left. What conservative in his right mind would ever propound a manifesto? And then there is the matter of a blog itself. if it is not on paper, but bytes only, it does not exist. it’s evanescent, like liberalism. The book and words on paper are meant to freeze things, to establish an island of permanence in a flow of impermanence. I admit I would prefer stone or parchment; the book, maybe the journal (on glossy paper like the NR) is as far I can go. But “on-line” and blogs? It’s the lack of an intimate connection between the tangible and the representational that is the crux of our problem today. That’s why we have an economic crisis. Everything is virtual — knowledge, wealth, maybe even power….

Articles by James Ceaser

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