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Jun-16-2011 18:39printcomments

Conservatives are winning battles, but losing the War

There will be no return to the bad old days, for which many conservatives still pine.
A young protester inside the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 11, 2011 in Madison, Wisc. UPI/David Banks

(CALGARY, Alberta) - For those conservatives who argue that the future belongs to them, a look at the bigger picture—history—will be informative, if not discouraging.

Conservatives were, indeed, in charge a century or more ago. But the forces for progress and human rights have continued to evolve and expand. Slavery, although condoned in the Untied States wonderful (LOL) Constitution, no longer exists although its effects still haunt the nation.

  • There are no children working in mines or factories anymore. In fact there are laws prohibiting child labour.
  • Although many Americans have been duped into believing that working in cooperation (i.e. unions) are un-American, unions still exist. People like Gov. Walker in Wisconsin come into power and pass anti-union laws. But when his term is over, people will learn and act on the knowledge that human rights trump profit rights.
  • In cases where unions do strike, it is no longer possible for government troops to be called out who will, on behalf of owners/management, kill strikers, as happened in Ludlow, Colorado (1902) when, at the behest of management (John D. Rockefeller was the owner) the Colorado National Guard Troops killed nineteen people. Among them, two women and eleven children were asphyxiated and burned to death. A twelfth child was shot to death.
  • Water (lakes, rivers and streams) is becoming or staying safer to drink, cook with and bathe in as a result of EPA regulations which Michele Bachmann would like to shut down—calling it the “Job-Killing Organization of America”. (Who actually believes such nonsense?)
  • Ditto, the air which is increasingly breathable. Bachmann wants to turn America into a version of China (with virtually no EPA to speak of) where capitalism and the profit motive have made the air largely unbreathable and many rivers and streams toxic to drink or even swim in.
  • There was a time when if a worker went to work and was killed or injured on the job—too bad. Today there is Worker’s Compensation and safety regulations for worksites. There can no longer be a Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (1911) fire where 146 women (ages 14 to 48) were killed because the managers had locked the exits.
  • Gone is the 12-hour day and the 72-hour week. There are now paid, statutory holidays; in fact, there are even better paid vacations than there ever was.
I could go on with a much longer list, but you can add to it yourself. Progress in my view means that people work to live, they don’t live to work.

In the teeth of opposition from conservatives, human progress is being made and is front and centre. Sure, guys like Walker appear and win a battle, but they are losing the War—the continuing struggle for human rights.

If we take a longer view of history, we need only go back a few hundred years to see the extensive examples of man's inhumanity to man. If we go back to the Roman Empire, we see that for most people life was indeed, nasty, brutish and short.

Over the last thousand years or so, the human race has made demonstrable progress.

There will be no return to the bad old days, for which many conservatives still pine. It makes me wonder why conservatives don't see that, over time, they cannot win. They are fighting against an insurmountable tide. What stops them from acknowledging this reality and joining the human race? Then they can win, too.

Note: Prospects are even brighter over the short term here in Canada. Prime Minister Steve Harper has won by a narrow majority, but he and his regressive party cannot prevail against the inexorable march of progress.


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place

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BG June 18, 2011 11:39 am (Pacific time)

Having a young child holding up a sign (top of this article) that he has no full understanding of, illustrates quite readily how utterly dangerous unions and their "lynch mobs" have become. Unions have so devolved that they no longer serve a useful purpose for their union members, other than using those members for monetary and mob-type activities which has been observed by their criminal activity literally everywhere there has been public gatherings addressing (peacefuly) 1st Amendment issues. Liberals, and never conservatives, appeal to irrational mobs to attain power. There is one group of people who look like conservatives, but also appeal to the mob. They're called "libertarians."

Feral outbreaks that we see by minorities (look up "Flash mob attacks" and other recent attacks by blacks on whites happening daily. Soon you will see massive race riots, and then you liberals will have your day in the light of justice, and racist blacks will also!), and to a lesser level, whites (and usually union caused), reflect the utter depravity of liberalism. Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted that America would pay profound consequences for “defining deviancy down,” specifically citing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program as the prime culprit.” It has disintegrated the black family, as has all liberal programs for them. Just look at what the black family and black education/literacy rates were prior to LBJ, and look at the current stats. Liberalism is a  disease, almost as dangerous as Islam, and must be excised from western civilization by ...

I'm assuming that you stopped typing because you had to wipe the froth off your mouth. Either that, or the drool ran into your keyboard and shorted it out. 

Colli June 17, 2011 8:16 pm (Pacific time)

Good article Dan! I hope that there will always be a percentage of individuals in the world who will remain conservative by nature. Moderation and common sense are necessary to avoid going off the deep end and into an abyss, from which we will never return. Between the current and the previous administrations, we may well have been pushed over the edge and started our decent into that abyss. Progress has been made on many fronts and I, like you, believe that progress should continue and will continue. Just remember that conservatism is not 100% evil and progressiveness is not 100% pure. Both forces have their share of greedy money backers and the greedy money backers of both sides are parasitic by their very nature. The relationship may appear to be symbiotic at first glance but the parasite will ultimately kill the host and not all parasites can be successfully purged!

Thanks, Colli, for your supportive comments. 

Natalie June 17, 2011 7:23 pm (Pacific time)

Would you suggest people in the West start working less to make just enough to make the ends meet or work the same, but get paid less to get rid of the excessive funds? Just wondering...

My philosophy, which I've held for many years, is that of simplifying my life in as many ways as possible. For example it's been ten years since I've owned a car. I've adapted my life to that fact and the amount of money I've saved (i.e. money I did not have to make) by not buying, insuring and maintaining a car has been substantial. I've simplified my life in other ways, as well, and I always encourage people to eschew material/consumer goods they don't really need.

Because of the nature of our working world, it is difficult, well nigh impossible, to match a working schedule to one's needs. I've done it most of my life by being self-employed. I worked as a computer programmer for more than 20 years and, when I needed money, I'd drum up some consulting work. I often matched my needs to the contract. I worked primarily for national and multi-national companies and I would match my consulting bill to my current needs. If I needed $1,000, for example, that's how much my bill would be. I overtly used the corporate system, rather than letting it use me. 

Unfortunately, not many people can do what I did. For what people really need, they could work a lot fewer hours and have more time to enjoy other things in their lives, hobbies like writing, musical instruments, amateur astronomy, bird watching, etc. But they can't do it because the capitalist system is all or nothing--they have to work at full time occupations. The system is designed to put profits ahead of people. 

Mike June 17, 2011 6:12 pm (Pacific time)

Paradigm shifts are a constant activity. In regards to you suggesting I look at how history has unfolded under your interpretation makes my point. Actually we appear to have some agreement, but it is your failure in understanding how things happened to unfold that no doubt has caused you to confuse action/reaction causations. I believe you may profit from at least attempting to understand what a paradigm shift really signifies. Just saying. Regarding those people who want to rein in the EPA, or other out of control individuals/organizations, that's a pretty simple thing to grasp for those educated in the U.S. Constitution, which is a subject taught in most responsible American school systems, private and public. For example, the EPA [currently] is acting unilaterally outside of congressional oversight, and that must not be allowed. For some, they just cannot understand the danger that presents itself when government maverick behavior takes place in our Republic, in fact our country's detractors generally have no idea how our Republic is designed to function, and why responsible elected officials, as per their "oath of office" must demand accountability for government organizations when they go rogue. It is part of our Republic's design to have checks and balances when one power is attempting to usurp the rights of another, but for some, they no doubt purposely take that constitutional function and attempt to make it a political issue to advance some narrow minded agenda, or maybe something else? What helps clarify the difference between "conservatives" and say some other group that seems to constantly change their "marquee", is just take the per capita charity donations made by the different groups. Who creates the jobs, who creates the inventions that improve and prolong the quality of our lives? Take a look at a national map that is broken down by counties (and Parishes in Louisiana) and see the sea of red v.s the blue. It is the middleclass that supports the government, and it is the government unions that have grown beyond the private citizen's ability to support. That's what's happening in these many (and growing) states that are reining in the unions. The process is in place and will continue. Two million federal workers have no collective bargaining rights (FDR Knew Collective Bargaining Didn't Work for Public Employees), but still have higher average salaries than the private citizens who pay their salaries. So ask these federal employees if they want to change the status quo? Also try terminating a union employee for cause, it is a very long drawn out process. The U.S government just prints more money, the states cannot do that, they must adhere to a budget, get it?! We're living in a manmade economic disaster, not a cyclical one. What exactly did George W. Bush do to get us into this recession? Fight two wars? Obama's fighting four. He cut taxes? Well, Obama extended the Bush tax cuts last December. Did Bush increase federal spending too much? He did spend a lot, but whatever Bush spent, Obama's quadrupled it.

Do you agree that humankind, generally speaking,  is better off today, compared to 1,000 years ago, 500 years ago, 100 years ago? That's all I'm saying.

And if you agree to that, do you agree that humankind, generally speaking will be better off in the ensuing years into the future? 

Natalie June 17, 2011 3:55 pm (Pacific time)

Re "Progress in my view means that people work to live, they don’t live to work." It depends what you mean by "live". At this time, it looks like most people think of it as "to have my essential bills covered". What's progressive about it?

Good question. Beyond earning enough for food, shelter and clothing, most bills are not essential. People in the West, particularly in the Untied States, have been duped into believing the apparent  naturalness of excessive materialistic consumption. 

Mike June 17, 2011 2:09 pm (Pacific time)

Generally, most significant improvements in recorded history in my opinion have occurred when individuals have been allowed to act via their "natural rights" independent from the "yoke" of government control, regardless if that control was by some type of religious,  secular, or some other [possibly] neutral domination. The major theme of "Conservatives" has always been what one sees written so clearly by our Founders..."The individual pursuit of life, liberty and happiness." It seems some simply cannot grasp how that brief phrase applies to all advancements, including paradigm shifts. See The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn , and then get a professionally written history book(s), they are out there, to compare what prevailing ideology was in power and if it aided that shift, or was the shift made in spite of that controlling power of the time? As far as slavery taking place when our great nation was founded, the U.S. Constitution quickly allowed (relatively speaking compared to how long slavery had existed, and still does by the way) for it's demise. Please note slavery was practiced throughout North and South America (the world actually) long before the Europeans came. It is those Europeans who put in place legal codes that eventually stopped slavery where the Europeans now take residence. I have observed that people with weak arguments go back in history and select some negative info out of the historical stream, no doubt hoping that the uninformed/uneducated will not understand what advancements have actually taken place, and what caused those positive (and negative) changes. There are many interpretations of just what transpires in real time, so the review of historical events allows for those that are agenda driven to manipulate events even more so, thus it's always wise to look at many sources, in both current and historical timelines.

Thanks for reposting.

You clearly do not understand the point of my article. You also subscribe to the fallacious belief of the indispensable need for individuals. History is a stream, and all actions by individuals occur within a cultural context.

For example: If Einstein had lived a century earlier could he have invented the two theories of relativity? No, because he needed Maxwell’s equations upon which to build his theory and they were not published until 1861-2.

Could George Washington have been the founder of America if he had lived in 1676? Not at all. He and his compatriots needed George III and his Parliament and the unrest in the colonies themselves.

Using just these two examples alone, we see that others could have discovered relativity or founded America. Such acts do not depend on any unique individual, but instead on a unique set of circumstances. Such acts depend entirely on the social/cultural context.

My point is that the human race has made demonstrable progress over the millennia. The paradigm shifts you refer to have happened at different times in different places on earth and at varying rates.

Just to consider one example: Slavery has existed virtually every where on earth at one time or another. Slavery was abolished in the U.K. in 1772, but the Americans allowed it to continue because the economics of slavery trumped both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The ending of slavery required the paradigm shift that owning other human beings was against a human being’s natural rights.

Check your history and you will learn that your Constitution did not “quickly allow for its demise.” It took a Civil War (1860s) for it to be abolished and another century (1960s) before Civil Rights laws came into existence and even then it took decades more before they were gradually enforced—and even today—still not completely. Some southern states like Florida and Georgia are passing laws to try to go back to a Jim Crow society, but they are temporary setbacks on the overall road of progress.

(Note: The three-fifths compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons." So much for "All men are created equal")

 My argument is that over the millennia slavery has largely disappeared in civilized nations. My other examples follow over the millennia as well.

Could society go back to allowing child labour? Repeal of labour and environmental protection laws? Those are cultural paradigm shifts that have occurred and no civilized citizen could imagine a society where the bad old practices could be resumed.

Conservatives are not a monolithic movement and while some want the bad old days to return–for their own profit and for that of their ideological masters there is some moderation in what conservatism is really about—not rushing precipitously into actions that, if wrong, would be hard to undo.

But once a paradigm shift has occurred, it is impossible to look at the world the old way, again. Despite setbacks and some backsliding, the progress of the human race is inexorably forward. That’s the point of my article. 

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.