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Recently I was watching a TV review of a new film in the cinemas and it was soon obvious that the two critics had very different perspectives on the movie in question. She got quite frustrated with his outlook and suddenly snapped, "Oh, David, you are becoming so conservative!!" His reaction was immediate. It was as if she had slapped him in the face with a dead fish. Without hesitation he adopted a very defensive position.


The last description he wanted to own was that of conservative! The remainder of that review was more of a defense of his character and outlook than it was a review of the movie.


For reasons that I don't quite fathom there is a stigma attached to the word, "conservative", that makes it almost an insult when applied to a fellow human being. In some ways it's like the word, "wowser"; which I have written about in a previous article.


So what is it about 'conservative' that makes it a label to be avoided? Well, it seems that a person who is regarded as a conservative is considered to be old-fashioned, resistant to change, traditional, 'square', imprisoned in the past, opposed to alternative concepts and an upholder of the establishment. (Hmm, no wonder the films critic reacted as he did!!)


Unfortunately many of those who fit the above descriptions usually express their convictions with an ATTITUDE that gives the word, 'conservative', such a bad name in certain quarters. The attitude I refer to is censorious, self-righteous, inflexible, one-eyed, argumentative and stubborn.


I am a conservative. (There, I've said it!)


But before I am lumped in with the definitions and descriptions above, I want the opportunity to qualify them by explaining my definition and perspective. Who knows, even you may want to join me in my little crusade to rescue the word 'conservative' from its distorted fate.


Old fashioned - I don't believe that everything that qualifies as old-fashioned is necessarily valueless, wrong or evil. Just because an idea, a concept or a conviction is more than a generation old does not mean it is disqualified from having a place in our thinking and practice today.


Resistant to change - There is a school of thought very prevalent today that promotes the idea that all change is good and to be embraced. I want to challenge that proposition. Change for change sake is invariably unproductive. However, I am not resistant to all change as a matter of principle. But the rationale for change cannot be accepted uncritically. I want to know why such-and-such a change is so desirable.


Traditional - I cannot accept the proposition that, if something is a tradition, it is to be disregarded. Sometimes traditions can get in the way of needed and appropriate change. However, sometimes traditions can helpfully remind us of past events and experiences that must never be forgotten. Maybe that's enough to give you an idea of what I mean by conservative.


Now, all manner of background experiences conspire to shape who we are. I have no doubt that my personal history holds the key to who I am now. I recognize that there are many people in our world who are not conservatives. I think of them as pioneers or progressives. These are people who continually "push the envelope"; they live out on the edges.


I am not intimidated by them (depending somewhat on their attitude to me). In fact, I value them because they keep challenging my conservatism and calling me to explore new dimensions. I hope I am secure enough in what I believe to allow it to be subject to the scrutiny of others. Mind you, if they are only interested in attacking me and demolishing my conservative outlook and lifestyle, I don't value that negative posture at all.


When our attitudes to each other are mutually respectful then we each have something to learn from the other. There will never be total agreement between us but there can be respect. In that climate, I am willing and able to listen and learn from my progressive friend. Hopefully, he/she might learn something from me, too. I don't see the progressive person as my enemy. I see that person who, like me, is neither completely wrong or completely right. They have got something to teach me if I am hungry enough to learn and sufficiently teachable. I hope they feel the same way about me.


Imagine a motor vehicle. That car has a brake and an accelerator. They are both needed if the journey is to be completed safely. I think of the progressive as being like an accelerator. I think of myself as being like a brake. The car that has only a brake will not go anywhere. The car that has only an accelerator will soon crash. It is using both the brake and the accelerator in a coordinated way that the journey will be safe. Like I said, they are both needed.


It's all a matter of attitude.

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