Flat White

Evolution is preferable to revolution

12 July 2022

4:00 AM

12 July 2022

4:00 AM

Grace Baldwin, in Monday’s Herald Sun, joins a long list of commentators arguing in favour of rising Wokeness saying, ‘If you can’t see the need for Wokeness, you’re not looking hard enough.’

Baldwin further describes those questioning Woke ideology as being scared of social progression: ‘Just as the sun rises in the east, social change will always be inhibited by those who live in fear.’

Anyone committed to acknowledging and celebrating the heritage associated with Western civilisation is increasingly being viewed by the younger generations as reactionary, pale, and stale and often described as guilty of being ‘stuck in their ways’ and motivated by ‘fear’. One wonders why the same criticisms are not made of those forever pontificating and banging on about the virtues of preserving Australia’s pre-European, Indigenous culture.

While conservatives are attacked for being outdated and obsolete, the reality, as argued by the English poet TS Eliot, is conservatism involves continuity as well as change. While change is inevitable, it must be seen in the context of an historical narrative spanning generations.

Edmund Burke makes a similar point when arguing each succeeding generation is obligated to pass on to those who come next the patrimony bequeathed from the past. Proven by the French Revolution and Madame Guillotine, Stalin’s Russia, as well as Pol Pot’s Year Zero – evolution is preferable to revolution.

Implicit in conservatism is the belief societies evolve over time and to understand and appreciate the present and plan for the future we need to acknowledge what has gone before. Such a process includes admitting to past shortcomings and crimes on the understanding human nature is imperfect and all cultures, to varying degrees, are capable of cruelty and sin.

Instead of denigrating the past, it’s time to reassert the significance of the West’s cultural inheritance. While denied by neo-Marxist, post-colonial theorists and Black Lives Matter activists, the freedoms and liberties we take for granted in the West along with our art, music, and literature have grown out of the past.

Our parliamentary form of government, based on popular sovereignty, one person one vote, and the rule of law, began hundreds of years ago drawing on the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, and English common law. It’s only because of the arrival of the King James Bible and Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England with the First Fleet that we enjoy inherent rights and liberties.

While gradually evolving Western, liberal democracies have stood the test of time and one only has to look at totalitarian cruel governments like China, North Korea, and Cambodia to see how lucky Australians are to have inherited such institutions.

Even though thousands of years old Christianity and the Bible still hold vital lessons about the best way to live and how to treat other people. Sayings like ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ and ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ are just as relevant now as when first spoken.

Instead of being against change what conservatives argue is change needs to be gradual, well-argued, and beneficial. What we pass from generation to generation is a precious and fragile gift that once lost is impossible to retrieve.

In the same way, Woke activists argue Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories must be acknowledged and respected, it’s only fair and reasonable to suggest the same for Western culture and Australia’s institutions.

It’s also vital to realise, at a time of rapid globalisation and technological change brought about by the digital revolution many young people, in particular, need to be grounded in something more substantial and lasting than Google, social networking, and texting.

Not all change is good and in the same way the Welcome to Country ceremony talks about respecting Indigenous elders and their past, it’s just as important to appreciate and value those elders who have contributed so much to Western civilisation and Australia’s way of life.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior fellow at the ACU’s PM Glynn Institute.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments