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Enlightened Conservatism
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Enlightened Conservatism

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The Triangles of Enlightened Conservatism

To explain the interrelationship of these concepts for the Chinese translation I drew a series of triangles that helped position the various components that could be considered in what we called the concept of enlightened conservatism. Its real goal is to create an environment in which conscience dominates over convenience and civilization moves forward. Generally, that requires an understanding on the individual’s part of the value of the Golden Rule in how they analyze their relationships with others, and, on a combined basis, an appreciation of the concept of the common good and how it benefits them individually. These are two major strategic drivers of conscience. Conscience thus often works with the individual because the Golden Rule is easily understood. But in the arenas of power, history has always shown that convenience dominates. It is the nature of the arena and often of the people who seek it. Even if you seek power for the right reasons, the environment often changes you or limits your opportunities. The only effective way to put conscience into the realms of power is to make it convenient to be of conscience.

This is far from easy in a world where everyone uses negative politics without restraint. We have to develop methods or institutions that can be trusted to analyze and advise on choices of policies and leadership. This means helping people understand the benefits provided and the judgment criteria of their cultural values such that the finest of characteristics are sought, and they learn to recognize the misuse of the values. Everyone claims character, and everyone condemns his opponent for the lack thereof. It is more important to realize that civilization operates much more like the stock market. There is a difference between short-term events and long-term trends. It is extremely difficult in an uncertain time to know what will happen in the market day to day because the effects of the short-term are often based on emotion and specific events that are taking place. However, if you look to the longer term, two to three years beyond, and the trends and directions that major influences are moving, it is much easier to estimate the longer term value of a company and even the market as a whole.

Society is much the same. It may be difficult to change immediate characteristics, but if you plant the proper seeds and nurture them, you have a significant impact on direction for the longer term. Ideas are what matter, and the issue is how to build influence and power behind specific ideas. In most cases you have to show the self-interest involved. People traditionally are not for you or against you, but are for themselves; however, if they understand the true value of conscience it becomes far simpler. If the common denominator of society becomes gross language and materialism, we move in one direction. If it becomes enlightenment and courtesy, it moves in another. All that enlightened conservatism as a concept can do is point out an easier path – a view from a mountain – to move to a longer term trend of conscience dominating convenience and the hope that the same concept takes place in many different cultures where the world can work more smoothly together. In no way does it work in a linear fashion like reading a paragraph of words and comprehending them. Like MTV with many images flashing, there are many intervening complexities. Just as the Confucian Analects presents many different points and then lets the reader assess and build them together as a base of knowledge, The New Legacy, The Language of Conscience, and a third book, hopefully to be finished soon, take concepts from different perspectives and relate them to each other. Once assimilated, the individual can gain his own perspective from the thoughts conveyed.

Character and individual responsibility thus becomes the core of enlightened conservatism. Learning to distinguish between issues of conscience and convenience, which is primarily motivation, becomes the next set of decision criteria. These form the center of the triangles designed eventually into an hourglass. The hourglass became important because at the very point the triangles reach together one realizes that they have a very limited time on earth and a very limited opportunity to make a positive change. In a lifespan the real changes are not the monuments left, but the ideas and the people that you leave behind and how you have impacted them. The great religions have done far more to impact civilization than all of the generals, presidents, and kings. People work in the short-term arena of events while ideas dominate the longer trends. Furthermore, great efforts are seldom accomplished alone. It is the gathering of the will of many people that sacrifice over long periods of perseverance that bring change. Issues of conscience build the base for that sacrifice. Thus, the hourglass was designed with a focus upon the center point where the triangles meet to show the limitations of time and the need for common effort. The bottom of the hourglass defines four segments that are important to the process of understanding. They are very general but provide a basic structure for thought.

Tieman H. Dippel, Jr.
August 2002
 
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