Institutions do all the things that are supposed to be bad. They impede personal exploration. They enforce conformity. But they often save us from our weaknesses and give meaning to life.
I wish this level of self-analysis carried more weight in American conservatism. Thirty months ago it might have given some positive direction to a Republican party thrashing around aimlessly in the wreckage of neoconservatism. Thirty years ago it might have been a center of intellectual gravity to pull the party from its death spiral into cynical, anti-government, wedge politics focused on winning rather than governing.
I thought I'd found another positive statement of modern conservative principle in Dinesh D'Souza's Letters to a Young Conservative, but yeesh. He starts off on the wrong foot with a superfluous description on page 2 of a hypothetical liberal protester as a "large, disheveled woman" who comes "rolling up the aisle shouting." Dude, seriously. Do you really not see what attitudes you've balled up into those few, unnecessary words? (Freudians, linguists, film theorists and other VLWC conspirators have advanced the idea that superfluous, seemingly unmotivated communication reveals a speaker's unstated and possibly repressed motivation. Which is exactly what you'd expect them to say.)
But most of D'Souza's shallowness lies conveniently on the surface. Gender wage discrepancies are easily explained ("among men, there are many more geniuses", btw) and we'd all be better off if women learned to value the private sphere more rather than compete with men in the public sphere. Oofda.
D'Souza was one of the whippersnappers associated with the Dartmouth Review, founded the same year I started college, and my opinion of them hasn't changed since then. They're punks. With the same truant bravado and desire to provoke and probably the same eventual collapse into a suicidal bloodbath of doctrinal purity. Whether the last ones in the clubhouse are screaming "No new taxes!" or "No new chords!", most members will gradually drift away to explore related but more complex alternatives. Which is what happens when your culture is founded on the comprehensive externalization of blame and you run out of things to blame.
Tony Wilson said, "Punk enabled you to say 'Fuck you', but somehow it couldn't go any further. Sooner or later someone was going to want to say, 'I'm fucked', and that was Joy Division." I can't wait to hear the Republican Joy Division.