Dating in the dark application form
Between ‘enlightenment’ and ‘progressive enlightenment’ there is only an elusive difference, because illumination takes time – and feeds on itself, because enlightenment is self-confirming, its revelations ‘self-evident’, and because a retrograde, or reactionary, ‘dark enlightenment’ amounts almost to intrinsic contradiction.To become enlightened, in this historical sense, is to recognize, and then to pursue, a guiding light.Once certain enlightened truths have been found self-evident, there can be no turning back, and conservatism is pre-emptively condemned – predestined — to paradox. What could an Old Whig be, if not a reactionary progressive? Of course, plenty of people already think they know what reactionary modernism looks like, and amidst the current collapse back into the 1930s their concerns are only likely to grow.Basically, it’s what the ‘F’ word is for, at least in its progressive usage.There were ages of darkness, and then enlightenment came.
The elementary acknowledgement of enlightenment is already in miniature. Hayek, who refused to describe himself as a conservative, famously settled instead upon the term ‘Old Whig’, which – like ‘classical liberal’ (or the still more melancholy ‘remnant’) – accepts that progress isn’t what it used to be.
A flight from democracy under these circumstances conforms so perfectly to expectations that it eludes specific recognition, appearing merely as an atavism, or confirmation of dire repetition.
Still, something is happening, and it is – at least in part – something else.
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