While change is inevitable, it should never be abrupt. History has repeatedly taught us this, particularly in terms of political change. And over the centuries, revolutions, drastic policy changes, and the pursuit of abstract political ideas — with little or no reference to reality — have led to innumerable horrific regimes and drenched the earth with the blood of their victims.
This is why one of the heroes in our conservative pantheon is Edmund Burke. He believed in natural change and in the gradual evolution of society. That is, he defended the idea of change guided by balance, sobriety, and wisdom. He was thus not averse to political reform but rather thought of it as the ongoing improvement of an existing system or regime. In the words of the American conservative writer and thinker Russell Kirk, Burke believed in a “politics of prudence”.
In An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, In Consequence of Some Late Discussions in Parliament, Relative to the ‘Reflections on the French Revolution’ (1791), Burke wrote: “Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all.” Sadly, these days, few people read Burke — or Kirk, for that matter. But the importance of prudence in all matters, of incremental change, of constantly striving to slowly improve things — without succumbing to the impatient temptation to pull everything down and start suddenly anew — remains paramount.
We at The European Conservative also seek to embody this idea in our work. Since our first edition was published in 2008 by the Center for European Renewal, we have evolved from a four-page newsletter circulated among a few dozen friends to a 60-page hard copy edition published once — or, in a good year, twice — a year. Our early editions had no cover to speak of, while the most recent editions have incorporated full cover images — which themselves have also gone from black-and-white to full color. Needless to say, we are somewhat hide-bound by tradition, and for the moment continue to exhibit a preference for old engravings, antique prints, and traditional paintings for these covers. However, having commissioned a firm last month to design and build a proper website, we have taken yet another step forward. This will allow us to eventually move toward a fully functional website of which we can be proud.
Of course, all these changes and improvements were not conceived overnight. They are the result of another undertaking — which is the creation of a new partnership between the Center for European Renewal (CER) and the Center for Transatlantic Renewal (CTR). This partnership will not only facilitate our expansion and growth, it will also bring together two vibrant networks of committed conservative, Christian, and traditionalist thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic.
It is important to remember that the broad civilizational context to which these networks belong is what we formerly knew as ‘the West’, or ‘Western Civilization’, or reaching further back, ‘Christendom’. Regardless of how one chooses to refer to it, what we have in mind — what we essentially seek to defend and promote — is the Judeo-Christian West, the product of Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem.
In the coming weeks and months, this publication — as well as the CER and the CTR — will seek to bring to the attention of readers the ideas, thoughts, and works of those who share a commitment to the values of this civilizational inheritance. We will also seek to advance our common heritage, as well as the ideals of national sovereignty, and the dignity of “a Europe of nations”— not only as expressed in the conservative Paris Statement of 2017 but also as embodied in that shared transatlantic Western culture.
It’s important to recognize that one idea at the heart of our common heritage is the concept of human dignity. Its importance to both civilization and culture is critical. Distort its concept or meaning, or willfully manipulate its understanding to suit some narrow political agenda, and you will debase culture and degrade man. Our efforts then will also seek to promote the international work of those who are working tirelessly — in some cases, fearlessly — to defend the idea of human dignity in markets, in marriage and the family, and in the modern understanding of the self.
At a time when so many people have either neglected a proper understanding of human dignity or have willfully tried to destroy our shared inheritance — whether from within or without — ours has increasingly become a shared existential struggle. This struggle cannot be successful if we work independently from one another. Thus, we shall continue to seek your engagement and your support as we try to vigorously promote and defend a “respectable conservatism” — one that embraces the many varieties of conservative thought on both sides of the Atlantic.
It is only through a shared understanding of our common inheritance that we may have a chance to preserve and renew the Greek, Roman, and Christian foundations of the West — on both sides of the Atlantic.