Saturday, October 20, 2018

Maverick conservative …

… Letters from Piety Hill(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Libertarian individualism posed no challenge to the liberal or Marxist mindset, but merely played a variation on it. Kirk urged Buckley and the founders of the future Intercollegiate Studies Institute to recognize that the true source of resistance to those “totalist ideologues,” the Marxists of the modern American university, was to be found not in the defiant individual but in the “permanent things” of a civilizing and restraining tradition.
 No one could put the case more crisply than Kirk himself—when he refused membership in the budding ISI. “I never call myself an individualist; and I wish that you people hadn’t clutched that dreary ideology to your bosom,” he wrote to ISI’s future president, Victor Milione, in 1954.
I know a bit about this personally. I was employed by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute when it was still the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. I knew Vic Milione, a wonderful person and conservative in the best sense of the word. I was the first managing of the Intercollegiate Review. I helped design it, and my first professional book review (of Dag Hammarskjöld’s Markings) appeared therein. I was also around this time, briefly, eastern Pennsylvania chairman of Youth for Goldwater.
I first met Bill Buckley around this time and it was Buckley who was instrumental (with Vic’s full approval) of changing ISI’s name. I also met Russell Kirk around this time. Though I can’t say I ever got to know him well, I can say that he was — surprise, surprise — a wonderfully enlightening person to talk to. He seemed a kind man.
The fact is, the “conservative movement” at that time was anything but monolithic. ISI had been founded by Frank Chodorov, an anarchist. There was good reason to be chary of conservatism’s authoritarian adherents. And the individualism was on the order of E. E. Cummings’s. Cummings had been blackballed by left-leaning publishers after he published Eimi, his account of his trip to the Soviet Union. Cummings correctly observed that if Soviet communism was anything, it was hostile to the individual person. My own experience indicated that the individualism espoused by conservatives at the time was pretty much identical with the personalism of Max Scheler.

See also The Ghost of Russell Kirk.

No comments:

Post a Comment