Some describe conservative life in their liberal enclaves as akin to living “underground” or being in the “counterculture.” This romantic feeling of embattlement is fundamental to the undergraduate conservative’s identity. “I really have been able to fine-tune my arguments and my thoughts and my politics as a result of being around so many liberal people,” says one student. “I really sincerely feel that you become a much lazier thinker if you are part of the majority because you just aren’t challenged that much,” says another.
The latter half is generally true: for whatever reason, students who perceive themselves to be sledding against the majority write better papers. The first half is more problematic, especially given how widespread the culture of conservative victimhood is, and how paradoxical: "Those two contradictory cries—the left have overrun our campuses! the media overstate the student left’s strength!—sum up the overdeveloped sense of siege that has long animated conservatism." The very strong tendency is to read every thought, development or behavior through the ongoing and neverending battle. It's not just that the battle is ongoing, it's that it can never possibly end
, and this view tends to warp exactly the sort of sustained reflection conservatism prides itself on; if one is on the team, one gets a hearing. Otherwise not. (For evidence, look at the furious energy expended on tearing down Wendell Berry after he expressed his favorable view of same-sex marriage--'he has betrayed our side the in battle therefore he must be wrong!' I never had use for Berry before, and don't now, but the energy devoted to undermining him is furious and unseemly.)
Labels: adventures in contrarianism, conservatives in academia, realism