Is it wrong to be conservative?

Mindset : What is conservative?


Seriously: from us. Everyone, sooner or later - usually later - becomes a bit more conservative. “A little way” is one of the favorite terms of one of the great conservatives of our time, Wolfgang Schäuble. And precisely this term loses its profanity if you look at it for its conservatism. No more than "a little bit" should change, what seems familiar to us should be changed. To a certain extent it is still clear what is behind it - is uncertain terrain for which there is no measure. Yes, progressiveness has to have its limits. Where else are we going? And as the immobility of all of us increases (this goes hand in hand with the years of our life), the degree to which daring diminishes. As a rule. There are exceptions: Erhard Eppler, for example, a great conservative of values ​​of our time.

Schäuble CDU, Eppler SPD - you can see that the conservative does not come from a party, but, if it is well understood, from an attitude of mind. It says: You don't have to change everything for the sake of changing, but you do have to change from time to time in order to preserve the tried and tested. Because what is logical does not stay as it is over time. Or do we always stay the same? No, no one bathes in the same river for the second time. The conservative, who over time is more concerned with securing what has been achieved, just doesn't want the current of time to drag him along. Another who has been called conservative, Franz Josef Strauss, once said that the conservative marches at the forefront of progress - that is to say, in order to influence it, its pace and its direction. For this he needs a compass: his system of values.


The above - and more. Conservative is always confused with “right”. And that sounds radical again and like a disparagement. It is more of a political rhetorical trick, a coupling of the political opponent with a negative association. Who wants to be on the right? Conservative is also someone like - Eppler. In values, in the desire, for example, to preserve society in its core, solidarity; as the Latin word suggests, "conservare", to preserve. It's not about secondary virtues, at least not primarily, not about diligence, ambition, punctuality, reliability, although their importance for a friendly coexistence is all too lightly underestimated nowadays. Rather, it is important that true virtues are lived. For example that of truthfulness. The Greeks are not that respected right now, but we should make an exception with the old ones. Aristotle says: Everything you say must be true. You just don't have to say everything. That still corresponds to a living wisdom today. There is more to be found in Aristotle's tablet of virtues. Preserving this is also a conservative act - but not to be misunderstood. Hopefully. Or rather the Kantian maxim: "The duty to oneself consists in the fact that man preserves the dignity of humanity in his own person." Which in practical terms means: preserve human rights, human dignity and the function of the human being Economy.


In church, no joke. It's also not that en vogue at the moment. But the Catholic and Protestant churches, for example, have their rituals that give the individual support. They form their communities that at least offer cohesion. And that for many, many years, centuries, millennia. It did not survive; and because it works, it will - perhaps on a smaller scale - survive. The Pope as an institution for some, Luther as the eternal guiding star for others. Margot Käßmann is forgiven because there was Luther, someone who made faith and the church human. Benedict XVI. will have been fundamentally important for the continuation of his office, because he is not presumptuously infallible, does not even claim it, but lives the fallibility of man in his answers to everyday life, but can also sharpen the view of a transcendent being.

And then there are politicians like Friedrich Merz, who once led the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, or his successor Volker Kauder today, who both call themselves Christian Democrats - but just don't want to be considered conservative. This shows that they will only have dealt with the idea superficially. On the other hand Claudia Roth, the supposedly shrill left at the head of the green federal party: She lives a life deeply shaped by value conservatism. Like Fritz Kuhn, also a leading head of the Greens. Or Antje Vollmer. Or, yes, Oskar Lafontaine. Its conservatism from youth onwards, from the time in the Archbishopric Konvikt in Prüm, is always underestimated. And again and again Eppler, who brought the whole thing down to the right and left denominator - a short list that shows: Conservatism lives everywhere. And when we listen inside: inside of us. At least at an angle.


As I said: in perception. Conservative is a dirty word these days. In terms of structural conservatism, this can still be accepted, i.e. what can be observed among some leftists to this day: that they act in the Brezhnev-style, that is, insist on strict adherence to what has been agreed. Every change becomes the breaking of concrete. What is fundamentally different, however, is the conservative of the Social Democrat (and former Christian Democrat) Gustav Heinemann, who became Federal President in 1969 on the way to the social-liberal federal government and helped to dare more democracy, Heinemann, who had a face for the desire for a civil society, a civil society gave. Or the conservative of Rita Süssmuth, the former Christian Democratic family minister, who fought in a social and democratic way to remove the social stigma from AIDS sufferers in order to prevent the division of society, the de-solidarization and polarization. Or the indestructible Heiner Geissler, who was a progressive at work, as CDU General Secretary, when he combined “politics based on the Christian image of man” with support for modern environmental policy, with practical gender equality policy, but supported by the philosophy of preserving life opportunities . He was also "right" at times, but that has now outlived him. May he be with Attac today and propagate its goals - isn't this movement about preservation?

Just get rid of someone conservatively today, and you'll have it, a new kind of stigma. Good evidence of this is how Angela Merkel behaves, one who knows how to meticulously avoid any contamination with political septicism: She does everything to avoid even being coupled with this term. “Moderate” is the word she would certainly prefer.

This makes the term free. For free use, to a certain extent, and even to found a party. Why should groups split off only on the left? There is space to the right of the center, space is being made. It is not God given that our party spectrum is rather small compared to Italy. That can change. Unless you wanted to keep it in its current state.


If we make it more difficult for ourselves with the terminology - then yes. It's just not certain. So that figures of light can have an effect, there must also be the Beelzebub, quite simply thought. The conservatives. Those who are right-wing and misunderstood think nationally and populate in every respect.

But, hand on heart: Who doesn't want to secure laboriously achieved progress? Who does not wish that the right measure is governed and therefore not forgotten what the political culture of a country with a democratic tradition requires?

How conservatively Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD chairman, sometimes speaks today. And how progressive the CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe. State-of-the-art politics, that is the aim. Change begins with addressing and expressing what is; what the real reality is. So if you see facts, acknowledge them, and look for a solution to the possibly necessary innovation, it will be easier for you if you have a canon of values; if he does not depend on what was yesterday, but lives from what always applies. In the CDU they used to talk about a coordinate system in front of Merkel, the trained physicist. Deviations can be well represented, tracked and controlled in a coordinate system. So that, based on the Irish-British state philosopher Edmund Burke, one of the fathers of conservatism, a good and proven order is maintained in principle.

An excursus: In physics, “conservative” is a force in which the work done along a path depends only on the start and end point, not on the path. Politics is different, as is currently being shown again. The end point is often not in sight, rather the way. Sometimes leadership is needed to be followed.

Anyone who knows where they come from, which road the country has taken, has a compass. Because the path goes into the new and the unknown for each of us every day.

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