Positive antimodernism

Antimodernism is not simply a matter of saying ‘no’ to things. And nor is it always about excluding others. Sadly, however, these two notions – of negativity and exclusion – often seem to dominate antimodern discourse. Partly this is to be expected: antimodernism is against something. It defines itself by what it is not and what it wishes to fight. Yet to focus on the negative – on being ‘anti’ – is to ignore why we take the stance we do. It is also to risk the idea that antimodernism is based on hatred and fear of those who are different from us.

The form of antimodernism I espouse can be defined quite simply as the love of home. It is the commonly held desire that we all have to keep certain people and certain things close to us. This does mean that we will exclude others, but only so we can protect and nurture those we love. To live privately with those we care for is to exclude. But we exclude not because we hate others, or because we wish to separate ourselves from those we are different. Rather we exclude to make our lives possible. We need a stable and secure base from which we can nurture and care and show love to those special few.

It is this need for stability that leads us to reject the flux and transgression at the heart of modernity. We do not accept the creative destruction that comes with the idea of progress. We do not wish for change, but wish to stay where we are so we can be safe and nurture those we love.

But this sense of nurturing should also lead us to reject some of the more strident forms of antimodernism. The love of home is not a search for identity. We are not seeking to create or defend some national or cultural identity that distinguishes us from others. Rather the antimodernism I wish to espouse is concerned with our ordinary everyday lives. It is a concern with how we live day to day in families and communities. It is where we can recognise what we have inherited and what we owe to those who came before us, but not in any sense of it being threatened or endangered by those who we cannot accept. There is no great sense of otherness, of us against them and the need to defend ourselves. Rather we just wish to be allowed to live as we will, without change being thrust upon us.

We have no need to hate or fear others and we have no need to separate ourselves from those who look and act differently from us. We can ignore those outside of the home, or we can invite them in. What matters is our ability to maintain that boundary. But that boundary is not defined by tribe, nation or race, but by the scope of our everyday lives and the relationship with have those people and things close to us.

This is a positive vision of antimodernism, and one that we can use to challenge the perception that all we are concerned with is identity and difference. For most of us these do matter. We can find no reason for hatred and find no threat at our door. This is because of what nurtures and protects us. And this does not depend on abstractions and constructions built from fear, but on the reality of how we live with others. This gives us clear grounds to resist the flux and change of the modern world, but also to ignore those who wish to forge a collective identity based on ideas beyond our home and ourselves.

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