Dyed in the Wool?

Despite the fact that I am, as the title suggests, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative in a great may respects, I like to think that I'm not particularly reactionary in most respects. That being said, there is an interesting conservative reaction I have regarding a few modern conveniences.

The first one is cell phones. As discussed on the waiter rant a few days ago, and spotted via MetaFilter (where else?) people have a bizarre love-hate relationship with cell phones, and more generally with their users. On the one hand, it's leading to a change in social norms, as people start having conversations that could, at best, be viewed as debatably appropriate for public consumption in subways, busses, restaurants, and other places.

The rant linked above, however, is interesting because in a lot of respects the person writing it is, from his other postings, a liberal-leaning individual who is having the classical conservative reaction to the new and different -- he's decrying it as destroying social institutions as though they have inherent value, as opposed to simply existing as a consequence of previous upheavals due to changing technologies and mores. I, on the other hand, tend to take things like the cell phone in stride. Sure, the definition of what is polite changes, but that's been happening throughout the course of human history, from the vomitoriums at Roman binges to the straitlaced, repressive Victorian ear (in public, at least) to today, with our cell phones and our email.

So, in this respect, I fail the test of conservatism.

The second issue, the one that's been ticking about my head for the longest, is the issue of the automatic transmission. I freely admit, I'm a stick in the mud on this one. It's weird, because on one hand I'm in favour of letting machines do the work that machines are good enough at. I support automation, and the obsolescence of the manual labourer. I come down in favour of machine intelligences being developed to remove the likelihood, and reduce the probability of human error in complex tasks.

But, despite all of that, I cannot get over my strong preference for manual transmissions, and a subtle, but definitely present, sense of elitism when I realize that I am in a shrinking segment of the population that is comfortable with controlling more aspects of their vehicles. This is classical reactionary conservatism, decrying a change that is, at least by objective measures, beneficial to society on the basis that it is... different.

At this point, I imagine that readers are thinking: "Is he going anywhere with this?"


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