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Published on February 19th, 2013


Anthony “Rek” LeCounte: The Tradition of Ink and Wood

“To recognize that there is a need to distinguish…between the good and the evil in tradition, requires recognition of the preeminent role (not, lest I be misunderstood, the sole role) of reason in distinguishing among the possibilities which have been open to men since the serpent tempted Eve and Adam…” –Frank S. Meyer

“Some people aren’t books, they’re poems.” –A Softer World, 680

                “Some people aren’t books, they’re poems.” –A Softer World, 680

Mom used to take me to bookstores on occasional trips to the mall or en route to some all-day set of errands. Barnes & Noble, Borders, some local community shop—I cared less for the name on the door than for the promises teased on back covers and inside flaps. She and I have long been avid readers, so these little sojourns to outposts of the empire of narrative were often my favorite part of an entire week. It’s a shame there were no frequent-traveler miles for wandering by print.

Years after our last trip together to whatever manuscript emporium, Mom bought me an eReader for Christmas. She asked me if I would use it. I told her I would, and I sincerely meant it. I have read a few books since that day. Not a one has lacked the tree-born pages so amenable to dog ears and annotation. It turns out that for all the time absorbed by the many screens in my life, I remained a reactionary on books. It was never even a conscious choice but simply a fact of me.

But the more I think on it, the more I find myself an unrepentant partisan of the traditional, battery-free book. The reason is not that I hate eReaders, want them to go away, or somehow associate them with civilizational decline—to the contrary, ebooks and other digital goods are the latest children of the mind, as worthy of celebration and use as their elder siblings. But in the end, the experience of a natural book is to the LED script of an ebook as the sound of your voice is to the lines of a text or as getting lost under the sky is to clicking through Google Maps Satellite.

It’s a bit like the ongoing conservation of conservatism.

On the one hand, you have traditionalists clinging to such antiquated values as family, honor, duty, loyalty, and transcendence because they speak holistically to the disparate and unified condition of humanity. Tradition, after all, is as much a project of aesthetics as of truth, as much for the heart as for the mind. It is the anchor of the eternally silent majority in cold, cosmic seas—the balance of agency and cupidity in the present by the democracy of the dead.

An eReader battery dies or “digital rights” management prevents you from sharing your ebook with a friend. But at any time you can read a paperback and give it to anyone as readily as your community imparts the peculiar stamp of its wisdom and flaws. A dog-eared page can trigger memories or fantasies as poignantly as a photograph in a loved one’s home. The annotations on paper are as stories told across decades, iced tea, pecan pie, and the background sound of children playing. There is something ineffably raw about a book that is lost in translation to yet another screen between you and the escalating abstractions of a rapidly digitizing world. There’s something about the way the markings and the mass carry separate, wordless stories of joy and pain, vulnerability and hope.

On the other hand, you have libertarians beating the drums of pragmatism, efficiency, liberty, idiosyncrasy, and autonomy. Denying sentiment, they offer function. Against reaction, they demand solutions. No longer impressed either by tradition—and underlying assumptions of old authority and static truth—or establishment—and its atrophic will to complacency—they seek above all freedom from imposed shackles and entrenched stupidity.

A book is a tool to impart knowledge or provide entertainment. Where we progressed from vinyl to cassette tapes to CDs to iPods, we have evolved from oral tradition to manuscript to paperbacks to ebooks. Our lives are more efficient, our opportunities more plausible, our tools more expansively useful when technology captures libraries in the palms of our hands. There is something uniquely enabling about the power to construct and define your own domain in an increasingly automated society.

Where these perspectives meet is in the question central to the whole project of free society, and the narratives it keeps—what is freedom for?

Is it really convenient to have a universe in a Kindle if you no longer know the spontaneous pleasure of glancing at a shelf, grabbing an inviting title, and reclining into a place where the smells of wood, paper, and earth create worlds within worlds of imagining? Are you really better off if you no longer find reason to flip through an old favorite and reminisce over highlighted passages that once breathed clarity into vast labyrinths of mystery? Are you freer if your autonomy comes in automated packaging that will wipe away its every memory of you under the commands of a stranger? Under all the paeans for progress and efficiency, are you any less of a hopeful machine wanting pieces of the world to retain some piece of you when you’re gone? Or will we have people autograph our eReaders now?

I’m not saying abandon your Nook and your smartphone and read only through disposable media. I rarely read print news anymore at home, but I would be remiss to deny preferring the touch of an express paper to my smartphone on the morning Metro. I would never want to live in any dimension where the expanse of human knowledge is beyond reach of my hand. And I would not care to endure an era where all simple joys of old pleasures were ever abandoned for newer toys. What I cherish is knowing that the convenient genius of an eReader is always within reach, even as I freely choose to seek my stories elsewhere.

There should be a word for the things we do, not because they’re sensible, but because we want to.

This post was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge from The Daily Post.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anthony “Rek” LeCounte has been keenly engaged in politics and philosophy ever since the 2000 election invented “Red” and “Blue” states while reminding everyone that courts can change the world. He is a graduate from Yale with a degree in Political Science and expects any future husband to love politics and college football at least half as much as he does. He blogs about conservative policy, principles, and political philosophy at Token Dissonance. Tweet him @RekLeCounte

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14 Responses to Chidike Okeem: The End of Artificial Black Conservatism

  1. Pingback: VOICEOFCHID.COM » Blog Archive » New Essay at Hip Hop Republican

  2. HD-con blues says:

    The right shows that it’s biggest concern is white hegemony and that is totally the rationale(if they were honest) behind their demonstrated lack of deference to the 44th POTUS

    • SallyMJ says:

      So you don’t believe that thinking grown-up men and women can disagree with a candidate? What Kool-Aid have you been drinking? On the liberal plantation?

  3. Excellent analysis. True black conservatism must always retain an independent stance from the party line of mainstream white conservatism. Thomas Sowell was more like this in earlier times. Your point on affirmative action is well taken. As I mention in my own blog, affirmative action began as a mechanism to benefit WHITE union members, who were discriminated against due to union membership. Courts realized that merely saying “please stop” to employers was meaningless and imposed specific remedies in view of those white unionists directly affected. Sowell was more forthright bout such things in earlier times. From one of his 1975 articles for example:

    “The general principle behind “affirmative action” is that a court order to “cease and desist” from some discriminatory practice may not be sufficient to undo the harm already done, or even to prevent additional harm as the result of a pattern of events set in motion by the prior illegal activity. This general principle goes back much further than the civil-rights legislation of the 1960′s, and extends well beyond questions involving ethnic minorities or women. In 1935, the Wagner Act prescribed “affirmative action” as well as “cease and desist” remedies against employers whose anti-union activities had violated the law. Thus, in the landmark Jones and Laughlin Steel case which established the constitutionality of the Act, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company not only to stop discriminating against those of its employees who were union members, but also to post notices to that effect in conspicuous places and to reinstate unlawfully discharged workers, with back pay. Had the company merely been ordered to “cease and desist” from economic (and physical) retaliation against union members,the future effect of its past intimidation would have continued to inhibit the free-choice elections guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

    Racial discrimination is another obvious area where merely to “cease and desist” is not enough. If a firm has engaged in racial discrimination for years, and has an all-white work force as a result, then simply to stop explicit discrimination will mean little as long as the firm continues to hire by word-of-mouth referrals to its current employees’ friends and relatives. (Many firms hire in just this way, regardless of their racial policies.) Clearly, the area of racial discrimination is one in which positive or affirmative steps of some kind seem reasonable-which is not to say that the particular policies actually followed make sense.”
    –Sowell, Thomas (1975) Affirmative Action Reconsidered. The Public Interest 3, pg 48-65


  4. TylerD says:

    Finnally a conservative of African heritage that acknowledges why Black conservatives are not taken as legit in their own community. Before telling me about the plantation I’m on you have to take care of business on the plantation you live on.

  5. Darnell says:

    The problem with most blacks especially black liberals is that they believe that racism is the cause
    of most of their problems. They can’t get educated because of racism. They can’t achieve because
    of racism. So on and so on.

    This put racism in full control of their lives. It says that most blacks believe that they do not have the
    ECONOMIC POWER that is needed to solve their problems. With black Americans having nearly a
    Trillion Dollars in purchasing power, this is unbelievable.

    There are blacks who believe that they can not accomplish or do anything without the approval or input from white people. Therefore they keep the racism game going.

  6. Jack says:

    Most Black conservatives lack the courage to fight racism..Name one that you can call when racism happens to you..

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  12. Jack says:
    Most Black conservatives lack the courage to fight racism..Name one that you can call when racism happens to you..

    Nonsensical. Black conservatives have been in the forefront of “fighting racism” since there was such a fight. And who is exactly supposed to be “on call” when “racism happens”? Are you on perpetual call so that the next white racist hollering “nigg##” from a passing car can be “responded to”? Who bailed out ML King countless times in the 1960s? Black conservative A Gaston. Who provided armed self-defense units at various times during the Civil Rights era as several authors show (see Negroes with Guns, or This Non-Violent Stuff Will Get You Killed for example)? It was black conservatives in many instances. Who has taken on and debunked “scientific” racists time and time again using hard science? Black conservatives.

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