The Corner

Picard the Conservative

A prominent conservative writer, who wishes anonymity, offers the following analysis: “Jean-Luc Picard . . . was deeply conservative, in the finest Burkean tradition. Picard embraced the conservative Gaullist ideal that ‘institutions can only be preserved if they are constantly renewed’ and was therefore, as Paul Johnson admired in De Gaulle, someone who was modernist and even futurist precisely because he was conservative. Picard preserved all through his travels that love of “la France des villages”; of old books, ancient plays, and classical music. This conservatism was often and prominently highlighted. Even his admiration for [the preternatural wise-woman character] Guinan was conservative at the root: He was intellectually modest enough to know that there were things he could not understand, and would have to leave to trust — perhaps ‘faith’ is a better word. . . . [Picard] had, as Paul Johnson said of De Gaulle, the historian’s capacity for seeing events sub specie aeternitatis, from the standpoint of eternity, which is perhaps the very most conservative way to view the great stage upon which we are all merely players.”

This last part, about the conservative way to view temporal events, reminds me of the serene detachment of Krishna’s conversation with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. (I came to the Bhagavad Gita, as so many other Westerners did, through T. S. Eliot, who was a big fan.) It is your duty to fight, but with an eternal perspective that relativizes the passion with which you fight. It is in selfless action that we find our true self; which is the core of Advaita (non-dualist) Hinduism, and an essential part of Christian thought also (“whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it,” Luke 17:33).

I concede to my many e-mail correspondents that on Star Trek matters, I am a novice. But I think it’s clear that some of these moral/spiritual/religious insights about “the permanent things” that the conservative writer above mentioned have a great value — and maybe a more lasting one than the show’s liberal messages on specific political issues of the day.

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