Yesterday’s radicals are today’s old farts. This is a loose quotation of something I read somewhere recently. It was to do with la bise, the French tradition of kissing each other on the cheek as a greeting. In the 1960s the student protestors promoted it as an instrument of social equalisation and hierarchical disintegration. Now a French provincial mayor is refusing to give la bise to her colleagues because, given its own conventions, it is sexist and time-wasting (with up to 73 colleagues to kiss each morning one can have some sympathy for her). The question looms: will yesterday’s radicals who championed it rush to its defence or conform to this new, emerging orthodoxy? Will they be conservatives or conformists?
Hang on! Aren’t “conservative” and “conformist” synonyms? Surely a conservative is one who does not like change and conforms to the status quo? The problem lies in the definition
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