I recently finished A Corpse at St. Andrew’s Chapel: The Second Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon, a medieval mystery novel by Mel Starr. In it there is an exchange between Hugh and Master Wyclif (he of historical actuality). Master Wyclif says:
“Aye. Do you not wish to be unlike the commons? They scratch when and where they itch and belch when and where they will and the letters on a page are as foreign to them as Malta.”
“But…I remember a lecture …”
“When you spoke of all men being the same when standing before God. No gentlemen, no villeins, all sinners.”
“Hah; run through by my own pike. ‘Tis true. I recite the same sermon each year, but though we be all sinners, and all equally in need of God’s grace, all sins are not, on earth, equal, as they may be in God’s eyes. Else all punishments would be the same, regardless of the crime.”
George Lakoff thinks that conservativism is built around the strict father model of morality, with a defined hierarchy, and a set of winners, who have earned the right to rule, and the rest, who must content themselves with being governed by their betters. Corey Robin, in The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, begins by talking about dominance by the rulers–husbands in a marriage, employers, land owners, slave owners–and subservience by the wifes, workers, peasants, and slaves. In reponse to Geoffrey Kabaservice’s review on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011 of Carl T. Bogus’s biography William Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism, reader Roger Carasso maintains that conservatives brandish traditional values “as a cover for class domination and expoitation.”
John Wyclif, at least as portrayed by Mel Starr, while acknowledging equality before God, still needs to feel a bit of superiority among men. And those, not adherents of but writing about conservatism, point to a conservatism distinguishing between those who deserve, and those who don’t, with power and wealth flowing, as is right, to those who deserve.