Thursday, July 02, 2020

Why are we denatured?

At the very beginning, when I first became involved in traditionalist politics, I wrote about the need to uphold the fully natured person. This was a person who, for example, was still deeply connected to people and place, who felt a love for these things and a corresponding duty to defend them, who sensed the inherent good and meaning within them, who felt enriched by them. I was aware, even back then, of a denaturing process within political modernity through which these parts of our own selves were being lost.

I have come to see three reasons why we are being denatured. I'll briefly mention the first two, as it's the third one that needs drawing out.

1. Liberal autonomy theory

I've written about this at length previously. Liberals define freedom as maximising individual autonomy. This is understood to mean the ability of an individual to self-determine who he is and what he does. The terrible problem with this formula is that it consigns everything predetermined in life to a negative role as a fetter on our personal freedom that we need to be liberated from. This includes our sex and our ethny, which are not self-determined and which liberals therefore believe ought not to matter.

In other words, there are significant aspects of our nature that are rejected because they are predetermined and don't fit in with the liberal way of defining human freedom. They are not allowed to matter, and people who think they do are reviled with words like "sexist" or "bigoted". There is a suppression of what we are allowed to express about our own natures.

2. The levelling instinct

There are people who reject the vertical axis of reality. They do not see the benefit in an ordered hierarchy, nor do they wish to serve the higher, transcendent goods that exist outside and above them. They see distinctions negatively as an affront to a levelled, individual existence.

There are many reasons why people might go down this path. A more natural one is that civilisation often does involve artifices, such as people having to work hard to maintain status. There is a very longstanding counter impulse to wish for a more simple, pre-civilised life - an Arcadian life.

This evolved, however, into a more damaging ideological view within Western thought. The idea was that men were not to be redeemed in religious terms, but through a radical restructuring of society. Men, it was argued, were naturally good but corrupted by the power structures within civilisation. If you could abolish these power structures, man's nature would be redeemed and you could have an Edenic life of freedom and equality.

Originally, the power structure targeted was the Ancien Regime of kings, priests and aristocrats. Then later the power structure was capitalism and the bourgeoisie. In more recent times patriarchy (men) and whiteness.

Those who hold to this ideological view place their faith in a future utopia that will arise via the effort to level down human existence. John Lennon's song "Imagine" is a kind of anthem for those who follow this mindset: the ultimate aim is to have no nations, nothing above us, no distinctions but only a "oneness". But this is a denial of the fully natured person who is alive to transcendent goods, to partial loyalties and to natural distinctions.

People become levellers for other reasons too. Those who are in a state of father rebellion will often reject all that the father represents symbolically, including the vertical axis of reality. And throughout history there have been those who pridefully reject the authority of anything outside themselves, who declare "non serviam".

3. The technocratic mindset

On the right people often declare the levellers to be communists. It is true that Marxism is an example of a leveller movement, but levelling is something that predates Marxism. In the early 1800s, for instance, the first English group to call themselves liberals (a radical group which included the poet Shelley) held leveller views, as do many ordinary middle-class white leftists today.

The problem with the next reason for the denaturing of Western man is that it is not confined to the left. Whilst it is a feature of leftist thought (including communist thought) it is just as common on the right, even amongst those who consider themselves "Tory". It has so deeply infiltrated the Western mind that it covers the political spectrum.

Here is the problem. In the early modern era, Western man decided to place himself outside of nature. For this reason alone it was inevitable that Western man would become denatured.

Professor Patrick Deneen describes the premodern view of man's relationship to nature as follows:
Premodern political thought....understood the human creature as part of a comprehensive natural order. Humans were understood to have a telos, a fixed end, given by nature and unalterable. Human nature was continuous with the order of the natural world, and thus humanity was required to conform both to its own nature and, in a broader sense, to the natural order of which it was a part. Human beings could freely act against their own nature and the natural order, but such actions deformed them and harmed the good of human beings and the world. [Why Liberalism Failed, p. 35]

In this premodern view, we are necessarily embedded within nature - within our own nature and that of the reality we inhabit - with our purposes being found within the nature given to us. It was commonplace within Western thought for people to seek to live within the nobler aspects of their nature, particularly those that linked the individual to sources of meaning within the natural order.

This began to change in the early modern period. The new scientific outlook saw man as standing outside of nature, commanding it for his own purposes. In the longer run this led to a technocratic mindset in which the natural world was viewed as an inert resource to be organised efficiently for the purposes of quantitative growth.

This mindset spills over into attitudes toward people, who come to be seen in technocratic terms as resources or as forms of capital to be employed in the most effective way for growth or for strategic advantage. People are no longer seen as fully natured creatures embedded within distinct traditions, connected deeply to people and place, with particular ("partial") loyalties and with different roles in society.

This has been a significant problem since at least the 1940s. It was in that decade that academics and bureaucrats within the public service decided that Anglo-Australia was to be phased out, because statistical growth targets required human capital from other sources. One Australian MP even suggested, in the aftermath of WWII, that German children be removed from their parents en masse and brought to far off Australia because it would have strategic benefits.

The Australian right today is divided between those with this technocratic mindset and those with a more genuinely traditional outlook. It was announced yesterday, for instance, that the British PM, Boris Johnson, had decided to offer residence in the UK to 3 million Chinese living in Hong Kong. If you think of people as having a nature which includes a connection to ancestry, to history, to culture and tradition, as well as a love for and identity with a settled sense of peoplehood, you are unlikely to approve of the decision. It will seem to be a policy at odds with deeply rooted aspects of human nature.

But some people don't see things this way. They no longer recognise such aspects of human nature. They are more inclined to take a technocratic view that there is a utility in moving people around like this, perhaps for geopolitical advantage, perhaps for GDP growth. Such people have adopted the "modern" view of nature, that we stand outside of it, directing it for our own utilitarian purposes, which usually means advancing state power or seeking quantitative economic growth.

On my Australian social media feed about half applauded the move by Boris Johnson and suggested the same offer should be made by our own PM.

The problem is not with particular technological advances, such as a medical scientist developing a cure for a disease. The problem is with how we see the relationship between man and nature. We have to acknowledge that Western man has fallen into a mindset in which nature exists to serve the purposes we assign it but has no significance in itself. This then has consequences for the value we place on our own nature and of how we relate to the natural order we inhabit. The technocratic mindset denatures us and makes us fungible, i.e. it turns us into interchangeable resources to be deployed within an economic system of production and consumption. We are stripped down to those attributes that make sense within a technocratic understanding of life.

We have to recognise that this is a problem on the right, not just on the left. It is not even just a problem with right-liberals - it goes beyond this, because it is such an unchallenged aspect of modern thought.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

On fidelity

Traditional societies placed a great emphasis on fidelity, whether this meant being true to our word, faithful to our spouse, steadfast in our duties, or loyal to our country.

It used to be thought a grievous moral offence to betray those we should naturally be loyal to. Dante, in his fourteenth century work the Inferno, reserves the ninth and innermost circle of hell, the one where Satan resides, for those who have committed treachery, including to family and nation. Paul, in describing the end days of the world, an ultimate state of disorder, writes:
There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Tim 3)

When he says "without love" he uses the Greek term "astorgos" which means "without natural affection" or "hardhearted toward kindred". Society is breaking down when the natural bonds of love and affection wither and people become self-serving and more willing to commit acts of betrayal.

Our forebears understood how desolating it would be to allow a society to descend into infidelity. If we cannot see ourselves as connecting in a stable way to others, to those who will be loyal to us and not betray our trust, then we will imagine that we can only rely on our own self and withdraw deeply into a solitary existence. This is a bleak picture of the human condition, one that we do not want proven in society. It makes sense, then, that betrayal and treachery should be thought to be the worst of moral offences, as transgressions that should rightly shock us, or at least disturb us as a reminder of how we might be alienated from natural human ties of love and loyalty.

Elizabeth Fenton, who made a difficult journey to Tasmania in 1828, made this connection between infidelity and alienation. Her ship was manned by a Mohammedan crew, two of whom were European converts. She wrote of one:
He makes me quite melancholy. He is English by name and complexion, but his tastes, manners, and his scruples, not to say his religion, are Arab...His taste seems to lie in laying bare the unsightly movements of the human heart and crushing its better feelings, or dwelling on them with bitterness and ridicule...

Poor fellow! though it always makes me nervous to hear him speak, I pity him too; he may not always have been what he now is; has he been made this [way] by disappointment or alienation from the humanising relationships of life?

And of the other:
Among this crowd there is, - Oh! sad to write it, - a Greek, a native of Athens, a Moslem now by adopted faith and practice. Little reckons he of past time; Marathon is no more to him than Mozambique. He would rather have a curry than all the fame of his ancestors.

We get to a culture of infidelity by many thousands of cumulative transgressions. We gradually sap away the level of trust in society. In modern times this includes:

  • all the middle-class white women who work as English or history teachers but who rarely sway from portraying their own ancestors in negative terms as racists or oppressors. This normalises infidelity, it makes it seem as if it is alright to break faith with our own people.
  • the acknowledgement of country ceremonies. This is a healthy act of fidelity for Aborigines, but for others it means acknowledging the elders of another group rather than their own. It would be like honouring a stranger's mother and father rather than our own.
  • the acceptance of high levels of divorce. The idea that marriage is "just a bit of paper" and that vows made in a church are just romantic theatre but have no wider meaning.
  • promiscuity. Embarking on a lifestyle of promiscuity before marriage is a breaking of faith with our future spouse - it is a giving away of parts of our self that belong to our future spouse.
  • "conservative" politicians who treat their nations as economic zones, the purpose of which is to maximise GDP. As Paul wrote, this is an example of an end days mentality in which men will be "lovers of money" and therefore "treacherous".
  • feminism. The idea that men and women are hostile and competing social classes, with men having oppressed women throughout history. An ideology that undermines trust between the sexes.

There can also be infidelity in our relationship with God. If God is our creator, from whom we have the gift of life, and from whom we are invested with a soul and higher purposes, then when we act against God's purposes for ourselves there is a break in faith, an infidelity. It makes little sense though to practise fidelity at this level, but then to break with the very same virtue in our wider relationships. If fidelity is a virtue then not only should we reject infidelity in acting against God's purposes, we should reject it as well in the breaking of faith with a spouse, or with our parents, or with our people.

Fidelity is not some sort of boutique virtue. If we are not faithful in our relationships, if we do not honour our word, if we do not give due reverence to those who brought about our being, then we are creating a wasteland. There are too many middle-class Westerners, even those who consider themselves "moral", who are lacking in this very virtue. 

We need to re-establish fidelity as a core virtue, to the point that we once again respond viscerally with abhorrence to the vice of infidelity - to deception, to the breaking of oaths, to treachery. Fidelity should be considered a core aspect of character, particularly for men, whose relationships with each other are rightly ordered to loyalty and whose sense of moral integrity and reputation have fidelity as a key component. But for women, too, fidelity should be considered a marker of a mature, moral womanhood.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

On complementarity

From Twitter:

There is, of course, a corresponding instinct in men to want to protect and provide for a woman so that she can, as Rachel puts it, fall into her femininity. This is the instinct that is physically embodied in relationships when a man draws a woman toward him, inviting her to lean into him and feel supported. Or when at night in bed a man puts his arm around a woman and draws her into him, enveloping her.

It is one aspect of the relationship between men and women that can be genuinely complementary (not all aspects of relationships are). And it is a significant part of how men and women interact, as without it part of the bonding instinct is lost. It should, therefore, be defended within a culture, rather than taken for granted.

It seems to me that part of the dysfunction in modern relationships is because of interference with the provider/protector instinct in men. There is, first, the insistence in liberal societies that women be autonomous, and therefore independent, powerful and self-standing. Young men will grow up watching women kickboxing their way across TV and cinema screens. The softer qualities of women will be downplayed. Men will begin to feel that women are no longer a "complement" to their protector instincts.

Second, when a man sets out to protect and provide, there is always a risk that a woman will abuse his efforts. If a woman follows her lower nature, she might see an opportunity to exploit his willingness to work on her behalf. A lower natured woman might string him along and then at a certain time in the marriage reveal the deception. A man in this situation will lose his wife, his children, his house, and a considerable portion of his material assets and future income. Worse, he will be zeroed out existentially, as his efforts in life will have been revealed to have been chimerical. Some men never recover.

So defending complementarity between men and women, and the depth of connection that goes along with it, requires support within the culture. First, women need to balance being generally capable in life with a willingness to show their softer side to men. The image fed to men should not be the "tough warrior woman" but something more genuinely feminine. Nor is it really wise for a society to aim at women out earning men, particularly not via artificial means of quotas and so on - as this too undermines men's provider instincts.

As for the risk of exploitation, we need a better balance within family law that protects men from "divorce rape". Even more than this, it's important that men do not make it their entire life mission to protect and provide for a family. As much as a man might feel the truth of the complementary nature of his protector instinct and a woman's desire for a strong man to create a protected space for her, it is better for this to be the domestic side of a man's larger mission in life (rather than being the larger mission itself).

Women themselves don't really want a man to sacrifice his entire life for her. Women don't see relationships this way: they recognise their own sacrifices on behalf of family, but find it difficult to conceive of a man doing the same. They are attracted to men who go out and make their own way in the world rather than men who sacrifice their interests for women - to the point that it is difficult for them to register that a man might do this.

And if a man has a mission outside of his marriage, it leaves him far less exposed to deception by a lower natured woman (one who sees relationships in transactional terms and who cannot genuinely reciprocate a commitment to build a loving relationship within a marriage). If he still has his core mission, then as deep a blow as the deception might be, he will not have lost the existential ground to life as much as a man who puts everything into his role as a husband.

I'm not writing any of this to discourage men from being masculine enough to "allow a woman to fall into her femininity". It's to try to establish an understanding of how men might be encouraged to do this, rather than feeling demoralised and stepping back from this part of their nature.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The therapeutic turn

One book I would like to read is The Fatherless Society by the Danish academic Henrik Jensen. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available in English, so I'm limited to descriptions of it from other sources.

Take, for instance, the following from The Therapeutic Turn by Ole Madsen. In a discussion on how Western culture changed its emphasis from duties to rights, Madsen writes:
In 2006 the Danish historian Henrik Jensen's monumental work The Fatherless Society was published, a work that depicts the current culture of rights as a clear departure from former civilisations' authoritative patriarchal cultures of obligation. Jensen, like Rieff and Carroll before him, sees signs of a moral crisis in Denmark and in the West in general. Late modernity is characterised by what he calls 'mother rule' and which indicates that the citizen is apparently liberated from all forms of authorities and duties, and the only guidelines imposed on him or her is the welfare state's encouragement of its citizens to pursue self-centred, self-actualisation. The social hierarchy in the West up to the present day has been organised around a vertical cosmos, while today we live in a horizontal culture, Jensen maintains,.. (p.59)

This reminded me of a talk I had with my father when I was a young adult. I happened to mention the word "duty" as part of the conversation and my father stopped me and told me with concern "there is no such thing as duty". It seems that my father (a classical liberal in his values) had already accepted the cultural shift described above, the change in mindset in which there is no vertical dimension we look up to as being authoritative and from which is derived duty or obligation. Instead, there is only the striving toward our own individual "self-actualisation".

The discussion then turns to the downside of this shift to a "horizontal culture":
On the flipside lies the pitfall of the culture of rights, if it should become an overly unilateral, self-stimulating, mass individualised victim culture, Jensen argues...
Where the individual in the culture of guilt is indebted to God, the parents or society, the opposite is the case in the rights culture: the victim has an eternal claim to recompense...

The second main problem with 'the fatherless society' which Jensen identifies is the fatigue effect. This is a type of crisis of meaning which finds expression in the form of an increased feeling of emptiness, loss of direction and meaning, particularly among the younger, adolescent generation, in that the individualistic culture does not offer access to anything outside themselves...

Self-actualisation is hard work and fewer external reference points make this project confusing and potentially exhausting for many people...

The paradox is that the therapeutic ethos invites people to understand their lives in terms of suffering because pain provides a basis which enables psychologists to give their knowledge legitimacy and construct stories about individuality. The greater the number of causes for suffering that are situated in the self, the more the self is understood on the basis of its predicament. (pp. 59-61)

There is a lot in this quote. The first two paragraphs describe one of the shifts between traditional and modern cultures. In the former, the individual is indebted to those who formed him (God, parents, nation/ethny) - and therefore it was thought right that he should have the virtue of piety in honouring them. The individual might be subject to feelings of guilt if he did not live up to what was expected of him from these sources of authority in his life. In modern culture, when this vertical dimension is lost, and there is only the individual existing as part of a mass, there are no longer obligations to external sources of authority (duties), but individual rights to oneself that might not be adequately upheld, leaving the individual in the role of a victim. The focus shifts from what we owe to others to what is owed to ourselves - and therefore our focus is more likely to be not on our failure to adequately serve but on how we have been failed in what is owed to us as a right - on ourselves as victims.

The next two paragraphs are also very interesting. In traditional societies the individual was connected to transcendent goods that were a source of meaning, purpose and identity in his life. Some of these goods held inherent meaning and were a stable source of support in an individual's life. For instance, if there was an inherent meaning in masculinity, and I was a man, then my sense of self had something positive to rest on. Similarly, if I were English, and there were admirable qualities associated with this, and a collective memory of achievements, then this too might be a stable support for my sense of self - independently of what I achieved personally in life as an individual. Yes, there were ways in which these sources of meaning did require the individual to live up to a certain standard, so there was a possibility of having a sense of personal failure, but these standards were at least known to the individual.

The self-actualisation ethos can be harder on individuals, because everything comes down to finding some inner, unique, hidden aspect of the self to be "actualised" that then will then put things right, i.e. adequately provide meaning or that might justify our existence. Most people seem to interpret this in terms of career success bringing validation - I know a few people who when they made it in their careers suddenly became more settled in themselves. It does make things particularly difficult, though, on adolescents who haven't yet even chosen such a path, let alone travelled down it. Failure, too, is immense in this outlook as there aren't other given aspects of our nature that provide meaning or identity.

I found the final paragraph interesting simply because it does seem to describe some moderns, particularly those on the left. The phrase "the more the self is understood on the basis of its predicament" describes people I know for whom their "oppression" is inextricably linked to their sense of self. If you go on social media, and engage with some on the left, you get a sense that the greater part of the mindset is organised around this. I doubt if this is entirely to do with a turn to therapeutic culture but it could be part of the explanation.

Again, to make the contrast clear, it is more common for traditionalists to focus on aspects of the self that are connected to either pride or service, e.g. to manhood/womanhood, to national/ethnic identity, to fatherhood/motherhood, to membership of a church etc. But the more you head leftward, the more likely it is that people will organise their approach to life around coping with victimhood, e.g. from being a particular sex or ethnicity, or else they will speak about being "triggered" in their mental health from exposure to things they find difficult to cope with. For instance, if you go all the way leftward to the Democratic Socialists of America you get this:

Friday, April 10, 2020

Relying on the low?

I came across a speech by Boris Johnson that he gave back in 2013. It was on the topic of equality. The gist of it was that IQ is real and that people with an IQ under 85 are unlikely to succeed to the same extent as those with an IQ over 135. He also said:
I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.

This reminded me of something Patrick Deneen wrote in his book Why Liberalism Failed. Deneen argues that in the early modern period there was a revolution in the understanding of politics:
First, politics would be based upon reliability of "the low" rather than aspiration to "the high." The classical and Christian effort to foster virtue was rejected...Machiavelli proposed grounding a political philosophy upon readily observable human behaviours of pride, selfishness, greed, and the quest for glory. He argued further that liberty and political security were better achieved by pitting different domestic classes against one another, encouraging each to limit the others through "ferocious conflict" in the protection of their particular interests rather than by lofty appeals to a "common good" and political concord. By acknowledging ineradicable human selfishness and the desire for material goods, one might conceive of ways to harness those motivations rather than seeking to moderate or limit those desires. (pp.24-25)

This view of politics was carried into classical liberal philosophy. This means that classical liberals accepted the existence of human nature but focused on qualities such as self-interest and greed:
Early-modern liberalism held the view that human nature was unchangeable - human beings were, by nature, self-interested creatures whose base impulses could be harnessed but not fundamentally altered. (p.36)

Progressive (or "left") liberals came to hold a different view. They felt that human nature itself could be conquered in the same way that classical liberals thought external nature could be. They emphasised the idea that human nature was perfectible, for instance, through education or through changes to social institutions.

You can see from this that Boris Johnson's outlook is more like the classical liberal one than that of left-liberalism. He accepts certain fixed aspects of human nature, including IQ, but is focused on "the low" - on harnessing greed and envy to spur economic activity.

And what of the traditionalist view of human nature? I've read a little bit about the "Tory" view on this (i.e. of the more traditionalist members of the UK Conservative Party). Kevin Hickson has written a book surveying the views of these members of the "conservative right" and states:
...traditional conservatism held to a much more pessimistic view of human nature. As John Hayes put it "we appreciate that man is fallen, frail and faulted".

That view has been vindicated by what has happened to Western culture in recent decades. When human nature is allowed free rein, unimpeded by social norms, you do not get a more elevated level of culture but a more degraded one. Even so, I think there were faults in the "Tory right" view of human nature. If you leave your understanding of human nature at the idea that we are fallen, then you can lose idealism and with it the strength of motivation to lead and direct society.

For example, the Prime Minister of the UK in the late 1800s was the Marquess of Salisbury. He was part of the "Tory right" but his mindset seems to me to have been defeatist. Here is how Kevin Hickson puts it:
Although he believed that certain forces at work at the time he was alive would lead to social disintegration there was nothing one could ultimately do to stop them. The wise statesman would delay. Government would need to be ever vigilant but ultimately was bound to fail. The frailties of human nature would ensure that all that was good in society would decay. (Britain's Conservative Right Since 1945, p.8)

If the leftist radicals were promising an idealistic utopia and the best that traditionalists could come up with was "we are holding the fort but will ultimately lose" then the initiative was going to be with the radicals.

So although traditionalists should continue to insist on a fallible human nature, we shouldn't slide into this kind of pessimism. Nor do we need to. After all, unlike the classical liberals we do not wish to base politics on the "low" - we are not seeking to harness greed and self-interest. We wish to uphold the higher goods in life that men will ordinarily seek to live within and to defend. This ought to draw forth the strongest and deepest political commitments, much more so than those motivating the utopians, because they involve issues of identity, of meaning and of the good.

If traditionalism is done right then it ought to attract those willing to serve, i.e. those who wish to be connected to and to place themselves at the service of the transcendent good in life (rather than the individual pursuit of happiness or the selfish pursuit of profit). The leftist mindset, in contrast, is often of the "non serviam" variety - a prideful desire to not submit to a higher good, to have no reverence and to remain bound up in self. Although that gives leftists an oppositional energy, and although leftists can also be motivated by utopian dreams, it does not draw on the same loyalties and loves that motivate traditionalists toward political commitments.

I'd like to illustrate some of this by discussing two issues. The first is family. It's possible for a traditionalist to understand the stresses placed on family life by fallible human nature but to still recognise the traditional family as a significant good to be defended. The modernist approach is to claim that people can be left to their own individual reason to pursue their own wants and ends and that whatever results is equally family and equally good. This hasn't worked out well in practice. If men and women are not oriented to serving the common good of the family unit, it becomes difficult to find a point of harmony in relationships between men and women. Nor do all people act presciently for their own longer term good (e.g. women who want children but who leave things too late). Nor is the capacity to lay down stable emotional attachments likely to survive the churn of relationships that the modernist approach enables.

But even if the modernist principles weren't so influential, there would still be a gap between the ideal of family life and the reality. There exist, for instance, relatively fixed personality traits and some of these do not make for loving or faithful spouses. And so some families will be unhappy. It's possible to recognise the reality of this whilst still seeing a larger truth about the family as a model of human community, as something that is rightly striven for but, given human nature, cannot be taken for granted.

The second issue is that of moral community. Liberals claim that they are neutral in respect to this, but that isn't really so. Even right-liberals, who look to the individual pursuit of profit or pleasure, are still led, by their ideological preference for a limited state, to envision a moral community of self-helping, free-standing, law-abiding, hard-working, self-reliant, responsible, adult individuals. In general, given the liberal preference for "doing as thou wilt as long as it doesn't interfere with others doing the same", the liberal vision of moral community is one that is open, non-judgemental, non-discriminatory, tolerant, respectful of diversity etc.

Traditionalists should not be shy, therefore, in having their own vision of moral community. In part, this means a return to a pre-liberal understanding of the core ordering moral concepts, such as freedom, justice, equality and dignity. It means as well a return to a moral vision that was centred on the ideal of living within and serving the higher good in life. For our forebears, this meant a moral language centred around the praise of the nobler qualities of character and an avoidance of the baser ones, and of the cultivation of virtue.

Which brings me to one final matter. Much of what I have been discussing is properly an aspect of polis life. It is part of the masculine role of upholding the vertical dimension, of a hierarchical ordering of things, of looking upward toward the higher good.

There is a crossover here with the role of the church, but the focus of polis life and of the church are not exactly the same. The church focus must be, at least in part, also horizontally planed, i.e. on the sideways relationships between people, so that there is an emphasis on qualities such as love, neighbourliness, forgiveness, acceptance and hospitality. The church should hold to this as well as to the vertical dimension, in which there is an emphasis on reverence, worship, obedience and virtue.

It would be a mistake for a church to focus on the horizontal dimension alone (as a wholly feminised church might do). After all, it is in looking upward to serve the higher good that we are often brought to the service of God. Through the vertical structure we create the protected, cultivated, social spaces in which people can best unfold their "telos" - their God given purposes. It is through the vertical structure that moral community is formed and safeguarded. It is through the vertical structure that we maintain the continuity and stability of our communities (country, people, family) which fosters our capacity for love (in contrast to social anomie).

St Paul made this connection, this link between the aims of the church and the upholding of the vertical dimension (the aspiration to the high), in writing the following to the Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Review: The Year of our Lord 1943

I've just finished reading a book by Alan Jacobs titled The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis.

By 1943 it was becoming clear that the Allies were going to win the war. There was much interest in how the post-war world would be shaped. The book focuses on the work of five intellectuals of the period: T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil.

What is interesting is that these intellectuals were fearful that the West had lost its way and that without a change of course was likely to fail in the post-War world.

What did they identify as the problem? There are two main themes discussed in the book. The first concerns education. There was, for instance, a concern that education should promote moral and character formation, particularly for an elite who would be most influential in creating the culture of a society. As part of this aim, there was an idea that it was important to train or to educate a person in feeling or emotional response, not just in formal precepts.

This make sense to me. If someone doesn't feel or respond in a fully natured way to things, then it becomes difficult to enculturate them and to build human character.

The second theme is that of technocracy. Most of the writers seemed very aware that they were living in a time of transition, in which an older culture was giving way to a depersonalising, mass, technocratic one.

It's interesting, in this respect, that the year 1943 was chosen, as this was the year that the Australian Government made the formal decision to end Anglo-Australia and to have a more diverse population. The decision was made largely on technocratic grounds by planners and economists in obscure departmental committees, whose concern was with objective measures of growth above all else.

At the end of the book, Alan Jacobs praises the writers for the richness of their thought, but concludes that it came too late to make a difference, given that the technocrats had already consolidated their power, and the situation in Australia in 1943 seems to bear that out.

A thought of my own: perhaps the student revolt of the 1960s can be thought of, in part, as a kind of "revolt against the machine" - against the technocratic view of life favoured by the older elite (I'm thinking particularly of the hippy side of it, the drop out/commune with nature/alternative lifestyle side). The student revolt ultimately made things much worse by failing to appreciate and defend the good still existing within society (and there was much still worth defending in the 1960s).

That would be my criticism too of artwork like the following:

It's a very famous Australian painting titled Collins St., 5pm painted in 1955 by John Brack. It shows the mass of city workers in Melbourne leaving to go home. Brack painted the work after reading The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot.

Again, it makes sense as a protest against the depersonalised, mass, industrial society. But there was much to love and defend in Melbourne in 1955. (I've often wished that much of the city centre of that time had been preserved, like the European "old city" centres.)

I did find the book interesting and thought provoking, but because it provided a snippet of the thought of each writer at a particular time it didn't really provide a depth of argument or insight. I've been left most curious about the essays written by Eliot and Lewis, which I will have to follow up and read when I can.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Cardinal Robert Sarah on globalism

This is an excerpt from the book The Day Is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Robert Sarah. It criticises the reduction of men to a function within a capitalist society (consumers). This doesn't mean that a Soviet type command economy is superior, but rather that there has to be a way to place limits on the logic of the market, so that society (and the concept of man) is not shaped so entirely around it:
Interviewer: What connection is there between the consumer society, mass culture, and the standardization of ways of life?

Capitalism tends to reduce humanity to one central figure: the consumer. All economic forces attempt to create a buyer who can be the same anywhere on the globe. The Australian consumer must resemble the Spanish or the Romanian consumer exactly. Cultural and national identities must not be a hindrance to the building of this interchangeable man.

The standardization of consumer products is the perfect reflection of the aridity of this soulless civilization. The consumer society encourages ever-increasing production, the ever-greater accumulation and consumption of material goods. It presents to man an unimaginable abundance of material goods to consume and attempts to stimulate human greed more and more. The abundance of material goods is almost frightening. A human being seems obliged to consume what happens to be within his reach.

Materialism seeks to provoke an unlimited need for enjoyment. It totally misunderstands the needs of the interior life. In order to flourish, each person must be recognized in his uniqueness. The essence of capitalism imprisons man within himself, isolates him and makes him dependent.

Mass consumption leads to a dangerous, sterile form of gregariousness. The standardization of ways of life is the cancer of the postmodern world. Men become unwitting members of a great planetary herd that does not think, does not protest, and allows itself to be guided toward a future that does not belong to it.

Individual isolation and the degradation of persons, who are doomed to be no more than elements lost in the mass of consumers, are the two most horrible children of capitalism.

God's creature is deadened. He places his heart as a burnt offering on the altar of artificial happiness. He no longer knows the taste of true joys. He is an animal that eats, drinks, revels, and enjoys. The critical sense has become a ghost from the past.

Globalized humanity, without borders, is a hell.

This raises a question for traditionalists. If part of the problem is the logic of the market that seeks to make us into interchangeable units of production and consumption, how can we try to organise society to avoid this outcome?

I won't attempt a complete answer to this. I do think we need to have a bias toward smaller scale local production, so that the interests of these businesses are better aligned with the cohesion of local communities. It might be possible to harness modern technology to help make such local "micro industry" more competitive.

Maybe too there are ways to open up more space for people outside of the market (i.e. a better work/life balance so that people can pursue non-market interests or lead less hectic lives). For instance, we could find ways to make housing more affordable, to avoid spending decades paying off a mortgage. Better family stability would allow for greater financial independence. Where possible, rein in the creeping trend for people to be on call for work after hours.

The domestic sphere was also once better protected from the business world. Women, as mothers, once played a key role not only in making the home a haven from the corporate world, but also in giving life to local communities. Perhaps we could honour this role better than we do now.

The point is to harness the market and to encourage men to build up the financial resources to do good for their families and communities but without reducing the function or purpose of man to his role as a consumer.

D.H. Lawrence on sex distinctions

In 1920 the English poet and novelist D.H. Lawrence drafted an unfinished work titled Mr Noon. It's an account of his life around the year 1912 when he ran off with Frieda Weekley. Frieda was German born and had been part of a circle of German radicals who espoused, amongst other things, free love.

Lawrence is not easy to categorise politically. In his ideal political order,
...each man shall be spontaneously himself – each man himself, each woman herself, without any question of equality entering in at all; and that no man shall try to determine the being of any other man, or of any other woman.

That's partly in line with modernity (the emphasis on autonomy, on a self-determining individual) and partly not (the lack of interest in equality). Nor did he really follow through in an intellectually consistent way with autonomy - he recognised that there was a given nature that we either lived within or suffered the consequences of, and he thought too that we were dependent in significant ways on others (in marriage, in having a sense of a homeland etc.)

The upshot is that from a traditionalist point of view Lawrence is flawed but nonetheless still interesting - more so than most other modern authors (for me, his great appeal is that he writes as an embodied creature living within a created reality with spiritual meaning).

This is Lawrence, in Mr Noon, affirming a relatively traditional view of sex distinctions in which the aim is to uphold a sexual polarity between the masculine and feminine:
Ah the history of man and woman...the fatal bond that binds man to woman and woman to man, and makes each the limit of the other. Oh what a limitation is this woman to me! And oh what a limitation am I to her almighty womanliness.

And so it is, the two raging at one another. And sometimes one wins, and the other goes under. And then the battle is reversed. And sometimes the two fly asunder, and men are all soldiers and women all weavers. And sometimes all women become as men, as in England, so that the men need no longer be manly. And sometimes all men become as women, so the women need no longer be womanly. And sometimes - but oh so rarely - man remains man, and woman woman, and in their difference they meet and are very happy.

But man must remain man, and woman woman. There is something manly in the soul of a man which is beyond woman and in which she has no part. And there is something in woman, particularly in motherhood, in which man has no part, and can have no part. For a woman to trespass into man's extremity is poison, and for a man to trespass into woman's final remoteness is misery.

So there we are - the old, eternal game of man and woman: the time-balancing oscillation of eternity. In this we live and from this our lives are made. There is a duality in opposition, between man and woman. There is a dual life-polarity. And the one half can never usurp the other half - the one pole can never replace the other. It is the basis of the life-mystery. 

Note that Lawrence felt that in his own time women had become mannish - not a surprising result given that by 1920 there had been 60 years or so of first wave feminism in England. It's to Lawrence's credit as well that he recognised that it is a struggle - a cultural achievement - to keep the polarity of men and women balanced, i.e. that it was not something that you could passively assume would always be there.

Lawrence went on to urge men to uphold their masculine side of the polarity - even if they came under pressure to give way:
For a woman doesn't want a man she can conquer: no, though she fight like hell for conquest...Ultimately, a woman wants a man who, by entering into complete relationship with her, will keep her in her own polarity and equipoise, true to herself. The man wants the same of a woman. It is the eternal oscillating balance of the universe.

Lawrence did not get everything right. His criticisms of conventional sexual morality seem misguided now, given what has happened following the sexual revolution. It's not that Lawrence wanted people to follow their base instincts, but he does seem to have underestimated the potential for this to happen in the absence of traditional social norms.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Understanding postmodernism

I've participated in a few discussions with fellow dissident rightists about postmodernism. There is an awareness that this is something to be understood. I'm therefore sharing a discussion about it made originally on Twitter by Helen Pluckrose. She is not a traditionalist but a secular humanist liberal, so she is on the opposite side of the fence to us. I have to give her credit, though, for making some of the distinctions between Marxism and postmodernism clear.

Helen believes that much of postmodernist thought derives from Foucault:

She believes also that Marxism greatly influenced postmodernism but that it is important to understand the distinctions:

She begins to discuss the particular differences here:

She gives the following example of an academic supporting a postmodernist approach. The academic is not concerned with students being able to assess how truthful a proposition is, based on evidence or quality of definitions or logic, but on being able to identify expressions of power within language:

Helen compares this postmodernist approach to the Marxist one, which is based more on a materialist, economic, class based understanding of the world. The following excerpt is from a World Socialist Website and it criticises from the Marxist perspective a campaign launched to reframe American history:

Sometimes those on the left just lump everyone on the right into the same category. They can't be bothered to understand the differences between, say, a classical liberal, a traditionalist or a white nationalist. We should try to avoid the same mistake. Helen Pluckrose, as a secular humanist liberal, admits that she finds some things to support in Marxism and some things in postmodernism, but also has criticisms of both. They are all connected to a degree in their political lineage but are not the same. It's easier, I think, to make effective criticisms of all of them if we understand the distinctions between them.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Molly on love

I recently wrote a post on duality between men and women, pointing out a basic way that the instincts of men and women fit together in a complementary union. However, I was careful as well to note that relationships between the sexes aren't always simple to navigate. Take, as an example, the following tweets from an American woman named Molly. She begins with this:

She elaborates with the following:

Her base impulse was to associate love with an intensity of feeling, and this intensity of feeling was brought on by the thrill of uncertainty, of being left on the edge of her seat not knowing if the person would stay or go, of not knowing securely what the other person felt, of chaos and pain and so on.

This attitude has been recognised in the manosphere for some time, with young men being advised not to give away commitment too easily but to make a woman work for it; to remain something of a mystery; to keep excitement in the relationship and so on.

Even so, it's not an attitude that fits well with marriage. In marriage a man makes a firm and clear commitment to a woman - she is not meant to feel uncertain whether he will stay or not. Similarly, in marriage a man vows to protect and provide - he is not meant to make her experience chaos and pain.

So what's the solution? Well, at least part of the strategy is the one that Molly herself suggests, which is to try to overcome base impulse with something more elevated, namely a love that is settled in the will, that wills the good of the other person, that is willing to self-sacrifice for the larger good of the marriage and the family, and that aims to cultivate, as best we can, the finer qualities of our masculinity and femininity (as Molly puts it both for ourselves and for our spouse).

But this more elevated concept of love doesn't come to all people readily. It helps if it is part of the culture, of the ground within which people grow and form character. It cannot be taken for granted, but needs to be deliberately fostered generation by generation.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The decline of classical music

The last of the four podcasts that David Hiscox, Mark Moncrieff (of Upon Hope) and I recorded was on the topic of the decline of classical music. David is especially knowledgeable in the field and explains clearly why modernist classical music often sounds cacophonous. You can listen to the podcast here (it runs for 30 minutes).

I should add that since the 1990s (roughly speaking) some composers have begun again to compose music that is more likely to appeal to classical music fans and more likely to win a place in the canon. As an example there is the piece below by the English/German composer Max Richter.

Duality & the traditional family

I saw the following tweet recently:

I found it interesting as an example of the duality that can exist between men and women (she clarifies later that she meant to say "filling" it with love). Obviously there are points of difference between men and women that set the sexes apart, but there are also points of difference that are complementary, through which the sexes "fit together" in a significant way.

Men do have an instinct to be the providers and protectors who create a protected space in which women like Rachel Bock can then exercise their nurturing and homemaking instincts.

This is an example of duality in role or function. If the role or function of men and women were exactly the same ("gender role convergence") then the basis for relationships would become thinner. Men and women would no longer need each other as much, nor would we have as much to gift to the other sex, nor would there be the same feeling of gratitude to the other sex.

This "gender role convergence" is what is happening in modern society. It explains, in part, why modern women so often express the feeling that they don't need a man, or why so many people in the most "gender" advanced societies, like Sweden, live alone. If complementary roles are lost, then the motivation to establish and maintain relationships will be less compelling.

The novelist Rachel Cusk discussed this issue some years ago when writing about her divorce. She believes that her parents brought her up to follow male values, so that when she married and had a child she felt confused in her identity. She couldn't readily embrace the more feminine values described above by Rachel Bock, namely to make a house feel warm, to fill it with love and children, food and comfort. And so she did a role reversal with her husband, who agreed to stay home to do this while she pursued her career.
To act as a mother, I had to suspend my own character, which had evolved on a diet of male values...motherhood, was not a place where I could actually live...its values, its codes of conduct, its aesthetic were not mine.

So for a while I didn't belong anywhere. I seemed, as a woman, to be extraneous. And so I did two things: I reverted to my old male-inflected identity; and I conscripted my husband into care of the children. My notion was that we would live together as two hybrids, each of us half male and half female. He gave up his law job, and I gave up the exclusivity of my primitive maternal right over the children.

It didn't work out. She wanted both herself and her husband to be hybrids, half male and half female. That was her notion of equality. Instead, her husband seemed to be content with the homemaking role and with being dependent - and Rachel Cusk had been brought up to value independence above all. And so her feelings for her husband changed:
I had hated my husband's unwaged domesticity just as much as I had hated my mother's; and he, like her, had claimed to be contented with his lot.

Why had I hated it so? Because it represented dependence

Which brings her to an interesting insight about duality. Rachel Cusk admits that rather than her mother being dependent on her father, both were dependent on the other and that in this arrangement there was a duality between the two that connected them closely together: might be said that dependence is an agreement between two people. My father depended on my mother too: he couldn’t cook a meal, or look after children from the office. They were two halves that made up a whole. What, morally speaking, is half a person? Yet the two halves were not the same: in a sense my parents were a single compartmentalized human being. My father’s half was very different from my mother’s, but despite the difference neither half made any sense on its own.

But she herself had a notion of equality in which people remained disconnected:
My notion of half was more like the earthworm’s: you cut it in two but each half remains an earthworm, wriggling and fending for itself.

She was aware of one of the negative consequences of being entirely self-sufficient:
Sometimes my awareness of my own competence alarmed me. How would I remain attached to the world if not by need? I didn’t appear to need anyone: I could do it all myself. I could do everything. I was both halves: did that mean I was whole?

The official model now is the earthworm one. Men and women are no longer supposed to have complementary, interdependent roles. Equality is understood to mean sameness in role and function. It is common to hear feminists complain that men aren't fully embracing the earthworm model by doing as much of the "emotional work" as women, by which they mean the kind of homemaking work described in Rachel Bock's tweet.

The danger is that this model will undermine the duality between men and women. If we become self-sufficient, we have less need to be in a relationship with the other sex. We won't have the same compelling need to fulfil ourselves in a significant way in a relationship with the opposite sex. We will then become fussier, more demanding, less grateful and less willing to compromise in relationships.

As it happens, Rachel Cusk's vision of marriage crumbled. She ended it and then sought desperately to regain some of the maternal role she had relinquished, even to the point of insisting that the children belonged to her, by right, as the mother. She began as well to accept aspects of her feminine psyche:
...when my children cry a sword is run through my heart. Yet it is I who am also the cause of their crying. And for a while I am undone by this contradiction, by the difficulty of connecting the person who acted out of self-interest with the heartbroken mother who has succeeded her. It seems to be the fatal and final evolution of the compartmentalized woman

Traditionalists do not put individual autonomy at the front rank of human values. And so we are more likely to accept the interdependent model of relationships, one which upholds the duality between men and women.

The traditional model does, however, have drawbacks which have to be considered. First, it does leave the husband and wife more dependent on each other, both emotionally and materially, and so it is a difficult model to work with in a liberal society which encourages people to act out of self-interest and which tells people that there should be no limitations on their choices.

If we want an interdependent model to prosper, then we have to make wider changes, both to culture and the law. At the moment, for instance, men are asked to take considerable risks in supporting a wife financially. She can leave for any reason and he can then be forced to continue to support her financially, even as an ex-husband. It is understandable that many men see this as an unacceptable condition of marriage.

Also, the traditional model requires a husband and wife to pair bond deeply enough to survive the more difficult times in a lifelong relationship. It isn't likely to succeed in a culture in which men and women are damaged or jaded even before they marry. The drawn out culture of casual relationships doesn't fit well with the traditional model.

Finally, traditionalists should be sensitive to those women who want to pursue interests outside of the motherhood role. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Perhaps some women could devote their younger, fertile years to motherhood and then pursue a career option (including part-time) afterwards (most people feel like they've proven everything they need to after spending 15-20 years in a career, it doesn't have to go on for the standard 40 years). Perhaps there is work that women could do in the community, alongside their maternal role. Perhaps there is creative work that women could do at home whilst also fulfilling their nurturing role. There are options.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Why does Sophie Lewis want to abolish the family?

Sophie Lewis is a radical feminist who is trying to revive the idea of abolishing the family. The website Vice gave her a glowing review in a piece titled "We can't have a feminist future without abolishing the family".

Her plan is straightforward enough:
"In Lewis's utopian future, the family as we know it no longer exists. Everyone, regardless of gender, is a surrogate; we mother each other."

Apparently there won't be any fathers, just mothers of both sexes. And our mothers won't be those who gave birth to us ("gestators" is her term for those who fulfil this role, children are "neonates"). That's why Sophie Lewis refers to her own mother as her "closest bio-relative"; her "mothers", after all, could be any number of men and women who form some sort of loose care-giving circle.

Her ideas do fit in well (in a radical way) with the state ideology. If liberals want us to be self-defined, then deconstructing unchosen kinship relationships will be thought of as progressive. But this still leaves the question of why someone like Sophie Lewis is attracted to this modernist mindset. No one, after all, is forcing her to push the liberal worldview to ever more radical outcomes.

I do think I can explain why she thinks the way she does. But you'll have to permit me a little philosophical detour. In the recently published book Our Borders, Ourselves, Lawrence Auster asserts that the father represents more than just himself as an individual man:
Symbolically, the father is the structuring source of our existence, whether we are speaking of male authority, of the law, of right and wrong, of our nation, of our heritage, of our civilization, of our biological nature, of our God. All these structuring principles of human life, in their different ways, are symbolically the father. The rebellion we've discussed is...a rebellion against the father. The belief that the universe is structured, intelligible, and fundamentally good, and that one can participate in this universe - this is the experience of having a father, which is the opposite of the experience of alienation that drives contemporary culture.

The Danish historian Henrik Jensen has a similar view. His view of the "father" is described as follows:
The masculine — which Henrik calls the “father” — is not simply about men as individuals but is an essential aspect of culture.

He sees it as the vertical dimension, which includes everything that human beings have looked up to, from God on high to ideals and excellence as well as the father’s traditional moral authority.

That vertical dimension is the source of our higher aspirations. This upward reach needs a strong foundation of healthy human relationship — which the more horizontally inclusive world of mothering traditionally has provided. As Henrik said to me, there needs to be a balance between the two.

If we do not accept the father in this larger symbolic sense then we are unlikely to accept the "structuring principles of human life" as described by Auster and Jensen.

This is an especially acute problem for women. A woman cannot as easily, on her own, approach this "structuring source of reality" - she won't have the same strength of instinct for it as a man. Women often describe their inner life as being more like an "ocean" - something undifferentiated and difficult to control or order.

So a woman is likely to be pushed to extremes on this issue. On the one hand, she needs men to uphold this vertical dimension within society, to provide the structuring source that is outside of herself. Hence women are often more devoted to institutions like the church than are men.

On the other hand, the authority is more alien to a woman than it is to a man and so, without trust, a woman can more easily lurch into rebellion. She can reject the whole vertical dimension of life as an evil patriarchal conspiracy against women.

If a woman is in rebellion (as men can be too) it is likely that she won't just reject one aspect of the vertical dimension, but that she will reject what she perceives to be the "structuring source of reality" as a whole. And for many women today the symbol of this is the white male. We stand as the symbol for the whole vertical dimension of life.

When you come across women like Sophie Lewis you can predict two things. First, that her relationship with her father will be troubled. Second, that there will be a denial of the entire realm of structuring principles, i.e. a denial that there is a nature to things or that there is an "essential" existence to things.

In terms of her relationship with her father, Sophie Lewis quotes from a book titled Daddy Issues by Katherine Angel:
The anger and rage we might feel towards a father . . . is not something we can expel, once and for all, and nor does it yield a clear solution. Rage has instead to be folded into everything else we may simultaneously feel; it does not simply burn itself out.

And this is how she looks back on her relationship with her father when she was a child:
My dad taught both his children by example to treat Mum with contempt—and this, I later realized, was of course also a profound form of contempt for us. Of the innumerable cutting quips generated over the years by this man’s delectable talent for cruelty, perhaps the pithiest is one he typed in a wink-wink nudge-nudge email to my partner, five years ago, calling me an arrogant know-it-all...

To do full justice to the pain I’m talking about would be beyond the remit of this essay. I will not, whatever I imagine to the contrary, have exorcised it simply by writing the above paragraphs. I will burn a cord this weekend, with my friends, and meditate, once more, on letting go. But my suspicion is I cannot, in the end, stuff all my hurt into a sacrificial body and watch it go up in smoke.

Her rejection of the white male is alluded to by her interviewer in this anecdote:
She made us green tea, pouring mine into a mug that read “I’ve got 99 problems and white heteronormative patriarchy is basically all of them.”

The writer that Sophie Lewis admires most is Donna Haraway who wrote "A Cyborg Manifesto". Read the following description of this essay and look out for the attempt to break down traditional "structuring principles of reality":
Haraway begins the "Manifesto" by explaining three boundary breakdowns since the 20th century...

Haraway highlights the problematic use and justification of Western traditions like patriarchy, colonialism, essentialism, and naturalism (among others). These traditions in turn allow for the problematic formations of..."antagonistic dualisms" that order Western discourse...She highlights specific problematic dualisms of self/other, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man (among others).

Haraway's cyborg theory rejects the notions of essentialism...and asserts that "cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism."

What do we take from all this? The "horizontally inclusive world of mothering" is of course indispensable to any society. But so too is the vertical dimension that men are responsible for. The female journalist who described Henrik Jensen's views went on to say about feminised Nordic societies that:
I found it surprising and almost counterintuitive to discover that placing so much priority on nurturing and mothering functions — caring for the special needs of each child, ensuring that each person grows in his or her unique way — does not lead to a close-knit and deeply connected society. Not in our day and age. Ironically, and perhaps paradoxically, the result is hyperindividuation, which leaves us self-focused, isolated, and victimized.

Liberalism is a terrible vehicle for men to uphold the vertical structure as it is so dissolving of the institutions and culture of a society. It is little wonder that the vertical structure has thinned out so much, and little wonder that this thinning out has led to contempt and rebellion among Western women.

(Liberals are by nature in rebellion even when they dominate a society, which explains why they see themselves as rebels even when they have become the establishment.)

It is also true that fathers who fail to bring up their daughters with loving care and guidance often produce young women who rebel - not just against them personally as fathers, but against the whole notion of a structuring principle of reality.

Civilisations don't just keep running of themselves. They are actively upheld by men who understand the importance of their role in maintaining the vertical structure. It is not the case that women will always be repelled by this - women need men to provide a structuring source and there will be intelligent women in any age who will lend their support to this project.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Are we limited by our sex?

The liberal idea is that we are free when we are autonomous, so that we can self-determine or self-define our own lives. The logic of this principle means that any aspect of life that is predetermined is seen as a negative limitation or restriction on the individual. Our sex is predetermined and therefore liberals describe it pejoratively as a "prison" or a "box" or a "straitjacket" that the individual needs to be liberated from.

How do liberals seek to liberate the individual from their sex? In a variety of ways, but in general they seek to make our sex not matter. The aim is to move toward a unisex society in which men and women become more the same. There is an assumption in liberal society that men and women should be equal and equality is understood to mean sameness.

The fact of being a man or a woman is, in a philosophical sense, a kind of limitation. It means we are not all things, but are created to be a certain kind of being. Our nature is "limited" in this very particular sense that we are not "omnibeings"  - creatures without a distinctive nature who can instead be or become anything they wish.

If you accept this basic limitation, then the existence of sex distinctions in society will no longer be seen as restricting individual development but as promoting it. If I was created to be a man, then I will want to develop my nature as a man to fulfil who I am and what I was made to be. Therefore, a unisex culture of sameness won't liberate me, nor will it remove limitations on me, but will instead impede my self-development.

This is true, for instance, in the way that we come to a deeper sense of who we are through the "gender binary" that liberals are so keen to deny and dismantle. A man in the presence of an attractively and impressively feminine woman will be brought to a stronger sense of who he is as a man. Men and women respond to each other instinctively and viscerally, as a kind of interplay between the sexes. 

Women feel this as much as men do:

The American academic Camille Paglia noted something similar when she wrote:
When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys, who have no incentive to mature or to honor their commitments. And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centered and profound sense of themselves as women.

We do not develop entirely solo. It helps our own self-development when the opposite sex is obviously and admirably "sexed".

And, unless we believe that we are gods, without limitations on our being, then our sex is not a restriction to be dismantled, but a significant aspect of who we are that needs to be developed rather than suppressed. Which is the point that this man is making:

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The political man

Mark Moncrieff has drawn out a point I made in a recent post concerning political commitments. He's done a particularly good job of it. You can read it here.