Monday, August 30, 2004

Asserting masculinity

Toby Green is the relationships psychologist for the Herald Sun. A frequent theme of her columns is that for heterosexual relationships to work men have to be masculine enough to hold their own ground in relationships with women.

In her latest column (29/8/04) she advises men that,

Women are "testers". If she knows you mean business and aren't going to be manipulated, A. She'll relent and B. It's a sexual turn on. Women may hate being wrong and they may manipulate and they may be self righteous and morally superior, but more than all of that, they love and respect a man who isn't sucked in by them.

Toby Green's frequent encouragement of men to be more strongly masculine in relationships goes against the prevailing trend in liberal cultures.

Liberals believe that we should be self-created by our own reason and will, and not by something unchosen like the fact of being born male or female.

So liberals prefer to act against inherited gender traits. That's why in a liberal culture you'll often see women portrayed as feisty and independent, whilst men will often be encouraged to be snaggish or metrosexual.

But this doesn't fit in well with our heterosexual drives and instincts. Men want women to be feminine, and women want men to be masculine. It is a "turn off" to the opposite sex if we fail to live up to a basic level of masculinity and femininity.

Toby Green has observed this in her professional practice, and she is willing to put this real life experience ahead of any ideological commitment to political correctness.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

An absent father

In today's Herald Sun there's an interview with lesbian singer kd lang. I was interested to note kd lang's comments about the break up of her parents' marriage:

My father leaving was a turning point in my life. I was 12 and it taught me about the impermanence of relationships and the impermanence of life. It has shaped my life.

Note how deeply kd lang experienced the loss of her father. It affected her deeply enough to shape her later life. It destroyed her sense of security not only in regard to relationships, but even in regard to life itself.

Human psychology is such that when we feel insecure we withdraw from the more important attachments - for to actively make and then lose such attachments would be too great to bear.

Judith Wallerstein, in a major California Children of Divorce Study, found that,

many of the young women who had done well during their early adolescent years experienced a 'sleeper' effect as they moved into late adolescence and became frightened of failure. Almost all confronted issues of love, commitment and marriage with anxiety - sometimes with very great concern about betrayal, abandonment and not being loved. In response to all this, many of the young women, and some of the young men, appeared counterphobically to have thrown themselves into short-lived sexual relationships.

Little wonder then that researchers Garfinkel and McLanahan found that "Daughters of single parents are ... 164% more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages."

In part, this goes to show the importance of fathers in families and the need to drastically reduce the rate of divorce in Western societies.

In a larger sense, it also underlines how important it is for men to act on their "protector" instinct: the instinct to uphold the healthy forms of social life so as to create a protected space in which individuals can form secure attachments.

This is a much worthier goal for the adult men of a community than the liberal quest to create ever greater (but largely illusory) forms of individual autonomy. The men who succeed in creating a protected space are creating an environment in which the deeper kinds of human emotions and spiritual life can flourish, including stable and enduring forms of marital love.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Male full-time work is longer!

Why do men earn more than women? Feminists would have us believe it is because of sexist discrimination against women. New Australian research, though, suggests otherwise.

It's a well-known statistic that Australian women earn 67% as much money as men. This is partly due to the fact that many women work part-time. However, even when you compare full-time workers there is still a disparity, with women earning 85% of the male total.

What accounts for this 15% difference? According to workplace researcher Rodney Stinson, it is not due to sexism or a glass ceiling. The problem is that it's wrong to compare male full-time work with female full-time work, as male full-timers work longer hours than female full-timers.

Stinson's research reveals that of the 20 occupations with the longest hours, 18 are overwhelmingly male in composition, and the other 2 are largely male. The occupations with the shortest full-time hours, though, are largely female in composition.

The difference in "full-time" hours is quite dramatic, ranging from 35 hours per week to over 49 hours.

What this means in practice is that it's misleading to compare the earnings of mostly male hotel managers, three quarters of whom work more than 49 hours a week, with that of mostly female library assistants, 90% of whom work less than 40 hours a week.

Of course the men will earn more, as they are working much longer hours!

In fact, according to Roger Stinson men work longer full-time hours than women even when working in the same or similar occupations.

So when the topic of earnings comes up, don't let feminists portray women as victims of patriarchal men: just tell them that men earn more because they're willing to work longer hours than even full-time female workers.

As Rodney Stinson puts it himself:

It may not suit doctrinaire theorists, but it is a fact that males, on average, have longer working hours in full-time jobs than do females across the occupational spectrum.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Norwegian men not so redundant

A few months ago Carin Pettersson reported on Norwegian research which "proved" that men were about to become redundant in the workforce.

Supposedly, employers were no longer interested in masculine skills to do with "technology, being efficient, making profits and leadership" and so male workers were about to be "pushed to the side line".

Surprise, surprise! Carin has filed a new report which suggests that Norwegian companies, far from voluntarily dumping "redundant" men, have remained keen to trust to masculine work skills. So much so, that the Norwegian Government is resorting to legal threats to try to make companies fill at least 40% of board positions with women.

It seems that in Norway it is the force of law, and not female superiority, which is likely to see men replaced by women in the workplace.

(Although it's interesting to note that even quotas haven't led to much change in the ratio of male to female earnings in Norway. Maybe even the law isn't enough to negate the male breadwinning instinct.)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

What drives the West?

Most people are not intellectuals in the sense of needing a principle by which to live. A small but influential layer of people do however need such a principle.

When you look back at the intellectual history of the West over the last 500 years what is striking is the dominance of one particular principle. It is an underlying principle as it has been developed and acted on in a variety of ways.

The gist of the principle is that people should be subject only to their own individual will and reason, so that they are free to create themselves in any direction. Human dignity and freedom are identified with an absence of impediments to the will of the individual.

The first clear expression of this principle that I have come across is by an Italian Renaissance philosopher by the name of Pico della Mirandola (late 1400s). He imagined God saying to man that,

You, constrained by no limits, in accordance with your own free will ... shall ordain for yourselves the limits of your nature ... We have made you ... so that with freedom of choice, as though the maker and moulder of yourself, you may fashion yourself in whatever shape you shall prefer.

In 1651 we find the principle restated by the English philosopher Hobbes, who wrote that,

By LIBERTY, is understood, according to the proper signification of the word, the absence of externall Impediments: which impediments, may take away part of a mans power to do what he would.

... a FREE-MAN, is he, that in those things, by which his strength and will he is able to do, is not hindered to do what he has a will to do.

In 1819 Thomas Jefferson asserted the same thing more simply when he declared that,

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will.

The poet Shelley upheld the principle a year later in 1820 in his poem Prometheus Unbound. The poem was an ode to those who would be:

Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man
Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king
Over himself.

The prominent British sociologist Herbert Spencer described the principle as a fundamental law in 1851. He held that,

To enforce the fundamental law - to take care that every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man - this is the special purpose for which the civil power exists. Now insuring to each the right to pursue within the specified limits the objects of his desires without let or hindrance, is quite a separate thing from insuring him satisfaction ...

In 1911 Leonard Hobhouse spoke of the principle when asserting that,

Liberalism is the belief that society can be safely founded on this self-directing power of personality.

What these quotes demonstrate is the continuity of the principle, which is sometimes referred to as liberal individualism, across many centuries of Western thought.

Why is it important to understand the importance of the principle of liberal individualism? Because there is, unfortunately, a negative side to the principle.

If you believe that human dignity requires the removal of impediments to individual will and reason, then you will, by force of logic, eventually be required to reject the very things which give individuals much of their core identity (and which societies need to survive).

For example, it becomes difficult to uphold the principle of an inherited national tradition, particularly one based on ethnicity, as individuals are born into such traditions, rather than choosing them freely by their own individual will and reason.

Similarly, it becomes difficult to allow people to organise society around their identity and talents as men and women, as our sex is something we are born into rather than being individually chosen.

What happens is that intellectuals who follow the principle of liberal individualism, and that means nearly all Western intellectuals, will be led to the belief that it is right to oppose traditional nationalism, or traditional ideals of manhood or womanhood, even if their own instincts, experiences or preferences tell them otherwise.

Liberal individualism has unfolded to the point where it is hurting the West. It is undermining a positive sense of our own national traditions, and it is undermining the real instincts and drives of men and women which are necessary for a stable family life.

It's important now that we jettison an unhealthy part of our intellectual culture. The West needs to decisively break from the underlying principle of liberal individualism; we need to repent from what is self-destructive within our intellectual and political tradition.

(First published at Conservative Central 13/07/2003)

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Does appearance count?

Pop star Christina Aguilera has removed 11 piercings, including those in her eyebrow, lip and tongue. A friend explained this decision as follows,

Christina feels she's past the whole piercing thing now. She's really happy with her boyfriend and associates piercings with unhappier times in her life.

According to newspaper reports, Miss Aguilera has previously admitted that she had the piercings done when she felt down.

I find this interesting as it's always seemed likely to me that people who wear jutting pieces of metal in their face do so because of some inner disquiet. It's like a kind of physical scarification to match the emotional one.

Which brings me to a quote I like from Hugh of St Victor. He wrote that,

Body and spirit are but one: disordered movements of the former betray outwardly the disarranged interior of the soul.

I think there's some truth to this. The way we present ourselves does matter, because it reflects our inner condition and because, as Hugh goes on to point out, it can be part of a discipline of improving our inner condition. Hugh writes on this theme that,

inversely 'discipline' can act on the soul through the body - in ways of dressing, in posture and movement, in speech, and in manners.

There is of course another, very simple argument for good presentation: it is more attractive. I can still remember my disappointment at the grungy appearance of the women students when I was at university. They were at an age when they ought to have been at their most beautiful, but they were deprived of this by the entrenched grunginess of youth culture.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Are we just values?

Tony Abbott is an influential politician in Australia. He is a leading figure in the right-liberal Liberal Party and is currently serving as the Minister for Health.

He gave a speech in May of this year, titled "The Brother Countries". (You can find the speech here). In this speech he defended the importance of the traditional ties between Britain and Australia, saying that,

it's odd that ... the one cultural attachment no one can publicly acknowledge is the one that was taken for granted a generation ago. It's even more strange that the one country for which Australians are allowed no sense of affinity is the one which founded us.

Now, these sound like surprisingly conservative views for a liberal to hold. Here is Tony Abbott, an Anglo-Australian, defending a traditional "attachment" and "affinity" with Great Britain.

But this raises a question. If Tony Abbott thinks that it's worth defending the traditional affinity between Australia and Great Britain, then why is the government he belongs to, and helps to lead, pursuing such high rates of immigration?

In effect, the Liberal immigration policy is undercutting Australia's traditional Anglo identity. Why would Tony Abbott actively pursue such a course, and, at the same time, defend the attachments between Britain and Australia?

I've often thought the same thing about the founder of the Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies. He famously declared himself British to his bootstraps, and yet also pursued a policy of mass immigration which changed Australia from its traditionally Anglo composition.

Tony Abbott gives an interesting explanation for this apparent contradiction in his speech. What he says is that for both himself and Sir Robert Menzies being British is not what most of us think it is: belonging to a distinct ethnic group. Instead, Britishness is merely a set of values.

Now this makes sense. If Menzies and Abbott really believe this, then it explains why they think mass immigration is compatible with their Anglo identity. After all, anyone can adopt a particular set of values, and therefore, someone from any country on earth can potentially be "Anglo" if they are willing to support a particular set of political values stemming from Britain.

Abbott does provide some evidence that Menzies saw things in this way. He quotes a 1950 lecture in which Menzies grouped America with the other English speaking nations on the basis that they were people "with the same ideas, with the same ideals, with the same high faith", rather than that they shared a common ethnicity.

Similarly, Abbott tells us later that,

For Menzies, the English-speaking solidarity was based on values not race. He told a 1941 gathering of Americans in London that he had "never had very much patience with people who wanted us to talk and think about Americans ... as if they were all of the Anglo-Saxon stock. We know that they are not ... What we should perceive is that there are much greater things that we have in common: a system of government, a way of life, and a scheme of spiritual values."

So both Abbott and Menzies are squarely in the liberal camp. Like most liberals, they have rejected the idea that national identities can be legitimately built on a common ethnicity. Instead, they believe that the Anglo tradition is merely one of a progress of certain political and cultural ideas and values (especially liberal political values) , so that the tradition itself does not even begin with the real, historical Anglo-Saxon people, but with other people in other places who first established these values.

Once again, all I can say is that conservatives need to be very clear on how different our thinking is to that of right liberals.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Accepting substitutes

Intellectuals are people who need to identify purpose and meaning in their lives. Liberal intellectuals will therefore often have some kind of "religious" world view, even when they are determinedly secular in their views.

Take the case of Jason Soon, a Chinese-Australian who helps run the right-liberal Catallaxy website. In a recent discussion he wrote,

The day that both Western and non-Western countries live up to the ideals of Western liberal civilization will be the closest we come to Heaven on Earth, and a true End of History.

In the meantime we hasten the coming of that day by enhancing our soft power by (1) Westernising every corner of the globe through trade and cultural imperialism; (2) living up to our ideals and therefore appearing credible when urging them on others; (3) Westernising to the greatest extent possible and consistent with our national interest the rest of the world by taking in immigrants.

What did Jason mean by the phrase "The End of History"? He confirmed later in the discussion that he meant the permanent global dominance of liberalism, this being the final achievement which human progress has always been working toward.

It seems obvious to me that this is a kind of secularised religiosity. There is still a striving toward heaven, but it is toward a heaven on earth which is achieved as a kind of decisive political act. Human life, in this view, has always had meaning in terms of a progress toward this decisive and definitive end point of history.

There is a moderate kind of utopianism about this, and even a resemblance to millenarian ideas.

Understandably, Jason Soon is willing to sacrifice much to bring about the End of History. He is willing to foist a Western cultural imperialism on other cultures, which presumably means letting loose Britney Spears and friends into societies where traditional family life and traditional morality are still strong.

He is also willing to try to Westernise other peoples by actually bringing them physically to live in the West. Anything, it seems, is justified which brings closer the day of the End of History.

Of course, I think Jason Soon is misguided in the way he attempts to construct meaning and purpose in life. The advance of liberalism tends, if anything, to hollow out human existence, rather than to bring it to a meaningful perfection.

My advice to a young intellectual would be to seek meaning within the more enduring aspects of human life, such as we can experience within the core of our identity as men and women, or through our sense of connectedness to our own ethnocultural tradition, or within a commitment to moral virtue, or through the fulfilment of our natures as men and women within the family, or through our deeper responses to art and to nature, or, for the most spiritual, through a real religious feeling rather than through a secularised substitute.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Can fathers even do this?

Psychology Today has posted an interesting article on the importance of fatherhood. Some of it is obvious, as in "most kids yearn for two parents". Some of it I've read about previously, such as,

Studies show that the risk of juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, sexual abuse, early pregnancy and dropping out of high school is six times higher for children whose biological fathers are not part of their lives.

What was news to me, though, is the research showing that girls not only get pregnant earlier, but are even more likely to undergo puberty earlier, if their biological father is absent.

Researchers speculate that the presence of an unrelated male adult in the house triggers early menarche and sexual readiness; this doesn't occur when the biological father is present.

I expect we need to wait for further research to confirm or deny this, but if true it shows the extent to which humans are adapted for a traditional family structure, and the subsequent importance of the fatherly role within the family.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A racist hymn?

A Church of England bishop has called for the banning of a popular hymn, I Vow to Thee, My Country, because it is too nationalistic.

I looked at the words of the hymn, but couldn't find much that might be considered objectionable. It's true that part of a line does mention vowing to your country a "love that asks no question". If the line simply means "My loyalty is so deep that it is never brought into question" then there's no problem. It's only if the line is read as meaning "My love for my country means I never question what it does" that it becomes an expression of a false, mindless loyalty.

The nationalism of the poem is also a little overwrought, but this is understandable given it was written at the end of World War One, when a generation of British men had indeed made tremendous sacrifices for their country.

Which brings us back to the Bishop of Hulme. He says that "it is dangerous for a nation to suggest that our culture is somehow superior to others." This comment reveals the influence over the bishop of a secular liberal philosophy.

For liberals, society is a collection of competing wills. Social dynamics are therefore understood in terms of a "will to power" of some groups over others. So, for the bishop, an expression of nationalism can only be understood as one group, the English, asserting a right to dominance, a right to superiority, over another group, the non-English.

But this liberal understanding entirely misses the point of the hymn. The hymn stresses very clearly that national feeling is not based on a will to power but on a love of country. In fact, the hymn makes no mention at all of English superiority, and could easily be adopted by any other national group. And far from urging national dominance, the hymn actually calls for gentleness and peace.

The problem is therefore not the nationalism of the hymn but the liberalism of the bishop. The bishop is conceiving things too much in bad faith; he needs to trust better the nationalism that is based on a genuine love of one's own country and people.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Make that ten

Professor Robert Ehrlich has recently written a book titled "Nine Crazy Ideas in Science." Unfortunately, I think he left one out: the idea that there is no such thing as race.

Last month an American scientist, Alan Templeton, toured Australia. He claimed in public lectures that his studies of human genes proved that race did not exist.

Now, I've heard this claim before. It's never seemed credible to me. There must exist genetic differences between the races, because how else can you explain the very obvious physical differences between, say, Swedes, Kenyans and Chinese?

Fortunately, Alan Templeton was asked to respond to exactly this objection. His reply is noteworthy. He claims that physical characteristics, like dark skin, can appear in two populations where races are supposed to be different. He also challenges his students to distinguish between Fijians and Africans, two races which are supposed to be different.

These are such weak answers that Alan Templeton's credibility is entirely lost. First, it's not even true that you can always find similar physical characteristics across different human populations. I very much doubt, for instance, if any Scandinavians were ever as dark-skinned as the average Masai tribesman of Kenya.

But even if you could find such a Scandinavian, it still wouldn't disprove the fact that some human populations share certain physcial characteristics much more commonly than other human populations.

For instance, Europeans are generally more round-eyed than East Asian populations. Fijians have frizzier hair than either East Asians or Europeans. North Europeans are more likely to have blue eyes than Africans etc.

That's exactly why it actually is possible to tell which region of the world people originate from. Alan Templeton's challenge to his students, to distinguish a Fijian from an African, could easily be met if the students were presented with a photo of ten ethnic Fijians picked at random from the streets of Suva, and ten ethnic Masai tribesmen from Kenya.

Obviously, there do exist genetic differences between different races of humans. That is the only reasonable explanation for why there are readily identifiable physcial differences between different human populations.

So why would a scientist like Alan Templeton be so irrational in his views? It's because the existence of race undermines the liberal political philosophy which so many intellectuals live by.

According to liberalism, we are supposed to be self-created by our own will and reason. Our race, though, is not something we create out of our own will and reason; it's something that we simply inherit. Therefore, for liberals it is illegitimate and must be excluded as something with influence in our lives. What better way for a scientific liberal to "deal with" race, than to declare it does not even exist. That way it is intellectually abolished.

I don't believe that this approach will succeed, though, even in the medium term. If race does exist, then science will eventually reach a degree of development where it will have to be recognised.

To some degree this is already happening. For instance, scientists have recently discovered an effective heart drug which is "on course to become the first medicine approved for use in a specific ethnic group". (It works effectively for Africans, who have lower levels of nitric oxide than other ethnic groups.)

By the way, liberals wanting to abolish the category of race will be in for a little surprise if they ever visit a Japanese supermarket. I remember when I lived in Japan wanting to buy a carton of milk from my local supermarket. There were three different kinds of milk, each marked prominently with a different number.

I remember puzzling over which one I should buy. As I recall, one was marked with something like a 4.5, another with 2.1 and the other with 1.2. I guessed that these were different levels of fat in the milk, and wondered why the Japanese would be so fussy about the fat levels, as they were nearly all thin anyway.

Later on a Japanese friend revealed to me what the numbers really meant. The milk was modified according to its lactose content, not its fat content. This is because 90% of Asians are lactose intolerant and therefore find it hard to digest milk. Europeans, it seems, somewhere in our history, developed a genetic distinction of being readily able to digest milk as adults.

Monday, August 09, 2004

What women want

Selling like hotcakes in Britain is the ...... Boyfriend Arm Pillow. It's supposed to comfort lonely women who want to be hugged to sleep by a man.

Just one more little indication that men and women haven't outgrown each other yet. We do still need each other. Men have an instinct to want to put their arms around a woman at night, and women have the complementary instinct to want to be hugged.

By the way, the newest star of Australian reality TV is a beautiful young woman by the name of Rebecca Olds. She has this to say about her love life:

I can't find a man. They are either already taken, or they are gay. I don't know what the problem is. I don't think I have ever been really romanced before. I don't think I have ever been asked out on a proper date. I just want a man's man. Someone who likes doing stuff, like going fishing ... (Herald Sun 8/8/04)

Note that Miss Olds doesn't want a SNAG or a metrosexual. She wants someone who is overtly masculine, and who might pay her some old-fashioned romantic attention.

The gender-bending kind of feminists might not like to hear such sentiments, but it should be reassuring to traditionalist young men.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Why do men earn more?

Janet Albrechtsen wrote a fine column for The Australian a couple of weeks ago. It explains that the reason why men's wages eventually outstrip those of women is that many women choose to work part-time so that they have a better opportunity to look after their families.

She gives the actual figures. In May 2004 there were 1,026,000 women in the Australian workforce who were partnered and had children. Of these a large majority worked part-time: there were 622,000 part-timers compared to 404,000 full-time workers. In stark contrast the overwhelming majority of men who were partnered and had children worked full time: almost 1,500,000 million full-timers compared to just 93,000 part-time workers.

The women were not forced to work part-time rather than full-time, they wanted to. The same survey which collected the May 2004 statistics asked women if they wanted to work more hours and 80% replied no.

Janet Albrechtsen concludes that "women's preferences for part-time work or just less work or different work than men, with its inevitable consequences for promotion and pay, is a choice, not the result of partriarchal oppression."

Nor, of course, should the average non-feminist woman be so worried about the higher male rate of earnings anyway. Those 1,500,000 million men working full-time are not sending their money off to a private Swiss bank account to be used for their own luxury spending. They are earning money to support their families. In other words, the money goes back to their wives anyway.

Setting the target

Think of a political trend which conservatives dislike, such as feminism. The typical approach of conservatives is to attack the outward manifestations of this trend, which in the case of feminism might include the masculinisation of women or the effeminacy of men.

These conservative attacks never seem to be really effective. Feminism marches on oblivious as do all the other political trends opposed by conservatives.

This isn't surprising. If you look at the origins of a political trend like feminism it goes like this.

Item 1: The fundamental liberal principle that individuals should be self-created by their own reason and will.

Item 2: Our sex is not created by our own reason and will. Therefore, society may not be organised around the fact of sex.

Item 3: Women are encouraged to adopt traditionally masculine social roles and vice versa.

As stated above, conservatives typically attack item 3, the end product of the liberal process. However, because liberals accept item 1 they will continue to believe that item 3 is the right thing to do, no matter how much conservatives ridicule it, and no matter how much it goes against the personal instincts and preferences of liberals themselves.

An important part of what conservatives need to do is to target item 1. Perhaps conservatives could stress in opposition to the liberal principle something like the following:

Reason and will are gifts which are not ends in themselves but are a means by which individuals can elevate themselves to the higher part of their given nature.

This principle is not sufficient in itself as it doesn't fully delineate the limitations of individual will and reason. However, it does suggest that the task of individuals is not to remove all impediments to individual will and reason, but to learn how best to use reason and will within a given set of conditions.

(First published at Conservative Central 05/07/03)

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Liberalism as a secular religion

This issue might well appear to some to be a case of social engineering gone crazily immoral...

Liberals sometimes act as if they are following a kind of secular religion, rather than a political ideology.

I was reminded of this when reading an editorial from the Brisbane Courier Mail (15/5/2001). The topic was whether women should be accepted into the frontline as combat troops.

The editor did a reasonable job in listing the possible objections to such a move. He asked,

Are women indeed physically up to the task of lugging around a 30kg pack for weeks on end? Will their presence in the frontline ranks prove a distraction to the male soldiers whose protective instincts towards them might undermine unit efficiency? Or, conversely, might they be exposed to widespread sexual harassment?

Might women, too, undermine that fierce, tightly knit loyalty and interdependence on which military morale is built? Might they even, perversely, be responsible for higher casualty rates in battle...

And so on.

However, having taken the trouble to raise these objections, he then dismisses them out of hand by writing,

Yet all of these objections, however practical and well-meaning, represent a denial of the right of women to choose for themselves what roles they will fill in time of war.

Think about this. The editor will not consider objections "however practical and well-meaning" if this conflicts with the liberal principle of individualism: the idea of individuals being free to create themselves in any direction.

The principle of individualism is to be preferred, even if it potentially weakens the armed forces, and therefore the continued existence of the liberal society itself.

This is not a very pragmatic approach to politics. The editor seems to be aware of this as he goes on to admit that,

Yes, this issue might well appear to some to be a case of social engineering gone crazily immoral, but the irrefutable fact is that society has changed since the dark days of WWII.

Women have chosen to throw off the limitations imposed on them, even those limitations intended for their own protection.

The editor recognises that his beliefs may be considered immoral, and that they might leave women unprotected. His response?

He invokes something he considers to be of greater importance: the progress of society toward an individualism in which we "throw off the limitations imposed" on us (ie we deconstruct those aspects of society that we did not choose for ourselves).

It's important that we try to understand the liberal mind so that we know what we're up against. The views presented by the Courier Mail editor make it clear that liberals don't always follow a pragmatic self-interest.

They do have first principles which they treat almost as "articles of faith" and are willing to follow through to the end. This is the sense in which liberalism can be seen as a kind of secular religion.

(First published at Conservative Central, 27/05/2002)

Is tradition an evolutionary advantage?

There's a very interesting article on global birth rates in the current edition of the left-liberal magazine New Statesman (31/5/04 - not yet online).

The author, Phillip Longman, begins by pointing out that birth rates are falling even faster in the developing world than in Western countries. Since the start of the 1970s, fertility rates have fallen by 27% in the industrialised countries and 46% in less developed nations.

Brazil is one country which has experienced this fertility decline. Since 1975 its birth rate has dropped by nearly half to just 2.27 children per woman. Similar declines have been recorded in countries like China, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Mexico.

What this means is that within 30 years or so, the population pressures in developing countries will probably ease. Hopefully, this will mean less pressure from third world "refugees" flowing into Western countries. So Western conservatives shouldn't give up trying to retain immigration controls: we should do our best over the next 30 years to preserve what we can, before the pressures of third world population flows begin to ease.

Why is fertility declining globally? Phillip Longman gives what is a very significant answer for a left liberal. He believes that children are no longer seen as an advantage in modern, secular countries for several reasons. First, when people move from small farms into large cities, children become more of an economic liability than a resource.

He also believes that the message conveyed by television in third world countries is that "people with wealth and sophistication are people who have at most one or two chilren."

Phillip Longman also quotes the views of biologists who,

speculate that modern human beings have created an environment in which the "fittest", or most successful individuals are precisely those who have few, if any, offspring. As more and more humans find themselves living under conditions in which children, far from providing economic benefit, have become costly impediments to success, those who are well adapted to this new environment will tend not to reproduce themselves.

This scenario disturbs the left-liberal Phillip Longman. It means that those who adapt best to modern liberal societies won't be the ones reproducing. The ones who will reproduce will be those who "out of religious or chauvinistic conviction, reject the game [of secular, liberal societies] altogether."

Longman believes that this is already happening. He quotes birth statistics from the United States where the highest fertility rates (90 children per 1000 women) are in conservative Utah, compared to only 49 children per 1000 women in liberal Vermont, the only state to send a socialist to Congress and the first to enact gay marriage.

I believe that Longman is at least partly correct in all this. A man who is stubbornly conservative and wants to continue his own line (whether of his family or nation) is likely to choose to have children regardless of the economic cost, or loss of cultural status. Someone who has accepted modern liberalism is less likely to have this motivation.

For Phillip Longman the result is that,

Those who reject modernity would thus seem to have an evolutionary advantage, whether they are clean-living Mormons, or Muslims who remain committed to comparatively large families, or members of emerging sects and national movements that combine pro-natalism with anti-materialism".

So there you have it. An intelligent left-liberal concludes from the data that traditionalists have an evolutionary advantage!

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Biology rules?

Yvonne Roberts, in a recent defence of feminism, tells us that,

In a society truly moving towards the demolition of stereotypes ... fathers would be just as likely as mothers to spend a baby's first year at home ... As it is, today's dominant narrative is ... that women ... allegedly much prefer home and hearth and hubby at work. Biology rules, OK - a view that is daft not least because it excludes men from engaged fatherhood.

There's an important question to ask here. Why would Yvonne Roberts so object to the idea that women are more biologically predisposed to look after babies? What is it in her belief system which makes such an idea objectionable?

The answer, I believe, has to do with the basic principles of liberalism. Liberals believe that to be fully human we have to be self-created by our own reason and will. This means, though, that we are not supposed to be influenced in an important way by the fact of being born male or female, as this would make biology rule, rather than will and reason.

Therefore, Yvonne Roberts doesn't want to believe that women are more naturally inclined than men to look after babies. She won't accept this, because to someone who thinks within a liberal framework, it seems too much like a biological destiny.

What happens though if we don't start out from liberal first principles? Then we are free to accept that there are in fact natural differences between men and women (something which science has proven beyond a doubt anyway). There would no longer be an ideological obstacle to women acting to fulfil their feminine nature, nor men their masculine nature.

One last point. Note how Yvonne Roberts so entirely rejects the traditional male role in the family, that she entirely excludes it from "engaged fatherhood". According to her, men can either remain unengaged within the family, or else take over the motherhood role from their wives.

This grossly underestimates what men have traditionally contributed to their families, whether by working to provide for their families, or by providing emotional and physical security, or by socialising their children.

It also makes men dispensable within the family. If men are only useful if they agree to take over the female role, then why couldn't you just have families with female adults?

It's important to contest this trend which says that men are only engaged as fathers when they stay at home to look after babies. It's a view which is ideologically inspired and which undermines any necessary role for men within the family.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Man and woman for eternity

The Pope has released a letter to Catholic bishops on the issue of feminism. One of the more conservative aspects of the letter is its reaffirmation of gender difference. According to the document feminism has erred in its "obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes" and that,

From the first moment of their creation, man and woman are different, and will remain so for eternity.

According to one newspaper report Catholic feminists responded to this criticism by claiming that "the letter presented a caricature of feminism as trying to deny any difference between the sexes".

But then up popped the feminist author Natasha Walter, who immediately confirmed the "caricature" by questioning "whether there were essential differences between men and women at all." Ms Walter then cast doubt on the existence of any special maternal instinct in women by arguing that,

We have centuries and centuries of acculturation towards a 'vocation' of maternity, and men have only had a couple of generations of acculturation towards active paternity. Until we encourage men [to do more] it's too early to call on whether there are innate differences. The weight of tradition is so strong that it precludes the freedom to choose.

This is an interesting quote for two reasons. First, it's one of those statements you sometimes come across nowadays which overlook the commitments that men have traditionally made to their families.

When Ms Walter talks about the recent advent of "active paternity" she means the sharing by men of traditionally motherly tasks, like the feeding, washing or changing of children. But this use of language excludes from "active paternity" the efforts that men make to provide for and protect their families, to socialise their children, and to maintain the formal, public structures of community life.

These traditional commitments of men can't just be taken for granted. They need to be recognised and encouraged within a society, particularly by women who are the chief beneficiaries.

The quote is also interesting as it brings out the conflict between liberal individualism and tradition. Liberals believe that we should be self-created by our individual reason and will. Tradition necessarily falls foul of this dictum because it pre-exists our own reason and will. In other words, tradition will often seem to liberals to be a hostile force as it is something that influences who we are and what we do but which we don't choose by our own will or reason.

Hence, all the talk by liberals about tradition "weighing" upon the present generation, rather than guiding it or inspiring it or adding identity and meaning to it. Ms Walter is therefore showing a typically liberal concern when she fears that a "weight of tradition" might interfere with an individual "freedom to choose".

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Forced to evolve?

I still haven't seen the film Stepford Wives. My expectation is that it will make traditionally feminine woman seem like zombies under the control of their husbands. It is likely to be, in other words, a liberal attack on the traditional family.

My suspicions were strengthened when I read an interview with the screewriter of the film, Paul Rudnick. According to the interview (with Maureen Dowd) Rudnick claimed that the plot of the film had only increased in resonance since the original was made in 1975 because,

men have grown even more anxious about gender issues and begrudge having their hegemony shattered by women, gays and minorities. "Straight white males act like the angry new endangered minority," he said. "Men only evolve with a gun at their head."'

A charming view of things, isn't it? Unfortunately for us, left liberals like Paul Rudnick view society as a collection of competing wills, each seeking to enact its own desires. If some social groupings have more power, it is, in the left liberal view, because they are acting as a social class to dominate other groups as part of a will to power. Hence, the task of politics for an egalitarian left liberal is to bring down such "privileged" groups in order to once again achieve equality of will between different people.

That's why left liberals "translate" what they see in such negative terms. Left liberals don't see the existence of a white majority as a positive thing, in terms of a continuing tradition within a country. They see it only in terms of an imbalance of wills in relation to minorities. Nor can they see the political leadership of men within a community in terms of men discharging a sense of duty or responsibility toward their own societies. For left liberals it is viewed negatively as a will to power at the expense of some other "oppressed" social class, such as women or homosexuals.

It's the same when it comes to family life. Take, for instance, the fact that men end up earning more than women. For conservatives, this is at least partly due to something good: the fact that married men want to provide for their families and therefore put in a big effort at work. For liberals, though, it isn't seen as something that men do for women, but as part of a will to power by a dominant, privileged group over an oppressed group.

The fact that men still stubbornly work hard to support their families, and that many women still choose to put much of their effort into caring for their family is something which clearly rankles both Paul Rudnick and Maureen Dowd.

Rudnick complains that men still "want a babe and don't care about her earning power. Women want a rugged poet or musician with a private jet."

Dowd for her part complains about the popularity in modern culture of the "wifely arts of cooking, gardening, decorating and flower arranging" and that instead of the "squat and blunt Betty Friedan" of the 1970s, we now have the "sensual Nigella Lawson".

Given these cultural trends, it's perhaps little wonder that Paul Rudnick believes that men will have to be forced to "evolve with a gun at their head". It would be better, of course, if liberals themselves evolved away from a philosophy which makes the existence of majorities illegitimate and which views natural and healthy forms of social life in terms of an oppressive will to power.