Sunday, July 31, 2005

More double standards

There ought to be a competition for liberal double standards.

Consider this. Flic Everett is a British mum who is worried about the tide of porn her 12-year-old son is subjected too. So she wrote an article for the Guardian newspaper complaining about the sexualisation of popular culture and noting that "The old argument that no-one's being exploited - we're all adults - no longer works, chiefly because we're not all adults."

Now, as a teacher of 12-year-olds I can only sympathise with her concerns. These children often know way too much and are too precocious in their attitudes to sex.

So what's the problem with Flic's article? A google search quickly reveals a Flic Everett to be the author of books such as "Sex Tips for Girls, How to be a Sex Goddess, Fantasy Sex, and The Sexy Bitch's Book of Doing it, Getting it and Giving it."

I doubt there are two British Flic Everetts in the writing trade. More likely that we have a heavy-duty double standard happening.

It's not uncommon for liberals to accept such double standards. If the liberal idea is that we should be "liberated" from any constraints on our individual choices and behaviour, then it's easier to apply this principle to ourselves rather than to those we rely on.

In other words, Flic may well think that breaking down restraints on the sexual behaviour of women is an acceptable part of liberalism and "empowering" for females. But it's not so easy for a woman to accept the same breakdown of sexual constraints on men. It threatens the chances of women finding love and fidelity in a man.

The problem is, of course, that it's hard to operate double standards. If you preach sexual liberation to women you can't expect too much success preaching sexual restraint to men.

So if Flic Everett doesn't like the consequences of applying liberalism consistently, it won't work well to try to apply it inconsistently. Better not to apply it at all.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Politics often comes down to an understanding of what it is to be human.

Liberals, for instance, believe that at the core of our nature is a freedom to choose who we are according to our own reasoning and our own will.

This ultimately explains why liberals want to overturn fixed identities based on gender or ethnicity. For liberals, such qualities are an unchosen imposition on our "real" nature as self-creating individuals.

The liberal view of human nature was expressed recently in an Age newspaper article written by Moira Rayner, a Labor Party feminist. The article was penned in response to the mistake made by British police in shooting a suspected terrorist on a London train.

The article is supposed to deal with the issue of identity. There are two quotes which stand out in particular in revealing the liberal mindset. The first is Moira Rayner's claim that, "Identities are like water; they flow".

In the liberal view, because identities are things that we ourselves create, they can't ever be fixed. If they were fixed, then there would be nothing for our essential human nature to do anymore - we would lose our humanity.

The second quote is her idea that "Our true identities are the selves that direct and control each of our functions, motives and desires; the watchers who reflect on events in the outer and inner worlds - on the totality of our personal experiences and values and how we achieve our goals."

Notice how "identity" here is reduced to the bare facts of a self-consciousness which reasons and wills. It is the reasoning "selves" which observe, control and direct our desires which form our identity.

To conservatives, this is a false reading of human nature. It's not that we don't have such a reasoning self. It's that our identity can't be reduced to this.

What does the liberal view leave out? There is one obvious omission. For most people a sense of being a man or a woman is central to self-identity. We don't think of ourselves as being an "it", but are instead "gendered" in our identity.

Similarly, for most people identity is bound up with ethnicity. Ask a Japanese who they are and you are likely very early on to get the reply "Japanese".

Liberals are prevented by their philosophical starting point from accepting gender and ethnicity as core aspects of human identity. At best these qualities are thought of as external to the true inner self, like an outer suit. At worst, liberals see them as an oppressive restriction on the freedom of the self-creating individual.

And so, because liberalism is currently dominant, we get all these efforts to overturn the normal expression of gender and ethnic identity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

No man or woman?

The Melbourne University Student Union has a queer officer by the name of Alex Ettling. Ettling has joined the ranks of those who are pushing to abolish separate toilets for men and women and instead create "pan-toilets" to cater for "all gender possibilities". Why? Ettling told The Age newspaper today that,

Part of our intention is to break down the belief that there is just man and woman. Ideally we'd like to see a world where there are so many gender expressions that you just don't see there being man and woman any more.

Now, you can understand why a gay man would dislike the existence of just two genders, male and female. Being gay doesn't only mean having a sexual orientation toward other men, it also often involves a confusion of gender identity. A gay man might not adopt a fully masculine gender identity, nor a fully feminine one. So he may feel alienated by the idea that there are just two sexes.

But, of course, there are two sexes and it is at the heart of heterosexuality to appreciate this fact. Most men not only want women to exist, they want very obviously feminine women to exist. And women for their part are attracted to the masculine qualities of men.

So we have a clash between what some gays would want as part of their ideal society and culture (the breaking down of the categories of man and woman) and what the heterosexual majority would assert as their ideal (the upholding of a distinctly masculine manhood and feminine womanhood).

It is therefore naive for people to believe that homosexuality will be seamlessly integrated into a heterosexual culture. There are areas in which the two are incompatible, so that the claims of only one can win out. And the heterosexual majority needs to proceed with the confidence that its own claims should be the ones to dominate society.

Some people might object at this point that the homosexual objectives are so unrealistic that there is no chance that they will ever be of influence. But there is a problem with this argument. The gay men who want to abolish the categories of man and woman have a powerful ally. Their goal fits in all too well with the reigning philosophy of liberalism.

Remember, liberals start out with the idea that we are human because we have the freedom to choose for ourselves who we are and what we will do. This makes liberals hostile to those parts of our identity which we don't have the power to choose for ourselves. And this includes our sex: the fact of being man or woman. We don't get to choose this for ourselves, but are born either man or woman as part of our "biological destiny".

So liberals have already tried to make gender "not matter" by attempting to reverse traditional gender roles. For a liberal it is a positive thing for a woman to break gender "stereotypes" by playing football or working as a bricklayer and for men to do the same thing by staying home to look after babies.

So what gays are advocating is simply a more radical application of an existing principle. Instead of denying the legitimacy of traditional gender roles, they are denying the legitimacy of traditional gender itself.

The claim that you can abolish the categories of man and woman seems ridiculous. But people take seriously a similarly unlikely claim: that masculinity and femininity are merely socially constructed and an impediment to human freedom. For many years liberals have asserted that "the mind has no sex" when it is a biological fact that it does.

So obvious biologicial facts can't be relied on to win political arguments. Mr Ettling may still get to see his wish fulfilled and to have politicians repeat the mantra that there is no man or woman.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Conservative workers

It used to be common to think of conservatives as being establishment types, whilst the working class were more radical and left-wing.

This stereotype has been wrong for a very long time. Further evidence for this comes from a report into the electoral defeat of the Australian Labor Party commissioned by a leading trade union, the CFMEU.

In a foreword to the Brompton report, a national secretary of the union, Trevor Smith, complains that the Labor Party leaders,

place their faith ... in the shallow and cheap propaganda of a wealthy, inner-city elite, which has a barely disguised contempt for a bunch of workers from the bush or outer suburbs.

The report itself concludes that,

What is required is for Labor to admit that its historical supporter base and its potential supporter base are culturally conservative.

The Labor Party, it recommends, shouldn't allow itself "to be dominated by an inner-metropolitan, latte-sipping minority".

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Axing detention?

First, a brief account of the Cornelia Rau saga for overseas readers.

Cornelia Rau grew up in Germany before her family moved to Australia and gained citizenship here. She developed psychiatric problems which led her to wander into a remote Australian town without any means of support. When questioned by local police she adopted a different name and persona, claiming to be a German national.

The Australian authorities attempted to repatriate her to Germany, but the Germans of course had no record of her and refused to accept her. So she ended up in a detention centre for illegal arrivals.

This was obviously a stuff up by the authorities, which is now being used by the left to attack the legitimacy of the whole policy of placing illegal arrivals in detention centres.

As it happens, Cornelia’s sister is a left-wing journalist, and she has led the charge in attacking the policy of mandatory detention. In an article in The Age, Christine Rau queries whether putting illegal arrivals in detention actually works as a deterrent and that we “have to take a long, hard look at our immigration detention policies and explore humane alternatives.”

Now, it’s easy to respond to a left-wing critic of mandatory detention like Christine Rau on matters of fact. It’s very clear that if you want to secure your borders you need a system of detention for illegal arrivals. As it happens, there have been reports recently from both Norway and Sweden which clearly indicate the problems you have without a system of detention.

In the case of Sweden, the Board of Migration has released data showing that 50% of those refused asylum simply go underground. In Norway, detention centres do exist, but they aren’t run as locked institutions – detainees are able to leave. What has been the result? Over 19,000 asylum seekers have disappeared over the past six years, including 7,000 in the year 2003 alone.

Do we really want such a situation in Australia, particularly after the London bombings? Do we really want a situation in which those people refused residency can simply disappear into the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney? That is what will happen without a system of mandatory detention.

The problem is that people like Christine Rau will never be convinced by facts alone. For them, mandatory detention is wrong as a matter of morality, so they will oppose it no matter what the facts suggest. So we need to understand where their particular moral view comes from.

There is a hint to the answer in Christine Rau’s article. At one point in the article Christine Rau writes,

If we’re honest, her case resonated because she was white, blonde, attractive .... one of “us”. If she had been a swarthy man of Afghan descent ... would the case have so horrified us?

And she adds later, in terms of exploring alternatives to detention, “Surely this can be done without exploiting people’s fears of being overrun by hordes of ‘others’”.

This is typical liberal speak. For liberals it is the sense of an ethnic “us” which is morally suspect, so that we must prove ourselves to be entirely open to the “other”. A system of carefully controlling immigration represents a closure to the “other” for the liberal mind of Christine Rau.

Why would a liberal be so opposed to the thought of an ethnic “us”? Ultimately, the answer is that liberals believe we are human because we can use our individual will and reason to shape our own lives. So the liberal project is to make sure that individual wills remain both “free” and “equal”.

We can’t be “free” in the liberal sense if important aspects of our identity aren’t chosen by our own will. An ethnic identity is not chosen by individual will, but is something we’re simply born into, so it’s seen negatively by liberals as a limitation or restriction on the individual.

Nor can we have “equality of will” if there is “discrimination” on the grounds of race or ethnicity. Such discrimination would mean advantaging one will over another on the grounds of a quality which the individual himself cannot alter – a deep offense given the liberal starting point.

So we reach the extraordinary point at which liberals cannot accept something as natural as a feeling of ethnic kinship or ethnic loyalty.

Where do liberals go wrong? They are put off course right at the start: in the idea that our humanity depends on our being self-defined by individual reason.

There is no compelling reason to accept this assertion. If we really need to state what defines our humanity it would be better to either accept the traditional religious view, that we are invested with a human soul, or else look at the totality of human nature to discover the qualities which go to make up the human person.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Do we need a moral code?

In the late 1960s a young Jane Fonda married the film director Roger Vadim. It was not a traditional marriage. Vadim asked his wife to share the marital bed not only with himself, but with a variety of call girls.

Understandably, Fonda regrets the arrangement. She does, however, admit that she wasn’t forced to do anything against her will. She writes,

But do you know what’s so interesting? I never felt coerced into it. I was never asked to do half the things that I found I didn’t want to do. I just thought that if I refused I’d be left, because I wasn’t enough. Isn’t that sad? And if that’s true of me, who seems so in charge and strong, imagine how it can be for other women.

She has a point. We are often told that as long as we consent to an action, and nobody else is harmed, that there can be no moral objections. But reality is more complex than this. There are many reasons why people might consent to an action against their better judgement.

When we are young, for instance, and don’t have a lot of life experience, we don’t always assert control over what happens to us. Nor do we, at this time of life, always have first-hand experience of the consequences of what we are choosing, in order to bolster our innate moral sense.

The Melbourne Age ran a story recently illustrating the limitations of an “ethics of consent”. It was about a young university student, Anna Neylan, who falls pregnant and who after “peeping through the keyhole of motherhood” knows that her preference is to have the baby.

Her boyfriend, though, wants her to have an abortion. She wrestles “with the burden of choice” and speaks to social workers and counsellors. She writes that,

Each time, I leave feeling strong and certain. In my heart I know that I want to have the child. I know that I’m not too young. I know I’d make a wonderful mother.

But the opposition of her boyfriend leaves her in doubt. She confesses,

I’m a mess; I trust him more than I trust myself. He comforts me with the promise that I’ll eventually be the mother of his children.

So she has the abortion and awakes in a “room full of blanketed grief.” Nor does she recover well in the coming weeks. As she describes it,

Waves of guilt lull me into troubled sleep at night ... I feel numb when I have sex. My partner doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to talk. When I try to talk or when I just want to cry, he tells me that he can’t help me.

A month later the boyfriend leaves her and she sinks “to dangerous black depths.”

So an ethics of consent did not serve Anna Neylan well. It left her open to a kind of exploitation at a time of vulnerability in her life.

For conservatives, it is not the case that by our giving of consent, and an absence of direct harm to others, that an act is made moral or even acceptable. For us, there is an inherent right or wrong in different behaviours, and a moral code, reflecting the wisdom, the moral strength and the moral ideals of generations, should exist to guide individuals toward right forms of behaviour.

A liberal may well label such a moral code as oppressive, as the first principle of liberalism is that we should be unimpeded in following our own will (and not constrained by something external to our will, such as a moral code).

But is a moral code really oppressive when it helps to protect the most vulnerable from exploitation and harm? Or when it helps us to overcome our own weaknesses of will by buttressing our better moral natures?

There is a supportive function of moral codes, an assistance to individuals in living a life of moral integrity, which needs to be defended against the largely unsympathetic outlook of liberalism.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Are majorities legitimate?

The French take their secularism seriously. They are currently debating a proposed law which would ban the wearing of religious symbols in schools. This would forbid the wearing by students of the Muslim hijab, the Jewish jarmulke and large Christian crosses.

I was interested to read the reaction of a British liberal, Gary Younge, to the proposed French law. (The Guardian 26/1/04) He made it clear that he himself is a secularist. This is not because he is convinced of the truth of atheism. In fact, he declares himself to be a lapsed agnostic, who is largely unconcerned with religious issues.

Instead, he is a secularist because he feels that it fits better with his liberalism. Liberals want people to be self-created by their individual will and reason. Younge, therefore, doesn't want his own fate to be influenced by a God external to his own will ─ he has, in his own words, "a philosophical problem with submitting my destiny to a higher being."

Similarly, Younge can only accept a personal morality that he decides and which applies to himself alone. He doesn't like the idea that a morality might be formalised, even to the extent of being given a name. As he himself puts it, he has a "problem with giving a name to my sense of what is morally right and wrong."

Younge's account of his secularism is a warning to churches which try to base themselves on a liberal philosophy. The logic of liberal individualism is to lead people to reject the authority over them not only of a church as an institution, but also of its moral code, and even of the idea of God existing externally to our own will.

Double standard

As a staunch secularist you might expect Younge to agree with the banning of religious symbols in French schools. In fact he does not.

Younge distinguishes between a ruling, oppressor group in society and marginalised oppressed groups. According to him, the Catholic Church was part of the privileged oppressor class and it was therefore proper that it was "sidelined" by secularism following the French Revolution of 1789.

Younge identifies Muslims in France, though, as being "ethnically and racially marginalised" by the racist French majority. Therefore it is legitimate that they seek to preserve their "racial and ethnic identity" of which Islam is a "crucial part".

Younge does not want Islam, being so crucial to the identity of a marginalised ethnic group, to be sidelined by secularism. In fact, he sees the attempt to do so as being just one more proof of the racism of the European French majority.

Of course, what you have here is the great left-liberal double standard which so perplexes conservatives. Younge not only allows, but encourages, ethnic minorities to keep their "racial and ethnic identity". Any attempt to defend such an identity by the majority, though, is condemned in the harshest terms as "racist".

Such an approach has the absurd consequence that it doesn't allow a mainstream culture to exist. Once you become the majority you become illegitimate.

Why would Younge hold such a view? Younge's arguments do make some sense within the confines of a liberal philosophy. After all, liberals want to be self-created by their own reason and will, and not by the national or ethnic tradition they are born into.

So what they are really looking to deconstruct is the mainstream culture that has some claim over them. It's not so important that they undermine the ethnic traditions of minority groups. In fact, it may even be an advantage to encourage such groups to hold to their traditional identities. It is presumably helpful for liberals if there continues to exist a visible minority toward whom the majority can actively practise "non-discrimination."


There are several possible reactions to the left-liberal view of things. Some people react sensitively to the accusation that they are part of a racist majority. They try to re-legitimise themselves by going to increasingly greater lengths to prove that they are not racist.

This is futile. The French have already gone so far to accommodate immigrants that they have undermined their own future existence as a distinct people and culture. And still they are branded a racist majority.

French Muslims, meanwhile, have spearheaded attacks on French Jews, and yet are still accorded the status of victims of racism. They are protected from accusations of racism by their minority status.

In other words, it's not possible in the eyes of left-liberals for the majority to be exonerated of the accusation of racism. Trying to win legitimacy by taking increasingly desperate measures to prove how "anti-racist" you are is a losing game to play.

Another reaction to views like Gary Younge's is to reject the whole left-liberal approach in favour of a right liberal one. Right liberals are no more likely than left liberals to uphold a national or ethnic tradition. However, their approach is not to entirely condemn the existing majority of a society. Instead, they want everyone to assimilate into a liberal culture, defined in terms of democracy, tolerance, free enterprise, individual freedom, a fair go and so on.

This has a superficial appeal to many people, because it avoids the sense of a self-hating double standard which is a part of the usual left-liberal approach. But the ultimate outcome is the same: it is still considered illegitimate for the majority to defend their own particular tradition as a part of public policy.


Centuries ago, our ancestors adopted liberal individualism as a political principle. They did so without thinking through carefully enough what the logical outcome of this principle would be.

Liberal individualism makes it impossible to defend the existence of your own national or ethnic tradition. This is because we are born into such a
tradition ─ we don't choose it through our own will or reason as liberal individualism insists we do.

The logical thing to do, to break the impasse that we are currently in, is to break free from the philosophy of liberal individualism: to finally recognise that it is a faulty part of our political tradition.

All this really means is a willingness to accept that we are created not just through our individual will and reason, and that this doesn't diminish our status as humans.

As part of this rejection of liberal individualism, we need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of what it means to be free, one which includes the freedom of all people, majorities included, to live within their inherited and continuing ethnocultural tradition.

Things will start to change for Europeans when we begin to challenge liberal individualism as the underlying, and sometimes unexamined, "first principle" of our intellectual and political classes.

(First published at Conservative Central 07/02/2004)

The state of play

Science is increasingly vindicating conservative politics.

For decades, liberals have asserted that there are no significant differences between men and women and that the dominance of men in certain professions can only be a result of prejudice or bigotry.

Conservatives, in contrast, have held that men and women are different in their natures and that this explains the dominance of men in certain fields (and the preponderance of women in others).

Science has finally swung the debate in favour of the conservative view. It's difficult now to suggest that there are no significant biological differences affecting the dispositions of men and women.

There is an article in today's Herald Sun (not online) which shows how liberals are reacting to the scientific reality. It's by an Australian mathematician, Dr Clio Cresswell. Her liberalism is clear from her confession that "I've always had a lot of trouble with the idea of male and female differences" and that "When people tell me I can't do something because of its male flavour, it becomes a challenge to me to become the best."

So her starting point, just like any liberal, is to want to overcome gender differences as representing a kind of restriction on the self.

However, she's too much of a scientific realist to overlook the evidence that natural differences do exist. For instance, she notes that,

A 1999 study conducted at Virginia Tech in the US found that the areas in boys' brains involved in mechanical and spatial reasoning mature four to eight years earlier. Could that be why I only hooked into mathematics at 18?

So how does she reconcile her liberal dislike for gender difference with her knowledge that men and women are different in their intellectual natures?

She takes a kind of mid-way position. She still wants more women in the sciences, but she admits that women will have a different "take" on their scientific work. She notes that the Australian Mathematics Sciences Institute is trying to attract girls into maths by emphasising "biology, psychology and the environmental sciences" as career paths rather than physics, finance and engineering.

In terms of the medical sciences she relates the views of Dr Fiona Stanley, Australia's only female plastic surgeon, who says that what she loves most about her work is not the "purely technical exercise" of surgery, but "pain management, healing, psychology ...".

She herself admits that "For me, the true beauty of maths lies in its encapsulation of complex inter-relationships, not in its ability to solve problems."

So is this a possible solution for liberals? Can they admit male/female differences but still even up the science professions by making science less technical and problem solving, and more oriented to human relationships?

I doubt it. I still remember at university meeting quite a number of women who had gone into scientific fields, found them unsatisfying and were returning to study for careers like teaching.

Even Dr Clio Cresswell is an illustration of this tendency. She began her career as an actuary, a very dry career choice for a woman. Sure enough, she quit her job to return to uni to do a PhD (more predicatable) and became a Visiting Fellow at the University of NSW.

But she then veered off further into more traditionally feminine employments. She has subsequently written relationships advice for a women's magazine (more on this later) and has dispensed relationships advice on the TV show Beauty and the Beast. She has hosted a breakfast radio show and appeared on the panel of the TV comedy show The Glasshouse. She's done book reviews on radio and become an Australia Day Ambassador.

In other words, she has not found maths by itself a sufficiently fulfilling career choice. Does she really expert large cohorts of women in the future to do so?

Finally, on a different note, it's curious that Dr Cresswell should have ended up in the business of relationships advice. She is now past 30 and has not had success in this field. Nor would you expect her to, given the strategy she set herself to win a man.

She writes that at age 18 she came up with a plan to win over "a man's heart":

My plan was ingenious: I'd become a fully developed package, in both mind and body. Mathematics for the mind, along with other things like reading and travelling and then running, weight training and sweating for the body. Great conversation and a great set of shoulders - I'd be irresistible. Yep, I'd easily compete with the women who'd intimidated me in my early years.

I expect that a lot of the men of my generation will roll their eyes at this kind of strategy. Did she really believe that broad shoulders were the way to attract men? Did her instincts fail so much that she thought men wanted intellectual conversation and muscularity in a woman?

It seems she's partly learned her lesson. She goes on to write,

I'm not much beyond 30 now. And how's the plan going you ask? Not that well, I'm afraid. The trouble seems to pop up early on. Like when I meet a gorgeous man and he'll ask the question: "What do you do?" I reply, "Mathematician" and he'll come back with: "You must have a lot of testosterone" or "What's the square root of 532?" Not exactly the sexy conversation I had in mind ...

"Meanwhile, Melroy [a female astronaut] assures me that it's not at 30 but at 40 that men become increasingly interested in the full package. So my original plan still has hope. But with all those comments about too much testosterone still ringing in my ears, I've eased off on the shoulder exercises as backup.

Intriguing. I know this is written in a semi-serious vein, but the way she's presenting it is that she still hopes her body building and intellect combination, the "full package", will eventually prove attractive, though she's easing off on some of the more mannish self-presentation just in case men might actually prefer ... a more feminine woman.

Conclusion? Dr Cresswell, by the weight of scientific evidence, may be starting to accept natural differences between the sexes, which is something of a breakthrough for a liberal woman, but it'll be more impressive when such women manage to arrive at a heterosexual celebration of gender difference.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Catching up to Sweden?

Left-liberals often look to Sweden as their ideal. They like the Swedish model of a high-taxing welfare state. We are often told by leftists that Sweden is the kind of society, in which the individual is provided for by state welfare, that we need to catch up to.

But what is there in the Swedish model to prevent the abuse of welfare? This is one of the problems which is now catching up with the Swedes.

For instance, in Sweden workers who take sick leave get paid at least 80% of their wage, with the first two weeks paid for by their employer and the government paying for the rest indefinitely. Generous? Yes - to a crazy degree.

The result of such an ill-considered welfare scheme is that whereas US workers take an average of 6 days sick leave per year, Swedish workers take 32 (2002). At any one time the government is paying sickness benefits to 10% of the work force.

Now the Swedes are having to take remedial measures. If workers on long-term sick leave don't return to work, they will be required to resign and seek alternative positions. The Swedish Government is even willing to create an alternative labour market to get those taking long-term sick leave back into active work. Workers who refuse to join in this special "transitional" labour market will have their sickness benefit terminated.

Reality wins out in the end. A welfare system has to be designed intelligently so that it doesn't undermine natural forms of society such as the family and so that it doesn't remove normal work incentives.

Sweden is only just now learning its lession - namely, that you can't offer people an ongoing wage without the requirement to actually turn up to work. This was a policy destined to fail.