Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A false accusation finally laid to rest

Some readers might remember that back at the height of third wave feminism in the mid-90s, there was such a focus on men as oppressors and abusers of women, that some men were arrested after being accused of preposterous crimes by daughters undergoing "recovered memory therapy".

One of these cases hit the news last week, when the British National Health Service agreed to compensate a young woman, Katrina Fairlie, who had been subjected to the therapy.

Katrina had a good relationship with her father as a child:

He would take me and my sister for Sunday walks, and also used to take us skating, swimming and riding. As the youngest, I always felt very loved.

In 1994 she suffered abdominal pain, which wasn't cured by two operations. Doctors decided that the cause was psychological and she underwent psychiatric treatment at a Scottish hospital.

Like other patients who underwent recovered memory therapy she was given drugs (one patient of the therapy in Ohio was injected 141 times with sodium amytal):

I was on anti-depressants and sedatives, drugged up to the eyeballs, and I was mingling with schizophrenics and drug addicts. I quickly became overwhelmed with depression and was losing all sense of reality.

When a nurse suggested to her that she had been abused by her father she replied no, but the staff (the treatment lasted five months) continued to suggest that she had. She began to have hallucinations which she was told were genuine flashbacks.

These hallucinations were bizarre and incredible, but her carers were nonetheless pleased:

When I told them these things, it didn't seem to come as any surprise. It seemed to be the answer they were looking for.

What had Katrina "remembered"? She now had memories of her father murdering a six-year-old girl with an iron bar and of being raped not only by her father but by 17 other men, including two MPs she had never met.

The accusations were investigated by the police, but quickly dropped; however, the family was left in turmoil.

In 1996 Katrina checked herself out of hospital and reduced her drug dose. Soon after, her sense of reality returned:

one morning I just woke up and had this revelation. I thought: "This is all garbage" - and there was this enormous sense of release, and relief.

She was able to repair the relationship with her father:

The first time I saw my father after making the allegations, he was standing on the doorstep. He'd had pneumonia and looked so vulnerable, and I felt so guilty. All I wanted to do was cuddle him and make it all go away.

This story is a reminder of why we need to oppose exaggerated accounts of male violence against women, including accounts which blame men as an entire class for such violence. When the theme of "men as abusers of women" gets out of hand, we get a cultural climate in which men like Jim Fairlie can be unjustly accused and in which young, vulnerable women are harmed rather than helped.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

European babies are creepy?

Why would someone find a picture of a European baby creepy? Because they are conditioned to imagine a resemblance to .... see here.

Confused Danish radicals

There is a group in Europe called SIOE (Stop the Islamisation of Europe). A few days ago a disgusting attack took place on a few Danish members of the group, the details of which have been reported here.

It appears that the thugs who carried out the assaults are "autonomists". Autonomism is a current of radical left-wing thought in Europe, embraced by both anarchists and some Marxists. The theory involved is described in wikipedia as follows:

Some of the most discussed issues in autonomous groups are the questions of self-determination, self-organisation and militancy ... In the understanding of the autonomists it is not ultimately possible to be autonomous (independent in the sense of being self-determined). Every person lives in a web of dependence, which is normal for a social creature. The main emphasis is on the question of how far these dependencies are other-determined or self-determined, the struggle being to live wherever possible without being other-determined ... The "triple oppression" (racism, sexism and class) belongs to the theoretical foundations of the autonomists ...

Reading this, I can't help but think that the autonomists are deeply confused. They have set themselves up as radicals and revolutionaries, but their ideals are the same as those of the establishment. They are followers of liberal autonomy theory, just like John Howard, Kevin Rudd and any other mainstream politician you care to mention. When the autonomists declare themselves to be in favour of voluntary social associations, rather than inherited or unchosen ones based on race, class or sex, they sound little different from your average Australian Liberal Party MP.

It is confused, too, for autonomists to support the growing influence of Islam in Europe. Do they really expect self-determination and autonomy to flourish in an Islamic Europe? The word Islam means submission, and it forms, as Omar Bakri Muhammed puts it:

a complete way of life that could not yield to any other way. “Islam is a complete system of living, the Sharia system. Islam has political beliefs — it cannot co-exist with another political belief.”

To underline this point, there has been a split in the German autonomist movement: one faction since 2001 has become critical of Islamic fundamentalism and suicide attacks - which is the more logically consistent position for an "autonomist" group to take.

So the Danes who were violently attacked ran into the wrong group of autonomists - those who, unlike some of the Germans, haven't figured out that Islam is incompatible with their own political beliefs.

In the meantime there have been more riots in European cities: in Amsterdam (see here and here) and in Brussels.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What about conservative preference?

If liberalism is based on the idea that we should be equally free to satisfy our preferences, then liberalism has a major problem. Many of us have conservative preferences. If liberalism is to be true to its basic principle, then it ought to establish a society in which we conservatives can have our preferences realised.

So how do liberals cope with this problem? I have observed at least two distinct "solutions". The first is to deny the legitimacy of conservative preference. At times this is done (relatively) gently, by claiming that conservative preference is based on fear or ignorance. Often, though, the process is a fierce one, in which conservative preference is attacked as a form of hatred or dominance.

The point to be made about this first response is that the ferocity of attack makes sense under the terms of liberal theory. It's not enough for liberals to state that they don't like or that they oppose conservative preference. They would still be obliged, in this scenario, to recognise the equal value of conservative life choices and to make possible the realisation of conservatism in society.

The strategy has to go further: it has to be to place conservative preference outside the normal, acceptable bounds of society.

There is another option available to liberals. This is simply to deny that conservative preference can't be satisfied in a modern liberal society.

Consider the response of Marc Ramsay to philosopher John Gray. Gray had made a seemingly obvious point, that there are limits to choice in liberal societies, as pre-liberal values and ways of life become unavailable:

[l]iberal societies tend to drive out non-liberal forms of life, to ghettoize or marginalize them, or trivialize them. [Liberalism] passes over the commonplace truth that, even if pre-liberal virtues linger on in liberal societies, they do so as shadows of their former selves, incompletely realized in those who exhibit them. This commonplace is, after all, only an application of the pluralist insight that the virtues are not all combinable--not, at least, without some loss to them; and that many genuine goods depend upon specific social structures, some of them illiberal and uncombinable with liberal societies, as their matrices.

What Gray takes to be commonplace, and what seems obvious to me, is dismissed by Marc Ramsay curtly as follows:

[Gray] does not sufficiently justify the claim that liberal societies cannot adequately capture or maintain the pursuit of so-called pre-liberal virtues.

If the depth of denial is astonishing, it needs to be remembered that liberal theory is based not on the idea that liberals should triumph over others, but that there should be an equal freedom to satisfy our preferences. So there are theoretical reasons for liberals like Marc Ramsay to resist to the end the reality that some important sets of preferences (values, ways of life) cannot be satisfied in a liberal society.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Retailing your country

Gerry Harvey is the Australian billionaire retailer who runs the Harvey Norman computer and furniture stores. A few days ago he called for a two-tier wage system in Australia, one for locals and another for a new breed of low-paid foreign guest workers.

How did he justify such a measure? He couldn't argue that high wages were harming the economy, as the economy has been doing well. So he argued instead that prosperity itself was the problem, as it has led to labour shortages. According to Mr Harvey, there are countless people overseas who would happily move to Australia to work here at half-pay.

The logic of this position is less than impeccable. If there are people willing to move here to work at half-pay to fill labour shortages, they would presumably be even more willing to work here at full-pay. In other words, you don't need a two-tier wage system to overcome labour shortages.

Nor, as Mr Harvey has already admitted, do you need low pay to keep the economy going. The economy is doing well with current wage rates.

So there's no necessity for a two-tier wage system. It's probable that Mr Harvey is pushing the idea simply because he likes the prospect of a mass of low-paid foreign workers; perhaps he thinks he can use them as cheap labour in his stores.

It's interesting that Mr Harvey endorses the situation in the US, in which illegal arrivals from Mexico make up a cheap labour force. I've been reading a series of posts from Face Right, which cover some of the social fallout from exactly this policy:

LA: The Reconquista gets ugly

More prosecutions in the SoCal race wars

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Strange Norwegian kindergartens

A respected kindergarten teacher in Norway, backed by child psychologists, believes that toddlers should be encouraged to dance naked, masturbate and play sex games in preschools.

Why would she believe such things? I have to speculate here, not being able to read the original documents in Norwegian, but I expect there is an intellectual lineage running back to psychological theorists like Wilhelm Reich.

Reich lived in Norway in the 1930s. Although some of his ideas aroused popular hostility there, forcing him to relocate to the US, his students carried on his work:

Reich was a substantial influence in Norwegian psychology and sexology ... Ola Raknes, one of Reich’s most prominent Norwegian proponents, did extensive research on the results of the socialization of sexuality in childhood. Raknes was able to identify many adult sexual problems that were related to the repression of the natural sexual urge in childhood.

This is how Wikipedia describes Reich's theories:

Reich agreed with Freud that sexual development was the origin of mental disorder. They both believed that most psychological states were dictated by unconscious processes; that infant sexuality develops early but is repressed, and that this has important consequences for mental health. At that time a Marxist, Reich argued that the source of sexual repression was bourgeois morality and the socio-economic structures that produced it. As sexual repression was the cause of the neuroses, the best cure would be to have an active, guilt-free sex life.

Our Norwegian kindergarten teacher is therefore a bit dated in her views: she is regurgitating theories which have been around for several generations. She is replaying a scene first from the 1930s and then from the 1970s:

Thore Langfeldt, a pioneer in the field of sexology in Norway, began ... his groundbreaking research with children. During the 1970s, he supervised several students, Jens Skaar, Bjørn Helge Gundersen, and Per Steinar Melås, in their task of collecting information from parents and nursery staff about the sexual behavior observed among children. The findings, published in Hverdag, caused a public protest against the invasion of the pristine world of children by lewd professionals.

How can you explain the Reichian view? You could try to explain it in terms of Reich's personal life. Reich's mother committed suicide after an affair with his tutor; his shattered father followed suit not long after. Reich had a particular reason, therefore, to focus on the effects of sexual guilt.

Why, though, would Reich's views take hold amongst other members of the intelligentsia? I expect a full answer would have to consider the following:

a) Reich was proposing an all-encompassing, unified, scientific explanation for the existence of problems in the individual and society. Modernists hunger for this kind of theory.

b) Reich's ideas fit well with liberal autonomy theory: the view that the overriding good is a self-determination in which there are no impediments to our will. Sexual morality limits what we can choose and therefore comes to be thought of negatively as a restriction on individual autonomy from which individuals are to be liberated.

c) If you are an intellectual in a state of rancour against your society and civilisation, subverting sexual mores might be thought of as an effective blow against the existing order.

As for the Norwegians, they need to get over the 1930s. Reich is generally thought of now as a mad scientist (he apparently claimed to have done battle with alien spaceships). There must be more fitting approaches to child psychology than the ideological one he represents.

Friday, October 19, 2007

How does a liberal decide on prostitution?

Dr Leslie Cannold has thought a great deal about prostitution. She believes that she has arrived at a reasonable, compromise position on the issue, which is that brothels should be legal and regulated, but that outdoor street work is intolerable.

The truly interesting thing is how she arrives at this conclusion. For her, it's not a question of whether prostitution in itself is good or bad. This simply isn't part of the process of moral reasoning. What matters for her is the question of "agency". If a women has made an uncoerced choice to become a prostitute, then prostitution must be approved (as long as it doesn't impact on the "freedom" of the wider community).

So the debate is framed oddly around a single question: can women make an uncoerced choice to become a prostitute? Dr Cannold chides those who believe that the answer is always no, as this denies women the possibility of "agency":

most offensive is the way in which the argument itself victimises sex-sellers by denying their experience and stripping them of their agency

What is needed instead is:

A position where sex-sellers are moral agents worthy of respect

So how does Dr Cannold then justify restricting the "agency" of those women who prefer to work the streets? She argues first that street work impacts on the wider community:

when the consequences of the selling choice restricts the capacity of the fellow citizens to exercise their freedoms, the state is obligated to restrict their activity

Second, street prostitutes are coerced in their choices:

A focus on autonomous choice also justifies state intervention where sex workers lack the capacity - because they are too young, mentally ill, sexually or physically abused or drug addicted, to make choices about selling sex.

So we get this conclusion:

This is why allowing brothels to operate in a regulated fashion is a good idea, but street sex work can never be tolerated. Not just because a disproportionate number of street prostitutes are too young, too drug-addicted ... to make an autonomous choice to sell themselves, but because the cost to the community of their behaviour, even if theirs is a choice worthy of the name, is far too high.

Dr Cannold is basing her approach on liberal autonomy theory, which is the idea that the overriding good is our status as self-determining agents.

The theory doesn't exactly work in a "clear and distinct" way. Dr Cannold begins by criticising those who believe that prostitutes are coerced in their choices. She claims that this doesn't respect agency and is obnoxiously paternalistic and an imposition of one person's view on another.

However, she herself then uses the "coerced choices" argument to declare street prostitution to be intolerable. Furthermore, she tells us that in order to make prostitution in general uncoerced a community would have to offer:

sex-sellers opportunities to exit, such as income support, places in drug rehabilitation programs and police intervention in violent relationships at regular intervals at their 'workplaces' and each time they have contact with the law.

Then there's this sentence:

Autonomous adult women have a right to sell provided they go about it in ways that don't unfairly burden the community of which they are a part, though as a community we have a positive obligation to ensure that at every stage of what is a potentially violent, exploitative and coercive game, a woman's freedom to say "no" is protected.

So the community is obligated to provide a burdensome protection to prostitutes' agency, even though prostitutes are obligated not to be a burden to the community, and even though prostitution has been morally justified on the basis that it is an uncoerced choice.

These, though, are minor criticisms. The real problem is that Dr Cannold assumes liberal autonomy theory to be true. In effect, the most important parts of her argument remain unstated and unexamined.

The Howard Legacy

I've just received a copy of an interesting new book titled The Howard Legacy. Written by a distinguished Australian scientist, Dr Peter Wilkinson, it looks at one of the most radical legacies of John Howard's term in office, namely the coming dominance of the professions by overseas fee-paying students.

I'll write a detailed review shortly, but those interested in further information can visit The Independent Australian website and click the Howard Legacy button to the left.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A different dividing line

Does the existence of an indigenous minority make the mainstream national identity illegitimate? Not according to David Yeagley, a Comanche Indian. This is his perspective on the situation in America:

The people of a nation must never be denied the expression of their natural love for their country. Without love of country, no nation can exist for long. It will become rather a heartless business convenience, a lusus naturae [joke of nature] of mean greed.

Okay, so America presents a bit of a problem. America is now multicultural. America has many races, many religions - and many ideologies, actually. What is in fact the country? Is there something that we all love? Is there something that is tangibly American?

My view as an American Indian: White Anglo-Saxon Protestants created this country. What is it that they love? What do they consider to be the country?

As an American Indian, I seek their opinion. Their view is the one I want to consider. I am bound to them in blood, war, and treaty. My history is theirs, and theirs mine. I have looked to them for the health of the country.

I must say, they seem quite lost now. They are either afraid of who they are, or ashamed. If they are indeed not proud of who they are, yet continue to constitute the polity they created, they throw a curve ball to the world.

... George Soros equates nationhood to "tribalism." Naturally, he is most interested in bringing down the greatest nation — America. And because of America’s multi-cultural conditioning, it appears an easy enough task. He wants an "Open Society," with closed doors to the basic, historic elements of human existence: religion, ethnicity, and nationhood. He wants a world that can be perfectly controlled, one without these pestilential differences.

This could stand alone as an eloquent defence of traditional nationalism. It has an added significance, though, coming from an American Indian. We are accustomed to white liberals using indigenous affairs to further demoralise the mainstream. David Yeagley refuses to play his part in the script and speaks instead to encourage white Americans to uphold a national existence in the US, for his benefit as well as theirs.

Hat tip: Brave New World Watch
Original article: Vdare

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why does the left treat us differently?

Why do white liberals accept the traditions of other cultures but not their own? Why do liberals associate any expression of white identity with supremacism?

It's not easy for traditionalists to grasp the answers to such questions. I want to to suggest in this post how liberals arrive at such positions, but to do so it helps if I begin with the liberal approach to gender.

Put briefly, liberals believe in autonomy as an overriding good. They believe that to be fully human we must be self-determining agents. We do not determine our sex for ourselves and therefore our sex is treated by liberals as something unnatural and restrictive, from which we must be liberated. Sex must be made not to matter.

For right liberals this means that the past, in which there were distinct sex roles, is to be regretted, but that as a matter of "progress", these sex roles will become defunct, particularly in terms of labour market participation, which for right liberals is a central social function.

Left liberals take things further. They too see the male career role as the premier one, and they ask why, if sex roles are artificial, there has existed "discrimination" and "inequality". Their answer is that a group of people have formed a social construct, "men", in order to dominate, exploit and oppress the "other", those categorised as "women".

Once left liberals take this view, a number of other positions logically follow. First, it isn't just a question of patiently waiting for "progress" to deliver the goods; instead, male "privilege" is to be aggressively attacked and whatever helps to form and uphold male loyalties or a masculine existence is to be deconstructed.

Second, a sense of active hostility to men becomes justified. For the more radical of liberal men, it begins to make sense to act against, and identify in opposition to, a traditional masculine culture.

When it comes to ethnicity there is a similar distinction between right and left liberals. We don't get to choose our ethnicity, and therefore liberals believe that it should be made not to matter.

Right liberals tend to take this as a universal principle. For them, all people are to assimilate into a culture based on liberal political values. Right-wing journalist Andrew Bolt does not even make the usual exception for Aborigines; he once complained that a group of Aborigines who wanted to retain control over an historic artefact, by acting as a tribe, were flouting:

The humanist idea that we are all individuals, free to make our own identities as equal members of the human race.

Similarly Bolt has written that he doesn't like there being a category of Aboriginal art at the National Gallery because such categories "drive us back into our racial prisons".

Right liberals might well regret forms of racial discrimination in the past, but this is likely to be seen as a measure of the time, which progress toward liberal ideals is erasing. There is no particular reason for right liberals to feel an animosity toward their own race, so they tend to combine a belief in non-discriminatory mass immigration, often justified in terms of market needs, with a positive view of their own tradition. John Howard, for instance, has described his own position as follows:

It's perfectly possible for an Anglo-Celtic Australian who sort of has a lot of reverence to the traditional institutions of the country, and the traditional characteristics of Australia, and to want to hang on to those, to be completely tolerant and colour-blind and so on.

This is the awkward position you arrive at when you accept as a universal principle the idea that ethnicity is not to matter, but when you have not lost your self-regard.

For the left, it's a different story. They once again ask the question of why there was once "inequality", in which whites were dominant in the West and, for a period at least, in colonies overseas.

Their answer follows the same train of thought as the one they give for gender inequality: they assert that a group of people organised themselves into an artificial category of race in order to dominate, exploit and oppress the non-white "other".

If whites are an artificial construct who oppress others in order to gain unearned privilege, then it is whites who stand in the way of the emergence of freedom and equality. This explains:

a) The apparent contradiction that white liberals seek to undermine the very societies most dedicated to ideals of freedom and equality in order to achieve freedom and equality.

b) The leftist insistence that white communities are aberrations whose existence is to be considered illegitimate. It is especially illegitimate for a community to exist in which whites are a majority and in a position to exercise power.

(Jennifer Clarke, a teacher at the Australian National University, recently described Australia as a "regionally anomalous white enclave run largely by white people to our own advantage", in which anti-discrimination laws should be applied more effectively so that "a majority of Australians would no longer be of northern European ethnic heritage".)

c) The apparent "self-hatred" of left liberal whites. If the whole purpose of a white identity is to oppress and exploit others, and to hinder the achievement of equality and freedom, then it is logical for left-liberals to turn against their own identity and tradition. In fact, it becomes logical for left liberals to fiercely seek to undermine whatever continues to hold together a white communal existence.

If white communities are, as left-liberals assert, artificially constructed to uphold privilege, and if this explains the existence of inequality, then certain other seemingly irrational positions taken by the left can be better understood. These include:

a) The idea that Australia's prosperity somehow holds back or keeps down the living conditions of people elsewhere. Jennifer Clarke, for instance, writes that:

"the Australian way of life" itself may encapsulate undesirable social values, if that phrase extends to the idea that it is legitimate for those of us who live here to continue to monopolise more than our fair share of the earth's resources, while people who live in African refugee camps and Javanese slums must get by on far less.

The assumption is that we are prosperous not because of stable governance or a strong work ethic, but because we have monopolised the world's resources for ourselves. (As it happens, there's a story in today's paper which begins "Wars stripped $284 billion from Africa between 1990 and 2005, which is roughly equivalent to the entire amount of aid money given to the world's poorest continent." Perhaps there are better explanations for poverty in Africa than the efforts made by Australians to develop our own continent.)

b) The association of white nationalism with white supremacy. When individual whites assert their own communal loyalty, left liberals often describe them as white supremacists. This makes sense if you assume that the very purpose of "whiteness" is to establish dominance and privilege over others.

This is how Jennifer Clarke expresses her suspicion of English immigrants to Australia:

Similar questions might arise about some British emigration, particularly by "whites" leaving multicultural London. Antisocial behaviour by white supremacists or European or Christian chauvinists is not always defined or prosecuted as a crime ... but it can be just as destructive for a nation's social fabric.

Even quietly leaving a multiculture is enough to associate you, in Jennifer Clarke's mind, with white supremacism and anti-social behaviour.

c) The belief that the pro-immigration, open borders liberal right are in reality white supremacists.

Leftists see themselves as dissenting outsiders and the right as the power wielding establishment. Since the leftist ideology assumes that power is wielded by whites to uphold white privilege and to exclude and exploit others, it stands to reason that the right (power wielding whites) must be white supremacists.

There are those on the left who persevere in this view even as the Liberal Party has raised foreign immigration to record levels and transformed the Australian professional classes with fee paying overseas students.

Here is Jennifer Clarke expressing such a view about the Liberal Party Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews:

What many Australians, including Mr Andrews, still seem to want - decades after the "white Australia" policy was supposedly abolished - is a little piece of northern Europe at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific. What they don't want are too many funny-looking people from Elsewhere coming here ...

d) An acceptance of the communal life of the "other". It seems odd that leftists should be so fiercely opposed to any expression of white communal identity, but then accept the same expressions of identity from other groups. Professor Robert Manne, for instance, has defended the existence of traditional Aboriginal communities as follows:

... if the traditional communities are indeed destroyed, one distinctive expression of human life - with its own forms of language, culture, spirituality and sensibility - will simply become extinct. Humanity is enriched and shaped by the diversity of its forms of life. It is vastly impoverished as this diversity declines. If contemporary Australians allow what remains of the traditional Aboriginal world to die, we will be haunted by the tragedy for generations.

When it comes to white Australian society, Professor Manne seems to forget such fine principles. He sticks the boot in as hard as he can.

Perhaps the contradiction can be partly explained by the fact that the left doesn't universalise the principle that "ethnicity ought not to matter" as the right tends to do. There are different categories in the leftist way of thinking about the issue. There are white communities, which represent the oppressive power of ethnicity, which have invented racism and discrimination, and which represent what is artificial in terms of identity.

The non-white "other" must therefore stand as a different category, not participating in such negative aspects of identity. To set up a category of "whiteness" as the source of artificial and oppressive identity suggests that the "other" category cannot be the source of artificial and oppressive identity. The universalism is broken.

Or, to put it another way, leftists have a choice of contradictions. If they view non-white ethnicity as racist and oppressive, it undercuts the theory that such qualities are particular to the construction of whiteness. If, on the other hand, they view non-white ethnicity as positive and natural, it undercuts the liberal idea that ethnicity in general is a restrictive limitation on the individual - in which case, why shouldn't whites enjoy the benefits of ethnic identity as others do?

Finally, I'd like to suggest two reasons why it's difficult for left-liberals to abandon the theory they've adopted. First, the theory assumes that whites are dominant exploiters. Therefore, white left-liberals are likely to have a false sense of security about the position of themselves and their co-ethnics. They aren't likely to sense the dangers to their civilisation as quickly as they might otherwise be expected to.

Second, the theory has a kind of inbuilt defence. If there are whites who challenge the theory, this can be taken as merely confirming what the theory claims; that whites are conditioned to organise to defend their privileged status.

For these and other reasons, the theory isn't easily dismissed. Even so, as it takes ever more radical forms, it tends to alienate those not professionally committed to it, so we ought to keep hammering away at its inconsistencies and at its ideological foundations.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Odd family values

I wrote a post last week about Clare, the young Perth woman who wants to have 11 children as a single mother and who has advertised in her local paper for sperm donors.

The oddest part of the story is that Clare wants her sperm donors to have "strong family values". How could a man donating sperm to a young single mother on welfare represent strong family values?

To my surprise one reader very much thought it possible, and wrote this comment to support his claim:

"Strong family values" means that he values every persons right and desire to have a family. Not that he thinks every family should be the perfect nuclear family. Families can be two mothers, two fathers, sole fathers or sole mothers. The old ideals need to be thrown out the window if we really want to have an equal society where every person, and every family is accepted, instead of judged as inadequate.

I can't dismiss this comment too casually. It expresses the modern liberal mindset, and its appeal to equality, rights and acceptance is likely to make it attractive to some people.

It's worth unpacking. If we were to set it out as an argument it would look something like this:

a) There are just individuals with rights and desires.
b) The aim is to give equal treatment to each individual to pursue his desires.
c) The way to do this is to be non-judgemental, non-discriminatory and accepting.

Can this way of thinking about things work? One reason to think not is that individuals have any number of desires, some of them superficial and some deep, and many of them contradictory. How does the individual order these desires? There must ultimately be some basis for judging these desires and their value, otherwise the individual would live incoherently.

When it comes to the family, individuals do attempt to order their desires. They ask questions such as:

What do I owe my spouse and children?
What do I owe society?
What represents character?
What holds society together?
What are the higher forms of love?
How are children nurtured?
How is a child brought undamaged to adulthood?

I suggest the following alternative to the argument made by my liberal reader:

1) Individuals have a mass of contradictory desires.
2) The aim is to encourage individuals to best order these desires.
3) To do this the influence of culture, of personal experience, of reason and of conscience are significant in forming judgements.

There's one other issue I'd like to cover. There is a sense of "fragile identity" in my liberal reader's comment. It's as if he (she?) is declaring: I am my lifestyle choice. If you criticise my choice then you reject who I am - you reject me as a person.

I believe this to be wrong on two counts. First, the fact of being a person is not dependent on social attitudes. Our humanity is not contingent on what others think of us.

Second, one of the reasons for "judgement" is to throw off what is superficial or self-destructive and to reach toward higher forms of human identity. We won't help people reach toward these higher forms of identity by encouraging a culture in which all choices and all desires are equally accepted.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Farmers in court for growing crops

Via Lawrence Auster comes the latest news from Zimbabwe:

Ten white farmers appeared in court in Zimbabwe yesterday accused of growing crops on their land — in a country where millions of people will need food aid within the next few months ...

Since 2000, when the government began seizing white-owned farms, many of them violently, the agricultural sector has collapsed and the economy has gone into freefall, with inflation now at 6,600 per cent, the highest in the world.

The World Food Programme estimates that it will be feeding 4.1 million Zimbabweans, one third of the population, by the end of the year.

Now the Chegutu group is charged with violating the Consequential Provisions Act, which gave the few hundred remaining white farmers a final deadline of Sep 30 to leave their land and homes.

The farmers ... have already given two-thirds of their farms to the government for resettlement ... They pleaded not guilty and face up to two years in prison if convicted ...

Didymus Mutasa, the lands minister, has said that the few hundred remaining white farmers will be forced out, one way or another.

"The position is that food shortages or no food shortages, we are going ahead to remove the remaining whites," he said recently. "Too many blacks are still clamouring for land and we will resettle them on the remaining farms."

In fact many farms were given to members of the government and their cronies, and one minister has admitted that the new farmers have failed in their cultivation efforts.

Outside the court, the scruffy shops of Chegutu were empty of basic foods, and street vendors sold small, sour oranges.

They came from a once-prolific citrus farm in the district now devastated after it was seized by Bright Matonga, the deputy information minister, earlier this year.

So the situation in Zimbabwe is this: the last remaining whites are being driven from their farms, the land is being redistributed to government cronies, leaving a third of the population dependent on international charity.

Zimbabwe has descended to the depths in a single generation and South Africa, which is plagued now by violent crime, corruption and attacks on white farmers, isn't far behind.

The lesson is that you can't take your security, your prosperity or even your civilisation for granted. We don't live in the kind of world in which you can hand over power and expect to be treated justly.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A civilisational mind

Ann Peacock writes what is effectively a woman's page for the Herald Sun. Some weeks ago she wrote an article on grandparents (Grand Tradition Failing, 26/08/07), in which she proved able to think her way out of modernist liberalism. How did she do it?

She did several things which modernists are usually reluctant to do:

a) She recognised an important good in her own experience (the relationship between grandchild and grandparent).

b) She recognised that this is not just an individual, subjective good but something real and objectively true, and therefore likely to be enjoyed by others too.

c) She recognised that this good has been harmed by an exaggerated emphasis on individual autonomy and that therefore autonomy shouldn't rule as the sole, overriding, organising principle of society.

Ann Peacock didn't draw out these points as I've done, but you can see them at work in her article:

I wrote a few weeks ago about a sensational fundraising night - Nanna's night ... I wrote about how beautiful my Grandma and Nanny's memories are to me - sometimes, I think, even more so than ever, especially as I reflect on how our society has changed.

How, due to the trend toward delaying motherhood until we are in our late 30s or even early 40s, we are, by default, playing with fire and eradicating the whole grandparent phenomenon.

I mean, as we were striving to fit and balance our wonderfully successful single lifestyle with a career, and deeming pregnancy as something to be explored later, what we seem to have also been doing is denying our children the experience of grandparents.

Seeing this in so many people I know devastates me, particularly as I believe that love and wisdom of grandparents, along with the unconditional care from immediate families, are responsible for the nurturing of your soul.

Like so many others my age or older, many of my favourite memories of growing up are my grandparent memories ...

Some children in future generations will never know the complexities of that relationship between old and young and I do wonder what the ramifications of that gap will be.

This is very different to the usual liberal way of treating such matters, which is to assume that we are dealing with subjective preferences, each of which must be treated as being equally valid in order to avoid charges of discrimination, inequality, power domination or exclusion.

What if Ann Peacock is right? What if there does exist, as a particular objective good, a close and natural bond between grandchild and grandparent, which is important in nurturing the individual?

I do believe that such a bond exists, having witnessed the love of my own young son for his nan.

In this case, one social arrangement is not as good as another. To prefer one social arrangement, in which we maximise the opportunity for a particular good, is not an act of domination or exclusion, nor is it to be condemned as an infringement of equality.

You cannot have a functioning civilisation without recognising a set of distinct goods and what is required to preserve those goods. Ann Peacock does this, which makes her writing, in this case at least, seem unusually clear and mature.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Government suspends African refugee intake

The Herald Sun has described it as a "race storm". There has been much debate about the Government's decision to limit Africans to 30% of the refugee intake and to suspend any further refugee intake from Africa until July of next year.

Some on the left are claiming that it is merely a cynical election ploy. Although it's possible that the Government has publicised its policy to win votes, the policy has been in place for some time and is in line with the longstanding right-liberal attitude to migration.

In short, Australian right-liberals believe in high levels of immigration plus assimilation (often phrased now as "integration"). They want migrants to assimilate into the mainstream tradition, and so tend to take a positive view of the existing Anglo culture.

Left-liberals also believe in high levels of immigration but are more likely to support multiculturalism. Left-liberals often take a dim view of the existing Anglo culture as racist and oppressive; they tend therefore to value the immigrant cultures against the mainstream.

Given the right-liberal preference for high immigration plus assimilation, the Government policy is no surprise. There is evidence that African refugees aren't integrating well, so the Government has shifted places to Iraqis and Burmese without reducing overall numbers.

A recent column by Alan Wood is typical of right-liberal thinking on this issue. As you would expect, he argues for assimilation and against multiculturalism. He reminds us that the multiculturalists have denigrated the mainstream population:

In the Labor years it was the role of cosmopolitan elites to keep ordinary, red-necked Australians and their inherent racism on the straight and narrow. It was an era of stifling political correctness, where critics were howled down with cries of racist by the cosmopolitan internationalist elites of the progressive Left.

He quotes historian John Hirst, who wrote of mainstream Australian society in these years that:

Its right to primacy was denied; indeed, it became the most suspect of all ethnic groups given its atrocious past.

Wood complains that this multiculturalist disparagement of the mainstream led to a loss of public support for high immigration.

Wood then turns to research on immigration by Professor Putnam which shows:

that over several decades immigration and ethnic diversity lead to mistrust, challenge social solidarity, break down community and are poison to social capital.

Wood takes this as evidence not that immigration should be limited, but as:

a powerful argument against multicultural practices that encourage ethnic separatism and discourage assimilation

So debate on immigration in Australia is restricted to the leftist preference for high immigration plus multiculturalism and the right-wing alternative of high immigration plus assimilation.

I doubt if either side is prepared for the real consequences of high immigration. In Britain the left has been unable to sustain the multicultural ideal after a series of race riots and terror attacks. The Labor Party leadership, and the official race relation organisations, have had to advocate compulsory forms of assimilation.

Similarly, the right is likely to find that once immigrant numbers reach a certain level assimilation won't happen on the terms they expect. A looming example of this is the possibility of Prime Minister Howard losing his own seat in the forthcoming election, despite giving so much to the East Asian immigrants in his electorate.

Are diverse suburbs vibrant or boring?

9000 Melbournians were asked to list the most boring suburbs in their city. The results? Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Melton and Footscray were voted the least interesting places.

If you live in Melbourne you'll know straightaway the significance of these results. Broadmeadows, Dandenong and Footscray are arguably the three most ethnically diverse, multicultural suburbs in Melbourne (Melton is an outlying satellite suburb).

For many years we've been told that it was the more traditional suburbs which were boring and that diversity would enrich them and make them more vibrant and interesting. As recently as August, Tony Calma ran this kind of line in defending multiculturalism:

Australia is one of the most diverse nations on earth ... The interaction between our cultures is producing new, exciting ways of life and relationships.

It seems that the very opposite is true. The more ethnically diverse a suburb is the more likely it is to be rated as boring.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Clare the modern girl heroine?

Clare Edwards is a young Perth woman who loves children - she wants 11 of her own. She thinks a reasonable way of achieving this aim is to advertise in her local paper for a sperm donor and then raise her children on welfare as a single mother.

She's already had one child this way and has now advertised for sperm for a second.

She hasn't exactly been discouraged by those around her. Her grandmother has supported her on the grounds that she has made "a considered choice". Grandma, it seems, has picked up on the modernist idea that what counts in deciding whether an action is moral or not is "agency". The overriding good, in this view, is my autonomy as an individual; therefore, it's not so much what I choose that matters, but that my choice is informed and uncoerced.

Clare has also been supported by her local paper, the Subiaco Post, which has praised her as representing the "independent and can-do spirit of her generation, young people unbounded by the conventions of older generations".

Here we descend even deeper into liberal autonomy theory. According to this theory, we must be self-determining to achieve a full human status. This rules out a great many things: we can no longer be defined at all by our sex or ethnicity, as these are qualities we inherit rather than choose for ourselves.

Similarly, convention will be thought of negatively as a constraint on self-determination, rather than being judged in its different parts as being of positive or negative value.

So Clare appears to some as a heroine: as someone who makes her own choices, who is independent of men, and who is unbounded by convention.

She is so immersed in modern culture that she appears to be unconscious that anything might be amiss in what she has set out to do. Not only does she believe that she's "not denying her children anything" (such as a father), she's stated that she has chosen the sperm donor on the basis of his "strong family values".

Clare believes in strong family values, but accepts single motherhood supported by the state as an ideal model of family life. She is backed in this belief by other members of her family, by her local paper and even by the Government, which has sanctioned the ideal of a fatherless family by funding IVF treatment for lesbian couples and single women.

There are still some voices raised in protest. Bettina Arndt has written an article on Clare Edwards for the Herald Sun, which defends the convention of "Believing that children are better off with two parents" and which points to the disadvantage of children growing up without fathers.

The problem is that Clare is acting in line with the underlying principles of modern society, so Western culture is likely to continue to shift her way until these principles are effectively challenged.