Monday, November 30, 2009

Woods a living symbol of perfection?

Tiger Woods was in Melbourne recently. His reception was way over the top. He was fawned over and treated like something more than a great sportsman. The worst offenders were middle-aged white women; I still remember one at a press conference gushing over him, treating him like he was a demigod.

Woods himself seemed embarrassed by it all.

So when news of his alleged infidelity hit the papers I was interested in the reaction of his worshippers admirers.

Sally Morrell, a regular columnist for the Melbourne Herald Sun, obliged by penning her thoughts on the matter.

In her column she admits that she has no interest in golf. She doesn't admire Woods for his sporting prowess but for what he represents as a man. She writes:

It is Woods the man that I so like and admire. It's almost like he's a living symbol of perfection.

A living symbol of perfection? Why? Well, Sally Morrell likes that he isn't brash, that he's close to his parents and that he's protective of his family's privacy. But the clincher is this:

I especially love that his ethnicity embraces almost every part of the world, with his ancestors including Thais, African Americans, American Indians and Dutch.

Perfection, for Sally Morrell, seems to be a man who is non-white, but who is non-threatening to her white sensibilities by being unassuming, genteel and protective toward his family.

But adultery is less than perfect, shattering the idyll:

So now you tell me he had an affair? Hello? It's like telling me Jesus kicked a dog.

It's not just that it doesn't compute, it's that it makes you doubt if anyone can be as perfect as we'd like to believe at least one man can.

Of course, we shouldn't be so naive and shouldn't need any one person to show us what perfection looks like.

Of course, writes Sally Morrell, we shouldn't be so naive - but she indulges her naivety regardless, projecting her liberalism onto a hapless golfer in something close to religious terms.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boys face compulsory feminism lessons

In my last post I criticised White Ribbon Day, a day when men are supposed to wear white ribbons to show their opposition to domestic violence.

I criticised it on the grounds that it was being used to promote feminist patriarchy theory. Patriarchy theory claims that domestic violence is a result of men as a class using violence against women to secure an unjust power and privilege in society. Therefore, domestic violence is held to be "systemic" - it pervades the whole society as a cultural norm amongst men, but can be abolished for good once men start to "break ranks" with other men and act against their own power and privilege.

One reader wrote in suggesting I had missed the point in what I wrote:

This "article" misses the point on so many levels, it's comical. That's fine. Keep looking for excuses not to do anything about a problem as prevalent and upsetting as domestic violence. Keep looking outside of your comfortable existence. When you realize that we all can participate in making the world better for everyone, perhaps you'll be a happier person.

I understand this response. If you're not aware of the personalities and the politics behind the campaign you might well just take it all at face value as a worthy attempt to counter domestic violence.

But I'll repeat again - the campaign is a very long way from being politically neutral. The day after I posted, the Melbourne Herald Sun published the following news item:

Boys to get gender lesson

Feminism classes aim to curb violence

Boys face compulsory feminism programs in state schools across Victoria in a major push to prevent violence against females.

A VicHealth report for the state Education Department calls for teachers to be trained in gender, violence and sexual health issues ...

The report says programs for all students should start at primary level and be reinforced across all year levels in subjects including drama, English, science and sport ...

It said feminist theories were best at explaining the link between gender power relations and violence against women, and must underpin the programs ...

Report author Dr Michael Flood admitted there was always the risk of a backlash, but said it was crucial that students were taught that sexist attitudes and unequal relationships between the sexes were central to explaining violence ...

"...a feminist conceptual framework is essential ... to anchor the political commitments of the program."

So I was correct in what I wrote. The violence issue is being used for political purposes - in this case to have all state schools students indoctrinated in feminist patriarchy theory across a range of subjects every year from primary school onwards.

And who is this Dr Michael Flood who authored the report? He is a liberal activist who wants to deconstruct both masculinity and heterosexuality. Again, there is an ideology at work here. Liberals think of autonomy as the overriding good in society. We are to self-determine who we are, which means rejecting anything we don't get to choose for ourselves. We don't get to choose our sex - the fact of being a man or a woman - which means that liberals want to make an unchosen ("essential") masculinity or femininity not matter.

That's why Dr Flood doesn't approve of appealing to men's sense of masculine responsibility in domestic violence campaigns. He doesn't like using the slogan "real men don't hit women" because,

We should be wary of approaches which appeal to men's sense of 'real' manhood ... These may intensify men's investment in male identity, and this is part of what keeps patriarchy in place (Stoltenberg, 1990). Such appeals are especially problematic if they suggest that there are particular qualities which are essentially or exclusively male. This simply reinforces notions of biological essentialism ... (Engaging Men, p.3)

Note that he is hostile to "men's investment in male identity". He disapproves of men having a "male identity" because he thinks of it negatively as an oppressive social construct used to prop up male privilege and power. For him, the whole notion of "man" and "woman" is an artificial construct:

Nor should we take as given the categories "men" and "women". The binaries of male and female are socially produced ... (Between Men and Masculinity, p. 210)

Dr Flood also celebrates the "queering" of heterosexual men:

Bent straights: Diversity and flux among heterosexual men
Michael Flood
Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) La Trobe University

New formations of sexuality are emerging among heterosexual men, informed by constructions of ‘queer’ and ‘metrosexual’ masculinities and other alternatives.

Some straight men express alliance with gay men or question the binary of heterosexual and homosexual, or proclaim themselves to be ‘wusses’ and ‘sissies’, or take up egalitarian or even subordinant roles in their heterosexual sexual relations, or adopt a feminised preoccupation with personal grooming.

Such developments signal a weakening of longstanding constructions of heterosexual masculinity, and there is significant diversity in the contemporary sexual cultures of young heterosexual men. Yet at the same time, many heterosexual men’s social and sexual relations with women are organised both by gendered power relations centred on male privilege and by homophobic and homosocial policing.

It's politically progressive, thinks Dr Flood, for heterosexual men to declare themselves to be "wusses" and "sissies," to accept subordinate roles in sexual relations, and to adopt a feminised lifestyle. Dr Flood welcomes such developments because he supports the deconstruction of heterosexual masculinity, which he believes underpins patriarchy and male privilege.

And yet Dr Flood is the person that VicHealth sought out to design compulsory programmes of indoctrination for Victorian school students.

So, yes, patriarchy theory must be argued against wherever we meet it, including in White Ribbon Day campaigns. It's not something harmless that we can overlook in order to get a buzz in supporting a cause.

We're not in a position to stop the VicHealth bureaucrats from imposing their views on schoolboys, but we can maintain a principled opposition and perhaps even benefit when the backlash that Dr Flood fears does eventually come about.

In the meantime, we should encourage men to be more, not less, masculine. You cannot defend or build a civilisation when men are demoralised, defensive and lacking in moral status in society. We should applaud those men who do step forward and use their masculine strengths to work not only for their families but for their larger tradition.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

All men guilty of domestic violence by virtue of being raised men?

We have a White Ribbon Day here in Victoria. Men are supposed to show their support for victims of domestic violence by wearing a white ribbon.

But the campaign is based on feminist political theory - which ends up grossly distorting the issue of domestic violence.

Those running the campaign are supporters of patriarchy theory: of the idea that men have used violence against women to uphold their privileged status in society (i.e. to uphold the patriarchy).

Those who believe in patriarchy theory claim that violence against women is systemic in society - that it's a traditional part of the culture and institutions of society. Therefore, patriarchy theorists will usually:
  • exaggerate the extent of domestic violence
  • claim that domestic violence is prevalent throughout all parts of society
  • claim that male culture has traditionally supported domestic violence
  • present men as the perpetrators of domestic violence and women as the victims
  • argue that the solution is a political one in which men are to "break ranks" with other men and with their own privileged status
There are some obvious problems with these claims, most notably that:
  • male culture has traditionally condemned rather than supported violence against women
  • domestic violence is not spread evenly throughout society; it is far more prevalent amongst men who are unemployed, who take drugs and who have mental health issues
  • women are sometimes the perpetrators rather than the victims of domestic violence. They not only initiate violence against children and other women, but some studies show they initiate violence against male partners just as frequently as men initiate violence.
Should we be concerned about the distorted approach to domestic violence being taken by the White Ribbon Day organisers? I think so, on the following grounds:
  • the campaign unjustly maligns the average man as being responsible for domestic violence
  • such campaigns if taken seriously contribute to the poisoning of relations between men and women (what happens to the mind of a woman who believes that the average man hates and disrespects women to the point of violence?)
  • the campaign requires all men, even those who have never been violent, to adopt a "penitent" attitude, in which they are to accept that they are an unjustly privileged group. If men do adopt this attitude, they lose moral status, not just in terms of the issue of domestic violence, but in society generally. 
  • the campaign radically attacks a masculine identity, seeing it as being hostile to, rather than protective of, women. Not surprisingly, the campaign activists have prioritised feminising traditionally masculine environments
I'll finish with a few prize quotes from the mainstream media - which at the moment uncritically accepts the patriarchy theory approach to domestic violence.

The Age had a TV quiz show host, Andrew O'Keefe, address the issue. He followed a familiar path of beginning with a vague but alarming statistic:

At least one in three Australian women at some stage experiences violence at the hands of a man.

Not true, but that's not the point. The idea is to give the impression of domestic violence being systemic. Note too that O'Keefe has already quietly led us into the assumption that domestic violence involves a male perpetrator and a female victim.

By virtue of being raised a man in our society, most men will have contributed to the problem in some way over the years.

Thanks Andy. We men just haven't been maligned enough over the past generation, have we? You've never hit a woman? Doesn't matter to Andy, you're still part of the problem - by virtue of being "raised a man".

Every time I behave that way [laugh at sexist jokes, act insensitively], I am supporting the belief that men have rights and privileges greater than those of women, or that somehow men have a special place in the world that isn't shared by women. It doesn't mean that I beat my wife. But for many men, that belief is the basis of the notion that it's OK to beat your wife ... Because those forms of abuse are all based on the notion of male privilege and power.

At least Andy is upfront with the theory. What he's arguing here is that it's a belief in male power and privilege (patriarchy) which leads men to think it's OK to bash their wives. Therefore, men who believe in male power and privilege are contributing to domestic violence. And, according to Andy, it doesn't take much to be a male "patriarchalist". Even laughing at a sexist joke or being insensitive makes you a supporter of male power against women.

Heaven help any man who took this seriously. You'd end up paralysed from fear of offending women.

As I wrote earlier, Andy's analysis doesn't explain much. It doesn't explain why violence against women was considered so unacceptable in earlier times when men dominated public life more than they do now. It doesn't explain why women commit acts of violence against children, men and other women. It doesn't explain why domestic violence is relatively rare amongst some groups of men, but common amongst men experiencing certain known "stressors", such as alcohol and drug abuse, mental ill-health, homelessness and unemployment.

We need men more than ever to assert their masculinity confidently in society, as a civilisational force. Men won't do this successfully if they are always on the back foot, wondering if they are too powerful or privileged, or if they are oppressing others in virtue of being men.

My local paper, the Diamond Valley Leader (25/11/09), also ran a column on domestic violence. It contained this gem:

Victorian Health Promotion Foundation chief executive Todd Harper said the attitude and behaviour of boys and men in all walks of life needed to urgently change.

"Violence contributes to more death and disability among women aged 15-44 than any other cause," Mr Harper said.

We get it Todd. It's systemic. It's all groups of men. It's a problem of male culture and masculine attitude. It's the biggest threat to women.

Only it's not. Most men already think it's wrong to hit women. They don't need to change their attitude. And it's ludicrous to claim that domestic violence contributes more to death and disability among young women than any other cause. Not only is this untrue, it's obviously untrue. And yet it's peddled in the media because it fits the theory.

And it's the theory that needs to change.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climate change & the liberal mind

The Age newspaper is in full campaign mode right now. We've reached a critical moment in the climate change debate in Australia, with a significant number of Liberal Party MPs breaking ranks and opposing an emissions trading scheme. The Age wants to neutralise them politically and has published not just one but three opinion pieces devoted to this end in today's edition.

What is the message in these pieces? The argument being made is that the climate change campaign is part of the long history of liberal progress that is threatened by a conservative opposition to change. A response to climate change means change to society and this is a good thing as change means progress. The only people, so the argument goes, who would oppose change are those with vested interests and those who are instinctively, and therefore ignorantly, conservative.

Tim Colebatch, the economics editor, explains the disappearing consensus on climate change this way:

Every landmark step that has made us the country we are proud of has been opposed by people motivated by inertia, familiarity with the way things are, or by vested interest.

If you oppose an emissions trading scheme, argues Colebatch, you are no different to those who opposed the abolition of slavery:

Two centuries ago, when William Wilberforce led the campaign to abolish the slave trade, the counterparts of Nick Minchin and Barnaby Joyce fought to defend it as an area of legitimate business in which governments should not interfere. Yet who thinks we should allow slavery today?

Colebatch isn't even pretending here to be a dispassionate scientific type, arguing from evidence. He is committed emotionally to a kind of Whig interpretation of history, in which change brings about progress, and therefore idealistic, moral people see themselves as "progressives" driving on change, against the selfish or ignorant objections of "conservatives" (who drag their heels) or, worse still, against the resistance of "reactionaries" (who want to change things back).

I can understand the emotional appeal of this view. You get to attach yourself to a progressive cause (which climate change has become) and feel like you are doing something meaningful in advancing humanity toward some ultimate end.

I can also understand why the Whig view was once taken seriously. The idea of liberal progress must have seemed more reasonable when European societies were dynamically on the rise in the 1700s and 1800s.

Even in the mid-1900s there was still an advance in the material standard of life in most Western countries, which must have helped prop up the idea of linear progress.

But today? It's a difficult idea to buy into. The West is clearly in decline relative to the Asian powers. Family life is more unstable than it once was; fertility is below replacement level; the arts have become generally low-minded; and the male wage hasn't improved in real terms since the 1970s.

Liberalism today seems not so much progressive as suicidal.

Tim Colebatch is wrong. We needed people in previous decades to take a firmer stance against destructive forms of change. Let me give just one example. When I was in my mid-20s there was a change in the culture of middle-class family formation. Whereas people would once have thought of settling down some time after completing university (early to mid-20s), it became the norm for university educated people to defer marriage and family to some vague period in their late 30s. Even at the time I thought this was a crazy development and I naively expected the powers-that-be to step in to correct the damaging situation.

But they never did this and we now have large numbers of women regretting missing out on marriage and motherhood.

And instead of admitting that the change was misdirected, liberals routinely respond to the complaints of these women with the idea that the change was good and progressive but that some people would inevitably be losers (the idea that you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette).

One of the other columns on climate change in today's Age was written by a lecturer in politics, Dr Paul Strangio. His argument is that the Liberal Party was always a liberal rather than a conservative party; that John Howard swung it to conservatism; and that this is why a conservative opposition to an emissions trading scheme has appeared. The message to Liberals is that they are betraying the whole history of their party by voting against a trading scheme.

Dr Strangio is probably right about the liberal roots of the Liberal Party. He quotes one of the early Liberal Protectionist statesmen, Alfred Deakin, who dreamed of a party that was:

Liberal always, radical often and never reactionary.

I'm more sceptical about the claim that John Howard somehow stole the Liberal Party for conservatism. Howard has actually criticised his successor Rudd for being too little change-oriented:

The Rudd Government comes up very short. I can't think of a major thing it has done, except spend the bank balance that Costello and I left behind. Nothing else.

The final opinion piece is by a young woman, Amanda McKenzie who directs a "Youth Climate Coalition". She begins modestly by calling for environmental stewardship:

As a young person I have a simple request of the current generation of decision makers - please leave the planet in at least as good a condition as you found it.

This is a good start. It leaves out the liberal ideology in favour of a simple request for responsible stewardship. But then she becomes alarmingly alarmist, claiming that only 50% of young Australians are going to survive warming:

the best-case scenario in the Government's policy position gives young Australians a 50 per cent chance of enduring climate disaster.

No surprise, then, that she doesn't end with a simple request after all. She wants change. Big change.

In 2050, people will look back at 2009, at the actions of our leaders and know if they deserved that title. Did they make the difficult call to transform Australia and transform the world ...

So climate change ends up being used once again as a cause justifying the transformation of the world.

Just don't ask to see the data justifying this change. It's all been settled you know. Back when we had that debate, you know, that long open-minded debate we had back in ... well, I'm sure we had it some time ago ... didn't we?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An excuse for an international tax?

The UN is asking Australia for $7 billion a year as our "carbon debt" - and Kevin Rudd has indicated a willingness to pay.

Should we be disturbed by the payment of such a large "carbon tax" to the UN every year? Andrew Bolt has provided some information that makes me think the answer is yes:

What makes this demand so brazen is that the UN has repeatedly asked for this same 0.7 per cent of our wealth - but each time with a different excuse.

In 1970, the UN called on rich countries such as Australia to give 0.7 per cent of their wealth to the Third World - minus those handling fees- to ensure "human dignity".

In 2002, it called on rich countries such as Australia to hand over that 0.7 per cent for "development" and to "protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem".

In 2004, the UN called on us to pay that 0.7 per cent to ensure "collective security" and a "more secure world".

In 2005, the UN told us to hand over that 0.7 per cent to ensure "millennium development goals" and fight poverty.

No go again. So the UN is going for broke at Copenhagen, demanding once more that 0.7 per cent from us, but this time to prevent "serious adverse effects of climate change".

The long-term plan seems to be to get countries like Australia to bankroll the UN with a permanent 0.7% annual tax. The UN bureaucrats have adopted the same strategy we often see to achieve this aim: if they are knocked back, they just keep coming back with revised claims until they finally get what they want (the EU politicians have done exactly the same thing to get their way).

This is happening just when some of the climate change science has been shown to be falsified. Lawrence Auster reported last month that the Siberian tree ring evidence for climate change has been debunked: the scientists involved picked out the one tree which did seem to indicate global warming whilst ignoring others which did not do so (i.e. they manipulated the sample).

And just today Lawrence Auster has reported on the discovery of emails from leading global warming advocates in which the falsification of data is openly discussed.

So right now the science supporting man-made global warming should be coming under increased scrutiny. We shouldn't be signing over billions of dollars to the UN, when clearly the UN is making another attempt to get a 0.7% annual tax from countries like Australia.

(On a lighter note, I had to laugh when I saw this article at a site called UN Dispatch: Global News and Views. It's titled "Women will be hit hardest by climate change". I don't think it's a parody of feminism - I think it's meant seriously.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting game

I've been attempting to develop the idea that a culture of relationships is formed from three inputs: marriage, romantic love and sex.

It strikes me that you can understand the rise of game a little better using this framework.

For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries romantic love was the predominant input into the culture of relationships. When men are most influenced by romantic love they tend to idealise women: they fall in love with an image of women as being beautiful and good.

But then second and third wave feminists fought for a sexual liberation, in which women were to pursue relationships without regard to either marriage or romantic love. Marriage was condemned as a patriarchal institution, a "cage," and romantic love was condemned for placing women on a pedestal. Feminist women in their speech, dress and behaviour sought to destroy the romantic ideal of women.

The men who came to maturity in this situation faced a difficult situation. There was still the influence of an older culture of relationships in which women were idealised and even treated as morally superior to men. But what many men observed didn't fit this view of women. They observed women acting against the romantic ideal, by drinking heavily, getting tattooed, dressing mannishly, speaking coarsely and pursuing sex with men who didn't treat them so well.

What's more, it was expected that men would simply fit into whatever modern women wanted. Men existed to prop up the chosen life course of women.

So what happened? Some men (gamists) adapted to the new situation. They accepted that relationships were to be pursued primarily for sex, rather than for marriage or romantic love. They attempted to develop techniques by which they could more successfully pursue sex with the most sexually desirable women.

And who have gamists set themselves against? They do not like those men they refer to as pedestalizers - those who place women on a pedestal. I get this, as it's difficult for those of us who are familiar with the behaviour of "sexually liberated" women to see them as morally superior to men.

But I'd also make two points here. The idea of women being superior to men took off in the Victorian period - at the same time that romantic love was becoming the predominant input into relationships. This isn't a coincidence. The more that men romantically idealise women, the more likely it is that women will be seen as purer and morally finer than men.

When marriage had more of an influence in relationships (i.e. at most times prior to the later Victorian period), moral leadership was not handed over to women. If anything, the opposite was true - it was husbands and fathers who were expected to exercise moral guardianship within families and within society as a whole.

Second, it may not be the best thing to totally erase the influence of romantic love and the idealisation of women. Prior to the 1970s, when the romantic ideal was predominant, women did make an effort to live up to an image of feminine goodness and beauty. There were even finishing schools for women to encourage an ideal of feminine behaviour.

In the early 1980s in Melbourne, there were still women in my middle-class Catholic social milieu who were genuinely lovely in the way they dressed and acted. At the time, I simply thought that this was normal, and I would probably even have accepted the idea that women were better behaved than men (boy was I in for a shock).

One small anecdote to illustrate this. On a group date when I was still in high school we boys, acting up a bit, brought along a case of beer. The girls seemed remarkably unfussed by it and took it away to put it in the fridge. But they hid it and brought out instead some non-alcoholic wine (if you're male and outraged by this, you have to remember that the beer would have been drunk to considerable excess - there would have been no pleasant dinner party that the girls had planned). So the girls here were acting to constrain the larrikin behaviour of the boys.

We need to get the inputs right. If romantic love is too predominant, then men are likely to falsely attribute moral superiority to women and to foolishly hand over the moral guardianship of society to women alone - a mistake made by the later Victorians. But if romantic love is too weak an input, then women will not adapt to men selecting for a feminine ideal of beauty and goodness.

What else do gamists frequently talk about at their sites? Gender realism. They see themselves as pioneering a more realistic understanding of female behaviour. Again, I do get this. When romantic love was more of an influence, not only were men more likely to naively assume goodness in women, they could more often get away with doing so.

When people think mostly about marriage and family, they are likely to carefully select their partners. After all, they are selecting someone to spend a lifetime with and to raise children with. There might also be concern for the reputation and the status of the family. So young people are likely to get advice from family members and from the culture about how to choose wisely.

But when it's mostly about romantic love, then what matters is spontaneous impulse and feeling. There's nothing here to be taught, so there's little point in making a conscious effort to guide people. This is one reason for people being naive in a culture based on romantic love. Another reason is that there is no brake to the romantic idealisation of women by men.

There was also back in the 1970s and 80s the remnants of a chivalrous attitude to women, which made it more difficult to criticise women - the emphasis was on male respect for women, something that second wave feminists took advantage of even when they themselves no longer aimed to behave like ladies.

So, yes, I think it's true to say that there was a lack of gender realism. I'll confess that I went into relationships entirely naively as a young man. I hadn't received a skerrick of advice from any quarter.

So it's interesting for me, too, to read open discussions about the nature of women at gamist websites. And quite a bit of it accords well with my own experience. The one qualification here is that gamists sometimes take the current situation, in which sex is the predominant input, to represent the unchanging reality of what young, desirable women prefer to select for in men.

When sex really is the predominant input, then women will often respond to the crudest of sexual markers; they might ignore matters of intelligence and emotional stability and instead respond to muscle, to height, to aggression, to risk-taking - to raw displays of testosterone in men.

But I remember when romantic love was more predominant. Young people then were more oriented to relationships than to hook ups. Which then meant that people dated within lifestyle groups. If you were an arty, intellectual type of guy you could do very well with arty women - who, before the onset of radical feminism in the arts faculties, were often amongst the most attractive of girls.

Similarly, when upper middle-class women are marriage oriented, they are just as likely to look for status markers as for crude displays of testosterone. They might pay attention to the private school you attended, or where your family takes its summer holidays, or the profession you work in or the suburb you live in.

In a more settled society, in which marriage is predominant, the chaos of hook ups will be replaced with a more formalised culture of courtship. Parents will play more of a role in guiding this process, and given that they will want the best outcome for the family and for their daughter, they are likely to favour young men of good character and background. In these conditions, it might even pay to be a "good man" - as late as the early 1900s, it was still being said that "beauty in a woman is a reward for goodness in a man" - something which seems entirely misleading today, but which once was taken seriously.

There's one final point to be made. Gamists often write about emulating alpha male behaviour. The idea is to show signs of being socially dominant in a masculine way to be sexually successful with women.

The good thing here is that men are being encouraged to be masculine in their dealings with women. And there are other aspects of game which are admirably masculine. The gamist websites are intellectually curious, open and broadminded. The gamists refuse the secondary role assigned to men by feminists - of propping up whatever women happen to choose for themselves. Gamists also refuse to take what women, and feminist critics, say at face value. Finally, gamists have not fallen in unthinkingly with the liberal orthodoxy - they are not meekly politically correct, but do recognise what is destructive within liberal societies.

I like all of this. But I think too that there are aspects of game that are yet to be resolved. For instance, gamists are focused on adapting to the current situation of sexual liberation - which is why the emphasis is on the pursuit of women for casual sex.

Why passively adapt to sexual liberation? Wouldn't it be more alpha to seek to shape the environment you live in?

Many gamists are Darwinians. I sometimes wonder if they are following a model in which the successful organism is the one which best adapts to its environment. That would explain why the focus is on successful adaptation, rather than on political change.

The problem is, though, that the adaptation means giving up on marriage and reproduction. So adaptation to sexual liberation doesn't mean success in Darwinian terms via the passing on of genes. It means Darwinian failure.

And many gamists do seem to recognise that the adaptation they argue for is a downward one. I've read gamists who see the situation as lost, with Western man having no future, and with game being a way of going out on your own terms. The adaptation that game offers does not involve us bequeathing anything of ourselves to the future.

And even on the personal level, there are some unresolved questions. What happens as you get older? Is a man aged 40 or 50 still going to hang around nightclubs trying to pick up the sexiest 20-year-old women for casual sex? There has been a discussion of this at game sites lately, with some men hopefully answering yes to the idea of older men hanging out with much younger women. It seems to me though that the older a man gets the more strained this kind of lifestyle is likely to be.

Anyway, I'll continue to read the game websites with interest. The rapid growth of these sites shows how possible it is for new kinds of thinking to emerge - something which should encourage those who wish to challenge liberal orthodoxy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tipping the balance

Here's some good news:

Mums are having more babies than ever ... the nation's total fertility rate rose from 1.92 babies a woman in 2007 to 1.97 last year, the highest since 1977.

It's important to get the fertility rate back up to at least replacement level (2.1). To understand why, consider the following graph:

The graph shows the damage done by sub-replacement fertility rates in European countries. If these fertility rates don't improve there will be a drastic decline in the European populations of these countries as early as the year 2050.

The graph comes from an excellent article written by Richard Hoste. He explains the following ramifications of the low fertility rate:

It can be projected that the total number of white people lost from the EU, Canada, Switzerland, the Balkans, Norway and the ex-Soviet states including Russia will be around 279,000,000.

If you don't mind the idea of European people not being around any more, this information might not seem to be of such significance. But for traditionalists it does matter. Getting back up to a replacement fertility rate of 2.1 means a great deal.

Nor is it set in stone that fertility rates have to be so depressed. If you look at historical trends, Western fertility rates began to fall in the 1870s, hit a low point in the mid-1930s and then recovered to hit very healthy levels in the early 1960s. They fell again to reach a low point in the early years of this decade, before once again (in Australia at least) recovering ground.

Here is the fertility rate for Australia showing the mid-1930s low point and the recovery in the mid 1960s:

1900:   3.5
1934:   2.1
1961:   3.6

What happened to restore fertility levels? One academic, Jan van Bevel, thinks a traditionalist backlash against modernity might have been the cause:

The interwar period was an era of strong societal tensions, not just in politics and in the economy, but also in marriage and the family (Coontz 2005).

The tide of modernization had been producing ever more social changes at a pace that was bewildering many common people. Some were enthusiastically embracing the opportunities and freedom promised by modernity, within as well as outside the family. Others were alarmed by new patterns of behavior and saw modernity as threatening the proper, established order, bringing degeneration, decline, and decay instead.

Over time, the latter group formed a powerful, conservative, even reactionary counter-force against modernity. Maybe that was one of the factors responsible for the rise of "the golden age" (or golden cage) of the nuclear family in the 1950s and early '60s (Cheal 1991)

As much as I'd like to believe that a powerful group of conservatives put things right, I doubt that this is true. What's more likely is that first-wave feminism finally burnt out during the course of the 1930s, as the costs of the disruption to family formation became increasingly clear.

Still, Van Bevel has a point. Liberal modernity influences people to prioritise individual autonomy. The modernist mindset is to want to avoid serious commitments that might limit what we can choose to do for ourselves at any moment in time. This runs counter to a culture of family life. Liberal moderns are inclined to prioritise the single lifestyle of personal career aims, travel, casual relationships, consumer choice and recreational pursuits.

Helen Clarke, the former PM of New Zealand, put the liberal mindset as bluntly as it's ever been put, when she explained her decision to remain childless on the grounds that:

You've got better things to do with your life, unimpeded.

But there is a strong foundation for a traditionalist counter-movement. The instinct to marry well and have children runs deeply. Most people haven't given it up as a key life aim; just last week a major survey of Australians aged 18 to 45 found that a "loving relationship" was still the most valued aim in life:

The 1500 men and women ... rated a loving relationship above financial security, independence, career and a social life.

I expect too that many people do want to pass on their own culture and tradition to future generations.  There are even liberals who regret not having contributed in this way. For instance, in my article The no future clause, I quoted the views of Gabriella, a 44-year-old childless English woman. She had been influenced by the liberal modernist mindset in her 20s:

Having children in my 20s would have spelled the end of everything I had spent my life working towards and was about to really enjoy: the ability to spend my money the way I wanted, travel where I wanted, choose my partners, live as I wished.

But in her 40s she was having other thoughts:

If people like me don’t reproduce, civilisation may be the worse for it ... I am a typical product of my family; I can see the thread stretching back through the generations. Do I think it’s a shame that this genetic inheritance won’t continue? Yes I do ...

It's the same with Nora. She is a childless Englishwoman who aims to continue, as a liberal modern,

to have fun, to enjoy my job, to meet interesting people, to go on great holidays, to read interesting books

But even she, as committed to the modernist mindset as she is, still feels the draw of other, more traditional, considerations:

I think my parents came from an excellent gene pool," she says, "and it’s a shame that, to date, that hasn’t been passed on ... at the end of our exchange Nora declares fervently, “You and I should have had children!” – hastily appending that she meant not for our own sakes, but in social terms. “We’re blessed with brains, education and good health.” She admits that the longer our discourse has continued, “the more I think I am a squanderer of my gifts and my heritage. But I live in a decadent age where that doesn’t seem such a problem. Anyway, devoting my whole life to promulgating my ethnicity is a big ask.

A traditionalist movement could provide a counterbalance to the dominant liberalism and encourage the commitments that many people, even liberals, do still consider seriously. Even if we weren't able to dominate, we could help to tip the balance. As the European fertility chart shows, even small changes have large consequences over time. It's worth making the effort.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Tol plantation massacre

I've read a lot of history over the years, but I'd never heard of the Tol plantation massacre until Wednesday night. It's something that I should have known about as an Australian, particularly as there is a connection to my own family.

The story was told in a new and well produced documentary on the Foxtel history channel. In January 1942 the Japanese attacked Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. The 1400 Australian defenders were hopelessly outnumbered and withdrew inland. Suffering from disease and hunger, they were invited to surrender by the Japanese with the promise of good treatment as prisoners of war.

A contingent of Australian soldiers who did surrender were taken to the Tol plantation. They were given a meal and then had their hands tied behind their back. They were then taken out in groups and either shot or bayoneted.

At least 130 were massacred, but six survived to reveal what had happened. (There is a list of names of those who were killed here.)

The massacre was not conducted in the heat of battle; nor had the Japanese suffered heavy casualties in the campaign. The Japanese were mostly able to walk ashore unopposed into Rabaul and the Australians surrendered some time after the battle had ended. The massacre was a deliberate, cold-blooded killing of Australian troops who had been promised fair treatment as prisoners of war.

Worse was to follow. Many of those captured in and around Rabaul were put in the hold of a ship, the Montevideo Maru. The Japanese did not identify this ship as a prisoner of war transport. It was sunk by a US submarine with the loss of over 1000 Australian POWs and civilians. One of those who perished was my great uncle.

There have been times in history when Australians have suffered at the hands of other races and other nations. We haven't always been in a position of strength, as much as those who follow the "white oppressor" template would have us believe so. The Tol plantation massacre is one of the more shocking examples of this fact, but it's not unique - some Australian readers would be aware, for instance, of the infamous Bangka Island massacre of Australian nurses.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Can we discriminate against mistresses?

A mistress has won a payout of $100,000 from her former lover under the new Family Law Act here in Victoria. Under the new law, a mistress can claim maintenance or a payout if she can prove she has been in a long-term relationship.

What this very clearly shows is that the term "family" has been radically redefined to mean anyone in a relationship with another person. Where a family was once defined in terms of a married couple and offspring, it can now mean not only a de facto couple, or a same sex couple, but even a man, his wife and his mistress.

From the Herald Sun report:
The new federal laws for maintenance and division of assets for de facto couples, mistresses and same-sex couples came into effect on March 1 and any disputes are heard by the Family Court or the Federal Magistrates' Court.

The laws give some mistresses, as well as de facto and same-sex couples, the same rights as married couples. [So this is what it has come to: "The laws give some mistresses ... the same rights as married couples."]
And from the mistress:
The woman, who has not been named for legal reasons, said not only did she deserve the money, but others should follow her lead.

"I gave him the best years of my life," she said ...

"So this is also about giving our relationship a validity. It is a recognition that I have added something of value to his life."
Yes, according to the new law being a wife is valid, being a same sex partner is valid and being a mistress is valid. They are all equally valid, as all that matters is being in a proven relationship.

It's difficult to see how the line can be drawn anywhere. If a mistress is considered to be in a valid family relationship, then how can the law continue to exclude or discriminate against second wives? If all you need is a relationship over time, and a man is in a relationship with a second wife, then why won't that eventually be recognised by the state as valid also?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Would you accept this offer?

Here's an amazing story from England. The issue of equal pay has moved to another phase. It's no longer enough to have equal pay for the same work. The demand now is for an overall equal outcome: the system is to be rejigged so that women end up earning as much as men.

This has led to an extraordinary situation in Leeds. Refuse collectors there have been paid a salary of 18,000 pounds - about $32,000 Australian dollars or $29,000 US dollars - a low wage by Australian standards.

The Leeds Council has been required by equal pay legislation to reclassify work so that women end up earning the same as men. The result? The mostly male refuse workers were asked to take a massive pay cut of 25%. They would end up earning only 13,500 pounds - less than $25,000 Australian dollars.

In return, dinner ladies would be paid slightly more than they are now - but in general the demand for equal pay is to be achieved by cutting the male wage rather than by raising the wages of women.

Not surprisingly, the binmen have refused to accept the large pay cut and have been on strike for a month.

This is another example of how conditions for many men are eroding in modern society. Andrew Beveridge has provided data showing that between 1970 and 2005, real female wages in America increased from 67% to 89% of real male wages. This might sound like a gain for women workers - but it's not. The increase was not due to real female wages rising - they didn't - but to a fall in the male wage. This doesn't help women at all as it makes it more difficult for men to earn a living wage to support their families.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The last surviving extreme?

The twentieth century was plagued by extreme political ideologies, most of which were finally seen off. But does one remain?

I'd like to argue here that one extreme and destructive ideology does remain, namely liberalism.

Not everyone will immediately accept this claim. After all, liberalism is the political ideology that dominates Western countries like Australia.

Suburban life in Australia mostly revolves around going to work, shopping, watching TV and so on. There's not a lot of political excitement in the daily routine.

Nor does the liberal political class in Australia rely on a secret police or the threat of being sent to a labour camp to maintain control. The political class is generally able to stay dominant through the influence of the media, the schools and the universities.

Nor are liberals in countries like Australia revolutionary in the sense of wanting violent change or demanding a complete and immediate implementation of a revolutionary programme. Instead, they tend to be reformist, using the state to advance their aims one step at a time.

Nonetheless, I think it's accurate to claim that liberalism is a surviving extremist ideology we need to see off. Liberals in power may not be revolutionary in seeking to violently impose a vision of utopia; even so, they do follow a "transformative" urge: they need to feel they have made a difference in making progress toward the liberal ideal.

So decade by decade we are pushed further along toward more extreme and more destructive outcomes. Examples? The following spring to mind:
  • Andrew Neather admitted recently that the mass influx of immigrants into the UK was not an accidental oversight as the Blair Government claimed but was done deliberately to permanently transform the population of that country - and was therefore hidden as a policy from UK voters. One commentator had this to say about the admission:

    A speechwriter who worked for Tony Blair has said that the unprecedented mass immigration into the UK was done intentionally and purely for political reasons. This is utterly devastating news. Some people ... have said for a long time that certain government elites have been deliberately and actively trying replace the indigenous populations of their own countries without asking the people what they thought about the idea. It now turns out they were correct. This is the greatest betrayal in human history that I can think of.
    It isn't easy to think of a greater betrayal. How many governments, prior to modern liberalism, set out to secretly replace their own population with another one as a "transformative" project? There wouldn't be too many more extreme political projects than this one.

    What immediately springs to mind is Bertolt Brecht's famous response to the crushing of a workers' uprising in East Germany in 1953 by the communist regime:
    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had thrown away the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?
    It has been liberal and not communist governments which eventually have set out to "dissolve the people and elect another". It is a clear case of just how radical mainstream liberal politics can be.
  • In 2004, 500 modern art experts were asked what they thought was the most influential work of modern art. The 500 experts voted for "The Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp. This was a public urinal exhibited as a statue. High art had been reduced, in a modern liberal society, to toiletry. This is especially significant as high art exists not just to entertain but to communicate the ideals of a particular society.
  • Jens Orbeck, as a minister in the Swedish government, declared that it was official government policy that male and female had no real existence but were merely social constructs:
    The government considers female and male as social constructions, that means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economic conditions, power structures and political ideology.
    Just in case people weren't listening Monica Silvell, representing the Swedish ministry of gender equality, again denied the distinction between male and female in 2004:
    The government must regard "male" and "female" as social constructions
    How can this not be considered extreme? What other ideologies have gone so far as to deny the distinction between male and female?
  • Liberalism has given rise to the idea that an action is made moral simply because we ourselves have chosen it. Dr Mirko Bargaric, an Australian human rights lawyer, believes that:
    we are morally complete and virtuous individuals if we do as we wish so long as our actions do not harm others.
    Similarly Dr Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist, has put forward the idea that:
    defining your own good ... is at the heart of a moral life
    This is extreme in the sense that it denies the existence of an objective good existing outside our own individual will. In this sense it is nihilistic.
These are a few aspects of liberalism which should, at least, suggest the possibility that liberalism can be looked on as an extreme political ideology.

In my next post I'd like to take the argument further, by going beyond individual examples and identifying what is extreme within liberal philosophy itself.