Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Not signing on to a liberal culture

Lawrence Auster, in a post on film awards, makes this significant criticism of mainstream conservatism:

And this is central to the deeply inadequate "conservatism" we have today. That conservatism rejects a few liberal political positions, while automatically signing on to the hyper liberal culture in which we are immersed. 

It's a useful reminder to all of us. It's much easier to reject liberalism at a formal political level than it is to resist the influence on us of the liberal culture we are daily immersed in.

In other words, it's not only important to keep ourselves politically distinct, but to live our lives distinctly as well. And that includes such matters as the values we seek to impart to our children, the manners and mores we adopt and model to those around us, the arts and culture we choose to support and the nature and quality of the inner life we seek to hold to.

33 comments:

  1. That's not an easy call. We're left with the position of rejecting all elements of liberalism. I'm inclined to think that an excellent start is merely recognising what is liberal and what isn't. I mean there's substantial confusion on that front in part because liberalism has been "in the water" so to speak. For instance we've all seen time and time again leftists coming on the site confusing right liberalism with conservatism.

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  2. The biggest problem with liberalism is that there hasn't been a seriously visible alternative (apart from hard leftism), which has meant its become the accepted (if sometimes reluctantly) basis for politics, culture etc.

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  3. There's also the risk of becoming completely out of touch. In business if you know nothing of contemporary culture (and I myself don't follow it much) you will appear to be an odd duck and have nothing to talk about around the water cooler.

    JGP

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  4. Three very good comments.

    Jesse, I agree. I didn't mean to suggest that getting the formal politics right isn't an important starting point.

    Anonymous, yes it's important still to be able to function in a liberal society. It's not a question of vacuum sealing yourself from the surrounding culture. That's neither possible nor necessary. It's more a question of not slipping into an informal acceptance of the standards of liberal culture whilst formally maintaining some sort of opposition to liberal politics.

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  5. "It's more a question of not slipping into an informal acceptance of the standards of liberal culture whilst formally maintaining some sort of opposition to liberal politics."

    I totally agree. I'm sure many "Conservative" commentators don't realise how liberal they are.

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  6. In business if you know nothing of contemporary culture (and I myself don't follow it much) you will appear to be an odd duck and have nothing to talk about around the water cooler.

    It depends. In certain circles not knowing anything about TV earns you points. You just have to know about "other things".

    I can't even pretend to care about sports for business purposes. Sorry. They asked me who I liked in the Super Bowl and I had to confess I had no idea who was playing. My excuse right now, though, is having small children ("such a bummer, no time for TV, oh well"). =)

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  7. As a perfect example of the left-liberalism actuating most "conservatives", here's the "conservative" Andrew Bolt wittering in praise of homosexuals, and denouncing Tony Abbott for daring to feel "uncomfortable" with them:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/what_does_abbott_fear_they_might_do_to_him/

    If I were Mrs Bolt I'd feel very, very worried.

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  8. Defending homosexuals doesn't make a person gay; Mrs Bolt should hardly be worried.

    Take me for example. I am an absolute passionate gay rights supporter; on Saturday, I'll be in Melbourne in the Equal Love rally. But I'm also extremely heterosexual - I grow ill in the stomach upon looking at another man sexually.

    Andrew Bolt does defend gays, but he does it gentley; he does it as a deliberate political tactic.
    He's trying to appear 'post-queer'.

    (Post-feminist: women have won their rights, the women's lib movement was fought and won. Now it's time all you women stop protesting, get off the streets and get on with your lives.)

    In post-queer, Bolt is trying to make it as though gays have equal rights as straights.
    If gays have equal rights, then there's no point in them going on a protest march, is there?

    Bolt is defending homosexuality as a way of cutting down the gay rights movement: you gays have won, you have equal rights, the battle was successful, now you should get off the street and go home and celebrate your victory.

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  9. I am reminded of the Roman historian Sallust's observation that most people's aren't looking from freedom but nothing more than fair masters. Supposed conservatives like Auster are mistaken when they think they can have a traditionalist social environment AND a general liberty of conscience. A type of people capable of both is rare and it certainly does not exist today.

    Any true conservatism in the West today must be imposed on the population with an iron fist. But the Austers lack the fortitude required for such a burden and, so, futilely rail against the decay they see around them. Recently, Auster called prominent radio-host Hugh Hewitt a "GOP hack". What I found so amusing about that comment was that Auster was obviously correct in his assessment but that this "hack" was manifestly more influential and relevant than Auster. Why? Because "hacks" like Hewitt perpetuate the dulcet myth that a democratic majority of citizens in Western countries can be roused to defend traditional Western civilization through peaceful persuasion.

    Auster, himself, actually buys into liberalism through the backdoor of liberty. He does this because he deludes himself into thinking that he can convince a democratic majority of the population of the value of traditional ways of life. So, while Hewitt may be a "GOP hack" Auster is a GOP-less hack, albeit one with a keen insight into the problems facing the West.

    The Hewitt-Auster continuum is simply a scale whereby you trade effectiveness for insight. Hewitt has none of the latter and Auster none of the former. Any true conservative resurgence absolutely must be attended with promises of real political power for its paladins.

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  10. Mr Silverwood wrote: "I am an absolute passionate gay rights supporter; on Saturday, I'll be in Melbourne in the Equal Love rally."

    Wouldn't anyone who writes like this (one can't call it thinking, because there isn't any thinking visible) be happier at a site that - unlike this one - isn't specifically traditionalist-conservative? For Pete's sake, aren't comments moderated around here?

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  11. Asher said:

    "Any true conservatism in the West today must be imposed on the population with an iron fist."

    Any conservatism that needs to be proped up like that isn't worth having.

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  12. "Any conservatism that needs to be proped up like that isn't worth having."

    Bah. Right now we have liberal ideology shoved down our throats at gunpoint. That's not worth having, either. If we are going to get guns pointed at us regardless, I'd prefer conservatives to hold the guns.

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  13. aren't comments moderated around here?

    They are, but I allow non traditionalist comments that are written non-abusively.

    I think it's a mistake to insulate yourself entirely from those who disagree. There are a few feminist sites which do this, so they never get challenged in their views.

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  14. Asher, I mostly disagree.

    None of the big changes that liberalism has imposed in my lifetime has had popular support. It was a case of the liberal political class going over the heads of the majority of the population.

    So the tragic thing is that there was no section of the political class that might have mobilised popular support to effectively oppose the changes.

    And one of the reasons that there was no section of the political class ready to do so is that there was never a sustained effort to articulate a genuinely traditionalist, non-liberal politics. People make up all sorts of reasons for avoiding this task so it never gets done.

    Even today opportunities are being missed. For instance, there is an emerging men's movement which is critical of much of modern society. If traditionalists had more weight, we might have influenced this movement in our direction. Instead, it is largely being led by those who actually blame traditionalist men rather than liberalism or feminism for their problems.

    We're failing to catch the waves that do arise from time to time.

    Where perhaps I do agree with you is that the democratic majority will always be largely passive. So it does come down, in the end, to a determined minority. The beliefs of this determined minority are therefore critical in shaping the direction and the fate of the larger society.

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  15. M.Richardson: "... If traditionalists had more weight, we might have influenced this movement in our direction. Instead, it is largely being led by those who actually blame traditionalist men rather than liberalism or feminism for their problems."

    It's pretty much inevitable. The sort of folk you're talking about (mostly) want it both ways ... they want easy access to loose women, now, with the option settle down with a good woman when they're 34 or 40. Because, even though they're using and discarding women, they're "good" men and they "deserve" a good woman ... when they're ready.

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  16. Mark, since you're in Australia I'll defer to your experience there, but in the US all the greatest damage has been done with the support of overwhelming majorities of Americans.

    *Violence Against Women Act
    Domestic violence is, in the vast majority of cases, about two people with poor impulse control and high aggression beating away at each other. The VAWA is, today, mainly used as a weapon by bored women who've lost sexual attraction to their partner to get as much leverage as possible in a break-up or divorce. The VAWA was overwhelmingly supported by the public.

    *Anti-Male family courts
    A case similar to the VAWA and supported by, probably smaller, majorities

    *Workplace affirmative anti-discrimination
    Large majorities supported this. Just today the radio had a news story about how a local car tire chain, Les Schwab, hs to pay millions in an anti-discrimination case because it would not accomodate women in a position requiring massive upper body strength. This particular postion was the surest route to management, and the company was ordered to accomodate women, which meant they would be working in a team where the males would be required to pick up the slack. This is related to my personal work experience in an office setting during college where the single mothers were afforded all sorts of grace that would not have been tolerated in any other class of people.

    *General social attitudes
    A couple of generations age single-motherhood was shameful, but today it receives grace not afforded to the rest of us. During the early 90s at a my very conservative small, independent Baptist Church a deacon's son got his girlfriend pregnant, and even in that strict setting there was no shame. Hell, there was even a large celebration for the the baby's birth. Dare I say it that single mothers are privileged class, albeit not in a legal sense. Yet.

    *Choice in parent status
    Women have a right to force a man to be on a birth certificate. Men have no such right. This situation has overwhelming public support. So-called traditionalists, in their blindingly fanatical oppostion to abortion, accept this situation as the lessor of two evils, despite the fact that this power imbalance between the sexes is driving large numbers of people out of the marriage market.

    *Widespread college education
    Face it, only about 15 percent of the population has the inborn intellect required to utilize serious secondary education. However, vast majorities of the population think it's a good idea to send as many members of society as possible to college. Granted, the reason for this phenomenon is the fact that prospective employers are not allowed to utilize assessments of raw skill in the hiring process (Duke v. Griggs). That being said, when I point out the real reason for secondary education, a long-winded expensive proxy IQ test, your average person freaks out and insists on the necessity of "an education". BTW, widespread secondary education is likely the most destructive thing to traditional society on this list. And it is supported by vast majorities of the public.

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  17. *Lionization of females
    Almost all the supposed conservatives I hear constantly lionize the innate superiority of females. Consider the following piece http://roissy.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/why-do-conservatives-sanctify-women/ and compare it to the gushing genuflection by even the most rock-ribbed prominent public conservatives over the supposed stabilization influence that women have on men. Forget the general public, I'd wager that a super-majority of self-identified traditionalists are laboring under this delusion. So, imagine, the cynicism that builds among young males, many adamently not conservative, when they compare the babbling of the older conservative males about a female's stabilizing influence to the reality of the saucy trollopes parading their wares in any party district after 11 pm of any urban center in the western world. You cannot fathom the sneering, jaw-clenching cynicism us young men have for such sentiments from you older conservative men. Again, this lionization is held by the vast majority of western populations.

    Mark, I've worked almost 13 hours today and I'm supposed to be up in 7 hours to do a 12-hour snowbarding day. But this list just scratches the surface of destructive policies that have been supported by vast majorities of the public INCLUDING supposed traditionalists. If I'm not too exhausted tomorrow night I'd like to take this discussion further.

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  18. llion said:

    "It's pretty much inevitable. The sort of folk you're talking about (mostly) want it both ways"

    I agree. The Men's movement was also founded by guys who were in the feminist movement but found there wasn't much specifically male in there for them.

    I'm not sure the concept is specifically left/liberal though. Things that help men can arguably go beyond politics or go politically either way. If you were going to face up to a family court I think you'd appreciate some Men's movement guys clearing the ideological rubble.

    From what I've seen of it so far it doesn't have too much of a "do your own thing focus". Its more focused on men's (and society's) attitudes to work, women and fathering, which I think is a valuable insight, because under feminist thinking men are heavily associated with the "system", whether they actually are or not, rather than looked at in their own right. We are flesh and blood after all.

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  19. Asher said:

    "The VAWA was overwhelmingly supported by the public..."

    A lot of these things are supported buy the public, out of a spirit of fairness and equality. I think its folly to think that domestic violence is a 100% two way street, (meaning that women are as frequent perpetrators as men) even if in many cases violence is perpetrated by women. What I think you'll find is that men will often shrug off any violence committed by women as largely irrelevant, while women (as the generally physically weaker and touchy on this issue sex) are highly intimidated by it. Men are bigger and generally more physically aggressive than women. I don't think that there's any way around that.

    What I think on these issues the public are generally not prepared to accept (or would be unhappy accepting) is that these laws would be used in a spirit of unfairness or inequality, ie to benefit undeserving women excessively over men.

    "and compare it to the gushing genuflection by even the most rock-ribbed prominent public conservatives over the supposed stabilizing influence that women have on men."

    That sounds like me, except for the prominent part. Guys will be pissed if women are put on pedestals and act horribly. If they don't, men won't feel that way.

    The issue I think is this. If older conservatives, presumably with wives, are out there speaking in ways which don't reflect the experience, or provide assistance to young men, young men will be pissed. I would say that there’s probably no doubt that women played a stabalising influence for those conservatives who said that it did.

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  20. As an American let me rebut Mr. Asher, while the policies he notes have all been enacted I would be curious to know how Mr. Asher knows they were accomplished 'with the support of overwhelming majorities of Americans?'

    The vast majority of major legislation over the last fifty to sixty years has been accomplished in spite of public opinion, not with it.

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  21. Asher,

    I agree with you that there do exist older conservatives who are out of touch and who preach the message that women are morally superior.

    I can understand the negative response of younger men towards such a message.

    But.

    First, there is some truth to Jesse's point. It was much easier when these men were young to believe in such a message.

    Women did act in a more refined way in previous generations. Middle-class women in particular did not make a habit of swearing, getting smashed and sleeping around.

    Nor did they sacrifice the interests of families and motherhood to a female individualism.

    So there was a lot of respect for women amongst men.

    This doesn't mean that the older men shouldn't be criticised for being out of touch. But they are a product of their times. And their message won't last long as younger conservative men have grown up in radically different circumstances.

    So taking on conservatism for pedestalising is of limited use. It's a phenomenon that will fall over by itself anyway.

    Second, I don't think it's accurate to blame conservatism or traditionalism for the specific wrongs you list.

    Those traditionalists who were around fought against the anti-male measures you cite. It's true that they mostly lost out (though Phyllis Schlafly had some success).

    But that's partly because they did not have the influence to reverse the tide of liberalism.

    That's what I find so surprising about the men's movement blaming traditionalism. Here in Australia you had small groups like the Endeavour Forum spending decades campaigning against anti-male bias in society. They even sent contingents to the UN to argue their case.

    But instead of attacking the entrenched forces of liberalism responsible for pushing ahead with anti-male policies, you blame the few individuals who took a stand against the stream.

    And that includes me. At the height of third wave feminism in the 1990s I was publishing and distributing anti-feminist tracts at university. At this site I have posted several hundred articles criticising the policies you complain about.

    And yet I find myself portrayed as someone who is responsible for these policies.

    Which brings me to my third and most important point. You don't get such a massive transformation of society through the actions of a small traditionalist movement anyway.

    I'm concerned that the men's movement is shying away from the only real fight that matters. That is the fight against a modern liberalism which is the dominant and therefore the transformative agent in society.

    The modern liberal view of the state is that the state is responsible for securing the conditions necessary for individuals to choose their autonomous life path.

    The liberal state therefore takes on the role of enabler of a female individualism. That is where your divorce laws, your affirmative action and so on have their origin.

    The men's movement is wasting its time attacking a traditionalism which opposed rather than supported feminist policies and which didn't have the power to transform society.

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  22. Ilion,

    My theory differs a little from yours.

    Traditionalism does require commitments, obligations and sacrifices from men. But it also gave men much in return. The fulfilment of instincts to be husbands and fathers. The sense of carrying on a longstanding tradition. A respected place as men in society.

    It is a high input, high output proposition.

    For young men now the balance will seem to have changed. The obligations have in some ways increased. There is an expectation that men will continue to do the older things, whilst also shouldering some of what women used to do as well.

    And the returns will seem more doubtful. There is not the same respect for men in society. There is less of a longstanding tradition to carry on. And there is a higher risk of everything that is invested being lost through no fault of one's own.

    I can understand that some men will look at this and reject the traditional obligations as no longer being a just state of affairs. And so they will see traditionalism as being the force that is trying to put something on them.

    And so traditionalism becomes the enemy, despite the fact that it was not traditionalism which changed the balance of men's position in society.

    What can we say to such men?

    First, that "going your own way" as a political strategy has real limitations. Women will just seek their husbands elsewhere. Many men will regret not marrying or having children. And we will leave in place liberalism as a dominant ideology.

    Second, it's not impossible to live successfully in a traditional way in the modern West. It takes a higher level of judgement and principle than it once did. But it can be done. I've done it myself and I would say that most of the men in my suburb are doing likewise.

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  23. Mark< I disagree:

    None of the big changes that liberalism has imposed in my lifetime has had popular support. It was a case of the liberal political class going over the heads of the majority of the population.

    In a democracy the power ultimately stops with the people. If the public did not like what they wanted they could just as easily voted the clowns out. The problem is that the proles don't care. The great myth of democracy is that Joe average looks at the great issues dispassionately and with reflection, whereas in reality Joe is likely to spend more time on the footy scores than on thinking through the consequences of say, quantative easing. The stupid man influenced by the liberal media has been the downfall of the West. Gough's victory in 72 was the triumph of optimism over reason. Australia shot itself in the head.

    Traditionalists have not been opposed to democracy, but they have been opposed to unqualified democracy.

    Those who can't manage their own affairs should not have a say in the affairs of those who can.

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  24. If the public did not like what they wanted they could just as easily voted the clowns out.

    Well, they voted Keating out but then they got Howard.

    I'm not sure that we have a fundamental disagreement here though. I've always thought the key thing was to get some support from within the political class, meaning those people with a more abiding interest in political affairs.

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  25. None of the big changes that liberalism has imposed in my lifetime has had popular support. It was a case of the liberal political class going over the heads of the majority of the population.

    That's how a ruling elite rules. You don't really think that the shapeless mass of The People rules? Where has The People ruled? It's an illusion that the Liberal Ruling Elite promotes.

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  26. What we’ve seen in recent times, is some “malfunctions” in democracy. The most obvious in my opinion being on immigration. Are people being bypassed on this? Or are they genuinely in agreement and consequently acting democratically?
    One way to look at it is to say that there’s no simple path to agreement. You can bludgeon people until they quit, as the left does. You can lead out and stifle/bambuzzle your opposition as the leading liberals do. Saying “this is what you actually want and we’re giving it to you”. Or you can have a more considered and consensus orientated approach, keeping in mind the importance of national existence, which is how I think the Conservatives go about it.

    Ultimately you don’t have to get people to agree, you just have to get them to agree not to disagree. For whatever reason, people find it hard to disagree on immigration (they genuinely do and this is all kinds of Western people we’re talking about) and so its not correct to say that the population are uniformly against it.

    The biggest issue here I think is that Liberalism undermines people’s ability to put certain national or communal issues forward. People are really only expected to pursue political activities that are of “direct” relevance to them. Making decisions over others, “outside” of your immediate self, which is the highest legitimate ideal, is considered invalid. Again immigration has been seen as affecting the immigrant primarily, much less the longer term residents and citizens, and the nation hardly at all.

    I would certainly say that the intellectual focus is in serious trouble but that the concept of Western Democracy is still sound. This allows us to "sack" or replace officials which does influence policy and creates the real legitimising expectation that the public are sovereign.

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  27. Jesse,

    You make an excellent point in your comment when you write:

    "People are really only expected to pursue political activities that are of “direct” relevance to them. Making decisions over others, “outside” of your immediate self, which is the highest legitimate ideal, is considered invalid. Again immigration has been seen as affecting the immigrant primarily, much less the longer term residents and citizens, and the nation hardly at all."

    That's a good insight that's well worth developing.

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  28. The modern liberal view of the state is that the state is responsible for securing the conditions necessary for individuals to choose their autonomous life path.


    The increased power of the state is a consequence of the breakdown of the extended family. The nuclear family cannot effectively take on the tradtitional family role of the care of the elderly and young, the transmission and preservation of culture and the accumultation over generations of human, financial and intellectual capital. As the nuclear family fails, the State and the Legal systems take over roles previously performed more effectively by the extended family.

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  29. "The increased power of the state is a consequence of the breakdown of the extended family."

    To mean literally that is to ignore that people are *choosing* to cede their liberty to the State in exchange for the strictly implied, and wholly unenforcable even if it were an explicit promise, that the State will take care of them.

    To mean literally that is to treat persons as automatons ... "the extended family has disappeared, therefore people automatically turh to the State."

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  30. "To mean literally that is to treat persons as automatons ... "the extended family has disappeared, therefore people automatically turn to the State.""

    But isn't it the case? If the extended family goes who else will help to look after the old? Who else is there to perform a raft of social services? Realistically not everyone is going to be able to aford to pay for private assistance and will need state support.

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  31. ""Take me for example. I am an absolute passionate gay rights supporter; on Saturday, I'll be in Melbourne in the Equal Love rally""


    Mikhail you realise of course that this rally is for the most part organised and promoted by Socialist Alternative the largest student Marxist group in Australia?

    It's amazing how those reds manage to weevil their way into everything.

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  32. The increased power of the state is a consequence of the breakdown of the extended family.

    The increased power of the state is a cause of the breakdown of the extended family.

    There, fixed it.

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