Saturday, November 20, 2010

A bubble on the stream

There aren't too many political magazines you can buy on the newsstands here in Australia. One of them is called The Monthly. It's a mostly left-of-centre magazine that tends to run long articles by established writers. I've rarely found the articles interesting enough to respond to.

It seems that I'm not the only one to find the magazine uninspiring. Guy Rundle is an independent-minded Australian leftist. He's an editor of Arena magazine and he writes occasionally for the Guardian. Rundle wrote a critique of The Monthly last year. Having listed the feature articles of one edition of the magazine, he commented:
I’m sure that all these will be well-written and also that none of the ideas in them will be particularly challenging.

And, as the world seems to be coming apart at the seams, there seems a marginality to the concerns, a degree of preciousness in the approach...

That’s the core of the magazine, and there’s something missing, i.e. a core. From global economics, to what appears to be the meltdown of West Asia, from a critical account of Ruddism ... to the changing nature of identity … The Monthly seems to be missing a great deal of it. In the early period of Warhaft’s editorship there were essays by Anne Manne, which constituted the closest the publication came to mixing some Big Ideas into among the reportage ... Apart from the PM’s contributions of course...

All well and good, but aren’t there any other bloody ideas around, except those that flow from the PM?...

When the world is in face-masks, General Motors is asking to be nationalised, the Taliban is marching on Islamabad, the Chinese are calling for a new global currency, more live organ transplants are the result of cash transaction than donation, and the newspaper appears on the verge of winking out of existence, etc etc the failure to take on Big Ideas becomes unignorable, a gaping hole. To not recognise that the left-liberal ideology, really a late Whitlamism, of a well-connected elite is simply a bubble on the stream, is to miss a great historical opportunity...

That relative absence of ideas applies, I hasten to add, not only to the absence of writers further left than a leftish-centre, though their absence is striking — no Jeff Sparrow, Katherine Wilson, Mark Bahnisch, John Quiggin, Geoff Boucher, Larissa Behrendt, Humphrey McQueen, Terry Janke, Mark Davis (the Gangland one), Julie Stephens, David McKnight, Anita Heiss and that’s right off the top of me head — but no interesting classical/neo-liberals either — Jason Soon, Andrew Norton, Charles Richardson, Rafe Champion — or genuine conservatives like Mark Richardson, John Carroll, Pierre Ryckmans. No longer critical pieces from the likes of Christos Tsiolkas, Owen Richardson, David Bennett, Eve Vincent, Bob Ellis, Germaine Greer, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Mischa Merz, Gig Ryan … and on and on. Even leaving out people whose writing is too academic or activist you can field a pretty impressive team.

I would dare to suggest that a contents at least partly drawn from the above would render a publication with more punch than the current line up. Doubtless some of these people have been asked and declined (and some have got the occasional guernsey), but I know that most would jump at the dollar-a-word fee. Some are overexposed and you’d use them sparingly — certainly more sparingly than the limited roll-call of the existing Monthly contributors — but so many of the existing writers are, compared to the above lot, so goddam tepid.

I thought this interesting. First, Rundle gets the political spectrum right. He lists a series of writers on the left, and then some writers he calls classical or neo-liberals (i.e. right liberals) and then a few writers he terms genuine conservatives, namely myself, John Carroll and Pierre Ryckmans. (John Carroll is the author of the excellent work Humanism: the Wreck of Western Culture.)

Interesting too that Rundle correctly describes left-liberalism as an ideology; that he sees its followers not as underdog outsiders but as part of a "well-connected elite"; and that he views left-liberal ideology not as a universal and final truth bringing us to the end of history but as a bubble on the stream.

Note too that Rundle perceives the world to be "coming apart at the seams". There seems to be a growing perception across the political spectrum that all is not well with the West and that there are signs of decline.

There are shifts occurring in politics. Yes, they are happening more slowly than many of us would like. But think back to the late 1980s, early 1990s (if you're old enough). Back then left-liberalism utterly dominated Australian politics. It stood as a monolith that few were willing to openly criticise. If you wanted to be thought of as a good person you were supposed to embrace orthodox left-liberal views.

It's not that left-liberalism has entirely lost this status. It's still the largest single current of thought in the political class. But it's not as monolithic as it once was. It's not thought of as being as natural or eternal a source of political authority as it was in the late 1980s. Even in its Scandinavian heartland, mainstream left-liberalism has lost its monopoly on politics.

We don't know what opportunities this changing political landscape will eventually bring to traditionalists. I expect that there will be, at least, waves of opportunity that we need to try to put ourselves in a position to catch and make use of.

23 comments:

  1. Good on you for getting a mention Mark. I'll make sure to check out the John Carroll book.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cool that he mentioned you. You are one of the better conservative writers out there, so it's nice to see that recognized.

    I'm often amazed at how eloquent and enlightening many amateur writers are, compared to the "professionals" in the mass media. Some of the articles in the Washington Post are truly awful, especially the ones from the news services (mostly AP and Reuters).

    There seems to be a growing perception across the political spectrum that all is not well with the West and that there are signs of decline.

    It's pervasive here, in the US. Germany was feeling optimistic for a while, but they are now sinking under the burden of economically propping up all of Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jesse, I don't think you'll be disappointed with the book. It gives a good historical background to developments within Western culture, beginning in the Renaissance. It is by no means dry history or theory.

    Alte, thanks. I agree with you that amateur writers who publish on the internet are often a lot more interesting to read than professional columnists (there do exist exceptions). The opinion columns in the Melbourne Age, for instance, rarely tackle, as Guy Rundle puts it, big ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent, now we can all rejoice: they have at long last realised the West is fast declining. How long it took them!

    Western population declining, slow growth, mounds of debt, economic subservience to China, submission to world trade, social breakdown, vanishing morals, feminism, rise of Islam, and so on.

    That it has dawned on them is little short of a divine revelation!

    Alte: Germany does suffer from bailing out other countries, but it is also faced with other urgent issues. German birth rates are in dire straits, nor is Germany much better off than some of its neighbours in terms of external debt. Decline is on us all, I fear.

    I will try and check out John Carroll's book, too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The monthly was started by Robert Manne as a vanity piece to broadcast views he agrees with.

    He fired the first editor for giving left leaning perspectives outside his own too much space [that is, any at all].

    Despite an enduring hatred of Australia [I have met the man many times, I am not OTT here] he continues to live here and has almost absolute rule over the politics department at La Trobe.

    The mag is financed by a friend of his. Why someone would launch such a publication in an era of general decline in magazine sales is best known only to Robert himself.

    Did I mention that he was probably the drivinbg figure behind the popularisation of the "Stolen Generations" myth? The man used to have almost God-like powers of opinion forming.

    While said powers have diminished slightly in recent times he still has that smug smile on his face so my guess is he probably hasn't noticed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. By the way, i don't like him much, in case that wasn't clear.

    There are some great lefty writers and thinkers in Australia [like the "ex" Marxist Jeff Sparrow who is a rather lovely fella].

    So this is not a blind hatred of mine for all things left, simply a dislike for overstuffed pompous unaccountable windbags who have grown fat on the public purse whilst denouncing that same public as evil racists.

    ReplyDelete
  7. a dislike for overstuffed pompous unaccountable windbags who have grown fat on the public purse whilst denouncing that same public as evil racists.

    Well said.

    ReplyDelete
  8. that same public as evil racists

    The thing that I found frustrating is that territorial guys are hotter, especially in the +130 IQ range. Every time I met a guy who was highly intelligent and wasn't really prejudiced in any way (class, race, nationality, religion, whatever)... then he was a total wimp. There must be some connection with testosterone levels, or something. So... I think racism might actually be naturally selected for.

    ReplyDelete
  9. ""So... I think racism might actually be naturally selected for.""

    I would argue that the most dominant and attractive males in a society in terms of pure physical allure are those who are self assured and self confident.

    A working sense of pride in who you are and where you come from massively increases a mans self esteem.

    I once took a couple of left wing university mates into a working class area and putt them in a room with tradie blokes their own age.

    The middle class pompous wimps sat in the corner while opinions they would have screamed down as "racist" on campus were freely offered back and forth above thier head.

    While everyone looks out of place in a strange environment, the contrast between loud and brash uni-leftist and quiet-as-a-churchmouse wimp is so striking that it has stayed with me in vivid detail.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Alte:

    "The thing that I found frustrating is that territorial guys are hotter, especially in the +130 IQ range. Every time I met a guy who was highly intelligent and wasn't really prejudiced in any way (class, race, nationality, religion, whatever)... then he was a total wimp. There must be some connection with testosterone levels, or something. So... I think racism might actually be naturally selected for."

    Ah, Alte, one of your favourite themes. I have thought a lot about this one.

    BTW, I gave myself a short Internet holiday. I found myself getting fed up with the abuse.

    My wife heard something by Anne Manne, Robert Manne's wife, on the radio recently, on mothers and children. We discussed on our country drive to celebrate my wife's 50th birthday. Robert Manne used to be the editor of Quadrant, the right-of-centre Australian political monthly, IIRC, but he sort of got dumped because his brain was turning to Leftish mush.

    Congratulations, Mark, on being named as a true conservative. And it is nice to see it recognised for once that right liberals are not true conservatives in many ways. I am not sure that John Carroll is good company though. If it is the bloke I am thinking of, he is kind of weird. Although being very intellectually isolated could probably do it to you.

    On your point, Alte, I have sort of noticed this too, but how many high IQ/high T men are there really. I have known a few, but they are kind of rare. In my experience their "prejudices" tend not to run to the race issues. Racially aware men seem to be mostly pretty dumb in my experience.

    But, yeah, just about all the high IQ men I know are kind of wimpy. I used to think scientists were an exception, but a lot of them have terribly PC views these days too.

    I do know one bloke who is very high IQ. He is a top speechwriter for a very prominent Australian politician. On the Left. And yet he is a big, handsome bloke with some quite patriarchal attitudes. And a Traditional Catholic. Some of us think he is in the wrong political party. But most of the Trad men I know are kind of wimpy too. One or two are quite 'whipped. The priests tend to be rather masculine though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. BTW, Alte et al.

    Have you seen this woman? Interesting views on Catholic Trads and Neo-Cons. (But don't call her a Neo-Con. Apparently that's a no-no.)

    http://cheekypinkgirl.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'll check it out. Neo-con is mostly used to tar Chicken Hawks.

    I have sort of noticed this too, but how many high IQ/high T men are there really.

    There aren't that many, but they are certainly around. They'll tend to suppress those tendencies in public, as they aren't considered PC. Many are very introverted and cautious, so you have to sort of sniff them out. They tend to combine very dominating personalities and a high libido (high T) with an unusual amount of self-restraint, sexual continence, and involved fathering (high IQ), which makes them pretty ideal as mates.

    Usually a bit reserved, with strong jaw lines and wide shoulders, and visually-spatially inclined. Lots of engineers and military-types are like that, but not many scientists (except the physicists).

    In my experience their "prejudices" tend not to run to the race issues.

    Eh... not really. Perhaps they are more inclined to "let their hair down" with me because I am a woman, but my impression is that they are generally less given to concepts like "equality" than lower-IQ/high-T men. I suspect that many of them feel slightly superior even to most of the men of their own race, and take great pride in "cutting through the crap", so they don't have that initial mental barrier to overcome.

    Of course, I may just be completely off-base, as I am pronouncing based upon my own anecdotal research. (ahem)

    ReplyDelete
  13. While everyone looks out of place in a strange environment, the contrast between loud and brash uni-leftist and quiet-as-a-churchmouse wimp is so striking that it has stayed with me in vivid detail.

    Yes, of course.

    Although some of the Marxist/anarchist types are pretty hot. They like to talk about women as spoils of war, which is good Asshole Game. Then there are the liberal womanizers, like Clinton.

    Not that I approve of such behavior or philosophies, or anything. Just pointing out that such men don't tend to be as wimpy as most leftists.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Neo-Con has a specialised meaning in the intra-Catholic debates, Alte. It means basically a conservative who is not a Trad. It gets complicated, and I can tell you more, but it also tends to mean "ultramontane" in the pejorative sense.

    Your description sounds a bit like me, except that I am a biologist, and I tend to be rather egalitarian about race. I mean, I believe that different ethnic groups have different capacities, and I am keenly interested in such matters, but I tend to be pretty much of an egalitarian.

    You know my views on women.

    I must say I find American military men a bit disappointing. They seem to have been quite prepared to adopt equality-talk in pursuit of their careers. I think of that top general who was exulting at the thought of killing lots of "male chauvinists" in Afghanistan.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, the military is definitely becoming feminized. What with all of the gay and female soldiers.

    Interesting about neo-cons. I hadn't heard that before.

    I mean, I believe that different ethnic groups have different capacities, and I am keenly interested in such matters, but I tend to be pretty much of an egalitarian.

    Oh, I am much the same way. I recognize the differences between races, nationalities, ethnic groups, etc. but I'm pretty laid back about the implications. I also find it fascinating, from a scientific point of view, and because of what it teaches us about natural selection.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I rather resent Wikipedia articles like the one you cited, Alte. It is - to start with - quite tendentious. They seem to cite one source for the claim that testosterone has no effect on social dominance (just "aggression"). And they do what the Left always does, try to conflate conservative views on, say, gender relations, with conservative views on everything else.

    They also airily medicalise and pathologise views which they, personally, dislike. Not really approving of homosexuality becomes "heterosexism" for example.

    That said, I don't believe I have much social dominance. I don't think some groups should "know their place".

    I agree that some Leftist men can be quite masculine. They certainly used to be, but I think they have been cowed by feminists.

    I am quite interested in ethnic and racial biological differences. In my real life, under my real name, I have just found a theory I proposed in this area cited in a popular book. I found this in the public library when I was on leave for my wife's birthday. Another idea of mine on an aspect of African physiology has also had a bit of Internet attention.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The interesting part of the article was the study linked at the bottom. The testosterone study is weak, I agree. Sorry that I wasn't more specific before.

    That said, I don't believe I have much social dominance. I don't think some groups should "know their place".

    Even women?

    I am quite interested in ethnic and racial biological differences.

    Oh, me too. I read Abagond a lot, although I haven't posted there for a while, for this reason. I don't always agree with him, and he's obviously a layman and not a scientist, but he brings up interesting ideas and topics with regularity. The fact that he is both black and Catholic is another attraction, and that he is good with keeping a cool head in debate.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, Alte, I think women should know their place. But I think they should choose their place, not be forced into it. Do you see the difference?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Yes, but that is irrelevant to the topic of social dominance. That only concerns equality and hierarchy, or whether you think there are characteristics about other people that assign them a "place".

    ReplyDelete
  20. No, Alte, if you have social dominance, you believe that might means right. That is my reading. Look at some of the questions:

    "Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups."

    "In getting what you want, it is sometimes necessary to use force against other groups."

    "It’s OK if some groups have more of a chance in life than others."

    "To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on other groups."

    "If certain groups stayed in their place, we would have fewer problems."

    "It’s probably a good thing that certain groups are at the top and other groups are at the bottom."

    "Inferior groups should stay in their place."

    "Sometimes other groups must be kept in their place."

    I would not agree with any of that in respect of racial groups. In terms of women, I might agree with one or two, but not the others. I mean, my wife defers to me quite a bit, but she chooses to do this. I don't make her, and I couldn't really anyway. I am glad she does, but it is not something I can force.

    I think it is inbuilt in women that they can enjoy being dominated, but some women clearly don't, or they have had it "socialised" out of them. So, I don't know if one can say, simply, that women naturally occupy a subordinate place.

    Interestingly, Steve Moxon, whom I cite at my blog, claims that men don't dominate women. He says that men dominate men, and women affiliate with dominant men. I think he is wrong, and in fact anthropologists as various as Margaret Mead and Steven Goldberg have said that men do dominate women in domestic situations cross-culturally, but clearly it is possible, at least for Moxon, who is no fool, to see the world otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  21. No, Alte, if you have social dominance, you believe that might means right. That is my reading.

    That is because the questionnaire is written by a bunch of liberals who want to "root out racists and sexists" in their survey populations. The basic concept is sound (connecting conservative/traditionalist views with a preference for hierarchy and differentialism); they just went out in left field with it. They are, as you initially pointed out, pathologizing.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is an ongoing source of annoyance for me. If I believe, as I do, that it is better for society that men benevolently rule their families in peace, married to a woman and having children; that means I am "sexist" and "heterosexist". And guilty of thoughtcrime. And that I probably want to force all women into that mould, and that I want to give homosexuals bursts of ECT so as to rewire their brains. And so on, and so on.

    It sets conservatives up to lose. They provide survey questions that you can't answer in a nuanced way. You are either required to sign up to some kind of authoritarianism or be a complete liberal. No middle ground permitted.

    And what does "inferior" mean? Thinking that women are lesser beings? Thinking that women make good mothers? Thinking that women have their own mental characteristics that differ from typical male characteristics?

    You just can't win with these clowns.

    I certainly believe in hierarchy and even in a natural order. But, as I find when I argue with feminists, you can't convince them that there is a happy medium between wife-beater and feminised wimp.

    ReplyDelete
  23. ''Note too that Rundle perceives the world to be "coming apart at the seams". There seems to be a growing perception across the political spectrum that all is not well with the West and that there are signs of decline.''

    France and Britain are two examples of countries declining. The European continent is not only being Islamized but has high debt levels thanks to the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).

    I don't know about Australia but I think after the economic collapse occurs in USA that some states will secede from the union or even if not secede that there will be some wall of seperation.

    Political divide growing between Coastal areas, MidWest --- http://dailycaller.com/2010/11/21/political-divide-grows-between-coasts-midwest/

    The article is biased toward the left but it pretty much sums up the divide going on between much of middle america, some of the midwest, some suburbs and some rural areas versus coastal areas and urban areas.

    Here's a picture --- http://inlandpolitics.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Election-Map-2010.jpg

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.