Thursday, April 28, 2011

Anglicans call for fewer babies

The Anglican Church in Australia has taken a green turn, with mixed results:

A LEADING church body wants the baby bonus scrapped to curb rampant population growth.

The Anglican Church's key advisory group also wants migration cut.

The problem with this, as many have pointed out already in the mainstream media, is that Australia already has a below replacement fertility level. It's not people having too many babies that is the current issue, but the blow out in migration levels:

Liberal frontbencher Bruce Billson said he was surprised by the Anglicans' proposal.

"I would have thought that at a time when we're not even replacing Australians that are passing away by newborn Australians, that attacking the baby bonus is probably the last thing you would do," Mr Billson told Sky News.

If the fertility rate were to fall even further, it would just give the business lobby more ammunition to call for higher rates of immigration.

On the positive side, at least the Anglican Church is one major institution opposing open borders:

It also said the overall migrant intake should be cut while being more generous to refugees.

"The question must be asked whether our current and projected population growth is fair to future generations of Australians and to other life in the environments our descendants will have to inhabit," it said.

"The growing congestion of cities, destined to become worse, means much time lost in commuting, more polluted suburbs, denser housing and the loss for many of suburban gardens in which to relax and still have some communion with nature."

Last year a General Synod of the Anglican Church called on the government to:

avoid any reliance on continuing population growth to maintain economic growth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dalrock nails it

Two American women have written a book which tells women not to marry before the age of 30. They're careful not to pitch themselves to women as anti-marriage; instead, they claim that by staying single in their 20s, women will better prepare themselves for a successful marriage later on.

So what are women supposed to do while they (and their future husbands) wait (and wait and wait)? They're supposed to live the independent single girl lifestyle and:

focus on education and career and build financial stability; develop and improve your emotional health, body image, and confidence; take risks and tap into your adventurous side; create a dependable network of friends and mentor relationships; clarify and embrace your spiritual self; resolve unhealthy family dynamics and establish yourself as an independent woman.

It's an attempt to make explicit an underlying trend in liberal societies. Liberal societies emphasise the idea that women should be autonomous. One way of achieving this is to defer family commitments for as long as possible and to string out an independent career girl lifestyle.

But this has some very negative consequences. Women who have no intention of marrying in their 20s change the way they select for sexual partners and end up rewarding players or thugs, which then disrupts a family guy culture amongst men. Women who leave things to their 30s often then find it more difficult to partner as they are past their prime of youthful beauty and fertility. Women in their 30s have to race their biological clocks and often lose reproductive choice. And, most of all, living a single girl lifestyle for so long is not a good preparation for the realities of motherhood and marriage.

I won't argue the case in detail in this post, because another blogger, Dalrock, has already done a terrific job in arguing against the book in question. I highly recommend that you read his two posts:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cleo & the birth of sex positive feminism

I watched the Australian TV show Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. It was about the launch in the early 1970s of Cleo, the first of the Cosmo type magazines for Australian women. The editor was a woman named Ita Buttrose, who became a big media personality here in Australia.

The show was well-acted and produced and had some good 1970s nostalgia value. But two things stood out for me. The first was that Ita Buttrose, far from being held back in her career, was catapulted into senior management at a relatively young age. If there was a glass ceiling back then it wasn't evident in Ita Buttrose's career. Her boss, Kerry Packer, paid for her to have a nanny and put her on the company board when she was only 32.

The politics of the show was also interesting. The female staff of Cleo were shown going off to listen to a young Germaine Greer. When they came back to the office the consensus was that Greer's feminist politics were good but that she was too aggressive in how she presented them. One of the staff then summarised feminism this way:

It's how we're defined - not a woman, not a wife, not a daughter but as a person.

That is of course liberal autonomy theory. It's the idea that we are made human by being self-defined, rather than by unchosen categories like our sex. (To underline the point, a soundtrack was later heard in the background with the famous song lyrics "Do what you want to do, be what you want to be" repeated several times.)

But Ita Buttrose didn't follow this theory in the way that the most radical feminists did. She didn't look on women wearing lipstick or having sexual relationships with men as being a betrayal of feminism. She was a forerunner of a "sex positive" feminism. If Ita Buttrose wanted to be liberated from sex roles, it was more by pushing a single girl lifestyle in which women were "liberated" to pursue casual sex and careers.

It was a variant of feminism more likely to appeal to young heterosexual women and it has undoubtedly been influential. But the TV show did present some of the more negative consequences of the philosophy. If men and women relate to each through sex alone, rather than through family roles, then you do get more chaotic personal lives. The husband of Ita Buttrose is shown walking out on her when she is pregnant with their second child (she then reportedly became the mistress of her boss, Kerry Packer, who under pressure from his wife dropped her; she then married briefly before divorcing again and was single from the age of 40); other characters are shown having affairs or divorcing.

And there's something forced and false about the culture of these magazines. They present women as being sexually assertive and adventurous to a degree that I doubt is authentic for the average woman - there's a fair bit of game playing going on. And it's a dead-end culture; even if a woman does try to follow this kind of lifestyle, it can only be for a period of time in her 20s. It doesn't prepare her for an adult life beyond this.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How does Professor Lewin think women step up to personhood? A clue: not through heterosexual marriage

Professor Ellen Lewin
Laura Wood at The Thinking Housewife has posted an item about an American academic, Dr Ellen Lewin. Dr Lewin, a professor of women's studies, was so outraged at receiving a batch email from a Republican students group that she fired off a reply telling them to "f-off".

Anyway, I did a little search on Dr Lewin. It turns out that she is a very orthodox liberal. She has written a book titled Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture. The basic argument she runs in the book is that divorced single mothers and lesbian mothers have something significant in common: by raising children without husbands they both have achieved the good of motherhood without a loss of autonomy through dependency on men.

The message is that divorce can be good for heterosexual women because it liberates women to be autonomous.

I have to say that there's a contradiction in Professor Lewin's argument, but I'll get to that a little later.

It's interesting to see how liberal autonomy theory plays out in Professor Lewin's book. For instance, she argues that there is a difference between being a good mother in a marriage and in a divorce. Being a good mother in a marriage is not so good because it is merely a "natural attribute" (not something self-determined). But if a mother gets custody in the courts, that is a "self-conscious achievement" and "evidence of skill" in "protecting the integrity" of her family:

Mothers who face actual or potential custody challenges use strategies of appeasement, support, and autonomy in the course of protecting the integrity of their families. The claim to being a "good mother," a key element of feminine gender identity in American culture, is transformed from a natural attribute into the product of self-conscious achievement...

In this situation a competent mother is one who accedes to enough of her husband's demands to discourage a custody challenge but not so much that her concessions can be turned against her. Being a "good mother" is thus transformed from a state of being, a natural attribute, into evidence of skill, rewarded by the father's failure to gain custody or, better yet, by his failure to pursue it at all. [pp.177-178]

As for divorce being a step up for women, this is how Professor Lewin puts it:

These convergences between lesbian mothers' coming-out stories and the divorce stories of both lesbians and heterosexual mothers point to a telling contradiction in American culture. Marriage is seen as a special kind of success for women, but it also imposes a loss of autonomy and personhood that threatens to compromise the individual's quest for accomplishment and individuality. As observers of American culture have noted since Alexis de Tocqueville described his impressions in the mid-nineteenth century, individuality and the related concept of privacy are such core dimensions of American culture that conditions or behavior that might be interpreted as dependency seem questionable if not shameful...

... Both coming out and divorce shift women's status downward in the eyes of the society as a whole, yet the women who experience them view them in many respects as steps up. At the core of both coming-out and divorce stories is the theme of increasing autonomy and competence, and both kinds of accounts tend to focus on discovery of one's "true" self. In these respects, as Kath Weston has observed, they constitute odysseys of self-discovery; at the same time, they demonstrate a concern with achieving adulthood and autonomy which is a particular consequence of the infantilization that both marriage and heterosexuality can impose on women. [pp.43, 45]

The logic of the argument is that in a marriage women are dependent on a man, that this makes married heterosexual women infantile, so that divorce and/or lesbianism represent a step forward toward an adult, autonomous life.

The fact that the conclusion is so odd, that it suggests that being a lesbian or a divorced woman is more adult than being a married mother, should suggest to us that there is something wrong with the premises of the argument.

My own view is that the mistake is to think of autonomy as a single, overriding good. In practice, we don't do this. We marry despite the fact that we thereby limit our autonomy, because there are other important goods associated with marriage, including those of marital love and parenthood.

As it happens, Professor Lewin finds it difficult to maintain the consistency of her argument. She argues for divorce and lesbianism in terms of autonomy, but when it comes to justifying motherhood she is at a loss – becoming a mother does not increase a woman's autonomy, so it has to be justified on other grounds, but these same grounds could then just as easily justify a commitment to heterosexual marriage:

Lesbians who are not mothers share with other childless women a feeling of distance not only from the kinds of things "ordinary" women do but from the special relationship to the spiritual world women can derive from their connection to children. By becoming a mother, a woman can experience a moment of transcendent unity with mystical forces; by being a mother, she makes continuing contact with her inner goodness, a goodness that is activated by altruism and nurtured by participation in a child's growth and development.

By becoming a mother, a lesbian can negotiate the formation of herself: she can bring something good into her life without having to sacrifice autonomy or control. Thus the intentional single mother (whether she is lesbian or heterosexual) can achieve a central personal goal – the goodness that comes from putting the needs of a dependent being first. By becoming a mother through her own agency, she avoids the central paradox that motherhood represents to married women – a loss of autonomy and therefore of basic personhood in a culture that valorizes individualism and autonomy. Like ending a marriage, having a baby on her own allows a woman to meet her basic personal goals, and she may see it as a critical part of establishing a satisfying identity in a culture that often blocks women's efforts to be separate individuals. [p.73]

She is running with two very different sets of principles here. When it comes to motherhood, what matters to her is not autonomy but feeling connected and the good of altruistic care for another. The very close, dependent relationship of mother and child is seen as a good. But when it comes to heterosexual marriage, personhood is defined solely in terms of being a separate, autonomous individual.

She could just as easily have defined the good of marriage in the way she defined the good of motherhood: in terms of the closeness of the relationship, of finding inner goodness in the giving of oneself altruistically to one's spouse, of the spiritual fulfilment of marital love, and of the completion of a feminine identity in being a wife.

I'll finish with one more inconsistency in Professor Lewin's position. She justifies motherhood in terms of participating in a child's growth and development. But what if that child is a boy? What is that boy growing and developing toward?

If Professor Lewin had her way, that boy would not have much of a future role in society. He would grow up in a society in which women aimed either at intentional single motherhood or else at divorce as a pathway to autonomy, adulthood and self-discovery.

It's not much for a boy to grow and develop toward. So what would be the point of a woman committing herself to participating in his development? What mothers need to justify their role are young women in society who are willing to make a life together with their sons. Professor Lewin doesn't like the idea of this life together and so is no true friend of motherhood.

John Atkinson Grimshaw: a painter of the night

The Daily Mail ran a story recently about John Atkinson Grimshaw, a nineteenth century English painter.

His paintings appeal to me, perhaps because they express a poetic feeling for nature. He seems to have particularly mastered night time scenes:

Including urban scenes:

He left behind little in the way of letters or diaries so not much is known about his approach to life or art.

Quite of few of his paintings are of ships or of the docklands:

This is art which captures a heightened response to our surroundings. I can't help but prefer it to art which merely sets out to shock.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

True Finns win breakthrough

Timo Soini, leader of True Finns
A populist party called True Finns has won a breakthrough in the recent national elections in Finland. Their share of the vote jumped from 4% to 19%, giving them 39 seats in parliament. They were only 50,000 votes away from being the most popular party.

Although they are by no means a traditionalist party, their stance on national issues is better than what has previously been on offer in Finland. For instance, they are critical of the loss of sovereignty to the European Union and they advocate limits on immigration. They strongly believe in the preservation of distinct national cultures.

They believe that the spiritual should not be neglected in favour of the material:

Finns think that the basic social structures ... should be based primarily on spiritual values. The material is a prerequisite for the achievement of a dignified life, but matter is not an end in itself. The pursuit of truth and spirituality is an integral part of humanity. Truths and perspectives are different, which means that mankind is naturally divided into different cultures. Cultures are mankind's most precious assets. Lasting prosperity can not be built on nothing. True Finns want to be a sovereign nation state and the advocates of Finnish culture.

True Finns are also against the managerial liberal state, criticising "an elitist conception of democracy with an emphasis on bureaucratic expertise as a source of power". They want a more populist conception of democracy, and one that is tied to national culture:

Populism is not a universal ideology, like socialism and capitalism, but it is always bound to culture and national character. Even the name of our party, True Finns, will tell you that our policy is based on the history of Finland and Finnish culture. The True Finns want to defend their own kansansuvereniteettia [?], which means only and exclusively for the people who constitute a separate nation from other nations is a perpetual and unrestricted right to decide freely and independently their own affairs.

I thought they made an interesting point here:

Nationalism is the recognition of the uniqueness of the individual as opposed to the cross-border nature of a policy, in practice, where individuals are forced to move across borders. Supranational policy states do not exist for its own citizens, but for the purpose of the strongest, and ultimately capital.

Individuals gain in uniqueness when they belong to distinct national cultures, as they cannot then be thought of as being readily interchangeable. And a policy of open borders is not, in practice, enacted for the benefit of the ordinary individual, but for powerful vested interest groups.

Whatever faults the True Finns party might have, their emergence does help to open up politics in Europe. Their electoral success is a positive sign, which will hopefully encourage others who wish to preserve a distinctly national existence.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How would you like a Swedish gender coach?

In Sweden they have something they call gender mainstreaming. It means that organisations must go through a process in which all staff are trained in Swedish gender theory (a feminist theory developed by a Swedish academic named Yvonne Hirdman). The organisation is then expected to dedicate itself to implementing this theory in its own operations. The long-term aim is to change the day-to-day behaviour of individuals, so that a "gender system" is no longer reproduced in society.

So Sweden very clearly has a state ideology. There is no pretence that the liberal state in Sweden is neutral.

What is it like to be subject to gender mainstreaming? In 2009, Tiina Rosenberg was appointed as a "gender coach" to thirty leading academics at Lund University. Her opening remarks at a seminar confused some of the attendees; a man from the Faculty of Engineering raised his hand to ask a question and Rosenberg stopped and turned toward him. He took this to mean that she wanted to hear the question - a big mistake it turns out.

Sindra Årsköld, an associate professor of biochemistry and a feminist herself, reports on what happened:

With flashing eyes she [Rosenberg] shouted: You are a man, I'm a woman, and therefore shut up! She then continued to alternatively scold and then insult the entire group, unprovoked and incoherently, for the entire 45 minutes. It was terribly uncomfortable. I have never seen such hatred.

To her credit Professor Årsköld questions the relevance of gender mainstreaming to the physical sciences:

The episode was a wake-up call for me ... What does a gender science look like? [You hear the] gender mantra "sex is a social construct". You also come across the ideas that "everyone is really bisexual, but are socialised into a polarised sexuality" and "heterosexuality is a manifestation of the patriarchal power structure". Hmm, interesting hypotheses. I immediately think that they are easily testable by studying groups with nearly the same biology that we have ... Namely the other mammals.

Interesting. Swedes are being taught not only that sex (meaning here masculine and feminine behaviour) is a social construct but that everyone is bisexual, or would be if it were not for socialisation. The professor of biology is sceptical, believing that sex distinctions and heterosexuality can be observed to be natural amongst the mammals.

Professor Årsköld is also critical of other attempts to gender mainstream the physical sciences in Sweden:

There lurk far more dangerous beasts in the gender jungle than an angry aunt and some counter-intuitive hypotheses. Moira von Wright, professor of education and president of Södertörn University College, has criticised the elementary and secondary school physics books because they emphasise the physics of objective knowledge rather than man's relationship to nature as a social process...

One example she highlights is the rainbow, whose physical explanation completely ignores the "social, cultural, philosophical, aesthetic and religious dimensions of the rainbow." She proposes a cure for these deficiencies: "A gender sensitive physics requires a relational approach and a lot of the traditional scientific knowledge content of physics will be removed."

.. I am offended and outraged at these ideas. Why tackle the natural sciences, whose unchanging core is above gender and which are the key to the wealth that enables us all to sit here and speculate, fed and healthy?

Professor Årsköld finishes by stating her belief that these efforts at gender mainstreaming could cause a backlash against feminism and that women like herself do not need gender coaches.

The Lund University episode is not unique:

In November 2007, a seminar on gender equality was held at the Department of Earth Sciences in Uppsala.

People sat there who know the most about Earth's internal and external affairs and learned more about such things as the famous five forms of domination which, according to feminist Berit Ås, are used by men to suppress women.

One of the participants was apparently not as interested in the domination of the mountain bases and climate, as he leafed through some papers because of a deadline for a script. He shouldn't have. The lecturer was offended and immediately made a mental note of the man...

When the lecturer the day after heard gossip that the same man had discussed her outfit with a few colleagues afterwards the offence was compounded and she wrote to the university's legal department and explained that she was subjected to "abusive treatment because of sex".

The Legal Department and the president agreed that the matter required investigation. A few months later his sentence was declared: the higher academies' version of shame - official criticism of his behavior.

Not all Swedes are happy with the state of affairs in their country. I'm finding an increasing number of Swedish websites critical of state feminism. It's surely a movement with a potential to grow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blue Labour: a step forward?

From the Daily Mail:

A close ally of Ed Miliband has attacked Labour for ‘lying’ about immigration.

Lord Glasman – a leading academic and personal friend of the Labour leader – said that the previous Labour government had used mass immigration to control wages.

In an article for Progress magazine, the Labour peer wrote: ‘Labour lied to people about the extent of immigration...and there’s been a massive rupture of trust.’

Labour let in 2.2million migrants during its 13 years in power – more than twice the population of Birmingham.

Maurice Glasman was promoted to the House of Lords by Mr Miliband earlier this year. He has been dubbed the Labour leader’s ‘de facto chief of staff’ by party insiders and has written speeches for him.

Lord Glasman, 49, had already told BBC Radio 4 recently: ‘What you have with immigration is the idea that people should travel all over the world in search of higher-paying jobs, often to undercut existing workforces, and somehow in the Labour Party we got into a position that that was a good thing.

‘Now obviously it undermines solidarity, it undermines relationships, and in the scale that it’s been going on in England, it can undermine the possibility of politics entirely.’

The academic, who directs the faith and citizenship programme at London Metropolitan University, criticised Labour for being ‘hostile to the English working class’.

He said: ‘In many ways [Labour] viewed working-class voters as an obstacle to progress.

‘Their commitment to various civil rights, anti-racism, meant that often working-class voters... were seen as racist, resistant to change, homophobic and generally reactionary.

‘So in many ways you had a terrible situation where a Labour government was hostile to the English working class.’

I'm impressed. Here we have someone associated with the Labour Party leadership in the UK speaking very openly and clearly about the negative consequences of large-scale immigration, including the effects on wages and social cohesion.

I was sufficiently intrigued to do a search on Lord Glasman. It turns out that he is an intellectual figure who promotes a politics he calls "Blue Labour" - meaning a more conservative version of Labour Party politics.

If I understand correctly, Glasman dislikes a model of society in which people behave passively as individuals, whilst their lives are organised by unconstrained market forces and by the state. He seems to understand that people form a sense of community, at least in part, through local associations and traditions and he wants these to be defended.

Here are some quotes to give you a sense of what Glasman means by "Blue Labour":

Glasman describes Blue Labour as "a deeply conservative socialism that places family, faith and work at the heart of a new politics of reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity"...

"Society as a functioning moral entity has, in effect, disappeared."

Glasman says a Blue Labour party needs to reform around the family, faith and work, and place..

Then there's this:

He wants to foster a "Labour big society" based on ideas of "family, faith and the flag" and nurtured through cherished local institutions – everything from churches to post offices, banks, hospitals, schools and football clubs.

He reels off long lists of academics and political thinkers, from Aristotle to the lesser-known Hungarian intellectual Karl Polanyi, as influences. The latter, he says, taught him that capitalism, though a force for good if controlled, could also be a menace if not. Labour now had to "rediscover" the need to tame the markets as part of its mission to make individuals feel valuable again.

He objects to the idea that it was New Labour that was the problem – arguing that the party started leaving people like his mother behind after 1945, when the National Health Service and the welfare state were created. It gradually became elitist, managerial, bureaucratic in its style and thinking. Socialism became statism. Labour became "nasty".

"It became cynical because it was about a certain view of what was realistic; it was moralistic in the sense that if you did not agree with their discourse you were opposing progress. It was disempowering because of its administrative form. It was hostile to human association because it was about every individual entitlement, not people doing things together."

The nadir came in the ghastly encounter between Gordon Brown and Labour supporter Gillian Duffy on the campaign trail in Rochdale last May, when the prime minister angrily dismissed Duffy's views on immigration as "bigoted". Glasman believes Brown's dismissal of Duffy summed up Labour's internal crisis. "Labour had reached a situation under Brown where most of the people in the party hated one another and they hated people outside the party too."

He says Cameron's "big society" is in thrall to a free-market philosophy that leaves communities and individuals at the mercy of forces that respect profit far more than tradition, custom and a sense of place. The "blue" in "Blue Labour" comes from a conservative conviction that market forces, unconstrained, play havoc with the fabric of people's lives. It is the Labour party's task and vocation to provide a "countervailing force" protecting communities against wealthy, powerful interests.

And here's a really interesting quote from Glasman about the two previous Labour leaders:

Brown ended up defending the state, Blair ended up defending the market, and there was no concept of society

So is Glasman a step forward? I think so. It's not that Glasman is articulating an especially deep version of traditionalism. But he does recognise the corrosive nature of modern liberal managerial societies, and he's right too that capitalism can be a force for good but only if the power of the market is intelligently harnessed to serve social ends.

I suppose the danger is that a future Labour government might use Glasman as camouflage, by talking about family, faith and flag whilst continuing with the same radically liberal philosophy and policies. But Glasman himself, if his forthright comments on immigration are any indication, seems sincere about the idea of Blue Labour.

At any rate, it's an interesting development to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Australian women to be placed in combat roles

Australian women will now be permitted to serve as frontline combat troops:

Women will be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles after the Gillard government ordered the Australian Defence Force to bring forward the removal of bans that have stopped women from applying for the most dangerous and demanding military jobs.

Given that liberalism is the state ideology this is not an unexpected development. According to liberalism, we are human because we are self determining. We do not determine our own sex; therefore, our sex must be made not to matter when it comes to life choices.

So, if you accept liberal first principles, the decision to allow women to serve in combat will seem moral and just. It will be thought sexist and discriminatory to maintain the combat ban.

The liberal position was described well enough in an editorial in the Brisbane Courier Mail some years ago. The editorialist considered a number of objections to women serving in combat roles but concluded:

Yet all of these objections, however practical and well-meaning, represent a denial of the right of women to choose for themselves what roles they will fill in time of war.

The highest good, according to the editorialist, is that women self-determine their own role in life. So much so, that he thinks it progressive and liberating for women to be exposed to combat:

Yes, this issue might well appear to some to be a case of social engineering gone crazily immoral, but the irrefutable fact is that society has changed since the dark days of WWII.

Women have chosen to throw off the limitations imposed on them, even those limitations intended for their own protection.

It isn't difficult to predict where the state ideology will take society. But for those of us who don't see autonomy as the sole, overriding good in society, the decision to put women into combat will appear to be wrong in principle.

Why? Those who oppose women in combat often limit themselves to practical objections. They argue that women don't have the physical strength for combat roles, or that the presence of women will disrupt male esprit de corps, or that the protective instincts of men means that men will interrupt their combat missions to help wounded female soldiers.

These are all good arguments. We should, however, be arguing at the level of principle. Why do we really think it wrong for women to serve in combat? Isn't it because we perceive that women embody an important feminine principle in life, one that is oriented to the nurturing of new life, which is physically more vulnerable, and ideally gentler?

Training women to kill in combat and placing them on the front line in wartime denies the feminine principle as a significant good in life. It sends the message that men and women are essentially interchangeable. Which means too that it will be more difficult for young men to look on military life as a distinctly masculine service to society.

If you think that manhood and womanhood are meaningful to human life, and that men and women are created to live in a complementary relationship with each other, then you are likely to be dismayed by the decision to place women in combat roles.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Suddenly 50

One of the faults of the liberal life script is that it leaves out motherhood. According to this script, women are to spend their 20s as single girls, with motherhood being left to the last moment in their 30s or even 40s.

That's why otherwise intelligent women can seem to have very unrealistic expectations about family life. Take, for instance, Michelle Bridges, who is a fitness guru on Australian TV. This is how her life is described in a recent edition of Who:

Now, after finishing her home and turning 40 in October, she is ready for her next chapter – enjoying her happy balance of work and domestic life. She is also contemplating motherhood, which has "just been one of those things that you think you'll get around to at some point," says Bridges.

Amazing. She is turning 40 and only now "contemplating" motherhood. She apparently has little idea of the biological realities of life, let alone the social consequences of treating family formation in such a cavalier manner.

She is not alone. A 50-year-old Melbourne woman, Meagan Callaghan, wants to use IVF to have a child. Why do this at age 50? She told the Herald Sun:

Life passes by so quickly, one minute you are 20 and the next you are 50.

Having babies did not occur to her, in her busy life, until she hit 50. So now she is going to deliberately create a fatherless family as a very old mother and raise a child to whom she is not biologically related. Hardly ideal.

You would think that liberals would recognise the flaw in their life script. But listen to the reaction of columnist Alan Howe. He believes that it is a sign of liberal progress for women to leave motherhood so late:

Like so many women her age, Ms Callaghan has either been too busy, or has never met the right partner, to start a family.

We can hardly encourage women to complete their educations, enter the workforce, smash through all but the most reinforced glass ceilings, and expect otherwise.

That's not our Western way. In less tolerant lands - Afghanistan springs to mind - women are often seen as chattels and baby factories...

Mrs Smug from suburbia may well say that leaving things late is Ms Callaghan's fault and she should have been aware of her fertility.

That's nonsense; until very recently, most women have commonly been unaware of the vertiginous decline, from around their mid-30s, in their ability to have children.

Alan Howe associates motherhood with the oppression of women and careerism with their liberation. No wonder he is such a defender of the liberal life script in which motherhood is left till last. As for his claim that women have only recently been aware that fertility declines from the mid-30s, that just shows how little interest liberals have in such matters.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Greg Sheridan: another liberal mugged by reality

Back in 1996 Australian journalist Greg Sheridan was an enthusiastic supporter of high immigration and multiculturalism:

There is nothing in multiculturalism that could cause any worry to any normal person.

He still supports high immigration but has had a change of heart on multiculturalism. Why? He explains as follows:

IN 1993, my family and I moved into Belmore in southwest Sydney. It is the next suburb to Lakemba. When I first moved there I loved it.

On the other side of Belmore, away from Lakemba, there were lots of Chinese, plenty of Koreans, growing numbers of Indians, and on the Lakemba side lots of Lebanese and other Arabs.

That was an attraction, too. I like Middle Eastern food. I like Middle Eastern people. The suburb still had the remnants of its once big Greek community and a commanding Greek Orthodox church.

But in the nearly 15 years we lived there the suburb changed, and much for the worse.

The multicultural suburbs he chose to live in developed a less appealing culture:

Three dynamics interacted in a noxious fashion: the growth of a macho, misogynist culture among young men that often found expression in extremely violent crime; a pervasive atmosphere of anti-social behaviour in the streets; and the simultaneous growth of Islamist extremism and jihadi culture.

The changes were felt directly by the Sheridan family:

The anti-social behaviour became more acute.

One son was playing cricket with friends when they were challenged by a group of teenagers, whom they presumed to be Lebanese but may have been of other Middle Eastern origin, who objected to white boys playing cricket. A full-scale, if brief, fist fight ensued.

One son was challenged by a boy with a gun. Lakemba police station was shot up. Crime increased on the railway line.

I was in the habit of taking an evening constitutional, walking a long route from the station to home. At some point it became unwise to walk on Canterbury Road. A white guy in a suit was a natural target for abuse or a can of beer or something else hurled from a passing car...

The worst thing I saw myself was two strong young men, of Middle Eastern appearance, waiting outside the train station.

A middle-aged white woman emerged from the station alone. She was rather oddly dressed, with a strange hair-do.

The two young men walked up beside her, began taunting her and then finished their effort by spitting in her face. They laughed riotously and walked away. She wiped the spittle off her face and hurried off home. It was all over in a few seconds.

According to Greg Sheridan, it is recognised amongst the Australian political elite that multiculturalism in Europe is a failure. But some Australian politicians claim that Australia is exceptional, and that multiculturalism will work out differently here.

Sheridan no longer believes this to be true and so suggests measures to discourage large-scale immigration from certain Muslim countries. He is still, though, a supporter of high immigration from elsewhere.

I find it interesting that Sheridan is so surprised by the way things have turned out. For instance, he writes:

No one in Europe, 25 years ago, thought they would be in the mess they're in today.

No one? I think this speaks more to the inability of those like Greg Sheridan to think through the consequences of the policies they champion. And I'm reminded here of the following idea of Lawrence Auster:

A reactionary (or shall we say a traditionalist?) is a person who sees a threat to his society the moment it appears. A conservative is a person who sees the threat to his society after it's already done a lot of damage. A liberal is a person who only sees sees the threat to his society after it's too late to do anything about it—or he never sees it at all. 

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Goldberg: feminism is a cure for the world

There is a lot for traditionalists to cheer on in the men's movement, but also ideas that we can't support.

Take, for instance, two recent posts at The Spearhead. One was a worthwhile criticism of Jonah Goldberg, the editor of National Review Online. NRO is supposed to be a conservative publication, but Goldberg has written a post that is remarkably uncritical of feminism.

Goldberg begins with a quote by Kay Hymowitz:

For the first time ever, and I do mean ever, young women are reaching their twenties with more achievements, more education, more property, and, arguably, more ambition than their male counterparts.

Goldberg treats these social trends as unproblematic. He writes,

These are the fruits of feminist success. And, as the father of a little girl, I’m grateful for many of feminism’s achievements.

He then goes on to argue that feminism has completed its mission in America and should now focus its efforts overseas:

The good news for those who want to continue the fight for women is that there is plenty of work left to do — abroad.

The plight of women in other countries is not only dire, it’s central to global poverty and the war on terrorism.

As The Spearhead post puts it, Goldberg is a kind of feminist imperialist, wanting to spread it from his own country to other lands.

Goldberg is extraordinarily complacent about feminism. It is naive to believe that feminists will suddenly declare their mission to be over in America. If a larger aim of feminism is to make our sex not matter, then feminism will always be at war with how society operates.

Goldberg is also blind to the negative consequences of the social trends described by Kay Hymowitz. Hymowitz herself believes that the male role in society has been undermined, with many young men now trapped in a pre-adulthood:

My book grew out of my observation that relations between the sexes during this protracted period I call pre-adulthood are, at best, very confused. I have tried to figure out why so many young women today complain about men being thoughtless, immature and boorish. I also wanted to know why large numbers of men have become so profoundly hostile to women.

...As a number of commenters have correctly noted, feminism celebrated women’s independence sometimes to the point of making men seem an expendable part of family life. Throughout the 1990’s when many of today’s pre-adult men were growing up, the entire culture turned into a you-go-girl cheering section...Boys might have also observed their uncles or fathers, perhaps good men, being taken to the cleaners by wives...

All of this seems to have passed Goldberg by. He complacently accepts the underlying assumptions of feminism and doesn't understand that once you endorse feminist principles you will want to see them implemented in society in ever more radical ways, even if this means coercive state intervention. Therefore, what is the point of being a Goldberg? What do you achieve? You cheer on left-wing changes to society whilst impotently arguing that things have gone far enough. History will inevitably record your failure to halt the onward march of a principle that you yourself endorsed.

The second post at The Spearhead begins well enough with an encouragement to men to act in a more masculine way to attract women. But it then urges on men a radical policy of self-determination. The author believes there are three important ways that men could become more self-determining.

First, by getting a vasectomy:

men are entitled to exercise discretion over their own bodies in the extreme. Advances in vasectomies have given men the option of having a vasectomy in their single years with the possibility of reversal later on. In this day and age of uncertain paternity and women who derive significant income from child support, my advice would be for men to undergo a vasectomy as a form of birth control.

The decision to do so is ultimately private and need not be shared with prospective sexual partners, girlfriends, or even wives. A woman is not required to notify her husband of an abortion, and her husband is not bound to notify her that he had a vasectomy before they got married. Additionally, having a vasectomy gives a man a degree of reproductive self-determination that a woman cannot influence...

Should a man choose a polygynous existence, he can do so knowing that he is free from the concern of impregnating any girlfriend or mistress he might have. He is free to enjoy sex on his own terms, to be affirmed by it as he sees fit without facing exploitation from a former lover.

Second, by replacing Western marriage with a more temporary Islamic version:

There are innovations from other cultures that we might import here as we restore our political power and voice. We might take the example of Iranian Muslims who enter into a contract called the sigheh, where a type of temporary marriage is entered into. The conditions are spelled out at the beginning, from the amount of support that will be provided to the amount of sex that will be given. The contract can be anywhere from a few hours to months or years in duration, and it is renewable.

This seems like a far more reasonable arrangement for men to pursue than the antiquated institution of full-blown marriage...Sigheh represents the best of what marriage has to offer without any of the finality or restrictions.

Third, by dating older women:

Simply put, a male in his twenties is better suited to pursue a relationship with an older woman. A woman hits her sexual peak in her thirties, and a man at that age ought to realistically assess what he wants from a relationship and pursue it without shame. Moreover, older women have their own means and their own status, and the introduction of a younger man into the networks they’ve already established can be important to later success in employment and business. Your peers in the same age group cannot offer you either the status, the connections, or even the same sexual competency as an older woman because they don’t have any of those things.

The economics of the matter do not lie. The older someone is, the more likely they are to have a better economic footing.

This is all justified in terms of male autonomy:

But most importantly, realize that the brotherhood you have with your own kind will be key to resurgence in male self-determination...

It’s time to ... take concrete steps to achieve sexual self-determination and pride for men on their own terms. It’s time to empower men to define their own lives however they see fit, to remove the institutional and social obstacles to men who seek to live life as an alpha male by their own merits.

I understand this response. Men grow up observing the attempt by society and the state to maximise the autonomy of women. So some men will inevitably argue that the same should be done for men. They will try to envisage what maximum autonomy would mean for men.

And the answer given above is that men should not have children; that they should marry on a temporary, contractual basis only; that they should marry for money and status; and that they should focus on removing obstacles to satisfying sexual desires.

But, as with any attempt to make autonomy the overriding value, this denies important aspects of our nature. The advice that single men should get vasectomies is particularly poor, given the importance to so many men of becoming fathers. The advice to marry older women for money and connections is also poor as it denies to men the kind of passionate relationship that is more likely to be found as a young man with a young woman.

It's a vision of society in which what matters is career and status and casual sexual relationships, with little concern for family or nation. It would inevitably be as corrosive to society as feminism has been, if not more so.