Thursday, May 31, 2012

An Australian first

Something interesting I read today: organised surf life saving began in Australia. The first two clubs were founded in Sydney in 1906/07 (Bronte and Bondi).

One way men and women are different

My workplace is evenly divided between men and women so I get to observe the way that women interact with each other, and the way men interact, on a daily basis. It's difficult not to conclude that there are significant differences in the social lives of men and women.

One clear difference is that women seem much more sensitive to personal slights and exclusions. There is a lot more tension in the way that women try to hold together friendships and social groups; something misinterpreted might cause a blow up in a relationship or in a woman's position within the group.

It's true that at high school boys can form a social hierarchy - a pecking order of sorts. But in adult life men don't seem to use social relationships the same way that women do. Men are a bit more awkward and distant in how they relate to each other - they keep apart a bit more - but at the same time they're less invested in the kind of social ins and outs that female antennae seem to pick up on.

On the positive side, women can be affectionate and, at times, thoughtful toward each other. Men, in contrast, are more likely to use gruff humour to express friendship.

As I mentioned, I find the female way of interacting very alien to my own experience. It makes me wonder at the political moderns who believe that there are no significant differences between the sexes. I don't know how you can hold to such a view over the course of a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Scalzi: whites play on the lowest setting

John Scalzi is an American science fiction writer. He has fallen for liberalism very hard. In a recent blog post, he set out to explain to straight white men how they are a privileged group:
I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it:

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

He's arguing that straight white males have manipulated the settings of society so that they get to have the easiest time.

That's the standard left-liberal position. Left-liberals want a society in which there are equally autonomous life conditions. That would mean that there would be no differences between the races when it comes to educational or professional outcomes. But such a world doesn't exist.

Why not? The left-liberal answer is that one group in society (straight white males) created a series of false categories to oppress all those who were "othered" in order to enjoy an unearned privilege. The structures of racist/sexist oppression are considered to be systemic.

The left-liberal solution is to deconstruct whiteness and masculinity at a systemic level.

That's obviously not such an appealing prospect for the average non-liberal white male which means it's perfectly understandable for white men to react negatively to claims about white privilege.

What are the problems with the Scalzi left-liberal position on race?

First, it's not even true that whites do best in the U.S. when it comes to employment or education or family outcomes. As I've pointed out before (here and here) Asian Americans do significantly better.

The U.S. Census Bureau just recently released data on which groups in America are most likely to have university degrees. As you'd expect, Asians did the best (were the "most privileged" in Scalzi's terminology):
Asians are the most highly educated group of Americans, with more than half with a bachelor’s degrees or higher, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.

Among groups of Asian Americans 25 and older, 74 percent of Taiwanese and 71 percent of Indians had at least a bachelor’s degree, the agency said as part of its release of American Community Survey data on hundreds of racial, tribal and Hispanic groups.

The comparable figure for the U.S. population overall is 28 percent.

Whereas 31% of white Americans have a university degree, over half of Asian Americans do. It's a significant difference.

Of course, someone could jump in and argue that the difference is because Asians value education more, or have stronger family support, or have higher average IQs and so on. But that would then illustrate another problem with Scalzi's left-liberalism. He assumes that if whites (at 31%) have an advantage over, say, blacks (at 18%) it's because whites have an unearned privilege. But if Asians have earned their advantage through greater effort or talent, then why can't whites? Why treat whites differently?

What Scalzi ends up doing is to take one relatively successful group (not even the most successful) and tear it down simply for being relatively successful. It's a case of punishing one group for doing the right thing (valuing education, holding together a strong family life etc).

In that sense, the left-liberal position is perverse.

Finally, note too the triumph of ideology in the left-liberal position. The ideology tells Scalzi that whites are dominant and so he continues to believe that they are a privileged group with the system rigged in their favour at the very time that in the real world whites are sliding demographically.

His concern ought to be that whites are in too vulnerable a position right now and what to do about that, but he is too blinded by his ideology to even register that whites might be in difficulty.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A traditionalist group in the UK?

I've looked through the website of the Traditional Britain Group and they seem quite good. Interested readers from the UK might like to take a look. There's a website, a blog and a facebook page. If anyone knows more about them please feel free to comment.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A reply to a reader on female combat troops

One reader didn't like my post The body has meaning. He wrote the following comment:
The original post astonishes me. When I was 12 or so, I thought, "Men are this, and women are that." Then I grew up and realized the world is more complex than that.

The world is not made up of G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls. You seem to suggest that it should be.

Your idea seems to be that men and women each have a distinct, intrinsic nature, from which their proper roles in society can be inferred, en masse. But isn't it reasonable to expect a person to act on the basis of their own nature? If someone wants to do something, such as join the army, then joining the army seems to be in the nature of this person. You would say to them, "But that's not in your nature." I think they should reply, "Clearly it is in my nature, for it is what I want to do." How do you reply to this?

It's a reasonable question to ask. The answer is that masculinity is not only an aspect of the nature of men, but it exists as well as an essence in the sense of it being a quality that has intrinsic value and meaning.

So a man will not only have a sense of his own masculine identity, he will also recognise the existence of a masculine ideal to develop toward, one which brings purpose and fulfilment.

Ordinary preferences and wants do not have this same potential. They certainly do not define our nature as men; if anything, they are to be brought into line (i.e. ordered) according to our efforts to cultivate masculine character.

And the same goes for femininity & women. Women obviously have a feminine nature in the sense that their bodies are more fitted for motherhood than warfare, that women are in general more emotional than men and so on.

But that's not the end of it. Women have the chance to embody the feminine principle in life (to put this another way: to express a feminine essence).

They cannot do this in the role of a combat soldier. It just isn't possible to develop along feminine lines in such a role.

And so a woman who thinks she wants to be a combat soldier has some serious thinking to do. Even if she is at the more mannish end of the female spectrum, and so is drawn more than other women to masculine pursuits, she is choosing a pathway that cannot lead her to an admirable womanhood, i.e. to a womanhood that embodies or expresses that feminine principle of life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Dominating the skyline in Reykjavik in Iceland is the Hallgrimskirkja. The design was commissioned in 1937 and the church was built between 1945 and 1986.

In front of the church is a statue of Leif Ericson, who was the first European to land in North America in about the year 1001. The statue was presented to Iceland in 1930 by the U.S.A:

Here is a photo of the church and the statue:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The body has meaning

As regular readers will know, I'm not a supporter of the idea of women in combat. It's not something that women were made for, and proof of this is in the body itself - in the distinct physicality of men and women.

Below is a picture of an Australian soldier, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, who stormed a machine-gun position in Afghanistan in 2010 and was later awarded a Victoria Cross for his act of valour. His body is angular and muscular and he has the facial features and expression that you would expect of a warrior:

Compare his picture with that of New Zealand singer Hayley Westenra:

She is smaller, her limbs are slender and elegant, her body is softer and her face radiates warmth and emotion. She wasn't made for the battlefield but for something more feminine.

There is a meaning written into our physical, embodied selves. Our bodies tell us something about our purposes as men and women. Liberals won't like to hear this, as it means that some of our choices aren't entirely self-determined.

But what's the alternative? If you were to argue that our bodies shouldn't matter, then how could you pursue life as an integrated being, i.e. how could you develop as a person who had achieved a unity of body, mind and spirit?

It isn't right to throw away the body as an identifying aspect of self.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hypocrite feminist meme

There's a "quick meme" website which allows users to add captions on a particular theme. One of the themes is that of the hypocrite feminist. Some of the captions added by readers weren't too bad:

Hat tip: One STDV

Friday, May 18, 2012

Welney sunset & more

At The Orthosphere there is a regular feature called "Reactionary composer of the week" - meaning a contemporary classical music composer who has rejected the atonal or dissonant type of modernist music.

A composer I was unfamiliar with until recently is the Englishman Patrick Hawes. He draws inspiration from the beauty of nature, from English literature and from Christianity. One of his works which is worth listening to is "Quanta Qualia" the lyrics of which mean:

Anima mea (my soul)
Mane! (Wait!)
Quanta Qualia (how great and how wonderful)
Conventus gaudia (the joys of the meeting)
Erunt. (will be)

Here is a recording of the piece featuring the New Zealand singer Hayley Westenra. The video is of a sunset near Welney in Norfolk, England.

It's interesting to contrast this piece with a another also titled "O Quanta Qualia" - this time in a monastic style of music:

Welney is in the Fens in the district of King's Lynn. King's Lynn has some interesting historic architecture, including the guildhall below from the early 1400s:

There is also the surviving tower of a Franciscan monastery founded in the 1230s:

Finally, when I did a search on King's Lynn I found out that Hayley Westenra, who sang the first version of Quantia Qualia, gave a concert there last year. So to round off the post, here are some photos of her visiting King's Lynn:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kennett's dissolving liberalism

Jeff Kennett, a former Liberal Premier of Victoria, has weighed in on two very important issues. In doing so, he has revealed just how lightweight his liberalism is.

The first issue is that of delayed family formation. As I reported earlier this month, the Catholic Church in Victoria has warned women that in delaying family formation for too long their prospects for marriage diminish.

Jeff Kennett doesn't seem to get the argument. He writes:
TODAY, I call on the Catholic Church and the community to review its position on marriage.

The Catholic Church has suggested to women they should, in effect, lower their standards and marry the second or third-best male available.

Those pronouncements I found belittling to, and of, all women.

Kennett doesn't seem to have thought this through. The Church gave a statistic that there were only 86,000 single men in Australia earning over $60,000 in the prime 25 to 34 age bracket. Therefore, women shouldn't assume that by delaying family formation they were improving their prospects.

Kennett somehow seems to think that if a woman waits until she's 35 that she's going to get Mr Right. A few might, but the odds are against it. She'll just be competing with younger women for a relatively small pool of available men.

Then Kennett seems to contradict himself:
The sanctity of marriage has changed substantially in my lifetime. Vows given are so often quickly forgotten.

In many ways we have become a disposable society, where self is so often more important than the responsibilities we agree to enter into or take upon ourselves.

...That anyone or any institution should suggest we turn the clock back, that people should accept less than their ideal, represents an amazing failure of relevance.

But if Kennett is right that we have become a disposable society then why wouldn't we aim to turn the clock back? Do we really prove our relevance by accepting damaging social trends? And Kennett is foolish to suggest that people should never accept less than their ideal. What if our ideal is unrealistic? What if we get to age 30 and we've never come close to meeting our ideal? Isn't it then time to think about what we can and cannot compromise on?

And, anyway, a woman at age 25 is more likely to be able to attract something close to her ideal than a woman at age 35.

Kennett then tackles the issue of homosexual marriage. He is for it, but on the flimsiest of grounds:
As long as we all respect each other, and obey the laws of the country, surely that is all that matters.

If I want to live my life with Tom or Harold, surely that should be my right as much as it is if I want to live my life with Felicity or anyone else of the opposite sex.

And if I choose a partner and wish to marry, why should anyone be denied that comfort?

You get a sense of why the West has declined when you read comments like that. Under Kennett's principles you could justify just about anything.

For instance, Kennett earlier lamented the emergence of disposable relationships. But why should people uphold promises or commitments under Kennett's liberal principles? The people doing the disposing aren't breaking any laws and they might well continue to respect the people they leave behind. And such people could well argue, just as Kennett does, that life is short and that they have a right to choose who they wish to live with.

Similarly, the only thing stopping polygamy under Kennett's principles is that it's currently illegal. But a man could easily justify living together with a couple of de facto wives. He could argue that everyone in the marriage respected each other and that he should not be denied the comfort in life of two wives.

As I mentioned, Kennett was (is?) a member of the right-wing party here in Victoria. But his philosophy really is a liberal rather than a conservative one. And it is a dissolving liberalism. He believes that it is individual desires that define what is moral, rather than that desires should conform to a real moral good.

Where does that leave the importance of character? Of virtue? Of  a love for, and commitment to, our families and the larger communal tradition we belong to?

The great pity is that educated Westerners in the political class came to believe that nothing mattered except the desires that can exist or be realised at the level of an atomised individual. A lot was lost when this shift in thinking took place.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr Jordan Peterson 2

Here's another video of Dr Jordan Peterson. What I find interesting is that he is willing to think through the long term consequences of modern social trends and that he also thinks about what it takes to hold together a social fabric.

That's a bit unusual. Liberal intellectuals usually start off with an idea of what, in their world view, is just and in what ways society can be reformed in line with their concept of justice. It's either assumed that society will cope with such "reforms" or that any fall-out can be dealt with as it happens. So there's not much focus on the health of the larger social entity.

So it's refreshing to hear someone who is willing to point out that things can go belly up.


I was browsing the internet and came across an historic town in Germany I'd never heard of called Marburg.

Its existence was first recorded in 1140. In 1228 a noblewoman moved there and dedicated her life to caring for the sick. She was later canonised as St Elisabeth. The Teutonic Knights built a church in her honour, the Elisabethkirche, which is an early example of Gothic religious architecture in Germany.

Here is the interior of the church:

Marburg's medieval architecture has managed to survive over the centuries:

The Grimm brothers went to university in Marburg and collected some of their stories from the region.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Julia attitude

Barack Obama ran a "Life of Julia" campaign recently which attracted a lot of criticism. Julia is a (fictional) white American woman who goes through life being supported by government welfare policies rather than through a family. She does have one child at age 31, but apart from that Julia lives her life as an individual supported by the state.

It's not surprising that left-liberals would feel comfortable promoting such a life, given that their ideal is an autonomous individual whose life conditions are to be made equal by a state bureaucracy. But there was less support for such a vision of life on the right. Andrew Bolt wrote:
Beyond parody. Barack Obama’s latest ad boasts how a single woman can be married to the government for life.

And from James Taranto:
The most shocking bit of the Obama story is that Julia apparently never marries. She simply “decides” to have a baby, and Obama uses other people’s money to help her take care of it.

...In 1999 Lionel Tiger coined the word “bureaugamy" to refer to the relationship between officially impoverished mothers of illegitimate children and the government. “The Life of Julia” is an insidious attack on the institution of the family, an endorsement of bureaugamy even for middle-class women.

It's interesting that the American left should be ramping up the idea of replacing family support with state welfare at exactly the moment such a model is failing in Europe. There are European countries now facing a serious debt crisis because of excessive government spending (even in Australia the average worker is now paying $5000 a year in taxes to support welfare spending).

It's interesting too that left-liberalism has continued moving left to the point that Barack Obama's advert is now more radical than the views expressed by feminist Germaine Greer back in 1991. Greer wrote back then that "Most societies have arranged matters so that a family surrounds and protects mother and child" and she complained of "our families having withered away" with relationships becoming "less durable every year".

There is no such sense of lament about a woman being supported by the state rather than by a family in the Obama adverts.

I should point out that you can find the "Julia" attitude in various places. For instance, yesterday I was reading an article in the Melbourne Herald Sun about superannuation. The gist of the article was that women are facing a bleak financial future because when they opt out of the workforce to have children they lose a few years of superannuation contributions.

The assumption is that women are not part of a family and have to support themselves. The thought never even occurs to the writer of the article that the husband's super fund will help support the family - instead, the assumption is that men's super is used for men and women's for women, therefore if women have less they are missing out:
"Countless Australian mothers are paying the ultimate sacrifice for their commitment to family, with many neglecting their financial futures in favour of other responsibilities around the home," Suncorp Life head of superannuation Vicki Doyle says...."

What do those with the Julia attitude then propose? They believe that women should get free superannuation payments:
We have argued for some time that paid parental leave should include a superannuation component and that a super 'baby bonus' or a return to work super bonus after a career break could go some way to addressing the issue.

And here we come to a serious flaw in this whole attitudinal shift. On the one hand, a society needs to keep its men motivated to work. But the Julia approach undermines this motivation, by seeking to make women financially independent of their husbands.

Let me put this another way to try to clarify it. A society needs its men to believe firmly that they are necessary to a family as providers. If that belief breaks down then that society will inevitably decline. But Western society is taking the attitude that women should be autonomous of men and rely instead on government welfare for support.

So the West is relying on individuals to hold two contradictory beliefs or values. We are supposed to believe of women that they exist as individuals without family support, but of men that they should continue to work to support women.

There are already some in the men's movement who believe that the situation should be equalised by no longer expecting men to be providers, i.e. by matching a "Julia" attitude with a corresponding "Julian" attitude.

Traditionalists would remove the contradiction the other way - by not thinking of women as autonomous Julias reliant on state welfare, but rather as wives and mothers supported within a family.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dr Jordan Peterson - asking the right questions

Here's a good find. There's a Canadian professor called Dr Jordan Peterson who appears on a Toronto TV station. Dr Peterson has worked as a Harvard professor and now teaches at the University of Toronto.

What I like about his videos is that he asks the right questions, which is something rare now amongst Western intellectuals. I'll post a few of his videos in coming weeks, but the first one is about the gender neutralisers in Sweden:

After summarising the efforts by Swedish liberals to abolish gender distinctions he responds by asking questions like:
  • What if gender roles...represent ideals to aspire to?
  • What if it's too much to ask each child to be a good girl and a good boy at the same time?
  • What if such virtues cannot initially be developed without specialisation?

They're the kind of questions that deserve to be raised but are not often heard.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Sydney accent? Strewth!

Vanishing American had a post recently about a speech accent archive. The idea of the archive is to preserve the different accents of the English language.

A lot of the accents are pretty similar. There's one from Arkansas which sounds very regional. And, oh, the one from Sydney does too. Very, very regional. It's the broadest Australian accent I've ever heard.

You can listen to it here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A country tries to banish gender

I'm seeing more things I've written about at this site hit the mainstream media. For example, at the quite lefty American website Slate there is an article on Sweden's efforts to make gender not matter (the subheading of the article is "A country tries to banish gender").

The Swedish project is an earnest attempt to fulfil the logic of liberal politics. If you believe that autonomy is the highest good, then you will believe that individuals should be self-determining, which then leads to the belief that predetermined qualities should be made not to matter. And our sex is a predetermined quality.

So the Swedes are implementing the same philosophy as other Western countries, only more radically. The starting point of making gender not matter was the idea of equal opportunity. But in a society with equal opportunity men and women will still choose different roles and commitments. Our sex will still matter. So the logic of the liberal principle is to push beyond equal opportunity.

And so the author of the Slate article observes:
for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don't identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

What follows is a list of examples of the Swedes showing intolerance toward sex distinctions. I've catalogued many of them myself, but here are some of the ones I missed:
  • A Swedish children's clothes company has removed the boys and girls sections in its stores
  • One Swedish preschool abolished free play because of concerns that when children play freely "stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented."
  • The Swedish Green Party wants to place "gender pedagogues" in every preschool to act as watchdogs on gender
  •  In some Swedish preschools it is forbidden to use the terms boys and girls.
  • In one Swedish children's book the words for mum and dad were replaced as being too gendered

There are many more examples given in the Slate article. What's interesting is that the article takes the attitude that the Swedes are being intolerant and intrusive in pushing their gender policy so far - that they have ended up micromanaging people's lives. That's a good observation, but it doesn't go far enough as a criticism. The liberal Swedes no doubt believe that they are acting justly for a good cause in doing so - and if you accept the underlying liberal premises then they would be right.

So what's needed is a better concept of the ultimate goods that a society aims for. Autonomy cannot be the sole, overriding good - if it is thought to be so, then the end point will be the kind of micromanaging of preschoolers - of play, of language, of thought - that the Swedes are pushing toward (with countries like Australia not far behind).

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Church weighs in

This is a bit of an unusual experience for me - an issue that I've been writing about for some years is going mainstream.

The political point I've made is this: liberalism holds up autonomy as the highest good, but women are most autonomous when they pursue a single girl lifestyle of career, travel, partying and flings with unsuitable men. Most women don't, however, want to give up entirely on marriage and motherhood. So there is a compromise in which women are supposed to spend their 20s doing careers and single girl things before finally taking family formation seriously in their 30s.

But there are problems with this delay in family formation. The most obvious one is that it gives women little time to meet someone, date, get engaged, marry and then finally have children. By the time the process in properly underway, many women won't be far off declining fertility. Second, the women who wait too long might find that their male peers have adapted to a bachelor lifestyle, or opted out, or married women from overseas, or are interested in younger women, or haven't seen the point in committing to a career.

And so you get women like Kate Bolick, who admits she broke up with a perfectly suitable man at age 28 expecting there to be plenty of replacements later on. But, at age 39, she had to accept that there weren't. And why did she break up with Mr Right? Because she wanted to preserve her autonomy:
...the elevation of independence over coupling (“I wasn’t ready to settle down”) is a second-wave feminist idea I’d acquired from my mother...

I was her first and only recruit, marching off to third grade in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle, or: A Woman’s Place Is in the House—and the Senate, and bellowing along to Gloria Steinem & Co.’s feminist-minded children’s album, Free to Be...You and Me... future was to be one of limitless possibilities...This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place...We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.

The problem of delaying family formation is now getting some attention in the mainstream Australian media. I reported recently on an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Bettina Arndt. And now the Catholic Church here in Melbourne has voiced concerns:
WOMEN should marry earlier and not be too picky if they want to avoid an Aussie man drought, the Catholic Church has warned.

Australia is experiencing a huge decline in the number of available men, with the church telling the Herald Sun women should also forget living with their partners before tying the knot.

Statistics show there are just 86,000 eligible blokes for 1.3 million females aged between 25 and 34...

But the reverend Father Tony Kerin, episcopal vicar for justice and social service in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, said women wanted the best of both worlds.

"Are women getting too choosy? I'd say yes," said Father Kerin, speaking on behalf of the archdiocese.

"I think many are setting aside their aspirations for later, but by the time they get around to it, they've missed their chance.

"In trying to have it all, they end up missing out."

Father Kerin said the rate of marriage had halved despite nearly four in five people still wanting to settle down.

"For many, it remains an unattainable dream," he said...

Demographer Bernard Salt calculated there are 1.3 million women aged 25-34.

But of the 1.343 million men in the same age bracket, only 86,000 single, heterosexual, well-off, young men were available after excluding those who were already married (485,000), in a de facto relationship (185,000), gay (7000), a single parent (12,000) or earning less than $60,000 a year.
The statistics given here are a bit misleading. There aren't 1.3 million women chasing 86,000 men as a fair proportion of those women would already be in a relationship (plus, not every woman would expect a man to earn over $60,000). Even so, it's interesting that of 1.343 million men in the 25-34 bracket only 86,000 are single and earning more than $60,000 a year. It does suggest that women who, like Kate Bolick, deliberately ditch a Mr Right are unwise to think that there are plenty more to be had later on.

And I congratulate the Catholic Church for speaking up on the issue. Inevitably there will be those who will criticise the Catholic Church for doing so, but if a culture of marriage is to be protected then delayed family formation needs to be tackled.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Sisters of Marxianity

Laura Wood has posted some items which are rightly critical of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the largest organisation of American nuns.

I went to the LCWR website and found it to be inspired more by radical leftist ideology than by Christianity. A good example is a statement on racism which runs like this:
Racism in its institutional form continues because some people assume, consciously or unconsciously, that white people are superior. Therefore, the dominant race of whites develop and maintain institutions that privilege people like themselves and give less credibility to the contributions of other peoples and cultures. White privilege often goes unnoticed because it has been internalized and integrated as part of one’s outlook on the world by custom, habit and tradition.

Peggy McIntosh, author of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, wrote about her experiences of white privilege. Her education gave her no training in seeing herself as an oppressor and advantaged person. Any work to benefit others was to allow "them" to be more like whites. She described white privilege as similar to an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.

Social rules about what work is, who works for whom, how work is compensated, and the social process by which the result of work is appropriated operate to establish relations of power and inequality. These relations are reinforced by a systematic process in which the energies of the have-nots are continuously expended to maintain and augment the power, status, and wealth of the haves. This structural relationship between social groups is exploitation. (Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference)

That's a left liberal analysis of race, not a Christian one. The left liberal analysis goes like this:
i) The aim of politics is to disband unchosen social ties so that we are left as self-determining individuals subject to the same autonomous conditions of life

ii) Our race, just like our sex, is predetermined rather than self-determined and therefore must be made not to matter

iii) But race does still seem to matter. Some races do worse than others in education, in employment, in crime statistics etc.

iv) This is to be explained by a dominant group setting themselves up as a false racial category (whites) in order to enjoy an unearned privilege at the expense of an oppressed group (blacks)

v) Whiteness is therefore an artificial and oppressive social construct which only those whites seeking supremacy would want to uphold.

vi) White privilege is also to be regarded as systemic, as the institutions and culture of society were created to serve it

vi) Whites should therefore seek to deconstruct themselves and their society as whiteness is a uniquely immoral category associated with race supremacy and privilege

When the nuns endorse Peggy McIntosh's complaint that she was not educated to see herself as a white oppressor they are following not Christianity but left-liberalism.

Christianity cannot follow along the same lines as left-liberalism as Christianity accepts that we have a creator which means that we do not autonomously self-create who we are. To put this another way, if you believe that you are autonomously self-created, then you do not have the Christian view of man's relationship to God.

So Christians will focus on different things to liberals. Less on achieving equally autonomous life conditions and less on making predetermined qualities not matter.

If race does matter in certain respects that does not invalidate the core purposes of Christianity. It does not require Christians to resort to a class/oppressor analysis or to seek to deconstruct white people and white society.

The minds of the nuns of the LCWR have been colonised by a secular ideology. They may as well be just any other kind of leftist academic or political activist. They have made themselves redundant as nuns and therefore it is no surprise that their numbers are falling so rapidly.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Learning from Voltairine

In 1908 a woman named Voltairine de Cleyre delivered a lecture to the Radical Liberal League in Philadelphia.

Her purpose was to argue against marriage. What I think we can learn from her lecture is the underlying trend within modernity to "disband" the ties that are intended to hold together a society in favour of a highly individualistic concept of freedom.

She begins by dismissing the idea that there is a real, objective right that might guide people's behaviour:
there is no absolute right or wrong; there is only a relativity, depending on the consciously though very slowly altering condition of a social race in respect to the rest of the world. Right and wrong are social conceptions: mind, I do not say human conceptions. The names “right” and “wrong,” truly, are of human invention only; but the conception “right” and “wrong,” dimly or clearly, has been wrought out with more or less effectiveness by all intelligent social beings. And the definition of Right, as sealed and approved by the successful conduct of social beings, is: That mode of behavior which best serves the growing need of that society.

It is humans who create what is "right" and that alters according to evolving social needs - that is the gist of her moral theory.

If you have this starting point you will then ask "How are social needs evolving?" And she has a clear answer. She believes that until recently men had to respond to the demands of their environment. In other words, in a tough environment men responded of necessity to what had to be done - any other response would have imperilled survival.

But that realm of necessity is gradually giving way. She therefore sees society evolving along these lines:
What is the growing ideal of human society, unconsciously indicated and unconsciously discerned and illuminated?

By all the readings of progress, this indication appears to be the free individual; a society whose economic, political, social and sexual organization shall secure and constantly increase the scope of being to its several units; whose solidarity and continuity depend upon the free attraction of its component parts, and in no wise upon compulsory forms.

She still talks about solidarity and continuity but these have been fatally demoted as they are not what she is defining the "right" by. What is right, in her theory, is a constant increase in the extent to which individuals can self-determine their social ties.

Once she has established this principle, some very radical conclusions follow. For instance, she is led to reject all forms of marriage:
By marriage I mean the real thing, the permanent relation of a man and a woman, sexual and economical, whereby the present home and family life is maintained. It is of no importance to me whether this is a polygamous, polyandric or monogamous marriage, nor whether it is blessed by a priest, permitted by a magistrate, contracted publicly or privately, or not contracted at all. It is the permanent dependent relationship which, I affirm, is detrimental to the growth of individual character, and to which I am unequivocally opposed.

And here we have the great, splintering clash of modern society. On the traditionalist side, marriage is held to be one important aspect of how we fulfil our being as men and women - a stable, happy marriage is therefore a great good. But the Voltairine moderns see it differently - for them individuals develop as an autonomous (non-dependent) self.

Voltairine was a principled kind of woman. She not only rejected formal marriage as leading to dependent relationships, she rejected de facto marriage as well. She insisted on men and women living apart. To those who claimed that she wanted to do away with relations between the sexes altogether she replied:
“Do you want to do away with the relation of the sexes altogether, and cover the earth with monks and nuns?” By no means. While I am not over and above anxious about the repopulation of the earth, and should not shed any tears if I knew that the last man had already been born, I am not advocating sexual total abstinence.

Predictably, her concern for "solidarity and continuity" was shallow - she had little sense of solidarity with anyone, not even with humanity in the abstract.

She then sets out to counter the argument that we fulfil our being as men and women through marriage rather than through absolute individual autonomy:
“But,” say the advocates of marriage, “what is there in marriage to interfere with the free development of the individual? What does the free development of the individual mean, if not the expression of manhood and womanhood? And what is more essential to either than parentage and the rearing of young?

Her answer is that the instinct to have children is now redundant. People once had children, she believes, in order to help ensure survival in a war against nature, but that survival instinct is now being met by science and technology. There is no longer a need for sons when you have mechanical harvesters:
Hence the development of individuality does no longer necessarily imply numerous children, nor indeed, necessarily any children at all. That is not to say that no one will want children, nor to prophesy race suicide.

She was right about families becoming smaller, but wrong that it would not hasten race suicide. She was wrong, too, in thinking that the instinct to have marry and have children exists simply as part of a struggle to survive against nature. That misses the point, which is that our masculinity is expressed, in part, through our roles as husbands and fathers and therefore marriage and fatherhood is one significant aspect of fulfilling our being.

And what of the small families she allows might exist in her future society? How will these be arranged if men and women are not supposed to live together?

Again, true to her principles, she believes that men and women can only develop apart from each other:
People will not, and cannot, think and feel the same at the same moments, throughout any considerable period of life; and therefore, their moments of union should be rare and of no binding nature.

Children, therefore, should be raised outside of marriage:
I believe that children may be as well brought up in an individual home, or in a communal home, as in a dual home; and that impressions of life will be far pleasanter if received in an atmosphere of freedom and independent strength.

Modern society has shifted in the direction Voltairine wanted it to.  Those who understand the fulfilment of being her way have won out.

Why? Why should the Voltairines have triumphed?

Perhaps one reason relates to a point made by Voltairine herself. When living conditions are tougher, such a radically individualistic outlook is simply less viable. But when a society finally produces a comfortable level of material security, then perhaps a certain aspect of human nature starts to assert itself - a certain kind of person emerges who wants to go their own way and who therefore far from wanting to uphold social ties of family, ethny or nation wants to actively disband them.

That's made worse when the "disbanders" are well-off, anonymous urbanites, rather than, say, a landed gentry with a sense of noblesse oblige and dynastic tradition.

And the "disbanders" can recruit to their side all those who don't like the structure of the traditional society: early on, for instance, it might be the merchant classes pushing against feudal economic restrictions, or dissenting churches pushing against the established church. It could include as well ethnic minorities, or some homosexuals, or the mannish kind of women, or even those who are depressed or resentful, or those from unhappy homes.

So perhaps any developed society is going to have take care to protect itself from the likes of Voltairine, from those who are ready to cast off social ties in favour of autonomous development.