Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hanna Rosin celebrates loveless youth

Confused about the state of relationships? Well, if you're not now you will be after reading Hanna Rosin's latest piece, "Boys on the side" (warning: it's crude in parts)

Rosin's essay is a clumsy attempt to reconcile the conflict between the liberal demand for an autonomous, independent, single person lifestyle based on career and casual relationships, and the normal human desires for love and family.

Rosin begins by celebrating a coarse hook up culture, which she believes is used by young women to avoid serious relationships with men so that women can dedicate themselves to career and independence:
The sexual culture may be more coarse these days, but young women are more than adequately equipped to handle it, because unlike the women in earlier ages, they have more-important things on their minds, such as good grades and intern­ships and job interviews and a financial future of their own. The most patient and thorough research about the hookup culture shows that over the long run, women benefit greatly from living in a world where they can have sexual adventure without commitment or all that much shame, and where they can enter into temporary relation­ships that don’t get in the way of future success.

OK, that makes it sound as if success in life is measured by career and independence. The message is repeated in this passage:
Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-­school party—are for the first time in history more success­ful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.

You would think that a woman's sexual prime would be the most logical time for a woman to try to attract a serious suitor - but Hanna Rosin doesn't see it this way. It's only when a woman is past her sexual prime that a serious suitor might be considered - before then he is "a danger to be avoided at all costs" as he might "get in the way of a promising future".

Now if what really matters is career and independence then why not give up on marriage altogether? Marriage, after all, requires a commitment to others. And Hanna Rosin does at times run down the idea of marriage. She writes:
There is no retreating from the hookup culture to an earlier age, when a young man showed up at the front door with a box of chocolates for his sweetheart, and her father eyed him warily. Even the women most frustrated by the hookup culture don’t really want that. The hookup culture is too bound up with everything that’s fabulous about being a young woman in 2012—the freedom, the confidence, the knowledge that you can always depend on yourself.

Women want a hookup culture, she writes. It's fabulous. It represents freedom and self-reliance. She goes on to claim that,
Young men and women have discovered a sexual freedom unbridled by the conventions of marriage, or any conventions.

So it's all clear to this point. The hookup culture, whatever distress it might cause to young women, is a source of freedom and progress for women. A lack of conventions is held to be a good thing. Best not for women to have serious or lasting relationships with men. Flings with unsuitable men are the way to go.

But then the clarity fades away. All of a sudden we get this conclusion:
But that’s not how the story ends...Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women. Even for those business-school women, their hookup years are likely to end up as a series of photographs, buried somewhere on their Facebook page, that they do or don’t share with their husband—a memory that they recall fondly or sourly, but that hardly defines them.

Oh, really? So women are to spend ages 15 to 35 rejecting a deeper human connection in favour of independence and freedom, and then at the very last gasping breath of their youthful fertility, they are suddenly to change and decide that human connection matters after all.

Come on Hanna. You can't justify wasting a woman's sexual prime on independence and freedom from convention if a deeper human connection as experienced in marriage proves to be the stronger value in the long run anyway.

If independence and sexual freedom really are the higher values to live our lives by, then we shouldn't marry at any age. We should be like the Swedes and live alone. But if a deeper human connection as expressed in marriage is the higher value, as Hanna Rosin seems to believe it ultimately proves to be, then we shouldn't waste it - we should marry in a timely way that allows us to share our sexual prime with our spouse.

Hanna Rosin seems to expect otherwise intelligent people to engage in a kind of self-sabotage - deliberately rejecting serious suitors when in our prime, only to seek them out when we're past it.

P.S. Something I missed is the significance of Rosin's final words "but that hardly defines them". The implication is that women don't want to define themselves when they're married the same way they might when they're in their 20s and hooking up. Which means that even Rosin recognises that the two identities don't go together well. She seems to be trying to reassure her female readers that they can bury the younger self that doesn't fit with being a wife and mother - the self that they might potentially be ashamed to let their husbands know about.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An interesting Bible verse

I don't often comment on scripture, but I thought this part of Paul's letter to the Philippians worth highlighting:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (New International Version, 4:8)

Another translation is:
Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Here the Christian is being asked to meditate on the true, the noble or honourable, the just, the pure, the lovely, the gracious and the excellent or virtuous.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Signorelli and Salingaros on modernist art

From an article on modernist art by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros:
[M]odern art embodies and manifests all the worst features of modern thought — the despair, the irrationality, the hostility to tradition, the confusion of scientia with techne, or wisdom with power, the misunderstanding of freedom as liberation from essence rather than perfection of essence. In short, artistic modernism is the nihilism of our epoch made incarnate.

It's always encouraging to read writers who have broken decisively with liberalism. And Signorelli and Salingaros do that when they define freedom as a perfection of essence rather than a liberation from it. That represents a principled opposition to liberal modernity.

Quote via Mild Colonial Boy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How does an Oxford feminist decide moral issues?

I've often said that feminism is liberalism applied to the lives of women. And at the heart of liberalism is autonomy theory: the belief that autonomy is the overriding good that defines us as human. Therefore, feminism seeks to maximise the autonomy of women.

Sarah Pine is a young feminist at Oxford University. Her comments on two controversies at the university illustrate her commitment to autonomy theory.

The most recent one concerns a dating guide:
A Guide To Dating Posh Girls warns its readers of modest means that a partner from the upper echelons will have had so much sex she has ‘duly worked her way through the Eton rugby team’

Sarah Pine's response was this:
Treating women like objects that lack any autonomy in who they date or sleep with is outdated and boring.

So she isn't concerned to defend the reputation of the posh women being commented on; her focus instead is that there might be a negative connotation to the idea of promiscuity - a limitation on the autonomous choice of women to sleep with however many men they like.

Similarly, in May there was a debate at Oxford University on the topic of legalising prostitution. An American brothel owner, and a prostitute, took part in the proceedings.

This was Sarah Pine's take on the debate:
We welcome debate on such an important issue, but inviting Dennis Hof is irresponsible. We support women who want to sell their bodies, but this does not change the fact that pimps exploit women.

Inviting a pimp undermines women’s autonomy in this business: the Union is foolish to not recognise that prostitutes are the most important people to listen to on the subject of prostitution.

She looks at the issue not from the standpoint of whether prostitution itself is morally right or wrong, but from the angle of what maximises female autonomy. Therefore, she supports the choice of women to sell their bodies, but she wants them to assert this choice independently of such men as brothel owners.

Are feminists doing women a service in making the maximisation of autonomy the key, determining good in deciding such issues?

Certainly not in the long run. What feminists expect is that society as a whole will act to maximise female autonomy. This includes an expectation that men will devote themselves to the cause of maximising female autonomy.

But how long can that last? Eventually men will go one of two ways. Some will cotton on to the fact that autonomy is being treated as the key human good and will demand this good in equal measure for men; others will be put off by the consequences of making autonomy the key good and will return to more traditional masculine standards of upholding the larger good of society (these responses are already emerging in the men's movement).

Catholic schools celebrate "A Proud Race"

Australian Aborigines are not only allowed to be a race, they are allowed to be a proud race:
Proud Race is the unique initiative from the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria capturing the attention of school communities across Australia. Since Proud Race was launched in June over 105 schools have signed up to take part in the program.

...The National 'Proud Race' campaign is initiated and supported by the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry for Victoria and sponsored by Reconciliation Victoria and Reconciliation Australia to develop the project.

But if we admit that an Aboriginal race exists, then doesn't that mean that other races exist too?

And if it's good for an Aborigine to be proud of his race, then isn't it good for others to be proud of their race as well?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Droving into the light

The ideas behind art matter a great deal. For instance, here is a comment by the art reviewer for the Melbourne Age newspaper, Stephanie Holt:
The potential to shock, challenge and provoke is crucial to art's claims for significance. (08/08/2012)

If that is what you think is crucial, then it's hardly surprising that modern art is so focused on transgression.

But artists haven't always taken the modernist view. One of my favourite Australian painters, Hans Heysen, explained himself this way:
I cannot help feeling that my heart lies with these men who see intense and almost religious beauty in simple Nature that surrounds us in the beauty of the skies and the mystery of the earth.

Again, it is no surprise that Heysen created a painting like the following:

Droving into the light, 1914-1921

Heysen also produced tranquil scenes of domestic life that simply wouldn't fit into the modernist idea of art as transgression:

Sewing (the artist's wife) 1913

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What does a Greens MP blame?

Statistics just released by Victoria Police show that Somali and Sudanese-born Victorians are five times more likely than the general population to commit crimes.

The Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt, has an explanation for this. He blames racism against Somalis and Sudanese. In other words, the victims are not those who have suffered crimes but those committing them.

How does Bandt reach this conclusion? He notes that employment rates are significantly lower for Somalis and Sudanese (47% are unemployed) and thinks this is due to racism:
Racism and discrimination are driving these figures," the Greens' employment spokesman said. (Herald Sun 22/08/2012)

Is it really racism that is preventing Sudanese and Somalis from gaining employment? I think it's unlikely. It's true that they appear unfamiliar to many Australians, but so too did the Chinese and they have bounded ahead.

So why would Bandt rush in to blame racism?

I can think of several possible reasons. One is that liberals want to make race not matter. They want to do this because they think that human freedom is the ultimate good and that freedom can be defined as an autonomous, self-determining life. Race is not something that is self-determined, therefore it is to be thought of as a merely arbitrary quality that shouldn't matter.

But if you want to believe that race can be made not to matter then you are committed to the view that the races must be equal (the same) in all respects. Otherwise race would, in fact, be an influence in your life.

So if Somalis and Sudanese aren't doing as well as the Chinese, then it can't be due to a group difference, it has to be because of something artificial holding them back - which liberals most usually assume to be "race discrimination".

What other reasons might there be for Bandt's haste in blaming racism? There's the issue I've been looking at recently, namely the leftist understanding of solidarity. Some on the left assume that solidarity is based not on relatedness and loyalty but on compassion for the marginalised other. But if you have this concept of solidarity then you'll want to think of the most "other" group as being victimised in some way, and hence a worthy object of compassion.

Remember, group solidarity is a significant human instinct, so it would be a considerable deprivation if you are one of those people who connect solidarity and compassion if the most "other" group weren't thought to be suffering from oppression.

Finally, it seems to me that the left sometimes reverses the truth of what is happening in order to disarm opposition. For instance, at the very time that various white populations were being dispossessed many on the left were arguing that whites were the dominant oppressor group meting it out to others.

And in this case the following is notable:
Mr Bandt is moving for an inquiry into public service employment targets for migrant Australians.

So Bandt's agenda is to impose discrimination in employment against native born Australians and in favour of Somalis and Sudanese. That's the direction that discrimination is to flow. But there is no "sorry about that" to those who are going to miss out - instead, those who are going to miss out are presented as the discriminators and those who are to benefit are presented as the victims. It's a role reversal which puts those negatively affected on the back foot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A thought on welcome to country

Overseas readers might not be aware of this but in Australia a custom has arisen in which at the start of a meeting a welcome to country ceremony or acknowledgement of country speech is made.

Sometimes Aborigines perform these roles, but often the person in charge of the meeting will open with something like the following:
I would like to acknowledge the Dharug people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present of the Dharug nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present.

I hear something like this about twice a week. At first I thought it was yet another manoeuvre by the left to bury the Anglo heritage of Australia.  But I think now that it goes deeper and is perhaps more sincere.

It is part of human nature to want to dignify and make solemn the proceedings you are a part of and identify with. Given that most of our institutions are now run by the left and modelled along leftist lines, it's to be expected that the left would want to add an element of solemnity to proceedings.

This used to be done with a brief Christian prayer. But it makes sense that a secular leftist would prefer something else, and the welcome to country ceremony is perhaps intended to fill the role.

The problem is that such moments are supposed to draw an assembly together, to remind them of a common commitment to a shared faith. But when we are told that we are being welcomed to country by an Aboriginal elder that suggests that the audience don't really belong but are merely guests.

It sets up a conflicting response. The solemnity of the moment draws the audience together emotionally, but the message divides the audience intellectually.

And the more the words are repeated, the more formulaic they become and the less likely they are to persuade emotionally.

Why did the left choose the Aborigines as the focus of such emotional bonding? It has to do, in part, with leftist notions of solidarity. There is a tendency on the left to believe that solidarity has little to do with shared roots, or relatedness, or loyalty. Instead it is thought to be based on compassion for the marginalised other. If you are looking for such an "other" in Australia you might well choose the Aborigines. This then means that the natural human instinct toward solidarity becomes focused on identifying positively not with one's own tradition but with the Aborigines.

And if we are not seen to be positively identifying with the Aborigines? Then we might be thought to be breaking the group solidarity, even if we are not Aboriginal ourselves.

If you're a white person, and you follow along with the leftist version of solidarity, then the most "other" kind of person is likely to be a black person, preferably one you can feel compassion for - which sets up a preference for believing that such a person might be marginalised or oppressed or downtrodden.

Finally, and perhaps even more controversially, I don't want my Catholic readers to be too complacent about the status of thought within the Church on such issues. Catholic thought is increasingly overlapping with liberal thought when it comes to an understanding of solidarity, even if there are somewhat different origins for the two lines of thought.

The Catholic view seems to go this way: Christ was on the side of the poor, therefore it is Christian to think of solidarity as being with the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed and so on.

And so it's not surprising that you can have a welcome to country ceremony read out at a meeting hosted by the Australian Catholic University at which a Catholic bishop speaks of "compassion and solidarity" whilst he shares the stage with a former Liberal PM, Malcolm Fraser.

I'm not doubting here that compassion is a virtue, nor that the Church should work charitably with those who need help. But as part of the natural law there are significant forms of solidarity which are not based on compassion but on forms of relatedness and the specific duties and loyalties and identities which flow from such particular relationships.

It is not ordered for a human person to be emotionally blunted to these natural forms of solidarity and the particular loves and commitments which flow from them.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Feminist scientist: "If some animals can have babies without males, why can't humans?"

Arathi Prasad was born in Trinidad but now lives in London. She has written a book about artificial reproduction called Like a Virgin: The Science of a Sexless Future.

She takes a very positive view of the possibility that one day soon people will be able to have a baby by themselves using artificial wombs.

Why does this appeal to her? There seem to be two reasons. First, although she had a daughter as a single mother in her mid-20s, she is a career woman in her 30s with no man in sight and she would like to have a larger number of children and time is running out. She hopes that with artificial womb and fertilisation technology that women like herself could have children at any time and at any age:
I remember waking up one Saturday morning, on a bed with my daughter in my mum's loft, thinking, well, if some animals can have babies without males, why can't humans? So many women are like me, in their 30s, we do want our careers ... and we're looking for the right partner. And then you get older and it looks less likely to happen.

Why not try to get family formation right instead? Why not bring family formation back to people's mid-20s instead of leaving it so late?

I suspect one reason Arathi Prasad doesn't consider this possibility is that liberalism assumes that each person will pursue their own individual goals and respect or not interfere with other persons pursuing their own individual goals. That's OK when it comes to things like career or hobbies or travel. But it means that we can't make claims on others when it comes to relationships. We can't have expectations of how the opposite sex might behave in order to make timely family formation possible. So if that is ruled out, then the solution has to be something within our own individual control - such as using artificial reproduction techniques.

Here's another possible explanation. There are women who chafe at the idea of forming a family with an "ordinary" man they consider beneath them. They would rather operate solo, outside of marriage, in a less regulated sexual marketplace (which I think is one reason why feminists pushed for the sexual revolution). The advent of artificial wombs and new fertilisation techniques would widen the possibilities for such women to procreate outside of a relationship with a man.

The second reason why Arathi Prasad welcomes the new technology is that it would break down sex distinctions within the family. Motherhood would no longer be associated with womanhood:
If babies are gestated outside the human body, it would immediately disrupt all our notions about who should be the primary parent, and about male and female roles as a whole. "It would get away from that question of mother and father," says Prasad, "and instead become: what is a parent?"

...Someone pointed out to Prasad that men can produce milk too: "They've got mammary glands, and I haven't looked into this, but say that was possible, then you're really asking who is the mother, and who is the father? If you unhinge all of these things from their very basis, you'd have to rethink who does what."

And this:
"Why can’t a man be a mother?" she asks. "Why do we care so much about what it means to be a 'mother' rather than to be a 'parent'?

"By all reasonable estimates, in the near future we will conquer the tyranny of the womb."

She is so keen to collapse the distinction between fatherhood and motherhood that she looks forward to men breastfeeding and she talks about the "tyranny of the womb". The positive connotations that are normally associated with the womb, as the site of fertility and new life, are replaced with the idea of the womb as an agent of tyranny. It's another case of feminists degrading what is distinctly female, rather than celebrating it.

Why is Arathi Prasad so keen to collapse distinct sex roles in the family? It could be that she sees the motherhood role as an inferior one - an impediment to career - and so she wants the "hindrance" of it to be shared equally between men and women. Or perhaps she regards motherhood negatively as a biologically based role which conflicts with the liberal insistence that whatever is self-determined is superior to whatever is predetermined. Therefore, she doesn't like family roles to be associated with the predetermined fact of being biologically male or female.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Memo to Jeremy Clarkson: Britain abolished international slavery

Popular Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson isn't afraid of speaking his mind. That's increasingly rare and I commend him for it.

But his most recent comments are disappointing. Clarkson's dog had to be put down and some of this twitter followers responded with cruel comments. Which then led Clarkson to write the following in Top Gear magazine:
Britain is a nation of 62million complete and utter bastards. We are the country that invented the concentration camp, and international slavery.

Maybe he's being deliberately provocative. Perhaps he wrote it whilst still in a fit of anger and upset. Even so, it's a hopelessly negative attitude to take toward your own national tradition.

The jibe about inventing international slavery isn't even remotely true. Slaves have been traded across national boundaries for thousands of years. If Britain had a distinct role it was more for using its power to abolish the international slave trade rather than inventing it.

Which leads me to a theory about why so many Westerners have a self-contempt. One of my readers recently defended liberalism as follows:
Shame on both the conservatives and modern liberals and any “ism” for using the government to force people to act in ways they think they should act. The only thing that should be worth dying for is freedom from men using the government to force people to act out their ideals. Governments should only exist to protect peoples life, liberty and personal selfishness as long as their selfishness does not lead to stealing, cheating, lying or causing harm to another’s private property or themselves.

There is an assumption underlying such an attitude which is that there are no positive goods that can be known to us; instead, we are to think in terms of there being personal, subjective ideals. But this runs very close to a pessimistic nihilism, as it locks in the suggestion that real, objective goods either don't exist or can't be known.

The only thing that lessens the nihilistic blow is this: if you think that there are only personal, subjective ideals then you might be able to conclude that a freedom to pursue your own subjective ideal unhindered becomes the one significant good that can be recognised to exist.

Which perhaps helps to explain the tremendous emphasis placed on such a freedom by liberal moderns. It is something that is clung to in order to avoid an immediate descent into a nihilistic scepticism.

But it's not much to cling to. And hence the vulnerability to self-contempt and a desire for self-abolition.

The solution is to have the courage to discuss a mix of positive goods (which can include freedom and autonomy) and to develop these within the political, cultural and social framework of society. Obviously,  a society which does a better job of this will have a stronger foundation than one which doesn't, but ruling out the notion of positive goods ensures that you will fail.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

W.L. George - when a male feminist gets it wrong

We sometimes forget that feminism is now a very old political movement. There were feminist writers in the early 1800s, but it seems to have been picked up at an institutional level by about the 1860s. The first wave reached a peak of radicalism in the years before WWI.

One of the male feminists of this radical pre-War period was an English writer by the name of W.L. George. He wrote a tract called Feminist Intentions which I want to look at. George began his piece as follows:
The Feminist propaganda...rests upon a revolutionary biological principle. Substantially, the Feminists argue that there are no men and that there are no women; there are only sexual majorities. To put the matter less obscurely, the Feminists base themselves on Weininger's theory, according to which the male principle may be found in woman, and the female principle in man. It follows that they recognize no masculine or feminine "spheres", and that they propose to identify absolutely the conditions of the sexes.

George recognises that the feminist programme is a revolutionary one in that it aims to overturn the principle of two distinct sexes, male and female. Sex is to be made not to matter, in keeping with the liberal principle that what is predetermined is an impediment to individual autonomy.

George's second paragraph is also worth reading:
Now there are two kinds of people who labor under illusions as regards the Feminist movement, its opponents and its supporters: both sides tend to limit the area of its influence; in few cases does either realize the movement as revolutionary. The methods are to have revolutionary results, are destined to be revolutionary; as a convinced but cautious Feminist, I do not think it honest or advisable to conceal this fact. I have myself been charged by a very well-known English author (whose name I may not give, as the charge was contained in a private letter) with having "let the cat out of the bag" in my little book, Woman and To-morrow. Well, I do not think it right that the cat should be kept in the bag. Feminists should not want to triumph by fraud. As promoters of a sex war, they should not hesitate to declare it, and I have little sympathy with the pretenses of those who contend that one may alter everything while leaving everything unaltered.

That last sentence is a good insight. Are there not many Westerners who sign on to a radical liberalism without recognising what they are bringing down in the process?

And George is not entirely faultless here either. He expected that feminism would "strengthen the race"; and that it would improve the character of both men and women. I wonder what he would say if he could travel forward in time and witness ladette behaviour, or the thugging up of men, or the declining fortunes of the Western family and the Western peoples:
Therein lies the mental revolution: while the Suffragists are content to attain immediate ends, the Feminists are aiming at ultimate ends. They contend that it is unhealthy for the race that man should not recognize woman as his equal; that this makes him intolerant, brutal, selfish, and sentimentally insincere. They believe likewise that the race suffers because women do not look upon men as their peers; that this makes them servile, untruthful, deceitful, narrow, and in every sense inferior.

Similarly, George thought that if traditional marriage were abolished that it would liberate men and women to have unions based on love alone - he didn't foresee the coarsening of relationships and the instability of family life that would result:
Their grievances against the home...are closely connected with the marriage question, for they believe that the desire of man to have a housekeeper, of woman to have a protector, deeply influence the complexion of unions which they would base exclusively upon love, and it follows that they do not accept as effective marriage any union where the attitudes of love do not exist.

Next comes an argument that time has proven to be utterly wrong. George says that the feminists of his time wanted women to be economically independent, in part, because it would then allow women to choose the best men as mates and that this would have a eugenic effect - which would then benefit the race:
Under Feminist rule, women will be able to select, because they will be able to sweep out of their minds the monetary consideration; therefore they will love better, and unless they love, they will not marry at all. It is therefore probable that they will raise the standard of masculine attractiveness by demanding physical and mental beauty in those whom they choose; that they will apply personal eugenics.

The men whom they do not choose will find themselves in exactly the same position as the old maids of modern times: that is to say, these men, if they are unwed, will be unwed because they have chosen to remain so, or because they were not sought in marriage. The eugenic characteristic appears, in that women will no longer consent to accept as husbands the old, the vicious, the unpleasant. They will tend to choose the finest of the species, and those likely to improve the race. As the Feminist revolution implies a social revolution, notably "proper work for proper pay", it follows that marriage will be easy, and that those women who wish to mate will not be compelled to wait indefinitely for the consummation of their loves. Incidentally, also, the Feminists point out that their proposals hold forth to men a far greater chance of happiness than they have had hitherto, for they will be sure that the women who select them do so because they love them, and not because they need to be supported.

Something like the opposite has happened. The emphasis on being independent and career focused has led many upper class women to delay family formation and then either to settle in a panic or else fail to reproduce; nor does it seem to be true that when women no longer need men to provide for them that they then select men of mental and physical beauty.

George next tells us that feminists want to loosen the marriage tie. However, they want the man to continue to pay even if the woman chooses to divorce as:
The rebels must accept situations such as the financial responsibility of man, while they struggle to make woman financially independent of man.

George then starts to dream of a utopian future:
Personally, I am inclined to believe that the ultimate aim of Feminism with regard to marriage is the practical suppression of marriage and the institution of free alliance. It may be that thus only can woman develop her own personality, but society itself must so greatly alter, do so very much more than equalize wages and provide work for all, that these ultimate ends seem very distant...

....in common with many Feminists I incline to place a good deal of reliance on the ennobling of the nature of the male.

George is claiming that all the sacrifices men make for women as husbands and fathers has the ultimate effect of suppressing a woman's personality. So why would a man make such sacrifices if the effect is a negative one?

And can it really be said that a feminist sexual revolution has ennobled the nature of the male? It's more likely that it is we who look back to George's era and notice a stronger culture of masculine nobility that what we have today.

George also noticed that some feminist women of his time wanted to lay claim to children as theirs alone, with the father having no rights:
One feature manifests itself, and that is a change of attitude in woman with regard to the child. Indications in modern novels and modern conversation are not wanting to show that a type of woman is arising who believes in a new kind of matriarchate, that is to say, in a state of society where man will not figure in the life of woman except as the father of her child. Two cases have come to my knowledge where English women have been prepared to contract alliances with men with whom they did not intend to pass their lives,--this because they desired a child. They consider that the child is the expression of the feminine personality, while after the child's birth, the husband becomes a mere excrescence. They believe that the "Wife" should die in childbirth, and the "Mother" rise from her ashes. There is nothing utopian about this point of view, if we agree that Feminists can so rearrange society as to provide every woman with an independent living...

George did not have a high opinion of the New Woman - the radical feminist women of his own time:
The "New Woman", as we know her to-day, a woman who is not so new as the woman who will be born of her, is a very unpleasant product; armed with a little knowledge, she tends to be dogmatic in her views and offensive in argument. She tends to hate men, and to look upon Feminism as a revenge; she adopts mannish ways, tends to shout, to contradict, to flout principles because they are principles; also she affects a contempt for marriage which is the natural result of her hatred of man.

But, like most revolutionaries, he thought this was a necessary transitory stage and that new social conditions would then create a more ideal type of woman. In his words:
The New Woman is like a freshly painted railing: whoever touches it will stain his hands, but the railing will dry in time.

George then floats another idea, which is that women should wear a uniform:
One tentative suggestion is being made, and that is a uniform for women.

He seems to have associated an interest in appearance with sexually distinct feminine women - something which contradicted the idea of making the sexes the same. Hence a uniform for women.

Finally, George finishes with this:
Thus and thus only, if man will readjust his views, expel vir and enthrone homo, can woman cease to appear before him as a rival and a foe, realize herself in her natural and predestined role, that of partner and mate.

That strikes a false note. For a man to expel vir (manliness) and enthrone homo (humanliness) is not a readjustment of his views - it is overthrowing his own sex and his distinct identity as a man. Here again is the radical insistence on abolishing sex distinctions.

And George "readjusts" the truth by claiming that women traditionally appeared to men as rivals and foes, and only by getting with the feminist programme can women finally become partners and mates. The traditional understanding was not that men and women were foes but that they had interdependent and complementary roles; it is feminism which has institutionalised the idea that men and women are competing for power in the cause of maximising an individualistic autonomy.

One thing I hope this post has demonstrated conclusively is that feminism did not begin with Germaine Greer, nor even with Simone de Beauvoir. It existed in a radical form long before these women arrived on the scene. And the aim has been much the same, namely to make sex distinctions not matter; to maximise female independence and autonomy; and to promote relationships on female terms.

The sad thing is that George believed his feminist programme would strengthen the race, ennoble men and women, and create a more loving culture of relationships. In this he has been proved disastrously wrong.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pilkington's rest

I know this kind of music is not to everyone's taste, but I find it beautiful. Here is a song called Rest, Sweet Nymphs by Francis Pilkington (if your internet connection is good enough watch it in high definition):

(Listening to the song made me think something that is a bit heretical in modern society, namely that one measure of a woman's unstunted growth is if a man cannot help but smile in her presence.)

Francis Pilkington became attached to Chester Cathedral in 1602. There have been churches at the site going back, perhaps, to Roman times but the earliest surviving parts of the building date back to 1093. Here is an interior view:

Parts of the town of Chester seem well-preserved and picturesque:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Getting altruism right

It seems to me that one weakness in Western thought is that we are caught between two false positions: the first is an overly radical selfishness and individualism, the second a dissolving altruism. I intend to post on this issue a bit in coming weeks.

One of the opponents of a mawkish altruism was the libertarian writer Ayn Rand. But she seems to have veered toward an excessively radical individualism and selfishness as an alternative.

One illustration of this is her strange attitude to William Hickman, a sociopathic child murderer of the 1920s. Hickman seems to have inspired Rand, not because of his crime, but because he stood as an individualist against the crowd.

Rand seems to have approved of the sociopath Hickman's credo:
In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)

What is good for me is right? That's on the unacceptably selfish end of the spectrum. It's difficult to square with many of our commitments. What about my commitments to my family? Or to my tradition? Can't I act for the good of these? And what about my sense of what is intrinsically right? If something dishonest were good for me, should I then go ahead and do it, even if my conscience tells me it's immoral?

And then there's this:
At the time, she was planning a novel that was to be titled The Little Street, the projected hero of which was named Danny Renahan. According to Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra, she deliberately modeled Renahan - intended to be her first sketch of her ideal man - after this same William Edward Hickman. Renahan, she enthuses in another journal entry, "is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness -- [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should." (Journals, pp. 27, 21-22; emphasis hers.)

Again, it's not being claimed that Rand approved of Hickman's crimes. But it does seem to be the case that she thought that something very positive, "a wonderful, free, light consciousness," could be derived from a selfish and individualistic consciousness, "no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people".

Some on the left have picked up on these journal entries of the young Ayn Rand and used them to attack prominent politicians who have claimed Rand as their political inspiration, including Paul Ryan who has just been named as Mitt Romney's running mate for the presidential election.

These leftists then claim that their own philosophy is less individualistic and selfish than those on the right who follow Rand.

And it's true that leftists do lurch at times toward a dissolving preference for the "other". I quoted a South African liberal recently who asserted the following:
What makes solidarity possible for liberals is not the idea that other members of my group are facsimiles of me. In this conception of things, no solidarity (identification, care or compassion) is possible anyway, because there is no other with which to identify or empathise. In this (collectivist) conception of things, solidarity is really just self-interest masquerading as compassion for others who aren’t really other at all.

What he's saying is that solidarity is not based on loyalty to real forms of community, but on compassion toward and identification with those who aren't part of my group. So I can't by definition have solidarity with those I am most closely related to, or with whom I share a communal tradition. It's a dissolving altruism.

But in other contexts leftists do support selfishness and individualism. For instance, feminists have for many years supported the idea that women should act selfishly in the pursuit of power and status. In the early 1900s, a male feminist by the name of W.L. George wrote exuberantly of modern woman that "at last aggressiveness and selfishness are developing her toward nobility." More recently a feminist by the name of Elizabeth Wurtzel has declared that:
For a woman to do just as she pleases and dispense with other people's needs, wants, demands, and desires continues to be revolutionary.

And in the larger sense the leftist project is based on the aim of individual autonomy, which has been popularly summarised as "be who you want to be, do what you want to do" - which doesn't exactly prioritise commitments to others. It should be noted that the most left-liberal society that exists, namely that of Sweden, also has by far the largest number of people living alone (47%).

So leftism manages to combine a dissolving altruism with a radically individualistic focus on autonomy. It's not a viable alternative to Randism.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Have the Olympics become toxic?

I really tried hard to enjoy the 2012 Olympics, but I have to admit defeat.

Things began badly with a highly politicised opening ceremony. Then the media here in Australia began to push the "female athlete as warrior" idea in the promotional videos. The swimming and running was tolerable, but even so it was difficult not to notice the mannish physiques of the female competitors - for the swimmers wide shoulders, flat breasts and narrow hips, for the runners flat breasts and six packs.

And then the notion was pushed that we were supposed to celebrate these body types as the new female sexy. The Daily Mail nominated one athlete called Jessica Ennis as a woman who might turn male heads:

Even so, being a stubborn person I persevered. I told myself that it was only elite athletes who would disfigure their bodies in this way and that most women who took up running and swimming would just add a bit of tone to their physiques.

And then the female boxing started. I just turned off the TV and pretended it didn't exist, but I noticed that a future queen of England had been sent to cheer on the competitors - obviously we are supposed to think the new sport worthy of support.

But last night I switched on and the first thing I saw was two women kicking each other's heads (I think it was Taekwondo).

An Egyptian woman kicking a French woman

Enough. If that's the Olympics I don't care for it any longer.

Am I reading too much into what's happening? I don't think so. Consider the thoughts of Sally Jenkins writing for the Washington Post. She sees the same things that I do, but as a feminist is overjoyed by them:
Something remarkable is going on at this Olympics: Adult human males are now waiting in line for tickets to things they used to make fun of. Female athletes such as boxer Claressa Shields and soccer striker Abby Wambach, women with biceps bigger than your brother’s, are being treated as creatures of worth and even beauty. Apparently, strong is the new pretty.

If the trend continues, American women will win twice as many medals as men in London. When you think about their performances here, they are conspicuous not just for how many podiums they are taking, but for how viscerally, hugely, physically powerfully they are doing so before roaring audiences. The London Games are clearly a point of departure...

...One of the most popular and awe-inspiring boxers here is Irishwoman Katie Taylor, the four-time lightweight world champion who was the flag bearer for her country. The only way to stop Taylor, according to one of her defeated opponents, Britishwoman Natasha Jones, is to “maybe drive a bus into her.”

Pound for pound, has there been a stronger performer than all-around gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas? Douglas is 4 feet 11 and weighs about 94 pounds. “All muscle, though,” her mother, Natalie Hawkins, said at a pre-Olympic event in May. When Douglas went to get a pre-event physical, according to her mother, the doctor couldn’t believe her abdominals. The nurse said, “Oh, my God. It’s like steel.” The doctor said, “Never in all my medical career have I seen this much muscle on a tiny person.” “She has muscles in her face,” her mother said.

There is something significant happening here. Let me give another example. One of the few sports that really showcases the feminine nature of women is rhythmic gymnastics. I don't think traditionalists would find it ideal, as the skimpy costumes combined with the body movements aren't exactly modest. But even so there is an athleticism that is combined with beauty and grace of movement in this sport.

So I was interested to read the following comment to the Washington Post story quoted above:
Recently I've been trying to get my 7 yr old daughter interested in sports, ever so gently encouraging her to play soccer. Surprisingly, she has shown great interest (if not yet ability) in basketball!

I was very disappointed when I sat down with her just now to watch the Olympics and NBC is broadcasting Rhythmic Gymnastics. That's five beautiful young ladies dressed in skimpy outfits, wearing too much makeup, each prancing around the floor tossing a ball in the air.

I quickly changed the channel. I think SpongeBob would do less damage to her self image.

It's not clear if that's a dad or mum writing about their daughter, but they were horrified by the one remnant of femininity left at the Olympics, fearing that the sight of "five beautiful young ladies" might damage their daughter.

They turned off their TV not at the sight of women kicking each other in the head, but at the sight of feminine beauty and grace (albeit in skimpy costumes).

What's going on here? I think Lawrence Auster's explanation is worth considering. The sight of five beautiful young ladies is a reminder that there is an ideal of beauty and grace that is something we might be measured by - which then is perceived by moderns as a "threat" to self.

Here is how Lawrence Auster puts it:
...the cult of self-esteem and self-worship, and the cult of messiness and ugliness that we see glorified at the Olympics, go together. How can this be? If liberal humanity worships and glorifies itself, as I’ve pointed out, how can that go together with the other aspect of liberalism that I’ve also discussed, the liberal attraction to ugliness, unpleasantness, disharmony, meaninglessness, and despair? If liberals worship themselves, wouldn’t they want to be beautiful, not ugly?

Here is the answer. Liberals believe that there is no value, no truth, which is external to or higher than the self, because if there were a truth higher than the self, the self would not be free. Also, if there were a truth higher than the self, then some selves would be closer to that truth and other selves farther, which would mean that all selves were not equal.  What this ultimately means is that any standard of beauty or good behavior, any ideal of harmony, must be rejected and overthrown, since any such standard or ideal would limit the freedom of the self. The very idea of the good must be overthrown, since it limits the freedom of the self. Which means that a world of ugliness, disharmony, and bad behavior, a world of jangling, unpleasant impressions (as in the dress and demeanor of the Olympics athletes, as in our nihilist popular movies such as The Dark Knight series), a world of despair, becomes the ideal, because such things express the freedom of the self from any notion of the good.  Thus the liberal cult of self-glorification, and the liberal cult of ugliness and despair, do not contradict each other, but are part of the same liberal rebellion against truth.

I wonder too if we can say this: that a self-worship (making our self the ultimate end) leads to a lack of humility which then makes a standard of goodness external to ourselves intolerable.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Conservative Anglicans leave

Four Anglican ministers and their congregations here in Melbourne are leaving the Anglican Church and joining the Catholic Church. They believe that there is no longer a place for them in the old church:
So many of us have tried to find a space within established Anglicanism, but there's really no space for us any more. If you don't embrace the new religion they don't want you.

Interesting poll UK poll on immigration

From the Daily Mail:
More Asians are now opposed to immigration than white Britons, according to a new poll which reveals that opposition to new arrivals now transcends race.

Research commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust found that 39 per cent of Asians, 34 per cent of whites and 21 per cent of blacks believed immigration should be halted either permanently or at least until the UK's economy was back on track

Why would Asians oppose further immigration into the UK? Most likely because they know it's likely to make their own economic position more precarious. Perhaps too some don't want the mainstream culture entirely lost.

I hope that cheers British readers at least a little. The results aren't ideal but they do at least show 1 in 3 native Britons want immigration stopped, and they show that there is considerable support for this view too amongst immigrant groups.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Belgian woman harassed on the street

A Belgian woman has made headlines by filming what happens when she walks down the streets of Brussels. Men of African (Muslim?) origin harass her, either hitting on her crudely or calling her names like whore or tramp.

She recorded this during just one afternoon in a "problematic quarter" of Brussels called Anneessenswijk.

In the version of the film shown at the Daily Mail, she interviews one of the immigrant men, who begins by blaming aspects of his own culture (women too much covered up causing frustration), but who then blames Western culture (the sexual objectification of women). By the end of the interview, a convenient scapegoat has been found (Western women aren't sufficiently emancipated, we need more feminism).

That deflects from two more obvious conclusions. First, that Western men aren't so bad after all when it comes to their everyday treatment of women and, second, that a percentage of the African men who hang out in Anneessenswijk have little respect for Western women, effectively creating a no go area for Belgian women who don't want to be harassed in the street.

If you're interested the whole video is posted here. It finishes in an interesting way, with a number of other women recounting their experiences of the area and the pressure they feel to move away.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

If Aborigines are allowed to be proud...

An Aboriginal boxer, Damien Hooper, has gotten himself in trouble at the Olympics for wearing a T-shirt into the ring with an Aboriginal flag. That's against Olympic rules.

What's interesting about the story is the way it was covered in the Melbourne Herald Sun by reporter Paul Kent. The story had the subheading "Hooper fighting for culture, country" and quoted Hooper as saying in defence of his actions,
I'm an Aboriginal representing my culture - not only my country, but all my people as well. I'm very proud.

Paul Kent then observes,
Cathy Freeman had to receive authorisation before doing a lap of honour with the Aboriginal and Australian flags after winning gold in Sydney in 2000.

Much like Freeman, Hooper's action was a celebration, driven by a love.

So when it comes to Aborigines, a sense of ethnic pride and solidarity is a good thing, one that is motivated by love of one's people.

But let's say a white Australian expressed similar sentiments about his own people. Would the story be reported the same way?

It wouldn't. Such a person would be accused of being a supremacist, motivated by fear or hatred, rather than by a love of his own tradition.

Liberal modernity can at the same time view a connection to people and place as a highly significant good for one group of people and condemn the same thing as a moral outrage for another group.