Let’s face it, the Oscar membership is mainly old, white men ... That’s the fact of it. Either you wait for them all to die, or kill them off slowly. There’s so many options, aren’t there?
There's an important point to be made here. Emma Thompson is one of those women who think in "sectional" terms. It is becoming common now to hear women like Emma Thompson boasting proudly of their commitment to a sectional politics, in which certain groups (women, ethnic minorities etc.) form into a hierarchy in order to make claims on society.
It is a mentality I find deeply alien. Instead of a "claim making sectional politics" I find it more natural to think in terms of loyalty to the larger tradition I belong to, and of what is required to carry this tradition into the future.
And perhaps this gulf between myself and Emma Thompson is to be expected. The ancient Romans held there to be a specifically masculine virtue called gravitas. A male was thought to have reached a point of adulthood (i.e. of a fully developed masculine nature) when he demonstrated this virtue. What was gravitas? It was a deep-rooted seriousness, and a sense of responsibility to go with this. Men were supposed to demonstrate gravitas alongside the complementary virtue of pietas. Here are some definitions of this virtue:
Aeneas ... represents "pietas" which to the Romans meant dutifulness, doing what was right for the family, the community, the civilization, and the gods.
Around the year 70 BC, Cicero defined pietas as the virtue "which admonishes us to do our duty to our country or our parents or other blood relations."
...a respectful and faithful attachment to gods, country, and relatives, especially parents
So my way of thinking was simply the normal one for an adult male - it was the normal expression of adult manhood.
This doesn't mean that women cannot know these virtues. Courage, for instance, is held even today to be a defining aspect of manhood, but this doesn't mean that women cannot be courageous.
The point I would make is that perhaps the real surprise is not that Emma Thompson thinks in sectional, claim making terms rather than in terms of a larger duty to family, nation and civilisation, but that so many men do not - given that this was held in the ancient world to be a defining feature of adult manhood.
I have been reading a book called "The New Liberalism". In the introduction, the editors, Avital Simhony and David Weinstein, admit that a dominant strand of liberalism has been based on a highly abstracted, ahistorical and individualistic view of the human person. For instance:
The analytic nature of much contemporary liberalism, by featuring solitary abstract individuals who find fulfilment in separation from each other, has probably contributed to its individualistic anthropology. (p.2)
This is how the editors describe the individualism that is characteristic of many variants of liberalism:
Individualism conceives individuals as competitive, self-centered, and independent, and social life simply as an arena for coordinating the competitive pursuit of private interests. (p.16)
Is this not as equally alien to the ancient understanding of masculine virtue as Emma Thompson's sectional, claim-based politics? Where is the sense of responsibility in an individualistic liberalism to the larger tradition? And yet it was a philosophy pushed on society mostly by men. That is the thing really to wonder at. How could grown men adopt a philosophy so much at odds with a fully-developed masculine nature? So much at odds with masculine virtue?