Monday, April 16, 2018

Melbourne Britfest 2018

Melbourne Britfest, 2018, is on this Saturday 24th, 10.00am to 4.00pm at the Moonee Ponds Bowling Club. Celebration of British heritage and culture. Free entry.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sir Henry Parkes

Still reading Judith Brett's biography of Alfred Deakin. On p.160 there is a description by Deakin of another of the founding fathers of Australian Federation, Sir Henry Parkes. It's worth quoting, I think, because it shows how keenly a man's character was assessed at the time (late 1800s/early 1900s):
First and foremost of course in every eye was the commanding figure of Sir Henry Parkes...His studied attitudes expressed either distinguished humility or imperious command. His manner was invariably dignified, his speech slow, and his pronunciation precise...He had always in his mind's eye his own portrait of a great man, and constantly adjusted himself to it...Movements, gestures, inflexions, attitude harmonized, not simply because they were intentionally adopted but because there was in him the substance of the man he dressed himself to appear...

It was not a rich nor a versatile personality, but it was massive, durable and imposing, resting upon elementary qualities of human nature elevated by a strong mind. He was cast in the mould of a great man and though he suffered from numerous pettinesses, spites and failings, he was in himself a full-blooded, large-brained, self-educated Titan whose natural field was found in Parliament and whose resources of character and intellect enabled him in his later years to overshadow all his contemporaries.

In 1890, Parkes represented NSW at a Federation Conference held in Melbourne's Queen's Hall. He pushed the case for federation by reminding his audience of what the colonies shared:
The crimson thread of kinship runs through us all. Even the native born Australians are Britons, as much as the men born in the cities of London and Glasgow. We know the value of their British origin. We know that we represent a race...for the purposes of settling new colonies, which never had its equal on the face of the earth. We know, too, that conquering wild territory, and planting civilised communities therein, is a far nobler, a far more immortalizing achievement than conquest by feats of arms. (p.161)

Parkes was politically a liberal. At this time, the logic of liberalism had not yet unfolded to the point at which Anglo Australians thought it wrong to uphold their own existence as a distinct people (their own ethnic existence). For Parkes, at least, this belief in preserving his own nation was not because of feelings of supremacy. He supported restrictions on Chinese immigration, for instance, on the following basis:
They are a superior set of people . . . a nation of an old and deep-rooted civilization. . . . It is because I believe the Chinese to be a powerful race capable of taking a great hold upon the country, and because I want to preserve the type of my own nation . . . that I am and always have been opposed to the influx of Chinese.

This outlook was to hold until the middle of the twentieth century in Australia, before giving way to the situation familiar to our own time, in which both left and right liberals came to support a civic nationalism and then a multiculturalism. It is not a development that the Fathers of Federation would have supported.

Sir Henry Parkes statue in Parkes, NSW

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Deakin's courtship

With the failure of many marriages today, there is some interest in how the culture of marriage was different in earlier times. So I thought some readers might be curious to know how Alfred Deakin's courtship took place back in the 1880s in colonial Melbourne.

Deakin met his future wife, Pattie, when she was only 11. She was the daughter of a wealthy brewer; he was her teacher at a kind of spiritualist Sunday school. Deakin was a frequent guest at Pattie's home due to her father's involvement in the spiritualist movement.

In 1881, when Pattie was 18, Deakin asked her father for permission to marry her. He only gave him qualified approval, asking that the relationship be tested further. Pattie's family were disappointed with Deakin's low social status and wealth (he was the son of a clerk) - they were not to know that Deakin would be appointed a government minister just two years later in 1883. Pattie was strong-willed and did not follow her parents' advice to break the relationship.

Deakin was writing personal letters to Pattie at this time. They reveal that he wanted her to cultivate herself, so that she would be "well spoken, refined and cultured" and therefore "a woman worthy of any man's affection".

Deakin was given permission to walk out together with Pattie unchaperoned, and he spoke to her about his favourite writers, such as Ruskin, Tennyson and Emerson.

Pattie's parents did all that they could to prevent the marriage, and because Pattie defied them there was no dowry when she did finally marry Deakin. The suggestion in Judith Brett's biography of Deakin is that both were virgins on their wedding night.

What can we make of all this? The following spring to mind:

1. Marriages were not arranged and women did have the final say in who they married. However, asking the father for permission was more than a formality. Parents could put pressure on their daughters to change their minds and they could refuse a dowry if they opposed a marriage.

2. Deakin's courtship reinforces my existing impression that parents were often most interested in maintaining the class status of their daughters. This meant that there was pressure on young men to achieve a certain level of class wealth and status before marriage. For some men, this meant having to wait many years before they were in a position to marry (not necessarily a good thing).

3. There was not a culture of "dating" as we understand it today. Deakin was only left unchaperoned in Pattie's company once his serious intentions to marry her were clear.

4. The relationship dynamic was alpha rather than beta. Deakin expected Pattie to qualify herself to him, by cultivating herself, rather than the other way round. This is hardly surprising given the difference of age and experience (Pattie was only 18, Deakin was mid-20s and soon to be a government minister).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Deakin & higher unities

In my last post I discussed how left liberalism had emerged in Australia by the 1870s, with the proprietor of the Age newspaper, David Syme, being its chief advocate.

Syme won over a young journalist and future PM, Alfred Deakin, to the cause of the left.

The shift from the market to the state was put in reasonable terms by Syme:
Self-interest and individualism have their place, but need to be balanced by the interests of society as a whole, for which the state is the appropriate agent.

However, Melbournians will be aware that the left-liberalism advocated by the Age has had a disastrous effect. So the question, then, is what went wrong with Syme's intention to use the state to "balance the interests of society as a whole"? Why did Syme's left-liberalism end up having a dissolving effect on society rather than a balancing one?

A reader made the following observation in the comments:
The conceptualizing of liberals tends to go in a straight line from the individual to the universal or universal state. Ignored or rejected is the importance of family, church, ethnic heritage, local and national sense of place, even professional and sporting organizations.

That does seem to fit in with some of Deakin's ideas from the 1870s. Deakin, in drawing out the differences between conservatism and liberalism, said of liberal policies that:
All such provisions point to larger and more effective Unions within the realm and then beyond it. (p.64)

Judith Brett, the writer of the biography of Deakin I am reading, comments that Deakin saw "liberalism as the agent of humanity's evolution toward higher unities".

So, on the one hand, Deakin did not just see the individual - he also saw "more effective Unions" and an evolution toward higher unities.

On the other hand, Deakin saw these unions as existing "within the realm and then beyond it" - the push seems to be, as my reader comments, towards the universal or universal state. (And note that Deakin was encouraging people in the 1870s to be "actuated by proudly loyal devotion to the State", p.68.)

So in Deakin's case there appears to have been a shift from the highly individualistic world view of the right-liberals, toward a higher unity involving individuals subject to a universal state.

Why the universalism? One possible answer is that it is another expression of the humanistic tradition. Deakin in the 1870s was not an orthodox Christian but a spiritualist. Humanism tends to arise when the focus of life shifts from a worship of God, and an acceptance of God's will in human affairs, toward the placing of hope and meaning in the progress of humanity toward some ideal end. The cause becomes "humanity" conceived in abstract terms, and allegiance therefore shifts away from "parochial" loyalties towards family, region, nation etc.

The other possibility is that it is an expression of the liberal belief in a progress toward equality. Lawrence Auster explained this once in a thread at View from the Right.
On the right, traditional conservatives believe in “larger wholes”—the realities of nature, society, and God—of race, culture, and religion—that make us what we are. They believe in natural and spiritual hierarchies that are implied in these larger wholes. Inequality is built into existence. Of course there are various kinds of traditional conservatism, each of them placing particular emphasis on certain aspects of the natural, social, and transcendent orders, while downplaying or ignoring others.

In the middle, traditional liberals (right-liberals) believe in individualism: all individuals have equal rights, the individual is free to create himself, he is not determined by the larger wholes into which he was born. We should just see people, all members of the human race, as individuals deserving of equal dignity.

On the left, socialists and Communists, like traditional conservatives, believe in larger wholes, but the wholes they believe in are seen in terms of equality: the whole of society—equal; the whole of the human race—equal. They believe that man has the ability to engineer this larger, equal whole into existence, wiping out the unequal, inherited orders of class, sex, nation, race, religion, morality, and thus creating a New Humanity. Only the largest whole—humankind—is good, because only at the level of all humanity can there be true equality and fraternity uniting all people.

So, both the traditionalist conservatives on one side and the leftists on the other believe in larger wholes and reject the pure individualism of liberalism. But beyond that, the right and the left are radically at odds, since the left seeks to destroy the natural and traditional wholes that the right believes in.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Why did Deakin go left?

I'm reading a biography of Alfred Deakin, who served as Australian Prime Minister in the very early 1900s, written by Judith Brett.

Chapter 5 is especially interesting as it provides some of the details of how a young Deakin became a liberal. In part, he came to identify as a liberal because of the influence of the leading liberal intellectuals of the time. He described himself (in 1878) as being "saturated with the doctrines of Spencer, Mill, Buckle".

But what did it mean to be a liberal in the colony of Victoria in the 1870s? The distinction between right liberals and left liberals had already emerged. The right side of politics championed free trade and laissez-faire liberalism and found support in the professional classes, the squatters (large landholders), the Argus newspaper, and the large merchants. The left side of politics denounced their opponents as "Conservatives and obstructionists, no matter how much the free-traders might protest that they were the true Liberals" (p.55).

The left saw itself as the progressive liberal movement and gained its support from the working-classes and the Age newspaper. It supported popular democracy, land reform, economic protection and "an active state to develop the colony's potential".

The story of the Age newspaper is highly relevant here. It was founded in 1856 and by the 1870s, under David Syme, had become the most widely read Australian newspaper. Syme played a key role in challenging the dominance of classical liberalism:
Syme also rejected classical-liberal economics' methodological assumption of an economic man motivated only by self-interest. Showing the influence of German idealism on his thinking, Syme argued that this was an untenable abstraction which excluded morality and the sense of duty. Nor, he argued, can it be assumed that the operations of self-interest are generally beneficial as postulated in Adam Smith's ideal market. Self-interest and individualism have their place, but need to be balanced by the interests of society as a whole, for which the state is the appropriate agent. Syme was happy to accept the description of his position as "in the direction of State Socialism" (p. 57).

We learn further that:
Deakin was already predisposed to such arguments from Carlyle's rejection of the dismal science of economics, with its mechanical operations of supply and demand leaving no room for the operations of the spirit...For Syme the arguments over trade were about far more than economics, and his arguments for protection connected it to other aspects of Deakin's emerging political outlook: his optimistic faith in the state as an agent of a harmonised and progressive common interest and his confident identification with the colonial point of view.

The political divide was therefore the dreary one that we are familiar with today. The right was made up of classical liberals who believed in the free market but who were called conservatives. The left saw themselves as progressive liberals and thought that the state could represent a "progressive common interest".

It's easy to sympathise with Syme's criticism of classical liberalism. The view that we are economic men motivated by individualistic self-interest is not exactly an elevated or inspiring ideal. It has to be said, too, that liberals like Deakin did try to use the state to promote a "common interest" at the time of Australia becoming a federated nation in the early 1900s. For instance, there was a policy to keep working-class living standards high through economic protection and immigration restrictions, and an arbitration system was devised to avoid the class conflicts of earlier decades.

But it fell apart. Neither the Australian state, nor the Age newspaper has promoted a genuine national interest for many decades. The focus on the state as "an agent of a harmonised and progressive common interest" didn't work in the longer term.

What went wrong with the new liberalism (the left-liberalism) that Deakin was converted to? I can't discuss this in detail but the following points are worth considering:

1. Syme was correct to want the interests of society as a whole to be considered rather than just individual self-interest. But there are problems in seeing the state as the agency responsible for regulating society. Patrick Deneen has a whole chapter in his book Why Liberalism failed outlining the ways in which individualism and statism are mutually reinforcing rather than alternatives.

2. The general liberal understanding of liberty and equality (and progress and reason), held by both sides of politics, has an inner logic that came to disallow the forms of identity, the loyalties and the social commitments which hold together a common life within society. Therefore, over time left-liberalism was just as dissolving of society as was classical liberalism.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Deneen: creating the res idiotica

Here is Patrick Deneen on why the education system no longer aims to connect students to the Western canon:
Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical). In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps. Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments. Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.

The intention is to fit students into a certain technology - a "rational" system based on the logic of the market, in which it makes sense to strip individuals of attributes and loyalties that have no relevance to their function within the system.

I see this all the time as a school teacher. When I go to a professional development day, the message is usually that:

1. The job of teachers is to fit students to the workplace.
2. The workplace requires students to be flexible learners.
3. Therefore, content does not matter at all, only certain learning skills (e.g. ability to work in a team).

It's not that this is entirely false. It's true that students should be prepared for future careers and that learning skills are an aspect of this. But Deneen is surely correct that it is wrong to treat students as if they were placeless, history-less. deracinated individuals, without an inheritance of culture and knowledge to help cultivate and elevate their minds and to connect them more deeply to their own tradition and identity.

Personally, if I were the education czar I would want education to be an immersion in the best of Western culture, history and learning, so that students would feel anchored within their own tradition and inspired to a love of knowledge and the arts (with the caveat that some students are going to be more suited for this than others).

Deneen has a similar critique of liberal modernity to my own. He sees the problems that arise when liberty, understood to mean individual autonomy, is made the overriding good in society:
My students are the fruits of a longstanding project to liberate all humans from the accidents of birth and circumstance, to make a self-making humanity. Understanding liberty to be the absence of constraint, forms of cultural inheritance and concomitant gratitude were attacked as so many arbitrary limits on personal choice, and hence, matters of contingency that required systematic disassembly. Believing that the source of political and social division and war was residual commitment to religion and culture, widespread efforts were undertaken to eliminate such devotions in preference to a universalized embrace of toleration and detached selves. Perceiving that a globalizing economic system required deracinated workers who could live anywhere and perform any task without curiosity about ultimate goals and effects, a main task of education became instillation of certain dispositions rather than grounded knowledge – flexibility, non-judgmentalism, contentless “skills,” detached “ways of knowing,” praise for social justice even as students were girded for a winner-take-all economy, and a fetish for diversity that left unquestioned why it was that everyone was identically educated at indistinguishable institutions. At first this meant the hollowing of local, regional, and religious specificity in the name of national identity. Today it has came to mean the hollowing of national specificity in the name of globalized cosmopolitanism, which above all requires studied oblivion to anything culturally defining. The inability to answer basic questions about America or the West is not a consequence of bad education; it is a marker of a successful education.

Above all, the one overarching lesson that students receive is to understand themselves to be radically autonomous selves within a comprehensive global system with a common commitment to mutual indifference. Our commitment to mutual indifference is what binds us together as a global people. Any remnant of a common culture would interfere with this prime directive: a common culture would imply that we share something thicker, an inheritance that we did not create, and a set of commitments that imply limits and particular devotions. Ancient philosophy and practice heaped praise upon res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first res idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.”

If you like Deneen's analysis then I would recommend his new book, Why Liberalism failed (from Amazon America here).

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Monday, March 26, 2018

So what changed?

If you were to think of the way that female character is formed, in big picture terms, then a great change has occurred over the past 150 years.

It was once the case that women were expected to cultivate virtue. There was no single purpose in doing so. It might have been intended to benefit a woman's spiritual life. Or, perhaps, to help her become a better wife, mother or daughter. A woman might have cultivated virtue to overcome personal character flaws, or perhaps character flaws typical of her sex. Alternatively, the cultivation of virtue might have been aimed at fulfilling or realising the better parts of her nature as a woman (so that a part of her own essence was allied to the good).

And then liberalism entered the scene and said to women that there was no need to cultivate virtue. The liberal message was that you should simply do what you want, or be what you want, as long as you didn't restrict others from doing the same. If there were any ethical standards they were now aimed at "liberating" individuals from unchosen standards or identities, or else enforcing the "non-interference" rule (even if this itself became highly intrusive) via concepts like non-discrimination, equality, inclusiveness and so on.

Our society does not celebrate women being virtuous but being "empowered," which is to say, placed on a path of solo development, in which family relationships and biological sex are thought of as accidental to identity or life purposes.

This means that there has been a shift in what gives a measure of self-discipline to women's lives. The effort to succeed academically and the demands of workplace professionalism do require self-discipline from young women. But personal relationships less so. If personal relationships do not provide the social context in which virtue is practised, then they become a sphere in which fewer bounds are acknowledged, not even those imposed by nature.

There will never be a better culture of relationships when there is so little emphasis on virtue. If we men are dissatisfied with how things are, then we have to set things back on track - we have to steer the culture back the right way.

There will be women who will be on board. After I started writing this post, a young woman on Twitter made the following thread:

This young woman is helping to pave a way forward to something better, by identifying specifically feminine virtues to cultivate. She adds the following to her list:

Note the variety of traits that she is promoting. Some of them are virtues we typically associate with women; others are qualities that are rarer in women but of high value in relationships.

The last one is an overarching trait, in which feminine identity is connected to a transcendent good:

She has articulated all this exceptionally well. She has reconnected to virtue, to family and to womanhood and in doing so denied to liberalism a power over her own mind. The more who can do this, the stronger will be the pushback within the mainstream culture.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

When there is something there

In an earlier post I noted that right liberalism creates a picture of reality in which there is nothing existing above the level of the individual to defend:
...for right liberals there are only self-creating individuals who have escaped the older identities.

It's important to remember this when you wonder why older generations of Western men did not do more to defend the existence of the West. If you assume that you live in a society that only exists as a collection of self-creating individuals with no distinct ties to each other, then what is there really at the larger level to defend? A person with this mindset will think that everything is OK, as long as the economy is healthy enough for individuals to pursue careers.

It made me wonder if this is another example of philosophical nominalism, i.e. the idea that there are only particular instances of things.

Anyway, there was a good example recently of what happens when a politician does believe in the existence of an entity existing above the level of the individual. I'm referring to the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who said of his own people that,
It truly is a mystery how after so many defeats we have always risen up again. And how could it be that we are still here after one thousand years? Perhaps because we have always known that our existence has a meaning beyond ourselves. We have always known that here there is a culture, a soul and a spirit which over the centuries has lifted hearts, consoled people and sustained us. We have a uniting and unifying notion: we have national self-respect.

Hungarians exist as individuals but also as part of a larger entity, a people, with a kind of collective soul or spirit, that lives on and that is a source of meaning for those who are part of it. It is felt to be a unique good, to the point that individuals will be motivated to contribute to it and to defend its existence.

It is an enriching aspect of life to belong to such a tradition. It connects you more closely as an individual to a particular culture; to the land and therefore to nature; to language and literature; to history; and to family, ancestry and lineage. It is a grievous loss, a severe narrowing in how life is experienced, when the individual is deprived of this and is left only with himself and his own wants.

If we really wish the good for others, then we will hope for the defeat of the globalising forces that are trying to destroy national traditions, as in Hungary. The Hungarians are blessed to have a leader like Viktor Orban who is willing to resist these forces. I am looking forward to the victory of Viktor Orban in the upcoming Hungarian elections.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Viktor's great speech

Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, is fast becoming one of the great European statesmen. He gave a speech in front of a massive crowd this week in which he clearly laid out the situation facing Hungary. Here are some highlights:
Together we have fought many great fights and memorable battles. But the greatest thing that we could realise in our lives, the greatest battle that we could fight together is still ahead of us. And every indication is that it is immediately ahead of us now. The situation, Dear Friends, is that there are those who want to take our country from us. Not with the stroke of a pen, as happened one hundred years ago at Trianon; now they want us to voluntarily hand our country over to others, over a period of a few decades. They want us to hand it over to foreigners coming from other continents, who do not speak our language, and who do not respect our culture, our laws or our way of life: people who want to replace what is ours with what is theirs. What they want is that henceforward it will increasingly not be we and our descendants who live here, but others. There is no exaggeration in what I have just said. Day by day we see the great European countries and nations losing their countries: little by little, from district to district and from city to city. The situation is that those who do not halt immigration at their borders are lost: slowly but surely they are consumed. External forces and international powers want to force all this upon us, with the help of their allies here in our country.

...Dear Friends, we not only want to win an election, but our future. Europe – and within it we Hungarians – has arrived at a turning point in world history. National and globalist forces have never squared up to each other so openly. We, the millions with national feelings, are on one side; the elite “citizens of the world” are on the other side. We who believe in nation states, the defence of borders, the family and the value of work are on one side. And opposing us are those who want open society, a world without borders or nations, new forms of family, devalued work and cheap workers – all ruled over by an army of shadowy and unaccountable bureaucrats. On one side, national and democratic forces; and on the other side, supranational and anti-democratic forces.

...Europe and Hungary stand at the epicentre of a civilisational struggle. We are confronted with a mass population movement which is an imminent danger to the order and way of life that we have known throughout our lives up until now. So at one and the same time we must defend our achievements so far, and enter battle to ensure that there will even be any point in continuing. Unless we protect our way of life, the meaning of everything we have achieved will be lost. If in the future the country is not Hungarian, what is the point of progress? Let’s not distract ourselves: we do not need to fight the anaemic little opposition parties, but an international network which is organised into an empire. We are up against media outlets maintained by foreign concerns and domestic oligarchs, professional hired activists, troublemaking protest organisers, and a chain of NGOs financed by an international speculator, summed up by and embodied in the name “George Soros”. This is the world we must fight with in order to defend that which is ours. The good soldier does not fight because he hates that which is facing him, but because he loves that which is behind him. He loves Hungary and Hungarians.

...we shall fight against what the empire of George Soros is doing to Hungary, and what it wants to do to Hungary. This is our homeland, this is our life, and we have no other. Therefore we shall fight for it to the end and we shall never surrender. We know that ultimately in every electoral district they will stand against our candidates. Their task is to win power and implement the grand plan: to break Hungary, which stands in the path of immigrants; and first to settle thousands, then tens upon tens of thousands of immigrants in Hungary within a few years. These numbers are no exaggeration. Europe is now under invasion. If we allow it to happen, in the next one or two decades tens upon tens of millions will set out for Europe from Africa and the Middle East. The western half of Europe looks at all this with its hands raised in surrender. Those who raise their hands have laid down their weapons, and will never again decide their own fate. The history of the defeated will later be written by others. The young of Western Europe will see this when they become minorities in their own countries, and they have lost the only place in the world that could be called home. Forces are appearing, the like of which the world has not seen for a long time. In Africa there will be ten times as many young people as in Europe. If Europe does nothing they will kick down the door on us. Brussels is not defending Europe and it is not halting immigration, but wants to support it and organise it. It wants to dilute the population of Europe and to replace it, to cast aside our culture, our way of life and everything which separates and distinguishes us Europeans from the other peoples of the world. It will be small consolation that the peoples of Europe will not forgive those leaders who completely changed Europe without first asking its people. Let us be proud of the fact that we are the only country in the European Union which has asked people whether or not they want mass immigration.

I know that this battle is difficult for everyone. I understand if some of us are also afraid. This is understandable, because we must fight against an opponent which is different from us. Their faces are not visible, but are hidden from view; they do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honourable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs. They are not generous, but vengeful, and always attack the heart – especially if it is red, white and green. But, Dear Friends, we have always known that there is much at stake. Hungarian history has accustomed us to fighting for that which is the natural prerogative of more fortunate peoples. For us a single tremor is enough, a lame duck government is enough, an election result which goes awry is enough, and everything is set adrift – everything that we have spent years of hard work on. This is a corner of the world which is exposed to the elements, and which history tends not to leave in peace – even though we feel that by now that is what we truly deserve. Our ancestors expressed it well: a cowardly people has no homeland. And we summoned up our courage when it was needed. It was never easy.

It truly is a mystery how after so many defeats we have always risen up again. And how could it be that we are still here after one thousand years? Perhaps because we have always known that our existence has a meaning beyond ourselves. We have always known that here there is a culture, a soul and a spirit which over the centuries has lifted hearts, consoled people and sustained us. We have a uniting and unifying notion: we have national self-respect.

Young People,

Perhaps you feel as if the whole world is yours, and as if you could take on all comers. And you are right: a lack of ambition is the definition of mediocrity. And life is good for nothing if you do not do something with it. But in your lives, too, there will come a moment when you realise that one needs a place, a language, a home where one is among one’s own, and where one can live one’s life in safety, surrounded by the goodwill of others. A place where one can return to, and where one can feel that there is a point to life, and that in the end it will not just slide into oblivion. By contrast, it adds to and becomes a part of the majestic thousand-year-old creation which we simply call our homeland: the Hungarian homeland. Young Hungarians, now the homeland needs you. The homeland needs you; come and fight with us, so that when you need it, your homeland will still be there for you.

The good news is that Orban is leading in the polls right now (54% support) with less than three weeks to the elections.

If you would like to read the whole speech it is here, or you could watch the video below.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It's no alternative

The two main political alternatives today are both unhelpful. The left is pushing an "identity" politics in which white men are held to be privileged oppressors who have to be brought down. But the mainstream right response to this isn't much better. Here is a quote from an interview between Andrew Bolt and Brendan O'Neill, prominent Australian right liberals:

This is just liberalism 101. The idea is that the highest good in life is to be an autonomous, self-determining individual. Therefore, whatever is predetermined in life is a hindrance, a limitation, a box, a prison that the individual has to be liberated from. The biological things are predetermined, therefore we have to escape from our sex, our race, our ethny. All that matters is what we choose for ourselves, or (as per Jordan Peterson) what we achieve for ourselves.

And so Western man doesn't get to identify positively with manhood (as this is a "box" to be escaped from); nor does he get to identify with his own larger communal tradition. There is no coherent basis for defending this tradition, as for right liberals there are only self-creating individuals who have escaped the older identities.

It's important to remember this when you wonder why older generations of Western men did not do more to defend the existence of the West. If you assume that you live in a society that only exists as a collection of self-creating individuals with no distinct ties to each other, then what is there really at the larger level to defend? A person with this mindset will think that everything is OK, as long as the economy is healthy enough for individuals to pursue careers.

Andrew Bolt once wrote that he believed in,
The humanist idea that we are all individuals, free to make our own identities

Consider the implications of this. It means that identity doesn't really connect us to anything much. I begin and end with myself. It's the same problem that liberalism always faces. If I am free to make something however I like, then that something loses most of its meaning, as it could be anything at all depending on my own subjective whims. And that is what liberalism is saying about my identity: that it doesn't mean very much, because it could be anything, because it has to be freely chosen in any direction according to my own subjective preferences.

The traditional view of identity was different. A given identity was significant enough to orient me in my sense of self; to connect me to transcendent sources of meaning; to orient me, in part, to my telos (to the ends or purposes for which I was created); to connect me in a significant way to a particular people, place, culture, history and tradition; and to inspire a love for the good within my given identity and within my particular tradition and therefore to inspire a willingness to uphold and contribute to the particular culture, society and way of life that I belonged to. The traditional notion of identity engaged me in a way that the liberal one does not and cannot.

And that is one reason why Western man, if he continues to pursue a right liberal outlook, will fall alone.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The trial backfired

I was reading a newspaper for Australian teachers (The Australian Education Reporter, Term 1 2018) and found a revealing article about sex discrimination in the workplace.

Titled "Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Education" it began by noting that over 75% of Australia's full-time teachers are women. The percentage of male teachers is steadily falling:

Predictably, though, the complaint made in the newspaper article wasn't about the lack of men in the teaching profession. It was that only four out of 16 senior management positions in the state of Western Australia are held by women.

And this is where things got really interesting. It seems that the Commonwealth Government held a trial to see if "sex blind" recruiting would increase the number of women in senior management positions. In other words, candidates for a position had to submit a resume that did not indicate which sex they were.

The results? Here is how the newspaper reported things:
The danger of quick-fix solutions to rectify gender inequity was revealed by the ABC when an attempt at "blind recruitment" in the public sector had to be stopped when the trial backfired against women and ethnic minorities.

The trial, done by several public sector organisations, aimed to remove sexism from selection processes, including female bosses, when gender was removed from applications.

The Commonwealth Government trial was abandoned when it was found that de-identifying candidates reduced the likelihood of women being selected for the shortlist, as adding a woman's name to a CV made the candidate 2.9 times more likely to be selected.

The results were not what was expected. It was revealed that women were not discriminated against by hiring panels, but were strongly favoured. It was men who faced a barrier, not women.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

The solo mindset

How does a woman most fully develop herself? Traditionally it was thought that women (and men for that matter) developed and expressed important parts of themselves through relationships with others, especially through marriage and motherhood (or fatherhood).

But, as I pointed out in my last post, from at least the 1880s onwards, women were encouraged to see the family as a merely passive and mechanical sphere, with self-development occurring instead as a "solo" act outside the family.

I want to discuss the issue of what happens next. What happens when the mindset of a woman shifts to the idea that she will develop independently of relationships with others? That she is "proved" most in her independence, particularly her independence of men?

So let's go back to 1958. The long first wave of feminism had by now ended, and there had been an upturn in family formation. But the outlook of the first wave still existed, at least among certain women. A female psychologist of the time, Marie Robinson, described one of her patients (a female lawyer) as follows:
Her father had died when she was an infant and her mother had been a militant leader of the movement for women’s “rights.” The whole emphasis in her early upbringing had been on achievement in the male world, and in the male sense of the word. She had been taught to be competitive with men, to look upon them as basically inimical to women. Women were portrayed as an exploited and badly put upon minority class. Marriage, childbearing, and love were traps that placed one in the hands of the enemy, man, whose chief desire was to enslave woman. Her mother had profoundly inculcated in her the belief that women were to work in the market place at all cost, to be aggressive, to take love (a la Russe) where they found it, and to be tied down by nothing, no one; no more, as her mother put it, than a man is. Such a definition of the normal had, of course, made her fearful of a real or deep or enduring relationship with a man. For years she sedulously avoided men entirely. Gradually, through her grown-up experiences, she learned of other values, but by the time the right man came along it was too late to have children.

This is at the more radical end of "be solo". Logically, it entails casual sexual relationships rather than marriage; a focus on work in the market place; and an assumption that men are not only after the same thing as the modern woman (not being tied down) but have an unfair privilege in being so.

To make this clearer, imagine you are a woman who holds to the more traditional view. Your very unfolding as a woman (your completion) depends on your relationship with a man and with the quality of the family life you create together with him. You are more likely to preserve your sexuality for this significant relationship; you are less likely to see your future spouse as belonging to an enemy class; you will be less likely to delay a commitment to marriage and family; and you will be more likely to retain some of the emotional openness and receptivity to men (and to children) that a woman's family relationships are built on.

But Anglo culture is lurching into the "go solo" zone. The primary commitment now is often to the workplace, even to the point that women's willingness to have children is compromised. There is a muteness when it comes to family values: it is not thought right to include fidelity as part of ethics. Political women nearly always assume that men are a class enemy; there is a solidarity among these women built on this assumption that comes across at times as a female chauvinism.

This might all sound negative, but there is a positive aspect to it. It provides at least part of the path back to a healthier situation. What needs to happen is for the liberal concept of the good (as maximum individual autonomy) to be rejected; for the natural instincts of young people to find fulfilment in pair bonding and family relationships to be nurtured; and for traditionalists to regain sufficient influence over the culture, at least in their own communities, so that culture is no longer set against the natural inclination of people to develop within relationships rather than solo.

In other words, I don't think it is just a matter of tweaking the law, or of a financial incentives policy - even though these might help. It's important to look at how people have been raised to understand their life purposes, and what the flow on effects of such a life understanding are. The current understanding has the strong support of culture & ideology, less so of nature (which is not to say that holding people to a culture of marriage can be done via natural instinct alone, but I do believe that it is stronger within our natures to have the instinct to develop within relationships rather than alone - this is what can most easily be restored).

Without competing for the culture, we will most likely continue to witness and to experience distorted or disordered relationships between the sexes.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It goes back some way

I watched about one minute of Q&A last night. It's a TV show here in Australia in which "luvvie" left-liberals discuss political issues with insufferable moral smugness.

Anyway, a British Labour Party feminist, Harriet Harman, was speaking. There is something icy in her personality, but to draw a laugh from the audience she noted mockingly that a generation ago many young women would leave school and have as their highest aspiration finding a husband and starting a family. On cue there were chortles of laughter from the audience at the thought.

The underlying message is that the highest ambition for everyone, male or female, is to participate in the market as a unit of labour. Although their reasons might be different, left liberals and right liberals end up in agreement on this. Careers come before family.

And the message has seeped through society. I had one of those moments of mutual incomprehension with a group of my students the other day. The topic was career advice, some of the students were disengaged, so I urged them on with the comment that choosing a career and choosing a spouse were the two most important life decisions.

The girls (aged about sixteen) looked at me with astonishment. They said they agreed that choosing a career was important, but they didn't think that choosing a spouse mattered as much. They couldn't believe that anyone would think it was that important, especially compared to a career.

If you want to blame modern day feminism for this you would be mistaken. The problem goes back to the first wave of feminism in the nineteenth century. In 1869 a college for women, Girton College, was established at Cambridge. What was the outlook impressed on the young women at Girton? One Girton girl put it this way in 1889:
We are no longer mere parts - excrescences, so to speak, of a family ... One may develop as an individual and independent unit.
That is a highly significant, and radical, change in life outlook. Think of it this way. The traditional view is that we do not develop, ideally, solo. If, for instance, you are a 25-year-old man, then ideally you will look to develop who you are as a person by seeking to become a husband and a father. As a husband you can develop your masculine personality by fulfilling your drives to provide for and protect a wife, by fulfilling your desire to form a loving union with someone of the opposite sex; and by fulfilling the innate instinct to reproduce yourself biologically, to reproduce your own family lineage and to reproduce your own larger ethnic tradition.

There are also, of course, aspects of a young man's development, such as the cultivation of virtues like fortitude, which could be done solo, but much would be left out if it were left at this. And even a man who never marries is likely to develop aspects of who he is in relationship with others, such as his parents and siblings, or (if a priest) in relationship with a church and parish.

But look at what the Girton girl is saying. She is radically diminishing the importance of family in her self-development. In fact, she has been educated, by first wave feminists, to utterly dismiss the role of family in self-development. The language she uses suggests that being a member of a family is a merely mechanical, static, impersonal thing. She speaks of being a "mere part - excrescence" of a family.

She goes on immediately to speak positively of solo development. She conceives the alternative as developing "as an individual and independent unit".

For some generations, men have been encouraged to develop, as before, in relationship with others, but young women have been encouraged to see this as oppressive and to develop solo. It's possible that this explains, in part, the reluctance of many women to see their husbands as making sacrifices on their behalf - perhaps women assume that men have the same outlook, of solo development, that they themselves have been brought up to believe in, or perhaps they even think it wrong for a person to develop in relationship with others rather than as a solo act (so they mentally refuse the idea that it is a good thing for their husband to make sacrifices for them).

This is one aspect of life in which a traditionalist community could very readily distinguish itself. We could return to the older, fuller understanding of human development for both men and women.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The future is....?

What happens if you believe, as liberals do, that our sex should be made not to matter? You get a "rising star" in the Liberal Party, Senator Linda Reynolds, calling for elite sports like AFL and rugby league to be "desegregated," so that women play alongside men.

There is a certain kind of wishfulness or hopefulness in this kind of thinking. It reminds me of the Russian Bolshevik, Alexandra Kollontai, who gave public lectures in which she longed,
for the female body itself to become less soft and curvy and more muscular ... She argues that prehistoric women were physiologically less distinct from men ... Accordingly, sexual dimorphism may (and should) again become less visible in a communist society.

The idea that our inborn sex should not define us has led to an odd situation. The assumption is that women are now being "empowered" to enter masculine spaces. And so you get "go girl" slogans like the one I spotted on a shoe shop window at a local shopping centre:

But, at the very same time, the emphasis on unisexism is dissolving the notion of the female. Just as Kollontai, a century ago, hoped that the female body would change into something more like a male one, the modernist expectation is that women will be raised to be more like men. In their social function, men and women are expected by liberals, ideally, to be indistinguishable or interchangeable.

That's partly why the slogan "the future is female" is incoherent. In the unlikely event that the liberal West survives, the future is women in pantsuits doing much the same thing that men do.

It won't be difficult for a traditionalist community to set itself apart. Imagine how different it would be in a community in which men and women were encouraged to cultivate masculine and feminine virtues; in which men and women connected distinct and complementary roles to the fulfilment of their created natures and to the good of family and community; and in which our higher nature was felt, profoundly, to be connected to the expression of our manhood and womanhood.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Harvard letter

One of the flaws of liberalism is what you might call the "autonomy contradiction". There is a problem in making autonomy - a freedom to choose according to my subjective wants - the highest good. What if my want is a non-autonomous good? Liberalism then either has to accept the fact that I choose other than autonomy or it has to limit my autonomy and prevent me from choosing this good. In the end, liberalism is likely to reach a point at which it says "you can choose anything you want, as long as you choose liberal autonomy" - which is not very "autonomous" at all.

There was an example of this last year when Harvard University acted to restrict students from joining single sex fraternities and sororities. These organisations are not even university groups, but are off campus private associations. Even so, the Harvard authorities decided to punish students who are members of these groups by limiting their leadership and scholarship opportunities.

The fact that Harvard liberals dislike single sex groups is not surprising. If what matters is that we are autonomously self-determined, then liberals have to make our sex not matter, as that is something that is predetermined. If sex is something that is not allowed to matter, then it will be thought wrong to discriminate on the basis of sex (in the literal sense of the word "discriminate" - the ideal will be a situation in which people won't make distinctions between men and women, particularly in a social context). There will be a fear that if there is any discrimination, such as the existence of single sex clubs, that it might lead to a discrepancy in life paths or life outcomes ("inequality").

And so the Harvard authorities found themselves facing the autonomy contradiction. They want to get rid of single sex clubs as part of the larger liberal ideal of abolishing sex distinctions. On the other hand, they preach a mantra of autonomous choice, by which students should be allowed to choose according to their own subjective preferences.

How did Harvard deal with the contradiction? In a number of ways. First, the authorities have given the single sex clubs time to change into unisex groups. According to Harvard, this means that students have been given "choice and agency" in leading the changes:
at least as an initial step, we should proceed in such a way as to give students both choice and agency in bringing about changes to the campus culture.

The choice to belong to a fraternity is being taken away, but students get to be involved in the process of choice being taken away and this is supposed to uphold their "choice and agency".

Another response to the contradiction is this:
Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources. The process of making those types of judgments, the struggle of defining oneself, one’s identity, and one’s responsibilities to a broader community, is a valuable part of the personal growth and self-exploration we seek for our undergraduates.

The Harvard authorities are claiming that autonomy still exists because students get to choose between fraternities or sanctions, and that in being placed in this dilemma students have to define who they are. Someone went to a lot of trouble to think this up, which shows how keen the authorities are to try to retain a belief that they are not trashing their liberal ideal of autonomy in seeking to ban private association.

The final response to the contradiction is to admit that there is a contradiction:
Preserving choice and agency also honors the thoughtful concerns we have heard expressed about the need to balance competing interests wherever possible. The tensions between freedom and equality, between the rights of the individual and the welfare of the community have long challenged American society and have been the focus of much of the USGSO debate. As a professor of history noted in last October’s Faculty meeting, “the freedom of association enjoyed by some of our students comes at the cost of excluding the majority of our students from those associations.”

The last line is an eye opener. I would have thought that freedom of association necessarily involves "excluding the majority". Harvard University itself necessarily excludes the majority. So does an association of artists in Bavaria. Or an association of Dalmation owners. Or a Mormon mothers' club. Do we really begrudge the existence of associations that we ourselves can't be included in? To get to the point of inclusiveness desired by the professor of history, you would have to considerably erase the distinctions between people. Liberalism in this sense requires less, rather than more, diversity.

I'll leave the Harvard authorities there, struggling to reconcile the principle of autonomy which simultaneously requires them to ban single sex clubs and uphold choice and self-determination.

The traditionalist stance on this issue is relatively straightforward. If you do not start out with the same assumptions that liberals do, you will not have the goal of making our sex not matter. If you are not intent on erasing the distinctions between men and women, you will then be relaxed about the natural inclinations that men and women have to enjoy masculine or feminine social environments.

Traditionalists see the unfolding of our masculinity and femininity as significant aspects of our identity and of our life purposes. It therefore makes sense to create masculine and feminine spaces, as a means of cultivating this aspect of who we are and of encouraging our self-development.

Fraternities in particular are potentially valuable in creating a space in which the masculine virtues can be cultivated (though there needs to be a certain focus to such groups for this to happen). It is within a male group, particularly one that is dedicated to a significant aim, that qualities like loyalty, courage and honour tend to take hold.

So for traditionalists the general aim is to have more, rather than fewer, single sex social spaces.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Identitarians reach Britain

A video from the new British section of the Identitarian movement:

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Lauren Rose: defining the nation

The short video below is well worth watching. Lauren Rose does an excellent job in clarifying what nationalism is and is not:

Lauren makes clear that the term "civic nationalism" does not really make sense. It would be more accurate to call it something like "civicism" or "civic statism" or "the civic values state". However, for the time being I will still use it at times in order to draw a distinction with "ethnic nationalism", which, as Lauren points out, is a redundant term, as the nation and the ethny are the same thing.

One final point. I would love one day to be able to invite intelligent trads like Lauren Rose to tour Australia. Although we have a solid group here in Melbourne, we still need to grow a little to make this a reality. So I encourage interested Melbourne readers to consider supporting the Melbourne Traditionalists - you can visit out website for more information here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Estonia & the Blue Awakening

A reader sent me a link to a story about the expulsion of an Estonian youth group, Blue Awakening, from the European Young Conservatives.

In brief, the story runs as follows. The European Young Conservatives (EYC) is a group of 26 political youth groups drawn from the centre-right in Europe. One of these was Blue Awakening, the youth group of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Blue Awakening sent a letter to the EYC critical of its direction and was expelled, with the EYC explaining its decision as follows:
"You may have gotten the wrong impression regarding our views," the EYC told Blue Awakening. "We are the youth organization of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, which means that our primary goal is to propagate the free market and classical liberal values in Europe. Some of our members have the right to maintain conservative views, but we are not a nationalist organization and we do not aim to preserve Europe's ethnic identity."
So there you have it. An alliance of "conservatives" sees its primary goal as promoting "the free market and classical liberal values." The founder of Blue Awakening rightly replied that, "True something completely different from classical liberalism."

If you go by the letter, the EYC is "conservative" only in the sense that it wants to conserve the classical liberal tradition, rather than the distinct peoples of Europe.

I had a quick look at EKRE, the Estonian party that Blue Awakening is affiliated with. Its policies and philosophy seem to be aligned with traditionalism. At its founding in 2012, the party declared:
No political party in the parliament represents the Estonian people, our national interest or traditional values. The government acts on right- and left liberal, also socialist ideas that our countrymen are simply statistical units or taxpayers, consumers at best. It is not far right or far left, just ultra-liberalism. The Conservative People's Party gives a solution to the voters who are sick of forced choice between Ansip and Savisaar, East and West, left and right.

That's very well put. EKRE has grown to have seven seats in parliament - I will watch its future development with much interest.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Camberwell vs Fitzroy: who wins?

This is an unusual post for me: more social observation than anything else.

I recently visited two very different suburbs of Melbourne, Fitzroy and Camberwell. Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, is the heartland of the liberal left in Melbourne. It is an inner suburban area that generally votes Green.

Walking along Fitzroy Street at night, I was struck by a number of things. As expected, there were leftist political slogans around me, in particular, radical "Invasion Day" posters (this was in the lead up to Australia Day). But there were some surprising things too. Although there were plenty of multicultural restaurants, the area was a lot more Anglo than other areas of Melbourne, and predominantly young Anglo. There were a lot of young Anglo couples promenading in the street.

Most surprising of all, given I was in a leftist heartland, I have never before seen women dressed in such a feminine style, not even in photos I've seen of the 1950s. The women were leaning romantically into their boyfriends as they walked along, arms entwined.

And the area itself, despite housing commission high-rises nearby, has a very traditional flavour. It's like walking into a beautiful slice of the 1880s. There are hardly any modernist intrusions.

Lawrence Auster often used to write about liberals having to resort to "unprincipled exceptions" because living strictly according to liberal principles would be unworkable. But what I observed in Brunswick Street was more than an unprincipled exception, it was a divorce between politics and lifestyle.

These are leftists who call themselves "Green" but who live in the inner city; who believe that there are 159 sexes and that femininity is an oppressive construct, but whose women clearly aim to be feminine and attractive; who support multiculturalism and oppose whiteness, but who live in an Anglo enclave; and who support modernism in all its forms, but who live surrounded by traditional architectural beauty.

And it seems to be working for them. There was an atmosphere of cultural confidence - a way of life in full swing.

You would think that there would be a great deal of cognitive dissonance, i.e. that they would struggle to reconcile the differences between their political ideals and their way of life. Apparently, though, they are happy to play a game, where it is understood that it is progressive to hold to a certain set of beliefs whilst holding things together by embracing aspects of traditionalism more fully than traditionalists manage to do.

So I don't think we can write off the Anglo left just yet. The lifestyle is still alive, even at a time when white leftists are being instructed by their fellow leftists to "sit down, shut up and listen" and when white males are increasingly targeted on the left as privileged oppressors.

My impression of Camberwell was very different. This is part of the heartland of  right liberalism in Melbourne, part of a belt of suburbs from which Liberal Party prime ministers and ministers were often drawn.

I had more of a sense of a way of life being extinguished. The demographics have changed, particularly amongst the under 50s. Curiously the young Anglo men, who in theory have everything going for them (well educated, good career prospects, handsome etc.) seem to have rejected Anglo women en masse. And, although you wouldn't expect the area to be humming on a Sunday at midday compared to an inner city precinct at night, people seemed subdued - more drawn into themselves.

I'm looking in from the outside, so I might be wrong, but there seems to be more disruption or dislocation among young Anglos in the right liberal areas compared to the left liberal ones (when I had expected the opposite to be true).

Fitzroy seems to be winning.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Jeanine's story

This video really brings home the plight of the white farmers of South Africa.

Tucker Carlson: America is not an idea

It doesn't get much better than this in the mainstream media. Tucker Carlson, on his Fox News show, took Senator Lindsey Graham to task for claiming that "America is an idea...not defined by its people but by its ideals."

Carlson rightly focused on the logic of this statement: that it means that the existing population does not constitute America, not by its efforts, talents or history, but that it can be swapped or replaced with little effect on what America is thought to be - a demoralising concept of nationhood.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Why did Birzer get borders wrong?

I'd like to return to the topic of Bradley Birzer. If you recall from my recent post, he is the American conservative who called, in the most stringent terms, for open borders:
Even the most cursory examination of the issue reveals that the best of western thinkers have considered political borders a form of selfish insanity and a violation of the dignity of the human person. The free movement of peoples has not only been seen as a natural right throughout much of the western tradition, but it has also been seen as a sacred one.

I don't want to focus on rebutting his specific claims as I did this in my last post, and others have done the same thing admirably well. What needs to be addressed is why Birzer would come to adopt this stance. Rather than being a stock standard right or left liberal, Birzer is a professional Burkean/Kirkean conservative:
Bradley J. Birzer is the president of the American Ideas Institute, which publishes The American Conservative. He holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and is Professor of History at Hillsdale College. He served as the second Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought and Policy at Colorado University–Boulder and is the author or editor of seven books, including Russell Kirk: American Conservative and J.R.R Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth. He has written and taught extensively on the American experience, focusing mostly on the period from the American Revolution through Reconstruction. Birzer is also editor at large and co-founder of The Imaginative Conservative.

In spite of a lifetime's service to Burkean conservatism, he has endorsed a policy that is more radically dissolving of society than the political positions held by a fair proportion of liberals. It is such an extraordinary outcome that we need to ask seriously what might have pushed things the wrong way.

I can think of several reasons, though I suspect the last in the list is the real culprit.

1. Burkean conservatism

Burke wanted to defend the existing culture and institutions of his time from modernist ideologies, particularly those associated with the French Revolution. And so he stressed the idea of accepting accumulated wisdom rather than following specific philosophies.

The late Lawrence Auster argued that the influence of Burkean conservatism was a flaw in American conservatism, as it only worked when the inherited tradition was a non-liberal one. Once liberalism starts to predominate in a culture, then Burkean conservatives will begin to defend that as the accumulated tradition:
As I’ve said many times, that’s the problem with Burke, as well as with Kirk, who was a Burkean. Burkean conservatism only works in a society that has an intact tradition to appeal to; in a society that has already been radicalized, Burkeanism merely accommodates conservatives to radicalism. This is why a conservatism is needed that doesn’t just appeal to “the way things are” (which may already be radicalized) but to “the way things ought to be”—to principles and values that may be lost at present and need to be brought back.

A traditionalist conservatism, it is true, can't be grounded on a simplistic ideology, but that doesn't mean that an alternative anthropology cannot be given voice to. After all, we are trying to give order to truths about man and reality: if we do not articulate these, because we think they will emerge by themselves over time within a community, then we fail to give any direction or coherence to conservatism - it become more difficult to hold to consistent political principles.

2. Anti-statism

Birzer appears to be part of a political stream that emphasises localism as opposed to centralism. I'm sympathetic to this outlook, not least because it gives the average man a polis in which to exercise his commitments to community (and in doing so more fully complete his nature).

I'm speculating, but it is possible that someone who conceives of politics too much as localism against centralism might not then give high regard to the role of a central state in upholding borders.

3. Christian theo-ideology

If I had to guess, I would say that this is the real reason for Birzer's hostility to borders. There are many Christians now who take one aspect of their religion (universal love) and apply the logic of this in a simplistic and abstracted way, so that Christian theology comes to resemble the workings of a secular ideology (hence the term "theo-ideology").

It's not that they are wholly wrong in what they claim. They argue that we are all made in God's image and therefore, for the sake of God, we should have a regard for others, even for the stranger.

But what happens next is crucial. You can either assert or deny that this then dissolves all particular loyalties, loves, duties, identities and attachments.

There are Christians who do assert this, often using a passage from Paul to support their case.

But if what they argued was true, then the particular loves and duties we have to spouse and children would no longer hold: those for the stranger would be equal or greater in significance. But this is both unworkable and un-Biblical.

The Catholic Church, until recent times at least, affirmed the particular loves and duties. From the duty of a Christian knight to defend his homeland; to the "ordo caritatis" which gave precedence in our duties to spouse and children; to the calls of the medieval Popes for crusades; and to the edicts of popes affirming the good of patriotism.

If, on the other hand, you believe that caritas means dissolving particular loves and loyalties, and no longer making distinctions between people, then Christianity itself won't survive as a mainstream religion. It will lead Christian nations to have open borders, so that the demographics shift to other religions. You can see how Christianity has rapidly declined in parts of the Middle East over the past century to get a sense of how a religion can be displaced from areas it was once deeply embedded in.

If readers have other explanations for why Birzer, with his impeccable Burkean credentials, might have adopted such a radical stance on immigration, I'd be interested to hear them.

Monday, January 22, 2018

New website & next meeting

I've created a new website for the Melbourne Traditionalists (see here). It's purpose is not to have regularly updated content, but to be an information site for new people who might be interested in getting involved.

The next gathering is happening early next month, so if any readers are interested I encourage them to visit the site and to get in touch.

There is also information at the site about a new initiative Mark Moncrieff of the Upon Hope blog and I are trying out. There are numbers of people in Melbourne who are sympathetic to the dissident right but perhaps not supportive of all aspects of a traditionalist politics. We're organising a Melbourne Right Forum, which will meet in the similar way to the Melbourne Traditionalists, but be broader politically.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Open borders & individual dignity

There is an article over at The American Conservative by Bradley Birzer which attempts to make a conservative case for open borders. Birzer doesn't hold back in the type of language he uses:
As a professor of the western canon, the Great Ideas of the West, and the western tradition, I find it nearly impossible to claim that there is a long tradition of excluding those who “aren’t us.” Even the most cursory examination of the issue reveals that the best of western thinkers have considered political borders a form of selfish insanity and a violation of the dignity of the human person. The free movement of peoples has not only been seen as a natural right throughout much of the western tradition, but it has also been seen as a sacred one.

Fighting words. Birzer claims that it is "selfish insanity and a violation of the dignity of the human person" to oppose the "free movement of peoples."

I'll get to the historical evidence in a moment. What I'd like to focus on first is the lack of seriousness of a politics that claims that open borders will do anything for the dignity of Western individuals.

Look around. We see a rainbow coalition formed in opposition to white men. The politics of the rainbow coalition is based on the idea that white men exist to oppress others to uphold an unearned privilege. Therefore, the rainbow coalition holds that the culture and historic institutions created by white men are racist and need to be torn down. The future role of white men is not to advance opinions of their own, but to quietly validate the experience of others, even when this experience claims that white men are the source of evil in the world.

This rainbow coalition grows through open borders and it is not that far from seizing power permanently in the U.S. If it does seize power permanently then you can forget about upholding "the western canon, the Great Ideas of the West, and the western tradition" - these will be condemned as racist artifacts that must be deconstructed to create a safer space for the new majority in power. Nor will there be much "dignity of the human person" for white men in this new society created by open borders. Vilified as racist oppressors; expected to obsequiously follow the dictates of those now in power; not permitted to speak freely from their own point of view, faced with a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in trying to win an accepted place in the new order, white men will most likely want to flee - but to where?

South Africa is another example of the loss of individual dignity that occurs when one group becomes a minority and then loses state power. There is now an employment system in South Africa that puts white men at the bottom, leading to the emergence of significant poverty among groups of white South Africans. Thousands of white farmers have been murdered, sometimes tortured in the process; one recent disturbing photo appears to show military equipment being used during a farm attack. There are South African politicians who have advocated "killing the Boer."

Is it really wise to wish to become a minority and to lose state power? Does this really extend your dignity as an individual? I don't think the serious answer is the "yes" that Birzer claims. If it were, I doubt if hundreds of thousands of white South Africans would have chosen emigration (exile) as a solution to their conditions of life.

One final point before delving into history. Birzer is wrong too about the relationship between the individual and his place within an ethnic collective. If you wish to support the individual (and his dignity), then you need also to uphold the existence of his "ethny" - which means establishing borders. Why?

An ethny is a group of people to whom the individual is closely related in terms of ancestry, culture, religion, language, history, manners and mores, and way of life. It is through membership of an ethny that the individual derives a deeper sense of identity; of belonging; of love of and attachment to a particular place (connectedness to land and landscape); deeper and more stable family commitments; a connection to both the past and the future (to the generations that went before and a sense of responsiblity to coming generations); and a determination to uphold the best of his own tradition, whether this be in terms of moral standards, of masculinity (or femininity), or of the arts and architecture. In short, an ethny is the vehicle by which an individual attempts to reproduce the best of himself and his tradition; by which he finds the deepest social commitments; and by which he finds himself connected across time and in place to something meaningful. A deracinated individual, in contrast, loses the larger setting in which he might most deeply complete himself. To be careless with borders does not, therefore, add to the dignity or flourishing of the individual.

Ancient Greece

I can't in a post like this reply at length to Birzer's claims about past attitudes to open borders. I can, though, show that things are not as straightforward as Birzer claims them to be.

Here is Birzer on Ancient Greece:
The Athenians, during the tumultuous fifth century before Christ, prided themselves on allowing not just the stranger into their communities, but also their very enemies in.

It is true that the Athenians are known to have been the most cosmopolitan of the Ancient Greeks. But Birzer is giving a one-sided account of things here. For instance, it was during the very century mentioned by Birzer that the famous Athenian leader Pericles changed the citizenship laws. Previously, an Athenian man could marry a wealthy foreign wife and their children would be considered citizens. Pericles toughened the law in 451 B.C. so that both parents had to be Athenians for the children to have citizenship rights.

There were considerable numbers of foreigners living in Athens, called "metics", but they were not citizens. They came from other Greek speaking areas, and so were not as foreign as those from further abroad, but nonetheless they were not granted citizenship rights:
Regardless of how many generations of the family had lived in the city, metics did not become citizens unless the city chose to bestow citizenship on them as a gift. This was rarely done...

Metics typically shared the burdens of citizenship without any of its privileges. Like citizens, they had to perform military service and, if wealthy enough, were subject to the special tax contributions and tax services...They were not permitted to own real estate in Attica, whether farm or house, unless granted a special exemption. Neither could they contract with the state to work the silver mines, since the wealth beneath the earth was felt to belong to the political community. Metics were subject to a tax called the metoikion, assessed at twelve drachmas per year for metic men and their households, and six for independent metic women. In addition to the metoikion, non-Athenians wishing to sell goods in the agora, including metics, seem to have been liable to another tax known as the xenika.

The other class of foreigners living in Ancient Athens were slaves. In the fifth century before Christ, when Birzer portrays the Athenians as standing proudly for open borders, the Athenians invaded a Greek Island called Melos. The residents were told that "might is right" and that they were to be conquered. There was a one-sided battle, the Athenians won and afterwards they slaughtered the male residents of the island and took the women and the children as slaves.

It doesn't seem wise, therefore, for Birzer to portray the Athenians of this period as upholding "the dignity of the individual" via open borders. Athens was an imperial power, ignoring borders and taking slaves, who would then make up part of the foreign population living in Athens.

And the rest of Ancient Greece? In some places, there were most certainly borders:
In other Greek cities, foreign residents were few, with the exception of cosmopolitan Corinth, of which however we do not know their legal status. In Sparta and Crete, as a general rule with few exceptions, foreigners were not allowed to stay.

Medieval Europe

Birzer also cites the Magna Carta as evidence of a tradition of the free movement of peoples in the West. It is certainly true that there is a section of the Magna Carta that aims to guarantee the right of merchants, except in times of war, to freely travel between countries.

I am no expert in the history of the Magna Carta, but one historian has warned against interpreting this section as being motivated by a philosophical support for open borders:
The 1914 editor McKechnie warns modern readers not to read back into the past, political and economic ideas which they might hold in the present. In this case, free trade ideas which were still quite strong in Edwardian England. What seems to have happened with many clauses in Magna Carta, was that grants of privilege to specific individuals and groups were later broadened into more general “privileges” or what became known as “rights” to later generations. Here is what he said concerning clause 40: “It has been not unusual to credit the framers of Magna Carta with a policy of quite a modern flavour; they are made free–traders and credited with a knowledge of economic principles far in advance of their contemporaries. This is a misconception: Englishmen in the thirteenth century had formulated no far–reaching theories of the rights of the consumer, or the policy of the open door. The home traders were not consenting parties to this chapter, and would have bitterly resented any attempt to place foreigners on an equal footing with the protected guilds of the English boroughs. The barons acted on their own initiative and from purely selfish motives. Rich nobles, lay and ecclesiastic, desired that nothing should prevent the foreign merchants from importing wines and rich apparel that England could not produce. John, indeed, as a consumer of continental luxuries, partially shared their views, but his selfish policy threatened to strangle foreign trade by increasing the burdens attached to it, until it ceased to be remunerative. The barons, therefore, in their own interests, not in those of foreign merchants, still less in those of native traders, demanded that the customs duties should remain at their old fixed rates. In adopting this attitude, they showed their selfish indifference to the equally selfish claims of English traders, who desired a monopoly for themselves. Every favour shown to foreign merchants was an injury done to the guilds of the chartered boroughs. This chapter thus shows a lack of gratitude on the barons’ part for the great service rendered by their allies, the citizens of London.”

It has to be remembered, too, that the movement of people was generally limited at this time in history, so that it did not threaten the existence of established communities as it might do today. For instance, in 1440 the English parliament decided to place a special tax on foreigners and so created a register of all those born outside of England. There were about 20,000 such foreigners, about one percent of the population. Most of them were from nearby areas, such as Scotland, Ireland, Flanders, France and Germany.

In these conditions, stringent border controls may not have seemed necessary. Even so, there was no commitment to an absolute free movement of peoples. For instance, in 1290 King Edward I expelled all Jews from England, an edict which remained in place for the rest of the Middle Ages. In a later era, Queen Elizabeth I (with less effect) ordered all "blackamoores" to be deported from England.


Finally, Birzer also argues that medieval Europeans saw themselves as belonging to Christendom, to a Christian republic, and that this dissolved a sense of the differences between people.

I don't doubt that the notion of Christendom was important to medieval Europeans. It's a long stretch, though, to argue that medieval Europeans only had an abstracted Christian identity, rather than combining their Christianity with their sense of belonging to particular communities.

For instance, the English early on adopted and venerated national saints, in particular, Edmund and Edward:
Throughout the years 1100-1400 these English royal saints continued to be an expression of both royal and national identity...Depictions of Edward and Edmund in paintings, illuminated manuscripts and other media were common. Their Englishness was no bar to their veneration by Norman and Angevin rulers whose horizons and ancestry were largely French. Henry III of England (1216-72), whose four grandparents had all been born in France, nevertheless had a deep devotion to St Edward the Confessor, rebuilding the abbey church of Westminster around his shrine, translating his bones to a grand new shrine and naming his eldest son Edward (and his second son Edmund). In this way these Anglo-Saxon personal names, which had been eclipsed after the Norman Conquest, re-entered the lexicon of high-status names.
England thus had revered and long-established native saints.

Similarly, the Christian knight was supposed to defend both the Church and his homeland. Peter of Blois, a twelfth century cleric, wrote a letter describing the knightly ideal as follows:
In former days, the knights pledged themselves by the bond of oath to stand up for public order, not to flee in battle, and to give their life for the common good. Even today the knights receive their swords from the altar in order to pledge that they are sons of the church, and that they have received the sword for the honour of the priests, the protection of the poor, the punishment of the evildoers, and the liberation of the homeland.

Defining America

I doubt that Birzer is really motivated by what happened in history. He seems to be stuck on the idea that America itself is defined by the idea of the free movement of peoples, so that if you give up on open borders you lose your national identity.

That's a very unfortunate way to define a national identity, because it means that you identify with a process of dissolution and disempowerment. It means too that you are identifying with an idea or proposition, rather than with a concrete, organic, particular community. You are inhabiting a belief rather than a distinctive community with a shared history, culture and way of life.

In other words, there are two problems with holding to "Americanism" as a belief system rather than "America" as a distinctive national community. First, the specific ideal of "Americanism" is a dissolving one that cannot hold over time. The emotional warmth comes from a belief in the moral good of open borders, but open borders are ultimately corrosive of stable forms of community life, so that it forces the individual back in on himself - it strips him down until the psychological benefit of attaching nation to idea no longer functions. Birzer is still a believer, it still works for him, but clearly for many Americans it does not.

Second, it deprives the individual of the benefits of participating in a nation that is envisaged as a real community, with natural forms of loyalty and shared identity, rather than as an idea or proposition or belief system. It seems to me that there is a lazy individualism at the heart of Americanism, one in which you don't really need to commit to real relationships with others, because your sense of nation exists mostly as an idea inside your own mind. Maybe that is part of its appeal, that you aren't really challenged to relate to others in a practical way as part of an enduring community, because your see the connection between people only as an idea that applies to everyone equally wherever they are.