Thursday, October 11, 2018

Power without justice

I've written a lot on feminism at this site, mostly about the connection between feminism and the liberal project of maximising individual autonomy.

I happen to know a few high profile feminists and this has given me some insight into the way they think. I've come increasingly to believe that gender politics is used by these women not for the purposes of securing their vision of justice (maximum autonomy for women) but simply for competitive advantage against men in securing the markers of a successful upper middle-class lifestyle, such as professional status, income and cultural/political influence in society.

It's a dreary and demoralising vision of society, one in which men and women are divided into opposing social classes, competing eternally against each other for material things.

Which brings me to a review by Laura Kipnis in The Atlantic of a new feminist book. Laura Kipnis describes the vision of society outlined in this book in similar terms to what I set out above:
One of the unfunny witticisms going around during Hillary Clinton’s first presidential run was that she’d never get elected, because she reminded men of their first wife. When a male friend relayed the update during her second run—no, she didn’t remind men of their first wife; she reminded them of their first wife’s divorce lawyer—I recall barking with laughter. The joke distilled all the male anxieties of the moment: Something was being taken away from them, their balls were in a vise, pissed-off women wanted men’s stuff and were going to be ruthless about trying to get it.

I recalled this joke while reading Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, which shares what might be called a divorce-court view of the gender situation in America. Men and women are on opposing sides, and women will succeed only by quashing men and seizing the spoils: the big jobs, the political offices, and the moral high ground.

The rest of the review is by now very familiar. Social enemy no.1 is the white male:
The primary target for this accumulated rage is, of course, men—white men

But white women are also coming under attack:
83 percent of Democratic women were furious at the news at least once a day. But the oppositional fury isn’t exactly tidy, Traister acknowledges. For many of the women of color whom she quotes, the anger is equally directed at white women.

Rebecca Traister blames "white heterosexual marriage" for the continuing loyalty between white men and women:
the real culprit behind his election, as Traister sees it, is white heterosexual marriage. Analyses of 2016 voting patterns reveal a stark partisan divide between married and never-married white women

Imagine reaching a state of mind in which loyalty between a husband and wife is condemned as undermining the more perfect division of the sexes into hostile, competing social classes.

Patrick Deneen, in his book Why Liberalism Failed, writes about how liberalism, even in its earliest forms, preferred to base itself on "the low" (e.g. harnessing self-interest) rather than aspirations to the high (such as appeals to a common good). He notes of current social problems that,
These maladies include the corrosive social and civic effects of self-interest - a disease that arises from the cure of overcoming the ancient reliance upon virtue. Not only is this malady increasingly manifest in all social interactions and institutions, but it infiltrates liberal politics. Undermining any appeal to a common good, it induces a zero-sum mentality that becomes nationalized polarization for a citizenry that is increasingly driven by private and largely material concerns.

Instead of men and women working together selflessly for a common good (e.g. the family, the nation), and thereby creating stability, trust and improving social standards, the left is pushing a vision of a "nationalized polarization" with men and women standing against each other in competition for power and social resources.

It strikes me as being so bleak a vision of society that it is likely ultimately to bring about a collapse rather than an enduring social order.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Melbourne Traditionalists Conference 2018

The inaugural Melbourne Traditionalists Conference is coming up soon - Friday 19th and Saturday 20th October. It's open to anyone sympathetic to traditionalist politics. Keynote speaker is Dr Frank Salter.

Details, including how to register, can be found here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Thoughts on freedom

If you were to ask a liberal what freedom is the simplest answer you might get is that it means doing what you want to do. And, it's true, there is a sense in which this is a particular type of freedom.

But taking this as a first principle of society leads to some unusual outcomes. The highest circulation newspaper in the UK ran a story recently with the headline "Trans woman, 41, pretended to be a boy to groom a girl." Accompanying the story was a photo of the "trans woman":

If freedom means doing what you want, then logically this would include a man identifying as a woman, if this is what he wanted to do.

But there is another, and I believe more significant, way to define freedom. In one of Chesterton's books, a character is asked to define freedom and he answers "First and foremost, surely, it is the power of a thing to be itself".

If this is true, then freedom cannot mean being able to choose anything. To be free, we must necessarily limit the choices we make, so that they fit with, and help to develop, our personhood. The better we "self-limit" in this sense, the more freedom we have to be powerfully and admirably what we were created to be.

And this is what most people instinctively aim at. We ask what it means to live excellently, in a fully natured way, to best fulfil our created natures.

And this necessarily means that we are oriented to ordering our lives. We think of ourselves as living within a moral universe and we try to adhere to the natural law that we discover through reason, conscience and experience, so that we maintain the moral integrity that is important to our sense of ourselves, and so that we perfect, as best we can as fallible creatures, our moral nature.

We seek as men to fully develop our masculine qualities. We wish for ourselves a muscular frame and physical strength and athleticism; we attempt to fulfil, to a high degree, the roles and duties associated with being a husband and father; we cultivate the harder virtues of courage, endurance, self-discipline and resilience; and we seek to work effectively with other men to uphold the existence of our communities and traditions.

We wish also to live through our spiritual natures. We value experiences of transcendence or communion. We seek to remain open to deeper experiences of love and connectedness. We appreciate the higher experiences available to us through the arts, through an appreciation of female beauty and through a love of nature.

A mind that can govern itself to be oriented to this line of development is a mind that experiences itself as free. It is a mind that is able to self-consciously guide the person along the path that best fulfils our created nature. But our right minds are not always in charge. Sometimes fierce passions (e.g. anger) clouds our reason, or sometimes bad habits (sloth) prove too strong. Perhaps there is an addiction or a temptation that proves stronger than our right minds.

And so part of life is the effort to cultivate habits of virtue, so that we maintain the freedom to self-consciously and successfully pursue our better purposes - so that we, rather than bad habits or addictions or temptations - are in charge and we can develop freely toward our ultimate ends .

There is a lifelong effort to order ourselves; it stands alongside the effort to accumulate wisdom and self-knowledge.