Monday, March 30, 2020

Cardinal Robert Sarah on globalism

This is an excerpt from the book The Day Is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Robert Sarah. It criticises the reduction of men to a function within a capitalist society (consumers). This doesn't mean that a Soviet type command economy is superior, but rather that there has to be a way to place limits on the logic of the market, so that society (and the concept of man) is not shaped so entirely around it:
Interviewer: What connection is there between the consumer society, mass culture, and the standardization of ways of life?

Capitalism tends to reduce humanity to one central figure: the consumer. All economic forces attempt to create a buyer who can be the same anywhere on the globe. The Australian consumer must resemble the Spanish or the Romanian consumer exactly. Cultural and national identities must not be a hindrance to the building of this interchangeable man.

The standardization of consumer products is the perfect reflection of the aridity of this soulless civilization. The consumer society encourages ever-increasing production, the ever-greater accumulation and consumption of material goods. It presents to man an unimaginable abundance of material goods to consume and attempts to stimulate human greed more and more. The abundance of material goods is almost frightening. A human being seems obliged to consume what happens to be within his reach.

Materialism seeks to provoke an unlimited need for enjoyment. It totally misunderstands the needs of the interior life. In order to flourish, each person must be recognized in his uniqueness. The essence of capitalism imprisons man within himself, isolates him and makes him dependent.

Mass consumption leads to a dangerous, sterile form of gregariousness. The standardization of ways of life is the cancer of the postmodern world. Men become unwitting members of a great planetary herd that does not think, does not protest, and allows itself to be guided toward a future that does not belong to it.

Individual isolation and the degradation of persons, who are doomed to be no more than elements lost in the mass of consumers, are the two most horrible children of capitalism.

God's creature is deadened. He places his heart as a burnt offering on the altar of artificial happiness. He no longer knows the taste of true joys. He is an animal that eats, drinks, revels, and enjoys. The critical sense has become a ghost from the past.

Globalized humanity, without borders, is a hell.

This raises a question for traditionalists. If part of the problem is the logic of the market that seeks to make us into interchangeable units of production and consumption, how can we try to organise society to avoid this outcome?

I won't attempt a complete answer to this. I do think we need to have a bias toward smaller scale local production, so that the interests of these businesses are better aligned with the cohesion of local communities. It might be possible to harness modern technology to help make such local "micro industry" more competitive.

Maybe too there are ways to open up more space for people outside of the market (i.e. a better work/life balance so that people can pursue non-market interests or lead less hectic lives). For instance, we could find ways to make housing more affordable, to avoid spending decades paying off a mortgage. Better family stability would allow for greater financial independence. Where possible, rein in the creeping trend for people to be on call for work after hours.

The domestic sphere was also once better protected from the business world. Women, as mothers, once played a key role not only in making the home a haven from the corporate world, but also in giving life to local communities. Perhaps we could honour this role better than we do now.

The point is to harness the market and to encourage men to build up the financial resources to do good for their families and communities but without reducing the function or purpose of man to his role as a consumer.

D.H. Lawrence on sex distinctions

In 1920 the English poet and novelist D.H. Lawrence drafted an unfinished work titled Mr Noon. It's an account of his life around the year 1912 when he ran off with Frieda Weekley. Frieda was German born and had been part of a circle of German radicals who espoused, amongst other things, free love.

Lawrence is not easy to categorise politically. In his ideal political order,
...each man shall be spontaneously himself – each man himself, each woman herself, without any question of equality entering in at all; and that no man shall try to determine the being of any other man, or of any other woman.

That's partly in line with modernity (the emphasis on autonomy, on a self-determining individual) and partly not (the lack of interest in equality). Nor did he really follow through in an intellectually consistent way with autonomy - he recognised that there was a given nature that we either lived within or suffered the consequences of, and he thought too that we were dependent in significant ways on others (in marriage, in having a sense of a homeland etc.)

The upshot is that from a traditionalist point of view Lawrence is flawed but nonetheless still interesting - more so than most other modern authors (for me, his great appeal is that he writes as an embodied creature living within a created reality with spiritual meaning).

This is Lawrence, in Mr Noon, affirming a relatively traditional view of sex distinctions in which the aim is to uphold a sexual polarity between the masculine and feminine:
Ah the history of man and woman...the fatal bond that binds man to woman and woman to man, and makes each the limit of the other. Oh what a limitation is this woman to me! And oh what a limitation am I to her almighty womanliness.

And so it is, the two raging at one another. And sometimes one wins, and the other goes under. And then the battle is reversed. And sometimes the two fly asunder, and men are all soldiers and women all weavers. And sometimes all women become as men, as in England, so that the men need no longer be manly. And sometimes all men become as women, so the women need no longer be womanly. And sometimes - but oh so rarely - man remains man, and woman woman, and in their difference they meet and are very happy.

But man must remain man, and woman woman. There is something manly in the soul of a man which is beyond woman and in which she has no part. And there is something in woman, particularly in motherhood, in which man has no part, and can have no part. For a woman to trespass into man's extremity is poison, and for a man to trespass into woman's final remoteness is misery.

So there we are - the old, eternal game of man and woman: the time-balancing oscillation of eternity. In this we live and from this our lives are made. There is a duality in opposition, between man and woman. There is a dual life-polarity. And the one half can never usurp the other half - the one pole can never replace the other. It is the basis of the life-mystery. 

Note that Lawrence felt that in his own time women had become mannish - not a surprising result given that by 1920 there had been 60 years or so of first wave feminism in England. It's to Lawrence's credit as well that he recognised that it is a struggle - a cultural achievement - to keep the polarity of men and women balanced, i.e. that it was not something that you could passively assume would always be there.

Lawrence went on to urge men to uphold their masculine side of the polarity - even if they came under pressure to give way:
For a woman doesn't want a man she can conquer: no, though she fight like hell for conquest...Ultimately, a woman wants a man who, by entering into complete relationship with her, will keep her in her own polarity and equipoise, true to herself. The man wants the same of a woman. It is the eternal oscillating balance of the universe.

Lawrence did not get everything right. His criticisms of conventional sexual morality seem misguided now, given what has happened following the sexual revolution. It's not that Lawrence wanted people to follow their base instincts, but he does seem to have underestimated the potential for this to happen in the absence of traditional social norms.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Understanding postmodernism

I've participated in a few discussions with fellow dissident rightists about postmodernism. There is an awareness that this is something to be understood. I'm therefore sharing a discussion about it made originally on Twitter by Helen Pluckrose. She is not a traditionalist but a secular humanist liberal, so she is on the opposite side of the fence to us. I have to give her credit, though, for making some of the distinctions between Marxism and postmodernism clear.

Helen believes that much of postmodernist thought derives from Foucault:

She believes also that Marxism greatly influenced postmodernism but that it is important to understand the distinctions:

She begins to discuss the particular differences here:

She gives the following example of an academic supporting a postmodernist approach. The academic is not concerned with students being able to assess how truthful a proposition is, based on evidence or quality of definitions or logic, but on being able to identify expressions of power within language:

Helen compares this postmodernist approach to the Marxist one, which is based more on a materialist, economic, class based understanding of the world. The following excerpt is from a World Socialist Website and it criticises from the Marxist perspective a campaign launched to reframe American history:

Sometimes those on the left just lump everyone on the right into the same category. They can't be bothered to understand the differences between, say, a classical liberal, a traditionalist or a white nationalist. We should try to avoid the same mistake. Helen Pluckrose, as a secular humanist liberal, admits that she finds some things to support in Marxism and some things in postmodernism, but also has criticisms of both. They are all connected to a degree in their political lineage but are not the same. It's easier, I think, to make effective criticisms of all of them if we understand the distinctions between them.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Molly on love

I recently wrote a post on duality between men and women, pointing out a basic way that the instincts of men and women fit together in a complementary union. However, I was careful as well to note that relationships between the sexes aren't always simple to navigate. Take, as an example, the following tweets from an American woman named Molly. She begins with this:

She elaborates with the following:

Her base impulse was to associate love with an intensity of feeling, and this intensity of feeling was brought on by the thrill of uncertainty, of being left on the edge of her seat not knowing if the person would stay or go, of not knowing securely what the other person felt, of chaos and pain and so on.

This attitude has been recognised in the manosphere for some time, with young men being advised not to give away commitment too easily but to make a woman work for it; to remain something of a mystery; to keep excitement in the relationship and so on.

Even so, it's not an attitude that fits well with marriage. In marriage a man makes a firm and clear commitment to a woman - she is not meant to feel uncertain whether he will stay or not. Similarly, in marriage a man vows to protect and provide - he is not meant to make her experience chaos and pain.

So what's the solution? Well, at least part of the strategy is the one that Molly herself suggests, which is to try to overcome base impulse with something more elevated, namely a love that is settled in the will, that wills the good of the other person, that is willing to self-sacrifice for the larger good of the marriage and the family, and that aims to cultivate, as best we can, the finer qualities of our masculinity and femininity (as Molly puts it both for ourselves and for our spouse).

But this more elevated concept of love doesn't come to all people readily. It helps if it is part of the culture, of the ground within which people grow and form character. It cannot be taken for granted, but needs to be deliberately fostered generation by generation.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The decline of classical music

The last of the four podcasts that David Hiscox, Mark Moncrieff (of Upon Hope) and I recorded was on the topic of the decline of classical music. David is especially knowledgeable in the field and explains clearly why modernist classical music often sounds cacophonous. You can listen to the podcast here (it runs for 30 minutes).

I should add that since the 1990s (roughly speaking) some composers have begun again to compose music that is more likely to appeal to classical music fans and more likely to win a place in the canon. As an example there is the piece below by the English/German composer Max Richter.

Duality & the traditional family

I saw the following tweet recently:

I found it interesting as an example of the duality that can exist between men and women (she clarifies later that she meant to say "filling" it with love). Obviously there are points of difference between men and women that set the sexes apart, but there are also points of difference that are complementary, through which the sexes "fit together" in a significant way.

Men do have an instinct to be the providers and protectors who create a protected space in which women like Rachel Bock can then exercise their nurturing and homemaking instincts.

This is an example of duality in role or function. If the role or function of men and women were exactly the same ("gender role convergence") then the basis for relationships would become thinner. Men and women would no longer need each other as much, nor would we have as much to gift to the other sex, nor would there be the same feeling of gratitude to the other sex.

This "gender role convergence" is what is happening in modern society. It explains, in part, why modern women so often express the feeling that they don't need a man, or why so many people in the most "gender" advanced societies, like Sweden, live alone. If complementary roles are lost, then the motivation to establish and maintain relationships will be less compelling.

The novelist Rachel Cusk discussed this issue some years ago when writing about her divorce. She believes that her parents brought her up to follow male values, so that when she married and had a child she felt confused in her identity. She couldn't readily embrace the more feminine values described above by Rachel Bock, namely to make a house feel warm, to fill it with love and children, food and comfort. And so she did a role reversal with her husband, who agreed to stay home to do this while she pursued her career.
To act as a mother, I had to suspend my own character, which had evolved on a diet of male values...motherhood, was not a place where I could actually live...its values, its codes of conduct, its aesthetic were not mine.

So for a while I didn't belong anywhere. I seemed, as a woman, to be extraneous. And so I did two things: I reverted to my old male-inflected identity; and I conscripted my husband into care of the children. My notion was that we would live together as two hybrids, each of us half male and half female. He gave up his law job, and I gave up the exclusivity of my primitive maternal right over the children.

It didn't work out. She wanted both herself and her husband to be hybrids, half male and half female. That was her notion of equality. Instead, her husband seemed to be content with the homemaking role and with being dependent - and Rachel Cusk had been brought up to value independence above all. And so her feelings for her husband changed:
I had hated my husband's unwaged domesticity just as much as I had hated my mother's; and he, like her, had claimed to be contented with his lot.

Why had I hated it so? Because it represented dependence

Which brings her to an interesting insight about duality. Rachel Cusk admits that rather than her mother being dependent on her father, both were dependent on the other and that in this arrangement there was a duality between the two that connected them closely together: might be said that dependence is an agreement between two people. My father depended on my mother too: he couldn’t cook a meal, or look after children from the office. They were two halves that made up a whole. What, morally speaking, is half a person? Yet the two halves were not the same: in a sense my parents were a single compartmentalized human being. My father’s half was very different from my mother’s, but despite the difference neither half made any sense on its own.

But she herself had a notion of equality in which people remained disconnected:
My notion of half was more like the earthworm’s: you cut it in two but each half remains an earthworm, wriggling and fending for itself.

She was aware of one of the negative consequences of being entirely self-sufficient:
Sometimes my awareness of my own competence alarmed me. How would I remain attached to the world if not by need? I didn’t appear to need anyone: I could do it all myself. I could do everything. I was both halves: did that mean I was whole?

The official model now is the earthworm one. Men and women are no longer supposed to have complementary, interdependent roles. Equality is understood to mean sameness in role and function. It is common to hear feminists complain that men aren't fully embracing the earthworm model by doing as much of the "emotional work" as women, by which they mean the kind of homemaking work described in Rachel Bock's tweet.

The danger is that this model will undermine the duality between men and women. If we become self-sufficient, we have less need to be in a relationship with the other sex. We won't have the same compelling need to fulfil ourselves in a significant way in a relationship with the opposite sex. We will then become fussier, more demanding, less grateful and less willing to compromise in relationships.

As it happens, Rachel Cusk's vision of marriage crumbled. She ended it and then sought desperately to regain some of the maternal role she had relinquished, even to the point of insisting that the children belonged to her, by right, as the mother. She began as well to accept aspects of her feminine psyche:
...when my children cry a sword is run through my heart. Yet it is I who am also the cause of their crying. And for a while I am undone by this contradiction, by the difficulty of connecting the person who acted out of self-interest with the heartbroken mother who has succeeded her. It seems to be the fatal and final evolution of the compartmentalized woman

Traditionalists do not put individual autonomy at the front rank of human values. And so we are more likely to accept the interdependent model of relationships, one which upholds the duality between men and women.

The traditional model does, however, have drawbacks which have to be considered. First, it does leave the husband and wife more dependent on each other, both emotionally and materially, and so it is a difficult model to work with in a liberal society which encourages people to act out of self-interest and which tells people that there should be no limitations on their choices.

If we want an interdependent model to prosper, then we have to make wider changes, both to culture and the law. At the moment, for instance, men are asked to take considerable risks in supporting a wife financially. She can leave for any reason and he can then be forced to continue to support her financially, even as an ex-husband. It is understandable that many men see this as an unacceptable condition of marriage.

Also, the traditional model requires a husband and wife to pair bond deeply enough to survive the more difficult times in a lifelong relationship. It isn't likely to succeed in a culture in which men and women are damaged or jaded even before they marry. The drawn out culture of casual relationships doesn't fit well with the traditional model.

Finally, traditionalists should be sensitive to those women who want to pursue interests outside of the motherhood role. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Perhaps some women could devote their younger, fertile years to motherhood and then pursue a career option (including part-time) afterwards (most people feel like they've proven everything they need to after spending 15-20 years in a career, it doesn't have to go on for the standard 40 years). Perhaps there is work that women could do in the community, alongside their maternal role. Perhaps there is creative work that women could do at home whilst also fulfilling their nurturing role. There are options.

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.