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.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Trump's homeland speech

There were some significant highlights in President Trump's recent speech to the United Nations. He went well beyond the usual right-liberal talking points in defending national sovereignty against those pushing for global governance.

He said, for instance:
Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth. That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination. I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions.

He also argued for a change in refugee policy:
As we see in Jordan, the most compassionate policy is to place refugees as close to their homes as possible, to ease their eventual return to be part of the rebuilding process. This approach also stretches finite resources to help far more people, increasing the impact of every dollar spent.

He firmly rejected ceding power to UN agencies:
...the United States will provide no support and recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy. America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from new forms of coercion and domination.

He spoke out against uncontrolled, illegal immigration:
The United States is also working with partners in Latin America to confront threats to sovereignty from uncontrolled migration. Tolerance for human struggling and human smuggling and trafficking is not humane. It is a horrible thing that is going on, at levels that nobody has ever seen before. It is very, very cruel. Illegal immigration funds criminal networks, ruthless gangs, and the flow of deadly drugs. Illegal immigration exploits vulnerable populations and hurts hardworking citizens and has produced a vicious cycle of crime, violence, and poverty. Only by upholding national borders, destroying criminal gangs can we break the cycle and establish a real foundation for prosperity.

We recognize the right of every nation in this room to set its own immigration policy in accordance with its national interests, just as we ask other countries to respect our own right to do the same, which we are doing. That is one reason the United States will not participate in the new Global Compact on Migration. Migration should not be governed by an international body, unaccountable to our own citizens. Ultimately, the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their home countries. Make their countries great again.

There was support for Polish efforts to stand up to the EU:
In Poland, the great people are standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty.

There was a powerful endorsement of a humanity made up of distinct, unique nations:
Many countries are pursuing their own unique visions, building their own hopeful futures, and chasing their own wonderful dreams of destiny, of legacy, and of a home. The whole world is richer. Humanity is better because of this beautiful constellation of nations, each very special, each very unique, each shining brightly in its part of the world. In each one, we see also promise of a people bound together by a shared past and working toward a common future.

He spoke of his patriotic feeling as an American:
We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and, above all, we love our country. Inside everyone in this great chamber today, and everyone listening all around the globe, there is the heart of a patriot that feels the same powerful love for your nation, the same intense loyalty to your homeland, the passion that burns in the hearts of patriots and the souls of nations has inspired reform and revolution, sacrifice and selflessness, scientific breakthroughs and magnificent works of art.

Our task is not to erase it, but to embrace it—to build with it, to draw on its ancient wisdom, and to find within it the will to make our nations greater, our regions safer, and the world better.

And he finished with this:
Together, let us choose a future of patriotism, prosperity, and pride. Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat. Let us come here to this place to stand for our people and their nations. Forever strong, forever sovereign, forever just. Forever thankful for the grace and the goodness and the glory of God. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the nations of the world.

It's unusual to hear this from a mainstream politician. If you read through these quotes, President Trump recognises that:

1. It is the uniqueness of nations that truly enriches and embellishes the world, not open borders.

2. It is the souls of nations that have inspired great art and a willingness to act selflessly for the common good.

3. That loyalty matters.

4. That nations help to preserve our legacy and to create a sense of home.

5. That nations are made up of peoples united by memory and traditions.

6. That a genuine refugee policy would seek to return people to their own homelands once the conflict finishes.

7. That those attempting to migrate illegally should instead work towards making their own homelands better places to live.

This is not a blanket endorsement of President Trump (he has yet, for instance, to secure the southern border of the U.S.). But he is continuing to push the Overton window toward a more open discussion of significant issues.

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.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Living in fear in South Africa

An exceptionally well-spoken young South African woman has made a video describing the fear that white farming families live under in South Africa:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Grown ups make a guess?

This is from a book being used at American kindergartens:



The text reads: When babies are born people ask "Is it a boy or a girl?"

The next page:



The idea here is that our bodies don't tell us whether we are male or female; our sex is something now cut off from our physical self, they are two different things. At best you can make a guess whether someone is male or female from looking at their body.

If we were to accept this, then the body would no longer hold the same depth of meaning as it does now. If a man looks at his body, at how he is built physically, he can read there some of his telos - of what he is supposed to develop toward in his whole person.

There is a French group, Vigi Gender, which seeks to uphold the more traditional view about our bodies being sexed. In their manifesto they write:

Become what you are

We are born male or female. Our whole being is gendered in its physical, psychological and spiritual dimension. Male and female cells are different: all male cells are XY and all cells of the woman XX. Sex hormones of men and women are different: testosterone in men; in women, estrogen, the hormone of femininity and progesterone, the hormone of motherhood...

Man is an incarnate being endowed with a mind capable of reason and will. Our body is a source of meaning; it expresses the person, "my body is me." To deny the body, to deny the influence of the sexed body on behaviour, interests, psychology, skills, not only contradicts numerous scientific studies, but is to deny that the human person is an embodied being and to make of it a pure spirit, a being which only defines itself.

We are born male or female and all our life we fulfil ourselves as man or woman, we become what we are in completing what we received at birth (nature), and by what we receive throughout our lives through culture (relationship to the father and the mother, education, history, language, customs ...)

If what we received from the culture was completely separated from our bodies, we would not be united, as we would be torn between the meaning carried by our body, and what we received

The next page of the kindergarten book has this:



This is the page that fits most readily into the beliefs of liberal modernity. It suggests that I am truly myself when I am no particular ready made sexual category. Being "just me" means being both a girl and a boy, or neither, or perhaps one of countless boutique sexes, making me a uniquely sexed creature.

Liberalism tends to see our sex negatively as a potential fetter on our autonomous self. Being born either male or female is something predetermined, and therefore potentially limiting to the liberal, autonomous self. These categories therefore have to be made not to matter.

And so the kindergarten book sets "being me" against being either male or female. The two things are set apart rather than being interwoven. The book also promotes the idea that there are any number of possible sexual identities, making this aspect of the self more amenable to a liberal "self-expressive individualism".

Pope Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger in 1997) observed this larger trend within liberal modernity, describing it this way:
The idea that 'nature' has something to say is no longer admissible; man is to have the liberty to remodel himself at will. He is to be free from all of the prior givens of his essence. He makes of himself what he wants, and only in this way is he really 'free and liberated'. Behind this approach is a rebellion on man's part against the limits that he has as a biological being. In the end, it is a revolt against our creatureliness. Man is to be his own creator - a modern, new edition of the immemorial attempt to be God, to be like God.

It is not a step up in our dignity as humans to be denatured in this way. The liberal understanding is that I am "just me" either as a desexed personality or as a uniquely sexed one. And so there is no essence that exists as part of the created order that I share in and that gives substance and signficance to who I am and that gives a coherent unity that integrates - gives integrity to -  mind, body and soul.

Our limits as a biological being are also how we are concretely "natured". It is within this given, created nature that the deeper aspects of our self are to be experienced, not within what we make up ourselves as an "expressive choice".

In other words, we will find more, and be more, if we fully develop the masculine essence given to us as men, than if we assert, as an act of choice, our independence from this, either as a desexed personality or as a personality with a self-created sex, one that fails to connect our physical being and sexual being, body and mind.

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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Debating morality in a liberal age

If liberalism is to be reduced to any single position it is the belief that autonomy is the overriding good in life.

I was reminded of this when reading a Twitter debate about abortion. The anti-abortionists were arguing that a woman should not take the life of the fetus in her womb. The pro-abortionist rejected this on the basis that the woman's autonomy trumped everything else.

He took this position to its logical conclusion in tweets like the following:



Something becomes moral, in this point of view, not because of its intrinsic nature, but if it is consensual. If a fetus fails to gain consent from its mother to live in her womb, its position becomes morally untenable. That is where the logic of making autonomy the ultimate test of morality - the ultimate good - takes us.

Update: A participant in the debate added what I think is a good insight into the possible mindset of liberals like "idahogie". It's worth considering:


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Digging a deeper hole

A reader of the left-wing Guardian sent the following problem to the paper's agony aunt, Mariella Frostrup:
Like me, most of my friends are in their 30s, some turning 40...

We’ve tried all of the dating things, found no one and biological clocks are ticking. One friend said her life is not worth living because she hasn’t got a partner or a child.

...life isn’t going how we thought it would. We’re being left behind and without the financial ability (or housing) to freeze eggs or go it alone, or adopt.

I get harassed by some friends, almost bullying me into going on dating apps...But I hated it – men were rude, unkind and I felt physically threatened. I found myself despising all men.

The idea that single people in their 30s are all having fun is a lie. We are the have-nots and we are sad. What now?

Mariella's advice? She wants the reader to focus her energies on bringing about more feminist social revolution. The problem, according to Mariella, is that women still aren't equal enough, so more feminism is needed to fix the condition of "sad singleton" women:
What a fascinating dilemma...in the 22 years since Bridget Jones was published, life hasn’t changed much for women in their 30s. I’m not convinced that even millennials will have a radically altered experience of women’s still untenable position.

While Helen Fielding’s book was dismissed as “women’s writing” at the time, it was a zeitgeist novel that summed up the state of the world for sad “singletons”. Women were told they had equality in a still wholly unequal world. Now here you are, over two decades later, experiencing the same old story. Truly society has not yet shape-shifted enough to fully integrate us.

Your letter confirms what I’ve long suspected – that the seismic changes needed to make the world more bearable for our sex aren’t happening fast enough or with enough focus. Women are still penalised for pregnancy, bear the main burden of domestic life (so often now combined with full-time work) and, despite increasing lifespans, have the same short window in which society deems them to be fully contributing members.

...There will, I firmly believe, come a time when women’s lives truly are equal and breakthroughs in medical science will be welcomed instead of fuelling hysterical headlines about pensioners giving birth....I’m convinced that if you and your friends focus further on shaping the world you want and worry less about what the fates will bring, your chances of fulfilment and happiness will soar...

There's nothing of substance in this advice. Just an abstract call to more equality and a hint that science might solve the problem by allowing women to give birth later in life. It is, at heart, a refusal to even consider that feminism might share some of the blame for disrupting family formation.

So what might help women form families in a more timely way? You could write a book on this, but here are a few suggestions on my part.

First, it would help if women weren't encouraged, from girlhood onwards, to believe in a radical form of autonomy. As an example, here is a quote that I noticed in a girl's magazine my young daughter was reading:
"Women are empowered and strong, and don't have to be saved by some male hero, but can take care of themselves using their intelligence and power."

I agree that women don't need to be "saved" by men. Where, though, in this quote is the recognition that it is natural for women to live as part of a family? What is the point in telling a girl, at age 10, that she can "take care of herself" as an empowered woman, and then consoling her at age 35 when she is in grief at being single and childless?

Second, it doesn't help that feminists see the world as a contest between men and women as hostile social classes. How can this not disrupt family formation, especially among the more highly educated, left-wing women who take these ideologies seriously? I know myself how frustrating it is to hear my work colleagues frequently blaming "white men" for social problems. There is no way I could develop romantic feelings for women with this mindset, i.e. for women who saw me politically and socially as the enemy.

Third, there has to be a recognition that the sexual revolution has had negative consequences. Mariella Frostrup is all for this revolution: on her social media accounts she pushes the idea that there is no such thing as a woman being too "slutty". But if women (and men) do not self-limit when it comes to sexuality, much else follows, including a decline in the ability of women to successfully pair bond, and a rise in the rate of divorce that follows (leading to a decline in trust between the sexes and cynicism about marriage).

The Guardian reader disliked dating apps because she found the men rude and unkind, but if feminist women press the idea that there is to be no self-limitation when it comes to sexuality, then it is likely that standards will be coarsened.

Fourth, reform to family law would help to revive marriage. Currently, a man who marries is heavily exposed to abuse from a divorcing wife. He can lose children, house and future income. There are perverse incentives at the moment for a woman to marry a man without seeing this seriously as a life commitment. If divorce really does have to exist, then there should be an expectation of shared custody, with the wife supporting herself rather than expecting a now ex-husband to continue his former role of provider.

Fifth, the feminist push for "equality" runs hard up against female hypergamy in relationships. Women want to marry men they can look up to and who they perceive to be worthy in terms of social status, resources and so on. But the pool of high status, high resource men is in decline. The greater the success of feminists in pushing women into higher education and high status professions, the greater the problem these women face in finding men of equal or higher status to marry.

It is a similar story with "empowerment". If women are hypergamous, and are drawn to men who they perceive to be powerful relative to themselves, then the more that women are empowered the more difficult it is for these women to find men who will impress them.

Sixth, feminism has encouraged the collapse into merely economic values. We live in a market economy and the values derived from this way of organising society, such as career and consumer lifestyles, have become too dominant. Feminists very clearly believe that it is a higher thing for a woman to work in an office as an employee than to be a mother within a family. There is little acknowledgement of how important family roles are in terms of our identities as men or women, or in fulfilling a deeper instinct to reproduce and carry on our traditions, or in the natural drive to experience parenthood and maternal or paternal love, or in our basic human relational needs of having the love and close support of those we are closely related to.

Finally, it is difficult to secure family formation in a culture that has rejected virtue. The question of what qualities should be cultivated so that a man might be a good husband and father, or a woman a good wife or mother, are rarely asked and, in the case of women, would probably be considered regressive. But it cannot be merely assumed that individuals will develop in a way that allows them to be good candidates for marriage. A woman, for instance, needs to develop qualities related to emotional regulation, loyalty and patience, a self-sacrificing love, prudence, gratitude, and appreciation of the worth in everyday things - and none of these can simply be assumed, they need rather to be fostered both within the culture and within the individual soul.

It is part of the nature of genuinely masculine men (men with the warrior instinct) that they wish to defend the good not only in themselves but within their own people. There is an order that can be won from the flux and chaos of the world, that represents things being set right. Ultimately, a people lives or dies by the presence or absence of such genuinely masculine men (men with chests, as C.S. Lewis put it).

Family formation is part of what has to be set right for a people to flourish. It is where we need those genuinely masculine men to re-form and to take charge of the culture. The grieving single women won't find any solutions in the Guardian, let alone from Mariella Frostrup, and nor from Western men who have collapsed into a view that either sets economic values as paramount, or who believe only in a discordant reality, so that there are only individuals and their own autonomous choices, with no choice having any more significance or value than another.

We have to retrieve something within the culture that is not entirely lost, but that has been put away for some time.

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.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Has the left resisted market values?

Liberalism as a political ideology has had a deep effect on Western society. But so too has the way that our society is organised economically.

What matters in a market economy is the individual as a producer and a consumer. Given that our society is organised around this "economic mode" there is a pressure on individuals to fit in with this imperative to maximise both individual production and consumption.

I think it's fair to say that for many people the measure of success in life is based on earning and consuming: more specifically on career status and income. And the basic orientation of many urban dwellers is on a consumer lifestyle of shopping, dining out, travel and entertainment.

It has reached the point that not much else is thought to matter, except perhaps a commitment to liberal political values which are thought to provide the "moral" aspect of life (and family still holds some ground).

In theory, the left is supposed to be a point of resistance to this dominance of market values. But, apart from a preference for working within the public sector, I can't see that this is true. The leftists I know have bought completely into the idea that success in life is measured by career status, money and a consumer lifestyle.

This helps to explain, for instance, the focus of modern day feminism. Western feminists use gender politics as leverage in the competition for upper middle-class employment. This is almost entirely what holds their attention.

It leads to the odd situation in which highly privileged feminists, promoted to positions of great influence with corresponding incomes and lifestyle trappings, nonetheless continue to portray themselves as belonging to an oppressed, disadvantaged class.

And what about traditionalists? We have to take the task of keeping the market in its place much more seriously. We ideally want to create a culture in which the purposes of man are much wider and more varied than simply earning and consuming. We want a culture which upholds communal identities based on family and ethny; which deeply connects the individual to people and place; in which men participate meaningfully in the polis; in which commitments to family and especially to motherhood and fatherhood can flourish; in which the spiritual nature of man can be nurtured; and in which an appreciation of the arts can be widely developed.

If there is no resistance to the mode of "earn/consume" then much else follows. For instance, if 20-something women are guided into a way of life in which the idea is to push toward maximum work commitments and productivity combined with the "glamour" of a high spending consumer lifestyle of dining out and travel, then the prospect of children can be rejected as one burden too many, as well as an unwelcome lifestyle impediment.

Just to show how far this mentality has already wormed its way into the culture, here is a poster from the British National Health Service which simply assumes that women would not want children to get in the way of a "sex in the city" lifestyle:



I don't mean to suggest that traditionalists cannot, or should not, aim to succeed in their careers. We do have to think through, though, how in a practical way non-economic values can be upheld within society.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mistaken at its core

A reader sent in this criticism of feminism made by a rabbi. I think it's well argued.
“Feminism,” the rabbi said, “like other associated liberal concepts, is mistaken at its core. Feminism sees people solely as individuals, that they are not members of a family, of a nation, or even of society at large. Feminists are not good neighbors. They prefer loose personal connections so they can focus on themselves. This is not appropriate human behavior, which should involve concern for those around you. It’s no wonder that feminism has destroyed families, with both men and women as its casualties.

“People are not meant to live in isolation; they are a part of something. All of halacha (Torah law) regarding families does not relate to individual men or women but to a formula for healthy family life, which automatically includes how life is best lived by men and women — as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Feminism promotes external individual achievements, such as female army service, without much interest in family life.

“Due to the feminist movement, many men are more reluctant today to form connections with women. They feel that they are looked upon with suspicion and that they need to prove their innocence. They feel that they are constantly being scrutinized under the watchful eye of the feminist police."

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The swamp speaks

It's interesting to have a first-hand account of how President Trump is being obstructed by the political establishment.

An anonymous "senior official" within the administration has written a piece for the New York Times describing his efforts to undermine the President. He writes:
The dilemma — which he [Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

These officials are not Democrats. They are right-liberal Republicans who want to keep Trump chained to liberal first principles. Here is the anonymous official explaining his motivations:
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

...Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

Trump is moral, claims the official, when he focuses on life within the free market, and amoral when he does not. A Republican should only have a view of human purposes that fits within the ideal of homo economicus - if not, the official intends to try to shut them down. There is no room within this view of morality for solidarity with one's conationals, or for a desire to maintain one's own culture and traditions, or even for a pragmatic concern for the future viability of one's own political party.

Erick Erickson is one of these anti-Trump Republicans. He agrees with the anonymous official that there are Republicans within the administration trying to sabotage the President:
...these are not Obama holdovers and long time, left-leaning bureaucrats. This is the Republican establishment that Trump beat and then absorbed...Trump bested them, they tried to come to terms with him, and they couldn't. Some of them are now leaking.

See, the conclusion you should be drawing is not that there is a leftwing deep state out to sabotage the President and uphold Barack Obama, but there is a Republican establishment that views Trump as temporary. They believe they'll be back in charge once he is gone...

But here's the other dirty little secret -- you can't really say that out loud because you need the Republican base to go vote for some of the allies of these very people this November to save this Presidency.

He is arguing that many Republicans in the administration are anti-Trump but need him to energise the Republican base at election time. It's an admission that there is a disconnect between rank and file Republicans and many party officials.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Melbourne Conference 2018

Really pleased to announce that Frank Salter has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for the inaugural Melbourne Traditionalists conference, taking place on 19th and 20th October. Dr Salter's most recent book is On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration. I've had the pleasure of hearing him speak once before and I'm very much looking forward to his presentation at the conference.

The details of the conference are as follows:

7pm, Friday 19th October, Meet and Greet

10am - 5pm, Saturday 20th October, Conference

7pm, Saturday 20th October, Banquet

Venue: An historic building in the inner suburbs, address to be confirmed to attendees prior to conference.

Cost: Concession $75, Full Price $100 (cost includes both lunch and the banquet on Saturday evening)

Registration & Payment: Trybooking

There will be five presentations at the conference on the following topics:

1. The history of the Anti-Suffragette movement

2. Christianity, Morality and the West

3. Shakespeare and conservatism

4. Anglo-Australian identity

5. Traditionalism, the way forward

For further information contact the event organiser, Mark Moncrieff, at uponhopeblog(at)gmail.com.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, September 03, 2018

South Africa & libertarianism

The South African government is changing the constitution to permit it to take the land of white South African farmers without compensation. Property rights, it seems, don't matter much in the real world if you lose state power to a different group. Even the right to life is not very secure for white South African farmers, with thousands being murdered in farm attacks in the past two decades.

This led me to think some more about libertarianism, a political philosophy that has been influential on the right, particularly in America. I should say from the outset that I have never been attracted to libertarianism, regardless of its real world practicality, because I believe that we fulfil ourselves as individuals (develop toward our natural ends) within unchosen, uncontracted forms of community, such as family and ethnic nation. The individual derives from these the deeper forms of identity and the strongest loyalties and social commitments. We live better, more meaningful lives within these traditional forms of community.

Libertarians prefer to think in terms of the individual developing solo within the market, with the only permissible social commitments being voluntary, contracted ones (i.e. to "civil society" understood to mean voluntary associations, like sports clubs). What South Africa suggests, though, is that this ideal, if it can exist at all, can only survive within a relatively homogeneous society. Property rights and even personal security are much more likely to endure when there is a natural fellow feeling between people who share a common history, culture and tradition, and not when there is a contest within society for power, and the spoils of power, between different groups.

I expect that some libertarians would concede this point. There has been something of a drift lately of libertarians toward the dissident right, with a concern for the securing of borders. Perhaps these libertarians have grasped that their preferred model of society cannot thrive when there is rapid demographic change and the newer groups are self-confidently asserting their own power in society.

Although I welcome libertarians drifting the right way, there is a problem in trying to base a defence of borders on a pragmatic "libertarianism won't work without it". The problem is that libertarianism begins with a concept of man as being an atomised, rights-bearing individual, whose purposes are individual, whose connection with others is voluntarily contracted, and whose best interests are secured by a pursuit of individual ends and personal profit within a free market. This understanding of man, this "anthropology", is blind to communal tradition - it does not tie us, by nature or purpose, to those we share a particular tradition with.

Libertarian anthropology pushes toward open borders, even though libertarianism is more conceivable within a homogeneous, settled society. There is a conflict, in other words, between the anthropology and the type of society libertarianism requires. .

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Is the left really collectivist?

It's common for right-liberals to frame politics as a contest between supporters of individualism (themselves) and collectivism (the left).

There are at least two types of individualism. The first relates to individual responsibility, and here left-liberals do seem to be more collectivist. Whereas a right-liberal will stress the ideal of self-reliance and the aim of successful competition in the market, left-liberals are more likely to claim that "it takes a village to raise a child" or to stress the need for social security.

The second kind of individualism relates to identity. Right-liberals often strongly oppose the notion of collective identity (think Jordan Peterson), seeing it as an affront to the sovereignty of the individual. They see themselves as defenders of individualism against the collectivism of leftist identity politics.

But it's not as straightforward as this. Leftist identity politics has a lot of individualistic assumptions built into it. As an example, consider the following criticism of Jordan Peterson's politics by Anne Gallagher in The Spectator. Gallagher is criticising Peterson from the left. She gives this as one of the reasons she became disenchanted with Peterson:
The first relates to Peterson’s conviction (shared by many conservatives and some progressives) that the bulk of our current social and political ills are the fault of ‘identity politics’: of groups organising and advocating on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender orientation, etc. This idea is attractive because it helps us to make sense of the sharp divisions we see everywhere in public life. It also presents the alluring prospect of a quick fix: by eliminating identity politics we can somehow make whole what is so badly broken.

But the truth is likely much messier. As one African-American debate opponent pointed out to him, racial identity was not something that black Americans happily assumed for themselves. It was imposed by force in order to separate them from the dominant identity and, through that separation, to withhold basic rights and freedoms. The same goes for women and other disempowered groups that are now using their externally imposed ‘identity’ to seek more space, more opportunities and greater power. It is those who inflicted the identity in the first place – and who sense a threat to the disproportionate space, opportunities and power they have enjoyed as a result – who are made most uncomfortable by ‘identity politics’. Peterson is right that identity politics, taken to the extreme, represent a threat to valuable liberal ideas about the primacy and sovereignty of the individual. But his unwillingness (or inability) to explore contradictions and inconsistencies, and his simmering displeasure when they are noted, is telling.

This is an admirably clear statement of leftist identity politics. It assumes that group identity is wholly unnatural and that it is forced onto minority groups as an act of oppression and disempowerment. These groups then use this artificially imposed identity to fight back against the oppressor.

Canadian professor, Dr Ricardo Duchesne, draws out this point about the individualist assumptions underlying leftist identity politics in the following:
It is not that one side is into identity politics and another is not. Insomuch as leftists say that males and females are really equal, they are saying that males and females are just individuals. The difference is that for the left the playing field in the West still favours males, and for this reason leftists insist that we must play identity politics. While leftists are always finding new victims, in principle their identity politics is meant to be temporary. They want a future individualistic world in which social conditions allow for the development of the full potentialities of all individuals regardless of race and sex.

...The same logic applies to the way postmodernists use racial categories. They don't believe in races. They believe that in our current society minorities are "racialized" by dominant Whites, and that overcoming this racial hierarchy necessitates race identity politics. Their aim is to transcend altogether any form of racial identity for the sake of a society in which everyone is judged as an individual.

Leftist identity politics is extraordinary when you think about it. It requires us to believe, for instance, that women only have a distinct female identity because men "inflicted" it on them, imposing it "by force." It makes a female identity sound like a terrible thing to have, a punishment; it gives to men an almost god-like power of creating a female identity out of nothing; and it ignores the more obvious natural origins of women identifying as women.

So leftist identity politics does lead to "collective action" but the underlying philosophy is individualistic. The answer to it is not a right-liberal rejection of identity. This only leaves the targets of leftist identity politics weakly disorganised and unable to defend themselves.

And, more than this, humans are relational creatures. So you do not defend the individual by making him autonomous of others or by denying the sense of identity, belonging, connectedness, commitment and security that comes with membership of natural human communities (see here for a defence of identity).

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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Anning speech

Something happened in Australian politics last week. Senator Fraser Anning made his maiden speech in parliament and boldly challenged the civic nationalist status quo.

I have no idea how skilled a politician Senator Anning will prove to be, and I do have a few criticisms of the speech, but it was a promising moment of resistance, which hopefully will lead on to other things.

The speech began with a reference to a founding father of Australia, Sir Henry Parkes, who saw kinship as vital to national identity:
The founding father of our Federation knew that it was not simply a bounteous land that makes a nation, but the common threads of inherited identity that unite its people.

The great thing about this comment is that it directly rejects the liberal idea that autonomous choice is the highest good and that only a self-determined identity is allowed to matter. Instead, Senator Anning defends "the common threads of inherited identity" that defined traditional nations and peoples.

Anning then goes on to blend two normally separate political strands, by combining economic nationalism with a belief in a small, non-intrusive state. He identifies pre-Whitlam Australia (prior to the 1970s) as having a better political consensus:
Fifty years ago Australia was a cohesive, predominantly Anglo-Celtic nation. Most people thought of themselves as Christian of some sort, although most of us didn't go to church all that often. Everyone, from the cleaners to the captains of industry, had a shared vision of who we were as a people and our place in the world.

Until the late 1960s, prior to the rise of Whitlam in the Labor Party, there was a broad consensus between the Liberal and Labor parties on the kind of society we were and what we should be in the future. In the 1960s, both Liberal and Labor parties reflected a common framework of Judeo-Christian values, supporting the family as the basic unit of society. They both supported the principle that marriage was a union between a man and woman, and both parties recognised the sanctity of the lives of the unborn. Both major parties agreed that people should be free to live their own lives and say what they thought without fear of state sanction. Both sides of politics recognised the importance of our manufacturing industries as well as our farming and mining. Both parties recognised the importance of our predominantly European identity.

I agree with most of this but I think he underestimates how far the political class had moved away from "Judeo-Christian values" in favour of explicitly liberal ones, and that the logic of these liberal principles was likely over time to undermine traditional marriage and a traditional national identity. Liberalism tends to move generationally. One generation pushes it so far and then believes it has gone far enough, but the next generation takes it further.

Anning blames Gramscian communism for the decline of traditional Australia:
A tectonic shift has occurred in which the previously agreed social and political order has been overthrown in an insidious silent revolution. To understand fully what has happened to our country, I believe that we must look to the work of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci's insight was to see revolution in cultural rather than economic terms, with 'cultural hegemony' as the key to supposed class dominance. The Marxist state, Gramsci argued, could be achieved by gradual cultural revolution—subverting society via a long march through the institutions.

Maybe this is part of it. But in Australia some of the most influential radicals of the 1960s were associated with the Sydney Push and they had a left-libertarian philosophy rather than a communist one. They were strongly influenced by John Anderson, who had been appointed a professor of philosophy at Sydney University way back in 1927.

And we can go back to the 1930s to find influential figures in Australian politics pressing for a more diverse society as a matter of "social justice":
In newspaper articles, speeches made as president of the Victorian Labor Party during the 1930s, and later after election as federal member for Melbourne in 1940, Calwell's deep concern for social justice was invariably linked with the creation in Australia of an ethnically mixed society through large-scale immigration.

...in a confidential note addressed to Chifley in 1944 he wrote of his determination to develop a heterogeneous society

It's the same sort of thinking that we have today, except that it wasn't taken as far in 1944 as it is now - but the same logic is at play. And if you believe that social justice demands ethnic diversity, then it seems inevitable that this principle would eventually extend to diversity from all corners of the globe. Calwell only wanted to take the principle so far, but there was no reason for the next generation not to take it to the next logical stage. Cultural Marxism wasn't necessary for this to happen.

There is a lot more in Anning's speech. He wants nation building infrastructure projects; a return to affordable housing; a withdrawal from treaties which undermine Australian sovereignty; and support for independent farmers. I recommend reading the entire speech rather than relying on comments about it in the mainstream media.