Monday, February 11, 2019

Hell's Prentice or Heaven's Free-woman?

In 1620, transvestism became an issue in England. There were complaints about women who had taken to wearing masculine clothes. One of the pamphlets written at this time, Haec-Vir, is particularly interesting, because it considers arguments both for and against the practice. It gives us some insight into the proto-liberal thought of the time.

The pamphlet sets out a debate between two characters. Hic Mulier is the mannish woman and Haec-Vir is the womanish man (but I will just refer to them as the man and the woman).

The man begins by criticising the woman for behaving in a base, unnatural, shameful and foolish manner. I won't focus on this part of the debate, except to note how important acting nobly was to moral thought of this time.

The woman then has a right of reply:
First, you say I am Base, in being a Slave to Novelty. What slavery can there be in
freedom of election, or what baseness to crown my delights with those pleasures which are most suitable to mine affections? Bondage or Slavery is a restraint from those actions which the mind of its own accord doth most willingly desire, to perform the intents and purposes of another’s disposition, and that not by mansuetude [gentleness] or sweetness of entreaty, but by the force of authority and strength of compulsion. Now for me to follow change according to the limitation of mine own will and pleasure, there cannot be a greater freedom.

She is arguing that liberty exists when there is no "restraint from those actions which the mind of its own accord doth most willingly desire". Freedom, in other words, is being able to choose to do whatever I autonomously have a mind or a will to do. Freedom is the pursuit of desires, as long as they are my desires ("which the mind of its own accord doth most willingly desire"). It is not that far removed from the modern liberal understanding of freedom.

She goes on to deny that she is behaving unnaturally. She argues that she was born free and she suggests that men and women are constituted in a similar way ("we are compounded of like parts"), and should operate in much the same way, namely along male lines. Sex distinctions, she argues, are often based on mere custom and that,
Custom is an Idiot, and whosoever dependeth wholly upon him without the discourse of Reason will take from him his pied coat and become a slave indeed

The woman has put her case forcibly and at length, but the man is having none of it. He does not submit to proto-liberal ideas about freedom but replies:
You have wrested out some wit, to wrangle forth no reason; since everything you would make for excuse, approves your guilt still more ugly: what basest bondage, or what more servile baseness, than for the flattering and soothing of an un-bridled appetite, or delight, to take a wilfull liberty to do evil, and to give evil example? This is to be Hells Prentice, not Heaven’s Free-woman.

He is pointing out that to seek no restraint in doing what "the mind of its own accord doth most willingly desire" or to be limited only by "mine own will and pleasure" is to justify "unbridled appetite" and a "wilfull liberty to do evil". This, he says tellingly, will not lead her to be "Heaven's Free-woman", i.e. it is not a virtuous understanding of freedom.

His argument draws on an older pre-liberal understanding of freedom in which we are at liberty when we are not slaves to our animal passions or to our sins, but are directed instead by our reason. (This understanding of freedom has potential problems of its own which I'll discuss in a future post; it's enough for now to acknowledge that the older understanding was set against "unbridled appetite", i.e. it was set against the idea that "my desires are justified as long as they are authentically my desires".)

The man wins the argument in the end by appealing to the teaching of the church. There is a passage in Deuteronomy which clearly forbids transvestism and so the woman agrees to give it up, albeit on one condition - that the man himself gives up dressing in an effeminate, foppish way.

The woman then claims that she only did what she did as a strategy to force men to give up their effeminacy:
Now since according to your own Inference, even by the Laws of Nature, by the rules of Religion, and the Customs of all civil Nations, it is necessary there be a distinct and special difference between Man and Woman, both in their habit and behaviors, what could we poor weak women do less ... than to gather up those garments you have proudly cast away and therewith to clothe both our bodies and our minds?

She quotes a section of the poem Orlando Furioso, in which the knight Ruggiero has been beguiled by the sorceress Alcina and made effeminate:
His Locks bedewed with waters of sweet savour;
Stood curled round in order on his head;
He had such wanton womanish behaviour,
As though in Valor he had ne’re been bred:
So chang’d in speech, in manners and in favour,
So from himselfe beyond all reason led,
By these inchantments of this amorous Dame;
He was himselfe in nothing but in name.

Again, this is very different to the proto-liberal view expressed earlier in the pamphlet. The proto-liberal view is that it is our inborn nature to be free, which means being subject only to our own reason, which means choosing whatever we authentically desire. The poem, however, suggests that we have fit ends or purposes, that reason holds us to, and that therefore in the loss of reason, we fail to hold to these purposes, and are no longer ourselves.

The woman ends her part by promising that all will be set right if men return to their masculine role:
Cast then from you our ornaments and put on your own armor; be men in shape, men in show, men in words, men in actions, men in counsel, men in example. Then will we love and serve you; then will we hear and obey you; then will we like rich Jewels hang at your ears to take our Instructions, like true friends follow you through all dangers, and like careful leeches [physicians] pour oil into your wounds. Then shall you find delight in our words, pleasure in our faces, faith in our hearts, chastity in our thoughts, and sweetness both in our inward and outward inclinations. Comeliness shall be then our study, fear our Armor, and modesty our practice.

The man decides to return to more masculine wear:
Away then from me these light vanities, the only Ensigns of a weak and soft nature, and come you grave and solid pieces which arm a man with Fortitude and Resolution...From henceforth deformity shall pack to Hell, and if at any time he hide himself upon the earth, yet it shall be with contempt and disgrace...Henceforth we will live nobly like ourselves, ever sober, ever discreet, ever worthy: true men and true women. We will be henceforth like well-coupled Doves, full of industry, full of love. I mean not of sensual and carnal love, but heavenly and divine love, which proceeds from God...

Friday, February 08, 2019

Lopsided liberation

I want to draw out a point I raised in my post on Cardi B. If you remember, Cardi B released a "twerking" music video and justified it on the grounds of female empowerment. She and many others defined female empowerment as women doing whatever they want or feel like doing, without judgement from others and without negative consequences.

It is an extraordinary social experiment to "liberate" female sexuality in this way. It used to be thought that a person was most at liberty when they were not under the control of their animal passions or appetites, but had instead, through their higher reason/moral sense, cultivated habits of virtue, through which the animal passions/appetites could be directed to their proper ends.

And here we are with this older principle turned on its head. It is now thought that women are liberated and empowered when they are driven instead by unrestrained sexual impulse, by what they feel in the moment in terms of sexual passion.

And what of men? Has society taken a similar gamble and encouraged men to follow their animal impulses when it comes to sex? The answer, of course, is a resounding no. Our society, if anything, is petrified of the idea. There is a suspicion applied in our society to male sexuality, a suspicion that men are potential rapists or harassers of women. Men are forever put on the defensive, feeling pressured to apologise to women for the sexual sins, real or potential, of their sex.

So what we have is a lopsided account of sexual liberation. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander.

The remedy is not to encourage men to act on whatever sexual impulses they happen to have in order to even the score. It's unlikely that any society would really ever encourage this given the strength of male libido combined with the physical strength of young men.

Our society has been foolish, though, to imagine that "liberating" the female sexual impulse would have happy results. Earlier cultures were very much aware of the negative potential within female sexuality.

In 1613, for instance, Sir Thomas Overbury wrote a poem titled "The Wife". Overbury gives much thought in this poem as to how a woman might make a good wife. He does not deny the significance of beauty or passion, but he is clearly aware that for a wife to be loyal her love will have to derive not just from the animal passions (lust) but from her reason and her religious commitments.

In the following lines, Overbury observes that having a wife who is beautiful is not enough; unless she loves her husband, then her beauty is of little reward to him:
Without her love, her beauty should I take,
As that of pictures; dead; that gives it life:
Till then her beauty like the sun doth shine
Alike to all; that makes it, only mine.

And of that love, let reason father be,
And passion mother...

Overbury does not want his wife's love to be based on feelings alone. He wants the "father" (the governing/directing aspect) to be reason and passion the "mother".

He also makes the point that what matters most is not the birth, beauty or wealth of a wife but that she be "good":
Rather then these the object of my love,
Let it be good; when these with vertue go,
They (in themselves indifferent) vertues prove,
For good (like fire) turnes all things to be so.
Gods image in her soule, O let me place
My love upon! not Adams in her face.

Good, is a fairer attribute then white,
’Tis the minds beauty keeps the other sweete;

And what does he mean by the word "good"? He wants her to be "holy", i.e. to have a love of God that then commits her to a love of her husband:
By good I would have holy understood,
So God she cannot love, but also me,
The law requires our words and deeds be good,
Religion even the thoughts doth sanctifie:
As she is more a maid that ravisht is,
Then she which only doth but wish amisse.

Lust onely by religion is withstood,
Lusts object is alive, his strength within;
Morality resists but in cold blood;
Respect of credit feareth shame, not sin.
But no place darke enough for such offence
She findes, that’s watch’t, by her own conscience.

Then may I trust her body with her mind,
And, thereupon secure, need never know
The pangs of jealousie

If it's not clear, he is arguing that she won't be inwardly faithful if it is only a fear of being shamed for breaking a moral convention that stops her from cheating. But if her mind is turned toward the love of God, and through this a love of her husband, then it becomes a matter of deep conscience that she remains faithful and then he can "trust her body with her mind".

What this illustrates is that earlier generations were concerned to answer the question of how female sexuality, as an animal passion or appetite, might be directed, guided or restrained, to make possible a culture of marriage and family. The idea that you would deliberately aim to unleash female sexuality, and call it "liberation" or "empowerment", would have dumbfounded our ancestors. And the sexual chaos of our own times has proven our forebears to have had greater wisdom.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Is it Gough's fault?

Back in August Fraser Anning gave his maiden speech in the Australian Senate. It was a bold speech that ventured outside the liberal orthodoxy that dominates politics in this country.

It's likely that Senator Anning's politics are the closest to my own within our parliament. Still, I'm going to make a criticism in this post of one aspect of his worldview.

Senator Anning has recently published an opinion piece on the topic of the Liberal Party & the Overton Window. The argument he makes is that Australian politics was good up to the election of Gough Whitlam in 1972. According to Anning:
...the political consensus on identity, values and so many other vital issues which existed between the major parties of the left and right up until 1972 was shifted radically to the left by the Whitlam government and has never recovered.

...The “acceptable” window of political discourse in the days of Sir Robert Menzies, Jack McEwan and Arthur Calwell, which was reflected by not only by the media of the day but also in the views of the vast majority of Australians, has been shifted radically to the left since that time.

The electorate rejected Whitlam in 1975, but the Liberals under Malcolm Fraser did not reverse Whitlam's policies and Anning sees this is as being the key to what has gone wrong:
Thus while the radical left in Labor may have conceived of the destruction of the wonderful, prosperous and cohesive nation Menzies bequeathed us, the only thing that made it possible and enduring was the collaboration of the very party that he founded.

It is in fact the Liberal Party, not Labor that has enabled ratchet socialism to gradually overtake our nation and has shifted the Overton window to the far left.

I don't think this adequately describes what has happened in Australia. Since the 1870s both the left and the right wing of Australian politics have claimed the mantle of being the "true liberals", leaving us with no party committed to conservatism. It is therefore not surprising at all that the Liberal Party has pushed our culture along ever more liberal lines.

That's why Anning's time frame for change is inaccurate. Take, for instance, the push toward diversity. That began in the 1930s with Arthur Calwell, one of the men Anning thinks of as supporting traditional Australia:
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. a confidential note addressed to Chifley in 1944 he wrote of his determination to develop a heterogeneous society

Now, it's true that Calwell only wanted to take this principle "so far". He wanted a diverse European Australian country rather than a mono-ethnic British Australian one. The problem is that once the principle is in place the next generation will inevitably want to take it to the next step. And that's what happened - and it happened well before Gough Whitlam came to power.

In June 1965, the Labor Party platform changed to omit any mention of a white Australia policy, with immigration being decided instead primarily on economic grounds.

Prior to that, when Menzies was PM, the Liberals had (in 1958) changed immigration rules to allow non-European residents to become citizens. In 1966, the Holt Liberal Government announced that non-Europeans were to be admitted as permanent residents.

As for Malcolm Fraser, he complained in 1968 that one Australian University was teaching:
French, German, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Japanese...the list as a whole is one belonging to the last century except for one of the languages mentioned.

In other words, he asserted in 1968 that our links to Europe belonged to the 1800s and that only Japanese was relevant to Australia in the twentieth century. Is it any wonder, then, that Fraser in 1975 had no intention of pushing back against Gough Whitlam? There was not going to be any push-back, because Fraser was even more for the change than Whitlam was.

Fraser did not see himself as a principled conservative, but as a liberal. He wrote:
As its name implies, ours is a liberal government holding liberal principles...I have stressed the commitment of the Government to liberal principles and values. Precisely because of that commitment it is also concerned to conserve and protect those principles and values.

Once liberal institutions are installed in a society, a government which wishes to preserve them must in some sense be conservative.

Fraser is making it clear that he is only a "conservative" in the sense that he wants to conserve the already entrenched liberal institutions and values. So why then would Fraser try to reverse the liberal policies enacted by his Labor predecessor Whitlam?

(The other gruesome truth is that even in the early 1940s, important policy decisions were being driven by technocrats of various stripes, such as high ranking officials within the Federal Government, academic experts, diplomats etc. and that the rationale was often just "maximum development along modern industrial/economic lines" rather than anything resembling "the conservation of natural forms of human community".)

To understand how politics has developed in Australia it's important to recognise that the mainstream parties on the right have been "right liberal" in their politics rather than genuinely conservative. This includes the Liberal Party under Menzies.

Senator Anning, therefore, is going to get very little support from anyone in the political establishment. His best chance is to appeal over the heads of the political class to the rank and file, particularly those who don't identify as urban middle-class.

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, January 28, 2019

Just how free is Cardi B?

Cardi B is a popular Caribbean-American singer. A recent song, "City Girls", currently has 32 million views on YouTube. The song not only has coarsely sexual lyrics, the video clip features more than a dozen women dressed in G-strings twerking, i.e. shaking their backsides suggestively.

It's supposed to be sexy, but I couldn't help but find it culturally alien. It just seems so odd - there are women standing on their heads twerking, others on their back, some of them squatting. It looks atavistic - a reversion to a primitive mating ritual.

I think there's a reason for my response to the video, which I'll explain later. But I'd like to begin with this:

Stephanie Hamill's complaint is that Cardi B's video does not empower women. That's a poor way of criticising what's on display. After all, in a liberal society "female empowerment" means women rejecting customary restraints on their behaviour in order to do whatever they feel like doing.

Cardi B is dutifully following the logic of female empowerment. She is expressing her sexuality as she wants to, without regard for any traditional standards or norms. She is taking empowerment to the next level.

And that's exactly what many of those commenting on Stephanie Hamill's tweet pointed out. A selection:

Cardi B herself replied to Stephanie Hamill along similar lines:

So saying the video is not "empowering" is ineffective. People will just respond by arguing that the video shows women asserting their power to act however they want, without judgement, and that there should be no negative consequences in doing so. This is precisely in line with what female empowerment is understood to mean.

So what is a better way of criticising the video? Liberals would have us believe that they are creating a society based on freedom and equality, by which they mean a society of equally autonomous individuals. However, the issue of female empowerment highlights that you cannot have an equality of autonomy - that this cannot, in practice, be realised, and therefore the attempt to achieve it is misconceived. Second, the issue of female empowerment demonstrates the falsity of the liberal understanding of freedom.

In other words, the liberal approach does not deliver in practice either true freedom or equality - and these are the very things that liberalism attempts to base itself on.

Let's start with equality. Some of the comments to Stephanie Hamill's tweet pointed out that there is a double standard when it comes to sexual expression. Women are "empowered" by twerking their naked backsides, but if men were to expose themselves in public in a similar way they would be condemned.

What this points to is that it is difficult to apply the principle of acting however you feel to both sexes. In general, if you want women to be able to choose whatever they feel like, without judgement or consequences, then men have to be the ones to enable these choices, to bear the brunt of the fallout of these choices, and to act responsibly to hold society together.

It's not surprising, then, that at a time when women are encouraged to be "empowered", men's behaviour is increasingly scrutinised, monitored and policed and that men are often held to traditional standards in a way that women no longer are.

Which brings me to the most important point to be made in all this. It was once thought that man was a "rational animal", meaning that man had both an animal nature but also a rational nature that could discern the good and that could direct the animal passions to their proper ends. Freedom was understood to mean the achievement, through disciplined habits of virtue, of a rational self-control over our own person.

It's not that the animal passions are necessarily bad or to be suppressed; the insight is that we are only free to act as we know we should when we are in our right mind, rather than under the control of our animal passions.

And that was embedded within Western culture for millennia. That's why there are so many derogatory terms in our language for a loss of rational self-control over our animal impulses: dissolute, dissipated, wanton, licentious, promiscuous, libertine, loose, profligate - even the term "liberal" was once sometimes used in a pejorative way in this sense.

And I think that's why Cardi B's video seems so culturally alien to me. There is no restraint on the animal passion side of human nature in it. It depicts humans as rutting animals; there is no influence of the rational nature that was once considered pivotal to human freedom.

Would someone under the direction of their rational nature favour sexual immodesty? I don't think so. The higher good is for men and women to achieve a deep and stable emotional and physical intimacy with a person of the opposite sex, one that will provide enduring support even into old age.

Someone who is oriented to this goal will act modestly when it comes to their sexuality. They will be oriented to spousal love, and will want to give of themselves to that end, not promiscuously.

The aim for women, just as for men, is not to be "empowered" in the liberal sense, but to order themselves to the good, including the common good of the communities they belong to.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Bible, nations & migration

Scott Greer makes a good point in this tweet:

As an example, when an American Catholic priest, Fr Frank Pavone, announced his support for border protection he was roundly condemned by people who assumed that this was unChristian:

It seems to me that there is an important issue to be resolved here when it comes to Christianity. I'm going to try to explain what the issue is and how it might be resolved, but I want to make it clear at the outset that I do so without claiming theological expertise, so I am very much open to listening to other points of view.

The issue is that there seem, at least on the surface, to be two principles in the Bible that run against each other. Those who think that the Bible is supportive of open borders can point to some passages in the New Testament. The most powerful one is Matthew 25:31. In this passage, Matthew writes of the second coming of Jesus and of Judgement Day. He writes that Jesus says "I was a stranger and you took me in" as one criterion of who will be judged righteous.

Another is the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke. In this parable, the "good neighbour" is a Samaritan who has mercy for an Israelite, despite the two groups being in opposition. The field of mercy, benevolence and compassion is here defined as extending even to our enemies (which fits with the "love thy enemy" principle).

Unsurprisingly, there are liberal Christians who, on the basis of such passages, argue for open borders or for large scale refugee programs. An example:

The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office bases its support for immigration and refugee programs on the ground that:
In the Gospel, Jesus compels us to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35)

Is it, then, an open and shut case? Does Christianity compel us to accept a borderless, nationless, one world philosophy?

Well, no. There are other passages in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, which clearly indicate that it is part of God's design for people to live in nations. The aim is not to dissolve such distinctions.

Even the Matthew quote, about the second coming, begins with the natural division of mankind into distinct communities: "All the nations will be gathered before him." This suggests that Matthew himself thought that the "take in the stranger" message was not to be understood in a way that would undermine the existence of unique nations of people.

From Paul (Acts 17:26) "From one man he made every nation of humanity to live all over the earth, fixing the seasons of the year and the national boundaries within which they live."

From Deuteronomy 32:8 - "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples."

Remember, too, the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9). This describes humanity attempting to defy God's plan for people to live in separate nations, with different languages, which then displeases God. God punishes those who seek to erase national distinctions.

There is more, which I will try to explain shortly. But I'd like to return to Matthew. How can you reconcile the principle of hospitality that Matthew sets out ("I was a stranger and you took me in") with the Biblical principle of a humanity divided into distinct nations with borders established by God?

I think it helps to consider how hospitality might have been understood within the existing Hebraic tradition and culture. Here is how one professor describes the background to New Testament hospitality:
The terrain surrounding Jerusalem is rugged and unforgiving: rocky hills with little water to the west, forbidding desert to the east, scorching temperatures most of the year. Travel could be dangerous, so hospitality to the traveller was an ongoing need and a sacred duty. The New Testament is full of images and stories of guests received, both those already known as friends and those strangers who are taken in and transformed into guests. Among nomadic tribes, the guest comes under the protection of the host, who guarantees inviolable safety. The important elements of hospitality include the opportunity for cleansing dusty feet, scented oil to soften dried skin and mask odors of the road, food, shelter, security, and companionship.

It should be noted too that there had been, historically, a custom of nomadic pastoralism among the Jews:
A nomadic camp consisted of about 25 to 50 members. Any less and it would be difficult to protect the family and any more would be difficult to feed. Usually the oldest member of the family was the head, or chief, of the tribe. The remainder of the clan would consist of his brothers, sons, nephews and grandsons as well as their wives and children. Each clan was an independent entity with the chief as judge and ruler. He had the ultimate authority in all manners including where they go, discipline, management of the flocks and herds and the daily tasks of the camp.

When a clan became too large to support, it was divided and separated with all of the clans belonging to one tribe. The name of the tribe was generally that of the original family patriarch and each clan of the tribe carried the name of its original patriarch.

...One of the major responsibilities of the clan is to provide hospitality to anyone who comes to them. This may be a member of a related clan or even an enemy of another tribe. In both cases it was the responsibility of the clan to provide food, shelter and protection as long as they were within their camp.

You can see from this:

1. Hospitality is especially important when conditions of travel are difficult. You have to imagine a time before modern transport and communications systems.

2. There was already a well-developed culture of hospitality existing at that time, in which protection was to be afforded the traveller.

You can see why Matthew would not have thought it a contradiction to accept hospitality as a test of benevolence whilst at the same time accepting nations as a divinely ordained plan for humanity.

Hospitality was embedded within the culture, to the point that it had rituals that were observed. There was likely to be a single guest who would be temporarily hosted before continuing his travels. The guest might be known already to the clan (lowest level of benevolence) or be a stranger (higher level) or even from a hostile tribe (highest). However, most guests would have been fellow Jews.

Given that a patriarch ruled the clan, that guests were mostly travellers, and that most guests were fellow Jews, it's not the case that the culture of hospitality would have ceded either political power or cultural dominance to a radically different population.

In other words, hospitality as a test of benevolence would not have led to many millions of permanent residents arriving suddenly from a different continent.

The problem is that there are some Christians today who want a form of hospitality that does have this outcome, i.e. one that would lead the host nation to be subsumed under the weight of mass immigration. For instance, the female pastor quoted above claims that there are no limits on immigration allowed by the Bible:

This seems to me to be taking the letter of the law rather than its underlying principle.

Earlier I wrote that there were other reasons for doubting that the Bible compels us to have open borders. One of them is that there are multiple defences of "storge" in the New Testament, the type of love that is generally associated with love of family and nation.

The use of terms like "agape" and "storge" to describe different kinds of love is not always clear cut, but one scholar describes "storge" in the New Testament as denoting "a natural affection, a sentiment innate and peculiar to men as men...Hence of the natural love of kindred, of people and king (the relation being regarded as founded in nature)".

Paul, in Acts 1:31, says of the unrighteous that they are without storge, translated usually as "without natural affection". This is part of a longer text in which Paul states that God reveals himself to man in the creation, but that the unrighteous choose to act nonetheless in a series of naturally disordered ways, one piece of evidence for this is that they lack "storge".

Then there is Paul's second epistle to Timothy, in which he writes "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love [without storge], unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous.

That Paul regarded such natural kinship relations, and the duties flowing from them, as being part of a rightly ordered community is evident from other passages. Paul writes for instance, in 1 Timothy 5:8, that "if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." Similarly (1 Timothy 5:4) "But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God."

This idea of love of kin and country as a naturally ordered affection survived into the culture of Christian countries. Metternich in 1820 wrote of "one of the sentiments most natural to man, that of nationality." And in 1828 Eliza Fenton, on a sea journey to Australia, was unsettled to find that one of the crew was an Englishman turned Arab. She observed that,
His taste seems to lie in laying bare the unsightly movements of the human heart and crushing its better feelings, or dwelling on them with bitterness and ridicule...Poor fellow! though it always makes me nervous to hear him speak, I pity him too; he may not always have been what he now is; has he been made this [way] by disappointment or alienation from the humanising relationships of life?

The significant point in all this is that the loves that we have for family and people, i.e. the natural affections (and duties) that flow from kinship, are not alien to New Testament thought, and their absence is considered proof of unrighteousness and of the fall of society and social relationships in the end days.

Finally, I'd like to look at some of the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on the question of both patriotism and immigration.

The Catechism (2241) is supportive of secure borders: "The second duty is to secure one's border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good." As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it (in the entry on "justice"): "It is the function of the State to protect its subjects in their rights and to govern the whole body for the common good."

Also from the Catholic Encyclopedia (on "migration"): "The justification [for restriction] is to be found in the right of a nation to control the variations of its own population....Restrictive measures are also justified...on the general ground that a national family has a right to say who shall join it."

Patriotism is a great virtue. To be a patriot is to love one’s fatherland. This means that it is to love the land of the people that sired you. Patriotism is a natural overflow of the virtue of piety — that is, the virtue of the home. As piety would have us rendering what is due in justice to parents and other family members, patriotism would have us render the same to our nation, its government, and our fellow citizens. Both of these are a matter of justice, for the virtues of piety and patriotism are parts of that cardinal virtue. Over and above justice is the theological virtue of charity, which also enters into a consideration of Catholic piety and patriotism. After God, we love our neighbors, that is, those who are “nigh” to us, meaning near us. Those most near to us are our parents and our siblings.

Our charity, as well as the just demands of piety and patriotism, spread out in broadening concentric circles from the family home to the neighborhood, to the town or city, to the state, to the region, to the nation (or empire), of which we are a resident, citizen, or subject. If we see our country as “our people” — something much more possible in homogeneous, non-pluralistic societies — it is much easier to see how piety quite naturally becomes patriotism...Thus patriotism is a rootedness in the land and its people.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Shelley & the descent of the left

An American teacher gave her students a test and asked them to identify "obstacles that keep people from moving ahead". One student gave the simple answer "white people".

Now, you might ask what this has to do with the English poet Shelley. As it happens, Shelley is part of a chain of thought on the left side of politics that ultimately leads to this answer.

In my last post I tried to explain why Shelley's concept of freedom was inseparable from a concept of equality. Shelley's political philosophy went something like this:

1. Human nature is not "tainted" in the sense of being fallen or having a fixed potential to do evil.
2. The reason why people do the wrong thing is because of existing political institutions which are based on some people having power over others (i.e. power structures).
3. Man can be regenerated if these power structures are abolished.
4. Power structures were those of the ancien régime, i.e. kings, aristocrats and priests.
5. This power structure should be replaced by democratic rule.
6. If power structures were replaced, then people would live an "Edenic" existence, i.e. a return to an idyllic, untainted existence as before the Fall.
7. Shelley, as a poet, unsurprisingly conceived this to be a kind of poetic existence within nature, with people living in complete freedom and equality, doing as they wanted, motivated by pure, selfless love, without jealousy or acquisitiveness etc.

This was how Shelley saw things in 1820. A generation later Karl Marx came along and made a key observation. Marx realised that you could get rid of the ancien régime, but in its place you would still have a power structure. The bourgeoisie would still hold power over the proletariat within a democratic system. Marx, cleverly in a way, revised the Shelleyan system, by noting that if the working class were to take power, there would be no other class below them to exploit. In other words, there would no longer be a class based power structure.

In that case, thought Marx, the power structure of society would be abolished, and you would have the kind of Edenic existence that Marx briefly sketched in his writings. His Eden was less poetic than Shelley's, but was similarly based on the idea of abolishing nations and families, and having people wander round as "unencumbered" individuals, doing whatever productive work they felt like doing (fishing, writing etc.).

Marxism is clearly a tweaking of Shelleyism, or at least of political ideas that were already in vogue.

And what of the modern left? Well, there has been a further tweak to the system. Even though Shelley did want to abolish sex distinctions, nations and marriage, he believed the key power structure to be overthrown was the class one (aristocracy). The same for Marx (the bourgeoisie). The modern left, though, focuses more on race and biological sex as power structures to be deconstructed (whiteness and the patriarchy). Only then will humanity reach its final destination of true freedom and equality.

So you can see why that school student dutifully answered that it was "white people" who were an obstacle to people moving ahead. That student is the end product of a current of thought that has existed within the left since at least the 1820s (probably earlier).

There are a few other things I should point out. First, there are other currents of thought which have also shaped the modern left. For instance, there is still the influence of the Fabians, who believed that progress would be led by a class of neutral experts employed by the state, i.e. by a technocracy ruling along scientific lines.

Second, it's interesting that the modern left no longer envisages the end point of history as a return to Eden. Perhaps that's a result of Christianity no longer shaping the mental landscape, even of those rejecting it, as much as it used to. What we are left with is a belief that white men are the privileged class upholding a power structure and that freedom and equality will finally be achieved when this power structure is defeated.

Third, it is noticeable that some of those pushing the modern version of Shelleyism are doing so to gain power for themselves, rather than to achieve a vision of utopian freedom. Middle-class feminists are often most interested in using "gender politics" to gain a competitive advantage in high status professions. They want status, money and power for themselves, rather than a system in which such things no longer exist. Similarly, it is clear that if whites become a minority in Western countries, that power will simply be passed to a new non-white majority rather than there being no power structure.

The main conclusion to draw from all this, though, is that it is the initial assumptions of Shelley that have to be challenged. Where did these beliefs of Shelley come from? I can't be exactly sure, but it's possible they go back all the way to thinkers like Hobbes and Locke. Shelley himself traced the intellectual journey of his ideas about human nature as follows (from his 1820 political manifesto):
the new epoch was marked by the commencement of deeper enquiries into the point of human nature than are compatible with an unreserved belief in any of those popular mistakes upon which popular systems of faith with respect to the cause and agencies of the universe, with all their superstructure of political and religious tyranny, are built. Lord Bacon, Spinoza, Hobbes, Boyle, Montaigne, regulated the reasoning powers, criticized the history, exposed the past errors by illustrating their causes and their connexion, and anatomized the inmost nature of social man. Then, with a less interval of time than of genius, followed Locke and the philosophers of his exact and intelligible but superficial school. Their illustrations of some of the minor consequences of the doctrines established by the sublime genius of their predecessors were correct, popular, simple and energetic. Above all, they indicated inferences the most incompatible with the popular religions and the established governments of Europe.

Shelley here praises Hobbes (and others) for having "anatomized the inmost nature of social man" and then praises Locke for having popularised the genius of thinkers like Hobbes.

So what was Hobbes' view of the nature of man? Hobbes began by imagining a state of nature in which men were free to do as they wanted. Hobbes then argued that in such a state of nature life would be short and brutish as individuals would attack each other and there would be no security of life or property. Therefore, argued Hobbes, individuals rationally made a social contract to give up part of their rights to government in return for such security. Hobbes used this argument in favour of the authority of kings.

The problem with this Hobbesian view is that it it undermines natural, uncontracted, prepolitical forms of human community, such as family and nation. The reality is that we don't begin as disconnected individuals, reluctantly combining via a social contract. We are by nature social creatures, and we express important aspects of our created natures within a social context.

It is possible that Shelley ran with the Hobbesian view, as it undermined the idea of a natural and/or divine order, but that he refigured it by challenging the idea that human nature was selfish and violent. In other words, Shelley built on some of the framework established by Hobbes (autonomous individuals in a state of nature) but made these individuals naturally good and therefore able to live a peaceful, free and equal coexistence, once the tainting influence of power structures was removed.

If we want to reject modern leftism in a principled way, it is possible that we have to go back all the way to the seventeenth century and reject the Hobbesian way of framing politics.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Shelley the Utopian

In my series of posts on the English poet Shelley (here, here and here), I've looked at his very liberal attitude to freedom, and how this made him want to abolish marriage, sex distinctions and nationality.

I'd like to end the series by considering why this liberal concept of freedom also committed Shelley to such an emphasis on equality.

I think the answer goes something like this:

1. Shelley rejected the idea that human nature was tainted, i.e. that man was a fallen creature.
2. He believed instead that man had power over his own nature. It was human institutions that had corrupted this nature, and these could be reformed.
3. Once man was perfected he would return to his intended, natural condition of being good, free and equal.
4. In this condition, a utopia would emerge, a heaven on earth, in which human existence would be regenerated, with everything being made beautiful, in body and mind, and subject only to a pure universal love, unmotivated by any base concerns.

Man was corrupted, in Shelley's view, and denied this wonderful utopian existence, by acts of tyranny - the exercise of power over others. It was this that threw a "mask" over the world, hiding man's true nature from himself. In Shelley's own words:
The man
Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys:
Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate'er it touches

And this is where freedom and equality become such great and noble (and inseparable) objectives for Shelley. The aim was to reach a condition in which there was no exercise of power over others. Shelley was so serious about this that he even portrayed God as a tyrant and a modified version of Satan as the hero who rebelled against the authority of God.

So try then to imagine how Shelley saw things. For him, what mattered was a fight for liberty against "tyranny" (defined as any exercise of power of one person over another) which therefore was also a fight for equality (for abolishing "distinctions" that gave one person some sort of standing vis-a-vis another person). Hence the twinning of freedom and equality.

Freedom and equality were the keys to establishing humanity's true condition of heaven on earth and so were supercharged in their significance.

It would be easy to criticise Shelley's world view as being unworkable or impractical. But more than this it deserves to be condemned for being, mostly, undesirable - a dystopia rther than a utopia.

If we return once more to Shelley's vision of what man would be like once the "mask" had been removed, and true freedom and equality revealed, we see the problem:
The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains/ Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man/ Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,/ Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king/ Over himself

What does it mean to be free in a Shelleyan sense? It means that nobody has power over me and that I am king over myself - an autonomous individual. My will is uncircumscribed. But to be free and equal in this sense also means that I am tribeless, nationless, Godless and churchless. Also abolished, as Shelley explains elsewhere, are biological sex and marriage.

Do I really want Shelleyan freedom? What about the meaning, identity and belonging that I derive from manhood, from membership of a communal tradition, and from stable family commitments?

Shelley wants us to move away from particular loves and loyalties, and the obligations and commitments that go with this, toward disinterested universal ones, which do not "encumber" us, but which also abstract, atomise and deracinate our own personhood, and which make human relationships shifting, uncertain and volatile.

The last point is evidenced in Shelley's own life. He wanted "pure" relationships, based not on exclusivity or jealousy, but this ended in the suicides of two women, including his first wife. Throughout his life, he "abandoned" quickly and frequently.

It is not that Shelley was wrong in just one respect, or that his system could be tweaked a little to make it viable and desirable. It is the larger approach that fails, the overall framework.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Shelley & the machine

I'd like to take you back to 1820 again, this time to a manifesto written by the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley titled A Philosophical View of Reform.

In this manifesto, Shelley praises Sir Francis Bacon for increasing "the powers of man" by initiating the perfection of "the mechanical sciences" but complains that the existing "forms of society" prevent these newly acquired powers from being applied in a utilitarian way to increase the overall happiness of society.

Fortunately, continues Shelley, the "political philosophers" have laboured to overcome the problem by thinking up new forms of society based on liberty and equality. Shelley puts his liberal/technocratic vision as follows:
"Modern society is thus an engine assumed to be for useful purposes, whose force is by a system of subtle mechanism augmented to the highest pitch, but which, instead of grinding corn or raising water acts against itself and is perpetually wearing away or breaking to pieces the wheels of which it is composed. The result of the labours of the political philosophers has been the establishment of the principle of Utility as the substance, and liberty and equality as the forms according to which the concerns of human life ought to be administered." 

I think we need to pause and carefully consider what Shelley is arguing for. Shelley believes that human society is to be thought of like a machine, one made powerful by man's increase in power over nature, and that this machine is to be geared to whatever is thought to increase utility, which can only, in Shelley's mind, mean that human life is to be administered according to the forms of liberty and equality.

Note how society itself is assumed to exist to fulfil a kind of Baconian mission of increasing power via technological organisation. Shelley might have been a poet of the romantic era, but this is already that rationalist, technocratic view of society that James Kalb writes about ("Liberal modernity tries to turn the world into a machine for manufacturing satisfactions")

The traditionalist mind doesn't conceive society this way, as a technology to procure an end according to a formula. A human society is, for us, a body of people to which we belong, one that carries with it a tradition, a culture, and a history. It has a value in what it is and as the larger body within which we express our social being.

The forms exist, in part, to maintain the society, but they also express aspects of our social natures. The family, for instance, exists not only to produce the next generation, and to enculturate this generation to successfully carry on a tradition, but it also allows men to fulfil that part of their masculine nature which is expressed in being a husband and father, and a woman likewise to experience being a wife and a mother. Each family also has the potential to embody a good within its own existence: it has a value in being a unique expression of human community.

Therefore, if a Shelleyan liberal were to say "the family fails as a form of society because it does not administer human life according to the principles of liberty and equality" a traditionalist would not see this as failure, as family is supposed to allow us to express aspects of our natures as men and women; to secure a future for a lineage, a nation and a tradition; and to be a unique and meaningful community in itself, one that helps to form identity, attachments, loyalties, commitments and a connection to past and future generations.

Society is not a machine to administer human life according to a single level formula. It is not a technocratic system to give power to such a formula. The pity, again, is that Shelley's view was to become the modern one; to give Shelley credit, he picked up very early on where liberalism would, if followed in a principled way, take a society.

(I had intended this post to be focused on Shelley's understanding of equality but got sidetracked. Will return to this topic soon.)

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.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Shelley's detestable distinctions

Percy Bysshe Shelley
My last post was about the Austrian statesman Metternich and his far-sighted observation, way back in 1820, that liberals would seek to erase nationality because of their desire to base society on every individual being subject only to their own will (i.e. autonomy).

I found evidence for his claims in a play published in 1820, Prometheus Unbound, by the English poet Shelley, who, sure enough, thought that in a reformed society man would be "uncircumscribed", the "king over himself" and therefore "tribeless and nationless".

There is more evidence that the liberal "intellectual and philosophical brew" (as one of my readers put it in the comments) was already well and truly set in place by the 1820s and that is Shelley's attitude to sex distinctions (Shelley identified as a liberal, collaborating with Byron and Hunt in 1822 to produce a literary periodical titled the Liberal).

It was not only nationality that Shelley wanted erased, but also distinctions between men and women. That makes sense from the liberal point of view. If the idea is to be unconstrained in your will as an individual, then our inherited, biological sex will be thought of negatively as something unchosen and predetermined. It then makes sense for liberals to want to make it no longer matter.

In 1811 Shelley wrote a letter to Elizabeth Hitchener in which he regretted a character in a Southey poem being made a male, and then, in the context of this reference to biological sex, continued:
"these detestable distinctions will surely be abolished in a future state of being" [1]

Nor was Shelley alone in the literary and political current he belonged to in holding such a view. Shelley would later marry the daughter of the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. In 1792 Wollstonecraft had written:
A wild wish has just flown from my heart to my head, and I will not stifle it, though it may excite a horse-laugh. I do earnestly wish to see the distinction of sex confounded in society

You can find the same view in the writings of other early feminists. For instance, the American feminist Sarah Grimke wrote in 1837:
permit me to offer for your consideration, some views relative to the social intercourse of the sexes. Nearly the whole of this intercourse is...derogatory to man and woman...We approach each other, and mingle with each other, under the constant pressure of a feeling that we are of different sexes...the mind is fettered by the idea which is early and industriously infused into it, that we must never forget the distinction between male and female...Nothing, I believe, has tended more to destroy the true dignity of woman, than the fact that she is approached by man in the character of a female.

... Until our intercourse is purified by the forgetfulness of sex...we never can derive that benefit from each other's society...

Unsurprisingly, Shelley (despite marrying twice) was also in principle opposed to marriage. Again, if the aim is to be subject only to your own will, then it becomes difficult to accept the ideal of a commitment to a lifelong, exclusive union. In the same letter to Elizabeth Hitchener quoted above, Shelley writes:
Miss Weeke's marriage induces you to think marriage an evil. I think it an evil - an evil of immense and extensive magnitude...Marriage is monopolizing, exclusive, jealous.

(Interesting that Shelley makes some sort of appeal to an ideal of inclusiveness here.)

In the next post I intend to look a little deeper into the development of the words "liberal" and "liberalism" as I believe this sheds some light on how literary figures like Shelley and Byron ended up with their world view.

[1] Letter to Elizabeth Hitchener, 26th November 1811, p.119 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.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Metternich the Seer

It is remarkable that the Austrian statesman Metternich was able to foresee as long ago as 1820 that liberalism would turn against nationalism, and would do so out of a belief in individual autonomy. This is from a letter he wrote to Tsar Alexander:
"Is it necessary to give a proof of this last fact? We think we have furnished it in remarking that one of the sentiments most natural to man, that of nationality, is erased from the Liberal catechism, and that where the word is still employed, it is used by the heads of the party as a pretext to enchain Governments, or as a lever to bring about destruction. The real aim of the idealists of the party is religious and political fusion, and this being analysed is nothing else but creating in favour of each individual an existence entirely independent of all authority, or of any other will than his own, an idea absurd and contrary to the nature of man, and incompatible with the needs of human society."

For Metternich nationality is "one of the sentiments most natural to man" but liberals wish to erase it so that the existence of each individual is "entirely independent of all authority, or of any other will than his own".

This is liberal autonomy theory articulated in 1820. Liberals see individual autonomy, i.e. a freedom to self-determine or self-define, as the highest good. Therefore, whatever is predetermined, and beyond the control of the individual will, has to be made not to matter. This includes whatever we are born to (our nationality, our biological sex etc.) as well as unchosen or inherited forms of authority.

Interestingly, it was in 1820 that the play Prometheus Unbound, by the Englishman Percy Bysshe Shelley was published. His wife, Mary Shelley (who wrote Frankenstein) penned a note to the play in which she explained:
The prominent feature of Shelley's theory of the destiny of the human species was that evil is not inherent in the system of the creation, but an accident that might be expelled...

Shelley believed that mankind had only to will that there should be no evil, and there would be none. It is not my part in these Notes to notice the arguments that have been urged against this opinion, but to mention the fact that he entertained it, and was indeed attached to it with fervent enthusiasm. That man could be so perfectionized as to be able to expel evil from his own nature, and from the greater part of the creation, was the cardinal point of his system.

...He now took a more idealized image of the same subject. He followed certain classical authorities in figuring Saturn as the good principle, Jupiter the usurping evil one, and Prometheus as the regenerator, who, unable to bring mankind back to primitive innocence, used knowledge as a weapon to defeat evil, by leading mankind, beyond the state wherein they are sinless through ignorance, to that in which they are virtuous through wisdom.

So what does Shelley's vision of regenerated, virtuous man look like in the play Prometheus Unbound? Well, much like the very thing Metternich was critical of:
The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains/ Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man/ Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,/ Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king/ Over himself

Remember, Metternich accused the liberals of his age of rejecting the natural sentiment of nationality because they wanted an individual existence in which they were subject to no will but their own. And here is Shelley, in the same year, claiming that human perfection would mean that man would be "king over himself" and therefore "nationless" (and church-less and king-less and class-less and generally "uncircumscribed"). According to Shelley, this would leave man both free and equal.

It is John Lennon's Imagine given voice in a much earlier era. Metternich thought the vision "absurd and contrary to the nature of man, and incompatible with the needs of human society." Metternich was right, but it is the liberal view which, to our detriment, has so far prevailed.

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, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A transforming moment

Stefan Molyneux experiences the national life of the Poles and realises how much has been lost in the West. Well worth watching:

As an added note to this video, it seems to me that we have lost the ability to conceive of ourselves as existing both on the individual plane (a single body) and also as part of a larger body of people, and that a complete life must encompass ourselves as a member of this larger body.

From this larger body we derive parts of our identity, our loves and attachments, our participation in a larger, transcendent tradition, our sense of pride and achievement, our social commitments, our attachments to place, whether to nature, landscape or urban environment, our connection to a particular cultural tradition, our commitments to maintaining moral and cultural standards, our sense of connectedness to both the history of our own people - to generations past - as well as our commitment to future generations.

So, yes, it is a grievous loss when we no longer have this membership of an historic people, an ethny. It is difficult to live a complete life as a person when this is the case. So I do understand why Stefan Molyneux gets emotional when he finally realises what has been taken from him by the globalising tendencies within the modern West.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Do women love the same way?

This is a tweet from a young woman hoping to guide other women toward more successful relationships:

The criteria she is suggesting for selecting a man to commit to is based on how he makes her feel. It is not based on a love for something intrinsic to him as a man.

Men don't approach relationships the same way. A man needs to think that there is something good or beautiful in the woman he loves. He might even have the sense that he is able to perceive in her feminine beauty or goodness something transcendent and meaningful that inspires love.

This is a powerfully masculine response to women that has inspired a great deal of art over the centuries. And it leads men to have a sense that their love for women is a finer quality in themselves. Little wonder then that a man will often focus on the better qualities of the woman he is with, suppressing and forgetting her flaws or the injuries he has received from her. In other words, men will often err toward idealising women in general and their wives in particular.

And so men experience love as being coloured with loyalty, particularly as it often triggers the masculine instinct to provide for and to protect a woman.

Men have a hope, or an assumption, that women experience love in the same way. That she will find something in him, and in his masculine virtues, that will inspire a stable love that mirrors his own. And so the more romantic minded men might well assume that liberating love as a force in life  - the "big love" - is likely to increase the good in life.

But, as the tweet above suggests, women process love and relationships differently. A woman's love is not grounded in the man himself, but in how the relationship makes her feel. And her thoughts and assessments are likely to follow on after her feelings, rather than guiding them.

As an example, when a woman is in the early infatuated stage of a relationship it is often the case that the man can do no wrong. Her feelings about being in the relationship are so positive that even if a man behaves very poorly she will find some mental excuse for it. But the opposite is true as well. If she is not feeling good in the relationship, then her mind will set her husband at fault, even for acts of God.

And the way a woman feels about the same kind of man can change at various stages of her life. At 20, she might ignore the family type man because of the way the "hot" boys make her feel. At 28, when she reaches her epiphany phase and her feelings change toward wanting marriage, children and home, the family man will be told that "he is not like all those other men" and that "all I ever wanted was to get married". At 40, when the alpha reinvestment phase hits, she will feel that the marriage, and her husband, are holding her back from pursuing someone hot, and the thoughts will change to "we were never happy together" and whatever loving bonds might once have existed quickly fall away.

The point of writing all this is to try to explain to men that whereas the "great love" might push us to hold steadily onto our love for a woman, because it holds us to a better part of ourselves, and because it focuses us on the feminine goodness and beauty to be found in women, the same does not hold true in the way that women love men.

What does this mean for relationships? It means that for men to have a stable loving relationship with a woman over the course of a lifetime, it makes sense to dial things down from a vision of a great romantic love. Men are more likely to experience this good of a lifelong relationship in a culture which does not encourage women to let loose with their emotions or their sexuality. The men who encouraged sexual liberation were not really doing themselves, or their sons, any favours. Traditional societies held up modesty as a prime virtue for women for a reason, as it was a self-constraint (a self-regulation of emotion and feeling) that made possible more stable relationships between men and women. Similarly, in more traditional cultures there was value placed on a "quiet, gentle" spirit in women, which may strike modern minds as overly subdued, but which ought to be seen as women ordering their own personalities toward the good.

It means too that the principle of stability cannot be found in the nature of a woman's love, but has to come from elsewhere. One possible source is a genuine and sincere religious outlook, in which a woman acts for the benefit of her family, in obedience to, and out of love for, God. If this reaches the point that feeling is not thought to be sanctified by God, but instead is disciplined toward a principle of love and service to others, then it might help to form a culture of marriage.

There do exist some statistics on the relationship between religious belief and marital stability. The statistics show that nominal membership of a church does not help marital stability much at all. However, active membership, whilst not preventing divorce, does significantly reduce its prevalence (by about 30%). One study found that active Catholics were 31% less likely to divorce than the non-religious and active conservative Protestants were 35% less likely to divorce (nominal Protestants were actually 20% more likely to divorce).

Women can be helped, too, by the culture they inhabit to think prudently about their actions. Our culture has spectacularly failed to help women do this. A generation of women grew up thinking they could defer marriage and family until the last dying gasps of their fertility; the same generation grew up thinking that they could divorce their husbands in their 40s as mothers of quite young children and still expect to find another man equally committed to her and equally willing to be her companion in older age.

Men have to lead in the sense of upholding a vision of the good that provides a stable framework of life for both men and women. Men need to clearly understand that a "liberated" female nature (i.e. one that recognises no good higher than itself and which therefore acts without restraint) is incompatible with a stable culture of family life. The female "mode of being" that is compatible with lifelong marriage will not be based on grand romantic feelings, as much as men might wish it to be so, because this is not how a woman comes to commit in a stable way to the good of her family.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Yet more feminist regret

Dennis Prager had this call from a woman on his radio show:
I’m 50 years old with four college degrees. I was raised by a feminist mother with no father in the home. My mother told me get an education to the maximum level so that you can get out in the world, make a lot of money. And that’s the path I followed...

I want to tell women in their 20s: Do not follow the path that I followed. You are leading yourself to a life of loneliness. All of your friends will be getting married and having children, and you’re working to compete in the world, and what you’re doing is competing with men. Men don’t like competitors. Men want a partner. It took me until my late 40s to realize this.

...It’s hard to find a partner in your late 40s to date because you also start losing self-confidence about your looks, your body. It’s not the same as it was in your 20s. You try to do what you can to make your life fulfilling. I have cats and dogs. But it’s lonely when you see your friends having children, going on vacations, planning the lives of their children, and you don’t do anything at night but come home to your cats and dogs. I don’t want other women to do what I have done.

...I’m stuck now because I go to work every day. I smile like I love it, but it’s very painful to not plan a vacation with someone. It’s painful to not have a Thanksgiving dinner with someone. You sit home alone and you do nothing.

Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Why did you stay single and never have kids?’ There’s answers: Because I was brainwashed by my mother into this. But it’s hard and it’s shameful to tell people, ‘I don’t know. I ran out of time.'”There’s not a good answer for it except ‘I was programmed to get into the workforce, compete with men and make money.’ Supposedly, that would be a fulfilling life. But I was told that by a feminist mother who was divorced, who hated her husband—my father.

She tried to steer me on what she thought was the right path, but feminism is a lie.

I didn’t realize this until late in life. I want to tell women: Find someone in your 20s. That’s when you’re still very cute. That’s when you’re still amiable to working out problems with someone. It’s harder in your 50s, when you’ve lived alone, to compromise with someone, to have someone in your home and every little thing about them annoys you because you’re so used to being alone. It’s hard to undo that, so don’t do what I did. Find someone in your 20s.

The reactions I read toward this were interesting. There were women in their 30s who were especially upset with the idea that women should focus on finding someone when in their 20s.

I've come to understand this response as follows. Liberal modernity began with the ideal of "voluntarist choice" - of individual choice being "liberated" from tradition, authority, social norms and so on.

Patrick Deneen, in his book Why Liberalism Failed, argues that there was a second major aspect to this project, namely a different attitude to nature. Humans now stood outside of nature, and sought to gain mastery over it, in order to better realise wants and desires. The earlier liberals still thought of human nature as relatively fixed and aimed to manipulate the natural world, but later liberals took things a step further by seeing human nature itself as something that could be transformed.

The point is that those women who react so sharply to the idea that it is preferable to find someone when in your 20s are not just suffering from a lack of inborn prudence. They are the products of a 300 year old experiment, the point of which is to overcome natural limitations rather than to prudently work within them. A modernist mind recoils at the idea that aspects of reality, i.e. of the nature of things, might limit our choices. It therefore becomes "offensive" to assert that there is a season to things and that we cannot simply choose as we wish, when we wish.

It is assumed by some women that there are no natural limitations and that claims that they do exist are attempts to assert an unnatural and oppressive external control (the patriarchy).

A person who believes that there are no natural limitations will not be as concerned with making prudent choices. And if there are negative life outcomes, they are more likely to blame an oppressive restriction on their liberty by some malevolent force.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Where to Libs?

Victoria was once known as "the jewel in the Liberal crown". The heartland of the Liberal Party was in the upper middle class areas of Melbourne, such as Hawthorn and Brighton. For decades, the leaders of the Liberal Party were drawn from suburbs like these.

But Saturday's election suggests that the Melbourne Anglo upper middle class has now switched to the Labor Party and the Greens. You can check the voting at the Australian Election Commission website not just by electorate but by individual polling booths, and this gives a good indication of the demographics of the results.

For instance, in the Camberwell booth the results were 646 for the Liberals, 562 for Labor and 338 for the Greens. So that's 646 vs 900. In the Hawthorn booth, the results were 655 for the Liberals, 682 for Labor and 392 for the Greens, which adds up to 655 vs 1074. In Ivanhoe, it was 599 for the Liberals, 921 for Labor and 354 for the Greens, which is 599 vs 1275.

The leafier parts of Melbourne are becoming increasingly left-wing, with both Labor and the Greens picking up much of the vote.

Should we be surprised by this political realignment? I don't think so. There are at least two reasons that would lead you to expect these wealthier areas to trend to the left.

First, the justification for wealth in a liberal society is the claim to be inclusive and egalitarian. A "progressive" leftism therefore fits the mindset of the "new aristocracy" much better than the Liberal Party's appeals to lower taxation or to law and order. Similarly, the aspiration now within the upper classes is to belong to the higher echelons (the analytical/managerial level) of a globalised workforce (this is what the literature of private schools, even Catholic ones, promises to parents). Liberal Party appeals to small business values and good economic management won't resonate much with people with global managerial/financial class aspirations.

Second, the schools (including the elite private schools) have been dominated for at least 20 years now by radically left-wing teachers. If you hand your children over to be educated by passionately left-wing women, then it's not surprising if political values move to the left, particularly among the more intellectually oriented social classes.

So what we have now is red Melbourne. The upper classes and those in the middle classes who aspire to upper class status vote left. The welfare classes, and various special interest groups, also vote left. That leaves the Liberal Party with the more socially conservative parts of the working and lower middle classes, as well as independent tradesmen and small business owners.

It's likely, if these blocs hold, that the Labor Party will be the natural party of government in Victoria. The question, then, is how the Liberal Party responds to this.

For decades, the Liberal Party strategy was successful. At election time, the Libs would make appeals to socially conservative voters, but when in office would run things mostly along big business, right-liberal lines.

One option for the Victorian Liberals would be to follow Labor in pitching their campaign rhetoric more to the left. In other words, they would no longer try to draw in socially conservative voters.

If they take this option, it will open up a large political space on the right. It could be an opportune moment for a genuinely non-liberal, right-wing party to build a voter base.

There are other scenarios. If there's an economic crash, then voters might turn to the Liberal Party as better economic managers. Possibly, too, as the Anglo upper class recedes demographically, other political configurations might emerge.

And for traditionalists? We are clearly on the outer of upper class culture right now. The important thing is that we make ourselves known as an alternative and that we continue to develop our organisation on the ground (part of the appeal of which is simply providing an alternative space for people who have to endure politically correct workplaces). Perhaps we could also think of ways that we could encourage the formation of a genuinely non-liberal electoral party, one with relatively broad appeal (i.e. not the full traditionalist program) but that would represent socially conservative voters on issues such as family, nation and culture.