Monday, June 24, 2019

Augustine on freedom

In my recent post on Senator Hawley, I found myself writing about Pelagius - a figure from the early church.

Pelagius is associated with the idea that we, as humans, are free to self-determine, in the sense that we have the power to choose freely between good and evil.

St Augustine was not so sure. He believed that what lay behind the choices we make was more complex and that a "freed will" required both knowledge and feeling to be integrated. This integration of the human will was made possible "by an inseparable connection between growing self-determination and dependence on a source of life that always escapes self-determination".

I'm not enough of a theologian to be fully aware of the implications of this concept of the role of grace. But it does seem to have led Augustine to a sophisticated concept of freedom in which our efforts to self-determine take place, inseparably, in relationship with something that we know is not ours to will. And so freedom is not to be understood in terms of choice:
Freedom, therefore, for Augustine, cannot be reduced to a sense of choice: it is a freedom to act fully. Such freedom must involve the transcendence of a sense of choice. For a sense of choice is a symptom of the disintegration of the will: the final union of knowledge and feeling would involve a man in the object of his choice in such a way that any other alternative would be inconceivable.

(Source: Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, p.376)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On middle class life

The middle class has proven resistant to traditionalism. I want to explain some of the reasons for this and suggest how we might identify and appeal to the more disaffected members of this class.

Middle class life today is based on two distinct value sets. The first set I would call elite status values. These are materialistic values such as money, power, social status and conspicuous consumption. The pursuit of career success is at the heart of this value set.

Elite status values aren't new. I remember reading about middle class life in the mid-1800s. It was supposedly the case that a young man wasn't thought to be in a position to marry until he had enough resources to afford to stable horses and have a carriage at his disposal. This meant that some men had to wait until their 30s before they had any prospects for marriage.

What is new is that status has become more narrowly materialistic. Middle-class men in the past were also judged on other criteria, such as their status within a family as husbands and fathers; their uprightness; their masculine character; their commitment to a church; their taste in the fine arts; their education and learning; their self-control and so on. It's an extraordinary thing today to read character portraits that were written in the early to mid-1800s as they are so detailed and perceptive regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the men being described.

The second middle class value set is that of liberal autonomy. The good here is not so much having money, power and status but a freedom to do what you have a mind to do - to freely pursue your aims whatever they might be. It is thought to be just for everyone to have an equal right to this value of individual autonomy.

In certain respects these two value sets are in harmony. If you achieve great success in obtaining money and social influence then you are likely to have more lifestyle choice. Also, by committing yourself to the second value set you can persuade yourself that your life is not narrowly about money but also about a cause (of justice, freedom, equality etc.).

However, there is also a sense in which the two value sets are incompatible. Someone who commits themselves to the corporate grind is not really living a life in which they can choose freely to do whatever they have a mind to do. Their life is closely regulated to meet the needs of the corporation or institution they work for. Also, not everyone has an "equal right" to actually achieve elite status - if they did, then the status would no longer be elite. Most people who commit to the values of elite status will never actually experience this status. They will do the hard work but not get the desired reward. So the egalitarian aspect of the liberal autonomy value set is not compatible with the elitist aspect of the elite values set.

Middle class values are, therefore, not entirely coherent. Nonetheless, people willingly or unwillingly conform to them. If we look at middle class men, I think they fall into two camps. There are some middle class men who are by nature materialistic and ambitious. They are unsettled in life until they achieve career success. There is an equally large group of men, however, who are not like this. These men commit to career not because they think material success is important in itself, but because it is a means to other goods in life, especially the opportunity to attract a wife and to form a family (but also to fulfil aspects of manhood, such as successfully providing for a family, and to raise up the next generation to perpetuate familial and national traditions etc.)

For this second group of men, long hours in an office will seem like a considerable sacrifice in life, and they will be hoping for some reward or recognition for their efforts in bearing this burden. In the past, these men had a good chance of an enduring marriage (admittedly there was no guarantee of a happy marriage); of raising children within their own tradition; and of gaining a level of respect and acknowledgement within society as husbands and fathers.

As for middle class women, they too are committed to achieving elite status. The question for women is whether they aim to do this independently via careers, through marriage or both.

I work among women at the lower end of the middle class pecking order. These are women who are strongly committed to elite status values but who have no prospect of anything other than stressful working lives. A high percentage are either divorced or childless. They are under constant pressure to meet work demands or else face the threat of being called into the boss's office to justify their failings. It is in the nature of our industry that the work consumes a lot of time at home as well.

These women are often discontent and disgruntled, but they are still strongly supportive of the middle class values system. The problem is that they have been raised to believe that men, just in virtue of being men, have complete access to both middle class value sets. In other words, they believe that men already have all the elite status rewards and all the autonomous power to act as they want.

It's a strange belief, perhaps based, in part, on the "apex fallacy" of looking only at those men at the very top of society. What it means, though, is that they think that the way to solve their problems is to force men to share the goods that men are supposedly hoarding for themselves and won't give up.

These women often complain that men have easy lives, can do what they want, that marriage only benefits men, that men have all the power in relationships and so on. It is a mindset destructive of loving relationships, which then further cements the position of these women at the bottom of the elite values pecking order.

But you can see why traditionalism makes no headway among these women. The worse their lives get, the more they double down on the belief that men are to blame. They are held to the system as well by their belief that no matter how difficult their lives it is all for the cause of female liberation.

Unsurprisingly, traditionalism is strongest among middle class women who have commitments other than elite status or autonomy. These are usually religious women who view being a wife and mother as serious vocations.

If traditionalism is to make headway within the middle class, it's more likely to be among men (at first anyway). Not the naturally ambitious, materialistic men, but among those who sign onto careers as a means to achieve other, non-material goods in life.

These other goods are increasingly difficult to obtain - the expectation is growing that we are meant to find a materialistic justification for our lives to be sufficient (combined with some sort of superficial "wokeness" on social issues).

It is likely that numbers of these men will become disaffected. They won't find much joy in the prospect of becoming "bugmen" - corporate wage slaves whose only rewards are ethnic cuisine, new technology and shallow virtue signalling.

So one of our tasks is to find ways to appeal to the sensibilities and values of these men (ideally we would be in a position to concentrate numbers and provide real world, small scale communities, but we're not there yet).

One way to appeal to these men is to develop our own version of elite status. We don't have to reject career success as one aspect of this (industry and self-discipline are virtues after all) but it should go beyond this to include masculine leadership within the family and community.

We can encourage the link between elite status and "polis life" - the active contribution of men to the building and governance of community.

We can also appeal to the type of men I am speaking about by clearly affirming the non-material goods in life that traditionally motivated men. We can, for instance, promote the dignity of the roles of father and husband, connection to people and place, and the cultivation of masculine character.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Senator Hawley's Great Speech

Hawley with his wife and two sons being sworn in
Josh Hawley is currently the youngest American senator, aged only 39. He was invited to give the commencement address for King's College in New York City.

Early in his address, Senator Hawley spoke of a failure in America's public philosophy which he urged the graduates to rectify:
"Your work is only just beginning. For the wider world now beckons you and it is a world in need. And so this morning I remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul, "Fan into a flame the gift that God has given you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, and of love and of discipline" - and you will need all three to meet the challenges of our present age.

For we stand at one of the great turning points of our national history. When the failure of our public philosophy and the crisis of our public life can no longer be ignored, and what we do about these needs will define the era that is to come.

For decades now our politics and our culture have been dominated by a particular philosophy of freedom. It is a philosophy of liberation from family and tradition. Of escape from God and community. A philosophy of self-creation and unrestricted, unfettered free choice. It is a philosophy that has defined our age."

This is the philosophy of individual autonomy that is most commonly associated with political liberalism. But Senator Hawley does not name liberalism as the problem. Instead, he believes that we are living in an age of Pelagius, a British theologian who was condemned as a heretic in 418 AD.

Which raises the question of why Senator Hawley connects political liberalism with the theology of a heretical British monk. At first glance, the connection seems tenuous. Pelagius would not have endorsed a modern liberal morality. He belonged to the ascetic wing of the early church. He believed that through our free will we could achieve moral perfection and therefore salvation. His theology was morally demanding. He would have been aghast at the liberal idea that the highest good is a freedom to choose in any direction.

Nonetheless, Pelagius is looked on warmly by some liberals. Why? It seems that when it comes to the critical debate in the early church between Pelagius and Augustine some liberals instinctively prefer the Pelagian view.

The Pelagian view of salvation gives a greater role to individual self-determination. The stress is more on what we achieve through our own will, rather than through unmerited grace or through the sacraments of the church. It is claimed that Pelagius regarded Augustine's theology as giving man too supine a role in relation to God (which made me think of the liberal humanist intellectuals of the late 1800s and early 1900s who wanted man to be co-active with God in steering humanity to its ultimate destination).

The Pelagian view also gives greater emphasis to human perfectibility. The Augustine view was that man inherited sin via the fall and therefore all men, even the saints, were blemished and in need of grace. The Pelagians are said to have rejected this doctrine of original sin. This view would certainly have appealed to some of the early utopian liberals, such as the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He and his circle bristled at the idea that man's nature was tainted. They believed that we could live in this world as in the Garden of Eden, in an idyllic and perfect state of freedom and equality, doing whatever we had a mind to do, and that this was only prevented by the existence of power structures in society.

Charlotte Allen, writing in First Things, explains the appeal of Pelagius to liberal progressives as follows:
Augustine is at odds with our prevailing climate of opinion, which regards obedience to the will of God as servility, the idea of eternal damnation as unspeakably cruel, and mankind as essentially a race of good people held back only by reactionary political attitudes and unjust social structures. Such views have turned Pelagius into a modern hero, a progressive before his time. As Michael Axworthy wrote in the New Statesman last December, those living in the “liberal, humanist culture of western Europe today . . . believe in free will, in the perfectibility of mankind, in the ability of people to make the right choices, do good, and to make things better.” We are, in a word, Pelagians.

Regardless of how much blame we apportion to Pelagian theology, Senator Hawley does a great job in identifying troubling aspects of "our public philosophy". For instance, in commenting on a significant Supreme Court decision, Hawley observes:
It is the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but also from society: from family, from tradition. The Pelagian view says the individual is most free when he or she is most alone, able to choose his or her own way without interference. Family and tradition, neighbourhood and church, these things get in the way of uninhibited free choice.

Senator Hawley makes a further important point. This view of freedom most suits the elite, who are in a better position to imagine themselves having significant choices in life:
The truth is the people at the top of our society have built a culture and an economy that work mainly for themselves. Our cultural elites look down on the plain virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice, things like humility and faithfulness. They celebrate self-promotion, self-discovery, self-aggrandisement...The elites assume that their interests are vital, while everyone else's can be done without, they assume that their value preferences should prevail, while denigrating the loves and loyalties of the great middle of America...Our Pelagian public philosophy says liberty is all about choosing your own ends - that turns out to be a philosophy for the privileged and for the few. For everybody else, for those who cannot build an identity based around what they buy, for those whose life is anchored in family and home and's Pelagianism robs them of the liberty that is rightfully theirs.

I'd like to draw this point out further. It is concerning to see the anxiety epidemic that is growing among young people. I think the following explanation for this epidemic is perceptive:
I’ve observed in myself and others a deep seated anxiety (which can manifest itself in depression, arrogance, self-loathing, or an affect of neurotic superiority, among other things) which seems to follow from the idea that our worth is ours to either prove or create. Under this idea, even if our worth is unconditional we must live a certain way to make sure that others know this — and if the value of our existence is in our own hands, then we need to make sure we live a certain way in order to justify our existence in this world.

There has been a significant change in how individuals derive self-worth even during the course of my own lifetime. Of course individual ambition and a desire for personal achievement existed when I was younger. But this was not the only source of people's sense of worth. There used to be a much stronger connection to larger social entities that individuals identified with, took pride in and derived a sense of meaning from.

Individual achievement was supplemented by membership of communities with a common fund of achievement that everyone could draw on. These communities were richly overlaid. I remember the civic pride in local suburbs, parochial attachments to city and to state, a sense of national family, as well as participation in a larger Anglo and then Western culture and civilisation. Most of all, there was a positive sense of belonging to a tradition of Australian manhood.

Senator Hawley is right to express concern at the logic of the reigning public philosophy. If it is all about my own self-determined achievement, measured in terms of status, money and social power, then there will be a severe hierarchy of winners and losers (and many of those who "win" will work themselves to the bone to do so).

I believe one of the reasons the philosophy will ultimately fail is because it does denigrate and undermine the loves and loyalties of the common man, expecting him instead to join a contest for elite status, with all the demands and sacrifices of this aim, but with little prospect of success.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Houellebecq & Liberal Modernity

Michel Houellebecq
There's an interesting review at American Affairs of Sérotonine, the latest novel by French author Michel Houellebecq.

The reviewer is none other than Thierry Baudet, leader of the Dutch party Forum for Democracy, which made significant gains in the elections in The Netherlands earlier this year.

Baudet notes that the characters in Houellebecq's novels are portrayed as grappling with the alienating effects of liberal modernity - of a society which is focused on maximising individual autonomy to a degree that dissolves traditional forms of identity and belonging and which also makes stable, enduring relationships difficult to maintain:
At some point in the course of their lives, all of Houellebecq’s characters are forced to acknowledge that their romantic ideals have be­come untenable in the modern age, since individualism has made profound, long-term relationships impossible. This simple idea forms the fundamental conviction of Houellebecq’s work. It echoes, in certain ways, Marxist Verelendungstheorie: as technological inno­vations have made jobs boring and interchangeable, and as free trade has destroyed traditional farm life and honest labor, we now pass through life as atomized wage slaves in the service of incomprehensible, unfathomable government organizations and overwhelmingly powerful multinational corporations. Erratic consumer preferences, capricious fashions, and an unpredictable herd instinct dictate the opinions (or the whims and fancies) of most of us who no longer have a family, a home, a church, and a nation to reinforce our sense of identity. Unable to chart a course for ourselves, we are floating around in an empty sea. Rudderless. All control of life—andof who we are—is lost.

The fault lies on both sides of the mainstream political spectrum. As a European, Baudet labels these the social democrats on the left and the liberals (classical liberals) on the right:
Now this fundamental point which Houellebecq makes time and again deserves further reflection, because it challenges the very fun­damentals of both the contemporary “Left” and the “Right.” It challenges modern anthropology as such. Both the social-dem­ocratic and the liberal wing of the modern political spectrum (re­spectively advocating the welfare state and the free market) wish to maximize individual autonomy. Liberalism and socialism differ when it comes to the most effective way to achieve that objective, but they do not differ in the objective itself. They are both liberation movements; they both want the complete emancipation of the indi­vidual.

And both base their vision of society on the (unfounded but supposedly “self-evident”) principle that every individual enjoys certain “inalienable rights,” which by definition eclipse all other claims, and to which all other ties, loyalties, and connections must ultimately be subordinated. Over time, all such institutions that the individual requires to fully actualize a meaningful existence—such as a family and a connection to generations past and future, a nation, a tradition, perhaps a church—will weaken and eventually disappear. Today, even new life (in the womb) may be extinguished to avoid disturbing the individual’s freedom. In the Netherlands (where I live), suicide is facilitated to ensure that here, too, no constraints—such as the duty to care for your parents—are placed on the indi­vidual.

It is this fundamental assumption of the modern age—that individual autonomy (be it through free markets or welfarism) leads to happiness—which Michel Houellebecq challenges.

The weakness that Baudet identifies in Houellebecq's writing is defeatism. Houellebecq captures the descent skillfully but cannot see a way out.

There is much more in the review - I recommend clicking on the link and reading it in full.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

A woman asks: how did we go wrong?

You might have seen an article by Anna Hitchings, a 32-year-old Sydney Catholic woman, bemoaning the lack of her marital prospects.

Her article was limited in scope, being mostly a "where are all the good men?" treatment of the issue. However, there was a comment at Anna's website from a woman called Cynthia which was unusual in that it focused on women's contribution to modern day dating problems. Here it is in full:
Anna, as a fellow Catholic woman who’s been watching the social decay for decades now, I thought I would offer my thoughts on what you’ve written.

One of the reasons you’ve elicited such a strong negative response from a certain segment of the Internet (specifically, the manosphere), is that there appears to be a hole in your analysis of the current situation. 

The current state of things is not a mystery. It is the inevitable conclusion of feminism. It is, in reality, a state that women have brought on themselves. The failure of women to confront this is something that even the Christian end of the manosphere doesn’t typically like. They call our inability to see our own failings, mistakes, sins, and hubris the “rationalization hamster”. I see less of that in your post than a man might, but I do understand how hard it is to face.

Now that is not to say that you, not I, or any other individual woman, is solely responsible for the dire state of the sexual marketplace in the West. I do believe that we have all, as individuals, made decisions that have contributed to our own problems. Honest mistakes, perhaps, uninformed mistakes, sometime, but mistakes are still the result of decisions.

This isn’t intended to be a lecture. I’m 33 and only got married this year, so I know what you’re going through. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found a fellow Catholic man who was single, who wants children and who attends church regularly. It is extremely hard to find these guys. But you have to have some awareness of why the dating waters have gotten so choppy if you want to have a hope of navigating them.

Again, this is a female problem. Putting careers and bosses ahead of finding a husband and starting a family. Rampant porn consumption (by this I mean literary erotica) in the female sphere that leads to warped expectations and unrealistic ideas about relationships. Widespread contraceptive use and promiscuity. Continual degradation of men, male spaces, masculinity, and so on. Not every woman has done/participated in all of these things, of course, but no one woman has to do all. It’s bigger than any one of us. It is something women as a group have done collectively.

The effect of the culture on most men in our generation has been profound. They’ve dropped out of dating, out of church, out of civic society. They’re demoralized, and many have concluded it no longer matters. What reason have we given them to stay interested in us?

It’s on us to call out what other women are doing. It’s time to start shaming unacceptable behavior. It’s time to set higher standards for ourselves. It’s time to teach girls that not being serious about marriage and family at 22 will leave you alone in your 30s.

But that’s the culture, and this is deeply personal. Reality hurts. You’re living it. I’ve lived it. It took me eight years to find my husband, and that wasn’t for lack of trying. I don’t know your story, but I do know mine and I know I made choices that contributed to where I am. I suspect you’re the same. But let me just say, nothing gets better until you take an honest accounting of yourself and make the changes that need to be made.

For me, that was getting out of the military and working hard on finding, developing, and keeping a relationship. I sacrificed a lot. It came at the cost of better paying jobs, of using my degree, of having all those cute things that the magazines want to sell us. I might not be able to have kids at my age. But I have the chance now, and that’s worth everything.

It might not be your fault, nor mine, but we’ve been saddled with the consequences nonetheless. We can’t control the culture, but we can stop being shocked by it. Other women have ruined the system that sustained our sex for thousands of years. Any one of us who wants a traditional life has to work extra hard. But how can you do it if you don’t realize you need to?

That’s the criticism you’re getting.

I thought a later comment from Cynthia was also of interest:
I don’t think most women would care much for what I have to say. The problem we seem to have is that we lack imagination in failure – we can’t conceive of it when we have a chance of correcting course, and then we can’t admit it later on when it’s too late. It hurts too much. The manosphere is successful because it offers men a path to fixing their problems. Does it help everyone? Lord no. But there is possibility there. There is no equivalent for women because it’s much harder for us to fix things for ourselves. Facing it can often bring nothing but the realization that you can’t undo your mistakes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On national greatness

There is an argument in a later chapter of Patrick Deneen's book, Why Liberalism Failed, that deserves wider notice.

In "The Degradation of Citizenship" Deneen spells out the specific ways that popular control has been deliberately stymied in the American liberal order. One aspect of this was a trend from the early 1900s to seek to base government policy not on the "whims" of the electorate but to implement "rational and objectively sound public policy" formulated by expert administrators. Deneen writes:
Major figures in the discipline like Woodrow Wilson sought to advance the scientific study of politics in the early years of the twentieth century, laying the groundwork for the rise of social scientific methodology as the necessary replacement of value-laden policy. Early figures in the institution of political science...called for the scientific study of politics as the prerequisite for objective public policy. "Nothing is more likely to lead astray," wrote A. Gordon Dewey of Columbia University, "than the injection of moral considerations into essentially non-moral, factual investigation." (p.160)

But what would be the measure of "objectively" good policy shorn of moral considerations? Deneen answers as follows:
Classical and progressive liberals shared not only the ambition of constraining democratic practice and active citizenship but a substantive vision of what constituted "good policy". Good policy for the Founders and progressive alike were those that promoted the economic and political strength of the American republic and the attendant expansion of power in its private and public forms. Liberalism sought not the taming and disciplining of power, along with the cultivation of attendant public and private virtues like frugality and temperance, but institutional forms of harnessing power toward the ends of national might, energy and dynamism. (pp.166-67)

Deneen rolls together the aims of liberal modernity in the following passage:
For all their differences, what is strikingly similar about the liberal thinkers of the Founding Era and leading thinkers of the Progressive Era were similar efforts to increase the "orbit" or scope of the national government concomitant with increases in the scale of the American economic order. Only in the backdrop of such assumptions about the basic aims of politics could there be any base presupposition in advance of the existence of "good policy" - and that policy tended to be whatever increased national wealth and power. In this sense - again, for all their differences - the Progressives were as much heirs as the Founders to the modern project of seeing politics as the means of mastering nature, expanding national power, and liberating the individual from interpersonal bonds and obligations, including those entailed by active democratic citizenship. (p.172)

Something along similar lines was happening in Australia at this time. If you look at the decision taken in the early 1940s to end Anglo-Australia, you find the same themes. First, the decision was kept from the general public - it was not subject to democratic choice. Instead, the key discussions took place within an "Inter-Departmental Committee" with much influence from the work of political scientists like W.D. Forsyth who used population data and labour force statistics to recommend policies that promoted "development". The politician most responsible for the shift in policy, Arthur Calwell, was determined to move toward an ethnically heterogeneous society (though not at this stage a racially heterogeneous one).

The key point to take away from this is that traditionalists need to take care with calls to national greatness. In the context of liberal politics, this may not advance the existence of an historic people, their culture and embedded way of life. This aim of conserving an existing people is not what has been understood by "national greatness" within the liberal order; instead, such greatness is measured by economic growth and the attainment of political power which then becomes the measure of good public policy. Immigration policy, for instance, is considered sound within this liberal order to the degree that it advances economic growth ("development") and political power (and liberates individuals from interpersonal bonds), rather than to the degree that it promotes the continuity of the life of a particular people.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Swedish theory of love

In 2016 a documentary about life in Sweden was released with the title "The Swedish theory of love". A preview of the documentary summarises it this way:
In February of 1972 a group of Swedish politicians gathered together to define a new idea for the future. Motivated by a strong need to challenge traditional social structures, they outlined a new goal. Their vision was to create "a society of autonomous individuals". A manifesto was written in which it was concluded that no "citizen should be dependent on another." Cut to present day, forty years later. Scandinavia is the loneliest region in the world. Sweden statistically has the highest number of people dying alone and tops the chart for single households with 47% of people living alone.

The 1972 manifesto referred to above was called "The Family of the Future". According to the documentary the manifesto called for a liberation of individuals from the traditional family with its dependent relationships. In the future there would only be "true" relationships, formed by wholly independent, autonomous individuals. As an academic explains in the documentary:
The Swedish theory of love. What does it say? It says that all authentic human relationships have to be based on the fundamental independence between people...The ideal family in Sweden is made up of adult individuals that are fundamentally independent, working for themselves.

But instead of authentic relationships, the plan led to a loss of human relationships, with large numbers of Swedes living a solitary existence. If you look at the following chart you will see that more than 50% of households in Sweden consist of a sole resident, well above most other countries:

The documentary presents some of the more dystopian aspects of the Swedish emphasis on autonomous relationships. It is now the case, for instance, that more than 50% of the clients of the region's largest sperm donor bank are single women. The manager of this bank has a futuristic vision in which women could have a virtual reality experience of being with a man whilst impregnating themselves without needing to have any physical contact with a man during the process.

And what of life for these single women? Here is one of the women featured in the documentary with her child (on a swing):

I think in comparison of the beautiful family homes built in Melbourne in the 1800s and early 1900s and cannot see much evidence of progress in the photo above. The Swedish state might provide for these single mothers but it does so along coldly functionalist lines.

It is also the case that 25% of Swedes die alone, having no contact with family members. We are shown in the documentary the work of agents of a specialist Swedish government agency tasked with investigating these deaths. These workers comb through the dead person's apartment, looking for clues for any family relationships. (As a point of comparison, when my first Australian ancestor died in the early 1900s she had over 80 surviving descendants.)

Why does the Swedish theory of love not work? It is true that when people depend on each other in marriage that they might stay from necessity rather than love - and that this is something not to be desired.

This does not mean, though, that if people have no need for each other, that there is a stronger and more pure emotional bond. The psychology of relationships tends not to work this way. Modern women, who have been "liberated" by the state from any need for masculine support, often talk about no longer needing a man. It tends to make such women feel less impelled toward serious relationships; to be less attracted to what ordinary men have to offer; and to feel less of a sense of gratitude toward men (toward individual men and men as a class). Some women end up confused; they have a nagging idea in their mind that they should be in a relationship, but nonetheless don't feel compelled to actually commit to one.

In contrast, when men and women do fulfil distinct roles within the family, and rely on each other for support, there is a more positive expectation of what a relationship might bring to one's own life, leading to a greater desire at an earlier age to make a serious commitment, as well as a stronger sense of gratitude (and the love that flows from this) towards one's spouse.

It's even the case that if the state steps back, so that the family is the key source of support for individuals in a society, that the family then also brings a greater measure of independence for its members. The family might then allow, for instance, a young woman to leave her parents' home to form a family of her own, or it might allow a more stable accumulation of wealth with the financial independence this creates, or it might give to the individual a degree of material and emotional security within which life goals might be more confidently pursued.

The emphasis on autonomy when it comes to relationships has also made it easier for individuals to treat relationships casually. If we don't need family relationships, because the state guarantees our independent existence, then we can more readily play the field.

But the experience of recent decades suggests that this leaves significant numbers of people jaded and more emotionally distant from others, rather than primed for pure and authentic relationships as the theory suggests. People left in this condition are, if anything, even more likely to feel that they are "settling" if and when they do eventually form a more longstanding relationship.

One final point. Sweden is the end point of most Western societies. As the narrator in the documentary puts it,
The idea that we should be able to manage our lives on our own autonomously, that's not a Swedish invention, it's part of a belief in individuality that has been defining life in the whole Western world for some time. But here in Sweden we've been unusually effective at turning words into reality.

I think that we can expect our own societies to develop along lines similar to Sweden - unless there is a change in the political philosophy (i.e. the state ideology) which currently dominates in the West.

Below is the best version of the documentary I could find. The sound falls away occasionally and there are only Croatian subtitles when Swedish is spoken. But much of the documentary is in English.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Zeitgeist girl

Young women today are encouraged to be "sexually empowered," meaning free to follow their own impulses and desires when it comes to relationships.

The older cultural norms and social standards which once helped to govern the relationships between men and women are dismissed as being oppressive limitations on the self, imposed by an exploitative patriarchy (a mindset captured luridly in the TV series The Handmaid's Tale).

And so there is no encouragement for young women to follow rational self-restraint; reason gives way to the more impulsive, instinctual "animal" side of human nature.

I wrote a post earlier this year on how this message of sexual empowerment played out in the music of Cardi B, noting the primitivism of a music video featuring a dozen near naked women twerking together.

But Cardi B does not capture the Zeitgeist as well as another contemporary pop star, Taylor Swift. It's difficult to imagine Taylor Swift producing a twerking music video like Cardi B's. She is too "classy" for that.

Even so, if you read the lyrics of her songs you get a good sense of where the liberal principle is leading us when it comes to relationships (I'm indebted to a post by Fabius Maximus for alerting me to this.)

For instance, Taylor Swift has only just released a new song, titled Me. The video begins with an image of a snake making its way along a brightly coloured street (a nod perhaps to what is diabolical underneath the colourful surface of what we are to see). We then see Swift and a boyfriend arguing. Swift is being unreasonably dramatic. At one point she points to their "daughters" (a pair of cats - a nod to the fur baby phenomenon).

The lyrics then go:
I know that I'm a handful, baby, uh
I know I never think before I jump
And you're the kind of guy the ladies want
(And there's a lot of cool chicks out there)
I know that I went psycho on the phone
I never leave well enough alone
And trouble's gonna follow where I go
(And there's a lot of cool chicks out there)

I know I tend to make it about me
I know you never get just what you see
But I will never bore you, baby
(And there's a lot of lame guys out there)

She is no longer guided by reason (her own or that of society as a collective). Therefore she is impulsive, trouble and her emotions get out of hand ("psycho"). She is also self-centered ("I know I tend to make it about me").

So why then would a man fall in love with her and want to be with her? She offers just two reasons. First, she is not boring. Second, because of her individuality:
Me-e-e, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
I'm the only one of me
Baby, that's the fun of me
Eeh-eeh-eeh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
You're the only one of you

Neither of these is convincing. As much as men don't want someone who is boring, they also fear "psycho" women with uncontrolled emotions. And the fact that she is "the only one of me" is neither here nor there - is it a "one of me" that a man might love and trust enough to marry?

You have to remember that our liberal culture tells women that they are empowered when they freely follow impulse and feeling. They are not supposed to be prudent or reasonable - that is considered an exploitative imposition. What a woman wants as an impulse is what matters and it is not supposed to be constrained - not even by reason.

Taylor Swift's song expresses liberal culture. She is just being "her" in the moment. She is impulsive and emotionally out of control. She is centered on what she wants and feels. She is embodying an expressive individualism - and this is what a man is supposed to respect and like.

It's interesting also that Taylor Swift's song so openly acknowledges female hypergamy. In her mind, she is one of the many cool chicks competing for one of the few men out there who is not "lame" - for one of the few men that "the ladies want".

If it were up to Cardi B, women would compete for these few, desirable men through overt displays of female sexuality. Taylor Swift doesn't go down this path, but doesn't offer much of an alternative. She seems to think that a man with options would be attracted to a woman who demonstrates individuality via high maintenance, self-centered emotionalism.

If you're thinking that Taylor Swift is deluded, it should be said in her defence that for most of her life she has not been looking for stable, enduring relationships. One thing that happens when women are "liberated" to act on primitive desire, is that they tend to spend their formative years seeking sexual highs with player type men. They may not seek predictability or security in relationships. In her song "The Way I Loved You", Taylor Swift contrasts a relationship with a boring nice guy with a more dramatically intense relationship with a player. She sings of the nice guy:
He is sensible and so incredible
And all my single friends are jealous
He says everything I need to hear and it’s like
I couldn’t ask for anything better
He opens up my door and I get into his car
And he says you look beautiful tonight
And I feel perfectly fine
It's not what she wants. She prefers the "rush" that comes with "insane":
But I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain
And it’s 2am and I’m cursing your name
You’re so in love that you act insane
And that’s the way I loved you
Breakin’ down and coming undone
It’s a roller coaster kinda rush
And I never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you
She doesn't want comfort with the nice guy, she wants "wild and crazy":
He respects my space
And never makes me wait
And he calls exactly when he says he will
He’s close to my mother
Talks business with my father
He’s charming and endearing
And I’m comfortable
He can’t see the smile I’m faking
And my heart’s not breaking
Cause I’m not feeling anything at all
And you were wild and crazy
Just so frustrating intoxicating
Complicated, got away by some mistake and now
And that’s the way I loved you oh, oh
Never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you

Taylor Swift is now twenty-nine. It's possible that she will decide at some point that she wants something more solid (there are rumours that she might be engaged to her current boyfriend).

But I hope that her song lyrics give fair warning to men that you can't expect a stable culture of marriage to develop in a liberal society. In particular, you can't expect a family guy ethos to survive in a culture in which women are "sexually empowered". In such a culture, young women in their sexual prime are not likely to select for reliable, "got together" men.

There was a reason why traditional societies once insisted on certain standards from young men and women. The standards did not exist to limit people for no reason or to exploit women. They existed to uphold a higher good - that of enduring marriage and timely family formation.

We should not underestimate what a difficult cultural achievement it is to arrive at this higher good. It requires a self-disciplining of the instincts of both men and women, but particularly of women.

It was achieved in the past and can be again, but not when the cultural institutions are sending the opposite message to what is needed.

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, April 22, 2019

Cardinal Sarah: the tragic error

Cardinal Sarah continues to lead the way. When asked in an interview with Nicolas Diat about the collapse of the West he replied:
The spiritual collapse thus has a very Western character. In particular, I would like to emphasize the rejection of fatherhood. Our contemporaries are convinced that, in order to be free, one must not depend on anybody. There is a tragic error in this. Western people are convinced that receiving is contrary to the dignity of human persons. But civilized man is fundamentally an heir, he receives a history, a culture, a language, a name, a family. This is what distinguishes him from the barbarian. To refuse to be inscribed within a network of dependence, heritage, and filiation condemns us to go back naked into the jungle of a competitive economy left to its own devices. Because he refuses to acknowledge himself as an heir, man is condemned to the hell of liberal globalization in which individual interests confront one another without any law to govern them besides profit at any price.

He is right in identifying the tragic error as being a false understanding of freedom. Liberals understand freedom as individual autonomy. If you want to maximise your autonomy you will downplay those aspects of life that you are born into rather than choosing for yourself. You will want to imagine yourself to be wholly self-created or self-authored. That's why those brought up in a liberal culture often reflexively reject the instinct to take pride in the achievements of their family, community or nation - they object because they didn't personally bring about the achievement as an individual.

Liberals imagine that they are being progressive in pushing forward such an individualistic view of man, but Cardinal Sarah rightly points out that higher civilisation is marked by complex forms of inheritance that the individual accepts as his patrimony but that he must then contribute to as his own legacy for future generations.

The following from Cardinal Sarah is also interesting:
I want to suggest to Western people that the real cause of this refusal to claim their inheritance and this refusal of fatherhood is the rejection of God. From Him we receive our nature as man and woman. This is intolerable to modern minds. Gender ideology is a Luciferian refusal to receive a sexual nature from God. Thus some rebel against God and pointlessly mutilate themselves in order to change their sex. But in reality they do not fundamentally change anything of their structure as man or woman. The West refuses to receive, and will accept only what it constructs for itself. Transhumanism is the ultimate avatar of this movement. Because it is a gift from God, human nature itself becomes unbearable for western man.

This revolt is spiritual at root. It is the revolt of Satan against the gift of grace. Fundamentally, I believe that Western man refuses to be saved by God’s mercy. He refuses to receive salvation, wanting to build it for himself. The “fundamental values” promoted by the UN are based on a rejection of God that I compare with the rich young man in the Gospel. God has looked upon the West and has loved it because it has done wonderful things. He invited it to go further, but the West turned back. It preferred the kind of riches that it owed only to itself.

Cardinal Sarah is suggesting here that the underlying source of the error plaguing Western societies is humanism in general and secular humanism in particular. I know the word "humanism" has nice connotations, sounding as if it means "being in support of humans". But as Cardinal Sarah argues, it is usually associated with ideas about humanity having a kind of telos (an ultimate end or purpose) that humans themselves bring about (sometimes in partnership with God, sometimes not). Cardinal Sarah is blaming a kind of hubris, by which some people are unable to accept what is given as part of a created nature or order, even if there is a goodness contained within it. Part of this hubris is an unwillingness to defer - a lack of "humility" in the best sense of this word.

Finally, Cardinal Sarah is right that the logical end point is transsexualism and transhumanism, as these represent the ultimate in asserting self-authorship. A case in point from my social media feed this morning:

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, April 16, 2019

Every Eve knows and follows the best path?

A pastor at Charlotte Congregational Church in the U.S., Susan Cooke Kittredge, has come out in support of abortion. The reason she gives for supporting abortion is interesting, as it gets to a fundamental issue in politics:
"Sadly, our starting point seems to be that women aren’t trustworthy. We can go back to the Garden of Eden to see the church’s interpretation of Eve’s fallibility. In cultural, religious and state realms, women have been perceived as needing the restrictions of ruling authorities—that were historically male—to coerce their compliance in many areas. The underlying assumption has been that women cannot know what is best for their families, their children, their lives and their communities.

We need to question our entrenched cultural distrust of women and summon the courage to face the answers and commit to change. My hope is that everyone will hold the questions in one hand and God’s hand in the other."

Her assumption is that every individual should be trusted to know what the right thing is for themselves and their community. Furthermore, she assumes not only that individuals will know what the right thing to do is, but that they will choose to follow it.

She can push this confidently because it is an assumption that is woven into liberal culture.

It's an approach that ignores the fallibility of human nature. It ignores the fact that individuals may know what the right thing to do is, but still be tempted to act according to some baser desire. It ignores the fact too that the capacity for prudential reason differs between individuals.

Finally, the notion of what is right tends to be lost once the liberal principle is set in society. Once you tell people that the key thing is that nothing is to interfere with their own will in deciding what to do, and that there is no legitimate moral authority outside of this, then it quickly descends to the principle of "I chose it, it is my desire, I should not be judged, I should act for my own pleasure/interest".

What then tends to happen is that the lower, "animal" side of human nature is let loose of the moorings provided even by our own individual prudential reason - which itself is not strong enough to guide people to act according to what is best for themselves and their community.

This is why traditional societies upheld social standards and cultural norms, within institutions like the family, schools and churches, to transmit the inherited and collective wisdom of the past to influence the behaviour of individuals, as a necessary buttress to their own reason.

Edmund Burke put it well when he wrote in the eighteenth century:
We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.

One of the reasons that Susan Cooke Kittridge gets things wrong is that she believes that this effort of cultural transmission was not to help individuals to successfully regulate their own behaviour rationally, virtuously and prudentially, but to oppress women. She writes:
What I have found inescapable in the discussion about abortion is the inherent subjugation of women. The underlying assumption seems to be that women aren’t capable of making such deeply important decisions for themselves, that society must step in and direct women who, for whatever reason, are deemed unable to follow a morally acceptable path.

Because reproduction is tangled with sexuality, an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy bears shadows of unchained lust and desire. This, of course, has been true for millennia and though we may consider ourselves staunch supporters of equal rights for women, we are not, I think, aware of the insidious ways the view of women as less than men has pervaded our culture and understanding.

Traditional society "stepped in" to help guide the behaviour of both men and women. Both were thought of as having fallen natures. Both achieved their higher potential only through a difficult process of cultivating habits of virtue. Both required the assistance of a culture that was transmitted in the home, at school and by the church.

It's true that regulating the sexuality of young women was thought of as particularly important, but the chaos of the modern sexual landscape, and its negative effect on family formation, should make clear why this was the case - and why it was mothers within the family who did much of the work in transmitting the cultural norms to their daughters.

Susan Cooke Kettridge is, perhaps unwittingly, following a line of thought which goes back centuries and which claims that we can have a peaceful and harmonious society in which individuals can equally and freely choose what to do - and that the only thing hindering this is the existence of power structures through which one class of people exploits and oppresses another.

Initially, these power structures were thought to be economic class ones, led by the aristocracy and then by the bourgeoisie. Now it's racial and sexual classes, with whiteness and maleness being the stumbling blocks to freedom.

But it's all fundamentally misconceived. You are not going to get peace and harmony in a society in which individuals are perfectly free to act according to their own will and reason. The idea that individuals will choose to act according to the best interests of themselves and their community is just wishful thinking. Absent the restraining and guiding influence of embedded social standards and cultural norms, people will increasingly act to satisfy immediate wants and desires or in pursuit of self-interest or in addiction to the age old vices which are part of human nature.

We will just end up observing the decline of our culture and society.

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, April 14, 2019

Prager's troubling thought

Dennis Prager is an American classical liberal. He decided recently that he would read Betty Friedan's influential feminist work, The Feminine Mystique (1963).

In this book Friedan claimed that American women were unhappy with their lives as mothers and housewives. As you might expect of a classical liberal, Prager is sympathetic to Friedan's message. Most liberals base their politics around the idea of autonomy, in which individuals are supposed to be "liberated" from predetermined qualities and roles, like those relating to our sex. And so Prager likes the way that most women now put their primary focus on a "self-determining" career role rather than "predetermined" roles relating to motherhood and family.

So far, so predictable. However, I have to give some credit to Prager for what happens next. Prager notes that things have moved exactly the way that Friedan wanted them to:
But a big and troubling thought hit me while reading the book. In the 56 years since "The Feminine Mystique" was published, every complaint Friedan made regarding the situation of the American woman has been addressed.

So women should be happy now, right? Prager is honest enough to admit that they are not happy. Far from it:
Yet, if you were to listen to many American women today, you would think nothing has improved. Every women's group and millions of individual women say women are "oppressed" despite the fact that virtually nothing remains of the "feminine mystique" described by Friedan.

Prager is aware of the anxiety and depression epidemic among women:
In fact, women today, including young women, who lead lives the very opposite of those described in "The Feminine Mystique," are about twice as likely to be depressed as men. And that statistic is true for women across all economic, racial and ethnic groups.

So if society is progressing along liberal lines, but there is no improvement in happiness, what is a liberal to do? Again, I have to give Prager some credit for his response. Prager does something unusual for a liberal. He abandons blank slatism and wonders if there is not something within female nature that might cause women to be malcontent regardless of their social situation. If this is true, then women need to overcome an aspect of their own nature in order to develop into successful adulthood.

Here is how Prager defends his idea that women might more easily than men, as a part of their nature, fall into being malcontent:
This is no more an attack on women than describing men's nature as aggressive is an attack on men. Each sex has built-in issues that an individual has to overcome in order to develop into a mature and good person. Men have to deal with aggression and the sexual predatory aspect of male nature in order to develop into mature and good men. Women have to overcome the power of their emotions and their chronic malcontentedness in order to mature into good women. But in our disordered society — a society that has rejected wisdom — in raising their children, two generations of Americans have told only their sons, not their daughters, that they had to fight their nature. The feminization of society has brought with it the destructive notion that only males have to suppress their nature. Feminists really believe females are superior, so why would women have to fight any aspect of their inherently beautiful nature?

I disagree with Prager on most things, but this is exceptionally well put. The only thing he leaves out is the reason why generations of women have been told that they don't need to regulate aspects of their nature. It's not just that female nature has been held to be superior to male nature. It's also a consequence of liberalism itself. If what matters is that I am autonomous, then I should be free to self-determine who I am and what I do, which means that I should not be limited by any ideas about an inborn nature, and which also means that I should be free to act on my own desires, no matter what they are, unless this interferes directly with others doing the same. That has been the logic of Western culture for some time.

It's great that Prager, as a liberal, has stepped back from this. In a sense, Prager is now setting objective standards, standards that represent an ordered personhood, standards that demonstrate both goodness and maturity. A community needs to do this, and to get as close as possible to the truth of this, if it wants to flourish.

The next step for Prager would be to consider not only the flaws within female nature to be overcome, but also the positive aspects of female nature that connect a woman to a higher, meaningful good that she can embody in her life and that she might therefore seek to cultivate.

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, April 08, 2019

The tyranny of nature?

Patrick Deneen, in his excellent book Why Liberalism Failed, focuses on two strands within liberalism. The first is the one that I usually write about, namely the liberal belief in maximising individual autonomy. The second is one that was mostly new to me, but that deserves consideration. According to Deneen, Sir Francis Bacon, ushered in a new way of thinking about our relationship to nature and this is a core aspect of the liberal project.

Deneen set things out as follows:
The modern scientific project of human liberation from the tyranny of nature has been framed as an effort to "master" or "control" nature, or as a "war" against nature in which its study would provide the tools for its subjugation at the hands of humans. Francis Bacon - who rejected classical arguments that learning aimed at the virtues of wisdom, prudence and justice, arguing instead that "knowledge is power" - compared nature to a prisoner who, under torture, might be compelled to reveal her long-withheld secrets.

This post takes the form of notes that I wish to make in regard to this, rather than a final position. I need to think about this more, but it does strike me initially that Deneen is onto something important here, something that explains aspects of modern liberal politics.

Let's take the issue of the war on masculinity. Why would liberals feel so comfortable describing masculinity in negative terms, as something that is "toxic"?

Part of the answer is the one I have always set out. If liberals want to maximise autonomy, and autonomy means being self-determined, then individuals have to be "liberated" from predetermined qualities, like the sex they are born into. Simple - and this is how liberals themselves often frame things (with talk about autonomy, self-determination, choice etc.).

But the Baconian revolution in the way we think about nature also supports the liberal mindset. Think of it this way. If you are a traditionalist you will believe that we are a part of nature, i.e. that we stand within it and that therefore a purpose of life is to order ourselves and our communities harmoniously within the given framework of our created nature and of the nature of the world we inhabit. We will also seek for the beauty, truth and goodness of our being within this larger created order.

If, however, you adopt the Baconian mindset, then you will assume that we stand outside of nature, seeking control over it, wishing to subdue it. Value is no longer so much to be found within given nature, but in its use as a raw material to realise human purposes and desires that are separate to it. It is the realisation of human desires and purposes that now carries meaning, and this occurs through our sovereign rule over nature, our conquest of it.

Therefore, the "truth claims" of traditionalists and liberals when it comes to masculinity hardly even intersect. Traditionalists will be oriented to the value inherent within masculine nature; liberals will see value in "manipulating" men's behaviour (as you would a raw material) to suit the purposes set by society.

Liberals are likely to be focused on what purposes masculinity has been "socially constructed" for and to think it normal to debate how masculinity might be reconstructed to fit a more "progressive" social narrative - such as a feminist one (at the same time, the autonomy strand within liberalism will insist on there being "masculinities" as a sphere of choice).

The traditionalist attitude might run from a light traditionalism to a deeper one. Most traditionalists would hold that masculinity is hardwired into a man's nature and that this gives definite limits on how men might be "reconstituted" within a culture.

The deepest form of traditionalism would hold that masculinity exists as an "essence" within nature, i.e. that it exists not only as a characteristic of individual men but as a principle of reality, and that there is a quality of goodness within the higher expression of this essence. Therefore, an individual man has the opportunity to embody a "transcendent" good through his masculine nature. Our forebears therefore put much emphasis on pursuing what was noble within a man's nature, and rising above the base.

You can see why it's so frustrating when liberals and traditionalists argue on this issue. The frameworks are so different, so set apart, that it's not possible for the arguments to intersect, let alone for the two camps to come to any form of agreement or compromise.

There are a few additional points to be made when looking at the influence of Bacon on liberal thought. I find it interesting that the poet Shelley, writing in 1820, identified Bacon as one of the key early figures in liberal thought:
...the new epoch was marked by the commencement of deeper enquiries into the point of human nature...Lord Bacon, Spinoza, Hobbes, Boyle, Montaigne, regulated the reasoning powers, criticized the history, exposed the past errors by illustrating their causes and their connexion...

The Baconian aspect of liberalism has also possibly contributed to some of the features you find within modern political thought.

1. Blank slatism. If nature is thought of as raw material, that humans stand outside of and subjugate for our own purposes, then this supports the idea that we are dealing with a "blank canvas".

2. Humanism/universalism. If you think of politics in terms of a revolution in which humans stand outside of nature and conquer it to relieve the human condition, then the key protagonist is "humanity" rather than particular nations. Also, if we are not standing within nature, then we won't have the same focus on the need for identity and belonging as constituent parts of our nature and this too undermines support for particular forms of community.

3. Functionalism. If we are no longer seeking meaning within nature, including beauty/order/harmony, but see nature instead as raw material to be used for social purposes, then it makes sense that there would be an emphasis on functionalism, for instance, in the architecture of the middle decades of the twentieth century.

4. Progress. If the aim is a humanism in which humans stand outside of nature, using it for our own purposes, conquering and subduing it, then it stands to reason that some liberals might see progress in terms of a history of economic and technological development and growth. They might then see this as a good in its own right, so that development is not thought of as helping to preserve or enhance an existing community, but as being in itself the higher aim or measure of success that all else is to be subordinate to, even if this means radically undermining communities for the purposes of maximising economic growth. (Some left-liberals do see progress as a moral arc rather than an economic one.)

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, April 05, 2019

Cardinal Robert Sarah: You must not sacrifice your national identities

Cardinal Robert Sarah is one of those outstanding men leading the resistance to liberal modernity. He gave an interview recently; the following excerpt focuses on the issue of identity.
You also write that the modern world destroys by attacking [national and religious] identities. You, on the contrary, defend this rootedness that Simone Weil described as the first need of the human soul. That makes you a somewhat isolated voice in a Church that sometimes seems to have become a mere auxiliary of the pro-immigration party.

When I went to Poland [in October 2017], a country that is often criticized, I encouraged the faithful to affirm their identity as they have done for centuries. My message was simple: you are first Poles, Catholics, and only then Europeans. You must not sacrifice these first two identities on the altar of a technocratic Europe that acknowledges no fatherland. The Brussels Commission thinks only of constructing a free market in the service of the major financial powers. The European Union no longer protects the peoples [within it]. It protects the banks. I wanted to restate for Poland its unique mission in God’s plan. She is free to tell Europe that everyone was created by God to be put in a precise place, with its culture, its traditions and its history. This current desire to globalize the world by getting rid of nations with their specific characteristics is sheer madness. The Jewish people had to go into exile, but God brought them back to their country. Christ had to flee from Herod into Egypt, but he returned to his country upon the death of Herod. Everyone must live in his country. Like a tree, each one has his soil, his milieu where he flourishes perfectly. It is better to help people to flourish in their culture than to encourage them to come to a Europe that is completely decadent. It is false exegesis to use the Word of God to improve the image of migration. God never intended these rifts.

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, March 31, 2019

Liberalism & the body

Below is a tweet from Teen Vogue:

The logic of liberalism is continuing to unfold. There is a strong assertion in this video from Teen Vogue that there are no male and female bodies, i.e. nothing about the body that would reasonably qualify a person as male or female.

Chase Strangio, an attorney for the ACLU, claims in the video that,
We all have characteristics that are typically male and typically female and it is really about political choices, social factors, ideological choices that we assign meaning to different parts of our body.

Katrina Karkazis says,
The body doesn't have just one place where we can sit there with a microscope or something else and say, hey wait a second, this is really who you are, this is your true sex. In fact, who you are is who you say you are.

There are people who are now claiming that their body parts are male or female depending on what they identify them to be. In other words, if someone has breasts then this is not objectively an aspect of female biology. They are a part of either male or female biology depending on what the person who has them identifies as.

One of the trans participants in the video asserts,
When I say I'm a woman I don't just mean that I identify as a woman, I mean that my biology is the biology of a woman regardless of whether or not doctors agree. 

It was almost inevitable we'd arrive at this point. In a liberal society what matters is maximising individual autonomy, which means that anything which limits our ability to determine who we are or what we do is seen as a limitation which the individual needs to be liberated from.

We do not get to determine our biological sex. Liberalism's first response to this "problem" was to say, well, we'll make a person's sex not matter in life. There will be no "sexism', meaning no sphere in life and no social role pertaining to one sex and not the other. To achieve this, it was claimed that traditional sex roles were based only on "gender" and that gender was an oppressive social construct that could be deconstructed.

But this was inevitably only a first step, as it still left people with a biological sex that they did not choose for themselves. Being a man or a woman no longer meant as much socially, but I still didn't get to choose for myself which one I would be.

And so the next step is to make the idea of biological sex itself something that is chosen by individuals. Hence the claim by Chase Strangio that there is no objective meaning to being born with certain body parts; the meanings are socially constructed, through political and ideological choices or through social forces.

Teen Vogue chose an interesting week to make all these claims as it coincided with the public release of research showing that differences between the brains of boys and girls begins in the womb, and therefore before any possible social influences. Science continues to suggest that at least some differences between the sexes are hardwired rather than being created by culture and socialisation.

Finally, it should be pointed out that Teen Vogue is not alone in pressing forward with these sorts of claims. The Tasmanian Government has just decided to put forward legislation that would make abortions legal for men:

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.