Saturday, July 31, 2004

Chinese puzzle

I'm still a bit puzzled by this, but I came across an article defending religion and tradition against the secular state at an officially sanctioned Chinese website.

What is happening in China? I knew that China was moving away from a state controlled economy, but is there now also a shift away from radical liberal ideology and statist politics?

Admittedly, the article is written by an American, but it still seems significant to me that it should be featured at a Chinese website.

The article itself is something of a mixture of liberalism and conservatism. One of its conservative assertions is that there does exist a human nature, which ultimately places a limit on what can work in politics, and which therefore needs to be respected. As the author himself writes,

Human beings are free to adopt self-destructive ideas, but we are not free to make them work. Ideas based on a faulty view of human nature can grip the imagination of the powerful for decades, wreak havoc and suffering on untold millions, but they cannot triumph in the end. What is contrary to nature, including human nature, cannot ultimately survive.

The author then lists some aspects of this nature which human societies need to recognise in order to flourish. He asserts that,

the future belongs to those people and cultures that deeply commit to ideas grounded in human nature: Men and women are not interchangeable units, sex has a meaning beyond immediate pleasure, society needs babies, children need fathers and mothers, marriage is a word for the way we join men and women to make the future happen.

It would be difficult for most liberals to accept such a statement. For liberals, we are made human by our capacity to create who we are and what we do from our own will and reason. It's therefore difficult for liberals to accept that a pre-existing nature deeply influences the direction of our lives.

That's why liberals believe it is a positive liberation to act contrary to our inherited manhood and womanhood, or why so many liberals believe that there is no single way to define what a family is. For liberals, such things as an inherited manhood and womanhood are not valued parts of our inborn nature, but are impediments to our individual will and reason to be overthrown.

But as the author of the article points out, cultures which adopt the liberal view cannot sustain themselves in the longer term because acting against nature will inevitably have destructive effects.

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