Saturday, October 30, 2004

Do we need the OSW?

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, has an article in today's Age defending the Office of the Status of Women (OSW).

Mrs Goward begins her article by complaining that the OSW only has several dozen policy officers compared to several hundred generalist policy officers. This, in itself, is a revelation. John Howard has retained 35 or more feminist policy officers to comment on and scrutinise all cabinet submissions.

This is yet more evidence that the Liberal Party is what its name suggests, a party based on a liberal, rather than a conservative, philosophy (all the talk of left-liberals, that Howard is a 1950s kind of guy, acts like a kind of smokescreen, obscuring the fact that the Liberal Party leans more toward feminism than against it).

In her article, Pru Goward argues that there are four reasons for preserving the role of the OSW. These are:

1. Women are physically weaker than men and so are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence. The national programme against domestic violence must therefore specifically consider the issue of gender.

The problem with this argument is that the great fault with the national programme on domestic violence is that it focuses too exclusively on male violence against women. If any reform of the programme is needed it is to recognise not only that men are at times the victims of domestice violence, but that women are frequently the perpetrators (not just against men, but against children and other women).

Is it likely that the feminists at the OSW will rectify this problem and thereby justify their existence? I think not. They are, in fact, part of the problem.

2. Pru Goward also argues that women are economically disadvantaged. She uses as evidence the fact that men have more retirement savings than women, and that sole parent mothers are not especially wealthy.

These, however, are weak arguments. Of course men have more retirement savings than women: men are in the workforce longer and thereby accumulate more superannunation. But presumably much of this "male" superannuation will be spent to support both the husband and the wife in their retirement. It is, in fact, in the interests of most women to encourage their husbands to accumulate additional retirement savings.

And of course single mothers won't be counted amongst the wealthiest in society. Many will be on a government pension, and the rest won't have the advantage of a husband's wage. But how could this be different? Pru Goward suggests giving women more educational advantages, but as she herself admits, females are already outperforming males at school and university. Do we really want this trend to be even further intensified?

A better option would be to try to reverse the trend toward single motherhood, but again, the feminists at the OSW are not exactly the right people for the job.

3. Pru Goward also suggests that as a small country Australia must lift its female workforce participation rate in order to compete economically.

This is further proof of the fact that feminists, despite officially promising "more choice" for women, are usually opposed to the choice of women to stay home to care for their families. (I've explained this further in an article at Conservative Central, "Is family a valid feminist choice?")

Do we really need more mothers in the workforce? The evidence suggests not. Pru Goward states that Australia has a relatively low workplace participation rate. And yet Australia's economy has been one of the strongest in the world for a decade or more. This hardly suggests that there is a vital connection between participation rates and economic growth.

4. The final argument Pru Goward makes is that Australia needs to lift its fertility rate, and that "Wherever you look in the Western world, countries that provide support for working motherhood enjoy higher fertility rates than those which do not."

This is simply a feminist myth. The Western countries which provide the most support for working mothers are the Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden. The Western countries which intervene less in the family are the Anglophone ones, particularly America, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

If we compare the two groupings we find that fertility rates are generally lower in the Scandinavian countries. In fact, out of the 28 OECD nations the two countries with the highest fertility rates are America and Ireland, then Iceland and then New Zealand. Norway and Denmark are 6th and 7th, Australia is 11th and Sweden is 13th.

Not only does Sweden, the most feminist of all nations, come in a middling 13th in the fertility stakes, it also has the dubious honour of having the world's second highest divorce rate. It is hardly a model for countries like Australia to follow.

It's also instructive to look at recent research by Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University. He studied Australian fertility data and concluded that the key problem was a decline in marriage, rather than a failure to support mothers in the workforce.

Women are still having children once they marry, but fewer women are marrying and those who do marry later. According to Dr Birrell, a key factor in the decline in marriage rates is a growing underclass of men with insufficient education and poor incomes. So if we really want to improve fertility rates, a key focus ought to be helping to improve the employment prospects of low income men.

Once again, I doubt if the feminists at the OSW will offer their services to support this aim.

So do we really need an OSW? Not on the basis of Pru Goward's arguments. It is wrong, I believe, for feminists to be privileged the way they are now. It is not even the case that most women identify as feminists, let alone men. What then is the justification for having feminist policy officers scrutinising all cabinet submissions?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Labor realism?

This is, at least, a step forward. The Australian Labor Party has appointed a new immigration spokesman, Laurie Ferguson. He has already taken a stand against soft-headed refugee activists.

According to Mr Ferguson, too many such activists fail to understand that a sizeable proportion of asylum seekers have fraudulent cases and manipulate the legal system to stay in Australia.

He is also sceptical about the idea of releasing illegal arrivals into the community, because "All international experience shows that if people have not got a strong case, they have no real wish to remain part of the system and basically disappear into society."

Mr Ferguson explained that, "I get a bit sick of being lectured to by people. What I do question is that people who don't want any rules, don't want any controls, don't want any checking are usually people whose contact is limited to a few niche cases that they get very emotionally involved in. These people lack knowledge, quite frankly, of the broader issues."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

If race doesn't exist ....

Race has all sorts of negative connotations in a liberal society. That's because it conflicts with liberal first principles. Liberals believe that to be human we have to be self-created, rather than shaped by something unchosen like race.

Some liberals have even started to deny, against all common sense, that such a thing as race even exists. I recently wrote a short item on an American scientist who asserted this very thing.

In my comments on this scientist I predicted that science itself would eventually prove the existence of race. Yesterday, another small step toward this scientific progress was made public.

A senior lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, Dr Chee Ng, studied differences in the effects of an antidepressant drug, Zoloft, on Asians and Europeans. He found that the Asian patients responded to the drugs at lower doses than Europeans.

According to newspaper reports "Dr Ng said the difference was probably explained by genetic factors affecting how the body metabolised and responded to drugs." Another clinical adviser, Ian Hickie, was reported as saying that "Genetics was the key either in the way the body metabolises medication through the liver and into the bloodstream or the effect of the medicine on the brain."

These finding come just months after a heart drug was approved for use for a specific race (Africans), because of their lower levels of nitric oxide.

As this kind of research accumulates the race-deniers, even of the scientific persuasion, are going to appear increasingly out of place.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Our destiny

A funny thing happened in Australia in the past fortnight.

Germaine Greer, Australian feminist at large, discovered the Australian destiny. It is to declare ourselves and our country Aboriginal. This and this alone would finally end our misery and alienation so that "this darkest hour could be just before our dawn as a genuinely new nation."

At the same time ex-Prime Minister Paul Keating also discovered the Australian destiny. It is to declare our country Asian. At a book launch he spoke of a need to "divine our destiny for our appointment with reality".

He lashed out against those who failed to see the truth of an Asian future, for it was they who "crimp and cripple our destiny", who "reduce the flame and energy within the nation", who have "tiny, timorous hearts", "limited faith", and who "attempt to contain and censor the human spirit, to muffle, muzzle and vitiate it."

Now, can you forgive the majority European Australian population for being a little confused? Our manifest destiny is held to be two different things, both of which require our own abolition.

Why would two Anglo-Celtic Australians make such proposals? The answer lies within their liberal philosophy. For liberals, human dignity requires that we are self-created by our own reason and will. This means that we aren't allowed to be defined by inherited or inborn qualities like our race or ethnicity.

The logical task for liberals is, in fact, to overcome one's own racial or ethnic affiliation. Germaine Greer and Paul Keating, under the terms of liberalism, have done this magnificently.

Greer, for instance, has taken the liberal idea to the point where white Australians would be so "emancipated" from their own race and ethnicity that they could actually choose to become black Australians.

She asks the question "Supposing Australians accepted their destiny and, as if by an act of transubstantiation, declared their country and themselves Aboriginal." [my emphasis]

The overcoming of one's own race and ethnicity is spoken of here in terms of a traditional religious sacrament.

As for Mr Keating, he has taken the argument to such radical lengths that he no longer even accepts an Australian nationalism based on citizenship let alone ethnicity.

He thunders against those whose "exclusiveness" relies on "constructing arbitrary and parochial distinctions between the civic and the human community ... If you ask what is the common policy between the Le Pens, the Terreblanches, Hansons and Howards of this world, in a word, it is "citizenship." Who is in and who is out."

Aboriginal response

I was surprised at first by the Aboriginal response to Ms Greer's proposal. I expected that Aborigines might be pleased by her portrayal of Aboriginal culture as the great hope for white Australia. Instead, most Aborigines quoted in the newspapers expressed displeasure at her suggestion.

Michael Mansell, for instance, stated that Greer's vision could not be more misguided, and that "her theory is so out of this world that it's not likely to be given any credibility. It's so unreal, it's so remote and its foundation is so flawed."

When I read the detail of her argument I began to understand why Aborigines were so keen to distance themselves from Ms Greer. For Ms Greer has done the unusual thing for a liberal of not only rejecting her own ethnic affiliation, but abolishing the existence of the Aboriginal race as well.

For Ms Greer Aboriginality is "not a matter of blood or genes"; in fact, she doubts if race itself is "a genuine category." She claims instead that Aboriginality is merely a "getting of knowledge" or a "cultural construction" that anyone can participate in.

In support of this view, that no Aboriginal race as such exists, she makes the extraordinary claim that "there is more genetic variation within the Anglo-Celt population than there is genetic variation between Anglo-Celts ... and Aborigines."

Greer even declares that we should "rethink Aboriginality as inclusive rather than exclusive" so that it would not "involve the assumption of a phoney ethnicity."

Here, then, is a liberal telling Aborigines that their ethnicity is "phoney" and who is unconcerned about the survival of an Aboriginal race because she cannot even bring herself to recognise that the category of race might exist.

My advice to Aborigines: beware of liberals.

The conservative response

The key response for conservatives should be to reject liberalism at its very heart: its insistence on the supremacy of an unimpeded individual will and reason.

Once you adopt the supremacy of individual will and reason as a philosophy it's inevitable that inherited qualities like race or ethnicity will be seen in a negative light.

We need to begin to assert a different philosophical foundation in which will and reason are seen not as ultimate ends, but as important means by which we discipline ourselves to our better nature.

A larger concept of human nature would find room for important forms of human self-identity and connectedness, such as ancestry and nation. These ought to be thought of positively, as part of what adds depth and substance to human life, rather than, as the dominant liberalism asserts, an impediment to be overthrown.

(First published at Conservative Central 14/09/2003)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Conservatism & capitalism

I think it's a mistake to define conservatism around the idea of the free market. To illustrate why, consider the comments that President Bush recently made in an election debate on the issue of illegal immigration into America. President Bush said:

Many people are coming to this country for economic reasons. They're coming here to work. If you can make 50 cents in the heart of Mexico, for example, or make $5 here in America, $5.15, you're going to come here if you're worth your salt ...

And so in order to take pressure off the borders, in order to make the borders more secure, I believe there ought to be a temporary worker card that allows a willing worker and a willing employer to mate up, so long as there's not an American willing to do that job, to join up in order to be able to fulfill the employers' needs.

The focus of President Bush is on allowing the free market to do its thing. People are held to act according to economic self-interest, and government exists to allow them to do so. Placing restraints on such behaviour for some higher good, such as the preservation of a distinct national tradition, is not even considered.

President Bush has made the free market the ultimate end of politics, and as a consequence he believes it to be a positive thing for Mexicans who want more money, and American employers who want cheaper labour, to "mate up". He does not mind if this radically transforms the national identity of the USA.

If you are the kind of person who does mind if your own national identity is overthrown, the lesson is that the free market should not define your politics. You need to put other higher goods before the free market, and be willing to restrain the market, where necessary, to preserve those goods.

Eliza Linton & the female lurcher

What does human dignity rest on? What separates us from the beasts?

For liberals, the answer is the exercise of our individual will and reason, leading on to our individual autonomy (our "independence").

No doubt, this answer sounds appealing. But it has unfortunate consequences. It means that much of human life has to be rejected. For example, the inborn part of human nature is no longer allowed any authority, as it has not been chosen by our individual will or reason.

This includes the influence of our own sex, which is of course inherited rather than self-willed. For a consistent liberal there is no "dignity" in a man pursuing the masculine virtues, as his manhood is not a product of his own reason. Consistent liberals prefer the ideal of genderless human conduct or even role reversal, as this shows a personal liberation from the influence of gender.

Similarly, the liberal ideal makes it difficult for women to commit to love and family. As long ago as 1792 the radical liberal Mary Wollstonecraft argued that love, as a capricious emotion, was a degrading commitment for a woman compared to a life based on reason. In her book Vindication of the Rights of Woman she criticised marital love by noting that,

Love is, in a great degree, an arbitrary passion, and will reign, like some other stalking mischiefs, by its own authority, without deigning to reason ...

It's not surprising that Mary Wollstonecraft also argued against the influence of gender, writing that,

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 ... For this distinction ... accounts for their [women] preferring the graceful before the heroic virtues.

Mary Wollstonecraft didn't live to see these principles enacted in society. However, by the 1850s such principles were becoming a part of public policy and even of public culture.

The name we give to liberalism when it's applied to women and the family is feminism. The first great wave of feminism began in about the 1850s and finally exhausted itself in the late 1940s. It was so dominant that few dared to oppose it; one exception was an Englishwoman called Eliza Linton.

Linton herself began life as something of a feminist. With the financial aid of her father she became the first full-time female staff journalist in England. However, she came to strongly oppose feminism when she noted that women were following the call of Mary Wollstonecraft and rejecting the "graceful virtues."

For instance, in 1855 she criticised the emerging "lurcher woman" who "goes about the business of life in a rough, gruff, lurcher-like fashion, as if grace and beauty were the two cardinal sins of womanhood, and she were on a mission to put them down."

She also voiced criticisms of Lady Monson, a lesbian supporter of the women's movement in the 1850s, whom she described as an "uncompromising man-hater."

In the 1860s she addressed feminists as "you of the emancipated who imitate while you profess to hate". She wanted it made clear that she did not oppose women in general but "only the bad copies of men who have thrown off all womanly charm ... only of the fast, the immodest, the egotistical, the self-assertive, the unwomanly am I the bitter and uncompromising enemy."

By the 1870s she was writing of feminism as being "One of the modern phases of womanhood - hard, unloving, mercenary, ambitious, without domestic faculty and devoid of healthy natural instincts - it is still to me a pitiable mistake and a grave national disaster." She followed on by writing the highly significant insight that,

I think now, as I thought then, that the sphere of human action is determined by the fact of sex, and that there does exist both natural limitation and natural direction.

This is one of the clearest statements of historical conservatism that I have come across. It is a statement which would strongly offend a liberal as it denies that we as individuals are free to act in any direction according to our own individual will and reason. Instead, Eliza Linton asserts that our nature as men or women both limits and gives direction to our behaviour.

Eliza Linton was highly perceptive in some of her social commentary. She realised early on that "with the increased masculinity of women must necessarily come about the comparative effeminacy of men." She also recognised that the relaxation of divorce laws would not, as was expected, lead to a surge of men divorcing their wives but vice versa,

The restrictions on divorce are theoretically held as so many safeguards for women against the fugitive passions of men. In reality they are safeguards against her own irritable nerves and sensitive personality.

Eliza was very isolated as an opponent of nineteenth century feminism, and inevitably her opposition had little effect. The new feminist orthodoxy is reflected in the comments of a Girton College girl who, in 1889, proclaimed that,

We are no longer mere parts - excrescences, so to speak, of a family ... One may develop as an individual and independent unit.

This is a neat expression of liberal individualism: a woman's identity is no longer to be tied together with her role as a wife or mother within a family, but is to be pursued more as an atomised individual.

Historically, it didn't work because it didn't satisfy. By the late 1940s there were many women who had experienced lonely and unfulfilled independence, and who wished for a return to family life. (Also, after 1945 there was less pressure to pull women out of the family and into the workforce given the large number of servicemen returning from WWII.)

The underlying liberal principles remained, though, so it's not surprising that a second wave of feminism was initiated in the 1970s, with many similar features to that of the first wave.

The important thing for conservatives, if we wish to avoid a constant repetition of feminist cycles, is to replace the underlying liberal principle with a conservative one.

This means upholding the dignity to human life of forms of human identity and forms of human connectedness, even when these are not created by individual will or reason.

This would mean, for instance, that marital love could be viewed as one of the special expressions of human connectedness which adds dignity and meaning to human life, rather than the merely capricious, anti-rational emotion described by Mary Wollstonecraft.

Similarly the feminine graces could be openly admired as an expression of womanhood. There would no longer be a need to reject gender as an impediment to individual will and reason.

(First published at Conservative Central 06/09/2003)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Osman & the Body Shop

I was at my local shopping centre yesterday when I came across the latest campaign by the Body Shop.

For those of you who don't know, the Body Shop is an international chain of shops selling female soaps and body products. It was established in the 1970s by Anita Roddick, who has used the stores to promote her particular brand of left liberal politics.

Anyway, the cause of the month is refugees. The Body Shop I visited had posters, postcards, a magazine and a kind of guestbook for customers to sign, all promoting the idea that Australia should accept an even greater number of refugees.

What I found most interesting was a postcard putting the cause of Osman, a refugee from Sudan. We were urged to support Osman, and others like him, because in coming to Australia he would be able to "achieve his full potential."

Now, to the conservative understanding of things, this is a strange claim. How can Osman and his family possibly achieve their full potential in such an alien country as Australia?

It is impossible for Osman to maintain in Australia his connection to his ancestry, or to uphold his religious and cultural traditions.

Even some European refugees have found it difficult to maintain a sense of identity living in Anglo-Saxon countries. For instance, Nathaniel Braden has described how,

Living in the predominantly Anglo-Saxon city of Toronto, my parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who had never really assimilated themselves into Canadian culture. A sense of rootlessness and disorientation was present in our home from the begining. I had no sense of belonging, in Toronto or anywhere else, nor was I even aware of what a sense of belonging would mean. To me the void seemed normal.

If someone who is of Russian background has this experience, how much more disorienting will life be for an African living in Australia.

For a conservative there is a need both to protect the physical security of refugees and also to allow refugees to preserve their connection to their own ancestry, religion and culture. The logical way to achieve this is to resettle refugees, as far as possible, within the nearest ethnically compatible region.

As it happens there are many wealthy Islamic countries which could fund this process for Islamic refugees. Refugees from poorer African areas could be helped by wealthier Western and Asian nations to resettle in other parts of Africa.

Why have Western nations not followed such a path already? Because the political establishments in Western countries are liberal. They follow as a principle the idea that we should be self-created by our own reason and will.

Unfortunately, if we are only allowed to be created by our own reason and will, we can't be shaped by our inherited ancestry and culture. That's why, over time, the attachment to a traditional ancestry and culture has taken on a negative connotation within the Western political elite, as being a mere expression of "prejudice."

The Western political elite, therefore, for as long as it holds to liberal first principles, is unlikely to adopt a refugee policy which aims to uphold the ancestral and cultural identity of both the refugees and the host populations, no matter how humane or logical such a policy would be.

And what of the Body Shop? I wrote a short summary of the above argument in their "support book" for refugees. When I returned an hour later I found I had started a small debate within the book with some customers supporting me and others opposed.

I also looked up Anita Roddick's site on the internet. Ms Roddick does a good job of presenting herself as a flaky left liberal. She even has a picture of her adult daughter, naked except for a gas mask, attending an anti-Iraq war protest in London. The picture has the following caption, written proudly by Mum,

Like mother, like daughter. My youngest, Sam, never stops surprising me with her creative radicalism. Outside her erotic boutique Coco de Mer in London last month, she organized a naked street protest against the war...

The theme was "liberate yourself from political bondage" and featured strippers and other sex workers wearing only gas masks and body paints and stencils...

Coco de Mer organized the event with the Belles of Shoreditch, a collaboration of strippers from the East-End (London) pub culture, and the International Union of Sex Workers.

There would seem to be few moorings of any kind left in Anita Roddick's world. At any rate, she is not a woman I would be accepting moral leadership from.

There is a better way to handle the issue of refugees than that suggested by the Body Shop.

(First published at Conservative Central 24/08/2003)

Explaining bad faith

Here's one of the questions conservatives sometimes ask themselves: why do liberals refuse to engage conservatives on matters of substance?

Whenever the conservative voice is heard in some way, liberals rarely reply in terms of a measured argument. This is despite the fact that there are hundreds of professional liberal academics and journalists who could be called on to put the liberal case.

Instead, liberals usually try to dismiss the conservative position as reflecting some temporary hardship in the general population or as being an illegitimate expression of fear or hostility or prejudice.

Lawrence Auster has a short and persuasive explanation for such liberal behaviour at View from the Right. I think it does provide at least part of the reason for the liberal failure to argue reasonably against conservatism.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Unhappy musical

I'm glad that Andrew Bolt has stuck the boot into the new musical Eureka. The musical yet again follows the line that Anglo-Australians are wicked oppressors, whilst Irish Australians are nation building freedom fighters.

The Easter Uprising in Dublin during WWI did lead to a brief period in Australian history when there was a sense of division between Irish and British Australians. Amongst rank and file Australians, this division has long ago disappeared. Ridiculously, it's been kept alive by an element of Australia's political class, particularly among the right-wing of the Labor Party.

It seems likely that Mel Gibson was influenced by this tradition during his time in Australia: it would explain the tendency to vilify the English in some of his films (eg Braveheart and The Patriot).

The attempt to define an Australian identity through hostility to the British seems hopelessly ill-conceived to me, given that the vast majority of Australia's settlers were themselves British. It would mean that the average Australian would have to be self-hating in order to participate in the national identity.

Eureka might appeal to a sense of patriotism to stir the emotions, but it's a kind of patriotism which lost all relevance to most Australians generations ago and which ought to be decisively rejected.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Is Sweden No.1?

Pamela Bone wrote an article for the Melbourne Age last week titled "Let's celebrate the need to breed."

Its basic message was that Western countries ought to encourage a higher birth rate to counteract an ageing population, an idea that would be supported by most conservatives.

However, Pamela Bone displayed the full force of her liberalism when suggesting which measures might improve the fertility rate. She wrote,

Everywhere I go I meet women whose biggest regret is that they didn't have more, or any, children ..

What needs to be done to allow people to have more children is well known: complete the "partial emancipation" of women, who are now free to go out to work but are still responsible for most child care and housework: introduce family-friendly work policies; good, state-funded child care and generous parental leave ...

What Pamela Bone is claiming here is that women are "emancipated" by giving up active motherhood in favour of a career, and if allowed to do so will have more children.

The first idea, that a woman is liberated by giving up her feminine role as a mother, is a natural one for a liberal to take. Remember, liberals want to be self-created by their own individual will and reason. Therefore they view negatively, as impediments to individual will and reason, those forms of self-identity which are inherited or inborn.

That's why, for instance, a liberal woman can complain that,

The thing that still hasn't changed for women is that we're never neuter gender. It's like a nationality you've got stuck to you.

Note the negative attitude in the above quote to both gender and nationality as things "you've got stuck to you". Liberals prefer the concept of fluid and pluralistic forms of self-identity.

Liberal women, then, view gender negatively as a potential impediment to individual will and reason. It's logical, given this starting point, that they should want to overthrow traditional, established gender roles, as by doing so they prove how liberated they are from the influence of their inherited sex.

That's why Pamela Bone is so keen to remove any trace of the idea that a mother would have a particular feminine attachment to the care of her own child. As a liberal, she wants the care of children to be shared in a genderless way between men and women.

It's also why Pamela Bone wants women to have an equal commitment to a career as men. This too is a kind of proof of the overthrow of the influence of gender. To achieve this, though, requires heavily state subsidised child care.

Finally there is also Ms Bone's enthusiasm for state funded "parental leave." It's to be expected that the liberal Ms Bone would not like the traditional ideal of a husband providing for his wife, as this not only continues a traditional masculine gender role in the family, but also restricts the absolute financial autonomy of the woman.

We'll return later to problems with the liberal approach to gender. The point to be considered now is Pamela Bone's second claim, that fully "liberating" women from active motherhood will lead to a higher birth rate.

To test this theory we can take Sweden as a case study. Sweden has done all the things Ms Bone calls for to a greater extent, and for a longer time, than any other country.

As long ago as 1969 the official policy for Swedish schools was "to promote equality between men and women ... Schools should assume that men and women will play the same role in the future, that preparation for the parental role is just as important for boys as for girls and that girls have reason to be just as interested in their careers as boys."

This is, of course, a liberal programme for removing the influence of gender in the lives of both men and women.

To support this programme Sweden has introduced the longest paid maternity leave of any country at 96 weeks. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Australia and the United States, which don't have compulsory paid maternity leave schemes.

Similarly Sweden introduced an advanced scheme of state funded child care, and easily has the highest rate of working mothers with children under six at 76%. The comparable rate for the US is 61% and for Australia 45%.

Sweden has also led the way in opening up traditionally masculine careers for women, having, for instance, the highest percentage of female police officers (32% compared to 10% for the US) and parliamentarians (45% compared to 25% for Australia and 14.3% for the US).

Again, Swedish men do a higher percentage of housework than men elsewhere, and there is a very generous 120 days of paid leave per year for parents to look after sick children.

Now, according to Pamela Bone, these are exactly the things which should allow "fully emancipated" women to have more children. We should expect Sweden to have the highest fertility rate of any Western country, whilst "retrograde" countries like Australia and the US should have the lowest.

So is Sweden No.1? Not by a long way. In fact, it is the US which has the highest fertility rate of any Western country at 2.07. Australia comes in at 7th at 1.77, whilst Sweden can only manage a middling position at 17th (out of 29) at 1.54. In fact, Sweden's birth rate has been so poor in recent years that it has had a negative rate of natural population growth, with something like 30,000 more deaths than births per year.

Where Sweden does come in first is in divorce rates (a massive 65% compared to 49% for the US and 48% for Australia) and taxation (with a 56.3% government expenditure share of GDP, compared to 32.9% for Australia and 32.8% for the US).

In short, the radically left liberal Swedish model does not produce good family outcomes. It leads to a low birth rate and a high divorce rate.

Pamela Bone is therefore wrong in her second claim that the "fully emancipated" woman will choose to have more children. Conservatives would also argue that she is wrong in her first claim, that denying the role of gender leads in a positive way to personal liberation.

For instance, is it really true that there is no special connection between women and the care of young children? And, if such a connection exists, is it really just an oppressive imposition on women?

For journalist Amanda Gore the answer to both questions seems to be no. She has described in one of her columns that,

The most wonderful moment of my life was the closest I have ever been to motherhood. A few years ago I babysat my adored niece and nephew. It was bath time and they were being normal two- and four-year-olds, splashing around and screaming and laughing. So was I. It was such a happy time.

"Then I took my little bundle of niece out and was cradling her in a towel as I sat on the edge of the bath. At that moment, time stopped. There was a wonderful peaceful energy in the room. Both children were suddenly calm. I knew complete contentment in those few seconds. (The Age 12/5/96)

I doubt if too many men would list bath time with toddlers as the most wonderful moment in their lives. It would seem that Amanda Gore is describing here a kind of feminine fulfilment in the physical care of her young nephew and niece.

Similarly, Deborah Forster has declared that being a mother "is the most important thing in my life." She explains how,

My generation of women was brought up to believe that we could be anything and have everything. Looking back this seems an odd sort of an idea. Anyway, I suppose there are some who would be disappointed by my choice of what's most important. I probably would have been when I was younger. Yet from the moment I held my eldest child in my arms, inhaled the smell of her head, I was hooked on something that was bigger than both of us, as I was after the birth of each of my children.

Mother love is an ocean. I sometimes look at each of my three and, in the words of a very dear friend, I think: "Is that not a child? Is that not a face to behold?" But I try to be reasonable, not toooooo embarrassing and soppy. And sometimes we drive each other nuts, but underneath it most mothers feel the deepest connection, the knots children tie into our hearts.

I went back to work a couple of times. But I missed them too much to be away all day ... I thought when I had my first child, my husband and I would both work part-time. It was a delusion. When we both worked full-time there was a gap in the children's lives and in mine ... I also know I probably stayed home mostly because my own mother always worked and I missed her. I don't want mine to miss me. (Age 9/5/97)

Again, for Deborah Forster there does exist a special feminine connection between a woman and her children.

Unfortunately, Western societies won't be able to openly recognise this connection until we drop the liberal principle that we should be solely created by our own individual reason and will.

It would be better if we viewed individual will and reason not so much as the ultimate ends of life, but as a means to reach toward what is best within our own nature, including our masculine nature as men or our feminine nature as women.

(First published at Conservative Central 17/08/2003)

Growing up at 40?

The Age newspaper this morning has an article on childlessness amongst professional women. It seems that a large percentage of women in some professions remain childless, including 76% of engineers and 79% of architects.

The question is why? As expected, the Age suggests that workplaces need to be more flexible to cater for working women. But the childless professional they interviewed for the story begged to differ.

Architect Roberta Esbitt explained her childlessness this way:

Your 20s are used largely for partying, your 30s are for building up a career and then in your 40s you decide what you want to do when you grow up.

When Roberta eventually decided to think about family in her early 40s it was too late, despite efforts to use IVF treatment.

I find Roberta's account of her life trajectory convincing, because it's similar to what I observed about the university educated women of my own generation. They had been brought up to believe in the "independent modern girl" ethos in which the liberal goal of autonomy was paramount.

Family life wasn't rejected entirely, but it was shunted off to some vague time in the future, after the goals of single life and careerism had been met. In line with this, these women often preferred to consort with men who were unsuitable for marriage or fatherhood.

I doubt if any amount of child endowment or subsidised childcare or workplace flexibility would have convinced such women to have children. The problem was a cultural/political one. It was their ideas about how their life course should run which was the main barrier to marriage and motherhood for such women.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Is this morally neutral?

A Human Rights Commission in Canada has ruled that a 14-year-old girl ice-hockey player must be allowed to share the same locker room as the boy players.

This is a case of the liberal moral code being imposed on society. Liberals believe that it's wrong for us to be defined by an inherited and unchosen quality like our own sex. Therefore, the "human rights" commission quite predictably decided that the girl hockey player should be treated in a gender neutral way, just like one of the boys, and share their change room.

Note, that liberalism is not being morally neutral in this case. It is using the public authority of a Human Rights Commission to enforce its own moral understanding against a traditional moral understanding. It is ruling against the traditional morality that there should be a degree of sexual modesty existing between boys and girls.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Liberalism & the nation

Ayn Rand, the founder of a philosophy called objectivism, once commented that "What matters is what you accept by choice, not what you are connected with through the accident of your ancestry."

This neatly sums up a basic part of the dispute between liberals and conservatives. For conservatives, the connection felt to ancestry is an important and positive feature of human life; it is something of value to be conserved.

But to liberals like Ayn Rand, the connection to ancestry is "accidental" and therefore to be condemned since it isn't a product of individual will and reason. From the liberal perspective, it is quite logically regarded as an impediment to be overcome.

When we look at the issue of nationalism this distinction between liberals and conservatives becomes very clear, and colours the terms of the debate.

On the one side, a genuine conservative is likely to favour a traditional model of nationalism, which is sometimes called cultural nationalism but which is better termed ethnic nationalism.

In this traditional model the people of a particular nation feel a close sense of identity with each other because they share a common ethnicity. In other words, they share some combination of a common ancestry, language, culture, religion and history.

The Australian writer David Malouf drew on a conservative sense of national identity when explaining why so many Anglo-Australians wish to retain political links with Great Britain. He wrote:

it has to do with family .. identity in that sense ...It is a link of language, too, and of culture in the sense of shared associations and understanding, of shared objects of affection, and a history of which we are a branch - a growth quite separate and itself, but drawing its strength from an ancient root ...

The fact is that the part of ourselves in which we live most deeply, most fully, goes further back than one or two generations and takes in more than we ourselves have known.

Someone who is attached to this conservative sense of national identity will most probably wish to protect it through a selective immigration policy. He will logically prefer to admit those who share a similar ethnicity to the existing population.

Liberals though find it difficult to accept the traditional version of nationalism. They want to be self-created by their individual will and reason and so could not possibly accept David Malouf's idea that the deepest part of ourselves "goes further back than one or two generations and takes in more than we ourselves have known." Accepting this would mean accepting real limitations to individual will and reason.

So what do liberals do? The most radical liberals take the dramatic step of rejecting nationalism altogether in favour of internationalism.

The poet Shelley took this step as long ago as 1820 in his poem Prometheus Unbound. Shelley wrote the poem in homage to the new man who would "make the world one brotherhood" and who would be,

Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man
Equal, unclassed, tribeless, nationless,
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king
over himself ...

Shelley wants the new man to be "tribeless" and "nationless" because he thinks that each individual should be uncircumscribed, in other words, free to create himself in any direction according to his individual will. He doesn't want the individual to be created, in part, by something external and unchosen, like an inherited national identity.

There are, of course, more modern expressions of internationalism. For instance, Strobe Talbott, who went on to become Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, wrote an essay for Time magazine in 1992 in which he declared,

Here is one optimist's reason for believing unity will prevail ... within the next hundred years ... nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single global authority ... A phrase briefly fashionable in the mid-20th century - "citizen of the world" - will have assumed real meaning by the end of the 21st ... All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances ...

The Melbourne academic Mary Kalantzis prefers to call herself a "postnationalist" rather than an internationalist. She has written that,

the essence of a postnationalist common purpose is creative and productive life of boundary crossing, multiple identities, difficult dialogues, and the continuous hybrid reconstruction of ourselves.

Note the degree to which Kalantzis opposes a common, longstanding, inherited national identity. She emphasises instead the ideas of "boundary crossing", "multiple identities" and even a "continuous hybrid reconstruction of ourselves."

It's important to remember, though, that most liberals do not reject traditional nationalism in favour of an explicit internationalism. Instead, they redefine nationalism to make it fit in better with liberal first principles.

One common way for liberals to do this is to emphasise the idea of citizenship. According to this kind of nationalism, anyone who agrees to uphold the laws of society can become a citizen of the nation.

This understanding of nationalism is obviously appealing to liberals because it means that we no longer simply inherit our national identity but can choose for ourselves which nation to belong to. If all countries adopted this notion of nationalism, then I could theoretically one year choose to be Canadian, the next year an Afghani, and the year following a Nigerian.

Similarly, the idea of multiculturalism is likely to appeal to many liberals, as it means that there is no longer any authoritative, mainstream culture to claim their loyalty and to define their identity. Instead, they can "pick and choose" almost like spectators which ethnic culture in their midst to enjoy.

Many liberals, in other words, continue to see themselves as good patriots, even while they are deconstructing the traditional nation to which they belong. They do so by substituting a liberal version of nationalism for the traditional conservative one.

The important thing for conservatives is to understand that the liberal attitude to nationalism is logical, if you accept liberal first principles. We need therefore to encourage people to consciously reject these first principles if we want attitudes to nationalism and immigration, especially amongst the intellectual and political classes, to change.

(First published at Conservative Central 10/08/2003)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Are Aussie men getting it?

Are Australian men finally getting too smart for feminism? There's an encouraging sign in today's Herald Sun. Adam Zwar, who writes a men's column, tells of being asked to give a speech to school boys on the topic of "what it means to be a man".

I thought I wasn't going to like the column. I had always thought that Adam Zwar was a kind of light-weight laddish humourist. So I was very pleasantly surprised to read what he actually told the Year 10 boys. In his own words,

I ... told the kids you have to be strong ... Nothing is more unmanly than telling everyone your problems ... It's also good to be educated ... It's important to get physical, too. A garden is good. If you don't have a garden, go to the gym. You'll be surprised how better your soul feels after you've lifted something.

Men should be responsible, polite. And, no, politeness does not mean weakness. And they should also be brave, strong and determined - even though the latte set scoff at such values ...

Indeed, the old-style values of men are being undermined by metrosexual hermaphrodites who would be useless in assisting anyone in a scrap, least of all themselves.

There's nothing wrong with being "logical, disciplined, controlled, rational and aggressive" when you're protecting a friend from a gang of street thugs. There's nothing wrong with having brute strength when you're helping females move house.

And there's nothing wrong with stoicism during a family crisis, when everyone around you is crumbling under a blanket of grief.

Sure, it might be old-fashioned, but no one who is relying on you will say what you're doing is wrong.

I'm mightily impressed by this. When you consider that there are no useful role models for men on TV or in popular culture, and that the political class uses its influence to try to convince men to become more effeminate, it's highly significant that a young, mainstream man like Adam Zwar should still make such a principled defence of traditional masculinity.

Even under the weight of a liberal culture, men are still figuring out the importance of a traditional masculinity. It must make the gender-benders tear their hair out.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bad faith

Pop singer Christina Aguilera has toned down her image recently, but still defends her former hypersexual behaviour as follows:

I wasn't a 'bad' girl, but it was the persona of a strong and aggressive female ... It's all in how you see it. And I had to go against the the many opinions of people who didn't see it that way.

But that has been taught to us from the beginning of time, with men trying to gain power by suppressing the woman and making her feel wrong about her sexuality. (Herald Sun 7/10/04)

Note how thoroughly Christina has absorbed the ideas of left-liberalism. For her, social dynamics are to be explained in terms of a will to power of one group in society over another. Sexual modesty, in this view, can only be seen in terms of a power struggle between men and women.

There are two striking consequences of this outlook. First, as mentioned above, sexual modesty can't be taken seriously on its own terms: it can only be interpreted as an illegitimate power play. And second, men and women are radically set apart in their social relationships: from the very beginning of time, thinks Aguilera, men have acted to suppress women.

This is a bad faith view of the relations between men and women, which encourages a very unnatural division between the sexes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

More Sweden watch

You have to feel pity for embattled Swedish men. The Swedish Parliament is currently debating a proposal to make men pay a "domestic violence tax" to cover the social costs of abuse against women. The motion was sponsored by the Left Party which has 30
members in the Swedish Parliament, and which supports the ruling majority.

Liberals often declare their opponents to be divisive, but here is an example of a very unnatual division between men and women being openly aired by left-liberals in a national parliament. Why would they do it?

It's partly, I believe, because of the underlying understanding that liberals have about society. Liberals assume that society is a collection of competing wills. Liberals therefore tend to understand social dynamics as a "will to power" of some groups over others. If men have more political or economic power than women, it must be due to an illegitimate power structure that men have set up (the patriarchy), in which women are the powerless victims.

In this view, "social justice" means dismantling the power structure and returning to an equality of will.

The basic problem with this view is its starting point. It's wrong to assert that we are just competing individual wills. A man who goes out to work to earn money isn't doing so because he is asserting an individual will to power to the detriment of his wife. This man is part of a family, with a bundle of drives and instincts toward the health and preservation of this family. You can't understand his motivations outside of this social framework.

Which is why it's not very difficult to knock holes in the idea that men as a class are oppressors and women are victims. It's easy to find evidence of the exact opposite: of women being the oppressors and men the victims.

For instance, a recent study by behavioural scientists at the University of New England in NSW found that men are more likely to be harassed in the workplace than women. Then there's the case of Joe Cinque, highlighted by a recent book by Helen Garner. Cinque's girlfriend, Anu Singh, decided to kill him because she was depressed. She recruited a female friend to help her and Cinque was drugged and then injected with an overdose of heroin.

The daily papers are full of such items, and yet at an official level there is still an assumption that terms like "domestic violence" can only mean abuse by men of women. The idea that a fair proportion of domestic violence is violence by women against men, children and other women simply isn't considered. The facts aren't allowed to get in the way of the ideology.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Is this freedom? Is this equality?

It's difficult not to be disturbed by Jared Taylor's latest article at Vdare. It details various cases to have come before Sweden's anti-hate speech courts.

Sweden, as usual, is at the forefront of social democracy (left-liberalism) in pursuing these laws. In one case a Swedish pastor gave a sermon critical of homosexuality and was sentenced to a month in prison. The state prosecutor explained that "Collecting Bible [verses] on this topic as he does makes this hate speech".

In another case a man was sentenced to two months prison for writing, after some gang rapes of Swedish girls, that "I don't think I am alone in feeling sick when reading about how Swedish girls are raped by immigrant hordes".

Most incredible, though, is the case of feminist Joanna Rytel. She wrote a most vitriolic diatribe against white Swedish men for a major Swedish newspaper. If the title of her article, "I Will Never Give Birth to a White Man" was not offensive enough, she then went on to demand "no white men, please ... I just puke on them, thank you very much" and she wrote openly of wanting someone "to talk with all night long about my hatred towards white men".

Did Ms Rytel end up behind bars for such vile hate speech? No, she didn't. She wasn't even charged, because, as the state prosecutor explained, "Cases where people express themselves in a critical or derogatory way about men of ethnic Swedish background were not intended to be included in this law."

So, in a country which has actually abandoned free speech, and imprisons people for political incorrectness, it's considered OK to express the most outlandish hatred against a large segment of the population: Swedish men.

This is where advanced liberalism is leading us. Not toward the promised goals of freedom and equality, but toward the imposition of thought crimes and inequality before the law.

It's now up to Swedish men to show some fighting spirit. Why should they stay loyal to a liberal politics which openly treats them this way? It's time for Swedish men to radically rethink the liberal politics which has brought their country to such an unenviable condition.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Liberal tolerance?

You may have seen this already, but I've just come across the following admission from left-wing singer Linda Ronstadt. In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune she said,

It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or a fundamental [sic] Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment.

So she becomes downcast if there is just one person in an audience who doesn't share her own left-liberalism or secularism! This is intolerant to say the least. And yet left liberals like Rondstadt love to present themselves as being morally and politically superior because of their tolerant attitudes.

I wonder just how common it is for liberal advocates of tolerance to be themselves grossly intolerant.