Saturday, September 30, 2006

Can Latham rescue fatherhood?

Mark Latham is the new leader of the Labor Party opposition in Australia.

He has recently turned his attention to what he calls a crisis in masculinity. According to Latham the identity of men has become "blurred and confused" leading to loneliness and depression.

The solution suggested by Mr Latham is that "We should foster fatherhood at every opportunity" so that men have "a real sense of belonging to society".

So far, so good. But then Mr Latham spoils it all by outlining his model of fatherhood. As one paper reported it,

Mr Latham ... said men needed to do more to recognise the significance of fatherhood.

He said he expected more men to give up work to stay home to care for children.

"Women have traditionally taken this role, but I expect in future we will have many more stay-at-home dads in Australia," he said.

"This is an important part of rebuilding male identity - recognising the significance of fatherhood."

So there you have it. Mr Latham's wants to rebuild male identity by having men take over the traditional female role of mothering children. And this is supposed to make men less confused!


Left liberals like Mr Latham often seem willing to talk about concepts like identity and connectedness, concepts which are also important to conservatives.

The problem is that the left liberal attempt to deal with such things inevitably becomes twisted by their commitment to liberal individualism as a first principle.

Liberals want individuals to be created by their own reason and will. Our sex is not created by our own reason and will - it's something we are simply born into. Therefore, liberals quite logically try to downgrade the influence of our sex in our lives. They prefer to see gender as a mere social construct from which the individual can be liberated.

That's why liberals take such a positive view of sex role reversal. It's a kind of proof that the influence of gender is being overthrown. It is a statement that our own will and reason is unlimited by the fact of gender.

The fact that liberals are led, by their philosophy, to reject the influence over us of our sex, explains the many hostile comments by liberals to the mere existence of gender distinctions.

Gloria Steinem, for instance, has complained bitterly about "the false division of human nature into the "feminine" and "masculine"; and Jessica Bernard has campaigned against traditional masculine fatherhood in favour of "paternity without gender, fatherhood without manhood."

The Australian social commentator Hugh Mackay has even called for those who have fought against gender distinctions to have their sacrifices recognised on ANZAC Day, alongside the sacrifices of soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

For Mackay, the achievements of those who "were prepared to fight a culture war that has radically refocused our understanding of the supremacy of personhood over gender", are equal to the efforts of Australian soldiers who fought in the World Wars. (The Age, 22/3/2000)


So you can see the problem for Mark Latham. His politics allows him to recognise the social dysfunction brought about by a confused male identity. However, he is committed to the idea that masculinity itself is a mere social construct and that sex role reversal is liberating and progressive.

It is therefore quite logical for Mr Latham to tie the two things together by suggesting that a crisis in masculine identity should be solved by a sex role reversal in which men increasingly become "mothers" to their children.

Most men, though, will not see it this way. They won't take the view that men and women are so interchangeable that men can simply take over a feminine role within the family.

As it happens, even after a decade or more of encouragement, men have become the primary caregiver in only 1% of Australian families.

Mr Latham has correctly identified the importance to men of a male identity, and he has correctly identified fatherhood as being crucial to this identity. But this is as far as he can go. His liberalism won't allow him to accept the idea of a distinctly masculine fatherhood, which is different to the role played in families by women.

What does such a masculine fatherhood look like? I won't attempt to give a complete answer in a short article. But there are several obvious features that can be quickly mentioned.

Firstly, fathers are ultimately the ones responsible for providing for their families. This provider role is not always well appreciated, but it is still important for families.

It has a positive benefit of allowing mothers to care for their families without the pressure of full-time work outside the home. Take the case of "Jane" as recorded by Bettina Arndt in an article on modern marriage (State of the union, The Age 15/4/2000). Jane spent 12 years looking after her two children, whilst her husband Peter worked to support the family financially. When her children were aged 12 and 10, she returned part-time to paid work, but as the article points out,

She finds she can't cope if she works more than 20 hours a week. "When I'm flat-chat and Peter is flat-chat, it's hideous. I become a shrew. It's not worth it. I didn't have children to shriek at them and blame them."

Peter is effectively helping his family as a father by protecting his wife from the pressures of full-time work. His efforts to be a provider mean that his children have a less stressed, and more gently feminine mother to care for them.

According to "Australia's foremost fatherhood researcher", Macquarie University psychologist Professor Graeme Russell, many men are aware of the importance of their efforts to be providers, despite the denigration of the role in the media. Professor Russell states that,

They [men] know the role of provider is being devalued, yet when you talk to men about this, they'll tell you they still see their work as family nurturing.

Being a provider is not the only role that fathers perform. It's also important that men support their wives emotionally. The Herald Sun relationships columnist, Toby Green, puts it well when she describes men as fulfilling "the role of nurturer to the nurturer". Toby Green says of new mothers that,

It is important, since she feels she is the lifeline to the child, that he [the father] be the chief emotional support to her. Someone needs to fill her emotional cup so she is topped up to fill that of someone else. (Herald Sun, 1/7/99)

Finally, fathers also have an important role to play in socialising their children, especially their sons. This was recognised as long ago as 1506, in an Italian play called Clizia. The daily life of a "good father" was described in this play as follows,

He [Nicomaco] passed his time worthily; got up early in the morning, heard Mass, ordered the day's food, and then saw to whatever business he had in town, at the market, or at the magistrate's office. If not, he either discussed some serious topic or other with a few friends or shut himself in his study at home to balance and tidy up his accounts. Then he dined happily with his family and after dinner talked to his son, gave him advice, helped him understand human nature, taught him how to live, in fact, with examples from the past and present.

It would be possible, of course, to add a great deal more about the masculine contribution men make to their families as fathers. Suffice it to say that Mark Latham misrepresents things if he believes that men can only contribute to families, and achieve a sense of identity and belonging, by filling the caregiving role that women now play in family life.

We still need men to successfully carry out the traditional fatherhood role that is most suited to their masculine nature and which best complements the role played by women within the family.

(First published at Conservative Central, 13/03/2004)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Garrett now singing a different song?

Labor MP and former Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett has criticised Howard Government MPs for being indifferent to Australian art and culture:

Can you remember the last time a senior member of the Federal Government ... stood up, hand on heart, and declared their strong support and unbridled enthusiasm for Australian art and culture?

Well no, Peter. But I do still remember how you declared your feelings for Australian culture on Australia Day 1998. You spoke of Australians remaining,

what we have always been: a people without a soul, not a nation but a community of thieves.

No-one could accuse Peter of being indifferent. Just plain hostile, like too many of our artists.

It amazes me that so many artists believe that their role is to shock and insult the public, and that they then complain when the public shows little enthusiasm for the arts.

High art ought really to communicate the more difficult, elevated and profound of human experiences. It probably for this reason will never have the same mass appeal as sport. If Australian art were to follow this path it might, however, win the respect of a section of the public.

But too often today the arts are simply an uninspiring mixture of rancour and therapy, which is better left ignored.

Riots in Brussels

The mainstream media doesn't seem to want to report this; there was nothing about it in the Melbourne papers this morning.

So let me fill the gap: there have been three nights of rioting in the Belgian city of Brussels. 53 Muslim youths were arrested last night, following the arrest of 45 the previous night. Stones have been thrown at cars and pedestrians, windows of cars have been smashed, cars have been set on fire, a youth club has been set ablaze and two molotov cocktails were thrown into one of the city's major hospitals.

The riots have taken place soon after two police officers were ambushed by about 20 immigrant youths in Paris and brutally beaten. The French police union has complained that "these explosions of violence against the police are a kind of guerrilla warfare aimed at getting the forces of law and order to leave certain areas in order to immerse them in a logic of sedition and terror."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Does the mind have a sex?

In 1673 a Frenchman, Francois Poullain de la Barre, declared that "the mind has no sex".

He wrote on this theme that,

It is easy to realise that the difference between the sexes concerns only the body - being, correctly, only this part that serves for the production of men. Since the mind participates only by giving its assent (and giving it in all people in the same manner), we can conclude that it is sexless.

In simple terms, de la Barre believed that men and women differed only in their reproductive organs. He thought that men and women were, by nature, the same in all other respects, including everything to do with the mind.

De la Barre drew some very modern, feminist conclusions from this idea. He asserted that traditional gender roles had no basis in "natural law" but were maintained by prejudice and custom alone.

(For instance, he complained that "legal scholars, who also have their prejudices, have attributed to nature a distinction that derives from custom alone.")

De la Barre claimed that,

the mind, not functioning differently in one sex than in the other, is equally capable of the same things

and therefore concluded that women were as equally suited as men (or more so) to be priests, generals and monarchs.

The argument framed by de la Barre eventually came to have much influence. But it can now be seen to be mistaken in its first assumption. Science is now demonstrating that the mind does have a sex. After a period of more than 300 years we can now conclusively reject the theory pioneered by de la Barre.

It has now finally become accepted in the scientific mainstream that there are significant differences between the male and female brain. A new book, The Female Brain, written by an American neuro-psychiatrist Louann Brizendine is the latest, and undoubtedly not the last, work to be published in this area (see the review by Janet Albrechtsen aptly titled "Feminism begs to differ, but unisex brain is a fantasy").

The scientific research should give heart to conservatives who have long held that there are naturally occurring differences between men and women which are hardwired into human biology.

(In fact, I think many conservatives would tend to the view that there is an essential masculinity to men and femininity to women, which forms a core part of our identity and which is reflected in traditional gender roles within the family and society.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

What does diversity research tell us?

I returned to my childhood suburb of Melbourne during the week to visit my parents. Twenty years ago it was an ageing, but still largely monocultural middle-class area of Melbourne. Today it is multicultural.

It is genuinely multicultural in the sense that there are not just two or three ethnic groups living in the same area, but such a diverse mix of people that no ethnic groups stand out at all.

I find the experience of such diversity to be profoundly alienating. It gives me a sense of atomised individualism, in which I exist only as an individual for the pettier purposes of shopping or entertainment. I no longer have the sense of being part of a larger tradition, with a deeper place and more serious responsibilities to my own culture.

It is, I have to admit, always a relief when I head back to my own suburb, which is not exclusively Anglo, but predominantly so. I don't feel the same sense of alienation in such conditions.

I know it's not politically correct for me to write such things. However, I don't think I'm alone in experiencing things this way.

Earlier this year, the BBC ran an article titled "Does diversity make us unhappy?". The straightforward answer given in the article was yes.

Both the Home Office and the Commission for Racial Equality had commissioned research which found that diversity was associated with certain negative outcomes:

It is an uncomfortable conclusion from happiness research data perhaps - but multicultural communities tend to be less trusting and less happy.

Research by the Home Office suggests that the more ethnically diverse an area is, the less people are likely to trust each other.

The Commission for Racial Equality has also done work looking at the effect of diversity on well-being.

Interviewed on The Happiness Formula, the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips accepts that people are happier if they are with people like themselves.

"We've done the work here which shows that people, frankly, when there aren't other pressures, like to live within a comfort zone which is defined by racial sameness.

"People feel happier if they're with people like themselves ..."

To give some credit to Trevor Phillips he does draw as a conclusion from the research that "We need to respect people's ethnicity". This raises the question of how Western governments can respect the ethnicity of their mainstream populations, an important issue that has not been considered as part of public debate.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Feminist: it's wrong to stay home

Gretchen Ritter, a feminist academic, doesn't like the idea of women staying at home to look after their children. She tells us that it's actually wrong for women to do so, for the following reasons.

It denies men the chance to be involved fathers ... What does it mean when fathers are denied the opportunity to nurture their kids in ways that are as important as their work? What do the children miss when they don't have fathers changing their diapers, picking them up from school ... On both sides, the answer is too much.

There are three flaws in this opening argument. First, men in traditional families don't miss out on the chance to be involved fathers. A recent major survey found that in more traditional households where men are the main breadwinners, fathers spend an average of 9.7 hours a week with their children. In contrast, in feminist type arrangements where women earn a larger percentage of the income, men spent fewer hours (8.7) with their children.

Second, Gretchen Ritter falls into the usual trap of trying to persuade men that child-care is an important and rewarding task to commit to, whilst arguing that women should be doing something else. There's an inconsistency in her message about the value of nurturing children.

Third, children are most sensitive to the absence of their mothers. There are many young women rejecting feminism because they grew up missing their mums.

Women who stay at home also lose out - they lose a chance to contribute as professionals and community activists ... we need women in medicine, law, education, politics and the arts.

Gretchen Ritter ignores the vast majority of women who are not going to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, artists and community activists. Ritter assumes that the word "women" refers to upper middle-class feminist women.

Obviously, a large number of women work in jobs they don't find rewarding (according to the survey linked to above, only 31% of young British women find their job fulfilling). Why should such women give up on stay-at-home motherhood to continue in relatively mundane and menial paid work?

Nor is it impossible for women to value stay-at-home motherhood, whilst later contributing to society as teachers or lawyers. This is, in fact, what a considerable number of professional women choose to do.

There's one other thing to mention here. Motherhood is at the centre of life in a way that careers can never be. It is a more intensely personal role, more embedded in women instinctively, and more a part of the inner world of emotions and spirit.

In the book The Bitch in the House there is a letter from a 1950s mum to her feminist daughter, explaining why she did not feel oppressed to be a housewife. The mother writes:

When you and your sister were growing up, I was what your generation calls a "stay-at-home mom" ... I can say now that those were some of the happiest years of my life. I was enchanted by my daughters, and watching them grow up from little helpless blobs into wonderful people was the most rewarding experience I ever had. I didn't then and still didn't consider it a job. It was joy.

This woman had worked prior to having children, and she became a teacher when her children were older. Yet, she doesn't sacrifice the idea of motherhood to her professional work, and, better yet, she doesn't even regard the two in the same way. There is a significance to the motherhood role that can't be reproduced in mundane work, not even in a professional career.

Full-time mothering is also bad for children. It teaches them that the world is divided by gender.

I had to laugh at this one. This is a case of a liberal panicking at the idea that gender differences might be thought to matter.

This movement also privileges certain kinds of families, making it harder for others. The more stay-at-home mothers there are, the more schools and libraries will neglect the needs of working parents, and the more professional mothers, single mothers, working-class mothers and lesbian mothers will feel judged for their failure to be in a traditional family and stay home with their children.

Interesting. Gretchen Ritter wants to "privilege" her own preferred family model by making the traditional family seem illegitimate. And yet her closing argument is that she doesn't like the privileging of certain kinds of families!

She makes her case by arguing that traditional women create inequity by setting a motherhood standard which makes other women feel bad. The problem with this argument, though, is that it undermines Ritter's previous claims of how inferior the traditional family is. If the previous claims were right, then you would think that traditional women would be glumly contemplating their more fortunate not-at-home sisters.

Instead, we are told that it is the non-traditional women who are feeling insecure about what they are doing, so much so that only by abolishing the traditional family will they recover their self-confidence.

(Gretchen Ritter's article "The messages we send when moms stay home" was first published in July 2004 in the Austin-American Statesman. The only link to the original article I could find is here.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

The conservative by-products of science

It has been fashionable in recent times for people to engage in race denial (meaning that they claim that race does not exist as a biological reality, but is instead a social construct).

Why deny the existence of race? For the same reason that differences between men and women are claimed to exist only as social constructs.

If you're a liberal, and you believe that we are only human when we are self-determined, you won't like anything that seems to be a biological destiny. You won't want to recognise anything which seems important to us, but which is based on unchosen biology.

Hence the convenient idea that gender and race are social constructs, and can therefore be changed as we ourselves see fit.

Common sense ought to tell us that the liberal theory is wrong. It's not difficult to observe significant differences between men and women across all cultures; nor is it difficult to identify accurately the ancestry of most people based on their physical characteristics.

However, it hasn't really been common sense which has fatally undermined the liberal view. It has been science.

Science has vindicated the conservative view that gender differences are hardwired into us as part of our human nature, rather than being solely a product of culture. We now know too much about sex hormones and the structure of the brain for this to be denied.

Increasingly, too, science is undermining the race deniers. The latest evidence involves genetic research into SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms).

Scientists are now looking for genes which are associated with illnesses like arthritis. They have discovered, though, that genes differ according to our broad ancestry. If they control for a person's race (whether someone is of African or European ancestry, for instance) they reduce the amount of "false associations" in their research.

Already, scientists have found SNPs correlating to our continental ancestry (African, European, Asian etc). Now, SNPs have been identified which show not only European ancestry, but which distinguish between those of Northern and Southern European descent.

So as a by-product of medical research we have it confirmed that there is a biological basis not only for broad continental differences in race, but even for intra-continental ones such as those between Northern and Southern Europeans.

And scientists are now starting to investigate distinctions within the other continental groupings (which they will surely find).

I wonder how long it will take for such research to become commonly known and to complicate the established liberal views on race?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The silent apartment

Liberalism tells us that the highest aim in life, the very thing which makes us human, is our freedom to be self-determined. This means that liberals use words like autonomy and independence to describe the key goals in life. The problem is that it’s not so simple to make people absolutely autonomous. It means denying that we have any inborn qualities, or any unchosen, inherited forms of identity, which might help define who we are. It even means, as a matter of logic, downgrading the status of love in human life. After all, our highest ideal of love is a joining together of a man and woman in a kind of permanent union or bond. It’s not easy to reconcile this ideal with the liberal one of achieving an autonomous, unimpeded individual will. This problem becomes especially acute for feminists, since feminism takes the basic principles of liberalism and applies them to questions of male and female relationships. As evidence for this, take the case of feminist writer Vivian Gornick. She has written an honest account of her own love life in an article titled “What independence has come to mean to me” (published in the book The Bitch in the House). She begins the article by declaring that her sixty-fifth year is a year of reckoning and that she is brooding now on her “lifelong struggle to become a human being: an independent human being”. (Note how liberalism makes the status of being human contingent: it’s something you only attain through reaching a certain condition of autonomy or independence.) She then quotes an article she wrote nine years ago, in which she looks at people walking along a New York street and is struck by the lack of firm relationships:
This is a population in a permanent state of intermittent attachment. Inevitably the silent apartment lies in wait. Who could ever have dreamed there would be so many of us floating around, those of us between thirty-five and fifty-five who live alone. Thirty years of politics in the street opened a door that became a floodgate, and we have poured through in our monumental numbers, in possession of the most educated discontent in history. Yet, we seem puzzled, most of us, about how we got here, confused and wanting relief from the condition. We roam the crowded streets, in naked expectation of a last-minute reprieve.
And how did Vivian Gornick come to be part of this mass of confused single people? She recalls that as a young woman she,
discovered the promise of revolutionary feminism; and then the loneliness that came with what I took to be independence – turning it quickly into a political position (“this is what we must endure to become ourselves”)
Much later she recognised that it was not so much “sexism” which kept her single but her politically inspired treatment of men:
In the name of equality I tormented every man who’d ever loved me until he left me: I called them on everything, never let anything go, held them up to accountability in ways that wearied us both.
She then decided that work, with its promise of independence, could replace love.
Work … had come to seem everything. Loving a man, I had decided, would never again be uppermost in my concerns.
But this turned out to be more difficult than she imagined: the instinct toward love was difficult to suppress. She wrote an article in which she “examined the matter once more, and this time looked more clearly at the consequence of what I so easily claimed could be dispensed with – love, that is”:
Perhaps, in fact, the two (work and love) were incompatible. Love-as-I-had-always-known-it was something I might now have to do without. I approached the thought blithely, as though it would be the easiest thing in the world to accommodate … The only important thing, I told myself (again), was work … If I worked, I’d have what I needed. I’d be a person in the world. What would it matter then that I was giving up on “love”? As it turned out, it mattered … the idea of love, if not the reality, was impossible to give up. As the years went on, I saw that romantic love was injected like dye into the nervous system of my emotions, laced through the entire fabric of longing, fantasy and sentiment. It haunted the psyche, was an ache in the bones: so deeply embedded into the make-up of the spirit it hurt the eyes to look directly into its influence.
Having admitted that her need for love couldn’t be denied, Vivian Gornick then recognized that her “autonomy” was not really what she had held it up to be, and that:
what I was calling my “choices” weren’t really choices at all, they were simply the impulses of a conflicted being: one of them had to be acted upon. And thus, more often than not, after I had “chosen” I’d end up feeling stranded, confused and disappointed; surprised it was turning out this way; and as shut up inside myself as before – neither free nor independent. Ah, there was the rub. Not independent. Consciously I was undivided in my desire for autonomy. Independence, I thought, was what I valued above all else. But it was turning out that I had not understood the word at all. For years I had mistaken rebelliousness for independence. I thought that every time I treated the men in my life badly because “work comes first” I was asserting my independence. I thought dressing like a slob meant defying the social code. I thought reciting the history of women’s oppression ad nauseam explained all the writing I wasn’t doing.
What is there to say about all of this? Conservatives are by no means opposed to ideals of autonomy or independence. But these are part of a mix of goods which we might seek in life. They are not the be-all defining our humanity. To choose to sacrifice a degree of autonomy in order to enjoy another good, namely romantic or marital love, doesn’t threaten the conservative world view in the same way it does for liberals. It doesn’t undermine a conservative definition of “personhood”. It’s important that we build up our own conservative influence, so that there’s a more effective opposition to liberal orthodoxy. If we don’t, then we will periodically have feminist upswings, in which large numbers of middle-class, intellectual women will suppress the instinct toward love for the ideologically superior claims of autonomy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Three surrender monkeys

Not everyone has the spirit of survival in them. Just in the past week I've happened to read no less than three declarations of civilisational surrender. Readers can decide for themselves which is the most appalling.

First up is Christabelle Dinks, a script editor for a forthcoming BBC programme Rise and Fall of Rome. She sees Britain today as being in a,

period of transformation ... other civilisations are taking over ... and what's to mourn really.

What’s to mourn really? Can you get a more denatured, whimpering remark than this?

Next we have an Australian writer, Stephanie Dowrick. After pondering the violent situation in the world today she finally comes up with the following solution:

The crucial issue may, instead, be one of surrender. (The Age 16/09/06)

Stephanie Dowrick is so defeatist she wants us to wave the white flag.

Which brings us to Piet Hein Donner, the Dutch Justice Minister who said in a recent interview:

For me it is clear: If two-thirds of the Dutch population should want to introduce Sharia tomorrow the possibility should exist. It would be a disgrace to say: “That is not allowed.”

Donner has accepted on principle the idea that Holland could come under Sharia law. No-one with a normal loyalty to his own tradition would so readily accept such a possibility.

Three people, each capitulating feebly in contemplating the end of their own civilisation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pell's straight talk on Islam

Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has backed the comments made recently by Pope Benedict linking Islam with violence.

In a statement Cardinal Pell noted that,

The violent reactions in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears. They showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence.

Dr Pell also described the response of Australia's mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali as "unfortunately typical and unhelpful":

It is always someone else's fault and issues touching on the nature of Islam are ignored. Sheik Alhilali often responds to criticism by questioning the intelligence and competence of the questioner or critic.

He added later in a radio interview this observation about Sheik Alhilali:

I'm tempted to say almost never does he address the criticism of Islam but diverts the question away from it and I think resorts to evasions.

In other news on this issue, there was a demonstration by Muslims outside London's Westminster Cathedral. The placards held by the demonstrators make for interesting reading: "May Allah curse the Pope," "Pope go to Hell", "Jesus is the slave of Allah" and most bluntly revealing of all, "Islam will conquer Rome".

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Is a woman's word enough?

Should a woman's testimony alone be sufficient to convict a man she accuses of rape or domestic violence?

Most of us would answer no, as there is a possibility that the woman might be making a false accusation.

Back in 1994, though, when third wave feminism was at a peak, it wasn't so easy to raise this objection. There was an idea around that women never lied about such attacks and that it was sexist to assert that they might do so.

It was in this climate that California began to require jurors to be instructed that a rape conviction could be based on the accuser's testimony alone, without corroboration. Similarly, in some cities in the US "excited utterances" by a woman alleging an assault were considered proof of the attack: for example, in 1994 Jennifer Mantz, head of the Seattle domestic violence unit, told reporters:

If the officer describes the victim as so agitated she can hardly speak, then she's considered too upset to have made up a story.

As it turns out, a surprisingly high percentage of allegations of assault are unfounded. In 1984, a research team studied 556 rape allegations. When using the most strict criteria to judge allegations as false (an admission by the accuser and polygraph testing) 27% of the allegations were found to be false. When, in follow-up research, three reviewers were asked to judge according to a set of criteria whether the allegations were false, in 60% of cases all three found the allegation to be false.

Similarly, a survey in Washington D.C. revealed that 24% of rape charges were unfounded; a 1994 study by a researcher at Purdue University concluded that "false rape allegations constitute 41% of the total forcible rape cases reported during this period"; and studies at two large Midwestern state universities covering the period 1985 to 1988 found that 50% of the 64 reported rapes were false.

Which brings us to some recently reported news items. A Melbourne court has been told that a woman who claimed to have been kidnapped and threated with rape was attempting to extort money from her parents to pay off a drug debt ("Kidnap was a con" Herald Sun 14/09/2006 - note, though, that this is an allegation by the defence.)

In English news, a woman has admitted making up a horrific story about how she was brutally raped on an Oxfordshire road. This follows the jailing of two Bicester 16-year-olds in November for falsely claiming they were abducted and raped.

Last week also saw the acquital of an English man, Warren Blackwell, of a conviction for rape (after he had already served his prison sentence). The police appear to have brought the rape case against Mr Blackwell, despite being aware that the woman accusing him had a history of psychiatric problems, had convictions for dishonesty and had made similar allegations against a series of men.

Mr Blackwell's accuser made her first allegation of rape when she was only 14. The 16-year-old boy she had accused was exonerated when a police investigation found she was still a virgin.

So false allegations against men remain a real problem. Some thought will need to go into measures to better protect men within the legal system from being falsely accused.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A counterblast from Father Schall

In my last two posts I sketched out the philosophy of Don Cupitt.

Cupitt's claim is that human life is "outsideless": that there is no truth deriving from an external reality, but rather "truths" which humans create for themselves.

This, in Cupitt's view, has the great benefit of leaving humans wholly autonomous rather than heteronomous (governed by external laws). Individuals don't need to measure themselves according to an external standard, but are free to choose without impediment who they are to be.

Bear in mind Cupitt's idea that we are "outsideless", self-creating beings as you read the following from Father James Schall:

The initial choice that each of us has to make in life is whether we think the world and ourselves already exist with some intelligible content to define what we are or whether there is nothing there but what we put there.

Conservatives will largely accept the first option, liberals like Cupitt are more likely to hold the second view.

Father Schall then suggests why the conservative option might seem less appealing than the liberal one:

The former position, it would seem, is rather demanding on us. It suggests that we are not our own self-creators, that what we are is something for us to discover, not make out of our own imaginary resources. But we are seemingly freer if there is nothing there in the first place, if we are solely responsible for our world and our own being.

So, if the liberal option appears to make us freer to be self-created, why not choose to adopt it? Father Schall makes an important observation:

The trouble with being so absolutely free that nothing is presupposed, however, is that what is finally put there is also only ourselves.

Father Schall goes on to develop this important observation as follows:

In such a view, everyone's world is identical, full of only themselves, with their own laws enforced by no one but themselves. On this premise, no reason can be found not to be something else tomorrow. A world full of nothing but Schall, it strikes me, as utterly boring. A world in which Schall is never the same is even worse.

Is there really nothing more to us that what our own subjective self puts there? What measure of substance does a "self" retain if it can change to any degree, in any direction, at any time?

Liberals think that by asserting a radically autonomous, fluid, multiple self that they are freeing the individual to be limitless. To the conservative mind, though, they are achieving the opposite: they are defining the individual in a way which contains the individual to a small and superficial existence.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cupitt II

How do you manage to become an atheist Buddhist Anglican priest? In Don Cupitt’s case, you first adopt a non-realist philosophy.

Cupitt believes that our ideas are products of language systems. The very categories of our thought, therefore, do not correspond to an objective truth or reality (hence the anti-realist tag).

This effectively places Cupitt’s philosophy within the broad category of nominalism: it means that he doesn’t recognise the real existence of universals. It means too that Cupitt won’t see words as pointing to some really existing entity that we might value for itself; there is nothing behind a word, except the meaning we, for the time being, have given to it.

It’s important to try to grasp all this, as there are important consequences to such anti-realism which you can’t help but recognise within liberal modernism.

For example, anyone holding to a Cupitt type nominalism is likely to favour a social constructionist view over an essentialist one. In other words, they are likely to believe that things which appear to be a natural part of reality are, in fact, mere inventions or constructs of a particular society at a particular time.

An example of this is the modernist attitude to gender difference. Liberal moderns often dismiss the idea that there are important natural differences between men and women as being essentialist. They prefer the idea that gender difference is an (oppressive) social construct.

Here is another example to consider. A writer criticising my views on nationalism recently wrote:

Mark Richardson wonders where liberalism stands on the nation state. The short answer, I think, is that classical liberals recognise the concept of “country” as an artificial construct that is not inherently something of value to be preserved ... To take the line that there is something inherently special about being Australian is to place undue emphasis on a word.

In this quote you get the idea of nominalism at work in the denial that the terms “country” and “Australian” point to any really existing entity. Instead, we are told that “country” is an artificial construct and that “Australian” is merely a word.

Conservatives need to know what we are up against. Some of our adversaries don’t even acknowledge, for philosophical reasons, the real existence of the entities we wish to conserve.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Is there really no outside?

After I finished writing my last post about the Anglican/Hindu priest, the thought occurred to me that there might be more such multi-faithists. A google search came up with the unfamiliar name of Don Cupitt, a Buddhist/Atheist/Anglican priest.

Cupitt is an interesting thinker: he takes some of the trends existing within liberal modernism to their logical conclusion. For instance, he is a non-realist: he believes that ideas are created by language systems rather than representing anything really existing.

Therefore, for Cupitt, there is no really existing truth but only socially constructed "truths".

On the website of Sea of Faith, an organisation based on Cupitt's philosophy, we find some of the implications of this non-realism clearly laid out:

Truths are made within human culture and language. Ideas, beliefs, faiths: we made them up ... So SoF proclaims its mission: "To explore and promote religious faith as a human creation." In this sense, Sea of Faith is humanist."

Its members ... know their religious practices and "truths," like everyone else's, are socially constructed, made by human communities ... So, since faith systems were man-made ... we know we can remake them for our needs, our times, our place. We can ordain gays, or abolish the priesthood ... make God female - or re-fashion him/her as the symbol or imagined incarnation of wholly human values ...

One sympathiser distills the Cupitt lesson this way:

Religion ... becomes like art. Christians are artists, creators of truths. We give up the notion of a divinely ordained hierarchical universe that we just slot into. We have always created ethics.

So there is nothing out there, no "outside" (Cupitt actually uses the term "outsideless" to describe the human condition). This, for Cupitt, is nothing to regret, as it fits in well with another trend within liberal modernism: the belief in autonomy as the highest of human values.

Cupitt values the idea of autonomy, and the freedom he associates it with, so highly, that he thinks that it, rather than the real existence of God, is the true basis of religion.

And since the real existence of God would impede such autonomy, he thinks it anti-religious to suppose the real existence of God. This at least is how the following reviewer summarises his views:

He believes that for genuine moral choices to be made by humans God cannot be understood as one who 'stands over' humanity imposing moral choices onto us..

How can such a hetronomous faith ever be the means whereby I become autonomous and fully-liberated spirit? It is impossible. This appears to be a conclusive religious argument against the objective existence of God. An objective God cannot save ... The more God is absolutised, the more we are presented with the possibility of living under the dominion of a cosmic tyrant....

The absence of objective truth, or even access to an objective reality, is taken to be the ultimate in a liberation from any constraints. We can do and be anything according to our own will because there is no truth for us to live by. As it's explained in one article on Cupitt:

as our language is not a corrupted version of a 'pure' form residing beyond language, we cannot say that words have any meaning beyond their cultural and social 'norms'. The meaning of word is only agreed by the human community and does not reside 'outside' a text. Because of this, 'nothing is entrenched or necessarily absolute' ...

Realism is now understood by Cupitt as, 'spiritual slavery', nothing more than an imposition and restriction onto the world of free-choice and free-values. Morality is synonymous with freedom; the freedom to grow into an autonomous person. There is no longer any fixed truth by which one must align and judge oneself. We are free (and must be freed) to be who we want to be.

I won't attempt a rebuttal of the non-realist view right now, but in my next post I'll quote some interesting views of James Schall on the issue.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Anglicans rebuke Howard, praise elephant gods

John Howard "doesn't understand multi-faith" complains Anglican priest and Monash Uni "sociology of religion" professor Gary Bouma.

Professor/Rev. Bouma, speaking in a Melbourne mosque, was upset that Mr Howard had urged Australian Muslims to learn English and adopt Australian values.

Meanwhile the Anglican understanding of "multi-faith" is developing momentum. One Anglican multi-faith expert, the Rev. David Hart, has put his principles into practice and has converted to Hinduism. He has changed his name to Ananda and now spends his time offering up prayers to Hindu snake and elephant gods - whilst still retaining his licence to officiate as an Anglican minister.

"I have neither explicitly nor implicitly renounced my Christian faith or priesthood," he told an interviewer. The Rev. Hart/Ananda also expected his conversion would be treated without suspicion by the Anglican hierarchy and would be "read in the spirit of open exploration and dialogue, which is an essential feature of our shared modern spirituality."

In terms which might interest the "sociology of religion" Anglican priest, Professor Bouma, the Rev. Hart/Ananda also declared that "My philosophical position is that all religions are cultural constructs."

"The Anglican Church firmly believes in engaging itself fully in inter-faith dialogues" added the Rev. Hart, who now, it seems, will be able to enter into such a dialogue with himself.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The survey upsetting head-banging feminists

A British survey of 3000 young women has found a major disenchantment with the idea of female careerism.

The most revealing finding? Only 13% of young British women wish to be in full-time work when they turn 40.

Why have young women turned against full-time careers? The reason seems to be that they have observed their own mothers run themselves ragged trying to mix together a full-time career and motherhood. The daughters don't want to live that way and, sensibly enough, prefer the idea of part-time work or full-time homemaking.

Other interesting results of the finding were that:

Only 31% of women say they find their job fulfilling

75% want to get married before having a baby

If given the options of being a homemaker, a lady of leisure or a career woman, only 23% would prefer to be a career woman.

The editor of the New Woman magazine commented on these findings by saying that,

The New Man experiment embarked on with such enthusiasm by their mothers, simply hasn't worked. Young women think their mothers just ended up with two full-time jobs - work and home - while nagging their man to do more housework.

Young women today are more than happy to sort out the home as long as he provides the lifestyle they want...

The truth is, young women saw the blueprint their mothers and society had created for them and thought 'We can do better' ... They've watched their mothers exhaust themselves and want a better work/life balance. If this means that a young woman wants to restore her partner as the main breadwinner so she can achieve an easier life, so be it, why not.

And the feminist response? The women's editor for the left-wing New Statesman wrote:

Reading the newspapers ... can sometimes be especially demoralising ... sometimes it's the very smallest stories ... that really get you down. So, for instance, the widely reported magazine survey of 3,000 women (average age:28) ... made me bang my head against my desk while gouging my thigh with a compass.

That compass would have been worn blunt if the Guardian editor had happened to read a follow-up piece on the survey published in the Daily Mail. Interviews with young women confirmed the kind of attitudes revealed in the survey. Here are some of the thoughts held by the young women:

Felicity Callaghan: "[Mum] was always trying to juggle everything ... She must have been permanently exhausted ... I vowed I'd never try to cram so much into my life ... If all feminism afforded my generation was the prospect of working ourselves to the bone and being expected to be mothers at the same time - well, Women's Lib was a waste of time. I intend to be at home with my children when they are young ... I have no intention of being the main breadwinner ... My mother's generation seemed to be competing with men, but I couldn't care less. What was it all for? I don't feel like I have to prove myself by having a career, I just want to be happy and relaxed."

Barbara Garcia: "My earliest memory is of my mother rushing out of the house carrying a briefcase ... I remember always straining to keep my eyes open and to stay awake so I could see her when she came home from work ... I used to envy my friends who had stay-at-home mums ... I remember once going home to a schoolfriend's house and almost weeping with envy when I sat down to tea around the table with her two brothers, mother and father - all talking and laughing ... The constant pressure and stress to make both sides of her life work made [Mum] look old before her time. She was skinny and short-tempered ... I don't want to miss a minute of my children's early years. I want to be a proper mother and to have a husband who can support me. Stuff feminism."

Sarah-Jane Sherwood: "Like most of my generation, I think personal happiness is more important than a successful career. I want to feel fulfilled, not be tied to some boring desk job from dawn until dusk ... I work hard at the moment to fund my lifestyle, but I'd far rather be supported by a man when I have children, so I can have the time to enjoy them. I have no intention of working nine to five."

The lesson for young men in all this? Don't be put off by feminist triumphalism when you're in your late teens and early twenties. Work yourself into a good situation career-wise and financially and you'll eventually find yourself in a very strong position to marry well. The male provider role has not been made redundant, in spite of all the feminist efforts to make it so: women still want to be financially supported, especially when they have young children. Hardly any women envisage a life of full-time paid work. They want to marry a man who can take care of them by earning a good income.

(P.S. This survey is similar in its findings to an even larger one undertaken in 2003, in which over 90% of the 5000 British teenage girls surveyed wanted to be provided for by their future partners.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Greer a victim of ... the patriarchy?

Germaine Greer provoked a storm of criticism in Australia for writing a mocking, jokey, critical article about Steve Irwin soon after his death.

Now Age journalist Tracee Hutchison has leapt to her defence. According to Tracee, the attacks on Germaine Greer can be best explained thus:

It had everything to do with a dominant male power-base telling women to be seen and not heard. Of marginalising a particular kind of woman and reducing us to condition and circumstance. Of reminding those of us who like to speak our mind to watch our step, to remember our place and to shut up and agree with the menfolk.

This take on things only goes to show that Tracee is as far removed from grassroots Australia as Germaine - and Germaine at least has the excuse of being an expat.

In my workplace and in my family it was the women who grieved most about Steve Irwin's death and who were angriest about Greer's comments. In fact, I took it to be one of those occasions which reveals the profound differences between men and women.

I admired Steve Irwin and was shocked to hear of his death, but I continued on as usual. My wife, though, really did experience sorrow for several days, both for Steve Irwin himself and his wife and children.

We ended up watching some of Steve Irwin's wildlife videos together, including one recording his life story. The videos only reinforced my admiration for the man: for his courage, his energy and enthusiasm and his direct, unmediated appreciation of life - so much in contrast to the ironic, post-modernist tone of Greer's own writings.

And I think that Tracee Hutchison has things the wrong way round. What we have seen is not a patriarchy trying to cut down uppity feminists. It is feminists reacting badly to a man who was never cut down in size, not even in a feminist age.

When liberalism fails

Liberalism is especially unworkable in the sphere of personal relationships.

According to liberal philosophy, we are supposed to aim at a kind of individual autonomy, in which we are left free to pursue our own individual desires. The kind of desires we can logically pursue on our own are things like career status, wealth, travel, and physical pleasures like sex or food.

In the mid-80s a whole generation of women was launched to pursue such individualistic aims. In particular they were told to remain independent of men and to focus on career success.

When these women were in their 20s, they quite logically rejected the stable, committed family type of man. Such men represented a potential loss of their independence. So they either avoided romantic entanglements, or else dated "the wrong sort of guy".

Many men responded by turning away from the family man ethos, and pursuing an individualism of their own. They focused their efforts either on their own career, or on such things as travel or study. They learnt to be more emotionally self-sufficient.

If things could be kept at this level, in which women and men have short-term casual relationships with each other, whilst pursuing their own individualistic aims, then liberalism might have a chance of working.

But we are not made to be satisfied with this. When the mid-1980s generation of women reached their 30s many began to be dissatisfied with their single girl lifestyle. They began to think of marriage and family.

The transition between a purely liberal single girl ethos and something more traditional was caught in a series of profiles on women run in the UK Mail a few years ago. For instance, Christina Samuel, a 31 year old investment banker had the following to say on her changing attitude to relationships:

Until now, I've concentrated on material possessions to make me happy. My career has had all my attention since I got my first job when I was 18. I was promoted rapidly and now earn a substantial wage. So I have a new car every year and take several holidays in exotic places such as the Caribbean, as well as owning a fashionable riverside flat. I regarded men as a similarly luxurious accessory until recently.

My 20s were spent partying with a string of handsome, wealthy, fun men on my arm, but I only had one serious relationship. That fell apart because he was resentful of the hours I put into my job and he wanted a family immediately. I just wasn't ready for a settled life and certainly wasn't going to sacrifice my career for him.

But now I want a lifelong commitment. I'm looking for a man who is kind, generous and understanding, with a nice smile. I don't care whether he's wealthy or even if he's not a great looker. I'm looking for a husband, not a boyfriend, and the requirements are different.

Jackie James, a 31 year old fund manager, is another woman who did the "liberal thing" in her 20s, but changed her attitude in her 30s. According to Ms James:

I don't want to waste my 30s dating men I know won't be marriage material. I was happy enough to do that in my 20s. Back then I preferred dating fun men ... I didn't want commitment because I was far too focused on my career. Now I'm on the lookout for someone I can settle down with.

Strangely, after all these years of independence, I'm longing to meet a man who will look after me and take control ... I now think getting married and having children will add another dimension to my life and I'm looking forward to it. I was never interested in having children in my 20s ... I was too wrapped up in my career to make time for a baby.

When I joined an investment management company as an office junior at 18, I had little time for romance. I realised quite early on that I didn't want to get tied down while I pursued my career. I was earning a good salary, so I was able to afford designer clothes. I also made a point of getting a new car each year and booking exotic holidays.

My only serious relationship during that time floundered because my boyfriend resented the amount of time I devoted to work. We broke up when he started pushing for marriage and children. I was in my mid-20s by then and didn't want to settle down.

You can see the pattern here. Both women, when in their 20s, pursued individualistic aims of career status, money, holidays and material possessions. They both rejected family oriented men during this time. On reaching their 30s, though, single girl independence was no longer enough, and they now sought a family-oriented kind of man they previously rejected.

But here is the rub. There were no longer so many family-oriented men to choose from. The previous behaviour of women had rewarded individualistic men and demoralised more traditional men. A lot of women were therefore left single, childless and frustrated.

Male individualism

Sushi Das is one such woman who has been unable to find "a suitable boy" to settle down with. She is a 39 year old staff writer for the Melbourne Age newspaper.

In a recent article, Ms Das responded to a fellow Age columnist, Pamela Bone, who had suggested that women should choose to have children at an earlier age.

Ms Das' argument on this issue is quite significant. She reminded Pamela Bone that "Some aspects of our lives we can control - for example, which career we want" but that having babies is "one of those aspects of our lives over which we do not have complete control".

The reason for this lack of complete control is that marrying and having a baby requires that a woman is able to meet a man who is willing to take on family commitments.

For earlier generations this might not have been so difficult as,

In the culture of the 1950s, many men understood themselves to be providers, taking on a mortgage that could be serviced on one income, and accepting children as the natural consequence of marriage.

But "it's a different world now" and "These days there is a greater value put on individual fulfilment. Men often want to achieve things in life, travel and build assets before they think they can make a serious commitment to having children."

For Ms Das this male individualism makes men less likely to be good husband material as,

Some young men are too self-absorbed, too career-oriented, or stuck in a sort of ill-groomed, selfish immaturity, for a woman to feel they would be able to provide a stable and loving environment in which to bring up children. Put bluntly, they don't measure up.

Ms Das draws one important conclusion from all this. She reminds Ms Bone that it's no use talking of the "choice" of women to have babies earlier, as having babies is not one of those choices which fits in easily with liberal individualism.

It's not like choosing which career to pursue, or what car to buy, or where to holiday. These are all individual choices. But having a baby is dependent on other people, in this case men, choosing to behave in a certain way. It's outside the direct control of women.

Liberals are left helpless in this situation. Their philosophy, that we should be left free to pursue our individual desires, is no longer sufficient, as the individual desires of men and women are no longer in harmony.

All that Ms Das can suggest we do is to subordinate the desires of men to those of women. She doesn't explain why women should be preferred in this way. She just asserts that women should go on being independent career girls and that men should adjust their mindset accordingly and "shoulder some of the responsibility for having children at a time that is safe and sensible for women."

This won't work. You can't promote individualism as a general life philosophy and then expect men to revert to a more traditional family ethos at a time suitable to women.


Conservatives are not caught in the same kind of bind as liberals. That's because conservatives don't limit themselves to "desires which we can logically pursue at an individual level".

Conservatives can orient themselves openly to the more important things in life, which are most easily achieved when supported by the institutions and culture of the community we live in.

We need to have the courage to recognise openly what is important to us, and then assert its value to society generally. Otherwise we will be left, like Sushi Das, with our smaller individualistic aims, and no logical or convincing way of seeking anything more.

(First published at Conservative Central, 08/03/2004)

Why stunning?

Time magazine reports on an academic survey on race as follows:

The survey is packed with fascinating findings, some surprising (a stunning proportion of whites - 77% - say their race has a distinct culture which should be preserved).

Why should we be surprised? Isn't it normal for people to feel an affinity with their own particular tradition?

The answer, as this survey demonstrates, is yes but we are supposed to reply no for political purposes.

Whites aren't supposed to identify with their own ethnic tradition as we are supposed to behave according to liberal political principles. According to these principles we are human because we can self-determine who we are. This means that important forms of self-identity which we can't determine for ourselves, like race and ethnicity, are seen negatively as oppressive, backward impediments to be overthrown.

Furthermore, to identify positively with your own particular communal tradition is thought to impose a restriction on the ability of "the other" to choose without limitation: it is frowned on as a "discrimination" in which one will gets preferential treatment denied to another.

Whites generally get the drift of such politics and pay lip-service to them, but nonetheless continue to have a normal, healthy affinity with their own communal tradition.

It would be better, of course, if more of us learnt to challenge the political assumptions which force this affinity underground. The liberal principles which force this evasion are, after all, ultimately arbitrary: there is no compelling reason to reject a form of self-identity simply because it is inherited rather than self-determined.

Nor is it unfair if the existence of a communal tradition requires some (minor) degree of discrimination if everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of a communal life of their own. Families, after all, impose a similar form of "discrimination" in which we give preferential treatment to some over others; a sound policy is not to therefore condemn families for requiring such discrimination, but to ensure that as many individuals as possible get the benefits of a supportive family life of their own.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The real free love

What were the "sexually liberated" 1960s really like? Robert Hughes, famous now as a left-wing art critic, was in the thick of swinging London in the late 60s and early 70s. He has recalled his life at this time in a most telling article.

The story begins when a 28-year-old Hughes met Danne Emerson in London and began a sexual relationship. She fell pregnant, they married and a son, Danton, was born.

Hughes was traditional enough to wish for his marriage to be a "safe haven" in which he would experience "the dream of untroubled certainty of a woman's love, which I would repay with my own coin of protection."

But his wife was not traditional at all. She was a "liberated" 60s woman who believed in free love. The search for sex with other men became a kind of principle for her as she "equated it with freedom, grail or no grail. Her ruthlessness in pursuit of this reduced me to stammering misery ... I went into a moping spiral of helpless, unassuagable jealousy. I was a cuckold, going cuckoo. I was bewildered, shell-shocked and lacking the necessary defence of indifference."

Hughes responded by having several affairs of his own. He was never, though, won over to her idea of sexual liberation:

I am glad that I never bought into the absurd "f*** and you shall be free" ideology that was so common in London and elsewhere at the time. I sensed then, and know with a fair degree of certainty now, that it is an illusion to suppose that sexual promiscuity helps create personal freedom.

Nor was Hughes impressed by other facets of 60s leftism. He writes that,

It was a time of collective self-importance ... I hardly met a single person in the "underground" context who didn't ... turn out in the end to be ignorant and rather a bore.

The depths of tedium that can be plumbed by sitting around half stoned, listening to people chatter moonily about reuniting humankind and erasing its aggressive instincts through Love and Dope, are scarcely imaginable to those who have not suffered them.

The later consequences of the 60s lifestyle on Danne and Danton are sad, but I'll let readers discover their fate for themselves in Hughes' article.

I'll add just one point of my own. It's no accident that an ideology of free love should become popular during a period of radicalism. The mainstream liberalism of Western society tells us that what matters most is our individual autonomy. We are told that the highest good is a freedom to be unimpeded in our own will.

If taken literally and seriously, then a traditional morality will seem to be an oppressive restraint on our sexual freedom. It will seem logical and principled to throw off this morality, even if this means, like Hughes' wife, rejecting monogamy in marriage.

During times of political or social radicalism there will always be those willing to draw such conclusions, given the underlying ideas governing Western societies.

We can begin to see evidence for this as far back as 1535, when, during the turmoil of the Reformation, the Frenchman Rabelais published his ideal of a community of young men and women whose lives were not regulated,

by laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their free will and pleasure ... In their rules there was only one clause: Do what you will.

Rabelais thought that people "liberated" from any traditional forms of morality would nonetheless behave well as people had a "natural spur and instinct which drives them to virtuous deeds" and which was corrupted, rather than improved, by the external restraints of moral custom or law.

If we move forward to another great period of radicalism, the French Revolution, we find another prophet of the "Do what you will" philosophy, namely de Sade. De Sade too had no time for moral convention: he wrote "The most perfect being we could conceive would be the one who alienated himself most from our conventions and found them most contemptible."

Like Rabelais, de Sade believed that any attempt to repress natural instincts by following a moral law was wrong. It was de Sade's view that "no man has the right to repress in him what Nature puts there." However, he did not believe that Nature made men virtuous, but rather taught them to pursue their own pleasure selfishly:

Nature has elaborated no statutes, instituted no code; her single law is writ deep in every man's heart: it is to satisfy himself, to deny his passions nothing ...

If we run ahead to 1971 we find an editorialist for the London Daily Telegraph commenting on the radicalism of his own times by invoking another figure of the French eighteenth century:

We live, the young of us in particular, in an age of wild, almost insane, romanticism. Rousseau himself would be amazed to know what is said, thought and felt today. He thought that man was naturally good. The causes of evil he found in law, society, custom, restraint. This sentimental view was memorably rebuked by Coleridge ...

Yet some of the young have contrived to out-Rousseau Rousseau. For, where he modestly proclaimed that man without chains would be good, they proclaim that whatever unchained man does is good, even if it is manifestly evil ...

Do what thou wilt, they cry, shall be the only law; and drugs are invoked to free the will of the last vestiges of the old tyranny of reason, morality and charity ...

So, as long as liberalism remains unchallenged as the philosophy of the West, we are likely to lurch into radical periods in which "free love" is raised as a slogan of liberation, with the kinds of unwelcome consequences discovered first hand by Robert Hughes.

Monday, September 04, 2006

So women want real men?

Remember when men were encouraged to be snags? I never thought it would last; it runs too much against the grain of heterosexuality for women to really be attracted to effeminate men.

Amanda Hooton agrees. In a recent Age article (In search of the new male order 26/08/06) she writes:

the Snag was terribly sensitive, terribly right-on, and terribly prone to wearing a ponytail ... He vanished precisely at the moment men realised nobody wanted to have sex with a Snag. Interestingly, his passing was unmourned by women, who'd realised the same thing. The Metrosexual was always on a hiding to nothing, because no woman wants a man whose skin-care routine is better than hers.

So what does Amanda Hooton like in a man? One thing she appreciates is when men are physically protective toward her. She praises her father for showing concern when she catches a taxi alone at night:

Show me a man ... who can say to me at 9pm when I'm leaving the house: "I'm worried about you catching a taxi. I don't like it. Please call me if you feel worried."

She also thanks the taxi driver who,

waits, engine idling, until I get my key into my door in my dodgy neighbourhood and step safely inside.

Which brings me to something else I found in last Saturday's Age. It's a quote from Boris Pasternak:

Everything in the world must excel itself to be itself.

I don't know the original context of this line. However, it expresses something I believe to be true and the real reason for a man to try to live an ever more masculine life. When we do so we are more likely to have that very rewarding sense of living through what we really are. There is no longer a sense of a failure to engage or connect. But it doesn't happen in halves, or in a misguided attempt to find a feminine side; it requires that breaking through to something less ordinary in ourselves which, perhaps, Pasternak is alluding to in the quote above.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The politics of platforms

Ginia Bellafante is a fan of Manolo Blahnik shoes. She writes (in The Age) that Blahnik,

built a career on the notion that women possess an inherent regality embodied nowhere more gracefully than in the arch of the foot.

Ginia is therefore displeased by a "rare seismic shift in fashion" in which "shoes have suddenly come to look like vessels for cement".

Platforms are back in style, but chunky enough to suggest that,

a woman's natural inclination is to stomp and squash whatever might present itself before her ...

Ginia continues,

Every time I see a pair in a magazine, I want to know what woman in the world is going to want to look as if she were heading off to a meeting of Ironworkers Local 256 in a Weimar cabaret hall.

But do such unfeminine fashions "liberate" women from "norms of beauty"? Ginia thinks not. Quoting Arianna Huffington, she suggests that such fashions simply make it more difficult for ordinary women to feel attractive; fashion, in a sense, becomes more exclusive. As Ginia puts it,

Aggressively ugly fashion doesn't liberate women from normative standards of beauty; it simply sets the standards higher ... Shoes that might have been crafted from a coffin exclude everyone but the exceptionally beautiful. Beautiful shoes invite the ordinary to feel less so.

I hope Ginia is wrong and that we're not on the verge of more mannish fashions for women. I hope too that she writes more columns like this one: it's refreshing to read pieces in which the female writer isn't conflicted about her womanhood and is able to express what womanhood powerfully embodies.

Insider recounts betrayal

What do US senators really think about Mexican immigration to the US?

Some unexpected information is revealed in an article “Immigration and Usurpation” by Fredo Arias-King. He was an aide to Vicente Fox (who was elected Mexican President) in 1999 and 2000; during this time he discussed the immigration issue, as part of a Mexican delegation, with about 50 US congressmen and senators.

According to Arias-King, 45 of the 50 legislators were clearly pro-immigration. He recollects that some even asked him to “send more”.

This attitude perplexed Arias-King. It was clear from polls that most Americans opposed the mass influx of Mexican immigrants and he found too that most of the American politicians were aware of the “debatable benefits for America as a whole” of such immigration.

And yet all of the Democrat politicians, and all but five of the Republicans, were supportive of mass immigration from Mexico.

Worse, some of the American politicians openly betrayed their constituents. Arias-King tells us that,

While I can recall many accolades for the Mexican immigrants and for Mexican-Americans (one white congressman even gave me a “high five” when recalling that Californian Hispanics were headed for majority status), I remember few instances when a legislator spoke well of his or her white constituents. One even called them “rednecks,” and apologized to us on their behalf for their incorrect attitude on immigration.

Most of them seemed to advocate changing the ethnic composition of the United States as an end in itself.

Some white politicians also pretended to take measures to stem illegal immigration, whilst effectively scuttling any such initiatives:

Some legislators also mentioned to us (oftentimes laughing) how they had “defanged” or “gutted” anti-immigration bills and measures, by neglecting to fund this program or tabling that provision, or deleting the other measure, etc. “Yes, we passed that law, but it can’t work because we also …” was a usual comment to assuage the Mexican delegations ...


One leading Republican senator over a period of months was advising us, through a mutual acquaintance, about which mechanisms to follow and which other legislators to lobby in order to ensure passage of the amnesty proposal. In the meantime, he would speak on television about the need to “militarize” the border.

Why? Arias-King found that,

Democrats wanted increased immigration because Latin American immigrants tend to vote Democrat once naturalized ... and Republicans like immigration because their sponsors (businesses and churches) do.

There is one other important explanation according to Arias-King. In Mexico politics is based to a degree on patron-client relationships. Arias-King believes that American politicians saw some merit in this kind of political culture. He writes:

While Democratic legislators we spoke with welcomed the Latino vote, they seemed more interested in those immigrants and their offspring as a tool to increase the role of the government in society and the economy ... [Several] saw Latinos as more loyal and “dependable” in supporting a patron-client system ...

Also curiously, the Republican enthusiasm for increased immigration also was not so much about voting in the end, even with “converted” Latinos. Instead, these legislators seemingly believed that they could weaken the restraining and frustrating straightjacket devised by the Founding Fathers and abetted by American norms.

These are all interesting points. I doubt, though, that they are really adequate to explain the views of American politicians. It’s unlikely that there is anything so specific to explain pro-immigration attitudes amongst the political class, when the same attitudes are found in the political classes of all Western countries.

There has to be a more general explanation which would explain why Western elites have adopted a pro-immigration stance, whilst non-Western elites (such as the Japanese) have not.

That’s why I often focus on the role of liberalism, since this philosophy is held to (in its left-wing or right-wing forms) by all the major political parties in the West.

(BTW Lawrence Auster has an interesting item up about the way immigration is transforming Detroit.)