Thursday, April 26, 2007

The language of liberalism

Andrew Bolt recently wrote a column on the Victorian Law Reform Commission. The Commission was set up to advise whether single mothers and lesbians should be granted access to IVF and adoption.

Bolt's main point was that the "experts" appointed to the Commission were hopelessly biased and that there was an effort to bypass Parliament when making social changes.

However, what particularly caught my eye was the typical "language of liberalism" used by the experts. For instance, Bolt quotes Ruth McNair as saying,

we must challenge the limited view of family, and the fear of alternative family structures and diversity.

Similarly Kristen Walker, a law lecturer, rejected the idea that children need a male role model on the grounds that,

This assumption is based on rigid notions of sex and gender and rigid notions of what is appropriate behaviour for boys and girls.

Note that Ruth McNair criticises the traditional family structure specifically on the grounds that it is "limited" and lacks alternatives and diversity. It's no accident that she uses such terminology. Liberals believe that our lives should be created through our own will and reason. The traditional family structure, though, is not a creation of our own will and reason. Therefore, for a liberal, the traditional family represents a kind of "limitation" or impediment to our capacity to determine our own living arrangements.

Logically, a liberal will call for alternatives to the traditional family, as a diversity of family types gives some scope for our own will or reason to determine how we shall live.

This is what matters for liberals. This outlook overrides any concern that the traditional family is connected strongly to the innate drives, instincts and needs of humans, that it provides the best conditions for the socialisation of children, or that it provides the best structure for an independent and self-sustaining family unit.

It's a similar story with the Kristin Walker quote. Kristen Walker thinks that it shows too rigid a view of gender to believe that children need a male role model.

It's not surprising that Kristin Walker doesn't believe in the need for boys to be masculinised by the presence of a male role model. For her as a liberal, it would once again be a kind of limitation or impediment for a boy to be socialised into a traditional manhood. Again, this is because we don't choose whether we are born male or female, so to adopt typically masculine or feminine behaviour makes us, in the liberal view, "other defined" rather than "self-defined".

That's why Kristin Walker criticises "rigid" notions of sex and gender. She wants the idea of gender to be as flexible as possible, so that there is a large scope for us to act unimpeded according to our will and reason, rather than through the influence of an unchosen manhood or womanhood.

Again, this is the overriding concern of liberals, based on their first principles. It is thought to be more important than any sense of the inherent goodness to be found within traditional masculinity or femininity; or of the importance of an "accomplished" sense of manhood or womanhood to our self-identity; or of the appeal of traditionally masculine and feminine qualities within a heterosexual culture.

Liberals place their first principles above all else, and in the unique "language of liberalism" used so frequently by academics and activists, you find the underlying philosophy of liberalism clearly revealed.

(First published at Conservative Central, 19/05/2007)

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