Sunday, May 30, 2010

These are the liberal moderates? Really?

So Malcolm Fraser has finally quit the Liberal Party (he was PM from 1975 to 1983). And one of his former senior advisers, Petro Georgiou, is quitting parliament.

According to Michelle Grattan this represents a blow to the cause of the "Liberal moderates".

[with] the revelation that Malcolm Fraser has quit the party for which he won three elections because of its rightward lean, it's not a good time for Liberal moderates.

The bad news is that they're soon to get another blow, when two of their flag carriers, Petro Georgiou and Judith Troeth, leave parliament ... That will leave the small "l" liberals very thin on the ground.

Georgiou, who was an adviser to Fraser in government, is the philosophical voice of the moderates. He was a key player in Fraser's commitment to multiculturalism and setting up SBS ...

The generational change that is gradually under way in the Liberal party is not producing new strong moderate voices. It is throwing up some outspoken conservatives ...

Some of the high-profile people among the moderate minority are presently gagged because of position, ambition or both.

This has things exactly the wrong way round. The so-called "moderates" are the liberal purists. And this makes them more radical and extreme.

Consider Fraser's political history. Way back in 1968 Fraser gave a speech in which he noted that one Australian university, as an entrance requirement, "recognises the following languages - French, German, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Japanese". He criticised this selection by claiming that,

the list as a whole is one belonging to the last century except for one of the languages mentioned.

According to Fraser, the European languages did not belong in the twentieth century. Only the Japanese one did. He was prepared, as early as 1968, to junk Australia's European heritage.

When in power in the 1970s, he and his "moderate" mate Georgiou, declared Australia's Anglo-Celtic national identity to be null and void. We were instead to become a multicultural nation. Later, in the 1990s, Fraser argued for an extra 20 to 30 million migrants, claiming that "Australia must increase its population to 40 or 50 million if it was to become more than a bit player in world affairs".

Even if you support such policies, you'd have to recognise that they are anything but moderate. It's difficult to think of anything more radical. It represents an abrupt change to a country's population and identity.

Edmund Burke might well have been describing Fraser when he wrote back in the 1700s,

I cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, to consider his country as carte blanche, upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases.

There are those in the Liberal Party who believe that the party represents a "fusion" of a liberal and a conservative tradition in politics. I don't believe such a fusion is possible and nor do the so-called "moderate" (i.e. purist) liberals within the party.

Fraser, for instance, described the relationship between liberalism and conservatism this way:

As its name implies, ours is a liberal government holding liberal principles ...

I have stressed the commitment of the Government to liberal principles and values. Precisely because of that commitment it is also concerned to conserve and protect those principles and values.

Once liberal institutions are installed in a society, a government which wishes to preserve them must in some sense be conservative.

So the only purpose of conservatism, for Fraser, is to conserve an existing liberal orthodoxy in society. It is liberalism which is supreme. There is not even a pretence here at a fusion. It is a purist liberalism.

And an unbounded liberalism is going to have radical and not moderate outcomes. Fraser and Georgiou are therefore more accurately looked on as the purist, radical wing of the Liberal Party.

There's an excellent speech by another of the "moderates," George Brandis, which admits much the same thing - I'll look at this in my next post.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good girls let down by society?

It is possible for women to break free of the damaging ideas they were brought up with.

Eleanor Mills is a 39-year-old Englishwoman. She belongs to my generation, the one which arguably suffered most when it came to family formation.

The problem is that the women of my generation were brought up to value autonomy above all else. This meant pursuing an independent girl lifestyle right through their 20s. The emphasis was on careers, casual relationships, travel and partying. Marriage and children weren't rejected outright but were deferred indefinitely - they were well down on the checklist of things to do.

By the time these women were ready to marry and have children a lot of men had either opted out, grown resentful, adapted to a player lifestyle or married foreign women. Some women did manage to marry late in life and have a child or maybe even two, but many missed out.

Eleanor Mills tells much the same story from the female point of view. This, for instance, is the relationship history of one of her close friends:

There was nothing physically wrong with my friend. But romantically it just never happened for her.

She is an attractive woman and always had lots of offers — but there was always some kind of complication. As her 40th birthday came and went, it seemed motherhood was going to pass her by.

“The anguish of that was terrible,” she says now. “If I hadn’t had kids I would probably have turned into an alcoholic. I spent many nights looking into that abyss. I really don’t know if I could have coped with being childless: I’d always thought I would be a mum.”

What changed? “I got real. I always thought I wanted an exotic man who would open up a whole new kind of life for me. But then, having lived abroad, I realised I had the life I wanted already. So I found a nice man who wanted kids — the kind I had always avoided before — and it all worked out. Hooray.” Now, aged 44, she has two children.

She rejected many offers from family oriented men when she was young. It wasn't until she was 40 that she "got real" and finally accepted one - despite the fact that being married and having children was the most important thing to her.

I think she was lucky - very lucky - that a man would choose her at age 40 when there were other more youthful women to choose from. She was one of the fortunate ones to still get the husband and kids - but in a desperate, last minute kind of way.

Eleanor Mills is aware of the loss created by the deferral of marriage,  particularly amongst professional women of her generation:

This isn’t just about me. One in five females of my generation will never have children; and the Office for National Statistics reports that the more successful you are professionally, the less likely you are to breed. When I look at the women I know who at 40 are single and childless and don’t want to be, my heart aches for them. It is never the ones you’d expect. Many of my singleton friends are at the particularly attractive end of the spectrum; if you’d met them at 20, at university, and been told that at 40 they’d be — unwillingly — alone, you never would have believed it.

How does Eleanor Mills explain the situation? She rightly rejects the idea that it was just a case of women being too fussy:

I don’t think my single friends are on their own because they are too picky. I think it is because as a generation we were bred not to prioritise finding a husband and having a family. Unlike generations of females before us, we were bred to work. I was born in 1970, in the middle of women’s lib. My mother and her peers were conscious-raising and feminist ...

No one, not my family or my teachers, ever said, “Oh yes, and by the way you might want to be a wife and mother too.” They were so determined we would follow a new, egalitarian, modern path that the historic ambitions of generations of women — to get married and raise a family — were intentionally airbrushed from their vision of our future.

So, like the good girls we are, we set about achieving. The friends I am talking about here were my peers at school and university. Many succeeded beyond their feminist mothers’ wildest dreams.

But a career is not the same as family:

But now, and often too late, we are realising that no job will ever love you back; that the graveyards are full of important executives; that the only people you are ever irreplaceable to are your family.

As they stare into a barren future, many singletons wish they’d put some of the focus and drive that has furnished them with sparkling careers, worn-out passports and glamorous social lives into the more mundane business of having a family ...

If you want a family, that has to be a priority. My friends and I just assumed the right man would appear at some point.

It's interesting too that it's not just the men of my generation who feel let down in their efforts to form a family. According to Eleanor Mills, there are women who feel the same way:

At dinner with girlfriends the other night, the feeling was we’d been let down. That society, by leaving us to fend for ourselves and offering no guidance or advice on the crucial subject of finding a mate, had failed us. After all, throughout history, pairing off the next generation has been a key function of most societies, from Jane Austen’s balls to Indian arranged marriages.

She is hopeful that the younger generation has learned from the mistakes of those now in their 40s:

A fortnight ago I went to a wedding: the groom was my brother Theo. He is 29, his bride (who is pregnant) is 28. “You’re so young!” I yelped. Not really, they replied. Nearly all their friends are already married. Last week the Marriage and Wedding Survey of 2,000 women across the UK in their twenties found the ideal age for marriage has lowered to 26, with a first child at 27 (a decade ago it was early thirties). Perhaps the spectre of being a Bridget Jones-style singleton has focused their minds on getting hitched earlier; it is a positive shift.

I think it's honourable that women like Eleanor Mills are willing to warn the younger generation of women of the mistakes made by her own - and that she feels genuine sympathy for those women who have ended up unwillingly childless and unmarried.

The one thing still missing is a sense of regret for how the men of her generation were treated.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

If we do well it's discrimination. But if we're left out we've been outclassed.

Is the system rigged against Anglo-Australian men? Here's some strong evidence that it is.

Back in February it was announced that there were too many Anglo-Australian firemen here in Melbourne. This was declared to be an offence against multiculturalism and unrepresentative of the community. So the fire brigade launched an affirmative action campaign which aimed to recruit fewer Anglo men and more women and non-Anglos:

Wanted: more women, Aborigines and people born overseas

Fireys need a new look

FIREFIGHTING - one of the last bastions of white Anglo-Saxon males - is the target of a new diversity push.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade is determined to change the "Anglo male" dominance of its ranks with a recruiting drive to encourage more women and people of varying ethnic backgrounds to join.

"We are part of a vibrant multicultural community and I think it's important that organisations such as the MFB, which are established for, and paid for by the community, are more reflective of the community we serve," MFB CEO Ken Latta said.

The MFB has applied for exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act to give preference to Aborigines and ethnic minorities for a new 14- week pre-employment training course to boost their chances of selection as a firefighter.

Next month the MFB will launch a campaign to attract more women.

Note how the Herald Sun has reported this news. When it's a case of Anglo-Australian men having the numbers, it's assumed that there's something wrong and that the situation has to be changed: hence the headline "Fireys need a new look".

It's true that there aren't many female firefighters, just 3% of the total force. But, as Andrew Bolt pointed out, there are reasons for the discrepancy:

The MFB was now raving that only 56 of its more than 1700 firefighters were women - a figure that a healthy person would probably find unremarkable, since firefighting can be a very physical game, involving the kind of derring-do that tends to appeal more to the testosteroned.

Nonetheless the chief of the fire brigade has set a target of 50% women and has appointed a "diversity development officer" to achieve this aim.

As for the idea that the fire brigade has to be representative of the community, Bolt writes,

God, I hope not. I don't look forward to the day when the firefighters sent to my burning home reflect a community in which half of us are fat and 10 per cent at least 70.

Nor were the existing female firefighters overjoyed by the affirmative action proposal. Not only did they feel it would stigmatise their own positions, to their credit they also expressed solidarity with their menfolk. One female firefighter wrote:

I take great offence to the fact that the MFB are requesting an exemption from VCAT to be able to discriminate against white Anglo-Saxon males who happen to be a large majority of my work colleagues who have led, supported, cared, included and helped teach me to be the professional firefighter that I am ...

The diversity development manager complained that the women's response was "quite nasty" and that the fire brigade was "entitled to put in place policies as it sees fit."

Which brings me to Case B. A new selective state school has been established in the south of Melbourne. Entry to the school is highly sought after, as it is free and will inevitably have very high academic standards. The students from this new school, Nossal High, will go on to university educations and the higher professions.

So who gets to go to this school? It has been announced that less than 20% of the student population are Anglo children. In other words, Anglo children will be vastly underrepresented at this important new school, one of only three selective state schools in Melbourne.

How did the Herald Sun report this issue? Did it produce a headline along the lines of "Wanted: more Anglos. School needs a new look." If you've guessed the answer is no, you'd be right. Here's the report:

Enthusiasm stuns new school

Asians outclass Anglos

STUDENTS from non-Anglo Saxon backgrounds have snapped up most places at Melbourne's newest public selective school - and aspiration is the key.

Children from Indian, Sri Lankan and Chinese families dominate classes at Nossal High in Berwick, which has just opened with 200 year 9 students.

Principal Roger Page said more than 80 per cent of the students were from non-Anglo Saxon backgrounds.

"And that's because of the level of aspiration," he told the Herald Sun.

"Some of the Sri Lankan, the Indian, the Asian communities are highly aspirational."

So where's the insistence now that state funded institutions have to be representative of the populations they serve? Where are the "diversity development managers" rushing in to overcome the lack of equal representation at Nossal High?

Instead of a story about overcoming a lack of diversity, we get one celebrating it.

So Anglo males just can't win. If there is some area in life they do well in, they'll be pulled back artificially by affirmative action schemes. But if there's an area they are worse off in, they'll be left to be "outclassed". That's why I say the system is rigged against them.

How should Anglo men respond? Not by giving up on getting a decent education and decent jobs - that remains important. But we should give up our illusions in the anti-discrimination and diversity agenda. It's an agenda that is rigged against us and that we would be foolish to support.

This photo was captioned "Nossal High is nothing if not multicultural". But where are the Anglo students?

Revealing political profiles

The issue of men's rights has taken off over the past couple of years. It's big enough now to be very politically diverse. One of the major sites where men's rights is discussed is at reddit - the men's rights page there has 8,500 registered users.

However, it's worth knowing that some of the most active commenters there are far from being traditionalists. Recently someone asked for commenters to reveal their political affiliations and these were the results:
  1. socially liberal Green voter
  2. libertarian
  3. Marxist
  4. libertarian/anarcho-capitalist
  5. left-leaning liberal
  6. economically socialist/politically liberal approaching anarchist
  7. classical libertarian
  8. neo-conservative
  9. classical Marxist
  10. far left libertarian communist
  11. libertarian
  12. left wing socialist
  13. very socially liberal, economically free market
  14. anarcho-socialist
  15. left libertarian, anarcho syndicalist
So we have libertarians, Marxists, social liberals and anarchists. Even if the general readership is much more conservative than this, as usual the most active participants come from the radical left.

That's a pity as it's likely to distort the movement. The far left types are likely to argue that men are lacking in rights because they haven't been "liberated" from their masculinity or their masculine role. They'll argue that the way forward is a social change in which gender distinctions are finally abolished.

The far left types - the Marxists, the anarchists, the radical left-libertarians - are also more likely to try to blame social conservatives for the problems facing men. That's a bit perverse as it's clearly been a liberal philosophy rather than a socially conservative one which has affected the position of men in society over the past century or more. And yet on many men's rights sites, it's not a liberally inspired feminism, but social conservatism and/or the remnants of chivalry which is thought to be the underlying problem.

That can have some strange consequences. It means that Laura Wood, who has written boldly in support of the male role within the family and society, is attacked more fiercely at some men's rights sites than the radical feminists who want to abolish any kind of distinctive or necessary paternal role within the family. (If Laura Wood is reading this, you have my sympathies - I hope it's reassuring for you that some of your attackers describe their politics as "classical Marxist" and "anarcho-socialist".)

(Another strange consequence is that it leaves the Roissyites as the better, more "realistic" wing of the men's rights movement - at least they get the drift of what has happened in society over the past generation, even if their response is to collapse into it.)

I don't believe that traditionalists should give up on the men's rights issue. It's a growing movement attracting men who are disaffected by the changes wrought by liberal society. And we can offer much more to these men than an assembly of Marxists, anarchists and libertarians.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Liberal responses to Mrs Martin

How would liberals respond to my previous post on Mrs Martin? I found out when it was cross-posted to the men's rights page at reddit.

The basic line taken by the liberal commenters there was that there were no conceivable negative consequences if men ceased to be providers for their families and if women became economically independent.

That's actually the moderate liberal line: everything's going well, we'll make these changes and nothing bad will happen. A more radical liberal would claim that the changes were intended to sweep away the old and usher in an entirely different social order.

The "moderate" liberal attitude reminded me of Kristor's recent comment at VFR:

Modern culture is a veritable hurricane of vicious cycles, all originating in a gnostic pretense: Let's pretend that there is no inherent nature of things, so that we may mess ad libitum with the family, sex, economics, and culture, with no ill consequences. Hey, Presto! Pass a law! Make it so!

That's what I felt I was up against. It was left to me to try and argue the nature (or "working") of things (not always the easiest thing to do) whilst the liberals argued "no nature" in response. Some of the liberals did this more subtly than others (the first commenter "infinitely thirsting" doing the best job out of the liberals).

Here's a typical exchange:

Me: A heterosexual man will generally find femininity in a woman sexually attractive.

Liberal: Just so you know, there's no universal understanding of what "femininity" or "masculinity" entails - each culture has traits it considers womanly or manly and they vary widely.

Me: As it happens, the ideal of feminine attractiveness has stayed fairly constant throughout recorded Western history. From the poem Alison (thirteenth or fourteenth century): "With a lovely face she laughed upon me - Her waist small and well-made ... Kindest of ladies, hearken to my song". From the early 1400s: "The smiling mouth and laughing grey eyes, the round breasts and two long slender arms". From the 1500s: "There is a lady sweet and kind, Was never face so pleased my mind ... Her gesture, motion and her smiles, Her wit, her voice, her heart beguiles".

Liberal: The poem you linked talks about PHYSICAL BEAUTY (which has changed as well, especially in body type) and not social ideas of what is "masculine" and feminine

Me: The poems I linked to praised women not only for their physical femininity but also for being kind, sweet, smiling and vivacious - qualities which many men today would also find attractively feminine.

Our liberal cannot even accept the statement "A heterosexual man will generally find femininity in a woman sexually attractive." He finds even this too limiting for his purposes, he rebels against it. He suggests that there is no real existence to the qualities of masculinity and femininity, they exist instead as "social ideas" that change over time. Little wonder that he then believes that you can change from one social idea to another without any fallout, as the social idea doesn't relate to anything real.

But what if there has been fallout? What if there are high divorce rates, low marriage rates, below replacement fertility levels, resentments between the sexes, young men deciding "to go their own way", a coarsening of cultural standards and so on?

The liberals on the site either didn't recognise them ("talking about how society is going downhill is silly" wrote one) or else blamed large impersonal forces beyond our control (e.g. capitalism).

One final point: my post was voted up by 15 reddit readers and down by 8. So even though liberals dominated the comments, there does still seem to be an audience for traditionalist ideas amongst the men's rights readership.

(PS If there is a small "11 children" button under "kanuk876" you have to click it to read the entire discussion at the reddit site. As I write it's OK, but the way the reddit system works sections of the discussion can be hidden if they're downvoted.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Locking the gates of the future

Laura Grace Robins has created a little online library focusing on first wave feminism. The most interesting article I've read so far from this collection was penned way back in 1914. The author, Mrs John Martin, did a pretty good job, I think, of explaining why feminism was likely to harm the family.

Why did Mrs Martin think there was an antagonism between feminism and the family? She wrote:

The family is a closely organized, coherent, interdependent group. The basic principle upon which it rests is the mutual dependence of its members. It is founded on the needs of its members for one another. Were it not for these mutual needs the family would not have been formed.

Mrs Martin looks back to the long period of human prehistory in which women nursing their infants relied on men to hunt and to provide food. The woman for her part sought to make the man comfortable on his return, i.e. to create a home.

Interdependency does not restrict or limit us. Instead it is a source of our interest and care toward others:

It is the plant which we tend and water that interests us; it is the canary bird we feed ourselves; it is the baby we nurse and fondle and care for; it is the husband whom we watch over, appreciate, sympathize with, are grateful to, enliven, comfort and cheer; it is the wife whom we toil for, protect, guide, defend, serve and cherish - these are the persons whom we love.

... Love feeds upon the need which others have of us. For the independent and self-sufficient who have no use for us, our affections are not drawn out.

We cannot assume that the family will always stand as a part of nature:

The family is not, as we are prone to think of it, a part of the order of nature. It is purely a human invention, brought forth by the pressure of need and the efforts of men and women to satisfy those needs by mutual services. Nor is it at all unthinkable that the institution of the family might one day be abandoned, for all that would be necessary in order to abolish the family would be to remove the needs which have called it into being.

This is a little overstated. There is a push and pull between different drives and instincts in people which either make for or undermine family formation. Where Mrs Martin is correct is that we cannot assume that the forces for traditional family formation will always prove strongest. If the needs which have connected men and women in the family are removed, then family formation can give way:

It is apparent that the unity of the family arises out of its common needs and mutual services. But when woman has no need of man as breadwinner and he has no need for her as home-maker, and the child has no further need for either of them as nurse, teacher, guide, friend, but finds most of its needs supplied elsewhere by paid experts ... - then the cohesive force of the family dissolves.

If you read family correspondence prior to WWI, what is striking is how close the relationship between brothers and sisters often is. I've often wondered if this is because brothers and sisters were more reliant on each other in those times.

Mrs Martin then notes the existence of social forces in her own time undermining the interdependence of family life. She blames commerce for drawing women into economic competition with men who are supposed to be their providers. Once commerce achieved this, she argues, it was human nature for people to rationalise it as liberation for women.

I think this is the weakest part of Mrs Martin's argument. Commercial interests may well have been interested in women's labour as an economic resource. But the ideal of autonomy didn't merely follow on from modern commerce. It existed in its own right as a core aspect of liberal political philosophy.

Anyway, Mrs Martin does get to the crux of things when she writes,

... the nature of the antagonism between feminism and the family becomes apparent. The keynote of the family is dependence; its very existence depends upon the mutual dependence of its members; the greater their degree of dependence the closer is its integrity.

The keynote of feminism, on the contrary, is independence. The ideal family has no place in it for feminism and feminism finds the family continually an obstacle in its way.

And she goes on to develop this idea in an interesting way. What would happen if women were made independent of men? Mrs Martin sketches out a vision of a more matriarchal type of social arrangement. She notes that even in her own time some of the more radical feminists were demanding the right for women to freely select different fathers for their children:

... extreme or advanced feminism attacks the family's sex unity: demanding for woman "freedom from sex domination" and the right to choose the father (or it may be the fathers) of her children.

Alexandra Kollontai was one such feminist of the period. In one essay Kollontai,

approvingly describes the possibility of maternity now becoming "an aim in itself," distinct from the mother's relations to the child's father. (In this essay and elsewhere, Kollontai only addresses fatherhood in passing as an option interested men could engage in for educational purposes.)

Society hasn't yet reached the point at which this has gone mainstream. But there's been a shift toward it. In the black American family or on English housing estates it's not uncommon for women to have children by different fathers. And the change in attitudes isn't just amongst the poor. When English celebrity Ulrike Jonsson defended her 4x4 family (four children to four different fathers) the comments in the Daily Mail were overwhelmingly in her favour.

Mrs Martin then goes on to describe the marginalisation of men within the family that was likely to occur if men were rendered unnecessary to family life:

Feminism is a process of putting Father out of business; of deposing him from his position of distinction and responsibility in some woman's little world ... Feminism aims to render him superfluous and unnecessary. It is showing woman how she can quite well get along without him and still have everything that she wants - independence, prosperity, the vote, self-support, self-direction, even independent motherhood if she desires it and can afford it.

It is the promise of autonomy (independence, self-support, self-direction), including sexual autonomy (independent motherhood). But the role of men would become limited:

Relieved of all responsibility and distinction  ... man will wander through life ... his final position as time goes on, becoming like that of the drone in the beehive. The work of the hive will have gradually passed into the hands of industrious, self-supporting, spinster workers.

In the completed feminist state the male [will] drag out a subordinate and somewhat surreptitious existence, sneaking in and out of the back door, when sent for like a guilty plumber. He ... now reduced ... to the domestic status of a tomcat.

Mrs Martin doesn't use the term matriarchy, but what she describes is similar to those cultures which have sometimes been called matriarchal (or matrifocal). For instance, the Mosuo culture in China has an upper class which is patriarchal, but a lower class which is matrifocal. In the lower class, there is no marriage as we understand it, but a system in which a man stays the night at a woman's house:

Traditionally, a Mosuo woman or male will initiate interest in a potential partner. If the companion expresses interest, the woman gives the man permission to visit her. Such pairings are generally conducted secretly, so the man walks to her house after dark, spends the night with her, and returns home early the next morning. Mosuo women and men can engage in sexual relations with as many partners they desire.

Even though a pairing may be long term, the man never lives with the woman's family ... Mosuo women continue to live with and be responsible to their own families. There is no sharing of property. Most significantly, when children are born, the father may have little responsibility for his offspring ... the child will be raised in the mother's family, and take on her family name.

This type of marriage practice ... can be initiated at will and ended in the same manner ... Walking marriages ... allow more independence.

The lower class Mosuo men, if chosen, get to sneak in for a night-time tryst. But they don't get to have a distinct role as fathers. As Mrs Martin wrote, they have a "subordinate and somewhat surreptitious existence, sneaking in and out of the back door".

As a result, such men have little interest in accumulating private property to pass on to their progeny - they can't even be sure who their progeny is. So it's not surprising that those cultures most often identified as "matrifocal" (there don't seem to be any truly "matriarchal" cultures) are subsistence economies. Men don't have the high level investment in these cultures to create higher order economies and civilisations.

Mrs Martin was concerned enough in 1914 to believe that the future was at stake:

The future existence of our race depends upon keeping the desire for maternity alive in women. But the final outcome of feminism is inevitably the deadening of this desire by reason of its antagonism to the family ... Woman to-day, for the first time in history, holds in her hands the key to the situation. At her pleasure she may lock or unlock the gates of the future.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Has Michelle got it?

A reader, Michelle, has posted a comment on the Kevin Rudd story which I thought worth highlighting. If you recall, Rudd told a group of mining executives that they should be taxed of their profits so that the dollar would fall and we could have more foreign students in Australia:

Rudd said it was companies such as Atlas that were pushing up the dollar and making it hard for foreign students to live in Australia.

There was a collective gasp, with executives asking Rudd if he “wanted to wipe out the iron ore industry to help foreign students”.

Michelle's explanation will possibly sound dramatic to some readers. But I think there's merit to what she's arguing and I'll explain why later. Here's Michelle's take on things:

Rudd sees himself as the president of the Asia-Pacific Union, rather than the Prime Minister of Australia. So his constituents are Indians as well as Australians. As shocking as that may be, it is the real Kevin Rudd. The public mistakenly views Rudd through the prism of nationalism. But he is not a nationalist, he is a card-carrying globalist. His top-order priorities are regional integration of Australia into Asia, and advancing global governance. Domestic policies are a low-order priority that Rudd engages in to maintain a nationalist facade. Ban Ki-moon enunciated Rudd's core belief: "This is, after all, an era of integration. Regional integration is taking place all over the world". Hence, like the European Union, Rudd declared that Australia and Asia should move towards one superstate by 2020, called the Asia-Pacific Community.

Subsequently, Rudd has worked on two fronts: to weaken our national identity, and to promote regional standards in its place. He is weakening our identity by maximising the transnational flow of people, ideas and business: hence Rudd's record high immigration and foreign student numbers, relaxed foreign ownership, Asia-centric education, relentless free trade agreements, diversifying the military, etc. He is also centralising education, health, law, national security, as a precursor to harmonising with forthcoming regional standards. Climate change was a handy crisis for advancing global governance. The economic stimulus was about shoring up global interdependence and preventing a backslide into protectionism. His entire tenure has been one long gasp.

In contrast, domestic policies are an afterthought, to maintain the facade of nationalism. But Rudd's facade is cracking and the public is worried about: big population choking infrastructure, foreign buyers forcing up housing prices, immigration straining social cohesion, etc. The ETS [emissions trading scheme] back-flip is the biggest crack in Rudd's facade, but it doesn't reveal a hollowness, it reveals a transnational-progressive ideology where the interests of Australia are an afterthought. Rudd has brought the "era of integration" to our hemisphere and the Australian public still mistakenly views him as a nationalist.

When Rudd announced his Asia-Pacific Union, he said: "The purpose is to encourage the development of a genuine and comprehensive sense of community whose habitual operating principle is cooperation". Which means he wants us to become people without identity and without independent thoughts. Hence, to Rudd, the Australian people deserve no more attention than international students. Rudd is an ideologically-driven wrecking ball, devoid of ordinary sensitivities of identity, social cohesion, carrying capacity, infrastructure, etc. He is a mad ideologue and there are going to be a lot more collective gasps, as he dissolves Australia into Asia, until the public wakes up and votes him out.

I don't think this view can be lightly dismissed. The Australian political class does seem keen to promote regional integration. Back in 2003 an Australian senate committee advocated the creation of a Pacific Union, along the lines of the EU:

In essence, it proposes a Pacific community which will eventually have one currency, one labour market, common strong budgetary and fiscal discipline, democratic and ethical governance, shared defence and security arrangements, common laws and resolve in fighting crime, and, health, welfare, education and environmental goals.

In 2005, the Labor Party produced a policy paper of its own which advocated establishing a Pacific Community on these lines:

There would be a Pacific Parliament, a Pacific Court, a Pacific Common Market, a common currency and military integration.

When Rudd was elected as a Labor PM in 2007 his first priority was to push for the creation of an even larger regional bloc, an Asia-Pacific Union. He was rebuffed by some of the Asian powers, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the "dream" is over. It is credible that a major priority remains the creation of such a regional bloc.

Perhaps some people might find it difficult to register such a possibility because politicians are groomed to appeal to the public: to act like statesmen and wear shiny suits and put on a reasonable face in their public appearances.

Think of David Cameron and Nick Clegg in the UK. If you look at this Daily Mail story, you'll see photos of the pair exuding charm for the cameras and looking like anything but radicals. The story goes on to report Cameron's assurance that he and Clegg would,

put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and the national interest

But it was only last year that Clegg wrote a political manifesto rejecting the very idea of a common good or a national interest:

people have been empowered by technology, travel and prosperity and are no longer willing to subordinate themselves to a collective whole in the name of a supposed ‘common good’

Labour has lost its ideological way ... They are unsure how to deal with a globalised world in which the nation state is no longer the correct locus of power.

According to Clegg, it is a good thing that we now live a more atomised existence. It means that we are more self-defining (more autonomous) than if we are connected to a particular place.

We live in a more atomised society where people are no longer rigidly defined by class or place.

Clegg openly rejects the idea that his role is to be a defender of an existing entity; he sees this as the great conservative error, the error of being determined to "preserve, protect and defend". He is motivated instead by "a political ideology that stems from a restless, optimistic ambition for change and transformation."

Is Clegg therefore the man to trust to defend the national interest and the common good? I would have thought that there was hardly anyone less suitable. As much as he might look the part at press conferences, he is at heart a radical bent on a transformation in which the nation state would give way to international institutions and laws.

It's the same with Rudd and other politicians. We shouldn't take the public persona as the real thing. A friendly smile doesn't mean that they are nationalists upholding the common good. It's much more likely they are ideologues with an agenda.

Finally, don't forget Rudd's new national school curriculum. Every subject in this curriculum has to be designed with three "cross-curriculum dimensions" in mind: Australia's place in the Asia Pacific, Aborigines and sustainable living. This speaks so poorly to Australia's mainstream heritage that it even provoked criticism from Susie O'Brien, normally a somewhat leftie columnist in the Melbourne Herald Sun:

these three themes don't reflect the full picture of who we are as a nation or how we see ourselves. Where are the themes reflecting our British and European roots and current realities?

It's an important question because the three themes are more than just discrete subject areas to be learned and then forgotten. They actually underpin the entire 11-year curriculum, and provide topics for examples and analysis across all subject areas - year in, year out ...

At present the three themes don't reflect, for example, Australia's membership of the Commonwealth, the fact that we have an English monarch, and the fact that many of us have European family heritage, not just Asian or Aboriginal origins.

We can't turn our back on the fact that while Aborigines were our first Australians, and the Asia-Pacific is where our country is located, many of our families came from Europe or the United Kingdom.

Our institutions, system of government and laws, and our social identity owe more to our European and British past and present than our indigenous roots or our position in the Asia-Pacific region.

And yet this is not reflected in the themes that underpin the entire national syllabus.

It risks alienating young students, who may not feel as connected as they could be to their learning.

The idea that Australia's place is within the Asia Pacific is going to be integrated into topic selection and points for analysis in every subject area during every child's primary and secondary education. What does that say about the agenda of the Rudd Labor Government?

What are some possible flaws in Michelle's comment? Well, I'm not sure it's just Rudd or Labor who see Australia's future in terms of closer integration within the Asia-Pacific. After all, student numbers were also rising at the end of Howard's term of government.

Perhaps too a couple of the more attention grabbing statements are overstated. But overall I think Michelle's comment is praiseworthy. There is no "hoping against hope" in it, no wishful thinking. She has recognised straight out that Rudd is not a nationalist in any meaningful sense of the term. We are not to sit back and rely on the likes of Rudd to defend the national interest.

If readers had a different reaction to Michelle's comment, let me know - I'd be interested to know what they are.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I would have gasped too

Another story to shake your head at. The Labor Government is increasing the taxes on the Australian mining industry. And this is the reason why:

Addressing complaints from David Flanagan, head of Atlas Iron, about the effect on investment of having a super profits tax cut in at 6 per cent, Rudd said it was companies such as Atlas that were pushing up the dollar and making it hard for foreign students to live in Australia.

There was a collective gasp, with executives asking Rudd if he “wanted to wipe out the iron ore industry to help foreign students”.

Rudd is so keen to sell passports to overseas students that he's willing to sacrifice the profitability of the most healthy real industry we still have.

What can you say to this, except that Rudd once again has shown that he belongs to a liberal elite with no connection to his own tradition.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A lament for England

The UK elections are over. There is now a coalition government of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. It's David Cameron as PM and Nick Clegg as Deputy PM.

What an unfortunate result for England. Cameron is bad enough. It was reported at VFR that Cameron said on arriving at No.10,

Compared with a decade ago, this country is more open at home and more compassionate abroad and that is something we should all be grateful for.

So Cameron approves of Blair and Brown's transformation of the UK over the past decade. That's not a promising start for a supposedly conservative leader.

Clegg himself believes that Cameron is on a mission to "decontaminate" the Conservative Party of any residual conservatism:

No wonder David Cameron and George Osborne have sought to lay claim to the word progressive to describe their plans for Britain; it is the final frontier for them, the last step in their decontamination of the Conservative brand.

Clegg is no better than Cameron. Last year he wrote an essay titled "The Liberal Moment". He declares in this essay that the nation state is redundant. Society is now happily atomised, there is no longer a national identity, and therefore there is no need for "collectivist" organisation - except at the international level:

We live in a more atomised society where people are no longer rigidly defined by class or place. Our society is no longer trapped by a culture of diffidence and hierarchy.

The capacity of the nation state to act for its citizens has been dramatically diluted as globalisation has undermined its powers. The increasing accessibility of international air travel and new technologies like the internet have radically stretched people’s physical and conceptual horizons. New forms of religious and ethnic identity have dissolved the traditional glue that held the identity of nations together. In short, we live in a more fluid, less deferential world ...

Clegg believes that the Labour Party isn't sufficiently internationalist:

Labour has lost its ideological way ... They are unsure how to deal with a globalised world in which the nation state is no longer the correct locus of power. They are unsure how to react to the way people have been empowered by technology, travel and prosperity and are no longer willing to subordinate themselves to a collective whole in the name of a supposed ‘common good’ ...

So we have been "empowered" to enjoy an atomised existence in which we no longer have to connect ourselves to a "common good".

In the same essay, Clegg also lists "social radicalism in education" as one of his "liberal beliefs".

It was Nick Clegg who saw progressive opportunities during the recession. With men losing their jobs, he thought the moment had come to push ahead with a unisex family life. Men could "reinvent" themselves as house husbands or child carers. Employers could be threatened if they attempted to sack women. Gender could be made not to matter in family life:

For many [men], full-time work remains the anchor of their identity ... Yet a savage recession, like a war, shakes the traditional identity of men and women. In the Second World War it had a liberating effect of sorts. By 1943 more than 7.25 million women were employed, two million more than before the war ...

As this recession bears down on thousands of communities and families we must again be open to reinventing ourselves. Many men will be forced to let go of their earlier identities and try something new ... And many women may become the only family breadwinner for the first time. For many couples this will be unsettling and deeply disruptive to the settled patterns of life, work and marriage. A new flexibility in which men and women are supported in reinventing themselves will be vital in helping many thousands of families through this recession ...

For women, this means that Government must come down hard on employers who appear to be sacking them more readily than men ... Active support - including free legal advice - must be given to women ...

But some of the biggest changes that still need to take place are in the traditional perceptions of “male” work. Some months ago I suggested that more men should take up jobs in nurseries as childminders. At present, only 1 per cent of childminders are men ...

Rigidity in how parental leave is structured must change too. Mothers can take up to a year, fathers only two weeks ... But this split is out of step with the reality of many modern families, and discourages fathers from making a commitment to the care of their own children ...

The present rules make it almost impossible for young mothers to go back to work early, even if their husbands and partners are ready to stay at home

It is high time we moved into line with other European countries where interchangeable parental leave has long been the norm.

You might have seen photos or footage during the UK election of Cameron, Clegg and Brown standing together in their shiny suits. Three clean cut looking Anglo men (Brown less clean cut perhaps) all putting on a show of respectability.

But all three of them are committed to the liberal project. In one sense, they are all radicals, as none of them is committed to a defence of their own tradition. For Clegg a "determination to preserve, protect and defend" is an error of conservatism; he describes himself as being motivated instead by "a political ideology that stems from a restless, optimistic ambition for change and transformation."

He is a radical in a suit. He is still running on liberal ideology, still a follower of J.S. Mill, even as the damage done by liberalism mounts.

The failure to disengage from liberalism is still there. It is painful to watch. I can only hope that there are some younger Brits who are paving the way for something different politically.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

What an early feminist believed

Sarah Grimke was an early American feminist. In one respect, she sounds different to the feminists of today. She was a Quaker and took her religion seriously, so there are many references to Christianity in her writings.

But it's not difficult to find similarities. For instance, I have often noted that modern feminism wants to make gender (more exactly the fact of sex distinctions) not matter.

So too did Sarah Grimke. Here are some excerpts from a political letter she wrote in 1837 titled "Social Intercourse of the Sexes":

permit me to offer for your consideration, some views relative to the social intercourse of the sexes. Nearly the whole of this intercourse is, in my apprehension, derogatory to man and woman, as moral and intellectual beings. We approach each other, and mingle with each other, under the constant pressure of a feeling that we are of different sexes; and, instead of regarding each other only in the light of immortal creatures, the mind is fettered by the idea which is early and industriously infused into it, that we must never forget the distinction between male and female. Hence our intercourse, instead of being elevated and refined, is generally calculated to excite and keep alive the lowest propensities of our nature. Nothing, I believe, has tended more to destroy the true dignity of woman, than the fact that she is approached by man in the character of a female.

... Until our intercourse is purified by the forgetfulness of sex, - until we rise above the present low and sordid views which entwine themselves around our social and domestic interchange of sentiments and feelings, we never can derive that benefit from each other's society which it is the design of our Creator that we should. Man has inflicted an unspeakable injury upon woman, by holding up to her view her animal nature, and placing in the back ground her moral and intellectual being.

In the same letter she describes her ideal woman as follows,

... Such a woman feels, when she enters upon the marriage relation, that God designed that relation not to debase her to a level with the animal creation, but to increase the happiness and dignity of his creatures ... She views herself, and teaches her children to regard themselves as moral beings; and in all their intercourse with their fellow men, to lose the animal nature of man and woman, in the recognition of that immortal mind wherewith Jehovah has blessed and enriched them.

She uses very similar language to that of modern liberals, describing sex distinctions as a "fetter" and wanting us to learn to be "forgetful" of them.

She is not less radical than modern feminists. She believes the recognition of sex distinctions to be "low" and "sordid" and "debased" and considers our manhood and womanhood to be part of a merely animal nature as opposed to a purified spiritual nature in which we would not be conscious of being man or woman.

I think she has it wrong. We do not add to our spirituality by stripping away our identity as men and women. It might be true that there are certain aspects of an "animal" existence that are connected to being male and female. But so too are there aspects of an "animal" existence that are common to the sexes (e.g. eating, digestion etc). We don't suddenly live on some sort of ethereal plane if we think of ourselves as desexed creatures.

And there do exist more spiritual aspects of our embodiment as men and women. The highest order one is our perception of a masculine and feminine essence which is realised to a greater or lesser extent in the behaviour or qualities of individual men and women. Another is the highly gendered nature of heterosexual love which is experienced not just as the love of a particular personality or intellect (in which case we might just as easily love someone of our own sex), but of a sense of a complementary union between the masculine and feminine. There is also the experience of maternal love and paternal love, which are part of a gendered dynamic of relationships within the family. Our sense of duty and virtue, too, is at least partly connected to our distinct existence as men and women (e.g. although courage exists as a virtue for both men and women, we do connect it in specific ways to masculinity).

Where does Sarah Grimke's argument leave people? If we can't act as men and women, then how are we supposed to act?

Sarah Grimke wrote a lot about following our "moral being". But this appears to have a largely modern meaning. We are to be "ennobled" by pursuing "moral causes". And these causes are aimed at achieving equal autonomy.

I write this because I suspect that Sarah Grimke's Quakerism was tending already, even in the 1830s, more toward a secular modernity (based on liberal political activism) than Christian orthodoxy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A wrong way to praise women

There's some discussion at Laura Wood's excellent site about a comment sent in by one of her readers. The reader wished to praise women but did it in a way that I consider wrong. The reader wrote:

... women have the much harder row to hoe. Women are 95 percent of the equation responsible for the continuation of our species. There is not a man on the face of the planet that could handle the pain I witnessed from my wife during two of our three children ... Women are historically responsible for holding a household together, and in the unfortunate situation where the husband is unemployed and the wife has to work ... the man still does not help out. In my case my wife is the primary educator. My kids have attended a church school since middle school, so they have loads of homework. I have tried to help in the tutelage, but seem to either be unable because of patience or attention span, while my wife charges ahead when my head would explode ...

I personally believe the disparity in maturity between women and men is between 10-15 years at the age of 18, and with any luck starts to normalize somewhere in the 40’s ... This is the single most important difference between men and women. If it were not for this disparity there is nothing that would provide the patience required to tolerate, and in many cases train a man to be worthy of the marriage a woman so gracefully entered into ... To you ladies I tip my hat, not once, but every day in gratitude for all you do. You are the foundation upon which we all build our futures, and for that we (men & children) love and respect you.

Women might be from Venus, but men are from Uranus, and that’s a long way from Mars.

This is extraordinarily self-deprecating. We are supposed to accept that men are only 5% responsible for the continuation of the species. That no man could handle the pain of childbirth. That it is women who hold together the household. That men are too stupid and impatient to help with homework. That men aren't as mature as women until some time in our 40s. That we should consider women "graceful" for patiently training men to be worthy of them in marriage.

This pushes things in exactly the wrong direction. We need men who are conscious of their civilising role. We need men who are confident in their own abilities and strengths. We need men who will take up a leadership role in their families and communities, rather than abdicating their responsibilities in favour of a "superior" womanhood.

Why would a man speak about women in such a self-subordinating way? My own theory is that it has to do with a shift in the culture of relationships that occurred during the nineteenth century.

Up until the 1800s, the primary consideration in relationships was marriage. Of course, people still had sexual and romantic feelings. However, these were disciplined to the end of family formation.

However, during the 1800s the balance shifted. What mattered increasingly were romantic feelings. And, as I've written previously,

Men who grow up in a culture of romantic love will tend to idealise women and be focused on feminine beauty and goodness.

An example here might help. I've been reading The Moon Seems Upside Down, a collection of letters from an Australian soldier, Arthur Alan Mitchell, to his girlfriend Eileen during WWII. There's a lot to like about Mitchell. He was not at all your modern, alienated type. He had a love of nature, he appreciated literature, he loved his family, his country and his mates and, as you might expect of a young man of the time, he had a well-developed romantic nature. The letters are full of declarations of romantic love for his girlfriend at home:

One thing has not altered, Darling. That is my love for you ... You are outstandingly beautiful, Eileen, but it was not only because of your beauty that I fell madly in love with you, it was your character, your nature, your sweetness, kindness & consideration to me ... even now, away from the captivating spell of your eyes & hair & voice and laughter, I can, for those reasons, say 'I love you'.

Note the emphasis on feminine beauty and goodness. That is the ideal that inspired feelings of romantic love in Arthur Mitchell. It is the ideal that inspired a lot of Western art. It is a normal expression of "connectedness" in men. But it has a potential downside: women can become idealised to the point that men, in an intensely romantic culture, begin to defer morally to women (because the women are idealised into being morally good and pure). From another letter to Eileen:

Eileen, my Life, where my heart beats within yours, you are my guiding star. My inner soul has set you firmly on that high pedestal and forever looking up to you for guidance you have steered me from thousands of miles away, never letting me do an act for which I would be ashamed or regret later. If I possess any character, any manliness, my thoughts of chivalry for the weaker sex then I owe it to you, for you have carried on my spiritual guidance along the same path as my dear Mother led me.

As the sun burns eternally in the sky, so burns my love for you ... To walk upon the same earth, to breathe the same air, to look at the same sun & moon & stars, to exist during the same era as you live in is a joy & a privilege for which I am grateful.

It is the women in Arthur Mitchell's life who became his moral and spiritual guides. I can understand how this works: a man who recognises the feminine ideal in women can be inspired by it to pursue his own masculine ideal. But there's a catch: the more that men hand over the baton of moral guidance to women, the less likely it is that women will act in a way that inspires moral admiration.

Men need to keep a hold of that baton. We need to re-emphasise what men do to establish moral standards in society. Men should not morally defer, no matter how much we are inspired by a romantic ideal of feminine goodness. It was an historical error of the Victorians to defer and this created a vulnerability in Western culture.

When men do self-deprecate, when we do defer, it is a sign that the culture of relationships has become unbalanced, that the romantic instincts are not balanced by an awareness of what is required from men to maintain a successful system of marriage and family life.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The archbishop vs the professor

The Catholic Archbishop of St Paul and Minneapolis, John Nienstedt, has written a newspaper column defending the traditional family. He wants state legislators to pass a marriage amendment which would define marriage by law as a union between one man and one woman. This would rule out same sex marriages.

The column has been criticised by P.Z. Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota. He describes himself on his website as a godless liberal.

So which man made the best arguments? I'm happy for readers to make their own judgement in the comments, but it seems clear to me that Professor Myer's rebuttal of the archbishop was a weak one. In fact, Myers makes a couple of extraordinary arguments which illustrate some of the worst tendencies within modern liberalism.

Here's round one. The archbishop wrote:

We might learn caution from experience. Back in the early 1970s, the experts told us that no-fault divorce would liberate women from bad marriages without affecting anyone else. We now know that as many as one-third of women fall into poverty with their children as a result of divorce. Social science caught up late with the common-sense wisdom that children need a mom and a dad working together to protect them.

The professor replies:

Why do women fall into poverty after a divorce? Because they are discriminated against in the workplace, because they get the bulk of the financial obligation in caring for any children, and because many men (and, I suspect, especially the men women want to divorce) fail to meet their responsibilities in contributing to child care. The problem isn't divorce, the problem is a patriarchal culture, which the church does nothing to reverse and actually promotes, and the male privilege that allows fathers to escape with diminished responsibility.

Proponents of same sex marriage often argue that it won't affect anyone else. The archbishop replies that the same claim was made about no-fault divorce in the early 1970s. But no-fault divorce did end up having wider consequences, including leaving up to a third of women in conditions of poverty. This, argues the archbishop, is a result of families no longer having both a father and a mother working together to protect the children.

Not so, replies the professor. If single mother families are less well off it's because of a patriarchal culture which discriminates against women and which privileges men.

The professor seems to think that a man who finds himself kicked out of the family by his wife for no good reason will be as keen a provider as a man who keeps a secure and respected place within it. It's an unreasonable position to take.

It could, in fact, be argued that the professor has things the wrong way around. It is not a patriarchal culture which leads to men having "diminished responsibility" in the family. Think back even to the 1950s. Whatever the faults of that period, men worked hard to support their families.

It is the more recent shift to a kind of matriarchal culture within certain social classes which is leaving women vulnerable to poverty. Matriarchal cultures give women sexual autonomy but they fail to bring men into a stable and productive role within the family. (There's a lengthy but interesting work on this here).

OK, here is the archbishop's next argument:

it has long been acknowledged that marriage is not just about the happiness of adults but concerns the well-being of society -- that is, the common good. Marriage exists in civil law primarily in order to provide communal support for bringing mothers and fathers together to care for their children.

The professor's response? He concedes that marriage is one method for sharing the task of child-rearing. But it's not a method that impresses him:

so does this priest support the idea of communes? That's even more efficient, and I can tell you that just two people, separated from other family support by the demands of their jobs, really have to struggle to keep their sanity. This is hard work, not that a celibate bureaucrat would know.

And I think that if you look back over history, most cultures have seen it as the responsibility of a whole tribe to help raise children, not just two people. This convention of assigning all responsibility to just two and only two, who are necessarily in a heterosexual relationship, is new and weird.

We are supposed to believe that two biological parents being the primary caregivers is a "new and weird" idea. It's not. The father and the mother have been central throughout the Western tradition. From wikipedia:

The organization of the pre-industrial family is now believed to be similar to modern types of family ...

Family types of pre-industrial Europe belonged to two basic groups, the simple household system (the nuclear family) and the joint family system (the extended family).

I doubt if too many women today would want to opt for the extended family system. It meant living under your father-in-law's roof. Most women, I expect, would prefer their own separate house, and to have their mothers visit them for support, i.e. the simple household system, which has existed for a long time in the West.

As for communes, they might be more efficient in some kind of abstract theoretical way, but they have never proven to be a realistic or desirable option in practice. It's a castles in the sky kind of argument. The archbishop sounds more grounded in comparison.

Finally, there's this argument from the archbishop:

What will happen to children growing up in a world where the law teaches them that moms and dads are interchangeable and therefore unnecessary, and that marriage has nothing intrinsically to do with the bearing and raising of children? Do we really want first-graders to be taught that gay marriage is OK, or that the influence of a mother and a father on the development of a child somehow doesn't matter?

Which drew this reply from the professor:

I think a world where moms and dads are interchangeable in their roles and responsibilities in child-raising would be a fine place to live. Aside from nursing (and again, biologists will fix that someday, too), men and women can change diapers, attend PTA meetings, play ball, give hugs, cook, and read bedtime stories equally well, with individual variation. Interchangeability does not imply that they are unnecessary. I grew up with a mom and dad who could both read to me; that did not imply to my mind that they were therefore both superfluous ...

Well, you can see from this that the professor takes his liberalism seriously. He looks forward to the day when gender is made not to matter. He even wants biologists to one day "fix" things so that men are able to breastfeed. He can accept individual variation but not sex variation and so he welcomes the idea of the interchangeability of men and women and of a unisex parental role.

But the professor doesn't understand the point that the archbishop is making. The archbishop writes later in his column that, "gay marriage would certainly be a declaration by the government that we have officially abandoned the ideal that children need both a mom and dad."

And this is certainly the case. If the state gives its approval to gay marriage, then it is making official the idea that children do not need both a mother and a father. This then reinforces the message that men are unnecessary to family life. Men who accepted this would not be as strongly committed to their role within the family. Women who accepted this would not be as strongly committed to keeping their husband within the family.

It's an important point as few marriages are idyllic the whole way through. Most married couples would admit to having gone through "rough patches". If a woman believes that fathers are dispensable within family life, then there won't be the same active effort to hold things together. Family stability will take another blow. So there's a reason for society to insist that the paternal role has unique value.

You cannot at the same time hold that the paternal role has unique value and then give official sanction to same sex marriage. That would be a mixed message.

I'm not suggesting that the archbishop has made the best case possible - I thought he could have developed his key points further. But the professor's arguments sound crude in comparison. As for the professor's suggestion that men be "fixed" so that they can breastfeed and be truly interchangeable, that suggests a mind made unhealthy by ideology.

So I award the points in this bout to the archbishop.