Friday, September 30, 2011

Sheridan's surprise

It turns out that I was not the only voice criticising the decision to allow women into combat roles in the Australian military.

A reader pointed me to a column by Greg Sheridan. It is an excellent piece and one that is highly unusual in the Australian mass media as it is intelligently and unapologetically traditionalist. I read it with surprise as Greg Sheridan is not known for traditionalist views.

It's difficult for me to post highlights as the entire column is worth reading.  It begins like this:

A nation that sends its women into front-line combat, into close infantry, hand-to-hand fighting and killing, is a nation that either doesn't take combat seriously or doesn't take respect for women seriously. This wretched decision to make all combat roles in the Australian military available to women moves Australia closer to both outcomes. It will make our military less effective, and less respected, and it will make women less respected as well.

It is a decision born of a postmodern fantasy, a kind of derangement of nature contrived by ideology against reason, common sense, military professionalism and all human experience. It is almost certainly a sign that the Gillard government has more or less stopped taking defence seriously.

Sheridan is not only attacking the left in writing this. He criticises Liberal leader Tony Abbott as well:

The fact the opposition acceded to this move indicates its political ruthlessness and its increasing hollowness when it comes to values.

Sheridan makes this important point:

If you're going to make the SAS unisex, you're either going to massively reduce physical standards, in order to get a significant number of women in, or you're going to have unisex in principle, but no women in practice. Indeed, that latter outcome, gender neutral in principle but no women present in reality, is the only semi-respectable outcome this foolish policy could produce.

If feminists really want equality in the sense of there being equal numbers of men and women serving in combat leading to equal numbers of men and women in the officer class, then physical standards are going to have to be lowered. (In reality there is bound to be the inequality of affirmative action, in which physical standards will be lowered and in which female soldiers will be promoted ahead of men in order to balance up the numbers in the officer class.)

Sheridan also makes the argument that we wouldn't throw young women into the middle of the most violent of sports, so why would we throw them into something much worse?:

Do we want women to participate in unisex, professional boxing matches with men? If not, why not? Professional boxing is much less demanding, and much less violent, than fighting the Taliban. Do we want women to play in this weekend's National Rugby League grand final and to be tackled at full strength by Brent Kite or Manu Vatuvei? If not, why not? The NRL is a stroll in the park compared with combat missions for the SAS.

I'll add to this argument. What would it say about us as a society if we really did put women into the ring to fight against Mike Tyson? Would that show that we as a society had a growing regard for women? Or a growing indifference?

Sheridan goes on to insist that there are real and significant differences between men and women:

Here we come to one of the most bitter arguments postmodern orthodoxy has with human nature: its idea that there is absolutely no spiritual or moral difference between men and women. It's like the scene in Life of Brian where one of the men demands his civic right to give birth to a baby.

This is a kind of war on all tradition and all accumulated wisdom, that while everyone accepts that men and women are equal, we must also now accept the manifest nonsense that they are exactly the same.

One of these sex differences is that men feel that they have a masculine role in physically protecting the women in their lives:

But is there a single decent husband who does not feel this way towards his wife and his daughters? If your family is assaulted will you send your wife out first to meet the assailants?

Finally, Greg Sheridan notes that Australia cannot afford to sacrifice its military for ideological reasons. We're not like Canada which is shielded by the US. We rely on military alliances which then commits us to overseas engagements:

The countries that practise the greatest gender equity, so-called, in military matters are the countries that don't take their militaries seriously because they don't face military threats.

Australia does not enjoy that luxury. This is a really profoundly stupid decision, all headline and no substance, but in so far as it has meaning, bad for our soldiers and bad for us.

I congratulate Greg Sheridan for writing this piece. He has done his best to argue on principle, which has led him to articulate a traditionalist position. It's impressive to see this happen in the mass media.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Australian women to serve in combat for which profound reason?

As expected it has been announced that women will now serve in combat roles in the Australian armed services.

What has really struck me about the change is the way that it has been discussed in the media. Here is a good example from the Melbourne Age newspaper:

OPENING up combat roles to women in the Australian Defence Force should provide the impetus for more women to be promoted to the highest military ranks, according to Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

The comment came after yesterday's historic announcement that all military roles - up to and including those in elite special forces units - will be open to women within five years.

Currently, women make up 18.5 per cent of the Defence Force, but only 4.5 of the senior ranks in all three services. The highest ranked woman in the force is Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib, the commander in charge of logistics.

Mr Smith also said he hoped the changes would lead to women being better represented at senior ranks - including the chiefs of the three services and the chief of the Defence Force.

The thinking of liberal moderns is remarkably atrophied. Here we have a truly significant change in society and the only thing that truly interests our liberal moderns is career advancement and non-discrimination. It's particularly striking in this case because what is at stake is something that concerns life and death - both of individual soldiers and of a nation - which you might think would broaden the outlook of liberals in deciding the matter, but that doesn't seem to register with them at all. The only thing they can see is some brass stars on a uniform that a woman might be denied and that is held to decide the issue no matter what. It is a kind of ideological tunnel vision.

Anyway, I will register my protest at this site, no matter how futile my protest might be. It is ultimately a masculine duty to protect and a woman's to embody gentler virtues. When I see my wife's body, I do not see a warrior design. She is soft with fine, delicate limbs. She is emotionally sensitive. In comparison I am angular and muscular and stern. It seems perverse to me to suggest that my wife should go out to fight a war whilst I stay at home. That is not what is written in our natures, which is why women have not generally been in the front line of combat throughout human history.

No doubt there are exceptions to the rule: tough, nuggety women who really do want to experience combat rather than just eyeing off an officer's position. But it's not reasonable to demoralise the male instinct to protect just to placate such women.

What will happen if there is ever a serious threat to Australia? The message being sent to men is this: there is nothing masculine about fighting to defend your country. You have no particular reason as men to sign up. You are not the protectors of the women and children of your society - the women can defend themselves.

And if men don't sign up and there is conscription? Then how will the liberal state manage to run a double standard and conscript only men to fight? Isn't the liberal state committing itself, in principle, to conscripting young women? But how will that go down? Would fathers really passively allow their daughters to be conscripted to die violently in combat?

If there are answers to such issues they won't come from liberals. Liberals won't even have considered the problems in any serious way. The little prism through which liberals see the world is too narrow for that. All that liberals can see when it comes to this issue is how things affect female careerism. Doesn't matter to them how young women die, or if children are left motherless, or if men are less inclined to serve. That just isn't thought to be what matters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do liberal states in the US really have lower divorce rates?

Moral of this story: distrust the reporting of statistics in the mainstream media.

In August of this year, the US Census Bureau released a report on divorce rates in the different states of America. It was widely reported in the media that people were more likely to divorce in the Bible Belt states than in the liberal northeast.

At the time I accepted the statistics. I believed that people in the northeast were less likely to marry as teenagers and more likely to have higher incomes and higher education and that this explained the difference.

Anyway, some on the left had a field day using statistics about higher divorce rates in the Bible Belt. Here's an example:

...perhaps conservative Christianity and conservative religion in general are unable to provide a sound basis for marriage — that perhaps there are other, more secular foundations for marriage that conservative Christians are missing. What might they be? Well, an obvious possibility is treating women like fully autonomous equals in the relationship, something which conservative Christianity frequently denies.

But then I came across another statistic, namely that 28% of those divorced identified as conservative, 33% as moderate and 37% as liberal. It didn't make sense. If those in the liberal states have the lowest rate of divorce, then why do those who identify as liberal have a much higher rate of divorce?

So I went back to the original source. And to my surprise I found that the divorce statistics had been misrepresented in most of the mainstream media. It turns out that what was being compared was the number of divorces per 1000 people in each state rather than the number of divorces per 1000 married couples:

Rates throughout this report count the marital events reported in the past 12 months per 1,000 men or women in the population 15 and older. (p.2)

That wouldn't be significant if roughly the same number of people got married in each US state. But that's not the case. There is a much lower rate of marriage in the liberal north-east of the US:

...the states with the lowest marriage rates for men in 2009 tended to be in the Northeast. Maine and New Jersey were among the states with low marriage rates with 13.5 and 14.8 marriages per 1,000 men. Maine and New Jersey also had low marriage rates per 1,000 women, with 12.2 and 13.3 marriages, respectively. (p.4)

...Twelve of the thirteen states where men had marriage rates below the U.S. average were located east of the Mississippi River. (p.5)

In comparison, a state like Wyoming had a marriage rate of 28.7 - that's more than double the rate in Maine.

So you might expect states with a higher rate of marriage to also have a higher rate of divorce. And that's how a representative of the Census Bureau explained the statistics:

Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South," said Diana Elliott, a family demographer at the Census Bureau. "In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces."

That is the key quote. The demographer responsible for the statistics is explaining in the plainest of English why the divorce rate is lower in the north-east. It is because in the liberal north-east people are less likely to be married in the first place.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Falling wages in the US

I reported earlier this month on new data showing that the median wage for men in the US has fallen since 1973.

Laura Wood has a story which helps to explain why. General Motors has decided to reopen a factory in Tennessee, instead of shifting the plant to Mexico. That's good news but it has come at a cost. Many of the workers at the factory will be re-employed on a new contract. They will be on a second-tier pay scale of only $15.00 per hour.

That is unlikely to be a living wage for a male employee. The wage would have to be supplemented by the wife also doing paid work.

I can't say I'm enthused by the idea that workers in the US have to have their wages pushed down to compete with wage levels in Mexico. It's especially problematic if the resulting wages mean that a man isn't able to support a family.

Around the time that Australia became a nation there were debates about whether there should be large scale immigration from low wage countries or whether such immigration should be restricted in favour of a high wage economy. As part of the Australian Settlement it was decided to limit such immigration and to provide industry support so that men could be paid a basic wage, sufficient to support a wife and three children.

It was a policy that was retained for the most part until the 1980s. And it seems to have worked, at least compared to elsewhere:

In the 1977 Eliot Janeway Lectures on Historical Economics at Princeton University, the Nobel Prize winning economist W Arthur Lewis pointed out that at the turn of the twentieth century the world's two leading prosperous countries at the time, Australia and Argentina, chose different paths to development. Argentina chose the laissez faire approach involving specialisation in agricultural products in line with its comparative and natural advantages; Australia opted for a broadly based economy which would spread the benefits of economic growth.

History shows we made the right choice.

But have we now made the Argentinian choice? The Australian economy seems very dependent now on mineral exports (and selling university places and some agricultural products).

I'm not an economist, so I'm open to other opinions on this subject. But it seems to me that it's unlikely to be in the interests of workers in countries like the USA and Australia to have to compete with workers in low wage economies through open borders and globalised free trade. The end result of that process is likely to be stagnant or even falling wages, as well as a loss of the economy's industrial base.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So why put it last on the list?

Wendy Tuohy
Wendy Tuohy is an Australian journalist, early 40s, something of a lefty, and a mother of three. She recently found out that a friend had finally fallen pregnant:

I have a friend, about my age, who recently told me she's pregnant. She looked so happy on the morning she told me that I guessed - and when she got the words out I was almost shaking with glee. Tears sprang into my eyes for about a dozen reasons.

The emotion closest to the top was pure relief; she has never had a baby and I had assumed she had decided that motherhood was not for her...When she told me the happy news my first thought was,

"Thank God, you are not going to miss out".

Tears, relief, joy:

I feel boundlessly joyous for my friend and, as I said to her, I am already picturing myself holding her precious baby - and smelling that heavenly, sweet, so-addictive baby's head smell.

But amid all the joy and the relief ... I felt another wave of emotion. I didn't tell her, but it was a faint echo of grief. Grief that I will never again have that intoxicating happiness of seeing the blue lines on the pregnancy test, hearing the tiny baby's heartbeat on the monitor, feeling its first few kicks - whining about it kicking me up under the ribs in the last month or so - and bringing home a brand-new angel.

She misses deeply the experience of having a baby, despite the work involved:

I'm through the breast-feeding, sleep deprivation, the nappies, and the potties, the hours and hours of Gymbaroo, the toddler music classes, the get-in-the-water-with-them swimming lessons, the kinder years midnight carpet-vomits and snot festivals that spread to everyone around us, and the transitions into school...

But still I dream of babies. For the couple of years after our third was born - with help as I had turned 35 and become a fertility statistic - I hoped there may really be a fourth.

She was sensible to have begun having children earlier than many other middle-class women, as she was one of those women whose natural fertility ended at about age 35. Even so, she regrets that could not have a fourth child.

Wendy Tuohy finishes by acknowledging that she still has a case of baby lust:

I was reminded only last week, when changing the sheets on my 13 year-old's bed, that I'm still not over baby lust. "Where is your cot?" I found myself thinking, "and where's your stroller gone?"

I'm not a huge nostalgic - I like to live in the now - but that physical sensation of holding the tiny body in my arms is one thing that has stayed with me, and a memory that still stops me in my tracks (with gratitude).

I ride past the three kids' kinder every day on the way to work, and if I'm a bit tired or emotional, I do feel a tiny bit wistful when I hear the chirpy children behind the fence.

Perhaps we're just programmed to still look at babies and melt, right up until the time when nature intends for it to be physically impossible to have another. Though talking to my mother who is 70, it sounds like baby love is more often a lifelong thing. I will gratefully live with that.

It's refreshing in this last quote to read someone from the left expressing gratitude for the way her life has been blessed with children. It is strikingly unnihilistic.

But her column raises an important issue. If having children is so important for women, then why is it put so low down on the list of priorities? Why is it that the most important thing is left perilously till last?

Who is worse off on Australian campuses?

It's been known for some time that women are doing much better than men in higher education. But I was surprised to learn by how much. This is how things stand in Australia:

International education consultant Alan Olsen said about 603,000 domestic female students had obtained higher education qualifications between 2000 and 2009, almost 50 per cent more than the 404,000 completions by their male counterparts.

50% higher! How did it get to this? One reason is that government policy back in the 1990s continued to list women as a disadvantaged group in higher education, even though women were already a majority of enrolments. One researcher, Ian Dobson, noted that in 1995 a government equity paper decided to keep listing women as a disadvantaged group, despite higher female enrolments, because men were still the majority in engineering. Dobson was sceptical that women could be thought of as being victims of gender privilege when they were numerically superior on campus. But proponents of the idea of continuing female disadvantage won the day:

Proponents of this view react adversely to the use of analytical material which demonstrates female numerical superiority in higher education. Tanya Castleman, for instance insists that the complex and entrenched dynamics of gender and culture privilege' are working against women in their participation in higher education. Such advocates fail to explain how women could have advanced so rapidly to overtake male student numbers in total at a time of great competition for university places.

Tanya Castleman was so "oppressed" by the "complex and entrenched dynamics of gender privilege" that she is now Head of the Deakin Graduate School of Business.

Let's be clear: at a time when women were poised to slaughter men in the field of higher education, feminists like Tanya Castleman were continuing to insist that it was men who were privileged. And it was her view which the liberal state chose to follow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who is most privileged in the US? (No, it's not whites)

The U.S. Census Bureau has released income statistics for 2010. There's a lot of interesting information contained in the report.

a) Which group is the best off?

We're used to white Americans being portrayed as the privileged group, which then leads to calls from the left for "whiteness" to be deconstructed.

But the Census Bureau report confirms information that I've presented previously, namely that Asian Americans are significantly better off in terms of income than are white Americans. So all the talk about "white privilege" is false when it comes to income.

The information is contained in Table A-2 on pages 36 and 38. In 2010 the median income for whites alone (not Hispanic) was $54,620 and the mean income was $73,439. For Asians alone (not Pacific Islander) the equivalent figures are $64,308 and $84,828.

In other words, the median income of Asian Americans is 18% higher than that of white Americans.

b) Money spent to help black Americans hasn't worked

On page 9 of the report we learn that the ratio of income of black Americans compared to white Americans has hardly changed since the early 1970s:

Between 1972 and 2010, the change in the Black-to-non-Hispanic-White income ratio was not statistically significant.

That doesn't surprise me given the poor state of the black family in America. If you look at a report called "The State of Our Unions 2010" you find (p.56) that the illegitimacy rate in black families (births to never married mothers) soared between 1982 and 2008, so much so that the illegitimacy rate amongst black women without a high school degree has reached 96%.

If black women choose not to marry, and so do not engage black men in a provider role within a family, then it seems highly unlikely that income levels will rise relative to other groups.

c) Women who marry are less likely to live in poverty

Men do still play a significant role in keeping families protected from poverty. In married couple families the poverty rate was 6.2% in 2010. In single mother families the poverty rate was 31.6%. So a single mother family is over 500% more likely to experience poverty than a married couple family. (p.18).

Perhaps there are liberals who will respond to this information by concluding that single mother families need more wealth transfers to reduce the gap. But the more obvious conclusion to draw is that married couple families should be encouraged as promoting a better standard of living for families.

d) Median male earnings have fallen since 1973

In the US, real median male earnings have fallen by $1500 since 1973 (see Figure 2, p.12). Men without tertiary level education have been hardest hit.

Men have also been hit harder than women by the depressed economy in the US. Since 2007, the number of men working full-time fell by 6.6 million, compared to 2.8 million for women. (p.5)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cameron fails his own test

What can we make of British PM David Cameron? First thing to note, of course, is that Cameron identifies as a liberal. He spoke last year of the need for,

a much more active muscular liberalism

He has also urged that the UK participate in the EU as,

a champion of liberal values

So he's not pretending to be a conservative. What he has recognised, though, is that Britain is in many respects a "broken" society. And he has laid the main blame for this on the growth of fatherless families in the UK. After the recent riots he said that he had,

a clear idea about why some of these young people were behaving so terribly.

Either there was no one at home, they didn’t much care or they’d lost control.

Families matter.

I don’t doubt that many of the rioters out last week have no father at home.

Perhaps they come from one of the neighbourhoods where it’s standard for children to have a mum and not a dad…

…where it’s normal for young men to grow up without a male role model, looking to the streets for their father figures, filled up with rage and anger.

So if we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we’ve got to start.

I’ve been saying this for years, since before I was Prime Minister, since before I was leader of the Conservative Party.

So: from here on I want a family test applied to all domestic policy.

If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keeps people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.

How seriously should we take a pledge like this coming from the liberal David Cameron? I would suggest the chances of Cameron abiding consistently by his pledge to be very low.

Consider this. It has been reported that Cameron has personally intervened to ensure that gay marriage will become legal in Britain by 2015. What this means is that Cameron is endorsing the idea of lesbians marrying, in other words, a vision of family life in which there is no father.

The message this sends is straightforward: marriage is not a lifelong union of a man and woman after all. It is just people getting together to form a household, whether a biological father is there or not.

Cameron is failing his own test. He pledged that if a measure undermined commitment he wouldn't do it. And yet here he is personally intervening to get a measure passed that sends a message to men that their role within a family is dispensable and that a fatherless form of family life is endorsed by the state.

Cameron is engaging in doublethink. At the very same time that he was declaring a drive to "bring fathers back into the lives of all our children" he was manoeuvring behind the scenes to redefine the nature of marriage to include fatherlessness.

Mr Cameron, do some children not deserve a father?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Identity, belonging, happiness

Researchers in the US have tied the racial identity of African Americans to higher levels of happiness:

the researchers surveyed black adults in Michigan. The results suggest the more the participants identified with being black -- or the more being black was an important part of who they are -- the more happy they were with life as a whole, Yap said.

The study also explored the reasons behind the connection. Yap said it may be fueled by a sense of belongingness -- that is, blacks with a strong sense of racial identity may feel more connected to their racial group, which in turn makes them happy.

That's a credible finding. The more atomised society becomes, the more likely we are to feel a sense of alienation. Those who are able to identify positively with their race/ethnic tradition are likely to be less vulnerable to such alienation.

(via VFR)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Susie wants to fight back for the non-nuclear family

Herald Sun columnist Susie O'Brien is at it again. She has written another piece claiming that we have to let go of the ideal of the nuclear family. A sample:

Let's end this obsession that traditional mum-and-dad parenting is best for children. Single parents and same-sex couples also raise happy, contented kids.

It's time to fight back for the non-nuclear family.

She argues that although the nuclear family is a good way to raise children, so too are homosexual and single parent families. She thinks it is hurtfully judgemental to think of the nuclear family as a better option.

The problem is that what she is really claiming is that fatherless families should be accepted as an equally valid model of family life as those with fathers. And if men and women really came to believe such a thing, family life would rapidly deteriorate.

What's one of the most significant things that hold family life together? A marriage is much more likely to last if the wife believes that the presence of the husband is critical for the well-being of the family. Typically these days that's a belief more likely to be found amongst middle-class and upper middle-class women. Such women are a bit more ambitious for themselves and their children and so they make more of an effort to keep dad involved in family life.

This is the bottom line: if you want stable, prosperous, secure suburbs then you need to keep dad involved in family life. And you keep dad involved by recognising that fathers are critical to the well-being of families. Which then means you cannot advocate the idea that same sex or single parent families are to be thought of as equally valid models of family life.

(Yes, you can recognise the sacrifices made by many single parents and you can recognise that there are children from single parent families who will do well. But what is to be avoided is the idea that we cannot discriminate between a fatherless model of family life and a traditional one. If it were really believed that fatherlessness didn't matter, then the instability that you can already see at the bottom of the social scale would quickly spread more widely through society.)

And the response to Susie O'Brien's column? Overwhelmingly opposed. The readers who commented weren't persuaded to abandon the traditional family as an ideal.

How others live

There was a gangland war in Melbourne from 1998 to 2010 which ended when there were hardly any crims left standing. Of the 36 deaths, 10 are believed to have been ordered by Carl Williams.

Williams's widow Roberta has been giving evidence about the murder of her husband. Here is what she had to say:

Roberta Williams told the Supreme Court that though he [her husband Carl] had admitted several murders, and had once shot at her while she was pregnant, her former husband was a placid man.

...She also said that while she had never seen Williams with a pistol, he shot at her at Christmas in 2000 because she found him at a girlfriend's house.

Roberta then married him.

I'm not writing this to make a political point. I'm just astonished at how differently some people live.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why the attacks on Gillard?

The headline in the Melbourne Age today was "Labor win if Rudd was leader". It's yet another attempt to push the idea of replacing the current PM, Julia Gillard, with the former one, Kevin Rudd.

Why is the liberal media keen on Rudd? I'm not privy to the editorial decision making at The Age, but there seem to be two complaints levied against Gillard: first, that she is insisting on a tougher, offshore processing of asylum seekers and, second, that she is not 'flexible' enough in meeting the needs of big business.

In other words, at places like The Age she is being attacked for not being enough of a radical liberal on the policies that currently matter to left and right liberals. There are those in the liberal establishment who yearn, instead, for Kevin Rudd, a politician who was dumped as PM by his own party for being so electorally unpopular and who is recovering from heart surgery.

I'm not a fan of Gillard, but I do consider Rudd to be a worse option. Rudd was the politician who set immigration at record levels and who pushed for the creation of a EU style federation of Australia/Pacific nations.

What a start to life

The child welfare system at work in Australia:

A SIX-year-old boy placed in the care of a lesbian foster couple was dressed in girl's clothes and the humiliating pictures were posted on the couple's Facebook page.

One of the women was preparing for a sex change to become a man at the time, while her girlfriend was undergoing fertility treatment.

The boy and his 12-year-old sister have since been moved but former Children's Court magistrate Barbara Holborow yesterday called for a full inquiry into the decision to put them there. "Oh my God, what are we doing?" Ms Holborow, who has fostered eight children, said.

Families Minister Pru Goward has demanded a full explanation from child welfare service Barnardos, which had recruited the couple.

"I am seeking advice from Barnardos to confirm that care arrangements were appropriate and the wellbeing of the children was paramount," Ms Goward said yesterday.

The children's story, described as one of the saddest in the state, has been revealed in a Supreme Court judgment posted last month in Children's Law news compiled by the NSW Children's Court.

Their mother had tried but failed in the Supreme Court to win back custody of her son, given the pseudonym Campbell by the court.

His current foster parents want to adopt him.

Campbell was taken into care in November 2006 at the age of 18 months along with his four stepbrothers and two stepsisters after complaints of physical and mental abuse at the hands of the parents.

Campbell and his sister Abby, then 12, were placed with the lesbian couple in early 2009. The placement did not work out for Abby and after she was moved, Campbell was dressed in girl's clothes and his photograph placed on the couple's Facebook page.

The boy has his family broken up by parental abuse, traumatic enough in itself, and is then placed in a foster family with two lesbian women, one of whom is transsexual.

You would need to be strong to get through that start to life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Big names speak out

Something I've noticed lately is the trend for big name celebrities from the 1970s and 80s to come out against aspects of liberal modernity.

John Cleese is one. The famous comedian has complained that open borders have turned London into a city that is "no longer English' and that:

I mean, I love having different cultures around. But when the parent culture kind of dissipates, you're left thinking, "Well, what's going on?

In response, the former mayor of London, "Red Ken" Livingstone, defended the demographic transformation by arguing that,

To stay competitive, London must be what New York is to the U.S., a global centre of business, culture and innovation, none of which can be achieved without people of all nations working and living here.

Ken Livingstone is supposedly a socialist - but here he is defending open borders on the ground that it will benefit big business interests.

It's the kind of thing that rock musician Roger Daltrey can't stand about left-wing politicians:

Roger Daltrey

A lifelong Labour voter, he’s disgusted by the last Government. ‘I was appalled at what Labour did to the working class — mass immigration, where people were allowed to come here and undercut our working class,’ says Roger.

‘It’s fine to say everybody can come into your country, but everybody should work towards a standard of living expected by people who live here. Not come here, live 20 to a room, pay no tax, send money home and undercut every builder in London. They slaughtered the working class in this country. I hate them for it because it is always the little man who is hurt badly. It’s terrible. It frustrates me.

‘We have got to stop pandering to people because we won’t be able to afford to keep this going. At the very least, it should be a pre-requisite that people have to learn English.

Like John Cleese, Roger Daltrey isn't really making principled criticisms of liberal society here. Unfortunately, he cedes the principle at stake by saying that "it's fine to say that everyone can come into your country" - before then making some good specific criticisms of how that has played out in reality.

Pop star Gary Numan is so disenchanted with the growing thug culture in England that he's considering moving. The final straw was when his wife and children were surrounded and menaced by a local gang:

It was the latest in a string of incidents that have all served to make Numan deeply uneasy about the changes he perceives in British society. A combination of the recent riots and various instances of drunken, aggressive behaviour he has witnessed while touring has led him to contemplate a new life in Santa Monica, California.

'I've always considered myself to be fiercely patriotic,' Numan says. 'I love Britain – its history and the down-to-earth attitude people have. Until recently, I'd never have entertained the thought of leaving

What can we make of such comments? They show that it's not only traditionalists like ourselves who are disconcerted by the changes being made to Western societies. The alienation is being felt even amongst those who were prominent within the culture a generation ago.

The problem, though, is that none of the complaints go far enough. Gary Numan's solution is to relocate to another Western country with its own crime issues. Roger Daltrey is politically articulate, but as mentioned he cedes a lot of ground when arguing against the effects of open borders. And John Cleese has in recent years supported the Liberal Democrats in England and Barack Obama in the US, so he doesn't really seem to have connected the changes in society he dislikes to the political forces pushing those changes onto society.

If you are serious about opposing the alienating trends within modern society, then you have to make a serious effort to recognise the political beliefs which have brought them about - and then learn to effectively counter those beliefs.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Juliet Jeske: Why me?

Juliet Jeske is an American comedienne. She worked most recently with a sketch comedy group Turn Left as part of a "Laughing Liberally" series. This series is described as follows:

"Laughing Liberally: This Ain't No Tea Party" mixes humor, musical numbers, video, and political satire to spread understanding of liberal ideas, advance progressive values and provoke the Tea Party ..."Laughing Liberally" proves liberals do indeed do it better.

"Laughing Liberally" is a political comedy project that entertains you while promoting progressive ideas. Comedy is something the Left does better than the Right - so let's use it!

OK, like many comedians she's a left-liberal. The problem is that liberalism has left her life in a very serious mess. Two years ago her husband left her. She became depressed, went on medication and has just recently tried dating again. But she can't cope with the new hook up dating culture. She has written a column for the Huffington Post describing the pressure to hook up when dating men (it's worth reading here).

She writes that she wants something more traditional. What she wants is the love and security of marriage and the chance to be a mother. She feels that she has been robbed of this by her divorce:

I was cheated of the chance of having children and being a mother. I know I might still have time left, but dating at age 38 is difficult as half of the eligible men already have children and don’t want more. And in my current state I couldn’t afford to raise a child on my own, as I can barely take care of myself. There are times on the subway or in the park that even the sight of a young mother with her child will send me spiraling. Suddenly tears come from nowhere and I can’t make them stop. Why is she so lucky to have the one thing that I will never get to experience? I am constantly told that I shouldn’t give up hope but I haven’t been able to sustain a relationship for any length of time and every other man who I find compatible is already a father and doesn’t want more children. I had to end therapy because literally every single session was the same conflict, the same fear, the same resentment over probably losing the chance to be a parent. When my therapist suggested I go back on medication, and then tried to get me to justify what I consider a fairly innate human desire to procreate I couldn’t take it anymore and ceased the sessions.

What's interesting, though, is that Juliet Jeske hasn't really reconsidered her politics. She writes:

My politics are liberal, but my personal life is extremely conservative ...Which is sort of why the divorce has been so difficult. My marriage gave me support, stability, a companion that I loved very deeply and most importantly a sense of calm.

I don't think she's correct to describe her personal life as extremely conservative. Still, her politics don't match up with the values that are important to her own life. She is betraying what is most important to her (marriage and motherhood) with the politics she chooses to follow.

It's a disconnect that is shared by so many in the West. There are so many Westerners earnestly preaching a liberal politics they picked up at high school and uni despite the fact that it will undermine what they hold to be good in their own lives.

I've watched a few videos of Juliet Jeske doing stand up comedy. She adopts the mocking tone of the radical leftist and she poses as a sexual radical. She wants to shock and to tear down and to dissolve standards and yet at the same time she wants the very traditional goods of a stable marriage, a hard working husband who will provide material security and motherhood. And when both don't come together she asks "Why me?"

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The state of delusion

In Australia the different states put slogans on car number plates. Often the slogans say something distinctive about the state, e.g. "Queensland - the sunshine state" or "South Australia - the festival state" or "Victoria - the garden state".

A minister in the Baillieu Liberal Government here in Victoria, Nick Kotsiras, wants a new number plate slogan for Victoria. His suggestion? "Victoria - The Multicultural Capital".

Is multiculturalism really something distinctive to Victoria? Nick Kotsiras believes it to be so:

"That's who we are, I don't think we should step back," he told the Herald Sun.

"If we are supportive of it, then we should yell it out nice and loud to the rest of the world that we are the multicultural capital.

"We are different to other states and more importantly we are different to other countries," he said.

That sounds delusional. Multiculturalism has been adopted just about everywhere throughout the Western world. If Mr Kotsiras got out and travelled to New York or Sydney or London he'd find that multiculturalism existed in those places too.

So why would Mr Kotsiras assert something so dubious? I think it's because there are moderns who want things both ways. They want to support multiculturalism but they also want a meaningful communal identity. They "solve" the problem with the pretence that their own society is somehow uniquely multicultural. The emotional or psychological need of wanting it to be so overrides common sense.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Moxie girls

Dalrock has a post about a brand of dolls called Moxie girls that are marketed with slogans like these:

Playful, silly, and creative, Lexa thinks life is meant to be fun, which means being yourself no matter what!

Every girl has the strength to do something amazing. Anything is possible as long as you stay true to yourself & never give up on your dreams.

I'm going to read some political philosophy into these affirmations. The assumption behind the slogans is that we each have a true self which is fulfilled through some definite end. We do, it seems, have a telos after all.

I have a theory about this, one which I have to admit is untested and highly speculative. If you go back far enough, to the time of philosophical realism, it was thought that there were essences to forms of life. Each form of life would imperfectly fulfil its given essence. That was its telos - its proper end.

Liberals hate - utterly hate - this kind of philosophical realism. They see it as limiting individual autonomy by defining individuals in terms of the unchosen categories they belong to.

And so liberals want individuals to be self-defined through the choices they make. But there's a major problem. If I can choose to define myself equally in any direction, then what I choose will seem subjective and arbitrary and therefore meaningless. What is the benefit of such free choice, if it makes no difference what I choose? It's all very disenchanting.

How can liberals get around this problem? Well, they can claim that one choice is better than another if it makes us happy. Or if it is in line with our self-interest (which injects a certain rationality into our decisions). Or if it is pleasurable (hedonism). Or if it helps perpetuate our genes (again, this gives the appearance of rationality).

But none of this is all that persuasive. It all seems superficial, particularly compared to the more traditional belief that there is a proper end to our being, a realisation of self that fulfils who we are.

So my theory is this. A certain strand in modern thought contains a hidden, modified form of philosophical realism. Yes, the idea that forms of life have an essence has been rejected. But what remains is the idea that individuals (rather than forms of life) have their own unique essence. Essences have been individualised.

So there does exist an "essential self" for our Moxie girls to be true to - one which brings them to some proper end to their lives: their "dream" which is conceived of as a career achievement in a high status creative field such as being a film director, a fashion designer or a song writer.

One problem with this solution to merely arbitrary and subjective choice is that the annointed end has to be both mundane but not mundane. Your proper end cannot be sorting the mail, it has to be something that is notably self-expressive - it has to be "amazing". But that is unavailable to 99% of people.

If you think that I'm reading too much into some feminist inspired dolls, well - you might be right. But even in serious works of liberal philosophy there is a vague assumption at work that self-directed choice has as its ultimate end the realisation of self in a certain kind of career - such as being a violinist, or an aid doctor in Africa.

Anyway, the philosophical problem remains. You cannot impress upon people that they must be authentically themselves, if at the same time you also hold that the self is something that we define or create by ourselves. How can there be an authentic self, if my self is something that I can define however I want?