Sunday, September 30, 2012

Welcome to Sydney Traditionalists

Some good news. A group of traditionalist-minded individuals in Sydney have formed the Sydney Traditionalist Forum.

The group has already organised or attended several events, including the screening of a documentary and lectures by Mark Steyn and Dr Edward Feser.

The group has its own website called SydneyTrads (it seems to load better in Google Chrome than in Internet Explorer), with information on past events, some political commentary and recommended books and periodicals.

I haven't been involved in the formation of the group but it is does appear to be a worthwhile attempt to create a more genuinely traditionalist political space in Sydney. I'd encourage any Sydney readers to consider getting in touch or attending an event.

I congratulate those who have taken the initiative to establish the group. The discussions we have on the internet are important, but a real world presence takes things to the next level.

Three attacks in Five Points

We are encouraged by our schools and by the media to believe that it is whites who are violent toward blacks. That leads some white people to have a complacent view toward life in a multiculture. How can there be any danger for white people, when it is whites who are the violent ones?

But the reality is different. I'm going to post a video, but I should warn you that it is sickeningly violent. It shows an attack on two white men by a group of 8 to 10 black men in Columbia, South Carolina.

One of the white men is punched and when his friend, Josh Bosworth, goes in to help he is king hit (sucker punched) from behind. The group of black men are clearly excited by what they have done. It is left to a white woman to tend to the unconscious and bloodied Josh Bosworth.

Later on the same night in the same area a group of black men bumped into a white man and when he remonstrated he too was attacked and left with a broken arm.

In yet another incident an 18-year-old white man, Carter Strange, was left in a critical condition after being beaten by a group of 8 young black men. He was jogging through the same area (Five Points) of Columbia.

Here is the video:

My point in posting the video is not to malign all blacks as a group. It's to show the reality of what life is likely to be like when young white men are left as a minority. There is not going to be justice in this situation. It won't matter how courageous you are, or how good a fighter you are, or the rightness of why you are fighting, you will be overwhelmed. The only possible outcome is your humiliation.

The answer is not impotent rage, or revenge fantasies, or hating on blacks or any other group. It is for whites to get real - to no longer think in terms of abstract ideologies in which it is lazily assumed that whites are the invulnerable oppressor group victimising the other.

If we are to be smart we need to give ourselves permission to think about what we need to do as a group to maintain communities in which we remain predominant, so that our sons aren't left in the same hopeless position as Josh Bosworth or Carter Strange.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Deveny on the grand final

It's the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final today. It's a contest which showcases masculine athleticism at the highest level and it's a longstanding part of local culture. And yet this is what feminist Catherine Deveny chose as her grand final day tweet:
Men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men and none openly gay.

At first I thought I shouldn't post on this. Deveny likes to act the part of the provocative leftist and I don't want to rise always to the bait. But then it struck me that her attitude is not all that different from the way that feminists respond, say, to the armed services. If twitter had been popular 10 or 15 years ago, it's not hard to imagine someone like Hilary Clinton having tweeted about the U.S. armed services:
Men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men and none openly gay.

The feminist focus is not on the larger purpose of the institution and it's relation to masculine endeavour and strengths, but on transformation along gender and sexual lines.

Most people see a great mark
Catherine Deveny sees too many men

Why does Andrew Bolt admire Lady Gaga?

I should begin by making clear that there are things I admire about Australian columnist Andrew Bolt. He doesn't follow along timidly with political class opinions, but is willing to go out on a limb on a range of issues. In doing so he has helped to shake up the left-liberal orthodoxy in this country.

But it has to be said that he is nonetheless a liberal in his politics. What matters for him is that we self-determine our own individual identity. Therefore, he believes that it's wrong for people to have predetermined national or ethnic identities.

I've given examples of Bolt arguing for this previously. For instance, Bolt once criticised a group of Aborigines who wanted an historic artefact returned to them on the basis that the Aborigines were forgetting:
The humanist idea that we are all individuals, free to make our own identities as equal members of the human race.

Bolt has also related the story of how he once, as a Dutch migrant to Australia, attempted to identify with his Dutch heritage:
Later I realised how affected that was, and how I was borrowing a group identity rather than asserting my own. Andrew Bolt's.

So I chose to refer to myself as Australian again, as one of the many who join in making this shared land our common home.

Yet even now I fret about how even nationality can divide us.

To be frank, I consider myself first of all an individual, and wish we could all deal with each other like that. No ethnicity. No nationality. No race. Certainly no divide that's a mere accident of birth.

That is a radically liberal, rather than a conservative, position to take. He is only allowed to identify with himself rather than with a communal tradition. It is his own self-determined, individual identity that is allowed to matter, rather than a predetermined one that is treated negatively as "a mere accident of birth".

One of the problems with taking this liberal view, that what matters is that we are autonomously self-determined, is that a whole raft of other positions logically follow on.

Bolt himself this week provided a small example of this. He has expressed his admiration for Lady Gaga on this basis:
Lady Gaga’s music is irrelevant. Her real art is in reinventing her identity, and for that alone I like her.

As a boy I moved from town to country to town, and learned how powerfully liberating it could be to define afresh who you were.

Gaga has demonstrated this possibility to millions.

There’s her personal story – of going from a bullied loner at school to the brash superstar.

And there’s her professional guises – tramp to vamp to sophisticate, costumed from the barely there to the heavily lacquered.

With every change, let the critics complain, Lady Gaga would be who she pleased.

What matters to Bolt is not whether Lady Gaga is virtuous, but that she is adept at being a self-creating individual. Freedom, asserts Bolt, is an ongoing act of self-definition - and doing and being what you please.

Bolt is supposed to be the leader of conservative opinion in Australia. And yet what we've ended up with is the idea that we should admire those who do whatever they please in order to define their own individual self.

There's no sense here that people might be oriented in a stable way to an objective good, or that our deeper sense of identity is tied to things we don't invent but that are given to us (which then means that those who trangressively reinvent themselves over and over might be thought of as disconnected rather than as liberated).

One of Bolt's readers left this comment:
“As a boy I moved from town to country to town, and learned how powerfully liberating it could be to define afresh who you were.”

With all due respect, you’re not a true conservative, AB. I too moved from town to town as a child because of my father’s employment, but I always longed for the stability and rootedness that I saw others had, even more so now, 40 years later. Conservatism is rooted in the stability of place, family, community and religion, and it transcends the Right/Left paradigm, knowing that the modern Right can be as destructive of community as the Left can be. Read Russell Kirk or Wendell Berry. No, you’re not a conservative, you’re more a reactionary modernist. Anthony of Toowoomba

That's well-observed by Anthony of Toowoomba. And yet for all that Bolt still manages to be a voice in opposition to the main current of left-liberal thought in Australia.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What would Deveny advise women to do?

The news here in Australia has been dominated by a murder and abduction case in inner-city Melbourne. A beautiful woman, Jill Meagher, who migrated from Ireland and who married a local man, had been drinking till the early hours of the morning with work colleagues. When she decided to leave, one of the men offered to walk her home but she declined. Walking home alone she was raped and murdered. The alleged perpetrator was arrested, in part, because of evidence from CCTV cameras.

It's a desperately sad thing to read about and I couldn't help but think about the moment she turned down the offer of a male friend to walk her home.

Catherine Deveny, a radical leftist writer, has an interesting connection to this case. She believes that she was attacked by the same man earlier this year, having recognised him on the CCTV footage. She has also pondered the moment that Jill Meagher turned down the offer of being walked home, but from a very different perspective to mine:
Like all of us I am deeply disturbed by the disappearance of Jill Meagher. It's very close to home on many levels. The thing in the report that really resonated is as she left the bar her male work colleague asked if he could walk her home. She said no. Repeatedly.

Which would have been pretty much what I would have said. Actually my response would have been more like, “F... off. Walk me home? Like you could protect me. I walk these streets all the time. Thanks sunshine. I grew up in Reservoir. I can look after myself.”

...You cannot rely on 'a man walking you home'. Nor should you want to. Your city sister. Walk wherever you like.

Not good advice. Catherine Deveny obviously doesn't like the idea that a woman might turn to a male friend for physical protection. She would rather women make a point about their independence by putting their lives at risk. It's not prudent and the idea that Catherine Deveny could defend herself against a criminal thug better than a man could (because she grew up in Reservoir) is delusional.

And Catherine Deveny is not the only feminist commenting on the murder. Megan Clement claimed that such violence was part of the efforts of men as a class to subordinate women:
What’s the most likely cause of death, disability or illness if you’re female, aged 15-44 and living in Victoria? Intimate partner violence.

...And fear itself is powerful. That is why violence against women works so well. Because often it is our fear of what could happen that constrains us. The UN describes gender-based violence as a "social mechanism by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”. We are subordinated because we have experienced violence; even if we haven’t, we are subordinated because we know that we might.

This is FTP - feminist patriarchy theory: the idea that men as a class use violence against women to uphold male privilege and to keep women oppressed.

But the facts don't fit what Megan Clement is claiming. First, it's not true (by a long way) that intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death for young women. That has been shown by a statistician to be a rogue statistic (a false statistic that is circulated to the point that it is believed, without evidence, to be true).

Second, the man accused of murdering Jill Meagher is not your average suburban husband [note: I can't say anything more here until the trial is over.]

The feminist analysis is not only wrong, but it unfairly maligns the average father and husband because of the acts of criminals who break, rather than enforce, traditional social norms.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Julie Bindel - a follow up

In yesterday's post I described the views of an English feminist, Julie Bindel. She takes the radical and generally unpopular view that women should choose to be lesbians. However, as I pointed out, she is at least being logically consistent. If a feminist believes that men, as a class, act to oppress women, then why would women love men? That would be akin to sleeping with the enemy.

Anyway, a reader (Elizabeth Smith) made the following perceptive comment:
Lesbianism is just the logical conclusion of the complete autonomous project for a lot of feminists (particularly the sex-negative types).

In what sense is that true? Well, if you believe that autonomy is the highest good, and therefore the aim is to be self-determining, then you will want to choose your sexuality rather than have your sexuality be an unchosen biological destiny.

And that's the position taken by Julie Bindel. She writes:
To me, political lesbianism continues to make intrinsic sense because it reinforces the idea that sexuality is a choice, and we are not destined to a particular fate because of our chromosomes. I also suspect that it is very difficult to spend your daily life fighting against male violence, only to share a bed with a man come the evening...

I think it's time for feminists to re-open the debate about heterosexuality, and to embrace the idea of political lesbianism...Women are told we must love our oppressors, while, as feminists, we fight to end the power afforded them as a birthright. Come on sisters, you know it makes sense...

Most feminists don't quite take that leap. But they draw near to it. Like Julie Bindel they see the feminine as inferior to the masculine, and yet to be heterosexual they need to be feminine beings attracted to masculine ones. I don't suppose it's always easy being such a heterosexual feminist - you would always feel somewhat conflicted, as you would want to connect with a man on a masculine/feminine basis and yet at the same time you would see the feminine as inferior.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Julie Bindel - too many women are unthinkingly heterosexual

Julie Bindel
Julie Bindel is a 50-year-old English feminist. For better and for worse she's an intellectual type - meaning that she's more principled than most in the pursuit of her politics.

The first thing to note is that she's a lesbian who thinks that other women should also be lesbian. That makes sense if you really believe in FTP - feminist patriarchy theory.

According to this theory, men have arranged society so that they benefit from the oppression of women and men, as a class, enforce this privilege by acts of violence against women. If this were true, then it would make little sense for women to love men, as they would be loving those who violently oppress them.

And so Julie Bindel in one article urged bisexual women to stop sleeping with the enemy (i.e. men):
When I write about making a positive choice to be a lesbian, and that I believe there is no gay (or for that matter bisexual) "gene," I am accused of being an ideological robot and therefore not genuinely sexually attracted to women. That is nonsense.

...For bisexual women living under the tyranny of sexism, choosing to be lesbian is a liberatory act.

Those of us who grew up in a time and context where there was a political analysis of sexuality were able to make a positive choice to be a lesbian. I believed then, and I believe now, that if bisexual women had an ounce of sexual politics, they would stop sleeping with men.

This opinion did not exactly endear her to bisexual women, one of whom accused her of curtailing her autonomy:
Removing the autonomy to choose who one can and cannot f.... is not feminism and it never can be.

And here is Julie Bindel making the same point about not loving the enemy:
The reason why so many of the new-wave feminists bleat on (and on) about including men in feminism is because so many of them are unthinkingly heterosexual. Women are the only oppressed group that is required to love their oppressor, sexually and every other way.

Again, that makes sense if you support views like the following ones, as quoted approvingly by Julie Bindel:
Finn Mackay, a feminist activist and academic has organised the Reclaim the Night march in London for the past six years, believes that men do have a role to play within feminism, but — it is not coming along to meetings and taking part in the decision-making process. “They can stop rape by not raping, and bring the sex industry to its knees by not paying for sex,” says MacKay, without a trace of irony. “Oppression doesn’t just happen to women like bad weather. Men as a group systematically oppress and exploit women, and feminism is the political movement to challenge and change that.”

If that's what you believe, then why not be a radical lesbian separatist feminist? And why not believe that marriage, as a patriarchal institution, should be abolished:
I absolutely agree that fighting for the rights for same-sex marriage is going too far. I would outlaw marriage for everyone, including heterosexuals...

There are two paths here. One path is to accept the claims of feminist patriarchy theory - in which case it makes sense for women to avoid friendly relations with men. The other path is to scrutinise these claims. Is it really true that men as a class have acted to perpetrate violence and oppression on women? Couldn't the very opposite claim be argued for? That men as a class have acted to protect women from violence and to work to improve the circumstances of women?

In Western societies there was traditionally a very strong ethos amongst men that it was dishonourable to commit an act of violence toward women. So if men acted as a class it was to repudiate violence against women rather than to commit it.

Similarly, there was a strong ethos amongst men that they should work hard to support their wives and families. Many tens of millions of men have laboured on behalf of their families when they could have had easier lives living for themselves alone.

There is a much more positive reading of the masculine than the one normally pursued by feminists like Julie Bindel - and it's a reading that permits women to openly embrace their heterosexuality.

Monday, September 24, 2012

English Rose

Not a song I expected from Paul Weller, but hope you enjoy:

No matter where I roam
I will come back to my English rose
For no bonds can ever tempt me from she
I've sailed the seven seas,
Flown the whole blue sky.
But I've returned with haste to where my
Love does lie.
No matter where I go
I will come back to my English Rose
For nothing can ever tempt me from she.
I've searched the secret mists
I've climbed the highest peaks
Caught the wild wind home
To hear her soft voice speak
No matter where I roam
I will return to my English Rose
For no bonds can ever keep me from she.

I've been to ancient worlds
I've scoured the whole universe
And caught the first train home
To be at her side.
No matter where I roam
I will return to my English Rose
For no bonds, nothing and no-one can ever keep me from she

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Big fall in life expectancy for less educated white women

Laura Wood has a really interesting post up about mortality rates in the U.S.

The data shows that life expectancy has fallen sharply for less educated whites in the U.S., particularly for less educated white women:
The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

Over a short period of time (18 years), life expectancy for less educated white women fell by five years, at a time when it was rising for less educated members of other races:

Jesse Powell has also looked at the data and found that life expectancy has fallen for the "prime of life" age bracket of whites of all educational levels, particularly for women. Over a period of just 10 years (1999 to 2009) life expectancy for all white men in the U.S. aged 25 to 54 fell by 3% and for white women it fell by 9%. Again, this compares unfavourably to other races, whose life expectancy rose during the same period.

Even the overall outcomes are not what you might expect. Yes, it's true that whites are still living longer than blacks. But whites are doing worse than Hispanics and a lot worse than Asians.

Here's the data for white women aged 25 to 54 (the lower the score the lower the death rate):

Asian women: 73
Hispanic women: 116
White women: 171
Black women: 276

And remember the rates are improving for all the races except for whites.

How does this reflect on our modern liberal order? Well, liberals would no doubt be happy that the gap between white and black mortality is closing. That fits well with the liberal programme.

But the rest of it doesn't. The gap between rich and poor is growing rather than closing when it comes to life expectancy, in spite of all the wealth transfers arranged by the welfare state. So the liberal programme has failed miserably in that respect.

Nor does feminism seem to have improved the lives of poor white women, or white women in the prime of their lives, as life expectancy has declined rapidly for these groups.

Nor does the data support the idea of whites as a privileged group. Once again it is Asians who do the best when it comes to life expectancy - by a large margin. And Hispanics are also doing considerably better than whites.

Which leaves the question of what has gone wrong for whites? The researchers don't claim to have an answer for the rapid decline of life expectancy amongst less educated white women. And it's difficult to explain this decline when less educated women of other races are improving their life expectancy.

Perhaps part of it is that numbers of women don't cope so well when left to raise families on their own. They would do better with a husband to support them. Sure they can be kept from absolute poverty with the support of the state, but the state isn't there to help them cope with everyday life.

It's possible too that people in this social class rely on a moral culture to help them make good life choices and so have suffered from this moral culture being run down by the Western elites since at least the 1960s. The elites are better at playing a game in which it's thought cool to endorse amoral behaviour whilst still keeping to a traditional morality in your own personal life.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Privilege in education?

You know how whites are supposed to check our privilege? Well I did some checking with the United States Department of Labor and here is the data on who is enrolling at universities in the U.S.:
Of the 3.1 million youth age 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2011, about 2.1 million (68.3 percent) were enrolled in college in October 2011. The college enrollment rate of recent high school graduates was slightly lower than the record high set in October 2009 (70.1 percent). For 2011 graduates, the college enrollment rate was 72.3 percent for young women and 64.6 percent for young men. The college enrollment rate of Asian graduates (86.7 percent) was higher than for recent white (67.7 percent), black (67.5 percent), and Hispanic (66.6 percent) graduates.

So more female than male high school graduates enrol at college (72.3% vs 64.6%) and more Asian high school graduates enrol at college than whites (86.7% vs 67.7%). A white high school graduate is no more likely to enrol at college than a black or hispanic graduate (all roughly around the 67% mark).

So if one measure of privilege is who gets to enrol at college having completed high school, then Asians and females are doing best.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why did the ACLU stamp out a father-daughter dance?

A school in Cranston, Rhode Island, wanted to hold a father-daughter dance. But the ACLU objected and the dance has been scrapped.

The reasons for outlawing a father-daughter dance are interesting, as it shows the liberal principles we are all ruled by at work.

a) Making our sex not matter

Liberals hold that what matters most is individual autonomy - the power to self-determine. Therefore, whatever can't be self-determined becomes an impediment to human freedom. Our sex is predetermined and not self-determined and therefore, under the logic of liberalism, must be made not to matter.

The Cranston parents' association had organised a father-daughter dance for the boys and a mother-son visit to a baseball game for the boys. The choice of these events assumed that our sex does matter - that girls will generally be more interested in a dance, and boys in a baseball game. The ACLU felt that the school was therefore acting against liberal principles; what the ACLU wants the school to do is to actively overturn such ideas about gender.

Here is what the ACLU had to say on the issue:
The controversy that has suddenly arisen in a political campaign over father-daughter dances in Cranston is old news – the matter was amicably resolved with school officials over four months ago. And it was resolved for a simple reason: the school district recognized that in the 21st Century, public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games. This type of gender stereotyping only perpetuates outdated notions of 'girl' and 'boy' activities and is contrary to federal law.

"PTOs remain free to hold family dances and other events, but the time has long since passed for public school resources to encourage stereotyping from the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Not every girl today is interested in growing up to be Cinderella – not even in Cranston. In fact, one of them might make a great major league baseball player someday."
And in another letter the ACLU states:
In sum, we hope that the school district will work to discourage, not promote, the sort of typecasting activities inherent in the baseball and dance events for school students.

Note that this is not just an isolated case of political correctness - the ACLU believes it has federal law on its side.

If there is an established ideology in the U.S. it is liberalism.

b) Diversity

The ACLU brought the complaint against the father-daughter dance on behalf of just one single mother. The single mother claimed that her daughter had no male figure in her life who she might be able to attend with and therefore she was excluded from the dance.

From the ACLU letter:
The variety and diversity of family structures in this day and age counsel against gender-limited events like this...reversion to a more stereotypical format results in the unintentional isolation of some children, preventing some single parents, and those in other non-traditional families, from being able to attend events with their children.

As it happens, the child could have gone to the dance - the school was even willing to allow the mother to attend with the daughter. But that didn't satisfy the ACLU, presumably because a father-daughter dance implies that the traditional family (one with a father) is a norm or standard. The ACLU wants a "family neutral" structure - one in which no particular type of family is given a higher standing.

Again, that's to be expected from a liberal organisation. If you put individual autonomy as your highest good, then you'll want a "variety and diversity of family structures" to make it seem as if you can self-determine how you arrange your family relationships. And no one choice is to be preferred, as that would then raise impediments to an individual's autonomy.

So the traditional family can't be preferred, as it's singular rather than diverse and fixed rather than fluid, and as giving it a higher standing would make some choices less valid than others, which to the liberal mind is discriminatory.

But the liberal position runs into considerable difficulties. One of these is that a liberal is likely to believe that each family type is as good as the other and that all that matters is that members of these family types love each other. But if true this would mean that there is no significant difference between a family with a father in it and one without a father.

It's a momentous moment in the life of a civilisation. If this idea takes hold, that fathers don't add anything to a family that couldn't be supplied by a mother alone - if people really come to believe this - then men are likely to drift away from paternal responsibilities. Why make big sacrifices if there is no benefit in doing so?

A community has to make a decision on this. The Cranston community wanted to reaffirm the importance of the father-daughter relationship by organising the dance and not surprisingly drew fire from a liberal organisation like the ACLU for doing so.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Surprises in same sex marriage debate

There has been more debate in the Australian Parliament on the issue of same sex marriage. One Labor Senator spoke emotionally about marriage from a personal perspective:
A Labor senator who has a transgender partner says it's not right that the laws of Australia discriminate against same-sex marriage.

An emotional Senator Pratt told the upper house on Monday the law as it stood discriminated against her relationship and those of many others.

'I am one of those hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens who knows that the laws of our nation hold our capacity for love and for commitment to be lesser because of the gender of our partner,' she said.

...'This debate has a personal impact for me.'
Senator Louise Pratt

That makes it sound as if Senator Pratt and her trans man partner, Aram Hosie, are itching to get married as an expression of their love but are being held back by the law.

In fact it appears as if Senator Pratt's partner is openly hostile to marriage, seeing it as an oppressive patriarchal institution that ought to be abolished.

Aram Hosie was born female but now identifies as a "trans man" - a transgender male. In a debate on same sex marriage in 2010, Hosie put the case against same sex marriage in these terms:
I am against gay marriage, I don't want it. I don't want straight marriage either, I don't want marriage full stop. I don't see why we should be hanging onto this antiquated relic that still reeks of misogyny and bigotry. Why would we want to buy into an institution that was established so that men could legally own is an ownership ceremony and I'd really like you to be honest about why you want it...

Marriage is about recognising some relationships as legitimate and others as less so. On one side of that debate is the nuclear family...and on the other side is everyone doing everything else. Marriage is like this massive apparatus set up to coerce and cajole and fool us all into thinking that the nuclear family is the natural and preferred state of being. So I'm concerned that the only thing gay marriage would do is to create a bunch of queers who are a little more acceptable than all the other queers ... where does that leave all the other queers that aren't married, where does that leave the single queers, where does that leave queers that are engaged in sex work or are in poly relationships?...the sexual conduct of two consenting adults shouldn't be the basis of discrimination.

The last part of the argument is the most interesting. It shows that marriage will never be left alone by radical liberals. Marriage is inherently discriminatory in that it recognises one sort of relationship rather than others. Therefore, it is thought to fail the test in which there are to be no impediments to how we self-determine our relationships - as Hosie puts it the conduct "of two consenting adults shouldn't be the basis of discrimination" - even if it means putting on a par the choice to do sex work, to live in a poly relationship, to be single, or to live as a couple.

And in one sense Hosie is right. If all relationship types are of equal worth, then why would you have marriage? If it really doesn't matter what sexual arrangements I come up with, then it seems arbitrary to recognise one type of relationship as being deserving of marriage.

So marriage does discriminate. And the only way to justify that discrimination is if marriage really is, as Hosie puts it, a preferred state of being. Otherwise it really is just arbitrary, or perhaps just a power ploy by some people over others, an "ownership ceremony" as Hosie derisively labels it.

Which brings me back to the senate debate. Some of those who spoke against same sex marriage did so on the right grounds. For instance, George Brandis replied to the leader of the Greens in this way:
Opposition attorney-general spokesman George Brandis said the opposition would not support the bill.

He said the progressive left had since the 1960s mocked and derided marriage as a patriarchal institution.

'All of a sudden, within the last few years, this institution so derided by you has been rediscovered by you as the test of whether or not one cares about the issue of sexuality discrimination,' he said.

'Senator Hanson-Young, with all due respect, I have very, very, very great difficulty accepting your sincerity.'

He has a point, doesn't he? Senator Louise Pratt was willing to make an emotional plea for same sex marriage as a personal issue even though her trans man husband is vehemently opposed to the very existence of marriage. The issue of sincerity is a real one.

And another senator had this to say:
Chris Back said the [same sex] legislation was 'very adult-centric' when it came to the rights and needs of children.

'There is overwhelming research ... that a child's best interests are served when born into and brought up in a home which is provided by a husband and his wife in a long-term and loving relationship,' he told parliament.

'That is what we should aspire to.'

Unless you are willing to argue something along those lines then you won't be able to justify the existence of marriage as a necessarily discriminatory institution. In other words, it makes no sense to argue "we should retain marriage as a significant institution, but all relationship types are of equal worth". You have to be willing to argue that the marital relationship has some higher value, either in terms of what it represents, or in what it achieves.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jensen falls for false solidarity

There was a very interesting political debate on Australian TV this week. It featured Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen and the boorish leftist Catherine Deveny.

The first issue discussed was asylum seekers. I was disappointed by the unthinkingly complacent view taken by Archbishop Jensen. This could have come from a liberal:
One of the great things about Australia is our welcome and the welcome we give to people from all religions, all places in the world and we have become a little bit visceral in regard to the Muslim people coming here. I think we need to back off a bit, welcome them, make them feel at home and you will find they will take their part as all the rest of us who have arrived here take our part too. On Sunday I was with a Vietnamese who’d arrived here in a boat. He is now he's a pastor in a church, he's got a Vietnamese church, the Vietnamese community have brought us wonderful things. I said to him "What have you brought us, mate?" He said, "Good food." So I reckon welcome people, don't judge them.

There are three key errors here. First, Jensen is feeding the liberal belief in negative rather than positive values. That's not a wise move for a churchman. A liberal morality is built negatively around non-interference; you're supposed to be tolerant of difference, supportive of diversity, non-judgemental, non-discriminating etc. (That kind of morality doesn't necessarily make liberals nice people - Deveny justifies her aggressive rudeness in the debate by claiming she is "intolerant of intolerance".)

And so Jensen is proving himself a good person in the liberal sense when he takes the merely negative view that we simply don't judge or discriminate when it comes to borders. But by falling in line with "it is negative values which makes someone a good person" Jensen becomes blind to more traditional positive values, such as the value of people having a homeland in which they can maintain a larger ethnic tradition of their own, and develop their own culture, and fulfil the human desire to pass on their own tradition from one generation to the next and so on.

The second error is that in stating "welcome people, don't judge them" Jensen is encouraging the liberal idea that race or ethnicity, as predetermined, unchosen qualities ("accidents of birth") shouldn't matter. There is no way that a churchman should sign on to such a political position, as the logic of this position leads away from the Christian tradition. For instance, if ethnicity should be made not to matter because it is a predetermined, unchosen quality, then so too should our sex - the fact of being a man or a woman. But this then means that Biblical views of the family have to be jettisoned, something that Jensen is reluctant to accept. For instance, later in the debate Jensen defends the traditional family on these grounds:
What we're seeing, I think, is a clash of world views between what I’d call individualism and what you may call family or, in a sense, community. It's a clash of world views which is going on all around us and it has drastic consequences one way or another. If you agree with me that a man is a man and a woman is a woman and although they are we are absolutely equal, equal in the sight of God, both made in the image of God, both with the same destiny, both with the same value, all those things are inherent in the Christian gospel and they must remain in the Christian gospel, agree with that and yet, on the other hand, I would say there are differences between men and women which both sides bring to a marriage and we have not been good recently at working out what it is that men bring to marriage and women bring to marriage.

Jensen can't have it both ways. First, when it comes to refugees then he is the individualist who denies natural forms of human community in favour of the view that "we should all be seen as individuals who can fit in anywhere equally well". Second, when it comes to refugees he is happy to go along with the liberal idea that a predetermined quality like ethnicity shouldn't matter; how then can he expect to hold the line when he argues that a predetermined quality like a person's sex should be thought to matter?

Jensen's third error, and perhaps critical error, is to go along with the liberal understanding of solidarity. Traditionally solidarity was based on loyalty to those you had a close and particular connection to or relationship with, such as your family, your community, your ethny, your nation and so on. Liberals have stood this traditional notion of solidarity on its head, by asserting that solidarity is based on compassion toward the marginalised other.

In practice this means that white liberal women like Catherine Deveny will identify against their own men and in favour of those seen as most "other" - perhaps black men or Muslim men.

Jensen does nothing to assert the traditional view in response to women like Deveny. He only fans the flames when he says things like the following:
When you talk to refugees, my business means I catch taxis from time to time, which means I talk to all sorts of taxi drivers, many of whom have university degrees and are highly skilled people who are going to make this - build this nation for us. But they do come from different places. I have met some from Afghanistan but they do come from different places and we've got to remember that the struggles that have brought them here are true in many places in the world. Our program has got to be such that we'll bring people here, preferably the people who are suffering most

He believes that it is the suffering other who is going to "make this - build this nation for us". He has an elevated view of them and a correspondingly diminished view of us, who are presumably incompetent to do the job.

It's terribly unwise for someone in his position to go anywhere near the liberal attitude to solidarity. He is, after all, an older white male in a position of responsibility. Therefore, he is going to be one of the ones who is identified against -  it is a case of solidarity against white males just like him. And if he is tainted then so inevitably is his church.

Deveny reminded him of this during the debate. When Archbishop Jensen tried to defend the church by arguing that the church sees everyone as having equality, she interrupted him to deny that everyone has it:
I'm sorry, a white middle class man like you does have it. Try being disabled, try being an asylum seeker, try being gay, try being a woman, you’ll find it's not there.

He is being put in his place as "a white middle class man" - there is no solidarity with the likes of him.

And what of Jensen's complacent attitude that it is Muslim refugees who are going to build Australia and that we should just welcome anyone and not judge? The timing of his comments was not exactly great, was it? In recent times we've seen Muslims in Norway demand that part of the city of Oslo become a Muslim quarter; Muslims in Libya brutally murder the American ambassador; Muslims in Sydney hospitalise two police officers in demonstrations against a film made in the US by a Copt; and demonstrations and riots in many countries around the world against the same film.

We have embraced the wrong sort of solidarity, one in which natural ties of loyalty have been discarded.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The stagnant male wage

There's a brief post at The Atlantic which provides graphs on the stagnant male wage in the U.S. The key graph is this one:

You can see that median annual earnings for men have fallen since a peak was reached in about 1970.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hegel & the big state

The Democrats in America ran a video at their convention claiming that government is the only thing we all belong to.

That reminded me of an earlier philosophy in which the state was the supreme focus, namely that of the German philosopher Hegel.

According to Stephen Hicks, Hegel believed that God worked through His purposes through the state. Therefore "the State is the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth." So freedom for man was achieving unity with ultimate reality by furthering the purposes of the state.

Hence the following four quotes from Hegel:
It must further be understood that all the worth which the human being possesses—all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State.

...this final end [of the state] has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the state.

One must worship the state as a terrestrial divinity.

But though we might tolerate the idea that individuals, their desires and the gratification of them, are thus sacrificed, and their happiness given up to the empire of chance, to which it belongs; and that as a general rule, individuals come under the category of means to an ulterior end.

Hicks also provides some evidence for the influence of this kind of thinking on later generations of Germans:
Otto Braun, age 19, a volunteer who died in WW I, wrote in a letter to his parents: “My inmost yearning, my purest, though most secret flame, my deepest faith and my highest hope—they are still the same as ever, and they all bear one name: the State. One day to build the state like a temple, rising up pure and strong, resting in its own weight, severe and sublime, but also serene like the gods and with bright halls glistening in the dancing brilliance of the sun—this, at bottom, is the end and goal of my aspirations”.

I don't know how fair a summary of Hegel's thought is provided here by Hicks. But it does seem to explain some things.

If Hegel ran this kind of argument in opposition to the Anglo liberalism of his times, then we can see why Anglo liberals stress some of the things they do.

For instance, my own father believes fervently that there is no such thing as duty. It has always struck me as an odd thing to believe, particularly considering that he is a conscientious man. But if the political tradition he identifies with is aimed against German Hegelianism, and this Hegelianism holds that we have a supreme duty to worship and sacrifice for the state, then perhaps this helped to make the concept of duty suspect.

Similarly, Anglo liberals talk all the time about individuals being ends in themselves. Again, in the Christian and traditionalist views they are also ends in themselves, so I've wondered at times why Anglo liberals focus on this. But if a German Hegelianism held that human freedom was served by a subordination of the individual to the state, and that the purposes of the state justified sacrificing individuals, then you can  understand perhaps why a marker of belief for Anglo liberals was the idea of individuals being ends in themselves.

In other words, it might be possible that Anglo liberals got stuck in a political identity formed in opposition to German Hegelianism. If true, this is another sad reminder of how marginalised traditionalism has been in Western intellectual debates. Of the two sides to choose from, neither appears to be anywhere near to what a traditionalist would argue.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Government is the only thing we all belong to?

Here (via Lawrence Auster) is an important story. At the Democratic National Convention a welcome video was shown in which it was stated:
Government is the only thing that we all belong to. We have different churches, different clubs, but we’re together as a part of our city, or our county, or our state, and our nation.

And it's made clear in the video that when reference is made to city, county, state and nation that what's being referred to is these entities as governments.

How did it come to this? It's once more a predictable consequence of a liberal philosophy. It was once the case that individuals belonged not to a state but to a nation, understood to mean a distinct people connected by some combination of kinship, history, language, religion, culture and mores.

This type of traditional nation was ruled out of bounds by the liberal insistence that predetermined qualities ought not to matter in life; human associations could no longer be based on involuntary qualities such as those related to inherited tradition or biological relatedness.

Most liberals opted instead for a civic nationalism, in which forms of commonality and connectedness were replaced by an emphasis on diversity, with a commitment to the liberal polity being the uniting factor.

And look where that's taken us. A major party in America can open up its convention with the slogan that "Government is the only thing that we all belong to". We all belong to the state. That is supposed to make us freer than the traditional idea that we belonged to a particular people.

There's an excellent discussion of the ramifications of all this at View from the Right.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Where some churches go wrong

Here's a theory about why some churches have adopted a dissolving kind of Christianity, i.e. a kind of Christianity in which everything distinct about the human person dissolves, in which there are no particular identities, no particular loves or attachments, no standards of behaviour apart from an all-encompassing and abstracted love for the other.

The theory goes like this. Christianity is incompatible with liberal modernity in its insistence on substantive, objective goods. In the Christian world view there is a standard by which some acts are inherently morally right and others wrong.

For liberal moderns this aspect of Christianity can be threatening. It can seem to be an act of power over the individual will - a violation of the sovereign individual will. Liberal moderns generally prefer a morality of non-interference. The good is to self-determine our own subjective good and not to interfere with others doing the same. Hence the morality of non-interference: of not discriminating or judging; of showing tolerance and respect; of not being bigoted or prejudiced and so on.

(Yes, it's true that liberals can be highly intolerant in enforcing a morality of tolerance and highly intrusive in enforcing a morality of non-interference but that's an issue for another day.)

So what is a Christian to do? The best option would be to reject the assumptions of liberal modernity and hold to the Christian world view. But it is the liberal world view which dominates the modern world, the world in which Christians make a life for themselves. And perhaps inevitably some Christians have tried to reconcile or form a synthesis between Christianity and liberalism.

How can the two be reconciled? If liberalism demands that no substantive goods be asserted and that we focus on not interfering with or judging the actions of others, then a possible fall back position for Christians is to focus on an abstracted, all embracing love for the other. This can be justified readily by the command to love one another and if love is all then what do moral rights or wrongs or distinct human qualities or relationships count for?

Once a church takes that path then there is nothing to hold back a philosophical merger with political liberalism. Concepts and terms are freely borrowed from a liberal political philosophy, to the point that if you read the documents produced by some modern churches you get the sense that you are dealing with a liberalism with religion added on.

There do exist hindrances, though, to the success of a merged Christianity. It requires that people are willing to give up on the idea of objective moral standards (the new standards are those derived from liberal non-interference, e.g. respect, non-discrimination, anti-sexism etc). But that means that even one kind of moral standard can derail the process. What, for instance, if some members of a church can't give up on the idea that marriage should be between a man and a woman? That upsets the basis for the merger; you then get a church set apart and perhaps a schism somewhere down the line.

Love is all was not even an adequate basis for preserving a hippy movement let alone a church. A serious church will set love within a broader understanding of human life and the human soul. It will help to foster particular loves, affections and loyalties, as well as a larger (albeit more diffuse) concern for a wider humanity.

A church which is concerned for the fate of the individual human soul must also encourage a virtuous life, which then means asserting a positive concept of morality, one which goes beyond non-interference.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Shulamith Firestone: making sex not matter

Shulamith Firestone has died. In 1970 she was at the cutting edge of second wave feminism, with the publication of her book The Dialectic of Sex.

She was a genuinely radical intellectual in the sense that she took the generally accepted principles of her time to their logical conclusion in one big leap.

The principle she took to a radical conclusion was this: that our sex (i.e. the fact of being a man or a woman) should be made not to matter.

There are large numbers of liberals who support some version of this principle. It flows from a belief that the overriding good in life is freedom defined as individual autonomy. If you think that an autonomous, self-determining life is what counts, then you'll see whatever is predetermined as being an impediment to be overcome. Given that sex distinctions are predetermined, it follows logically that liberals will want to make such distinctions not matter.

Where Shulamith Firestone differed from much of the liberal left was this. Left liberals usually argue that sex distinctions are social constructs and therefore can be socially deconstructed. Firestone however accepted that sex distinctions are based on real biological differences. She therefore concluded that nature had to be overcome if sex distinctions were to be abolished.

She wrote:
...the end goal of feminist revolution must be...not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally....reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of either...

Firestone wanted to free women from the tyranny of being biologically female. She saw it as a tyranny because she believed in autonomy as the great good in life; she did not think that a woman could be autonomously independent when she was subject to pregnancy and then the nuture of children. She thought that this inevitably made women dependent on men for support.

And so Firestone took a very hostile view toward pregnancy; toward women looking after dependent children; and toward the act of sex which led to these things. She wanted to bust up the biological family and replace it with artificial procreation.

These views did not create a happy life for Firestone. In the 1980s she suffered from mental illness and she died alone, not being discovered for a week after her death.

Her fault was not to examine the underlying principles she was working with closely enough. She did not see motherhood, or family, or marital love as goods in themselves, goods which were not always to be subordinated to the pursuit of a radical, individualistic autonomy. She operated with a reductionist account of the human good, one which distorted her view of what might be valued in life, and so she failed to see politics as an application of wisdom and experience to the ordering and weighing of a range of possible goods.