Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some good reads

I don't have time to put together a post myself, but I've been collecting a few good reads from around the "tradosphere".

So here goes:

Luke Torrisi has a post up on the value of tradition at Sydney Trads. It focuses on what can be done at home to encourage a sense of belonging to a tradition. I share Luke Torrisi's interest in some of the older literature for children - it is definitely an achievable aim of even a moderately sized movement to republish some of this literature. (The post comes up better on Google Chrome for me than my version of Internet Explorer).

Mark Moncrieff has been writing up a storm at his new blog Upon Hope. It's great to have a second traditionalist site in Melbourne, so I'd encourage readers to keep visiting. Have a browse through, but the style of Mark's writing is evident in posts like this (the stages of liberal reform) and this (what is really meant when liberals use terms like sexist).

Vanessa from Traditional Christianity ponders the issue of what a Christian women aims for in her appearance and dress in this post. Part of her answer is that "feminine beauty is a gift we bestow upon others. It puts a smile on the face of the people around us and it reminds them of the good things in the world."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hostility in the manosphere

In some parts of the manosphere being a traditionalist is considered a bad thing. Why the hostility?

It can be confusing at first glance, as the reasons aren't always stated openly. For instance, a recent post at a site called Pro-Male Anti-Feminist Technology (which I'll call PMAFT) claimed that "Trad-cons let feminists define their reality". But what is meant by this?

A lot of the comments at the site don't help - they are just wayward insults (trad-cons "submit to the feminine collective" or "They don’t seem to have any other values than misandry just like the feminists.")

I made some comments at the site in an attempt to tease out what was really going on and I finally had some success. The site owner stated his opposition to me as follows:
Your arguments against “autonomy” assume that feminists are living autonomously (or honestly trying to). You have let them define your reality as well. To those of us speaking in standard English, it sounds like you have a problem with “autonomy” as it is in actual reality. This doesn’t surprise me since traditionalism is a collectivist ideology.
That I get. He is someone who wants to stick with the liberal emphasis on autonomy. So when feminists use arguments based around female autonomy he has a problem. His way out is to claim that feminists are lying when they claim to be promoting autonomy for women.

But he has observed me doing things differently. My response to feminism is to criticise the overriding emphasis on autonomy, and to the PMAFTers that means that I am allowing feminists to define my reality.

Is the PMAFT approach the way to go? I don't think so. Let me point out just two immediate problems with retaining a modernist emphasis on autonomy. First, note the criticism made of traditionalism, that it is a philosophy that is "collectivist". Well, in an important sense that's correct. After all, the family is a collective. So is an ethny. And a nation. A church too is a collective institution.

If you think the individual is important you have to support the collectives which give the individual his significant social roles; which provide the stable social relationships that individuals are created for; which deepen the identity of individuals; which anchor individuals by providing a sense of belonging, attachment and connectedness; and which link an individual's nature (his essence) to a social function and to a set of higher values.

The PMAFTers apparently believe that you can think in terms of the individual alone, having abolished collective forms of existence. But that diminishes the individual rather than liberating him, and it allows social function to shift away from ordinary men and women and toward an elite class of administrators (i.e. the individual doesn't play such a role in society anymore).

Second, what does autonomy mean when it comes to relationships? The PMAFT site owner takes this approach:
It’s after Valentine’s Day so I have been on the lookout for a new woman. (I dumped my previous girlfriends before Christmas to avoid the Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day holidays.)
It's similar to what college women are "supposed" to do in relationships with men: they are supposed to avoid entanglements by making sure relationships don't get too serious (by limiting themselves to occasional hook-ups, or by dating the wrong sort of men and so on).

That way you do get to preserve your independence, but you do so by degrading a culture of relationships. But if you think what matters most is preserving your own autonomy, that may not be such a concern.

I know some of my readers will react by dismissing the manosphere altogether. I don't think that's the way to go: it's a politically diverse movement and there are aspects of it we can support. Even amongst those who criticise trad-cons there are important distinctions (see here for an interesting comment on this by David Flory).

Friday, April 26, 2013

A moment of time, 1920

It was Anzac Day yesterday, a public holiday in Australia which began as a commemoration of the Australian and New Zealand troops who fought in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

The above photo shows an Australian soldier laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London on Anzac Day in 1920.

I like the photo, perhaps because it offers such a contrast with the image of men in the media today. Perhaps the most common portrayal of men is that of the loveable but harmless doofus - a character that is given to most TV dads.

The men in the photo, in contrast, have a dignity and seriousness of purpose and a masculine bearing.

I don't think you can just blame Hollywood executives for the transformation. I think it has to do, in part, with the larger trends in society.

The larger trend is to reject unchosen qualities like our sex as authoritative when it comes to social roles and organisation. Instead, authority is shifted away from the ordinary person to a class of people who rule along the lines of more formal principles  (you can tell here I have been reading Jim Kalb) .

What that means is that the ordinary man no longer holds what you might call "social offices" (I'll expand on this in a moment). What is left to the ordinary man are personal relationships alone and this fits in well with dad as a loveable doofus.

What do I mean by social offices? Being a man once meant something in terms of the roles that were held in society. For instance, being a husband was not just about a personal relationship with a wife, but was an "office" with particular duties, responsibilities, status and authority. The same was true of being a father, which again came with responsibilities to provide for, to protect and to mentor, alongside the authority and the status to carry through with these tasks.

Increasingly these roles/offices are being socialised (shifted from individual men to the state) and androgynised (no longer connected specifically to men).

But there has been an even more significant change since that photo was taken in 1920. Even when I was growing up in the 1970s, there was still a sense of Australian men having a group ethos and existence. There was a positive pride in achievement, particularly as pioneers, soldiers and sportsmen.

When you have this kind of culture, then men also have a role as defenders of the tradition they belong to. Their role is to keep going the particular tradition they belong to, to be the sentinel on the wall allowing the tradition to be renewed within this protected sphere. It's a responsibility that brings men together in the public sphere and which requires a larger engagement with society. It again represents a kind of social office, which brings a particular purpose to the work that men do in society.

But this kind of role has been radically undermined in the larger society. First, by the constant attacks on men as oppressors rather than as defenders and then, second, by the shift toward open-bordered, internationalism in the West.

As things stand, therefore, it would be difficult for Western men to have the same seriousness of purpose as the men depicted in the photo in 1920.

It seems to me that the choice is either to accept the loss of social offices, and to make do with a lifestyle based on personal relationships alone combined with career and consumption (with authority and responsibility in society being shifted away from individuals and toward an administrative class) or else to seek to recreate more traditional communities, though most likely on a smaller scale than they once existed.

I don't think we experience what we are meant to experience as men if we accept the modern conditions of life. What is more, it is likely that men will continue to experience confusion and uncertainty about being a husband or a father or even a worker, when a large part of the meaning of such roles has been lost.

The more we can either hold onto, or recreate, the social offices I have tried to describe, the stronger we become.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In bed with the inmates

A men's prison in Baltimore hired an unusually large number of female guards. This didn't work out so well (hat tip: Laura Wood):
More than a dozen Maryland state prison guards helped a dangerous national gang operate a drug-trafficking and money-laundering scheme from behind bars that involved cash payments, sex and access to fancy cars, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Thirteen female corrections officers essentially handed over control of a Baltimore jail to gang leaders, prosecutors said. The officers were charged Tuesday in a federal racketeering indictment.

The indictment described a jailhouse seemingly out of control. Four corrections officers became pregnant by one inmate. Two of them got tattoos of the inmate’s first name, Tavon — one on her neck, the other on a wrist.

The guards allegedly helped leaders of the Black Guerilla Family run their criminal enterprise in jail by smuggling cellphones, prescription pills and other contraband in their underwear, shoes and hair. One gang leader allegedly used proceeds to buy luxury cars, including a Mercedes-Benz and a BMW, which he allowed some of the officers to drive.

“The inmates literally took over ‘the asylum,’ and the detention centers became safe havens for BGF,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt, using shorthand for the prison gang’s name.

At the center of the investigation was an alleged leader of the Black Guerilla Family, Tavon White, who prosecutors said fathered five children with four of the corrections officers since his incarceration on attempted murder charges in 2009.

...the scope of corruption in the current case, Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, was stunning.

“Correctional officers were in bed with BGF inmates,” he said. “We need to be able to rely on people within law enforcement — to make sure they are on our side.”

Common sense might suggest that it would be better to put female guards in charge of female prisoners. Not only are female officers at risk of violence from male prisoners, but some will be attracted to the men they are suppose to be guarding.

But it's not likely that such considerations will have much effect on hiring policy. In a liberal society, our sex is not supposed to matter.

Why? First, our sex is a predetermined quality that we don't get to choose. We are simply born male or female. Liberalism, though, aims at an 'equal freedom' to be a self-determining individual. Given that we can't self-determine our sex, this then becomes an impediment to be overcome. It is thought progressive to make it not matter.

Second, this is especially true when it comes to careers. Careers fit in well with a liberal model of society as they are a deliberate, individual choice, and are pursued at an individual, independent level, and so give rise to the idea of a self-made individual. They become, for liberals, the key to self-realisation. Careers become a substantive good in a liberal system and so there will be particular sensitivities about any sex based impediments to careers, especially with groups considered to be historically disadvantaged in this sphere.

Third, sex is considered by the liberal political class too "opaque" a quality to base social organisation on. It is also a quality that connects people and forms understandings of social life prior to the existence of the state. For both these reasons, those liberals who are attempting to create a centralised administrative state to regulate society according to formal principles aren't likely to want to recognise distinctions of sex.

Liberals often talk about empowering individuals, but the real effect of a liberal understanding of society is to replace the more informal patterns of social life created within a community and to replace them with formal principles administered by a centralised state.

The role of the individual within a society becomes less important, the more that social functions are defined in formal terms and administered by the state. Some people like this, as without such a significant role you no longer have significant duties or responsibilities. You are left free for hedonistic pursuits or individual career ambitions.

But it can also be an alienating experience to have less of a serious social role within society. In particular, our relationships lose their social significance. They still exist at a personal level, but they have less meaning in terms of how a society functions and is ordered. For instance, as a father I can still love my children - the personal relationship can still be there. But in an advanced liberal society, there is no connection between being a man, masculinity, fatherhood, and family role. Parental roles are considered interchangeable in a liberal society and the traditional functions of fatherhood (and motherhood) are increasingly being socialised - taken over by the state.

Is that a liberation? Or is it something that diminishes individuals and undermines the larger traditions we belong to?

If you think it's the former, you're likely to accept liberal modernity. If you think it's the latter, welcome to the traditionalist club.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You're invited!

We can make a big difference as individuals right now. The traditionalist movement is just at the point of moving from having an internet based presence to a real world one. The Sydney Traditionalist Forum is moving forward and the Traditional Britain Group is adding branches. It's possible that in the near future an American Traditionalist Society will also be launched.

The success of each venture encourages the rest - it becomes a question of momentum. So I'd encourage interested Melbourne readers to consider attending the next Eltham Traditionalists event which is coming up soon. We can play a leading role in helping to push things forward.

We meet for dinner and political conversation and future planning. The last event was a very enjoyable one and I'd love to be able to report another successful get together this time.

If you think you might be able to attend just drop me an email at swerting@bigpond.com and I'll send you further information.

A man who supports his family now a bad thing?

The Sydney Morning Herald has run an article by a senior writer, Mike Wade, complaining about the survival in Australia of.... the male breadwinner.

Yes, the idea of a male breadwinner is offensive to contemporary liberalism:
An economic dinosaur lives on in Australia: the male breadwinner. Despite decades of sweeping social and economic change he's survived surprisingly unscathed. And there's evidence our male breadwinner model is especially potent.

Researchers have found the male breadwinner is proving much more resilient in Australia than many comparable countries...
Why the panic about male breadwinners? It seems that new research shows that only a minority of mothers with young children choose to work full-time:
The male dominance over full-time employment is most pronounced among parents with small children. About 85 per cent of all fathers with a youngest child under the age of five work full-time - but for mothers in that category, the rate is about 19 per cent.

There are also signs the long-running increase in female participation rate, under way since the 1960s, has stalled. The proportion of women aged 15-64 in the workforce is now lower than it was four years ago.
I've pointed to this trend many times at this site: in my workplace there are no women with children of any age who work full-time - they are all part-timers (about a third of Australian women overall return to full-time employment in the long-run).

What do liberals think the solution is? Here's one suggestion:
Patricia Apps, professor in public economics at the University of Sydney, argues that if childcare worked more like the school system, women's workforce participation would surge...
She wants the care of children to be entirely socialised. And then we get this comment from Mike Wade:
The dominance of the male breadwinner means men have far more retirement income than women because they spend more time working. The superannuation industry estimates nearly 90 per cent of women have insufficient super to support a comfortable standard of living in retirement.
Mike Wade might feel woozy having to recognise the fact, but the super that husbands earn will help to support those 90% of women. It is family income, not husband income.

How did we get to the stage where it's thought wrong for men to go out to work to support their families and wrong for mothers to look after their own young children?

Well, part of the answer is that liberals believe that career is more important than family. And one reason for this is that they believe that women achieve more autonomy - more independence from men - through careers. Sweden's EU minister, Birgitta Ohlsson, recently attacked housewives on the basis that:
Having your own money is a source of both power and independence for women.
So if career is necessary for "equal freedom" then that is what liberals will push for: they will want more career involvement from women and less from men. It doesn't really matter to the political class if women are choosing to work part-time, that is considered the wrong outcome and so action is taken to get a different result.

There are any number of problems with all this. For instance, if independence really is the aim then why marry in the first place? And if you value autonomy above all else, then why have children? Little wonder that in Sweden, where such liberal values have been pushed the hardest, a record 47% of people live alone.

And the liberal view glosses over the fact that we are not just interchangeable units of labour, but men and women, and that part of our fulfilment in life comes through distinct paternal and maternal roles.

And is it really in women's overall interests to discourage a culture of the male breadwinner? Won't larger numbers of women just end up going out to work to support an unemployed partner? Won't there be fewer men earning that superannuation to support women in their retirement?

But, most of all, what kind of society pushes against men working to support their families?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Leaving yourself open

Information is coming to light about the Boston bombers. At this stage it doesn't seem likely that liberals will be able to claim that the fault lies with American society not being open or welcoming enough to outsiders. Look at the picture below of Tamerlan Tsarnaev:

He doesn't exactly come across like an oppressed outsider being held down by society. Far from being excluded he married the daughter of an Anglo-American family; she converted to Islam for him and had his child; and he lived with the Anglo family in a pleasant looking house here:

It was a case of American society giving things up and bending to him. But he clearly didn't like the kind of society America was, despite the willingness of this society to erase its own particularity for his benefit.

My regret is that Americans didn't (or weren't allowed to) regard themselves as one of the distinct peoples of the world with a unique existence of their own to uphold. If this path had been followed, then Americans could have continued to define themselves on their own terms and limited citizenship to those who would not transform or disrupt this identity.

The current policy is disempowering. There is no way to limit the vulnerability of society to such attacks, apart from increasingly stringent security measures. But even these, according to the Swedish PM, are unnacceptable in an "open" society:
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt commented on the Boston Marathon bombings for the first time on Wednesday, admitting it is "impossible" to completely prevent such attacks, either in Sweden or the United States.

"One should be aware that increasingly stringent controls come at the expense of people's freedom," Reinfeldt said during a visit to a company in Gävle in eastern Sweden, according to the Aftonbladet newspaper. "This is perhaps the highest price we pay for the open society that gives us freedom and mobility that I think people take for granted and feel is too valuable to forego."

For Reinfeldt an open society means open borders:
"I believe in a Europe that should be open, where we have free movement, and where we instead ask ourselves how people who come here can get work more easily," he said.

Speaking to Sveriges Radio (SR), Reinfeldt also pointed out that Sweden, when it opened its borders to greater immigration from Bulgaria and Romania, saw no major influx of people seeking to abuse the country's generous welfare system and benefits.
Reinfeldt provides no solution at all. He argues that an open society requires open borders, which then brings in individuals who will commit future acts of violence, but he adds that in an open society stringent security controls are also unacceptable. He is honest enough to conclude that preventing future attacks is therefore impossible. He sees such attacks as a price you have to pay to live in a liberal society.

So what are we supposed to do? Feel nervous each time we attend a significant event? Hope that the next time it won't be us or someone we know? As I wrote earlier, liberals talk often of empowering people, but in this case liberal policy is clearly disempowering.

Here's a thought: perhaps the most open kind of society will be the one which upholds a stable and unified existence; i.e. one which has been able over time to settle into shared understandings of community life and in which people feel a loyalty to each other and to the larger community through natural ties of a common history and heritage.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Alecia: she doesn't like her inheritance

Alecia Simmonds believes that Melbourne could learn a thing or two from the city of Paris. In fact, she regrets that Australia wasn't settled by the French rather than by the British:
Instead of becoming a nation of Amelies, Australia inherited the world’s worst cuisine, worst urban planning, worst teeth and worst skin tone. Someone did a poo in the Anglo Saxon gene pool.

And she continues the thought with this:
Australians must accept our fate. That portion of our population who have suffered the slings and arrows of Anglo genetic inheritance can do nothing. We will always look like potatoes.
It seems that Anglo-Australians are fair game in major newspapers. Can you imagine this being written about any other ethnic group?

And what does it say about the mentality of people like Alecia? She has inverted the values that hold a community together: instead of wanting to preserve her inheritance, she makes derogatory comments about it.

And what of her criticisms? I'm sure that the centre of Paris has much charm (though I haven't been there), but I doubt if the high-rise banlieues which ring Paris are as attractive to live in as many Melbourne suburbs.

In fact, I'd assert that Anglo-Australians are pretty good at creating attractive suburban areas to live in: tree-lined streets, parks, well-kept gardens, bungalow style homes. Some of the suburbs, particularly those that went up quickly after WWII, do lack a village focal point and these areas can lack character, but on the whole we compare well.

And what about the way we look? Well, here's a photo of some Australian TV personalities:

Potatoes? I wouldn't have thought so. I particularly admire the woman on the right, Livinia Nixon, who is not only genetically blessed with good looks, but also elegant, classy, down to earth and funny.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alecia & the politics of meat

Alecia Simmonds writes columns for the Sydney Morning Herald. A recent one was called "The sexual politics of meat". Alecia is a vegetarian and so wants to prove that a principled feminist would never eat meat. I'm not so much interested here in the debate about vegetarianism, but about the kinds of arguments Alecia makes.

Her five reasons are as follows:
1. Eating meat is associated with male power in its most vile and repugnant forms. In a logic that sounds positively mystical, real men, we are told, should be physically strong and virile, which means killing and eating strong animals. In rejecting meat, feminists – both women and men – are rejecting a potent symbol of patriarchal power.
In a healthy society, the women would actively want their men to be powerful, physically strong and virile. It's a sign of how wayward our thinking has become that a woman would want to take down the men of her own society.
2. The ill treatment of animals makes the abuse of women tolerable. Following on from my first point, if men get to eat the meat, then women, alas, are consigned to the less savoury role of being the meat.
Alecia has managed to conjure up an image of women being eaten by men like meat. It's that dreary, borderline depressive mentality which, once again, is extraordinarily wayward: young men and women ought to find joy in relating to the opposite sex.
3. Vegetarians, like feminists, care about language. Violence is made possible through euphemistic or derogatory words that distance us from the feelings of the victim.
And women, we are to understand, fill the role of victim and men of victimisers. Difficult to find a joy in relationships based on that outlook.
4. Feminists and vegetarians share a common project of ending discrimination based on arbitrary distinctions. We are all, at our base, animals.
That's an interesting one. Liberals typically argue that qualities that we don't get to choose, such as our sex and ethnicity, are merely "arbitrary" and therefore should be made not to matter. They extend this argument even to issues such as women serving in combat positions; the idea that men are more suited to such roles doesn't seem to be "arbitrary" but liberals still treat it as such.

Anyway, Alecia wants to extend the liberal argument to the idea that it is arbitrary to distinguish between humans and animals and that equality means treating humans and animals the same.

We can safely say, at any rate, that Alecia does not have a very exalted view of human beings.
5. Feminists and vegetarians believe that the personal is political. Just as we tell male partners that the minutia of who unpacks the dishwasher each night really matters, so too do we need to remind ourselves that what goes into our mouths also matters.
That reminded me of a post I wrote some time ago. It was about some research on why traditional marriages were more durable than the modern version. The researchers found that modern-type marriages were too focused on "account keeping" whereas the traditional ones were based on an "enchanted" cultural logic of gift exchange.

Alecia is an account keeper. In her house "the minutia of who unpacks the dishwasher each night really matters". A tip for Alecia: this is not a great strategy to draw out male investment in a relationship.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Upholding the four relationships

One thing that the left gets right about Christianity is that it is a religion which encourages social commitment. If we are to love man for the sake of God then we can't retreat entirely into a purely personal, otherworldly focus which disdains a concern for human society.

And, more than this, we were created for relationships. There are four key relationships, the first one, uncontroversially for a religion, being with God.

The second relationship we were created for is with family. How do we know we were created for family?

We know this bodily, first, in the sense that men and women are brought to physical union and, second, in our perception of beauty and nobility in the physical form of the opposite sex. We know it bodily as well in the way that our physiques correlate to family roles: a woman's body being oriented to motherhood, a man's body having the strength to protect.

We know too that we were created for family in the way that our identity, our sense of who we are, finds its fulfilment in family roles, such as those of husband and wife and father and mother. Our moral natures perceive a higher good or value in these roles, which gives a significance to our sense of self and to the ends we work toward.

We know as well that we were created for family because through these relationships we experience forms of human communion and mutuality which bring us to particular and significant expressions of love. Flowing from this, we experience a loving pride in family, a protectiveness toward family, a willingness to make sacrifices for family, and an identity within a shared family history.

So in body, mind and spirit we were created for family relationships. For Christians, that we were made this way is understood as an aspect of divine governance.

The third, and most neglected, relationship we were made for is with ethnic kin. There are reasons it has been neglected within Christianity, which I'll discuss later. But this relationship is similar to that with family.

How do we know we were made for a relationship with ethnic kin? We know it through the sense of communion we have with the ethny we belong to, a communion that extends to generations past and present, and which creates a distinct form of human mutuality and a love of people and place. Flowing from this relationship comes a willingness to make sacrifices for a common good, a protectiveness toward the tradition we belong to, a pride in communal achievement and a core aspect of our personal identity.

A relationship with ethnic kin once again ties our identity, our sense of self, to a higher good within the larger tradition we belong to. It therefore gives additional meaning to the work we do in society, no matter how humble that work might be. Physically our instinct to procreate - to reproduce who we are - encourages our commitment not only to family but also to our ethny as a kind of extended family.

The fourth relationship we are made for is that with the stranger or the outsider. This one may not seem as intuitive, but Christianity rightly stresses that if we are to love man for the sake of God, then our relationships don't end with those we are most closely related to, but extend all the way to our fellow man, even to those set most apart from us. Therefore, we are to be hospitable to visitors and we are to extend charity not only to relations but to others who require it. That we are made for this is evident in our common humanity and in our natural feelings of sympathy for our fellow man.

Christianity ought to uphold all of these relationships and to find a balance that allows all of them to flourish. It once sought to do so, at least in part, in the "ordo caritatis". Today, however, the fourth relationship (with strangers) dominates to the point of sacrificing the third (with ethnic kin). There has been some rearguard defence of the second relationship (with family), but the mainstream churches have not been good at promoting the first relationship (with God).

Why has the relationship with ethnic kin been neglected? This relationship runs all the way through the Old Testament in the form of a Jewish "we". But in the New Testament there is an emphasis on the fourth relationship, that with strangers, which is understandable in a community where the kin relationships were already so strong. Furthermore, it was Paul's role to argue for Christianity to be extended to gentile communities and this led Paul to emphasise the supra-ethnic dimension of Christianity.

Apart from this, there has been a universalist focus in many modern churches. In these churches the emphasis is on a more abstract, universal love, one that is detached from any particular relationships. At times, such universalists suggest that it is more spiritual to ignore our created being. Here, for instance, is the complaint of a nineteenth century Quaker and feminist called Sarah Grimke:
permit me to offer for your consideration, some views relative to the social intercourse of the sexes. Nearly the whole of this intercourse is, in my apprehension, derogatory to man and woman, as moral and intellectual beings. We approach each other, and mingle with each other, under the constant pressure of a feeling that we are of different sexes; and, instead of regarding each other only in the light of immortal creatures, the mind is fettered by the idea which is early and industriously infused into it, that we must never forget the distinction between male and female.
But it is very difficult to square this kind of abstracted universalism with Christianity. Consider this from Exodus:
Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you.

If particular relationships don't matter, then why would it be so important to honour our father and mother?

And there's this from Timothy:
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.
An abstract universalism is often adopted by those who don't wish to make commitments to the particular relationships they were created for. The historian Paul Johnson has written an entire book called Intellectuals which notes in great detail the tendency for intellectuals to preach universal love whilst mistreating or neglecting those around them.

Nor does an abstract universalism impart meaning very well to young people in the churches. What does a call to abstract universal love really mean to an 18-year-old young man? It makes it sound as if churches are about empty words, rather than connecting to the real inner life of individuals.

The ideal option is to have a Christianity which encourages the four relationships and which wisely orders the four to allow each its proper expression.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Motherhood role no longer a source of value?

I watched an episode of Can of Worms last night. The three female panel members were asked if their child was better off in day care or at home.

I don't think a woman should lightly answer "in day care" because that then undercuts the role and the status of motherhood. It's like saying "my child is better off not being with me, his mother".

But two of the three women did answer "in day care" and the reasons they gave concerned me. They preferred day care for their children not because they had to work for financial reasons and not even for career reasons. They found spending time with their children boring and stressful, they tended to be angry and lazy with their kids and so they found they were happier not being with their children and they thought their children were happier not being with them.

Let me say that I acknowledge that looking after young children can sometimes be tedious (though toddlers can also be funny and cute). It's important for mothers to have time for themselves and it's also true that some toddlers can enjoy the playgroup experience. I'm not an absolutist when it comes to formal care, particularly not for older children.

But I do find it difficult to accept a mother saying about her children "I'm better off not being with them, they're better off not being with me, let someone else have them". That is abandoning a very large portion of a distinct womanhood. In my view, too, it is abandoning what you might call a transcendent social role: a role that connects women to a larger value or good than her own merely personal or immediate wants and desires. In that sense it is denatured: it represents a loss of a finer natural impulse in women.

For men, the transcendent social role is to be a provider, a protector and a mentor. To perform this role well requires a man to accept that he will have to do things that are stressful or tedious, but an awareness of the larger value of the role makes that worthwhile. It is like an institutional commitment, rather than a commitment that relies on a day to day calculation of feelings or wants.

I'm not sure if you can make a society work in the long-run without such institutional commitments, not only to parenthood, but to marriage, to moral codes, to communal loyalty and so on. If we were all just to follow a personal "I'll do whatever makes me feel OK right now" mentality, then much is going to fall in society and not just a commitment to motherhood.

I suppose the reality is that some women have been persuaded that motherhood doesn't have the transcendent value as a social role that it has been believed to have in most societies; but if that's the case, then it's likely the same thing will happen to fatherhood and to the family as an institution.

One final point. The two women I'm referring to are Meshel Laurie and Yumi Stynes. I visited Meshel (pronounced Michelle) Laurie's website and couldn't help but notice how keen she is to dedicate herself to Aborigines:
I’ve been trying for years to get involved in a meaningful way with the Aboriginal community, but to no avail really. I’m either rejected immediately because I’m non-Indigenous, or politely told I’m of no use, but to keep donating money. There must be a time and a place for non-Aboriginal people to connect in a meaningful way with Aboriginal people, mustn’t there?

And this:
This is my passion at the moment – The Gap. It has been for about 3 years actually, but it’s taken this long for me to find someone to help me enter the world of Aboriginal Australia. I know that sounds ridiculous but honestly, it’s so much harder than I ever thought it would be to meet and engage with Aboriginal people. It feels like there’s disinterest and mistrust from the Aboriginal side, and I don’t blame them. You can’t just rock up to an Aboriginal person and tell them you want to get to know them and engage meaningfully with their community.
So she finds meaning not in being a mother to her own children who presumably love and need her but in an entirely different ethnic group who aren't even interested in her involvement. It's emblematic of what has gone wrong with the Anglo political class as a whole: they don't see the value in securing a common heritage for their own children, the meaning instead is derived from a commitment to those they consider most "other".

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What was that about equal pay?

There are some companies in Australia which are now paying female employees more than their male counterparts on the basis that it's necessary to give women bonuses to keep them at work after having children.

Here's one example:
Caltex has introduced a new ‘return to work’ 12% bonus to lure its female employees back to work after maternity leave.

The quarterly bonuses of 3% of salary will be paid up to the child’s second birthday.

For a worker on a $75,000 salary, the 12% annual bonus would amount to $9000 a year before tax.

Caltex already gives maternity leave of 12 weeks at full pay or 24 weeks at half-pay.

Of Caltex’s 3500 employees, 30% are women. The company is actively pushing to attract and retain a diverse group of employees, including more women, and is keen to reduce its staff turnover as a result of primary carers of children not returning to work.

Caltex chairman Elizabeth Bryan said the package was designed to retain skilled employees...
Here's another:
One of Australia's largest companies is set to unveil a new paid parental leave scheme that offers women a "welcome back to work" payment.

Insurance Australia Group already provides 14 weeks' paid leave, but will now double the salaries of women for their first six weeks back at work...

The payment comes on top of the Federal Government's parental leave payment of up to 18 weeks at minimum wage.

IAG chief executive Mike Wilkins says the offer is designed to help women overcome the challenges of returning to work.
There was once a time when men were paid more on the understanding that this would enable them to support a family and allow a mother to spend time at home with her children.

But this was shouted down on the basis that equal pay was a sacrosanct principle that could not be violated.

But the equal pay principle is not so sacrosanct when it comes to paying speical bonuses to women.

I wonder what would happen if a company paid its male workers an extra $9000 a year for a couple of years after having a child, on the basis that such men would be facing extra costs in supporting a family? If Caltex and IAG can run with this kind of logic for women, then why shouldn't a company do it for men?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Margaret Thatcher 2

I know that those who admire Margaret Thatcher (and there were qualities to admire) may not like me pointing such matters out, but she did not see herself as a traditionalist conservative.

She said of herself that:
The kind of Conservatism which he [Keith Joseph] and I — though coming from very different backgrounds — favoured would be best described as "liberal", in the old-fashioned sense. And I mean the liberalism of Mr Gladstone not of the latter day collectivists.
Thatcher also referred to herself as a libertarian, albeit one who thought a state was need to uphold law and order:
The first task of the State is to defend its citizens against attack from within and without. It is in this sense that the libertarian insists that government must be strong.
When you look at the politics of the day you get a sense that it was not even that traditionalist conservatism was explicitly rejected, it just wasn't what was being contested. What was being contested was a vision of society being ordered around a constantly expanding welfare state versus a vision of society ordered around freely enterprising individuals and a limited state directed at law and order.

If that's where the debate stays, then we've failed. We've got to open up new debates in which traditionalist values are not kept in the background but become a focal point.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher passed away yesterday. She was a major figure on the right and so it's worthwhile to look back at her politics.

In 1981, whilst British PM, Thatcher visited Melbourne and gave a speech outlining her political beliefs. It is a striking statement not of conservatism but of right liberalism.

What is right liberalism? Like all forms of liberalism, it is a belief that the highest good is an individual freedom, understood to mean a freedom of the individual to be autonomous: to be unimpeded in choosing, subject to the condition that these choices don't hinder the autonomy of other individuals.

The assumption here is that there aren't goods that a community might value and seek to uphold (apart from liberalism itself). Instead, the focus is on the things we can choose as individuals, usually involving career, consumer choice or, perhaps, lifestyle choice. (So liberalism, for all its talk of choice, involves placing a major limitation on the type of choice that is available to people.)

By taking away the level of existence above that of the individual, liberalism also tends to assume that individuals are interchangeable. If we are seen as rights-bearing, choice-making individuals, then the woman in Peru is interchangeable with the man in Japan. There are no particularities of identity or relationship or essence that fundamentally matter anymore.

But how do you order a society made up of radically autonomous individuals? This is where right-liberalism departs a little from left-liberalism. First, it has been common for right-liberalism to more greatly emphasise the rule of law and personal responsibility as means to order a society. Second, right-liberals have been more sceptical of the role of the bureaucratic state in socially engineering society: they have generally stood for a lower-taxing, smaller state. Third, right-liberals have placed much emphasis on the role of the free market in ordering society. The free market is not only seen as an aspect of personal liberty, but it is thought to create prosperity and progress. For these reasons, right-liberals often see the free market not just as an economic system but as a moral one.

If you read Margaret Thatcher's Melbourne speech it's not difficult to recognise her commitment to a right-liberal philosophy. It's evident, for instance, in her praise of the former Australian PM, Sir Robert Menzies:
When he founded the Liberal Party he said "we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his rights and his enterprise".

...He saw the Commonwealth as a vehicle for spreading and defending the ideals for which the English speaking peoples stand: democracy, the liberty and responsibility of the individual, the rule of law—in a word, the ideals of freedom.
Then there is her placing of individual choice as the primary good:
What sets man above the rest of the living world is his sanctity as a human being, with the ability and the right to choose...

...Where freedom to exercise personal choice exists, I seek to expand it; where it is under attack, I shall defend it; where it does not exist, I shall try to create it.
Thatcher then goes on to defend the rule of law as a means of ordering society:
We live in families, neighbourhoods and communities, whose members need rules to enable them to live together harmoniously. These rules or laws must be just, must be backed by authority and administered impartially.

...Order, in a free society, means the ability of ordinary men and women to go about their business and their leisure pursuits in freedom and without fear, so long as what they do does not harm or damage others. The first task of the State is to defend its citizens against attack from within and without. It is in this sense that the libertarian insists that government must be strong. Strong to uphold the rule of law. Strong to maintain order. Strong to protect freedom...Government must secure the conditions for freedom to prevail. That is its task. People must live their own lives within these laws.
Then there is her commitment to the free market:
The right to choose. The rule of law. We need even more than these to promote and protect liberty. It is not by chance that every free society is fundamentally a capitalist society. For without economic liberty, political liberty will soon die. The converse is not true. Not all capitalist societies are free. Capitalism or free enterprise is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of liberty. I have already described two of the other essential ingredients—the right and responsibility to choose and the rule of law.
There's one final issue to be discussed, namely that of the nation state. This is one area where Thatcher was "conservative" in the sense of wanting to move more slowly than other liberals of her era. She said in her Melbourne speech:
I believe that, despite our growing inter-dependence, the day of the nation state is not over; that such states still have their contribution to make to the development of the human story.
The background to this is as follows. Nations were originally thought of as a large community of people united by a common ethnicity (history, language, race, culture, religion etc.). Liberals rejected this traditional nationalism and put in its place a civic one. The civic nation was supposed to be united by a shared commitment to liberal values and institutions.

But within the space of just a few decades many liberals were giving up even on a civic nation, which they considered still too exclusive and discriminatory (or else too small a unit to pursue power globally). In Australia, for instance, Paul Keating expressed his commitment to post-nationalism, as later on did Kevin Rudd.

Margaret Thatcher was not a nationalist in the traditional sense, but she did still believe in the civic nation state. This led to her political demise; other members of her party wanted to move toward closer European Union integration whilst she did not and so she was deposed as PM.

But she was proven correct in her warnings about monetary union and building a European superstate. In a 1993 memoir she recalled some of the arguments she made against monetary union:
We had arguments which might persuade both the Germans...and the poorer countries, who must be told that they will not be bailed out of the consequences of a single currency, which would therefore devastate their inefficient economies.

Well, we've now seen the German taxpayers having to bail out those countries.

Margaret Thatcher was an intelligent, strong-willed and principled politician, but her principles were right-liberal rather than traditionalist ones.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Criticising the old right

Alain de Benoist is a prominent figure in the European new right, a movement which is making ground at the moment in the form of the "identitarians".

Some years ago he made a criticism of the old right. It's difficult to agree with any of it, which is not surprising given that Alain de Benoist has defined himself as a “left-wing right-winger,” or "a man who has left-wing ideas and right-wing values".

However, this bit has a ring of truth to it:
For the Right, Man is naturally social. However, it never forged its own consistent theory to explain community or social connectedness. Nor did it seriously explore opposition to the ideal liberal types, the autonomous individual and the “social man.”
I think at least we've covered the second part now, the formulating of an opposition to the ideal liberal types.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

An impressive mass

Sometimes being stubborn pays off. I've been trying to find a Catholic parish to attend for quite some time now. Today I drove all the way to Camberwell to Our Lady of Victories. The first thing I noticed was the beauty of the interior, including the altar, the stained glass windows and the stations of the cross. The mass itself was done about as well as it could be: the early part of it was sung exceptionally well by a young man in a red robe (a priest?); the priest chanted (or perhaps it's better to say sang?) his part of the mass very ably; both the choir and the selection of hymns were very good; and the priest's homily, on the theme of mercy and forgiveness, was well spoken and avoided the usual "cause" based politics.

Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell

The only departures from tradition were the altar girl and two brightly lit screens jutting in toward the altar.

An authentically Catholic culture is alive and well at Our Lady and it was well worth the drive to attend.

On a less positive note, the parish suffers one problem found elsewhere, namely an ageing congregation. There were over 100 people there, but 80% would have been over 60. The small number of younger people were of Asian background, reflecting the changing demographics of the surrounding suburb. I have a theory regarding the problems of the mainstream churches in attracting younger people, but I'll leave that for a later post.

The statue standing on top of the dome

This year is the centenary of the building of the church: the foundation stone was laid in 1913 and the church was declared open in 1918 in front of a crowd estimated at 80,000.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

My moment in the mass media

I was contacted a few weeks ago by an editor from The Australian asking me for my opinion on a new award for women writers called the Stella.

The double page feature came out in the review section of the paper this morning. There are several paragraphs accurately reporting the opinions I submitted.

So what's the Stella? In Australia the premier literary award is called the Miles Franklin Award. In 2011 all of the shortlisted books for this prize were written by male authors. This prompted a group of women to claim that women were marginalised in the literary field and to organise the Stella as an award for women writers only.

When I checked out the claim about female disadvantage I found that there were some areas in the field of literature and publishing in which the numbers went against women but others where they were in their favour. It's true, for instance, that most of the reviews in literary supplements are written by men (although that's due, in part, to women being less likely to put themselves forward to review non-fiction works, such as military history).

On the other hand, women are overrepresented when it comes to elite publishing courses, recent employment in the publishing industry and membership of editorial boards.

Anyway, the part of the feature story that relates to what I submitted runs as follows (at the moment you need a subscription to access the entire story online):
Another catalyst for the Stella were the 2009 and 2011 shortlists for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, a prize established through the will of Franklin. Both shortlists were all-male affairs. Yet three of the five Miles Franklin judges who agreed to an exclusively male shortlist in 2011 were women.

Conservative blogger Mark Richardson asks: "How can women be marginalised when they have the power to make the final decision?" Richardson says of the new, women-only prize: "I have no objection to a group of people collecting funds for an arts prize, but I'm sceptical that the Stella is necessary because women writers are marginalised."

Richardson points out that "women tend to dominate the field of publishing in Western countries. Back in 2010 there was a debate in the US about the lack of men on editorial boards in the publishing houses...If you always focus on areas where the numbers aren't as good for women, you come away with a false picture of women being held down by men."

In some ways the Stella sets a good precedent. It shows that a small group of people can raise sufficient funds for a significant artistic prize. Down the track we could follow the example and establish prizes for, say, works of historical fiction set in Australia, or for paintings illustrating some facet of Australian history, or for realist painting, or for architecture which respects historic areas.

But the negative aspect of the Stella is that it continues to focus on a competitive division between men and women, something particularly unnecessary when it comes to the writing of fiction, a field that has been open to women from the beginning of the genre.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Which way for the churches?

It's impossible not to notice that Christianity has been mostly captured by the left. The reality struck home for me in my recent efforts to find a relatively apolitical suburban Catholic parish. I failed. Every mass I attended had lines blurred between left-liberal causes and the Catholic religion.

That makes things awkward for us traditionalists. It's no use attempting to renew traditionalist communities but bringing with us a Christian culture that has become hostile to tradition.

The very opposite ought to be true. The clergy ought to be the most solid supporters of traditional communities.

So what has gone wrong? I'm not going to attempt to put forward a complete or systematic answer. I'll limit myself to a few thoughts and acknowledge at the same time that I am not an expert theologian.

The first observation I'd like to make is this: Christianity enjoins us to love man for the sake of God. That makes Christianity a certain kind of religion, one that encourages social commitment rather than an otherworldly withdrawal from society.

That's something that should be appreciated by traditionalists. It means that the "big picture" aspect of Christianity encourages us to care about what kind of society we live in and the kinds of goods that are promoted in that society. It discourages the option tempting to traditionalists, of finding a quiet place in the countryside where we can live the good life, without being concerned about what is happening to the larger society.

However, this social commitment aspect of Christianity can also appeal to the left. Furthermore, in scripture there are plenty of references to helping the most marginalised and to the particular virtue of showing love for the outsider. If you combine the social commitment with the identification with the other then you get something very like a left-liberal understanding of solidarity (one in which you show virtue by turning against your own in order to identify with the other). That then becomes a dissolving form of religion, as there is no longer a loyalty to the particular tradition you belong to.

And that is where we have to be very careful in the way that Christianity is understood. It is not that the left is making things up, but that they are running with a certain understanding of scripture that fits with their world view.

The leftist take on scripture isn't supported within Catholic tradition. In this tradition there is an "ordo caritatis" in which our obligations are ordered, with the closer relations taking precedence to those further out.

And that's the basic answer to leftist Christianity: that extending compassion and care to the marginalised or to outsiders does not extinguish the loves and the obligations that we have to those we are more closely related to.

However, I do want to make a criticism of the Catholic position (at least as I understand it). The Catholic position seems to be that the love we have for our family or our ethnic kin is a natural one, but that through the infusion of divine grace we are given a supernatural ability to love those we have no such natural inclinations toward, such as outsiders or the marginalised.

That perhaps explains why Catholic priests and bishops have collapsed on this issue. If you really believe this, then it will seem more distinctly Christian and more virtuous to prefer the marginalised and the outsider, as such feelings will be thought of as being more than natural - as being supernatural.

But I don't think the schema works very well. It seems to me to be a false division into natural and supernatural.

Let's look at the relationships more exactly. Is it really true, for instance, that the traditional family is founded on natural ties of affection and loyalty? The answer seems to be: yes and no. Certainly, there are natural instincts that bring men and women together to procreate and to attempt to ensure the survival of offspring. But these instincts can be expressed in different ways. For instance, there have been some societies in which women were allowed to follow an inclination to choose a variety of men to have sexual relationships with. With uncertain paternity, men then invested more in their sisters' children; the role of uncle was more important than that of father. Other societies have permitted older men with resources and status to follow an inclination to choose much younger women as additional wives.

So why then in the Christian tradition have we had monogamous marriage? It's not because this is simply a natural outcome that doesn't require any larger spiritual aspect. Instead it involves an ordering of natural inclinations through our higher conscience, our social commitments and our spiritual nature. Why, for instance, would an attractive, resource rich older male limit himself to his first wife? Does it not have to do with a ideal of love that is an expression of our spiritual being? Does it not have to do with our social commitment, in the sense of understanding that we limit ourselves for the good of the society we identify with? And why would men not lightly abandon one family for another? Does that not have to do with our higher conscience, in the sense of recognising paternal duties to our children?

The family as we know it is not simply a natural unit and therefore lesser to what might be thought of as spiritual. It survives at least in part through a kind of inspiration - through a process of higher valuing - that is a key role of the churches to promote.

And we can say something similar for ethnic kinship. It is not the case that the relationships we have to people we are ethnically related to are simply natural ones. Yes, there is a kind of natural form of identity with people we are closely related to in matters of language, culture, race, history and so on, But so too are there factors undermining such a loyalty, a key one being material self-interest (but there are others: a nihilistic urge to destroy, a desire to more easily control people by dissolving group loyalties, sectional interests such as dynastic or class ones, assertions of radical individualism based on pride or radical autonomy and so on).

People have long been aware of the natural forces pulling apart communal loyalty. The Australian Federation poets warned of a base materialism and of radical autonomy; George Essex Evans, for instance, wrote of the newly established nation:
The world's grey page lies bare today-
The rise of nations - the decay.
Will She, too, rise - and fall as they?

What shall it profit Her if we
Make gold our God, and strength our plea,
And call wild licence Liberty?
Unfortunately his warnings went unheeded: the forces pulling against a communal loyalty proved too strong.

So what then allows an ethnic kinship to survive? If you have natural inclinations pushing both for and against this kinship, what allows the baser ones - the materialism, the individualism, the managerialism, the sectionalism - to be suppressed so that the communal tradition can survive?

Again, this is where social commitment, higher conscience and human spirituality come into play. Human spirituality recognises the inherent good (a kind of communal soul) that is created over time within such communities. It also values the connectedness to generations past and present that exists within such communities. Social commitment means that people choose to place limits on their own material or sectional self-interests for the larger interests of the community. A higher conscience means that people feel a duty to the key institutions of the society; they might, for instance, be willing to make sacrifices within the family in order to raise a future generation.

Again, a church should set itself to promote this kind of sorting or odering amongst natural impulses; it should encourage the preferencing of commitment, conscience and spirituality rather than a falling into materialism, sectionalism and individualism.

Finally, there are the relationships we have to people we are not closely related to: toward people who are outsiders or marginalised in some way.

The point to be made here is a slightly different one. I suggested above that current theology tells us that our concern for such people is not a natural one and must therefore be a divinely infused supernatural one.

Again, I think this is at least partly false. I don't doubt that people are naturally more willing to make sacrifices for those they are more closely related to. I'm likely, for instance, to be more willing to put my life at risk to save my children than to save a stranger.

But we shouldn't exaggerate this. Is there really no natural feeling for the suffering of another human being, even if they are not family or ethnic kin? If I saw someone of another tribe or nation in need of medical attention and I had a phone to ring for an ambulance is it really unnatural for me to make the call?

Christianity does do a good job in forcefully reminding us that charity doesn't stop at home. It is right that it does so. But I would dispute the idea that the sacrifices men make every day as fathers are merely "natural" and unspiritual, whilst the occasional act we might make for someone we don't know is supernatural and therefore the proper focus and subject matter of a church.

A church ought to see to it that each form of relationship - family, ethnic kin and stranger - is rightly ordered, in the sense that natural inclinations are joined together with social commitment, higher conscience and spirituality to create the higher forms or expressions of these relationships.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

What Murdoch and Packer tell us

Business magnates are not usually patriots. Look at the recent utterances of Rupert Murdoch and James Packer. They have accused the Gillard Labor Government of "racism" and "xenophobia". Why? Because the Gillard Government has promised to crack down on the rorting of 457 visas, on the basis that local workers should have a shot at Australian jobs before companies fly in workers from abroad:
Mr Murdoch told Sky News on Tuesday the way the government was talking about the visa scheme was "pretty disgraceful and racist".

"I'm a big one for encouraging immigration; I think that's the future and a mixture of people, just look at America. It's just fantastic," he said

...Billionaire James Packer last month used a speech to the Asia Society to warn politicians from all parties against sending xenophobic messages overseas.

"Some of the recent public debate does not reflect well on any of us. Even worse, it plays on fears and prejudices and is completely unnecessary. We are all better than that," Mr Packer said.
Murdoch and Packer aren't concerned about traditional Australia. They want open borders and the least interference possible with the movement of labour internationally. Even the smallest hint of national preference is damned by them.

Why bother pointing this out? It's important to understand the influence of money and material self-interest on politics. If a society makes the owners of multinational corporations the most wealthy, powerful and influential members of the community, then how can that society reasonably expect to hold together? The multinational business magnates are likely to use their influence to push the idea that their own international business interests should take precedence over such matters as communal identity and continuity.

Therefore, if we are looking to re-establish somewhere a more traditional community, we have to favour a different kind of business model, one which creates a class of people who are more likely to support the traditional society.

One possible way to do this would be to emphasise smaller businesses selling to local markets. If a community gave some kind of preference to local businesses, and these businesses were reliant on local markets, then there would be a financial reason for this kind of business class to support the maintenance of communal cohesion (and not just to see people as atomised, interchangeable units of consumption or labour).

The effect of this could be institutionalised in a number of ways. The easiest would be to encourage the formation of a "domestic traders and manufacturers association" - one which could specifically represent those reliant on an in-group loyalty for the security and prosperity of their businesses. Another, perhaps more difficult, possibility would be a modified guild system in which everyone, whether an owner, manager or worker, reliant on these industries would be represented (e.g. a clothing industry guild or a computer industry guild). This guild system could have the possible advantage of drawing people to think about the larger industrial interest rather than more sectional, class-based ones (this might not work in practice, but it's worth considering).

At any rate, we need to have a business model that fits with, rather than undercuts, a traditional community.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Single, smart over 40

From a Perth newspaper:
THEY'RE single, smart and successful, but these over-40 Perth women can't find a decent man.

East Perth hairdresser Tanya Durham, 46, says she's been on so many dud dates she's stopped trying.

And events manager Kerryn Lambert was stood up on Monday night after waiting 45 minutes at a bar for a date to show up. To make it worse, it was the eve of her 40th birthday.

Ms Durham, who has never married, said being in her mid-40s limited the range of eligible men.

"I don't mind going out with younger guys, but they want children, so that market is out, and a lot of guys over 40 are going for girls under-30, because they don't think they're 40," she said.

Part of the problem was that men didn't want independent women.

"We're looking for guys because we want to have them in our life, not because we need to have them," she said. "But there are a lot of guys who want to feel needed. And they're the guys that we won't possibly attract."

Most men who registered for online dating websites were creeps, she said.

"One guy had a 10-year-old photo of himself on his online profile. When I met up with him, he was morbidly obese," she said. Ms Lambert said online dating had given men too much choice.

"It's just one big, easy fishing pond," she said.

Public relations professional Nicki Williams, 45, said there was definitely a shortage of eligible men in their 40s and 50s in Perth.

"If you're serious about settling down with someone, you're not looking at the 35-year-olds for long-term prospects. You're looking at somebody who is more settled and has possibly been married, so they're in the same situation as you," the twice-married mother of two said.

"If you want to settle down, it needs to be with someone over 40 and there aren't that many of them out there."

Ms Williams said that though she'd love to meet someone, she didn't need a man to provide for her because she was financially stable.

"I don't want to end up old and alone, but I'm not desperate and dateless, so to speak," she said.

Debbie Rivers, who runs Dare to Date, which organises social events for singles, said it was a challenge to get men over 40 to attend her events.They were often hurt by previous relationships and unwilling to give anything a go.

First, there's the issue pointed to by Debbie Rivers. A middle-aged woman who divorces her first husband and expects to find a large pool of available replacements is likely to be disappointed as many single men in her age category will have been similarly hurt by divorce and wary of trying again.

Second, there's the age differential issue. An attractive 40-something man can probably look to a 30-something woman for a future wife. But even if a 40-something woman is attractive enough to appeal to younger men, she's less likely to see them as husband material.

Third, these women are part of my own generation. They were brought up to believe that although it was OK to want a man, it was wrong to have the attitude that they needed one, as that would violate the idea of the independent woman. But as Tanya Durham admits, a lot of men don't want to be unnecessary to the woman they marry. Many men do, in particular, want their efforts to provide to be necessary in supporting their family - that's what gives their work much of its meaning.

All of which leads to this conclusion: it's important for women to marry in a timely way and to do what they can to make the marriage work, as trying to find love in your 40s will be very much more difficult than in your 20s.

I have to say that the women I work with don't seem to need this advice right now. There has been a wave of marriages followed by another one of babies in the past few years amongst the staff at my school. The women speak openly of their determination to start their families whilst still in their 20s. I think they're being smart in giving themselves the best chance to get the highest quality husband they can and to have time to have children. And they do seem to be very loyal to their husbands - I've never heard them put them down in conversation.

It's not a representative sample of the population, but it makes me think there are chances right now for young men here in Australia to find marriageable women - the situation seems better now than it was twenty years ago.