Friday, May 31, 2013

So what do the German green youth want?

The German Greens get a bit over 10% of the vote. They are apparently one of the more radically leftist parties around. Last month, their youth wing passed a resolution called "Queer your world". When I begin quoting it, you'll understand how radical it is. But at the same time it can also be seen as fitting in with trends in modern society.

Here is the part where sex distinctions are discussed:
8.9 Overcoming the sexual binary

The categories "man" and "woman" are social constructs, but the idea of two sexes does not accord with reality. We understand a human not as a person who is subject to a lifelong gender identity as a man or a woman. Our goal is to create a society in which everyone can freely decide for themselves which gender identity they would like to adopt. As Green Youth we argue for the diversity of gender identities to be finally recognised. A first step to envisage this is a third option when specifying sex to government agencies and in official documents. There should also be the opportunity to refuse to specify. Our perspective is that specifying gender should completely disappear as a category.

Such ideas are no doubt attractive to those homosexuals who do not have a clear identity as men or women. But they also fit in with the liberal idea that our lives should be individually self-determined and that predetermined qualities, such as our sex or our race, are artificial social constructs that should be made not to matter.

The Green Youth resolution is more radical than the typical liberal attitude: when liberals want to make our sex not matter they do so by advocating unisex parenting and such like rather than wanting the categories of man and woman to be abolished. In some ways, though, the Green Youth position is the ultimate expression of the liberal position: it demands a diversity of freely chosen sex identities to replace the binary of man and woman.

And is the Green Youth position all that much more radical than where liberalism has taken us when it comes to our communal identities? For Westerners, at least, these identities have been declared to be social constructs and abolished in the name of diversity. The Green Youth want to complete the job already begun in a liberal society and abolish our identities as men and women in the same way.

The Green Youth also have ideas on how marriage could be "queered":
3.3 As Green Youth we reject the privileging of marriage between "man" and "wife" and are committed to a family contract that allows all people to express their love equally and to take responsibility for one another. Since intimate relationships exist outside heterosexual and monogamous partnerships, it must be finally legally recognised when non-heterosexual couples or people living in polyamorous relationships or female friends take over the care of children together. Queer people shouldn't be discriminated against any longer in tax law nor in adoption law. In respect to this, we also demand that more than two people should legally qualify to be regarded as parents of a child. Family is when people care for each other and take on responsibility. We therefore demand that any form of family is supported and valued by society and before the law to the same degree. However the protection of marriage should no longer be anchored in the Basic Law. We want to abolish marriage as a state institution. Families deserve state protection, not marriage.

What's to be said of all this? First, note how open-ended the definition of family has become. It is just any arrangement of people who care for each other. And note the radical consequences of accepting such an open-ended definition. You can have any number of people being recognised as the parents of a child; you can have groups of friends becoming parents to a child; you can have polyamorists doing the same. The link to biological paternity and maternity is entirely disregarded, as is the role of motherhood and fatherhood. Literally any form of family will do.

Again, this is a more radical expression of ideas that are already fairly mainstream within a liberal culture. A lot of people now understand marriage to be a "love ceremony" and that tends to suggest the idea that a family can be anything. An Australian newspaper columnist, Andrea Burns, expressed the modern view well when she wrote:
the days of the white bread, nuclear family are over. There are many ways to commune, love and create a home ... It’s inconsequential who makes up that circle of love...

There is a weakening or a loosening of ties in all this. Just consider the definition of family offered by Sam Page as executive director of Family Relationship Services Australia:
The definition I like now is whoever you share your toothpaste with, that’s your family.

I'm not sure that toothpaste sharing quite measures up to fulfilling your masculine nature in the role of a husband and father, or the biological relationship of paternity connecting father and child, or the complementary union of a man and a woman within marriage and family.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How does a liberal philosophy measure up?

How do liberals choose to present their political philosophy? One recent attempt to do so was made by Richard Reeves and Philip Collins. They are both influential figures: until recently Reeves was a director of policy for the British Liberal Democrats and Collins was the chief speech writer for Tony Blair.

In 2009 the two men wrote a piece for Demos titled The Liberal Republic. It is a restatement of basic liberal philosophy. Here is how it begins:
The ideal animating this essay is that of a liberal republic, in which individuals have the power to determine and create their own version of a good life. The 'good society' is one composed of independent, capable people charting their own course, rather than a perfect shape to be carved by the elite, out of the crooked timber of humanity.

Liberals demand that people be permitted the space to construct their own life; republicans insist that power be held in people's hands. A republican liberal prospectus recognises that a self-authored life requires both independence and individual capability. But it is founded on the conviction that people are in charge of their own wellbeing. By contrast, conservatives on left and right prefer power to be exercised by institutions, rather than people. They fear that, in the end, people do not know what is good for them.

That's very orthodox. The "animating ideal" is that of autonomy: individuals, it is claimed, should have the power to live self-determining and self-authored lives. What matters is the self-determination, not what individuals happen to choose. Part of the justification for this is that only individuals know what is best for them.

But does liberalism really end up, in practice, looking like this?

The answer is largely no. For instance, Reeves and Collins seem to imagine that liberalism will make people more capable and independent. So far, though, it has done the opposite: it has made a larger number of people dependent on state welfare and it has dissolved the moral beliefs and standards which once encouraged people to make the kind of life choices which would leave them "capable and independent".

And just stating it this way makes clear what the problem is. If you tell people that there are no right choices, but only the goal of making your own choices no matter what they are, then how can a society hold to the standards which once encouraged the more sustainable kind of life choices? How, for instance, do you maintain a culture of family life through which women can be supported to raise a family without state welfare? How do you support a culture of masculinity which encourages the stronger and more resilient qualities in men?

Second, liberals do end up telling people how to live their lives. It's interesting, for instance, that Reeves was a policy director for Nick Clegg until 2012. Nick Clegg is the political leader who has called the traditional family "absurd"; who wants men and women to be "liberated" from their traditional identities; and who wants "international governance" to replace that of the national state. Those are three radically intrusive interventions into people's lives and hardly neutral.

So why does this contradiction come about? The problem is that it is not neutral to choose autonomy as the "animating ideal" of society. That in itself is a value assertion - and, as it happens, it is a very radical value assertion. Therefore, liberals will be biased in how they want people to live and they will have to intervene radically in society to make their value the dominant one.

For instance, take Clegg's hostility to the traditional family. Clegg doesn't want people to be interdependent, he wants them to be independent. That means women must be independent of men. So instead of relying on a husband for financial support, a woman must instead fund herself through a career or be supported by state spending. Furthermore, if your ideal is a self-authored life, then motherhood, which is a traditional and "biologically predetermined" role won't seem as good as a uniquely chosen career path. And so the focus becomes the question of how to liberate women from a motherhood role, which then requires radical interventions into family life, into our identities as men and women, into levels of state subsidies for childcare and parental leave and so on.

Third, the liberal claim is that they are allowing people a greater opportunity to create their own version of the good life. If that were true, then the ordinary person would feel immense gratitude to the liberal politicians of the past 50 years. Instead, the ordinary person feels disempowered and cynical toward the political process.

One reason for this is that there is a built-in flaw in the liberal claim. If your ideal is that of a society in which millions of individuals are each pursuing their own version of the good life, then you have already greatly restricted the kind of life that individuals can lead. Since humans are created for a life together, within families and communities, the deepest ways that we express and fulfil ourselves require a social setting. But if your field of vision is limited to the self-determining individual pursuing his own independent course, then how do you get around to upholding the social settings which make the most important expressions of self possible?

What tends to happen is that liberals end up focusing on those aspects of life which can be chosen at a purely individual level. That might include travel, consumer choice and entertainment (i.e. lifestyle choices). Most of all, though, liberalism ends up being boiled down to "self-expression through a creative, influential and high status career." You need to be an academic, or a medical specialist, or a concert violinist, or an author, or a speechwriter to a prime minister or something like it to really live up to the liberal ideal.

That's one reason why the liberal ideal leaves many people with more ordinary jobs cold. It's difficult to fit such work into the liberal narrative, and so many people continue to attach importance to more traditional values, such as those of family, identity and community. Although liberalism has certainly had an influence over popular culture, it has mostly been an elite view that has been pushed in a top-down way onto society.

That's another reason why it jars to hear Reeves and Collins claim that liberalism is the populist position in contrast to a more conservative, elitist view. It is not conservatives who dominate the institutions; if anything, there is a flaw in the conservative understanding of politics which makes conservatives not take institutions seriously enough. It is liberals who have dominated the institutions and forced "elite" views onto the general populace.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two links

I don't have time to write a post myself today, but here are a couple of items from around the web worth looking at.

The first is from Mark Moncrieff. He has written a post on "The paradox of the autonomous individual and the expanding government." It's brief but well-stated.

The second is a Daily Mail article on trends within marriage and cohabitation. The suggestion is that, based on current trends, a child born today to cohabiting parents only has a nine percent chance of still living with both parents when sixteen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

German cardinal: we are a dying people

How's this for a coincidence. A few days ago I wrote about the decision of a former Archbishop of Cologne to build the Neviges cathedral in a modernist style.

Now it's the current Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Meisner, who is in the news. He has criticised the German Government's family and immigration policies in a courageous way.

Read on, because you don't often hear figures in positions of authority speaking out like this. It began when a journalist challenged the Cardinal on his opposition to abortion. He replied:
We are a dying people, but have a perfect legislation for abortion. Is that not the suicide of a society? People want most of all to shut women out of families so that production continues. But with money alone you can't get children.

He was then asked if he was against formal child care:
No, but it would be better for society to create a climate in which women bring more children into the world. That is to say: to bring to awareness the high worth of the family with a mother and father for the children.

He went on to talk about his experiences in communist East Germany:
I have already been part of the whole one-sided tragedy in East Germany. The women there, who stayed home for the family, were told they were demented. Because labour forces were needed childcare was brought in. A socialist educator said of this: "The creche (the "child crib") is in the Bible a temporary thing and we have made of it a permanent institution."

The interviewer then objected "But women want to self-actualise in a career." The Cardinal replied:
Not all. Where are women really publicly encouraged to stay at home and to bring three or four children into the world? One should intervene here and not - as Mrs Merkel does currently - only present immigration as the solution to our demographic problem. We cannot take the young people away from Portugal and Spain and thus rob their countries of their future just out of selfishness. We should train these unemployed people and offer them perspectives, but then allow them to return home where they are needed.

What's impressive here is that the Cardinal has recognised a need for the German people to survive into the future by being encouraged to have children of their own rather than relying on taking the youth of other nations. He wants the family as an institution to be accorded value and not just the market.

It turns out that the Cardinal has also (unsuccessfully) taken a stand on cathedral design. Back in 2007 the artist Gerhard Richter completed a new stained glass window for the historic Cologne Cathedral. Richter based his design on his trademark "random pixel" paintings (randomly computer-arranged coloured pixels).

I haven't seen the window personally, but I would have thought that art in a cathedral should attempt to be inspired rather than randomly generated:

Gerhard Richter's stained glass window in the Cologne Cathedral

Maybe it looks better when you're there, but from the photo I'd have to say that Cardinal Meisner was correct in thinking that this doesn't work as religious art (the colours fit, but it comes across as chaotic).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This day in Europe

It hasn't been widely reported in the Australian press but there have been riots in Stockholm for the past four nights. Last night saw violence in 15 suburbs. The riots began in the suburb of Husby, 82% of whose residents come from overseas backgrounds, largely from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Somalia.

But the trouble isn't confined to Sweden. In England, two Muslim men slammed their car into a soldier and then attacked him with knives. The men then said "'We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you" and "You people will never be safe." Below is a picture of one of the killers with bloodstained hands:

The picture I posted isn't the most disturbing one. If you go to the linked Daily Mail article, you'll find two pictures of young women walking casually past the killer whilst the victim lies close by on the street. These women don't seem worried to be brushing shoulders with one of their own men who has just committed a violent street murder.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So no real men then?

Paul Elam, a prominent men's rights activist, has posted the following advice to men. It's advice that deserves some criticism:
All your life you are told by others what it means to be a real man. And you are told how worthless you are if you don't measure up.

Just know this. Anyone, man or woman, sending you this message is trying to shame you into their service. They are manipulating you to carry their load, to take on their hardships; even to bleed and die for their cause...or their profit.

Don't buy the lie. No one but you can define you as a human being or measure your worth. Never trust anyone who puts an adjective in front of the word MAN.

The bit of this which is significantly true is that men shouldn't respond blindly to calls on their masculinity. That would, indeed, make men vulnerable to manipulation by vested interests. It would be a weakness rather than a strength.

But Elam's formulation is not a good one. It is revealing, for instance, that Elam writes "no one can define you as a human being" rather than "no one can define you as a man". He is suggesting that we define ourselves in abstracted terms as human beings rather than as men - an interesting position for someone claiming to lead a men's movement.

It's not surprising that Elam puts things this way. He seems to believe that concepts of masculinity have no real basis to them but are just made up so that some people can manipulate others. It's a similar position to that of radical feminists who claim that femininity is just an invention of the patriarchy designed to subordinate women to men.

It is not "empowering" to tell someone that the only possibility is to self-define. If masculinity (or personhood) has no meaning except that which I give to it, then it means that it is just made up and it loses greatly in significance.

The traditionalist position is that masculinity does exist as a kind of life principle; that this principle is expressed in the character of men; that it is possible for a community to recognise and to encourage ideal forms of masculinity; that men feel a positive sense of fulfilment the more they live through these ideals; and that masculinity creates a positive connection between identity, social role and higher values.

It is often in men's interests to be challenged to live up to ideals of masculinity. The difficulties that men have to meet in adult life aren't going away, so the strength of character that has traditionally been cultivated in men still needs to exist. Why deprive a younger generation of men of the culture of masculinity that will allow them to succeed in their adult lives?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why design a cathedral like this?

Neviges is a little town in Germany. It has been visited by pilgrims since the late 1600s; in 1963 180,000 people made a pilgrimage there.

1963 was also the year that a design was to be selected for the new pilgrimage cathedral at Neviges. The designs most favoured by the jury were of the "hall church" type inspired by the functional modernism of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Chicago chapel:

Chapel of St Savior, Chicago
This style was reflected in many of the designs; roughly half of the competition participants "presented an isolated box with a square plan". You can see similar Catholic churches scattered throughout Melbourne's suburbs. The term "hall church" is a good one, as they often give you the sense that you are visiting a community hall rather than a church. Although a lot of these churches were built from the 1960s to 90s, they are based on a Chicago model built in 1949, from architectural ideas developed in the 1920s.

But the Archbishop rejected the jury's recommendations to build in this style. The Archbishop felt that the proposed designs lacked anything to link the building to its role as a church of pilgrimage.

In 1964 the Archbishop decided on a design by the German architect Gottfried Böhm:

Neviges Mariendom


Is the Böhm design really all that much better? The hall churches are cool and ordinary, but Böhm's design is chaotic and random in its exterior and coldly massive (cavernous) in the interior.

I'm tempted to ask here: which design would you have gone for if you had been the Archbishop? Would you have taken the box or the rocky outcrop?

Sometimes when you wonder why certain decisions were made in the twentieth century it's because people opted for what they thought was the least bad option. But it's a pity to be limited in this way.

And we shouldn't underestimate how far back modernism in the arts goes. In terms of church architecture, things seemed to change radically from about the 1920s onwards.

Finally, here is another of Gottfried Böhm's churches, this time from Cologne:

Is that really an improvement on traditional church architecture? (It looks a bit like a factory building to me.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A little bit will become a lot

Paul Martin was the Liberal Party Prime Minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006. There is a clip of a speech he made that was uploaded to YouTube in 2009 (I don't know when the speech itself was given). In the speech he talks about the necessity of nations giving up "a little bit of our sovereignty" so that the financial affairs of nations can be regulated at a global level. He believes that this will create "a very different world" and a "new era".

I've written often about how unstable a civic nationalism is. If you claim that your national identity is defined not by a shared ethnicity but by a shared commitment to liberal political institutions, then why shouldn't those institutions go global if you think there is a managerial advantage in them doing so?

As it happens, you have to doubt the claims about global regulation made by Paul Martin in his speech. He assumes that the Western nations are well regulated and that the threat to the international economies comes from the newer players such as China and India. But not only are these countries unlikely to accept Western regulation of their economies, the most recent failures have come from Western countries anyway.

Here is a transcript of Paul Martin's speech:
One more thing on this question of sovereignty. Very difficult for a large country to accept that someone is going to come in, like the United States or the Europeans, and is going to say “You’re not doing your regulation in a proper way”.

But what’s going to happen when China and India are economies as powerful as the United States or Europe? And what’s going to happen when there’s a mortgage meltdown in India? What’s going to happen when a Chinese hedge fund goes under? And the results of that tsunami don’t stop at the Chinese or Indian border? But that you find them at Idaho and Iowa and California? Who’s going to deal with that?

Unless we’re prepared to understand that in fact we’re all going to have to give up a little bit of our sovereignty in order to make the world work.

I think that we are really at the beginning of a very different era. 1944 the great minds of the world Dexter White, John Maynard Keynes and a bunch essentially laid the foundations for the Bretton Woods institution and the United Nations. And they built a system which functioned for over 50 to 60 years.

I think that it’s time to renew that vision. A very different world than one that (?) and independent nation states simply came together but could ignore what was essentially going on inside those countries. That day is over thanks to (?) I think we’ve got to take it one step further and we’ve got to say that in fact countries have responsibilities to their neighbours. And their neighbours are in every nook and cranny of the world. And I believe that that is going to become the debate of our generation.

Paul Martin was replaced as Canadian PM by the Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper. He made similar comments in a speech of his own ("there is going to have to be global governance"). So the policy seems to be one that Canadian political leaders are determined to pursue.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A tax on men

There is a university town in the north of Sweden called Umeå. The town council of Umeå has an equality committee and this committee has raised for debate the idea of introducting gender taxes, specifically a tax on men. What's interesting is the justification given for placing special taxes on men:
Umeå will be the municipality in Sweden working most to be equal. A municipality in which women and men have the power to shape their own lives and society on equal terms, with as much influence, with an equal opportunity to live a financially independent life.

If you're wondering why I write so often on Sweden, it's because they express liberal principles so clearly and openly.

A general aim of liberalism is individual autonomy. By autonomy is meant being able to self-determine one's own life and being independent. Equality means that individuals have the same level of autonomy: the same "power to shape their own lives" and "an equal opportunity to live a financially independent life".

The Swedes are convinced that you get autonomy and independence via careers and money. Therefore, equality for women means that women should be equally committed to careers as men and should receive at least as much money as men do.

And so the Umeå equality committee is absolutely convinced that it is a gross injustice if women spend any more time with their babies than men do. Men must take an equal share of parental leave if equality is to exist.

Similarly the Umeå equality committee believes that justice requires that women be made perfectly financially independent of men through a guarantee of equal earnings, even if this means taxing men extra to reduce male take home pay.

And so you get ideas like this:
Umeå municipality's overall gender equality objectives are: To create opportunities for women and men have the power to shape society and their own lives.

An important factor is economic equality and economic independence. Therefore, we might begin to investigate the introduction of a gender tax?

Would a gender tax designed so it would be about men paying higher taxes because there is still an unexplained pay gap of around seven per cent in favor of men.

But there are more reasons that makes an average of 4,500 kronor per month, the difference in income between men and women. It's about the choices we have to do and how these choices are valued. Women still take the majority of parental leave and work part-time to a greater extent and more unpaid work at home. Women lost in their wallets for life.

The injustice of it is necessary to talk about and take responsibility for.

Should we be economically equal and financially independent? How will we get there? Is an equality tax the only option? Or are there other ways?

Closing the pay gap, to challenge the structures and actively work for an equal distribution of unpaid housework, breaking the gender segregated labor market, to ensure that fathers are taking a larger share of parental leave, to challenge our own beliefs and dare to see things for how they actually looks and not how we think it looks.

...A municipality in which all women and men have the power to shape their own lives and society on equal terms, with as much power and with equally loud voice so that both women and men are able to live a financially independent life, whole life.

Most Western countries are following the same ideas, even if they are less upfront in spelling them out.

I find it a particularly sterile vision of society, one in which it is assumed that women lose out when men commit themselves to a provider role and in which the aim is not a closer, complementary union between men and women but maximum independence.

It is a vision, too, which assumes that motherhood is a negative factor in a woman's life, a potential impediment to acquiring money and independence, that must therefore be delegated equally to men.

This kind of liberalism, when boiled down to its essential aims, is really about career and money. It doesn't rise to anything more than this. It is a low and dispirited expression of Western culture.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Minister wants to lecture Europe

A senior state government minister from here in Victoria wants to go to Europe to lecture governments there on multiculturalism. Nick Kotsiras believes that we have done it right with a policy of actively wanting people to retain their separate identities that stand apart from the others because this is a strength. This welcoming of standing apart is held to be the most effective way of integrating people by making them feel like they are not outsiders.
I think what they should do is perhaps follow Victoria's example and put in policies that we have to overcome the problems they're facing in the Netherlands. You can't force people to, you can't restrict people, you can't take away a person's identity without consequences.

After visiting Austria and Denmark he wrote:
A large number of people who I spoke to on the street felt that they were not wanted, that they did not belong to the country and they were seen as outsiders. There are no government programs like in Australia where we say we want your specific skills, cultures and religions that stand apart from others - because that is our strength
That's an interesting insight into how a senior minister looks at what is happening in Australia. What interests me is that he recognises the importance of communal identity to immigrants. The question is: if communal identity is important to an immigrant, won't it also be important to someone who belongs to the existing mainstream culture of a society?

In other words, if it is wrong to take away an immigrant's identity, isn't it also wrong to take away the identity of those who belong to the founding culture of a nation?

Nick Kotsiras's policy rests on an arbitrary distinction: identity matters for migrants, not for those who belong to the founding culture.

And there is a second problem with the Nick Kotsiras policy. As I wrote in a previous thread:
For a culture to reproduce itself it needs to have the "space together" to do so - something that multiculturalism doesn't allow for. In this sense it is an "anti-cultural" policy.
If you have a street in a Melbourne suburb where an Egyptian Muslim lives next to a Macedonian Orthodox who lives next to a Mexican Catholic who lives next to a Indian Hindu - and all of these people inhabit a society that is oriented to career and consumerism - then what kind of culture is going to reproduce itself? How are these cultures going to be able to "stand apart from others" even in the medium term?

If you are someone who believes that identity matters then mass immigration combined with mixing people randomly into big cities isn't the way to go - which is why Nick Kotsiras shouldn't be lecturing the Europeans about the wonders of the Victorian policy.

The alternative policy you sometimes hear in Victoria, the traditional right-liberal one, isn't any better. This policy prefers mass immigration combined with the idea that identity doesn't matter for anyone, not for Aborigines, founders or recent migrants. That's a radically individualistic view which tells individuals that they can just identify with themselves alone.

Where does that leave us? First, it's useful for a senior government minister to have admitted that identity does matter. We should file away the quote. Second, we can't rely on governments right now to do the right thing by us. If your identity and heritage is important to you, you have to organise independently of the government. No more "passive citizen who votes every few years". Instead, we need men who see themselves more actively as protectors and builders of the particular tradition they belong to.

Once that change of attitude takes place, those identities which want to continue on will have to concentrate forces somewhere (it could be in more than one location), and to build up the kinds of institutions through which cultures reproduce themselves (media, schools, arts, churches and so on).

If, like me, you belong to the founding culture, you're going to have to accept that much ground will be lost. It's no use being too paralysed by this fact, as the task is to dig in somewhere and to build. The further along we get, the more likely it is we will appeal to those who don't just want to witness decline but who want to contribute more positively to something that is growing into the future.

Monday, May 13, 2013

We grew again!

I've been meaning to report on the last meeting of the Eltham Traditionalists group. The good news is that we once again grew in numbers (for the third meeting in a row). We are hitting growth targets at the moment.

The idea is that once Eltham Traditionalists is securely in place (hopefully by the end of the year if the momentum continues) I will invite those living elsewhere in Melbourne to add their names to a register. Once several people in a particular area of Melbourne (e.g. the southern suburbs) have registered, I'll put them in touch with each other and support them to build up an association of their own.

Roebuck on women and marriage

Alan Roebuck has written a post at The Orthosphere on what the attitude of men toward women and marriage in a liberal culture ought to be. I think it's very good, particularly in outlining why marriage continues to be of importance. It's not just that the arguments are compelling, but that he models a spirited response to the difficulties of the age.

There was some debate in the comments about advice that Alan Roebuck gives to men facing divorce; that perhaps is inevitable given the difficulty of men in that situation (i.e. no easy solutions).

If you haven't already read it, I encourage you to do so:

Can Man Live Traditionally?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A classical find

Western high culture reached a peak of nihilism in the mid-twentieth century and it was at about this time that the tradition of classical music was ruptured. The decades following 1950 were barren ones; if you loved classical music you had to go back to music that was composed earlier.

But there are signs of a revival. One of the most curious examples is that of the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. He spent his early career as a jazz musician; according to his wikipedia entry his breakthrough into classical music happened in 1995 when he was already in his fifties.

If you listen to his music it's as if the great rupture never happened. He has picked up the tradition and carried on with it.

That's not to say that there aren't issues. He has written much sacred music but from within the "interfaith dialogue" perspective. So, for instance, in his work Stabat Mater there is a section involving an Islamic call to prayer. To my ears it just doesn't gel with the rest of the work.

Here is an abridged version of the Stabat Mater; in my opinion parts of it are very good:

Another work he is well-known for is the Benedictus from The Armed Man:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Who does Tony Abbott call the most worthy Australians?

If you want to retain any hope that Tony Abbott will represent a conservative view as a future PM you had better stop reading now.

In the paper today there is a story titled "Liberal Party swats the WASP type with a more inclusive approach".

The story reports on a multicultural meeting organised by the Liberal Party in Melbourne last month:
TONY Abbott has declared the rebirth of a "more inclusive" Liberal Party which has ditched its WASP traditions as the Coalition fields a record number of ethnic candidates.

With the opposition heavily favoured to win September's election, the next federal parliament is shaping as the most multicultural ever, with the Liberal Party fielding at least 21 candidates from diverse ethnic backgrounds...

Mr Abbott said such an event would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

"The Liberal Party would have been reluctant to have explicitly reached out to recently arrived immigrants," Mr Abbott said.

"Because of our reputation for being a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) party, a lot of newly arrived migrants would probably think the Liberal Party was not for them."
I was curious to find out what Abbott said at the meeting and so looked up his speech. It's a shocker. I'll quote it later, but he is at pains to emphasise that migrants are better than natives.

Why would he think this?  The late cricket commentator Peter Roebuck explained why he believed immigrants were better than native born Australians this way:
It is debatable whether people born in this country should be allowed to vote. It is no achievement to emerge from a womb. They could just as well be in Winnipeg.

That view hasn't just been plucked from a hat. If you are a liberal who believes in the self-making, self-defining individual then it probably is true that immigrants are superior to natives. It is immigrants who have made a self-conscious choice to move to a particular country - it is an act of "self-making". The native born aren't such good liberal individualists - their identity is an inherited one.

And this view is even more pronounced amongst right-liberals. What matters to right-liberals is having the freedom and the opportunity to be self-made within the market. Therefore, having a positive view of your country means seeing it as a land of opportunity for all those wishing to "make themselves" within a free economy.

Therefore, those individuals who cross borders from countries with less opportunity to be self-made into a more advanced one will seem particularly virtuous - like an ideal type of right-liberal citizen. And the greater the leap the higher the virtue: to take a hazardous journey from poverty in a closed economy to opportunity in a more open one will seem like the ultimate, heart-warming act of self-making to a right-liberal.

You get a sense of such an outlook in some of the speeches of Ronald Reagan. He said once in support of high immigration:
...I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still...
With all that in mind, consider what Abbott said in his Melbourne speech (abridged):
For a long time, I regret to say, our Liberal Party did not fully reflect the diversity of modern Australia...we were too slow to change and to accommodate the diversity, the richness, the multiculturalism of modern Australia. But we have well and truly changed and we have well and truly learnt a necessary lesson and I want to tell you that if all of our candidates are successful, by far the most common surname in the Liberal Party Room will be Nguyen.

People who have come to this country from many parts of Asia; who have come, worked hard, prospered, succeeded and become first class Australians – that is the face and the name of modern Australia. 

...I want to say how brave every single migrant to this country is, because every single one of you has done something that those who are native born have never done. You have been gutsy enough to take your future in your hands and to go to a country which is not yours and make it your own. Modern Australia is absolutely unimaginable without migration and migration ... has added a heroic dimension to our national life, because so many of the people who have come to this country have been fleeing persecution, have been leaving countries where the freedom, the justice, the prosperity and the solidarity that we take for granted are absent. So, you have added a heroic dimension to our national life.

...You have brought to this country a sense of family, a sense of enterprise and a sense of community. Almost every one of you have come to this country and you have worked hard, often in small business. You’ve built community amongst people from your own background and amongst the wider Australian community and you have cherished family. As a result of your hard work, our country has security, prosperity and liberty.

...I particularly respect and value the hard work and the skills that everyone brings to this country when they come to do a job from day one - in particular, those who come to this country as skilled migrants...they might come as temporary migrants originally, but they make the very best Australian citizens eventually. They are the most worthy, the most welcome parts of the Australian family...
One thing I find particularly interesting is that Abbott is happy to give all the credit for Australia's security and prosperity to recent immigrants. In doing so he is throwing over his own pioneering ancestors. Why does he feel comfortable doing this? It's because in his mind the whole issue of ancestry and ethnic loyalty doesn't matter.

What matters to him is the act of being self-made in the market. So it wouldn't register to him that he is losing anything in throwing over his own forebears.

In other words, it's not that he is hostile to those who do have such loyalties, and he even goes so far as to praise recent immigrants for having "built community amongst people from your own background". But for himself it doesn't matter.

That attitude is perhaps a little better for us than the current left-liberal one. It is likely to be a little more tolerant of our efforts to hold onto our own traditions.

The Anglo left-liberal attitude goes further than not registering or caring about an ethnic identity of their own. Instead it makes a white identity exceptional, by claiming that whiteness is at the source of human inequality (because it is held that whiteness was invented to justify unearned privilege and a racist oppression of others). In the left-liberal view an expression of European identity is treated not as a normal expression of identity but as an immoral assertion of supremacy.

But even if the right-liberal attitude is less hostile than the current left-liberal one, it is still blind - still oblivious - to the mainstream tradition. It is a mistake to think that someone like Abbott can represent us. If you think he is better than Gillard and therefore worth making the effort to vote for, then fine. But don't have illusions that it's possible to vote him in and then sit back while he puts things right. That just won't happen. If things are to improve it will because we ourselves work steadily toward goals of our own. It won't simply be gifted to us from above: we have to take it for ourselves.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Losing the waiting game

There are a lot of good-looking, well-educated Western women who are missing out on marriage and/or motherhood. The Daily Mail has yet another article on this today, featuring women who couldn't find Mr Right and so chose to become solo mothers in their late 30s or early 40s by using anonymous sperm donors (and sometimes overseas egg donors).

One of the women profiled was Jessica McCallin. Perhaps you can't tell everything from a photo, but she seems like an attractive woman, i.e. someone who ought to have been able to find a father for her children relatively easily. So what went wrong?

She doesn't attempt an explanation, but one of the other women profiled, Caroline Saddington, offered this:
‘In your teens you envisage marriage and two children,’ she says. ‘Then my 20s were career-focused and I got to my 30s and hadn’t met a man good enough to be a father. They fell far short of my expectations.

That's a losing combination of attitudes. She wants to not only defer family formation until very late in the piece but retain high expectations of men as fathers as well. The women who do manage to get out of the "defer family option" reasonably unscathed are the ones who aren't too fussy and who are willing to compromise in their very early 30s. But more on this later.

Dennis Prager has written a column which touches on the problem of deferral:
I was in college and graduate school during the heyday of modern feminism. And the central message to women was clear as daylight: You are no different from men. Therefore, among other things, you can enjoy sex just like they do -- just for the fun of it and with many partners. The notion that nearly every woman yearns for something deeper when she has sexual intercourse with a man was dismissed as patriarchal propaganda. The culture might tell her to restrict sex to a man who loves her and might even marry her, but the liberated woman knows better: Sex without any emotional ties or possibility of future commitment can be "empowering."

Feminism taught -- and professors on the New York Times op-ed page continue to write -- that there are no significant natural differences between men and women. Therefore, it is not unique to male nature to want to have sex with many partners. Rather, a "Playboy culture" "pressures" men into having frequent, uncommitted sex. And, to the extent this is a part of male nature, it is equally true of women's natures.

Another feminist message to women was that just as a woman can have sex like a man, she can also find career as fulfilling as men do. Therefore, pursuing an "M-R-S" at college is just another residue of patriarchy. Women should be as interested in a career as men are. Any hint of the notion that women want, more than anything else, to marry and make a family is sexist, demeaning, and untrue.
I don't entirely agree with the wording of this. But I think he is right that women have come under pressure to reject looking for love and marriage in their early 20s in favour of careers and hook-ups. And the problem is not just that this is a denial of better aspects of a woman's nature, but that it is a losing strategy for these women in the longer term.

In some ways, the very worst enemy of middle-class Anglo women right now are feminists. Why? An open-bordered country like Australia now has a lot of different ethnic groups. Amongst the women of these groups, upper middle-class Anglo men are strongly favoured and competed for.

I have met some of the women from overseas backgrounds who are successfully competing for the upper middle-class Anglo men. They are often very classily feminine (rarely brash), they dress very stylishly (think Parisienne), they are friendly, happy and non-aggressive. They are ready to meet a future husband when they are at university.

And what is being drummed into the upper middle-class Anglo women? They are raised with feminist ideas, such as that you prove yourself in career competition with men; that to be feminine is weak; that family formation is something you leave until your 30s; that it is empowering to emulate a male player lifestyle in your 20s; and that all that is owed men is a sexual relationship and even that is to be on your own terms.

It makes it very difficult for Anglo women to compete. An upper middle-class Anglo woman to have any chance with the men of her own age and peer group has to jettison the feminism that is drummed into her at school (and, even worse, sometimes reinforced by her own father). Some, I think, are beginning to attempt this and are trying to compete in dress and manners, but it may not be enough.

Finally, some women might read this and think "Well, why should we be competing for the men, they should be competing for us." And for men who aren't in as strong a position that no doubt remains true. But the most favoured men are in a position to choose and they won't choose women who don't turn up on time and who prefer to spend their 20s gloomily devoting themselves to career and counting down the years until it becomes respectable for them to try to make a go of a relationship.

Remember too that the role of a husband has been so whittled down within modern culture that it can no longer be assumed that men will be drawn to the "office" of being a husband - it has lost greatly in status and prestige. A lot of men will therefore wonder about such commitments and winning them over means making the personal side of marriage a very strongly attractive proposition. That can happen if a woman is able to live up to a romantic ideal, but to appear in such a way to a middle-class man means being classy, feminine and genuinely warmly natured.

I guess I would like Anglo women to unleash their feminine souls and to give themselves a fair chance with the men of their own peer group. That is a better option than reaching 35, finally admitting that family matters, but having no husband to be a father for a child.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Abbott's scheme

I've written in recent posts about the trend in modern societies to dissolve the social functions held by individual men and women and to have these functions carried out instead by a class of state administrators.

There's an excellent example of this in the Australian papers today. The leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has a  paid maternity scheme which would pay women their full wage for six months. A woman earning $150,000 a year would therefore receive $75,000 for each child she had.

The scheme has met resistance from within the Liberal Party for being too expensive, but Abbott is sticking with it:
This is a question of wage justice. When a woman takes leave because she's having a baby she should be paid at her wage just as if a bloke takes leave to go on holidays should be paid at his wage.
Feminist Eva Cox thinks this finally marks the arrival of a radical feminist policy on paid maternity leave, as it justifies paid maternity not as a health or welfare issue but as a workplace entitlement.
The more radical basis for arguing for parental leave is to set up it up as an ongoing workplace entitlement. Feminists have long argued for parenting time to be recognised as a legitimate employee entitlement, like holiday pay, sick pay and long service leave.
There will be readers of this blog who will benefit financially from Abbott's scheme and no doubt the money will be welcome. However, in spite of this I think we should be opposed to it.

What the scheme does is to reduce further the role of being a husband. It was once the case that a woman relied on her husband's efforts to earn a living in order to be supported whilst having her children. Under Abbott's scheme a woman will be supported by a combination of her own career position and a government mandated leave scheme.

So the first problem with the scheme is that it contributes to the narrowing role of the individual in society to that of worker and consumer.

Second, it means that the question of how long a woman might be able to spend at home with her child will no longer be decided at the family level but at the bureaucratic one. Abbott thinks six months at home is the right length, but down the track government officials might opt for either a shorter or longer period of time. Isn't that a blow to the status and function of the family as an institution?

Third, the longer term effect of the scheme will be to give governments power to enforce a sex neutral version of the family. The reason for this is that if you believe that individuals are made through their career, then it will seem unjust for women to spend more time at home with a child than men do. That's why in Europe there has been a push to make it compulsory for men to take a portion of the leave. In other words, if you want the money you'll have to accept a sex neutral concept of parenting in which the traditional motherhood role is shared equally between men and women.

The argument for men taking up the scheme is already being made in Australia, for instance, by Jessica Irvine:
Reforms such as Labor's paid parental leave scheme, paid at the minimum wage, and Abbott's more generous scheme to pay mothers their own salary for six months offer vital support for women in a stressful phase in their life. It is social recompense for the private investments women make to give life to the future workforce.

But Abbott should join Warren Buffett in encouraging fathers to take up his parental scheme too. Because if women are to truly "lean in" in the workforce, men must learn to "lean in" at home too.
The scheme pushes further toward the idea of individuals being interchangeable units in society. The connection between a female nature and motherhood, and a male nature and fatherhood is diminished.

Fourth, the place of stable marriage as a foundation of parenthood is further reduced. It no longer matters as much whether a woman is married, or even in a relationship, as her ability to mother a child is now connected to her position at work rather than to her place within a family.

It is true that a personal relationship between a man and a woman is still left in existence and feminists of the past once argued that this would be a more pure foundation for relationships between the sexes. The problem is, though, that getting rid of the "social office" aspect of being a husband and wife also decreases the level of stable commitment to such relationships. It becomes harder for individuals to justify the formalising of relationships and to find meaning and satisfaction in fulfilling a marital role even at times when the personal relationship itself is under strain.

It should be noted that Tony Abbott is at the more right-wing end of the mainstream political spectrum. The fact that even he simply assumes that part of the traditional male role should be taken over by the administrative state demonstrates just how strong such attitudes are within the political class. It does not even register with him that something might be lost in the process. The influence of economism within right-liberalism probably doesn't help, as it encourages the idea that activity in the market via a career is the measure of success and self-realisation.

Monday, May 06, 2013

How does the liberal concept of freedom lead to statism?

A commenter in a recent post made this argument:
I don't agree with your long-running contention that modern liberals actually want maximum individual liberty and "autonomy" in the sense that classical liberals meant it (classical liberals being more akin to modern libertarians on that score). Modern liberals favor massive state intervention into every aspect of social, economic, and political life, which far from removing impediments to autonomy and self-determination, is necessarily the very death of autonomy and self-determination. Modern liberals want to crush the individual, and they are knowingly the enemies of liberty in the sense that classical liberals meant it.
In other words, the commenter is asking how modern liberals can combine the idea of maximising individual liberty (understood to mean autonomy) with a more intrusive state.

Let's look at an example, namly that of Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM in the UK and a leader of the Liberal Democrats in that country. In a speech entitled "Why I am a liberal" he argues that liberals don't like concentrations of power as that limits autonomy:
A liberal abhors excessive concentrations of power in politics and economics alike. I believe monopoly in the market place is as destructive of creativity and autonomy as is monopoly in politics.
He contrasts this liberal view with that of socialists, who he believes are more statist:
Socialism believes that society can only be improved through relentless state activism, a belief driven by far greater pessimism about the ability of people to improve their own lives.
So you might think that this is a case of a belief in individual autonomy pushing someone to be anti-statist.

But as soon as Clegg begins to discuss policy, out comes the state. Here is a classic example:
My party has new plans to provide free childcare for all toddlers from the age of eighteen months. Childcare costs are a punitive burden for so many parents today, inhibiting the freedoms and choices which parents in other countries take for granted.

And currently there is no help with childcare costs at all until a child is three years old. If people want to work, let them. We would offer 19 months of parental leave… shared between mothers and fathers… So that - if they want to - men can stay at home with their children.

And - if they want to - women have more opportunities to get back into work.
The problem is that the logic of individual autonomy pushes toward these sorts of policies. If you really believe that there should be no impediments to choice, then why should a woman's sex stop her from choosing to self-create through a career? But how can you give her this "freedom" (from motherhood) unless it is heavily subsidised by the state (via childcare) and unless the state acts to overthrow the connection between motherhood and womanhood (by promoting unisex parenting).

And here's another example. Liberals don't like the idea that the things we don't choose might have an effect on the life path we determine for ourselves:
And I believe a liberal society is impossible if children are condemned for life – their education, their health, their economic well being – by the circumstances in which they were born.
But that implies that children have to have the same start regardless of what their parents do to support them. And if parents can't be relied upon to give all children the same start, then what force in society is going to? The answer is the state:
We are also developing new policies which would target extra resources at the most deprived children, especially in those crucial early years of education, and introduce significantly lower infant class sizes.

...Our plans would revolutionise the care and schooling provided to young children, so giving both parents and children peace of mind and opportunities that have been denied them.
Finally, Clegg is someone who dislikes the idea of a national state. And why wouldn't you if you follow a universalist philosophy? If you're a universalist, then there is no basis for discriminating in favour of the people of your own nation. You'll want to apply liberal principles globally instead. And so Clegg, despite all his talk of dispersing power, happily discusses the need for international government:
In exactly the same way we need international regulation to mitigate the worst excesses of our financial institutions, we need international regulation to protect our environment from selfinterested elites.

Global problems require global solutions. But only liberals truly believe in international governance. In pooling sovereignty at supranational level.
Finally, consider Clegg's pitiful account of solidarity:
The only way we will make it through the hard times ahead, the only way we’ll build a fairer, more cohesive society, is if we come together.

Not if we drive people apart.

Liberalism seeks to bring people together by recognising our own freedoms are dependent on the freedom of others.

I uphold your freedoms because you uphold mine.
That's the kind of thing a classical liberal like J.S. Mill was at pains to emphasise. It's the idea people will not intrude on the freedom of others because that then undermines the guarantee to their own freedom.

But it's a paper thin version of social solidarity. In effect, Clegg envisions a society made up of interchangeable autonomous individuals who express solidarity by being willing to recognise each other's freedoms.

But there is no recognition of the fellow feeling or loyalty that comes about through a shared history, culture, religion, language or kinship - no sense that people might form an ethny or a people.

But to summarise: Clegg does take "freedom as autonomy" seriously. It leads him on the one hand to wish to disperse power to individuals rather than to rely on a paternalistic state. But, at the same time, there is a logic by which the state is relied on to remove impediments to choice and to equalise conditions of life so that the things that aren't chosen don't determine life outcomes.

I understand that libertarians would disagree with the way that Clegg has developed a liberal politics, but what they need to understand is that there is a logic by which Clegg (and so many others) have taken liberalism in that direction.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

An example of misunderstanding traditionalism

People are used to politics being dominated by a right and a left liberalism. That can make it difficult to envisage an alternative to these options.

I was reminded of this in the discussion to my post "Hostility in the manosphere". One commenter, calling himself "Nah," claimed that hostility to traditionalists is justified by the fact that traditionalists have already been around a long time but had lost:
In one form or another, "traditionalism" has been around for over 60 years, and has an unbroken record of total and unmitigated defeat.
To me, that's a puzzling claim. I wrote a comment in response pointing out that by the 1970s society was dominated not just by liberalism but more specifically by a left-liberalism, which dominated the schools, the universities, the mainstream churches and the media. There were no institutions (in Australia, anyway) which you could call traditionalist.

Nah accepted that society after the 1970s was dominated by liberalism. But he didn't accept my claim that there were no significant non-liberal institutions earlier in the 1900s (with the partial exception of the Catholic Church) to oppose the advance of liberalism. He wrote:
Are you kidding? ALL the institutions were non-liberal at the beginning of the 20th century. Over time the liberals infiltrated them, hollowed them out, and generally turned them into a mockery of their former selves. Conservatism (like the British Empire) went from penthouse to outhouse over the course of the century. You are deluded if you think you can get back into the penthouse when you couldn't even defend it back in the day you actually owned it.
It's true that liberalism did move to rule more exclusively on liberal principles alone during the course of the 1900s. But that doesn't mean that in the year 1900 you had a situation in which a traditionalist ruling class governed society via traditionalist dominated institutions. That very much misunderstands what was happening at that time.

In Australia, for instance, politics was dominated by a contest between a group of Deakinite liberals who favoured protection and another group of free trade liberals. The Labor Party had just become a significant third force in politics. Was there an organised traditionalist party in Australia in 1900, representing a powerful section of the ruling elite? The answer is no.

Remember too that the 1800s were the heyday of classical liberalism and that the first wave of feminism began from the mid-1800s and reached a peak of radicalism in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Artistic and political modernism had already developed a long way by the year 1900. For instance, Nietzsche had declared the death of God in the 1880s; Freud effectively did likewise in his very influential works which he began publishing in the 1890s; a movement of nihilists and anarchists assassinated various heads of state from the 1880s; and Munch painted "The Scream" in the 1890s.

The full force of modernism in the arts was therefore ready to hit very soon after the year 1900. Picasso's "The women of Avignon" was painted in 1907; Duchamp's "Fountain" (a urinal) dates from 1917; Schoenberg's influential atonal work Pierrot Lunaire was composed in 1912; and James Joyce began work on Ulysses in 1914.

So it was modernism, and not traditionalism, that was in full flight in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In his final response Nah accepts that classical liberalism was strong in the 1800s, but he goes on to make this objection:
As for the "classical liberalism" of the 1800s... that is exactly what is known today as conservatism or traditionalism. Is this really what you oppose? If you are against "1800s liberalism", exactly what are you in favor of? What kind of "traditionalism" are you talking about if you exclude everything that happened in the English-speaking world in the 1800s?
So we finally get to the real basis of the misunderstanding. Nah believes that traditionalism is just another name for classical liberalism. He wonders if we don't believe in contemporary liberalism, nor in classical liberalism, exactly what is left for us to believe in. He finds it difficult to see the alternative.

This post would become horrendously long if I tried to make a detailed reply right now. But the basic point I will make is that in rejecting both forms of liberalism we are not "excluding everything that happened in the English-speaking world in the 1800s". Until recent decades liberalism did not seek to rule exclusively by its own principles. The family, for instance, was nearly entirely untouched by liberalism until about the 1850s. Christianity remained strong within the Anglo elite up to about the 1880s and the aristocratic values are evident within Anglo culture right up to the 1920s. Traditional forms of nationalism, whilst somewhat undermined by liberalism, held on until the 1930s in most Anglo countries.

So there was still an ongoing tradition, with many things to admire within it, in the 1800s and later, despite the fact that liberals were strong within the political class and pushed society over time in the direction they favoured.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

"We’ve assumed we can put it off indefinitely"

The Daily Mail has a story up about university educated women delaying motherhood for too long. One of the women they profiled explained her situation this way:
Helen is typical of the new breed of would-be mums who prioritised their careers over family. She left Bristol University and was head-hunted by Goldman Sachs where, as a woman trader in the early Nineties, she was a rarity. Twelve-hour days were standard; routinely she began work at 6am.

She married her husband Duncan, a freelance cameraman, when she was 30, and continued to work. "I did want a baby. But I was on this merry-go-round and I couldn’t get off," she recalls. I visualised a future with children but you bury your head in the sand and hope these things will sort themselves out. But they rarely do."

For Helen, the consequences of delaying motherhood were catastrophic. When she began a new job with a £200,000-a-year salary in the London office of a German bank, she worked even harder to warrant her huge earnings. But her stress levels soared commensurately. Finally, in 2001, aged 33, she suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with depression.

She then wanted to try for a baby, but her medication would have been harmful to an unborn child. Meanwhile, her marriage, stretched to breaking point by her illness, collapsed. It took six years before Helen stopped taking medication for depression and by then she was almost 40 and single.
Kristina was also interviewed:
For Kristina Howells, 40, studying became a substitute for the child she didn’t have. In her 20s, she was head of music at a school in Kent.

‘It was the prime age for having babies, but work consumed me,’ she says. ‘When I wasn’t teaching, I was planning lessons, taking after-school activities; organising festivals and concerts. It was rewarding but stressful. I remember thinking, “I’m still very young. I can find the right man in my 30s.”

You think you’re invincible. Then I reached 30 and was almost panic-stricken. I had a career but no man to have children with, and I didn’t want to be a single mum.’
Solutions? It seems that liberal culture has reached a point at which the message transmitted to women is that what ultimately matters is career: that this is the means to self-realisation.

It makes sense that this message would be taken up more fervently by upper middle-class women, as these women have access to the higher status and higher earning professions.

It's not that these women have entirely rejected the idea of motherhood, but it is not actively pursued - it is something that is assumed will just happen of itself at some indefinite point of time in the future.

So the solution is, in part, for a more realistic view to be promoted within society: a view which recognises that women need to more actively pursue marriageable men in a timely way and to plan for family life whilst still in their 20s.

But even more than this, we need to tweak the culture, so that self-realisation is connected, at least in part, to marriage and motherhood, rather than exclusively to careers. And this is surely possible. We do fulfil ourselves in part in committed relationships with the opposite sex. And we do fulfil important aspects of our being as parents to children.

We have to resist, too, the idea that delaying motherhood until very late is a positive sign of a middle-class identity. The Daily Mail story is good in this regard: it points to the regret and loss and to the negative social consequences of middle-class women "forgetting" to have children.

On a more positive note, I do think there are signs that a younger generation of women are more determined to begin their families by about the age of 27. Hopefully that will start to show up in some of these social surveys.