Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sydney Traditionalist Forum event

Sydney readers might be interested in an upcoming event hosted by the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. It's a documentary screening held at Sydney University. You need to register for the event using the contact details below:

Social class

Mark Moncrieff has an interesting post up at his site discussing attitudes to social classes - a theme that I haven't covered much. I think he is correct when he asserts that differing social classes will always exist and that the point is not to seek to abolish them but to value the contributions of each to society. There's an interesting exchange too in the comments about class and opportunity.

If you have any thoughts on this topic feel free to post them here or at Mark's site.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Out of the Antiworld: right and left

For most of the 1900s, political debate in the Anglosphere countries was limited to arguments between right and left liberals.

James Kalb has described the differing outlooks of right and left liberals in his recent essay Out of the Antiworld. He argues that both kinds of liberals want to make individual preference the supreme good in society. Right-liberals tend to be those who like action and who therefore see the satisfaction of individual preference in terms of "the unlimited pursuit of career, power and money in a sort of competitive free-for-all". This right-liberal "party of action" focuses on "markets, entrepreneurs and minimal regulation."

The left-liberals want to maximise individual preference differently. This party consists of:
experts, officials, and explainers, who are enormously influential in a complex, bureaucratic, technological, and media-ridden society like our own. Such people are less interested in action and acquisition than in the creation of a scheme of total control through exact knowledge. The ideal they strive for is a sort of EU writ large, a universal system of social management run by expert functionaries that secures and fine-tunes maximum equal preference satisfaction for everyone everywhere. Such a system requires uniformity, centralization, and strict limits on disturbing factors like enterprise and competition.

In 1965 the Federal President of the Australian Liberal Party (our right-liberal party), Philip McBride, made this comment:
...We are not to be held back, nor do we want to see Australia held back, by the belief that our national destiny is to be found in a bureaucratic State where theorists are paramount

You can see that in 1965 right-liberals were focused on the debate with left-liberals, not with traditionalists. McBride saw his opposition as being the left-liberal party of "experts, officials and explainers".

But if the debate is limited to an argument between right and left liberals can we really be surprised if society drifts ever further in a liberal direction? James Kalb has made an excellent contribution with his essay to opening up debate, by criticising liberalism as an "operating system" rather than just opposing this or that liberal policy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

James Kalb: Out of the Antiworld

James Kalb has written an excellent article titled Out of the Antiworld. It's best to read it in its entirety, but I'd like to focus in this post on just one aspect of it.

James Kalb describes the liberal moral system in his article and it reinforces some of the points I have been trying to make in recent posts. According to Kalb, the liberal understanding of what makes something rational includes a scepticism about what can be known and this rules out the idea of an objective moral order, so that the focus is put instead on what is subjective:
The result is that nothing can be held to have a natural goal or reason for being, and the only meaning something can have for us is the meaning we give it. In such a setting, wanting to do something is what makes it worth doing, and the good can only be the satisfaction of preferences simply as such. Morality becomes an abstract system that has nothing substantive to say about how to live but only tells us to cooperate so we can all attain whatever our goals happen to be.

Given such a view, the uniquely rational approach to social order is to treat it as a soulless, technically rational arrangement for maximizing equal satisfaction of equally valid preferences. That principle claims to maximize effective freedom, but it narrowly limits what is permissible lest we interfere with the equal freedom of others or the efficient operation of the system. Private hobbies and indulgences are acceptable, since they leave other people alone. So are career, consumption, and expressions of support for the liberal order. What is not acceptable is any ideal of how people should understand their lives together that is at odds with the liberal one. Such ideals affect other people, if only by affecting the environment in which they live, and that makes them oppressive. If you praise the traditional family, you are creating an environment that disfavors some people and their goals, so you are acting as an oppressor.

The result is that the contemporary liberal state cannot allow people to take seriously the things they have always taken most seriously.

Liberals claim to stand for individual freedom, but if you have a system in which everyone must be equally free to do as they will, then you cannot assert as a good anything which might limit what other people do, or which might even create an environment which defines things according to one view rather than another.

When you look at what then individuals are really left free to do you find that they are mostly left with the more trivial of choices rather than the more significant ones. Career is perhaps one of the more important choices left to people, which might partly explain why most liberals are so focused on the good of career. Then there are consumer choices, entertainments and travel. These can all be chosen in a way that doesn't necessarily interfere with the choices of others (though even with careers there are issues about who should be favoured or not in employment).

And what is lost? In general the things that matter most to people, as these require a community to defend them as public goods. For instance, most people want to live within a traditional community of their own, one in which they have a sense of continuity over time, a link between generations and the transmission of a particular culture and heritage. But to realistically offer this choice to people means that you must have some sort of borders between different communities - otherwise distinctions are lost. And the liberal system of equal freedom doesn't allow for such borders, because it would mean asserting as a public good a measure that would limit the freedom of some people (those not within the community) to exercise a choice (to join the community). It would mean, in other words, discriminating between people in order to uphold an important public good, thereby violating the non-discrimination rule.

But going to the shops and choosing how to spend your money is OK. Or deciding to go to Bali rather than the Gold Coast is also OK. That becomes what defines us as liberal subjects, it even defines our dignity as human individuals in the liberal understanding of things. But to most people it seems a trivial base on which to try to build a sense of human dignity and flourishing. It is "equally free" but at a depressingly low level. Aspects of life that are meant to be secondary are what are left to us; we lose the traditional anchors of identity and meaning and motivation; and we find that public life is dominated by people from everywhere shopping together.

There is one other aspect of James Kalb's article I'd like to discuss, but I'll leave that for a future post.

The Shepherd

Below is a painting by the Frenchman Claude Lorrain titled "Le Berger" (The Shepherd). Lorrain lived in the seventeenth century and is best known for his landscapes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

UK immigration system revelations

Over the past two days there have been three articles at the Daily Mail dealing with immigration into the UK.

The first revealed that under the Blair Labour Government 74 per cent of job vacancies were taken by overseas applicants. That has fallen a little under the Cameron Government but still stands at 55 per cent. That's in a country with a million unemployed people aged under 25.

One Tory MP has called for UK employers to hire UK workers. According to Matthew Hancock only 7 per cent of UK firms have an apprenticeship scheme; he's encouraging UK companies to train local young people rather than take the "easy option" of bringing in workers from abroad.

But his efforts are being undermined by the EU. Another Daily Mail article has pointed out that the EU pays UK firms almost $1500 for hiring an overseas worker instead of a local one.

The final revelation is that over the past ten years 470,000 immigrants into the UK have been provided with social housing, i.e. their housing has been paid for by taxpayers.

It's not supposed to be like this. Where is the sense of the UK as a national community if there is an absence of group loyalty? And where is the motivation to maintain a strong culture of family life and a strong work ethic if government and employers can just get people and workers from overseas at will?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why then do liberals disallow some choices?

What do liberals believe about morality? I recently quoted Dr Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist, as follows:
Defining our own good, and living our lives in pursuit of it, is at the heart of a moral life.

So what matters to Dr Cannold is not what we happen to choose but that we get to define our own good.

There were readers of this site who doubted Dr Cannold's sincerity. They pointed out that traditionalists aren't allowed to define the good as we would like to and that certain choices that traditionalists would make are disallowed. Dr Cannold and other liberals, these readers claimed, are therefore not following a logical philosophy and are asserting their power in society in an arbitrary way.

But I don't think that's right. The liberal system logically forbids traditionalists to choose the kind of society we would like to have (by "logically" I don't mean that it's right that liberalism does this, but that the outcome follows from first principles).

It goes like this. Liberals believe in a freedom to self-determine. Therefore liberals don't want things that are predetermined to influence what we can or cannot choose to do.

But qualities like our sex and our race are predetermined. Therefore, a common liberal position is that:

i) it is permissible to freely identify with these qualities privately, i.e. as a matter of your own personal life

ii) it is wrong to assert these qualities in ways that might limit the choices that other people make.

You can, therefore, identify at a personal level with your own particular ancestry, but it would be considered wrong to deny someone entry as a migrant to your country on the basis of race. Similarly, you can choose to identify as a man or a woman, but you cannot select for employment on the basis of sex. If you deny someone an ability to choose on the basis of an unchosen, predetermined quality like their race or sex it is treated as discrimination based on these qualities, i.e. as "sexism" or "racism," and as a denial of equal opportunity.

So it is no use for a traditionalist to argue that his good is to have an immigration policy that leaves him with an ethnic homeland of his own or that his preference is for an army that does not employ women as combat troops, as both of these options discriminate on grounds that are unacceptable within the liberal system.

That's why traditionalists have to dig deeper and challenge liberalism on the basis of first principles. The issue to be fought is whether a freedom to self-determine is really an adequate basis on which to found a society. Traditionalists would argue that individual autonomy is not always and everywhere the overriding good to be pursued. To make it so is ultimately dissolving of the particular society you belong to. A wiser policy would be to accept a range of goods and to order them so that the social framework fits together (works together) to the greatest extent possible.

A couple of other observations. This aspect of liberalism, that you can hold to something as a private feeling but that you cannot assert it in a way that might limit what someone else can choose, explains those liberal politicians who talk positively about their own ancestry whilst enacting "non-discriminatory" migration policies which spell the end of particular ancestral identities.

The former Australian PM, Malcolm Fraser, was reportedly proud of his Scottish heritage, but was also an open borders man. An earlier PM, Sir Robert Menzies, was famous for his regard for his British heritage but oversaw the transformation of Australia into a mixed European nation. Menzies described his affection for his British heritage as being "sentimental" (a private sentiment rather than an identity to publicly uphold). A more recent PM, Paul Keating, identified not only with his Irish ancestry but with a strain of Australian larrikin culture - but, again, was fervently open-bordered. I have even heard some serving Labor MPs speak positively of their UK connections, but it would never cross their minds that such identities should be upheld through migration policy.

Finally, the argument has been raised that liberals aren't sincere in wanting people to self-define their own good and make their own autonomous choices, because the liberal state is happy to intrude paternalistically in discouraging smoking or in making people wear seat belts and so on.

But the seat belt or smoking issues don't really contravene liberal principles as these do not deny equal opportunity in the manner I described above but are rather "neutral" health measures that apply to everyone equally.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Is this Catholicism or liberalism?

The Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, has given a speech urging American Catholics to support the legalisation of millions of illegal immigrants.

What is particularly disturbing about the speech is that it is framed almost entirely within a political liberalism.

The archbishop breezily advocated the creation of a new America via immigration:
“Immigration,” he emphasized, “is a question about America.”

During his remarks, Archbishop Gomez addressed the root of the immigration debate by asking the questions that underlie the issue: “What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people and where are we heading as a country? What will the 'next America' look like?”

“What should the next America look like?”

Talk about a fast and loose attitude. There is no concern at all for upholding a people and a tradition, just a casual embrace of change from one America to the next.

Can such a fast and loose attitude really be confined to issues of national identity? If you're willing to throw out your nation this casually, then why not change your church or religion while you're at it. Why not ask "What should the next religion look like?"

To put this another way, most people don't compartmentalise the different strands of their own tradition. If we value our tradition, and see the good in it, and want to uphold it, then we are likely to want to hold to the different aspects of it, including our national identity and the religion associated with it.

But Archbishop Gomez wants us to be so careless of our tradition that we will throw away our national identity in favour of the next one - whilst still caring about the fate of the historic Western religion. He advocates that we adopt an attitude that is both careless and caring - a contradictory impulse that is unlikely to hold.

The archbishop then appealed to a liberal civic nationalism:
The archbishop noted G. K. Chesterton's comment that the U.S. is the only nation founded not on a material basis such as territory or race, but on a belief – a vision.

The Founding Fathers – the writers of the Declaration of Independence – envisioned a nation “where men and women from every race, religion and national background could live in equality.”

But these days all the Western nations hold to a liberal civic nationalism. It is not distinct at all - it makes America no different to Australia or Sweden or Canada. It is a mere pretence that such a nationalism makes America unique.

And here's another problem with basing a national identity on liberal values of equality and non-discrimination. Because every traditional society did discriminate in order to uphold its particularity, then they all failed the test of these values. Therefore, the past is looked on negatively in terms of how morally tainted it was. The archbishop himself has adopted this liberal mindset. He said,
The American Dream has always been “a work in progress...not fully delivered,” Archbishop Gomez told his listeners. Slavery, nativism, and race discrimination have always been blights upon that dream, the reality of which has been both “painful and partial.”

How can you maintain a sense of continuity and a love of tradition if you adopt this liberal understanding of what a nation should be? What does it mean if the word you use to describe the history of your tradition is "painful"?

And how would the church fare if it were held to the same standards? Should American Catholics turn their backs to the historic church because the church discriminated to maintain its sense of itself and of the good that it embodied? After all, the church did not ordain women. It discriminated against homosexuality. It did not see polygamy as being equal to monogamy. You might argue that the church would not be the church if it accepted everything as being equal; that, in fact, it would be pointless to have a church that accepted everything as equal - that it would no longer be meaningfully a church. And you would be right. But the same thing can be said of a nation. If a nation is universal then can it really be a nation?

Which brings me to a final point. Archbishop Gomez peppers his speech with appeals to liberal moral terms, such as diversity and anti-discrimination. This is unfortunate as these are the very moral concepts that are likely to increasingly impact on the church itself in America.

Why? These concepts derive from a liberal idea that what can be truly and definitively known about individuals are their wants and desires. These wants and desires therefore constitute the good that individuals seek, and so what matters is that they can be pursued equally without impediment. Therefore, if there is a morality, it is based on qualities of non-interference, i.e. on concepts of individual rights, of tolerance, inclusion and non-discrimination.

And so when the Catholic Church makes a different kind of moral pronouncement, one based on the idea that something is inherently right and wrong, and that it is so for all people (a non-relativist moral position) it is condemned by liberals as fundamentalist. What is more, it is thought to be judgemental and to violate principle of inclusiveness.

In a liberal morality, for instance, it makes no sense at all to oppose the idea of gay marriage. If that is what people want to do, then to respect their expression of desire equally means allowing them to do what they wish to do. It would be thought mere bigotry or a phobia or prejudice or discrimination to think otherwise. So why shouldn't the church be forced to agree to gay marriage or else face legal sanctions? If, that is, such a liberal morality really is legitimate.

But if it's not legitimate the church should not be using it to justify amnesty for illegal immigrants. It is a dangerous thing for the church to be supporting the use of liberal moral concepts when it wishes to do so, but then to suddenly swing around and object when these concepts are used against the church itself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A tide of male depression?

Some not so great news:
One in 10 young Australian males contemplated suicide last year, a mental wellbeing study has found.

Researcher Jane Burns said the saddening revelation, to be included in a report to be released on Monday, reflected a mental health system that was failing young males. The survey found that nearly 70 of the 700 interviewed thought about taking their own lives and one in five felt "life is hardly worth living".

Some will no doubt say that the problem is masculinity itself, that men have to learn to express emotions and seek help and so on.

You have to wonder, though, whether the current drift of society isn't making it harder for young men to find the kind of anchors in life that they once did.

I can remember as a boy in the 1970s growing up with a very positive view of manhood. Australian men took pride in a history of masculine achievement. We were to live up to the achievements of previous generations of men, to take on the mantle of a proud tradition.

But increasingly the message has shifted to the idea that men in general, and white men in particular, have had a negative role and that any traditions they are associated with are morally tainted. I can't see how this message is likely to help young men build a strong sense of self-esteem or a positive regard for their role and place in society.

And modern life can seem empty. We exist to work and to shop and to be consumers of various kinds of entertainments. We are fundamentally to see ourselves as atomised individuals and to try to make sense of life on this basis.

This doesn't call on the deeper male instincts. We weren't made for this; there is no role in this for our strengths as men. Were we given our muscularity, or our instinct to serve and to protect, or our sense of honour and loyalty, just to end up wandering around a shopping mall buying things?

We are supposed to work together for larger ends, the most important of which is to uphold the existence of the peoples we belong to. And our role within the family is supposed to be a distinctly masculine one, a role that the wellbeing of the family depends on.

Not hedonism, not individual self-interest, not abstract universalism - none of these will ultimately work as anchors. None of these ties the best of what we are as men to a meaningful role in society.

Wordsworth's pedlar

What makes human life feel blessed? For William Wordsworth the experience of being deeply connected to nature brought about such a feeling. This experience was open to all, even to those of humble rank. The following lines are from the poem The Pedlar and the Ruined Cottage:

Claude Lorrain

From early childhood, even, as I have said,
From his sixth year, he had been sent abroad
In summer, to tend herds: such was his task
Henceforward till the later day of youth.
Oh! then what soul was his when on the tops
Of the high mountains he beheld the sun
Rise up, and bathe the world in light. He looked;
The ocean and the earth beneath him lay
In gladness and deep joy. The clouds were touched
And in their silent faces did he read
Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank
The spectacle; sensation, soul, and form
All melted into him; they swallowed up
His animal being: in them did he live,
And by them did he live: they were his life.
In such access of mind, in such high hour
Of visitation from the living God,
Thought was not. In enjoyment it expired.
No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request;
Rapt into still communion that transcends
The imperfect offices of prayer and praise,
His mind was a thanksgiving to the Power
That made him: it was blessedness and love.
A Herdsman on the lonely mountain tops,
Such intercourse was his, and in this sort
Was his existence oftentimes possessed.
Oh! then how beautiful, how bright appeared
The written Promise! He had early learned
To reverence the Volume which displays
The mystery, the life which cannot die:
But in the mountains did he feel his faith.
There did he see the writing. All things there
Breathed immortality, revolving life,
And greatness still revolving: infinite.
There littleness was not; the least of things
Seemed infinite, and there his spirit shaped
Her prospects, nor did he believe - he saw.
What wonder if his being thus became
Sublime and comprehensive! Low desires,
Low thoughts had there no place, yet was his mind
Lowly; for he was meek in gratitude
Oft as he called to mind those ecstasies
And whence they flowed, and from them he acquired
Wisdom which works through patience; thence he learned
In many a calmer hour of sober thought
To look on nature with an humble heart
Self-questioned where it did not understand
And with a superstitious eye of love.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The trifecta of privilege

In a discussion about the Zimmerman verdict, an American TV host, Thomas Roberts, claimed that being white, male and heterosexual was a "trifecta of privilege":
MIKE BARNICLE: You mentioned - that it was depressing, that it was a terrible weekend, that the verdict is unsettling for so many people in this country and probably around the world. I'll tell you what’s truly unsettling to me personally as a parent. I have three sons. Not one of those sons that I have to tell listen, don't run when you see a cop, you know don’t establish eye contact with a cop.


BARNICLE: You know, watch out when you're here. Watch out when you're there. I never had to do that. But if you're a black parent, you do that. You do that. It's part of raising your children.

ROBERTS: Well, with all due respect your three boys have hit the American trifecta of privilege.


ROBERTS: They are white, straight males. Presumably. So they have hit the trifecta of American privilege and from there we go down hill. So if you are an other in this country, and that means if you are an LGBT, if you are hispanic, if you are black, if you are a woman right now we are fighting to prove why other is no the bad and why we are due the value of our American rights. I mean, Trayvon's rights were obviously violated, stalked, followed presumed to be suspicious from the get-go by somebody who was the self-proclaimed watch commander of his neighborhood who was packing heat to go to the grocery store.

This is a familiar left-liberal way of seeing things. The focus is on some groups, namely whites, males and heterosexuals, being privileged at the expense of other groups.

If you look at indicators such as income, education and careers then it's not clear that white, male heterosexuals are always and everywhere privileged. Asian Americans do better than white Americans in all these areas; lesbians do better than heterosexual women when it comes to income; females do better than males when it comes to education and so on.

Thomas Roberts is himself homosexual. He wants to put himself in a non-privileged group, despite the fact that he has a high status, high income professional position.

So what explains the idea that white, heterosexual males are privileged? I think it happens for the following reason. Liberals believe that it is the act of choosing for ourselves that makes something moral. For this moral system to work, everyone must be equally free to self-define their own good. And this means that liberals will think it most wrong for some people to pursue their own self-determining choices at the expense of others seeking to do the same thing - that becomes the focus of moral evil.

The sense that liberals will have is that American society was created by the self-defining choices of white American males. That is what brought about the culture, the institutions and the environment that people live in. But that is a morally inadmissible situation; it means that the self-defining choices of this group of people defines the environment that other people live in.

A consequence of this is that it becomes important to deconstruct that culture and those institutions until they no longer exist as the environment that people live in.

So what then replaces them? There are two angles to this. First, it won't be thought so bad if the white culture is replaced by another one, as minority cultures are associated with resistance or subversion rather than the creation of systems of dominance or privilege. But, second, liberals might also aim at a diversity or plurality that prevents any one group from establishing a "hegemony".

And so the very mixed suburbs, in which no single group predominates, and which is experienced by traditionalists as lacking a clear expression of culture, fits in with liberal aims. The environment is no longer influenced by the self-defining choices of any particular group.

Therefore, it is not just markers of education, income and career which matter to liberals in defining privilege (though these are certainly part of the equation). There's also this other concern with the way that American institutions and culture have been defined by white heterosexual males and this concern cannot be allayed until traditional America has been thoroughly deconstructed.

Traditionalism has a very different starting point to liberalism which leads us in a radically different direction. We do not believe that it is the act of choosing for ourselves that makes something moral. Instead we believe that there are objective moral goods that can be known to us.

And so the aim is to discern and to defend what is good in human life. When we look at the culture and the institutions we inherit, our aim is to recognise the good that has been handed down to us within this tradition, and to build on it, rather than to look for patterns of privilege in how a social environment has been defined.

A part of the good that traditionalists recognise is being connected in our identity to our own culture and people (ethny). And so we do not wish to deconstruct these in order to create a "definition free" environment, but rather we want to maintain their continuity - we do not want to lose something that has a significant value, that inspires our love and which forms part of our identity and part of the setting which makes our social commitments meaningful.

Nor do we think of diversity in the same way that liberals might. For us, diversity is a world in which different peoples are allowed to predominate in different areas and so flavour those areas with their own distinct cultures. When liberals invoke diversity it has the sense of mixing cultures within a particular area so that no single one can predominate and define the environment. But that means that such an environment is likely to lack any clear cultural flavour.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Government admission on boat arrivals

You didn't have to be a genius to have figured this out already, but Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, has admitted that significant numbers of boat arrivals are not genuine asylum seekers but economic migrants:
we're getting many advise [sic] that it is economic pressure (and) economic aspirations (driving the arrivals)."

The latest boat, carrying 84 people, sailed directly from Vietnam, where there has been no conflict for 30 years.

Already this year, 759 Vietnamese boat people have come to Australia - the largest group to turn up since just after the Vietnam War - and more than four times the total number that has arrived in the three previous years.

One way to reform the current refugee system would be to resettle those claiming to be refugees in countries with a similar standard of living to their own (the costs of doing so could be borne by wealthier countries). This would remove the incentive toward economic migration.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Perils of the executive woman

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and lecturer. Back in 2001 she wrote a piece for the Harvard Business School on the failure of career women to marry and have children. The statistics she provides in the article are eye-opening.

According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett's research 50% of the top earning women never had children, despite nearly 90% wanting to. (The actual statistic: 49% of women aged 41 to 55 earning $100,000 per year in 2001 were childless.)

Even women earning more modest incomes had difficulty forming families. Of women aged 41 to 55 in the $55,000 to $66,000 income bracket 57% were unmarried and 33% were childless.

This disruption to family formation also afflicted the previous generation of businesswomen. Research by Felice Schwartz undertaken in the late 1980s found that 65% of executive women aged 40 were childless.

Why the failure to form families? It's not because these women didn't want to marry or have children (between 86% and 89% of high earning women wanted children).

One problem identified by Sylvia Ann Hewlett is that some women weren't proactive enough in trying to form families when they were younger and time was on their side. She quotes a younger woman, Amy, who was still holding to this "delay" mindset:
Amy is just embarking on her career. Her story is probably typical. “I figure I’ve got 14, 15 years before I need worry about making babies,” she e-mailed me. “In my mid-30s, I’ll go back to school, earn an MBA, and get myself a serious career. At 40, I’ll be ready for marriage and family. I can’t tell you how glad I am that this new reproductive technology virtually guarantees that you can have a baby until 45. Or maybe it’s even later. Go doctors!”

Modern medicine notwithstanding, the chances of Amy’s getting pregnant in her 40s are tiny – in the range of 3% to 5%. The luxury of time she feels is, unfortunately, an illusion.

Ready for marriage and family at 40! The problem is not just that she overestimates the reproductive technology. It's that she is so ready to deprioritise marital and maternal love in favour of life in a cubicle. There is a lovelessness too in her readiness to deliberately deny her future husband her youthful beauty, passion and fertility.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett believes that Amy is being unwise. Amongst the recommendations at the end of her piece are these:
Give urgent priority to finding a partner. My survey data suggest that high-achieving women have an easier time finding partners in their 20s and early 30s.

Have your first child before 35. The occasional miracle notwithstanding, late-in-life child-bearing is fraught with risk and failure. Even if you manage to get one child “under the wire,” you may fail to have a second. This, too, can trigger enormous regret.

Finally, Sylvia Ann Hewlett also recognises the problem of hypergamy, namely that executive men are willing to marry women younger and poorer than themselves and so have a relatively large pool of potential spouses to choose from, whilst executive women are usually oriented to men with a similar or higher educational and career standing:
Only 39% of high-achieving men are married to women who are employed full-time, and 40% of these spouses earn less than $35,000 a year. Meanwhile, nine out of ten married women in the high-achieving category have a husband who are employed full-time or self-employed and a quarter are married to men who earn more than $100,000 a year. Clearly, successful women have slim pickings in the marriage departments – particularly as they age. Professional men seeking to marry typically reach into a large pool of younger women, while professional women are limited to a shrinking pool of eligible peers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, at age 28 there are four college-educated, single men for every three college-educated single women. A decade later, the situation is radically changed. At age 38, there is one man for every three women.

Perhaps some things have changed in the culture of relationships since the piece was written, but at the very least it stands as a testament to the disruption to family that has taken place in past decades.

Grimshaw: In the golden olden time

Another work by John Atkinson Grimshaw, from about 1870 (click for the best view):

In The Golden Olden Time

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ch.6 Morality

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Autumn Gold

I've spent some time working on my booklet today, so instead of a post here are some more paintings by John Atkinson Grimshaw to enjoy (click for a better view).

Reflection on the Thames, Westminster, 1880

Autumn Gold

Friday, July 12, 2013

Golden Light

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that John Atkinson Grimshaw is one of the most underrated painters. I've posted some of his work previously here. The painting below is titled Golden Light and was painted in 1893 when the artist was 57 (it looks even better if you click on it). I'll be posting some more of his paintings in coming weeks.

A new book

James Kalb has a new book out called Against Inclusiveness: how the diversity regime is flattening America and the West and what to do about it.

It's available from Amazon here. If you click on the link the Amazon page lets you read a few pages as a sample.

I've ordered my own copy and will endeavour to write a review later, but in the meantime I'd encourage readers to have a look and to consider a purchase.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Does Pope Francis want a Muslim Europe?

Pope Francis has chosen as his first papal visit the island of Lampedusa. This is an island belonging to Italy but close to the African coastline. It is where Muslim Africans seeking to enter Europe illegally head for.

In a sermon on Lampedusa, Pope Francis made it clear that he supports the migration of Muslims into Europe "on their voyage toward something better". He said,
I give a thought, too, to the dear Muslim immigrants that are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with best wishes for abundant spiritual fruits. The Church is near to you in the search for a more dignified life for yourselves and for your families. I say to you “O’ scia’!” [trans.: a friendly greeting in the local dialect].

This doesn't bode well for the Church under Pope Francis. First, it means that the Church is committing itself to a false and unorthodox understanding of solidarity. Second, it means that the Church is orienting itself toward fitting in with secular liberal modernity rather than standing against it.

I knew immediately when I first read about the Pope's visit (hat tip: Laura Wood) that this was an expression of a certain understanding of solidarity. And, sure enough, in the Pope's sermon he takes solidarity as his theme. For instance, he says in reference to those Muslim African immigrants who drowned chancing the voyage to Lampedusa:
These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families – but they found death. How many times do those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity!

Why call this a false understanding of solidarity? It is false because it is part of the tendency to redefine solidarity as meaning compassion for the "suffering other". Who could be more "other" to Europeans than Muslim Africans? Therefore, it is with them that we are to find solidarity.

There is a disastrous logic to this understanding of solidarity. If we are to welcome and find solidarity precisely with those most different to us, then we will necessarily dissolve our own existence. If solidarity requires Europe to welcome African Muslims, then the long-term result will be the dissolution of a European Christianity. Pope Francis is following a policy that will ultimately dissolve his own church.

In truth, solidarity is based on relatedness, and the particular loves and duties which flow from these forms of relatedness. Therefore, I am commanded to honour my father and mother, because of the close and particular relationship I have with them. I am to provide for and protect my wife and children as part of my duties as a husband and father. I am not to shame my family name, nor to be disloyal to my ethnic kin. And, yes, it is true that I am also to be hospitable to the stranger, as I do have a degree of relatedness to him as someone made, like me, in the image of God. But my duty, and my compassion, toward the stranger, does not oblige me to do harm to those I am more closely connected to.

That is why the Catholic Church developed the ordo caritatis:
The exercise of charity would soon become injudicious and inoperative unless there be in this, as in all the moral virtues, a well-defined order...

The precedence is plain enough...Regarding the persons alone, the order is somewhat as follows: self, wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters, friends, domestics, neighbours, fellow-countrymen, and all others.

That is the orthodox Catholic position. So why are so many churchmen reversing the order of charity?

Unfortunately, I think it has to do with an ongoing dispute in the Church about how the Church should relate to the secular liberal world around it.

The last pope, Pope Benedict, early in his life supported Vatican II, which was supposed to lead to the Church being more open to the secular world. But over time he saw how the principles of liberal modernity clashed with those of the Church and he took the view that the Church would have to resist, rather than join in with, the trends within the larger society.

Pope Benedict was very skilled in describing the principles of liberal modernity and how they could not be reconciled with those of Christianity. In particular, this is true of his writings on gender and the family (see here and here). But even on issues of communal identity he was critical of trends within secular liberalism. For instance he said:
This case illustrates a peculiar Western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological. It is commendable that the West is trying to be more open, to be more understanding of the values of outsiders, but it has lost all capacity for self-love. All that it sees in its own history is the despicable and the destructive; it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure. What Europe needs is a new self-acceptance, a self-acceptance that is critical and humble, if it truly wishes to survive.

Multiculturalism, which is so passionately promoted, can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one's own things

He also opposed the idea of Turkish admission to the European Union on these grounds:
In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe. Making the two continents identical would be a mistake. It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics.

But there is a significant section of the Church which wishes to reconcile itself with liberal modernity. And one way that this can be achieved is for the Church to emphasise the theme of "solidarity with the stranger" because that fits in well with the liberal belief in "solidarity with the other".

Where do liberals get this belief in solidarity with the other?  I think it has to do with the way that liberal morality has developed over time. Liberals believe in autonomy as the overriding good. Therefore, they believe that what matters is that we are unimpeded in freely choosing what we do, i.e. what matters is the free choice, rather than what we choose.

However, this requires us to not infringe on other people making free choices. Therefore, a liberal morality will also emphasise qualities of non-interference, such as openness, diversity, tolerance and non-discrimination. So these become the liberal equivalents to positive virtues. And how then do you show that you are the most virtuous? You have to be the one who is most open and tolerant and non-discriminating and welcoming of diversity.

And how do you show this? You show this by identifying with (and being in solidarity with) the people who are most "other" to your own society. Hence the liberal cult of the other.

So can you be a good Catholic and also a good liberal? Not really, given that liberals don't generally believe in objective forms of morality and, as Pope Benedict pointed out, the liberal pursuit of autonomous freedom is incompatible with the Christian tradition. But those Catholics who want to approach liberal modernity can do so by emphasising the idea of "solidarity with the other". That's where a point of crossover can be constructed.

Further reading on this issue:

Upholding the four relationships

Losing the particular

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Charles Sims

Charles Sims was born in Islington, London, in 1873. He became successful as an artist quite early in life, from 1896 onwards. He seems to have been particularly inspired by the beauty of well-dressed women, but also by nature, family and classical mythology.

His life became troubled during the First World War. He lost one of his young sons and he found it difficult to cope with what he witnessed as a war artist.

Here are some of his earlier works, painted prior to the war:

The Kite

Untitled, 1898

The Little Faun 1906

Exaltation of a flower 1906

In Elysium

Artist's wife and son on the dunes at Etretat, Normandy

Monday, July 08, 2013

Bridge Lady

You might have seen the news item about an Australian woman marrying a bridge in the south of France.

She's an interesting mix of things this bridge lady, Jodi Rose. First, she represents an unfortunate trend, the idea of "art as therapy":
I also worked out fairly early on in life that if I wanted to avoid being locked away in an institution, I better find myself a context where whatever I did or said would be accepted, if not always totally acceptable. Which is why I chose  a career in the arts, the crazier you are as an artist, the better. Not that I have an actual mental disorder, more a tendency to melancholy and borderline depression, with an overactive imagination.

It ought to be the very opposite, it ought to be the most spiritually and psychologically "centred" who express what is best in the human experience through art.

The masculine husband: the historic Devil's bridge in the south of France

And what does Jodi Rose want in life? She wants incompatible things, a mix of modernity and tradition. She wants absolute freedom, but also love and security.

And this mix came out in her wedding ceremony. She values the bridge for having some advanced masculine qualities, whilst at the same time leaving her perfectly free to do whatever she wants:
The Devil’s Bridge is everything I could desire in a husband - sturdy, trustworthy, sensual, kind and handsome...This is not a decision I undertake lightly, just as our curves complement, we truly bring joy to each other, and the strength of his pylons will always carry me home. Bridgeland is love!

The story of our romance is a modern love fable...Although he is made of stone, the resonance of his being is very present, and I feel at peace in his strong embrace. He makes me feel connected to the earth and draws me to rest from my endless nomadic wanderings.

In his early years, women like me – educated, independent, unmarried - had an unfortunate tendency to end up in the hands of the inquisition, accused of being the Devil’s consorts and burned on the stake as witches. Women who exert too much independence, sexual knowledge or freedom may still be crucified on the stake of the mass media, while attitudes to those who remain unmarried, for whatever reason, are a combination of envy, speculation and pity, which although it may sting the ego, is preferable to being thrown onto a burning pyre or relegated to unpaid domestic labour.

While I respect those whose romantic and sexual feelings are oriented towards objects, mine is a symbolic affair, a pagan / animist view of the spiritual vibration in everything. He understands that I love other bridges – and men – ours is a love that embraces the vagaries of life, as materialised in the swirling currents of the river that flows beneath his magnificent body.

This is why I am marrying the bridge. He is fixed, stable, rooted to the ground, while I am nomadic, transient, ever on the road. He gives me a safe haven, brings me back to ground myself, and then lets me go again to follow my own path, without trying to keep me tied down or in thrall to his needs or desires. I am devoted to him. The perfect husband… strong and silent!

Interesting. On the one hand, she hasn't really bought into the liberal idea of gender sameness. She is clearly yearning for what is masculine, strong and protective. At the same time, she has bought into the liberal idea about female independence in a big way.

Jodi Rose with her bridge

So it's little wonder she's ended up with a bridge. She sees the job of a husband very traditionally as having the strength to protect. Her job, it seems, is to be independent and footloose. It's not exactly the basis for a successfully complementary relationship.

Someone needs to tell Jodi Rose that women need to embody something more than independence if they are going to offer something compellingly attractive to masculine men. She needs to think about what there is within femininity that is likely to inspire love, but to do this she will first have to liberate herself from political ideas which associate femininity negatively with oppression and thraldom.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Heleen Mees Dutch feminist

Feminism in Holland is a bit different. 75% of women there choose to work part-time rather than full-time in order to have a balanced lifestyle. In one survey, only 4% of Dutch women said that they wanted to increase their work hours.

But one Dutch feminist wasn't happy with this compromise. Heleen Mees set up a feminist organisation called "Women on Top" which is against the idea of women choosing to stay at home or to work part-time. According to Mees career is what matters in life and women should be competing with men for money.

Heleen Mees

And at one level Mees did well in her pursuit of career. She became a columnist and opinion maker in the Netherlands; she was at one time being considered for government positions; and she became a professor of economics at New York University. She achieved the aim of a glamorous, high status career.

But maybe her view of life as a competitive pursuit of career had some missing elements. Maybe those Dutch women who wanted some personal happiness based on family and relationships were onto something.

Heleen Mees has been arrested for stalking her ex-lover, a married, 63-year-old economist named Willem Buiter. She sent him (and his wife and children) over 1000 emails, including threats ("I hope your plane falls out of the sky) and photos of dead birds.

Described as "friendless" Mees was unable to post $5000 bail and was eventually freed only after a New York plumber took pity on her.

Things haven't turned out well for her. I don't think this is entirely accidental. She neglected, as part of her politics, the importance of marriage and family and found herself in her early 40s in the role of mistress to a much older, married man instead. And even that wasn't a durable relationship.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Does Evin Cetin really love all Swedes?

The Swedish Social Democrats are the left-liberal party in that country. One of their members is a young woman of Kurdish descent by the name of Evin Cetin.

Evin Cetin does not like the rival Sweden Democrats, the party of Swedish nationalists. So she dressed up in Swedish national costume and claimed that she was "more Swedish" than the Sweden Democrats because she "loved all Swedes":
"For me, Swedishness is about tolerance, about openness, about helping people and giving people the chance to build a good life," she tells The Local, adding that it's a political ideology she hopes to take with her to Brussels if elected.

"Wearing national dress on the Sweden Democrats' day was sending a very clear message that we should not hand over the concept of Swedishness to forces that are against Sweden," she said.

"The Sweden Democrats are Sweden-hostile."

Cetin said she considers herself more Swedish than the Sweden Democrats because she loves nine million Swedes, whereas the party only loves about five million.

"They only love some Swedes, I love all of them."

But here's the kick to this story. Evin Cetin caused some controversy last year when she made a trip to the Middle-East and was photographed dancing with the guerrilla fighters of Kurdistan’s Free Life Party (PJAK).

Evin Cetin dancing with Kurdish guerrilla fighters

So on the one hand Evin Cetin wants to define the Swedish people out of existence by claiming that Swedish identity is based on nothing more than tolerance and helping people. But on the other hand she supports an armed struggle for a homeland for her own Kurdish ethnic group.

Evin Cetin doesn't love all Swedes. If she did she would want the same goods for them that she claims for herself, including the good of being able to live within an ethnic homeland. Her willingness to define the Swedes out of existence as one of the distinct peoples of the world is an act of aggression not of love.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Who does Dave want to add to Europe?

David Cameron, British PM, has made a speech about expanding the boundaries of the European Union:
Talking to Kazakh students in the capital Astana he said: “Britain has always supported the widening of the EU. “Our vision of the EU is that it should be a large trading and co-operating organisation that effectively stretches, as it were, from the Atlantic to the Urals. “We have a wide vision of Europe and have always encouraged countries that want to join.”

He wants Kazakhstan to join? Kazakhstan is a country in central Asia (it shares a border with China). The Kazakhs themselves are a Muslim Turkic group (though there is a sizeable minority of Russians living in Kazakhstan).

A Kazakh wedding

It's true that 10% of Kazakhstan lies west of the Ural mountains - presumably Cameron is using this to justify the idea of Kazakhstan joining the EU.

Cameron's speech is a reminder of the weakness of the liberal approach to nationalism. Liberals have ditched the traditional idea of nationalism, in which people were connected together by a shared ethnicity - a common language, culture, race, religion and history - and instead opted for a civic nationalism, in which people were to be united by a common commitment to liberal political institutions and values.

But this liberal civic nationalism is unstable. If all that is needed to belong to a "nation" is a shared commitment to liberalism, then potentially anyone can join. If Kazakhstan proves to meet certain political criteria, then it can join a "European" union even if its population is majority Turkic and Muslim and even if its landmass is 90% in Central Asia. In other words, there are no limits to the boundaries of a civic nation and if there are no limits it becomes meaningless to talk of a particular national identity. You might as well just sign up to the UN and be done with it.

The Kazakhstan speech also shows yet again just how much David Cameron is committed to a liberal view of things rather than a traditionalist conservative one. We shouldn't be surprised by this. After all, Cameron has made his own commitment to liberalism very clear:
today we have a Conservative Party … which wants Britain to be a positive participant in the EU, as a champion of liberal values.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Who has the right?

Tiberge at Gallia Watch has found an interesting quote from a group in France called the CCIF (which, in English, stands for "Collective against Islamophobia in France").

The CCIF is a group which fights "Islamophobia" - a fear of Islam. It has had success in winning recognition from the powers-that-be:
in 2011 we won a true international recognition by forging a partnership with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and becoming an advisory member of the United Nations (UN).

But here is the quote from the CCIF that Tiberge found. The words were spoken by Marwan Muhammed, spokesman for the organisation:
Who has the right to say that France in thirty or forty years will not be a Muslim country? Who has the right? Nobody has the right to take that from us, nobody has the right to deny us that hope. To deny us the right to hope for a global society faithful to Islam.

So the CCIF wants to suppress the voices of those concerned that France might become a Muslim country ("Islamophobia") whilst at the same time defending passionately the right of French Muslims to hope that France will within their own lifetimes become a Muslim country.

It's an interesting example of the way that words like "Islamophobia" are used for aggressive purposes, i.e. to disarm opposition to an agenda that is hostile to the majority.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A trad manifesto

Mark Moncrieff has put together a traditionalist manifesto at his site. Have a look and see what you think.

An Australian anthem

David Ward has written a patriotic Australian anthem called Land of my Heart. Here is one of the verses:
God of the nations, our shield and our light,
Defend this our homeland, with justice and might;
Let not the tyrant, encroach on our shores,
And gently exhort us, to follow your laws;
Within your arms safely, our nation enfold;
Through light and through darkness, your people uphold