Thursday, January 30, 2014

Losing your past

What is the past? For many liberals, it is a bad place, one marked by discrimination, privilege and inequality.

I was reminded of this by yet another attack piece on Senator Cory Bernardi, this time by author John Birmingham. Senator Bernardi, if you recall, has written a book in which he defends the traditional family. John Birmingham chose to mock Bernardi by pretending to be a fellow conservative:
my fellow conservative Australians, we must heed the warning of Cory that the moral relativism of the left threatens Australia's way of life. Why, if these lentil-eating monsters had their way, it would be illegal for a fellow to whip the wretched Chinamen at the steam laundrette for putting too much starch in his dicky, to correct one's bothersome wife with the back of one's hand, or even to launch a simple punitive raid against the natives should they threaten to breach the boundaries at the edge of settlement with their gibbering demands to not be shot or poisoned or run off their so-called ancestral lands.

The senator has reminded us again and again during his time in Parliament that we must "protect and defend the traditional institutions that have stood the test of time". Institutions such as restricting the vote to chaps with property holdings of some significance or at the very least a commission in one of the better regiments. Traditions such as White Australia, keeping ladies out of the universities and the working man in his place.

You get the drift? The message is that Bernardi wants to defend a tradition because in a traditional society white guys got to oppress other people. He wants to go back to the bad past, rather than move to the moral present.

Why would Birmingham think of the past in such a negative way? I believe it has to do with the narrowness of a liberal morality. Liberals begin by denying that individuals should be oriented to an objective good. The liberal idea is that something is made moral by the act of it being freely chosen. Therefore, each individual has to be free to define their own good, without interference from others. So the moral thing, in a liberal system, is to not interfere with how other people define the good or the moral choices they make. This leads to a morality of non-interference, based on qualities such as non-discrimination, diversity, tolerance, respect, openness, inclusiveness and so on.

The past can never live up to this kind of moral standard. That's because liberalism was not established on a greenfield site but was superimposed on a traditional society. The traditional society developed on the basis that it was a space for a particular tradition to develop over time; that it was occupied by a particular people and their culture; and that it was both possible and desirable to orient this culture to an apprehension of what was objectively good.

Liberalism came along with a very different view of society, one in which large numbers of atomised individuals would pursue their own subjectively defined goods within a neutral space. Liberalism became the active principle in the way that politics was understood, but it operated within a culture and society that had developed traditionally over many hundreds of years.

In the Anglosphere, at least, the liberal element did not try to overthrow the traditional one all at once (as was attempted, say, in the French and Russian Revolutions). Instead, liberalism gradually developed toward stages at which the confidence to dispense with traditional institutions was reached one by one.

What that means is that there was still support for some traditional institutions and values within the Anglo past, despite these not strictly meeting the standards of a liberal morality. Fifty years ago it was normal to support the traditional family and the moral culture attached to a traditional family life. Now it is being deemed discriminatory, judgemental and a mark of privilege to do the same.

So the past will never measure up to what the liberals of today hold to be moral. That does allow liberals to feel a sense of moral superiority over the generations who came before them. It also allows them to hold to a sense of progress, i.e. that liberalism is drawing society ever closer to a moral standard.

However, it also means that liberals are not able to identify positively with a history and a culture that they belong to, nor are they able to feel connected in their ancestry, nor will they have a sense of purpose in their role of being a custodian for a cultural inheritance and contributing to it as an ongoing tradition.

When you reject the past as the badlands, then you cut yourself off from important aspects of the human experience. These are lost to liberals.

Liberals lose this aspect of the human experience because their moral standards are too narrowly set - they are focused on a small set of moral criteria based around non-interference, such as diversity and non-discrimination.

If their moral standards went beyond mere non-interference and included, for instance, fidelity in one's relationships, such as to one's fellow countrymen, then there would be a change of mindset.

Even if ideals of character or of masculinity were part of the criteria, then it would be possible to look at the past and see not only failures but also achievements. It would be possible, in fact, to look at the best of the past and find in it an inspiring standard to live up to.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Melbourne readers

The next meeting of the Eltham Traditionalists group is coming up next week. If you've been thinking of coming along to a dinner, there's still time to get in touch. Contact details are at the group website.

We had a successful year last year; we're hoping to keep things moving forward in coming months.

Monday, January 27, 2014

You can't say fathers are essential if...

In 2008 Barack Obama gave a Father's Day speech in which he lamented the absence of so many fathers in African American families:
...if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes...

You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

Ryan T. Anderson, a scholar from the Heritage Foundation, has drawn the same conclusion from this that I have done many times at this site:
“If the biggest social problem we face right now in the United States is absentee dads,” Anderson said, “How will we insist that dads are essential when the law redefines marriage to make fathers optional?”

There are mixed messages being sent to men. On the one hand, Obama is using the authority of his office to encourage African American men to believe that without their input there will be a destructive breakdown of family life within their community. Men, he is saying, your involvement is necessary - get to it.

But Obama also believes that marriage should be legally redefined so that it is no longer between a man and a woman. The message to men here is that families do not need fathers. The paternal role is a merely optional one.

How will this contradiction be resolved? Early indicators point to a victory of the "men are optional" side of things.

When Australian Senator Cory Bernardi argued that children being raised by both their biological father and mother was a gold standard to aspire to and that boys from single mother homes were statistically more likely to end up before the courts an avalanche of criticism descended on him.

His views were described as nonsensical, judgemental, offensive and old-fashioned with "no place in Australia of today."

And that's what you have to expect. A society cannot forever run on contradictory lines. Either fathers are merely optional within families or they aren't. Our society has decided that fathers are optional.

That is going to have momentous consequences over the next couple of generations. In the meantime, traditionalists will be distinct in insisting that the paternal role is a necessary (a foundational) rather than an optional one.

I'll finish with a brief extract from Senator Bernardi's book, summarising his views:
"Social policy should continue to advocate for the best possible social environment for children. More often than not, as studies have shown, that environment is a family with a child's married biological mother and father. Of course, there will always be exceptions to this - some traditional families fail miserably at childcare and some step-families do a wonderful job of raising children - but it should not deter society as a whole from encouraging its citizens to pursue the traditional family model."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How do you bridge this gulf?

There is a gulf in understanding between those who follow "interest group politics" and those who identify with the larger tradition they belong to.

The leaders of minority groups often understand that in a liberal society the aim of politics is to create a formal structure through which self-interest can be equally pursued (with the formal structure including definitions of rights). They see the aim of politics, therefore, as being to organise as a minority interest group and to make sure that this framework (of pursuing self-interest) is structured in a way that is biased for rather than against their own group. The minority groups will often assume that this has also been the focus of the majority, meaning that the majority has used its influence to structure society to its own benefit (hence the notion of majority privilege dominant on the left today).

White liberals who belong to the majority often perceive society the same way that minority groups do, and so tend to be sympathetic to claims of majority privilege.

But for most members of the majority all this is very confusing. They don't see their society as being a field of contest for competing rights. Their society means much more to them than this. It has a meaning as an entity in itself: as a source of identity, as an expression of the culture that is connected to one's own people, as a means of transmission of a distinct tradition.

Furthermore, the non-liberal member of the majority will want his society to be ordered according to objective moral truths, rather than being merely a system enabling the pursuit of self-interest.

So there is a seemingly unbridgeable gulf in understanding here. Unfortunately, the majority has to understand that it is liberal whites and minority interest groups who are running the show, so their understanding now dominates.

I have had readers in the past who have insisted that liberals aren't interested in the truth and that there is therefore no purpose in trying to argue with them logically. I've mostly disagreed as there do exist principles within liberal thought which liberals follow through to their logical conclusions.

However, I agree that liberals, in thinking about the nature of society, aren't as oriented to what is objectively true or good. Instead, they focus on relationships of power - on who gets to benefit from structures which limit or empower the pursuit of self-interest (when liberals praise someone for being "empowered" doesn't it often mean that the person has thrown off limitations in the pursuit of what they want?)

It should also be said that even though it is left-liberals who have made interest group politics their own, right-liberals did much to prepare the ground for it. It was right-liberals who pushed along the idea of society being made of millions of rights-bearing individuals each pursuing a rational self-interest. It was not a long step from that to the idea that the contest was not just between individuals but between interest groups.

So even though it's true that right-liberals often hate the idea of interest groups replacing individuals (with many complaints about the intrusion of ethnicity, culture and race into politics), it was right-liberals themselves who set up the idea of society as being a neutral or vacant space rather than a space that was already inhabited by a particular culture, tradition and people.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Some news from France

French politics has been of considerable interest of late. Here are just a few of the stories coming out of that country.

The first involves a court ruling:
A man was sentenced this week to four years behind bars for an "anti-white racist" attack on a Frenchman on the platform of a Paris train station. The convicted man was also white. An appeals court affirmed that the attack at Gare du Nord station in September 2010 was aggravated by racism, overruling an earlier court ruling

What happened was that a native Frenchman was standing on a platform and was approached by two men who asked him for a cigarette. When he turned them down, they called him a "dirty white" and a "dirty Frenchman" before attacking him and seriously injuring him with broken bottles.

One of the men was later arrested; he is (in terms of family descent) an Algerian Berber Muslim (the Berbers were the native population of North Africa before the influx of Arabs).

The ruling is significant because there are some on the left who argue that whites should be treated as exceptional - in a negative way - because "whiteness" is a category that was socially constructed to set up a racial power structure and to give whites an unearned privilege over others.

This leftist theory has many consequences. First, it assumes that whites are privileged and in control, rather than being in a precarious position in terms of having a future existence. Second, it assumes that when whites do well it is because of the unearned privilege they enjoy as whites at the expense of others (with subsequent feelings of guilt); whereas when others do well it is because of hard work and talent. Third, the political conclusion to be drawn from the leftist theory is that whiteness itself needs to be deconstructed before there can be a future reign of human equality and justice.

So the ruling itself is positive in that it recognises officially that there can be an anti-white racism. The left has failed to hold the line ideologically in this instance.

It shows again that we shouldn't assume that the political landscape will always remain as difficult as it is today. Sometimes reality can't be suppressed: in this case, the judges were not able to deny that an Algerian calling a Frenchman a "dirty white" before attacking him with a broken bottle was an act of racial violence.

Another story from France is the continuing success of the leading nationalist party there, the National Front. In a local election the NF is now polling at 46%. It's still not quite enough, but they are getting very close now to a majority position in some areas of France. It would be very difficult for the liberal establishment to place the same pressure on people in communities where 46% of the population vote for a nationalist party.

Watch out too for the demonstration to be held in France on January 26th. If the forecast rain isn't too bad, it may turn out to be a large mobilisation against the socialist government there.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Without a male culture - decline?

Nick Adams, though born in Australia, has made a living in America as an author and motivational speaker. He has hit the news in the U.S. for warning about the attacks there on male culture:
“All aspects of male culture have been called in to question,” Adams said. “Whether it’s gathering around on a Sunday afternoon to watch the football with a few friends, whether it is going to the range and shooting some guns, whether it is just being a male has now been really made suspect — and that is a very dangerous thing. We see it coming from all levels of society. We see it coming from the government; we see it coming from the feminists.”

He went on to argue that if a male culture doesn't survive then America will decline.

He's right, for reasons I want to draw out in this post (Adams himself is a neocon right-liberal rather than a traditionalist: he sees America as being a proposition nation and believes America has a mission to export itself to the world).

Let me say, that this issue is not one that is easily proved or disproved scientifically. It has to do more with what someone has discerned of the masculine over time. And what I have discerned is that there is a higher kind of masculine spirit through which virtue and a life of the spirit is most actively and self-consciously organised within a society.

This is not to say that all men are to be regarded as virtuous, or that masculinity doesn't have a potentially negative side, or that femininity is not, in its essence, the equal of masculinity. It's more that effeminate men are not likely to act together to animate a society in the same way that a group of men who combine masculinity with finer feeling are.

The view of the ancients was most certainly that there was a positive connection between masculinity and virtue.

St Paul

I was intrigued to read in a comment at Sunshine Mary the following Bible quote from St Paul:
"...Be not deceived: neither the whoremongers/promiscuous [pornoi], nor idolaters [eidOlolatrai], nor adulterers [moikhoi], nor sissies/effeminates [malakoi], nor male-bedders [arsenokoitai], nor thieves [kleptai], nor the covetous/envious/greedy [pleonektai], nor drunkards, nor revilers/trash talkers [loidoroi], nor extortioners [harpeges], shall inherit the kingdom of God."

St Paul is warning (the Corinthians I believe) that the malakoi (meaning the effeminate men or sissies) will not inherit the kingdom of God.

St Paul was drawing on an understanding in the ancient world in which softness, luxury and moral weakness were often associated.

As an aside, this might help to explain the sense of what Jesus meant when he said that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The sense that is most likely to occur to a modern reader is that a rich man is overly devoted to the material things of the world - and maybe that is exactly what is meant. But in the ancient world it was thought too that luxury and finery drew one to softness and effeminacy and to a lack of moral restraint. Perhaps it was not the having of money itself, but an unwillingness to rough it - a lack of "belly" - that made the prospects for the rich man so bleak.

This suggestion is supported by a quote from Albert Barnes, a Bible commentator, who wrote of a usage of the word "malakos" in Matthew (11:8) as follows:
“Clothed in soft raiment. The kind of raiment here denoted was the light, thin clothing worn by effeminate persons...This kind of clothing was an emblem of riches, splendour, effeminacy, feebleness of character."


There is some dispute amongst Bible scholars as to whether St Paul in using the term malakoi was referring to effeminate men or to men who were the passive recipients of homosexual sex. It's possible, though, that both were meant, as in ancient Nordic cultures there was a term, "ergi," which referred to both things.

Ergi meant unmanliness and cowardice and was considered a grave insult. Ergi (and the associated term nið) seem remarkably closely related to the Ancient Greek term malakia:
Malakia was a particular type of cowardice, associated with effeminacy in men, that was widely condemned in ancient Greek society.

...To the Greeks, men could be made either manly or effeminate. The Socrates character in Plato's The Republic observed that "too much music effeminizes the male," ...."when a man abandons himself to music to play upon him and pour into his soul as it were through the funnel of his ears those sweet, soft (malakos), and dirge-like airs of which we were just now speaking..." Music softens the high spirit of a man but too much 'melts and liquifies' that spirit making him into a feeble warrior. 
Aristotle writes that "Of the dispositions described above, the deliberate avoidance of pain is rather a kind of softness (malakia); the deliberate pursuit of pleasure is profligacy in the strict sense."; "One who is deficient in resistance to pains that most men withstand with success, is soft (malakos) or luxurious, for luxury is a kind of softness (malakia); such a man lets his cloak trail on the ground to escape the fatigue and trouble of lifting it, or feigns sickness, not seeing that to counterfeit misery is to be miserable." 
A writer of the peripatetic school (c. 1st century BC or AD) elaborated a little more on Aristotle by labeling effeminacy as a vice. He writes that "Cowardice is accompanied by softness (malakia), unmanliness, faint-heartedness." It was also a concomitant of uncontrol: "The concomitants of uncontrol are softness (malakia) and negligence." It had educational implications for the Greek paideia. Pericles in his famous Funeral Oration said that the Athenians "cultivate… knowledge without effeminacy (malakia)". This statement and idea of education without effeminacy was visible in the educational philosophies of Victorian England and 19th century America.

Plato did not want to melt the high spirit of a man - he associated a man's high spirit with his masculinity. In this the ancient world agreed.

What is more, it was understood that masculinity preserved a society from servility to foreign powers.
Effeminacy in Ancient Greece had political implications as well. The presence or absence of this character in man and his society determined if his society was free or slavish.

Herodotus recounted an incident that happened in Asia Minor. This was an appeal from King Croesus, the king of Lydia to the Persian King. The Persian king wanted to kill all the males to keep them from revolting and what the defeated king proposed was to inculturate softness in order to make the people docile and servile; effeminacy was seen as the mark of a slave. These men are to be softened.
But let the Lydians be pardoned; and lay on them this command, that they may not revolt or be dangerous to you; then, I say, and forbid them to possess weapons of war, and command them to wear tunics under their cloaks and buskins on their feet, and to teach their sons lyre-playing and song and dance and huckstering (the word "retail" in one translation). Then, O King, you will soon see them turned to women instead of men; and thus you need not fear lest they revolt.

Finally, consider the words of an early Church father:
"A true man must have no mark of effeminacy visible on his face, or any other part of his body. Let no blot on his manliness, then, ever be found either in his movements or habits." St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.289.


The modern view is opposite to the ancient one: moderns are more likely to associate masculinity with vice (violence, oppression, privilege) and femininity with virtue (e.g. I once criticised Pope Benedict for suggesting that it is through the feminine that we arrive at human values).

It shows how careful we have to be in making these formulations. My own view is that there are virtues that are more closely associated with the feminine ideal (e.g. to be gentle and caring, graceful and beautiful, immediately present for others etc.); that these represent a softer side to the human personality in a very positive sense; and that the feminine ideal is powerful enough to draw the love and protection of men and to be at the centre of the emotional life of families and perhaps too the everyday life of local communities.

However, it is through the masculine that a society is brought in a more organised, self-aware and self-disciplined way to a moral order and that this requires a society to cultivate a masculine spirit in its men - or to be lost.

This post has not been a tightly argued one - I need to learn to express some of this better. The main point I want to make is that in the ancient world, including in the early Church, there was a tremendous emphasis on keeping men masculine and that this was associated with the pursuit of the good, both personal and communal.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Undefining the nation

Australia Day is coming up. There's an interesting post at Tweed Renegades on the official publicity being put out to commemorate our national day (see here).

One of the posters for Australia Day shows a group of people dressed up as Mexicans with the slogan "Australia Day: Celebrate Your Way." Below this is the following advice:
Australia Day means something different to everyone, and it's important you do what's right for you. So on Jan. 26 reflect on what you love about being Australian.

Which prompted this response at Tweed Renegades:
“Reflect on what you love about being Australian”? Evidently, what these people love about being Australian is being Mexican.

I'm afraid that the nation is being given the same treatment as the family. Just as we are told that family can be anything we want it to be, so now the nation is being similarly "undefined" to mean whatever we want it to mean.

It fits in with the liberal idea that we cannot know objective goods held in common as a community and so we must instead self-define our own subjective goods (that which is right "for us").

But a national identity has to be something that has a common element - otherwise it wouldn't be a communal identity. Such an identity works best when there is felt to be a national spirit and culture that individuals are able to participate in, draw part of their identity from, and give their loyalty to.

It doesn't mean as much when it's just something that I generate for myself alone.

Extreme feminism

Well, most feminism is extreme when you think about it. The idea that men and women are hostile classes standing in a relationship of oppression and resistance (rather than one of fidelity) is extreme. So is the idea that masculinity and femininity are entirely socially constructed rather than reflecting biological distinctions (or essences).

However, some feminists still manage to come across as really extreme. There's been a bit of an internet reaction to a blog post by a feminist calling herself Radical Wind. The post is titled "PIV is always rape, OK?"

PIV is feminist shorthand for "penis in vagina." So the claim being made is that the most normal and natural form of human sexuality, the one that leads to new life, is always rape. Why? According to Ms Wind the problem is that intercourse is the way that men impregnate women, thereby taking control over women's reproductive autonomy:
intercourse is inherently harmful to women and intentionally so, because it causes pregnancy in women. The purpose of men enforcing intercourse regularly (as in, more than once a month) onto women is because it’s the surest way to cause pregnancy and force childbearing against our will, and thereby gain control over our reproductive powers.

She's quite serious about this. She thinks she's got it wrapped up in a logical formula:
Pregnancy = may hurt, damage or kill. Intercourse = a man using his physical force to penetrate a woman. Intention / purpose of the act of intercourse = to cause pregnancy. PIV is therefore intentional harm / violence. Intentional sexual harm of a man against a woman through penile penetration = RAPE.

It wasn't meant to be this way, according to Ms Wind:
The fact intercourse causes so many infections and tears and warts attests to the unnaturalness of intercourse, that it’s not meant to be. The vagina’s primary function isn’t to be penetrated by a penis but to eject a baby for birth. They are two muscle tissues / sphincters pressed against each other to help the baby be pushed out. Penetration of the penis into the vagina is completely unnecessary for conception.

Yes, she claims that intercourse is unnatural and that it is unnecessary for conception.

It seems that if you're an ideologue you will simply make nature fit into your intellectual scheme. In other words, it's very difficult to believe that Ms Radical Wind is really trying to understand the way that things are. The driving force in the way she understands things is her intellectual/emotional starting point of wanting to see men as the enemy and being anti-sex.

I don't think it's worthwhile getting angry about what Radical Wind has written. She is in a hell of her own making and has deprived herself of the goods of marital and sexual love. She is cut off from her own feminine soul. I'm charitable enough to want her to escape from where she is; I'd like to imagine that in ten years she may have worked her way through her issues and be in a better place, one more receptive to love and family.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Germany: no right of exit

This is an extraordinary story (hat tip: Laura Wood). There is a German family (the Wunderlichs) whose children were being homeschooled - that is, until the German state sent in a team of 20 special agents, police officers and social workers to forcibly seize the children from their parents (homeschooling is illegal in Germany).

The children have been returned to their parents but are under the legal custody of social workers. A judge has rejected the idea of returning legal custody to the parents, even though the children now attend a public school. Why?

The answer: in part to prevent the parents getting visas for their children and moving to another country in which homeschooling is permitted. In other words, to prevent any right of exit from Germany.
In a shocking verdict regarding a homeschool case in Germany, a family court judge has refused to return legal custody of four children to Christian parents to prevent the family from obtaining visas that would allow them to travel to a country where homeschooling is permitted.

The judge made this decision in the name of liberal morality: he fears that if the children are homeschooled they will not become sufficiently tolerant of others:
In his decision, the judge ruled that it was necessary to keep the Wunderlich children in public school for their own “well-being,” arguing that if the children were homeschooled in Germany or abroad they would “grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.”

Here is a prime example of how a liberal morality doesn't work. In the name of tolerance, a German judge has told a family that they have no right to leave Germany. This brings to mind the situation in the former East Germany, in which citizens were likewise forced to stay. When the Berlin Wall went up in the early 1960s, outraged West Germans called for it to be torn down as an affront to freedom. But now it is not communists but liberals who are denying German citizens a right to exit.

The Wunderlich family

And this is despite the fact that a right to exit is the key qualification that liberals themselves specify when considering whether non-liberal communities are acceptable or not. From a liberal discussion of this issue we learn that,
Susan Moller Okin has [said that] "any consistent defense of group rights or exemptions that is based on liberal premises has to ensure that at least one individual right – the right to exit one's group of origin – trumps any group right.' Exit rights, then, are thought to limit the repression of group members and thus to be either sufficient for or necessary to compliance with moral principles.

So "the right to exit one's group of origin" is considered crucial by liberals when determining whether or not a community meets liberal moral standards. The German judge is contravening one core liberal principle (the right to exit) in the name of another (tolerance). He is also imposing an authoritarian principle (no right of exit), previously associated with East German communism, in the name of tolerance.

Liberal morality is not proving to be internally consistent here.

The problem goes back to the fundamentals of a liberal morality. Liberals begin by assuming that an objective good can't be known and that therefore people must self-determine their own subjective goods. For this to work, though, individuals have to be careful not to infringe on the moral choices or the self-defined goods of others - to do so means denying those people their moral agency (disempowering them).

And so liberals have gone on to emphasise as virtues qualities of non-interference, such as respect, openness, diversity, non-discrimination, tolerance and so on. But once these became the liberal virtues, they became the focus and the standard of human moral life, i.e. the new public standard of the good.

But they are problematic as a standard. As pointed out above, it means that moral discrimination is enacted in the name of non-discrimination and that intrusive or authoritarian acts of the state are carried out in the name of tolerance.

Furthermore, these moral standards are too narrow. There is a recognition of "non-interference" as a moral standard, but what about, say, the importance of the connection between parent and child? How can moral decisions be weighted or balanced when only one aspect of a moral situation is considered in terms of moral principle?

This is not to say that there were not moral standards in traditional societies. They tended, though, to be less connected to the state. For instance, let's say that in a traditional society there is an ideal of masculinity, which includes virtues of courage and honour. These are connected to character: a man who was considered cowardly or dishonourable might have been judged negatively, which was no doubt discomfiting, but that would have been thought of as a personal failing - there was no need for the state to get involved.

Liberals, however, have created a state morality: it has become the aim of politics to impose the moral standards of non-discrimination, inclusion, tolerance etc. on society. This aim will inevitably be intrusive and authoritarian, as it requires the state to break apart the usual inclinations of human association - as well as diminishing the authority of non-state institutions and loyalties, such as those of the family.

The German ruling gives us an idea of where all this is going to take us. It is not going to be a place of freedom. It will be a place where we, as disconnected and disempowered individuals (relieved of most of our social functions), will have to accept our place within a closely managed system administered by the state.

Oh, and it seems you won't be allowed to leave for somewhere better.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ch.7 Trivial Pursuits

Note to readers: this is a chapter of the e-booklet that I am gradually writing (see the sidebar for earlier chapters) which is why it's a little longer than a normal blog post.

Liberalism is supposed to liberate the individual, but the liberal approach to freedom doesn't work. It ends up imposing worse limitations on the individual than the ones it removes.

A major mistake made by liberalism is to define freedom as individual autonomy. We are held to be free if we live self-determining or self-creating lives.

But if the aim is to be self-determining, then whatever is predetermined will be looked on negatively as an impediment to be overcome.

As we saw in previous chapters, this means that liberals have set out to make sex distinctions not matter; it has led to attacks on the traditional family, including the roles of fatherhood and motherhood; and it has undermined traditional national identities.

And yet these are amongst the most significant aspects of life when it comes to choosing what to be or to do. It is important to us that we are able to fulfil our masculine or feminine identities; to become husbands and wives, fathers and mothers; and to belong to long-standing communal traditions.

What kind of freedom is it when basic forms of identity and relationships are denied to us?

The kind of freedom we do get in a liberal society is a freedom to pursue relatively trivial aims. For a liberal system to work, we have to limit our choices to those things that we can self-determine as individuals; which don’t impact on the choices of others; and which can be supervised and regulated by the liberal managerial state.

What kind of choices does that leave us with? We can choose for ourselves a career, entertainments, travel destinations, restaurants and dining, and various lifestyle and consumer options. Of these, career is the weightiest and so a creative, professional career is often thought of by liberals to be the ultimate aim of life.

To work and to consume make up much of the permissible way of life in a liberal society.

The American writer Jim Kalb has described this feature of liberalism. He writes that the liberal principle of social organisation,
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…The result is that the contemporary liberal state cannot allow people to take seriously the things they have always taken most seriously.

Similarly, Kalb writes that the purpose of government and of morality in a liberal system is to regulate individuals so that,
career, consumption, and the free choice of hobbies, lifestyles, and indulgences are secured for everyone.

... The goal is to give people what they want, and it can only be achieved if what people want fits into the liberal scheme: that is, if it respects the needs of the system and the equal validity of the desires of other individuals.

That means that what people want has to be controlled. Left-liberalism requires us all to become virtuous, where virtue consists in pursuing only legitimate desires — in other words, supporting the system and otherwise minding our own business by concerning ourselves only with tolerant and private goals. Hence PC, and hence the constant re-education initiatives to which we are now subjected.

All history, all nature, all culture, and all religion threaten the basis and functioning of a liberal social order. They tell us that human beings cannot be reduced to orderly productive consumers who do what they’re told and only want a life of measured private self-indulgence.

Another American writer, Lawrence Auster, puts the issue tersely as follows:
What is liberalism? The reduction of all values to the radically autonomous self and the equality of all such selves, and thus the emptying from life of every substantive good that is larger than or outside of the autonomous self. But the problem is, once all larger substantive goods have been gotten rid of, and the only thing left is the autonomous self and its free choices, what goods are left for the freely choosing autonomous self to choose?

What does this mean in practice for those living in liberal societies? Virginia Haussegger is an Australian journalist who pursued the aims allowed her in a liberal society more successfully than most. Even so, she couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t enough to anchor her life:
here we are, supposedly “having it all” as we edge 40; excellent education; good qualifications; great jobs; fast-moving careers; good incomes ... It’s a nice caffe-latte kind of life, really.

But the truth is – for me at least – the career is no longer a challenge, the lifestyle trappings are joyless ... and the point of it all seems, well, pointless.

It’s interesting as well to listen to the testimony of Rev. Alan Taylor, a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church. The Unitarians describe themselves as “a living example of, and a powerful voice for, liberal religion in America.”

After reading a book called Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks about an elite group in America called “bourgeois bohemians” or more simply “Bobos,” Rev. Taylor recognised that he and his flock were being described by this term:
Rarely do I read a book like Bobos in Paradise and say, they're talking about me, about so many religious liberals, and about most of the folks with whom I graduated from college in 1990.

According to Rev.Taylor, Bobos like himself try to have endless choices, but this does not maximise their freedom but instead draws them into a superficial way of life:
Here in Oak Park it is challenging. We live in a community that caters to the upper middle-class. The value of maximizing freedom reigns supreme, but there are forces that undermine sustained connections...

I have lived a quintessentially Bobo life ... If these trends continue ... my life will be a series of light, ultimately inconsequential and therefore meaningless connections. But I will have a lot of them! And that's just it, when we Bobos maximize our freedom, depth and meaning elude us.

And so what we get in Bobo life, Brooks says, is "a world of many options, but not a life of solid commitments, and maybe not a life that ever offers access to the profoundest truths, deepest emotions, or highest aspirations. Maybe in the end the problem with this attempt to reconcile freedom with commitment, virtue with affluence, autonomy with community is not that it leads to some catastrophic crack-up or some picturesque slide into immorality and decadence, but rather that it leads to too many compromises and spiritual fudges.

Maybe people who try to have endless choices end up with semi-commitments and semi-freedoms. Maybe we will end up leading a life that is moderate but flat, our souls being colored with shades of gray, as we find nothing heroic, nothing inspiring, nothing that brings our lives to a point. Some days I look around and I think we have been able to achieve these reconciliations only by making ourselves more superficial, by simply ignoring the deeper thoughts and highest ideals that would torture us if we actually stopped to measure ourselves according to them.

...Bobos pay lip-service to the virtues of tradition, roots, community. However, when push comes to shove, they tend to choose personal choice over other commitments...And this is self-defeating, because at the end of all this movement and freedom and self-exploration, they find that they have nothing deep and lasting to hold on to.


If the logic of liberalism is to dissolve the traditions we belong to and to rule out some of the most significant aspects of life then we need to break with it decisively. But what does this require? What changes would we need to make to successfully leave liberalism behind us?

First, the role of the state would change. Liberals aim at “equal preference satisfaction” and so they look to the state to create a centralised system in which social life is managed along formal principles.

But this makes the more informal patterns of social life - those which predate the state, which connect people to each other, and which give people important social functions - suspect, as they do not fit within a formal and centralised regulation of society.

A liberal society gradually gives increasing weight to the relationship between the state and the stand-alone individual. One challenge for a post-liberal society would be to unwind this process, so that there is less formal regulation of social life by the state, and a greater role for the connections that grow between people within families and communities.

A post-liberal society would also have a different view of the nature of man. It is typical of liberals to see people as abstract and atomised individuals. This fits in well with liberalism, because if you start with this idea of the individual as a blank slate, then it really is up to the individual to subjectively self-define who they are and what their own good is.

The American philosopher James Schall has put the issue clearly in these terms:
The initial choice that each of us has to make in life is whether we think the world and ourselves already exist with some intelligible content to define what we are or whether there is nothing there but what we put there.

Schall concedes that the liberal position – that there is nothing there – sounds freer:
The former position, it would seem, is rather demanding on us. It suggests that we are not our own self-creators, that what we are is something for us to discover, not make out of our own imaginary resources. But we are seemingly freer if there is nothing there in the first place, if we are solely responsible for our world and our own being.

Nonetheless, he rejects the liberal view as failing to connect the self to anything significant:
the trouble with being so absolutely free that nothing is presupposed, however, is that what is finally put there is also only ourselves ... on this premise, no reason can be found not to be something else tomorrow.

To decisively reject liberalism means accepting that, as Schall puts it, “the world and ourselves already exist with some intelligible content to define what we are.” We are not to be thought of as mere blanks to be filled in arbitrarily by our own selves.

If we really were to fill in our own selves in any direction this would not be an impressive creative act. There is little challenge in making things up randomly. It is more creative to discern what is most significant within the given nature of things and to orient ourselves to it. This sets before us a challenge of character, of intelligence and of feeling and intuition.

There is one last thing we need to do to break decisively with liberalism. Liberalism is reductionist in the sense that it makes autonomy a single, overriding good. The good of autonomy is thought to trump other goods. That makes politics in a liberal society peculiarly ideological.

It isn’t necessary, in rejecting liberalism, to dismiss the value of autonomy. It is important, though, to avoid the reductionism which makes autonomy the starting point from which all else is supposed to follow and which then leads to the loss of other significant goods.

Politics is supposed to be an art by which a variety of goods are balanced together or ordered into a framework in which the various parts fit together. This is the concept of politics to which a post-liberal society should aim to return.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Red pill women

It wasn't that long ago that critics of feminism were few and far between. Then the men's rights movement sprang up and suddenly even lefty men were complaining about men being treated as oppressors. Now there is a movement of anti-feminist women calling themselves red pill women. These women want to make relationships with men work and so they reject the feminism they were brought up with. They reject the idea that masculinity and femininity are oppressive social constructs; they also reject the "men as enemy" idea.

It makes for a refreshing change. At the red pill women sites there are articles with titles like "10 ways to respect your husband" and "What nice thing did you do for your partner today?"

Now, it's true that feminists still dominate in the media and schools. Society is still being driven in a feminist direction. However, the rise of alternative movements provides an important political lesson for us. Right now, liberalism remains a dominant orthodoxy. It is possible, though, for the political landscape to change, just as it has done in respect to feminism. It is important, therefore, not to withdraw or become disheartened, but to work seriously to build up an alternative. We too can be part of a change in the political landscape in respect to liberalism.

While on the topic of feminism, I'd like to link to a few interesting posts I've read recently. Dalrock has one called "Feminists are ugly". He argues that the ugliness is not so much physical, but in feminists being miserly with love. Mark Moncrieff has written a useful post on "Why we are not feminists".

Finally, I thought it interesting to highlight a comment I read in a discussion thread from a Native American Indian. He was trying to explain why he found it difficult to date women from his own ethnic group:
In my experience as a Native American is that Native American girls are very independent. I'm Navajo and the culture even a few generations back was matriarchal. I think that's where a lot of it comes from.
The girl I dated for two years was also Navajo. The problems I had in the relationship were that she was always competing against me to prove something. She was really impatient and domineering. I felt like she expected much more than she was willing to give in the relationship. If I suggested that I wanted her to wear a dress once in awhile or asked if she'd wear heels if I bought them for her, I'd be met with anger and fighting and okay, maybe that's not fair, but if it's someone with love, you could at least consider it and explain why you don't want to instead of getting mad.
Another Native American girl I dated was a mix with a white father and Navajo mother. She was pretty hot but she wore basketball shorts and a hoodie every single day. Yeah, there's more to a relationship than clothing but it bothered me that I would wear something nice, invite her out to dinner, and she'd still be wearing basketball shorts, hair unkempt, no makeup, and be so boring. To me, it spoke to her interest in me, like I wasn't important enough to wear something decent out for.
I know I'm attractive to other Native American girls because they pursue me. Unfortunately, many are boring, overweight, and are really domineering, which does not fit with my personality. I know I'm not the perfect catch. I've got my problems. However, dating native girls has always left a bad taste in my mouth. I want my girl to be excited to see me, to dress up nicely, to be kind to me and I have yet to experience the same results that I get with a white or latina girl with a native girl.

I find the quote interesting, in part, because it shows a similarity in male preferences across ethnic groups. The behaviour of the Navaho women is also a bit similar to some of the arts faculty Anglo women I mixed with at the height of third-wave feminism in the early 1990s (I don't think things are quite as bad now).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Business group calls for more...(you guessed it)

The Australian Industry Group wants the government to increase immigration levels from 190,000 to 220,000 per year.

The chief executive of the business lobby, Innes Wilcox, thinks that up to 2.8 million migrants are needed to fill gaps in the economy:
Mr Wilcox says while there are Australians without work, there are not enough skilled workers for a range of specialist occupations, with the Ai Group singling out residential construction as an area of acute shortages.

Strange that he should single out residential construction as a labour shortage area. If you increase migration then you need to build more houses, not less - you could just as easily end up with a worse labour shortage.

Professor Bob Birrell has conducted research which shows that the skilled migration programme is not very successful in plugging skilled labour shortages. The single biggest category of those arriving as skilled migrants are cooks. Of those from non-English speaking backgrounds arriving with degrees, 31 per cent remain unemployed (compared to 9 per cent of locals with degrees) and only 26% end up in professional employment. Of NESBs with management and commerce credentials, only 18% end up being professionally employed.

So what then does big business really want out of a mass immigration programme? One thing to remember is that it is not big business itself that has to pay the cost of that 31% unemployment rate. That cost is spread out amongst the community. And with a supply of overseas labour there is more competition for employment amongst the semi-skilled and unskilled, especially amongst young people. You can understand too that a business lobby group might like the idea that they can freely draw in labour from wherever they want, regardless of economic circumstances or the impact on the host society.

One of the good things about all this are the comments to the ABC news report on this story. Many of the comments reject the idea of relying on overseas migration for skills, calling instead for companies to invest in training locals:
DonM: Surely we are smart enough to get by with a very modest level of migration say less than 100,000 migrants per year and focus on training our own people to meet skill shortages.

OskO: Answer is definitely NO as long as our unemployment rate is above 5% and our under employment rate is above 10%.

Serenity_Gate: Check out Germany's apprenticeship system. Wonder why German technology is so good? Their apprenticeship training scheme. Businesses are FORCED to train apprentices. This should be happening in Australia for our future. This is just a push to drive down costs of production through lower wages.

Kog: This is exactly what has happened across the IT sector, or what is left of it after outsourcing overseas. Record numbers of engineers out of work, and they want to import more?

That last comment does seem to be true. I know of some highly trained and experienced IT professionals who simply can't get work right now. In my industry (education), too, it is not uncommon for there to be over 100 applicants for each vacant position.

Perhaps public opinion, even amongst some middle-class Australians, will begin to make itself heard on this issue.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Does love discriminate?

In my last post I criticised a newspaper column written by Nicole Ferrie. She didn't like Senator Cory Bernardi arguing that the traditional family is an ideal to aim for. Instead, she believes that all family types are equal, on the basis that all that a family needs is love and respect.

One thing I missed in that post was the headline to Nicole Ferrie's column: "Love does not discriminate." It's the sort of nice sounding comment that's easy to gloss over.

But then the thought struck me that, hey, love actually does discriminate and in obvious ways. For instance, if you say that love doesn't discriminate then you are denying the possibility of heterosexual love, in which we love only those of the opposite sex and discriminate against those of the same sex. Similarly, you are denying the possibility of monogamous love in which we discriminate against all others in favour of just one person.

Marital love is discriminatory - we love our spouse in a preferential way. Patriotic love likewise is directed at one country and discriminates against others. And what about friendship? If love doesn't discriminate, then isn't friendship a bit meaningless? Doesn't feeling friendship with another person mean that you love them in a different way than you love others?

What about paternal love and maternal love? Aren't these directed at our own children, thereby discriminating against other children?

Even when it comes to feeling love for a stranger, this is at least partly directed at those strangers we meet or have some potential connection with. The Good Samaritan, after all, didn't help out all strangers equally; he tended to the injured man he met on the road. He didn't give his money to all strangers equally.

I think it's worth pointing this out, as obvious as it is, because it is an important criticism to raise against liberalism in general. If you are a liberal, and you want individuals to be able to self-define their own goods, then any kind of "supporting goods" that you raise in an argument have to be either vaguely universal and abstract or else aimed at promoting an equal choice.

For instance, if Nicole Ferrie wants people to be able to choose whatever family type they want, then it helps her to argue that "all that you need to make this work is vaguely universal and abstract quality x"  - which she lists as love and respect. If "all you need is love" (in a vague and abstract way) then the way is clear for people to be free to choose in any direction as autonomous individuals. A vaguely universal love doesn't stand in the way of anything.

But what if women need marital love? What if a child needs (optimally) paternal and maternal love? Then suddenly some choices become more objectively moral than others, which then contradicts the liberal idea that we can self-define our own goods however we want.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why the attacks on Cory Bernardi?

Cory Bernardi is still being attacked in the Australian media.

Bernardi, if you remember, is a conservative-leaning Liberal Party senator. He wrote a book in which he called the traditional family the gold standard and pointed out that there are higher rates of incarceration for boys from single parent families.

It provoked a furious reaction from the political class here. Bernardi has been ridiculed and mocked for his comments. I thought it might be interesting to look at the way the political class has gone about its work.

Quite a few anti-Bernardi articles focused on the "I am offended" angle. For instance, Nicole Ferrie wrote that it was "drivel" and "rubbish" for Bernardi to claim that the gold standard for children's development was to be raised by their biological parents. According to Ferrie, Bernardi is guilty of "condemning" and "judging" people for their choices which makes his views "ignorant" and "offensive" and discriminatory.

There are two things to be said about Ferrie's response to Bernardi. First, it is a pretty orthodox statement of liberal morality. Liberal morality goes something like this:

i) what matters is that our autonomy in choosing what to do or be remains unimpeded
ii) for this to work at a larger level we must not interfere with what others choose to do or to be
iii) therefore the key moral virtues are those of non-interference or non-infringement such as respect, openness, tolerance, non-judgementalism, non-discrimination, acceptance of diversity, etc.

You can see how Bernardi has violated a liberal morality. He has "judged" people for their "choices" which then means that he is guilty of "discrimination." He is therefore considered to be wrong not just politically but morally - hence, he is being treated like a moral outcast.

It doesn't matter in this view if what Bernardi says about the benefits of traditional families is true or not. That's not what is of interest to Ferrie. She just assumes, in line with a liberal morality, that an attitude of respect and a universal, fit everything love, will carry things along - what other attitude could a liberal take?

It will be very difficult to persuade the likes of Ferrie with facts and figures. What we need to do is to wean our intellectual class away from the underlying assumptions of a liberal morality. Our intellectual class needs to be persuaded that it is possible to have some knowledge of an objective good and that there are positive virtues that go beyond "non-infringement".

Which brings me to the second point to be made about Ferrie's response to Bernardi. She believes that it is "offensive" to say that not all family forms are equal; it is supposed to be an insult to single mothers or to children raised in non-traditional families.

Now, I don't think politics should be a game of who shouts loudest about feeling offended. But it does occur to me that Ferrie herself is being offensive in claiming that all family types are equal.

Think about what she is really saying. She is arguing that if you have two families, one being a single mother raising children, the other being a father and mother raising children, that there is no reason to prefer one family type over the other.

What this means is that the father in the traditional family may as well not be there. He is not value adding to any significant degree, neither in his support of his wife, nor in his influence on his children, nor in his contribution of father love. All of his efforts are in vain, as all that is needed in a family is abstract love and respect and this occurs to an equal degree in fatherless families.

Furthermore, if a single mother family is equal to a traditional one, then a particular kind of love, namely marital love is also of little worth. It cannot have much significance in the lives of women, as a family with this kind of love is not to be preferred over one without it.

Is this not just a bit offensive to fathers? In fact, isn't it a lot more offensive to fathers than anything that Cory Bernardi might have implied about single mothers? You can take Cory Bernardi's position and still think that what mothers do is vitally important. But if you take Ferrie's view you are committed to the idea that what men do in the family is not that significant - neither as husbands nor as fathers.

Here we get back to the problem that liberal intellectuals aren't willing to recognise objective goods or virtues that go beyond non-interference. Ferrie, for instance, does not recognise as a significant good marital love or father love. If she did, then she would more likely view the traditional family as an ideal to aim at.

There are some other interesting things to reflect on in the liberal criticisms of Cory Bernardi, but I'll resume the discussion in a future post.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Russian looks sadly at the West

The Russians have problems of their own with migrations of peoples but, even so, it's refreshing to hear Russian state officials speak out against liberalism.

The latest is the chairman of the State Duma International Affairs' Committee, Alexei Pushkov. I don't have a complete transcript of his speech, but the highlights aren't bad. He said:
Russia is not suggesting that Western societies live according to our patterns but advocates the right of all countries and societies to live the way they find necessary instead of becoming targets of aggressive exports of values of the radical liberal revolution.

He complained that the West was witnessing an,
“accelerated de-Christianization” that is occurring “under the slogan of forming an indivisible world without borders, in particular, between sexes.

The objective”, he continued, “is to develop a qualitatively new society with no states, borders, moral norms or foundations of civilization.”

He believes it is intended to make the West,
“a common economic space… where free individuals without nationality will be roaming allegedly protected by certain norms of law but being objects of merciless manipulation, stripped of links to their land, history, religion or family in the civilized meaning of the word.”

I don't think his words will have much influence on the Western elites. But they should encourage us to keep up our own resistance to what is happening in our own countries.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Australia: horror that senator defends the traditional family

Well, liberalism continues to march onward in this country.

A senator, Cory Bernardi, has written a book called The Conservative Revolution (I haven't read it yet - Bernardi is a conservative-leaning member of the Liberal Party).

In it he calls the traditional family of married parents and their biological children "the gold standard," i.e. the ideal to aim for. He cites statistics showing higher crime rates amongst boys from single parent families and higher promiscuity rates for girls.

The response? A fury of condemnation. Word like "dangerous," "offensive" and "inflammatory" are being thrown around in the media.

There has been very little discussion of what Bernardi actually had to say. The tactics to oppose Bernardi have been (apart from the name calling) to wheel out experts to say that there are a whole variety of family types which are equally legitimate; to nominate people who have been raised by single mothers and who have turned out OK; and to argue that all that matters is that people love and look after their children well, regardless of the family type.

It seems that liberal society is determined to rush headlong down a path in which the traditional family becomes increasingly marginal.

I can't see it ending well. I've said it before, but I'll repeat it once more: if you say that all family types are equal, then you are saying that a single mother family is equal to a family with both a father and a mother. In which case, the father is no longer playing a necessary role. He could just as well not be there.

So either men will start to believe that they are not necessary in the lives of their children, in which case their commitment to family life and to paid employment will decline; or else we will all live a great pretence, in which it will be politically correct to insist that single mother families are equal, but people won't really believe it.

This is not to say that you cannot recognise that there are single mothers who did not intend to end up as single mothers and who work hard to do their best by their children. We can recognise the efforts of these women, but without giving up on the ideal of having as many children as possible raised within a traditional family.

We should not be cowed by the liberal insistence on an equality of family types. We should continue to argue for the traditional family as we build an alternative to the liberal mainstream.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Amy Chua to white liberals: you are not elite

Amy Chua is famous for being a Chinese American tiger mom. With her Jewish American husband, Jed Rubenfeld, she has written a new book which is startlingly outside the usual liberal narrative.

Chua and Rubenfeld have decided to write about why some groups in America do better than others:
"That certain groups do much better in America than others — as measured by income, occupational status, test scores and so on — is difficult to talk about"
So which groups do they identify as doing best? They list eight:

1. Jews
2. Chinese
3. Indians
4. Iranians
5. Nigerians
6. Lebanese
7. Cubans
8. Mormons

Note that the only white Americans included in the list are the Mormons, who aren't part of the core white liberal population.

Chua is correct that Asian Americans do better on average than white Americans - I noted that myself back in 2008.

It is significant that mainstream whites are being left off the advantaged list. For decades, white liberals have attacked their fellow whites as being privileged. Here, though, we have a Chinese American and a Jewish American identifying most whites as being part of a losing group when it comes to seeking high position in American society.

There's something else of significance to consider. Although white liberals like to see themselves as being anti-establishment, at the same time they like to see liberalism itself as an elite ideology - as something that confers status and prestige.

But Rubenfeld and Chua take the opposite view. They see liberalism as a losing ideology - as something best avoided if you want success:
in modern America, a group has an edge if it doesn’t buy into — or hasn’t yet bought into — mainstream, post-1960s, liberal American principles.'

So what does confer success according to Rubenfeld and Chua? They believe there is a triple package which drives people onward. The first is having a sense that the group you belong to is superior to others; the second is a feeling of personal insecurity; the third is impulse control.

I don't think Chua gets it entirely right here. I do think it helps if you have a sense that you belong to a high achieving group. I can remember as a boy in the 1970s the positive sense that Anglo-Australian men had of themselves as being masculine high achievers, particularly when it came to the roles of pioneers, soldiers and sportsmen. I don't remember the focus of this being a feeling of superiority over others, though. It was a positive self-focus, rather than being a superiority complex.

Nor were Australian men insecure. I think Chua focuses on this because she believes that therapeutic parenting styles, in which children are forever positively reinforced, leads to low achievement. She prefers the tiger mom style in which children are held to difficult standards of achievement.

By impulse control Chua and Rubenfeld apparently mean the ability to resist the impulse to give up.

I don't think that Chua and Rubenfelds' book, by itself, will discourage white liberals. It's likely that white liberals will respond by thinking that without liberalism you get dangerous claims of superiority, chauvinism etc.

However, the book does point to a different political scenario than the one we've had over the past 50 years. It's a scenario in which new ethnic elites confidently assert their success in terms of their own values, self-consciously rejecting the liberal values of the older, declining elites.

It's one way that liberalism might begin to lose prestige as an elite ideology.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Camille vs Hanna

In my last post I wrote about the American feminist Hanna Rosin's declaration that men are now obsolete.

But men have an unlikely defender: the lesbian academic Camille Paglia. She's written a column of her own in Time magazine in which she complains that feminism has been unjustly hostile to men:
A peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism.

And that feminism has denied sex distinctions between men and women:
Ideologue professors at our leading universities indoctrinate impressionable undergraduates with carelessly fact-free theories alleging that gender is an arbitrary, oppressive fiction with no basis in biology.

The hostility to men and the suppression of sex distinctions does not make for a happy personal life for women:
When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys, who have no incentive to mature or to honor their commitments. And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centered and profound sense of themselves as women.

Again, it's noteworthy that it takes a lesbian academic to remind us of this aspect of heterosexuality. Men have a stronger sense of themselves as men when in the presence of truly feminine women; women have a more profound sense of themselves as women when in the presence of strongly masculine men. Therefore, in attacking masculinity women are damaging something that they need for themselves.

Camille Paglia makes another interesting point, namely that many feminists, despite claiming to be leftists, end up seeing participation in the market as the highest end in life. They do not escape the "economism" of the right:
What is troubling in too many books and articles by feminist journalists in the U.S. is, despite their putative leftism, an implicit privileging of bourgeois values and culture. The particular focused, clerical and managerial skills of the upper-middle-class elite are presented as the highest desideratum, the ultimate evolutionary point of humanity.

Camille Paglia then reminds feminist triumphalists, who believe that men are done for, that civilisations rise and fall, and that in a declining civilisation women will inevitably need the support of men. Even now, women still rely on men to keep the wheels turning:
Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments...The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role — but women were not its author.

Is Femen for real?

A member of the feminist group Femen disrupted Christmas mass at Cologne Cathedral by jumping topless onto the altar with the words "I am God" daubed on her body.

I'm not sure what to make of actions like these. If the church were a more powerful force in modern Europe I could understand that atheist radicals might harbour hostile feelings toward it. But why would a leftist woman bother to protest a church that is already clearly marginalised? It comes across as theatrically insincere.

Even the slogan "I am God" just seems to be attention grabbing.

My feeling is that there is something fake about this.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Hanna Rosin: why men are obsolete

Hanna Rosin is at it again. She's now written a piece for Time titled "Men are obsolete" (which must be fun reading for her husband and son).

She has a view of the world in which masculine men are defined in very negative terms:
But in order to win this debate we have to prove that men, quote unquote, as we’ve historically come to define them — entitled to power, destined for leadership, arrogant, confused by anything that isn’t them. As in: “I don’t understand. Is it a guy dressed up like a girl? Or a girl dressed up like a guy?” They are obsolete.

She is defining men through her own agenda. Her agenda is a feminist one of having women in positions of power. Therefore, she sees traditional manhood in terms of whatever hinders this, i.e. as men being "entitled to power, destined for leadership, arrogant" (she wants this mantle to pass to women).

She's not exactly looking at the big picture here. If men historically were protectors and providers, that meant a life of labour in the service of wives, children and communities. It meant leadership for a purpose rather than to satisfy a political agenda or an egoistic assertion of self.

Nor is she taking masculinity seriously on its own terms. What happens when a man is successful in fully developing toward his adult being? Won't he then express certain masculine qualities in his behaviour? Won't this influence his role within a family, a community and a society?

Hanna Rosin doesn't consider this. She just sees masculine men as holding back women from positions of power. And she believes that society has developed in a way that has undercut the position of these masculine men.

First, she believes that there are signs that men's position in the workplace has declined. Their incomes are falling and one in five men has dropped out of the workforce. Young women now have a higher income than men and they are getting 60% of university degrees. Rosin writes:
As one sorority girl put it to me — remember, I said sorority, not someone from the women’s study center — “Men are the new ball and chain.”

(Note the arrogance: this is something Rosin looks on positively as a sign of the power that is passing from men to women.)

Rosin is right that the economic position of men has declined relative to women, but she is greatly exaggerating the extent to which this makes men obsolete. I work with some very passionately feminist women, few of whom work full-time. They rely on their husbands to work full-time in order to give them the work/life balance they seek.

Rosin is wrong to think that work means the same thing for her as it does for all women. She has a comfortable and creative high status job as a successful freelance writer. For other women, work is not going to be quite so glamorous.

Rosin then claims that men are obsolete because the male breadwinner family is declining. She's right about the decline, though she gets the statistics wrong (she claims that 40% of families now have a female breadwinner excluding single mothers, but the 40% figure includes single mums. For partnered women the figure is a bit over 20%. So in 80% of couple households the man is still the primary breadwinner).

It's the next argument that's the most revealing. Rosin uses the destruction of the lower-class family to prove her point that men have become obsolete:
The working class feels the end of men the most, as men lose their jobs and lose their will to be fathers, and women do everything alone, creating a virtual matriarchy in the parts of the country that used to be bastions of good old macho country music style values. Why don’t these women marry or live with the fathers of their children? As many a woman told me, “He’d be just another mouth to feed.”

I really have to shake my head at this. Are we supposed to cheer on as a progressive outcome the destruction of family life amongst the working and middle classes? Are we supposed to think that those women going it alone now have more "power" relative to men? It seems to me that they are just living more difficult lives in a more dysfunctional social setting. No wonder that average life expectancy for poorer white women in the US is significantly decreasing.

This doesn't prove that men are obsolete at all - it shows what happens when a society fails to uphold the role of men within the family.

Rosin continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel when she gives her next reason for men being obsolete:
It’s the end of men because men have lost their monopoly on violence and aggression...Women are becoming more sexually confident, and something Camille Paglia has been waiting for, more aggressive and violent.

Again, it's as if Rosin is taking a crude model of masculinity and wanting women to be its new standard-bearer. It is a sign of female "power," thinks Rosin, that they are becoming more aggressive and violent.

But it doesn't help women much to make this a sign of social position. After all, most men could easily overpower women in a physical confrontation. The fact that more women are fighting in the street is usually just a sign of drunken vulgarity - it points to social decline amongst women not to social advancement.

Rosin finishes her piece by talking about what life might be like for obsolete males, like her son, in the future:
When I think of the world after the end of men, I think of the world my son will inherit, where, if he chooses to take his kids to a playground at 3 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, no one will look at him funny, no one will wonder if he’s out of work, no one will think, “What a loser,” and no one will think he’s from Portland or Toronto, they will just walk on by and not think anything of it at all. He can be his own lovely obnoxious self and also be at home in a new world.

The future man is allowed to go to the playground with his children. That's all we get out of Rosin.

Did Rosin herself marry a man whose role is limited to playground time with the children? No, she married the editor of Slate magazine.

Will she really bring up her son to be "his own lovely obnoxious self" without any concern for his status in the marriage market? Well, I'll believe it when I see it. That's not how Rosin's social class generally operates.

Rosin is right about the social trends, though she tends to exaggerate them. She is wrong, though, that these trends have much of a future to them. If her social class were to raise their sons to be non-masculine, then her social class would fall away. And if men lose their work ethic, and their connection to family life, then a society will devolve rather than progress to something better.

The future belongs to those communities which can hold together and resist the trends described by Rosin.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Camille Paglia & the masculine virtues

Camille Paglia is a long way from being a traditionalist. She's a lesbian feminist academic who I have criticised before for her vitalist nihilism (see here and here). Even so, she is an independent thinker who makes some good criticisms of liberal modernity.

In her latest interview, Paglia has again criticised the liberal idea that sex distinctions are an oppressive construct that should be abolished. Even as a young academic she couldn't go along with the denial of biological distinctions between men and women:
Then there was the time she "barely got through the dinner" with a group of women's studies professors at Bennington College, where she had her first teaching job, who insisted that there is no hormonal difference between men and women. "I left before dessert."

She believes that a denial of sex distinctions has led to a denaturing of men and women and a culture which "doesn't allow women to be womanly" and which leaves men with "no models of manhood."

I've covered that ground before at this site. What's a little different is that Camille Paglia then goes on to connect the "neutralization of maleness" with civilisational decline. According to Paglia, "What you're seeing is how a civilization commits suicide."

She believes it would be better if more political leaders went through the military:
She starts by pointing to the diminished status of military service. "The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster," she says.

For reasons I'll explain shortly, I believe her instincts are on the right track here. But she herself doesn't give a very convincing explanation for her position. She says of the current crop of politicians:
"These people don't think in military ways, so there's this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we're just nice and benevolent to everyone they'll be nice too. They literally don't have any sense of evil or criminality."

I don't think that's the real issue at stake. Let me say, first, that as long as the state ideology is liberalism it doesn't really matter what calibre of leader you get. A better leader will put their talents to the wrong ends.

However, I do think it's true that modern society tends to produce leaders who are stuck at the material level. They tend to be technocrats: "economic men" who are oriented most strongly to material outcomes like GDP and who see the nation state as a vehicle to assert power and influence internationally or to reshape domestic society along highly reductive ideological lines. These leaders want to establish an administrative state that, for the sake of rational and equal function, prefers to deal with people as abstracted, interchangeable, individual units.

So, even if we manage to successfully challenge liberalism as the state ideology, we are still left with the task of producing leaders with a better mindset than this. We need an elite class which is raised to get above a crudely material level of thought (and above reductive ideology).

The question is how you achieve this. One way is to allow boys and young men to belong to fraternities of various kinds, as this tends to bring out virtues such as loyalty, courage, honour and self-discipline, and also a positive sense of history and tradition.

The military is one institution that has some of the features of a fraternity (though in Western countries the military is just now being feminised) - which is why I think Camille Paglia's instincts are at least partly right.

Schools can also act as fraternities, though only under certain conditions. If a boys school has a long history, fine buildings and grounds, a strong sporting tradition, a mostly male (and masculine) staff and an ability to enforce rules of discipline, then you are likely to have the beginnings of a fraternal culture amongst the boys.

Sports teams can act as fraternities; so can adventure activity organisations like the scouts; so can cadets; so can service organisations; so can rescue organisations such as surf lifesavers. Even all male occupations and workplaces can have some of the same effect.

It's little wonder that a sense of masculine virtue has declined, given that most of the traditional fraternities have now been feminised. Even the boy scouts had to give up the "boy" part of its existence.

I'm not suggesting that fraternities are sufficient to produce a higher quality elite. I do believe, though, that they are part of achieving this aim - of getting men to think beyond a bean counting materialism or individualistic hedonism. That was once part of the reason for their existence - the cultivation of character and masculine virtue - within the Western tradition.