Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's the state ideology

Via Laura Wood a story about how moral issues are decided in Germany. A German man who married his biological sister and had children with her has been punished under existing incest laws. However, a government committee (the German Ethics Council) has decided that incest should be permitted. On what grounds? The expected ones:
Incest between siblings appears to be very rare in Western societies according to the available data but those affected describe how difficult their situation is in light of the threat of punishment. They feel their fundamental freedoms have been violated and are forced into secrecy or to deny their love. The majority of the German Ethics Council is of the opinion that it is not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo. In the case of consensual incest among adult siblings, neither the fear of negative consequences for the family, nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships can justify a criminal prohibition. The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family.

So incest is now considered to be a "fundamental freedom" - the language of freedom is being invoked once again. And what is meant by freedom? It is the "fundamental right" to "self-determination" - and it is this right to self-determination which is thought to trump all other considerations, such as negative consequences for the family or the problems that arise for the children born to such relationships.

Here again we have a problem doing great harm to Western societies. Freedom is held to be the sole, overriding good and freedom is understood in a limited way as individual autonomy. Other goods in society are sacrificed to this one reductive understanding of morality - which means inevitably that people don't even end up feeling free or autonomous.

The better option is for a community of people to try to get as close as possible to an understanding of an "order of being" - in which a range of goods are harmonised as far as possible. That is not only the best way to uphold more than one good, it's also the best way to maximise freedom and to make freedom meaningful. (Is it really a meaningful understanding of freedom when incest starts to be considered a "fundamental freedom"? What's next?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kalb on the 60s

Jim Kalb has written a piece for Crisis Magazine about the 1960s. He takes a generous approach to the 60s radicals, arguing that their reaction to a materialistic culture was understandable but that their solutions made things worse.

It's written to Jim Kalb's usual high standard and is well worth reading. I'm not sure, though, to what extent the 60s radicals really were motivated by idealism (I'm not old enough to remember that decade).

When I looked into the main figures that Australia contributed to the 60s counterculture (e.g. Richard Neville, Germaine Greer) I found that many of them had been members of the Sydney Push. And the Sydney Push itself was strongly influenced by the left-libertarian philosophy of John Anderson.

Anderson's philosophy was not exactly idealistic. I've written a more detailed account here, but in short he laid the groundwork for some of the beliefs of the 1960s radicals by arguing that there is no morality embedded within reality; that reality can only be understood through a scientific methodology (scientism); and that the only "good" activities were those which were free, critical and creative. This meant that what mattered was not reform but an attitude of opposition.

Anderson also believed that sexual repression was a major means by which freedom was constrained. You were not supposed to have sexual hang-ups (jealousy, attachments etc.).

So the underlying philosophy of the Australian leaders of the 60s flower children was, seemingly, a harshly soulless one from the beginning (but, again, I wasn't there - maybe some of the rank and file were attracted by the idealistic sounding slogans of the movement).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweden Democrats make gains

Good news from Sweden. In the recent elections, the Sweden Democrats surged from 5.8 per cent of the vote to 13 per cent. They are now clearly the third largest party in that country. They have become particularly popular amongst young and rural voters.

More information here and here.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Choosing Kate

Laura Wood posted a really interesting piece on Kate Millett recently. Kate Millett, if you aren't already aware, was one of the leading lights of second wave feminism. I've written a post on her myself (here) about her later descent into loneliness, unhappiness and poverty.

What's new in the Laura Wood post is (amongst other things), the perspective of Kate Millett's sister, Mallory (see here - it's well worth a read). It seems clear that Kate Millett was suffering greatly from mental illness at the time that she was being lauded as a leader of the feminist movement.

What does it say when our elites choose to promote someone like Kate Millett to leadership in society?

Monday, September 01, 2014

His dream is not my dream

Paul Mason has written a Guardian piece about his dream city. He appears to be serious in setting out what would make up his utopia. So what does he want?

He says he wants neighbourhoods designed around hipster economics, and goes on to add "In the ideal form, these areas are home both to hipsters and ethnically diverse poor communities, who refrain from fighting each other."

In reality, they are usually just home to hipsters (that's true for Melbourne anyway).

He also wants a taxi system "under the control of old-style London working-class cabbies, who've been persuaded to give women and ethnic minorities equal access to the trade" (what a strange thing to think about when designing a utopia).

He also wants sleaze: "a massive ecosystem of gay, lesbian, transgender, BDSM and plain old sleazy heterosexual hangouts: clubs, bars, dancehalls, cabarets and all the dim-lit alleyways and grassy knolls inbetween."

Here's something I've noted already. The left is congregating in areas given character by historic, traditional architecture: "it must be happy with its Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and with anything salvagable that used to be a factory or warehouse. Harlem in New York, Fitzroy in Melbourne, Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin all derive an intangible positive atmosphere from their combination of brick, ornament, renovation and re-use."

Maybe modernism in architecture has lost its lustre for the artsy left.

Then there's this: "it must be ethnically mixed and tolerant and hospitable to women...The city of Gijon, in northern Spain, has a government that plasters the streets with ever more inventive propaganda against sexual harassment, domestic violence and general sexism. Stuff like that."

Right, plenty of sex war in Paul Mason's dream city.

Another oddity: "any slums have to be what UN Habitat calls "slums of hope" – staging posts for upward mobility, self-policing and non-chaotic." Is this supposed to add a bit of vibrancy into the picture?

Then, despite his initial support for microbusiness he writes that his utopia "indispensably, is a democratic political culture the inhabitants are proud of, that calls them regularly to the streets, to loud arguments in small squares, keeps their police demilitarised and in check, and allows them to assimilate the migrants that will inevitably flow inwards, and to self-identify as products of the city as they themselves navigate the global labour market."

So the city is to be borderless and subject to the global labour market but still think itself as having a unique identity with a strong level of civic commitment.

He finishes with this rousing call to arms: "If you could cut and paste everything east of Bondi Junction on to London's Soho and Barcelona's Raval, giving the whole city a feminist government recruited in Scandinavia, you might come close. But you can't so you have to dream."

They're not the same as us, are they?