Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lena's equality

I posted recently about Lena Dunham after she made a video with her father celebrating the impending extinction of white men.

Lena had promised to move to Canada if Donald Trump won the election but, unsurprisingly, has announced that she will not be fulfilling her vow. In her explanation of why she is going to stay in America she wrote:
I've realized I can survive, as a Jewish pro-choice sexual assault survivor with a queer family member and a belief that we are all exactly and beautifully equal.

On reading this, I thought that maybe she doesn't think white men are "exactly and beautifully equal" as she has extinction in mind for us. But leaving this aside the formulation that "we are all exactly and beautifully equal" struck me as odd.

It doesn't seem to be true. Some people are more low-minded, more criminally-minded and more selfish than others. Some people have evil in their hearts and minds. Some people dwell in what is squalid in life and never rise above it. I do not see how such people are "exactly and beautifully equal" to others.

We can be aware, even in our own lives, of the rise and fall in the quality of our thoughts, actions and feelings. One manifestation of who we are is not equal to another.

So why would Lena Dunham claim that people are exactly equal? You might think she means this in the sense that we are all equal in the sight of God (so that even those most alienated from the good, nonetheless retain an imprint of what is perfect and divine in their nature - even if this is difficult to discern on the surface).

But I doubt that this is it. I suspect the context for her is the liberal belief that there is nothing objectively right or wrong and therefore no way of measuring what is higher or lower in what people aspire to be or do. What liberals do instead is to assert that there is an equal dignity in people defining their own good, their own identity, their own lifestyle and so on. It makes sense, in this liberal context, to assert that people are "exactly equal," just as it is senseless to do so from a more traditional perspective.

The liberal approach to equality comes with problems. It doesn't change the fact that people seek distinction in life. But instead of seeking distinction by disciplining themselves to objective standards of character, they are left to do so in other ways. For instance, if there is no distinction to be had in the traditional moral realm, then material status takes on an even greater importance (educational and career status for the upper classes; phones, designer shoes etc. for those lower down the ranks).

In the moral sphere liberals seek distinction through virtue signalling, i.e. by knowing what political position to take to best represent the latest trends in liberal thought. This alone gives some people a sense of superiority over others.

There's another way for liberals to signal moral distinction/superiority. Liberals don't believe in an objective right or wrong. However, they do believe in a system in which we each define our own good, whilst respecting others' freedom to do the same. This means that it is virtuous in a liberal system to not interfere with how others define their own good. So it is considered especially moral to be non-discriminatory, inclusive, open and tolerant. Therefore, the most virtuous/superior liberal will be the one who is most inclusive to whoever is deemed to be the most "other".

In practice Muslims are usually tagged as the most "other" and so there are many liberals who believe that they are demonstrating moral distinction by being open to the Islamising of the West (the liberal churches seem to be especially prone to this - to promoting Muslim immigration as a great moral cause, even though this will eventually undermine the place of Christianity in the West).

Finally, liberals have brought in inequality via "intersectionality," in which membership of a group thought to be oppressed gives a person greater moral authority and status than those thought to be more privileged. This moral pecking order is taken very seriously by some liberal activists; in an odd way, group victimhood gives people a special place vis-à-vis others, to the point that it is thought that the others ought not to speak but to listen, or to take up less space, or to move aside.

So that is Lena Dunham's "beautiful equality." It is an equality in which people seek to be recognised as superior via such things as career status; politically correct beliefs; upholding the "other" regardless of the practical consequences of doing so; and claiming membership of oppressed groups.

It's a mess. It does not create equality and the drive toward distinction is mostly frittered away on things that do not really confer distinction. And, as for white men, we apparently do not even qualify to be part of Lena's system.


  1. If a Muslim male decides that sexually assaulting Lena Dunham is what defines his own good, his identity and his lifestyle, how could she object? Her own feelings on the matter cannot over-ride those of the assaulter because that would be to treat her as privileged over him. It is truly insane.

    1. In theory, the Muslim male would violate the system because in the liberal system you are only supposed to define your own good in ways that do not affect others similarly defining their own good (which, in theory, severely limits what the good is allowed to be). However, in practice liberals do violate the system - feminists do it all the time. For instance, there are feminists who believe that it is empowering for women to be sexually promiscuous (think slut walks). They argue that this is women asserting their bodily autonomy. But the same feminists get very upset when men respond with a player culture of their own. The feminists want to control the situation so that men follow rules that women are discarding. Why? Because it maximises female autonomy by limiting that of men. In other words, because the system is based on a morality of will and desire, the who/whom question becomes paramount, which is one reason why people are so touchy about this in a liberal society. We've already seen a Swedish feminist declare that it is worse if a Swedish man rather than a Muslim man assaults a woman. So, the liberal system is vulnerable to one group of people pushing for their own will/desire to override that of other groups - which, again, is why liberals are so sensitive to the idea that a "privileged" group is doing this to them. In a more traditional society, in which there is a concept of an objective good that applies to everyone, this isn't such a focal point.