Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What are we defending?

The Western political class is still responding dismally to terror attacks, such as the one perpetrated on young people in Manchester.

I want to focus on one response in particular, by Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. Sarah Vine is the wife of a leading Conservative Party politician, Michael Gove. They both support Brexit and might be thought of as "establishment conservative" types.

Sarah Vine reacted to the terror attack this way:

So what we are defending, against the terrorists, is Western girls' freedom to be whoever they want to be. That is how Sarah Vine sees things.

She writes:
...this was not just a cowardly attack on innocent civilians by a blackened heart, this was specifically an attack on our girls — all of them.

Our young, beautiful, free, crazy girls — and their right to live life as they choose.

...Young women enjoying themselves, expressing themselves, being free to be whoever they want to be. Indulgent mums accompanying them, willing to endure an evening of pop hell in the interests of family harmony.

All this is anathema to Islamist fanatics, for whom notions such as sexual equality and female emancipation are an offence.

Sarah Vine is giving us a choice here between Islamic terrorists or "liberated" Western women who are free to do whatever they want. To put this another way, she is defining the West in terms of the liberal value of individual autonomy - a freedom of the individual to self-define or self-determine or self-constitute.

The problems with this approach leap out at you. First, if the great thing is to be whoever you want to be, then the value of a stable, given identity, such as being English, falls in significance. Therefore, the path is made clear for an open-bordered, diverse society in which the population no longer has a shared, long-standing common identity and loyalty to each other. And so you end up living amongst people who hate you and your way of life and wish violence upon you. Being whoever you want to be as an atomised individual leaves you vulnerable to attack - in the long run the terrorists win.

The "be whoever" attitude also fails the girls themselves. Sarah Vine describes quite well the behaviour of young teenage girls:
Girls this age are a special kind of crazy — a wonderful, maddening, mystifying mix of emotions.

One minute they’re trying to persuade you that wearing fishnet tights under a pair of ripped jeans is a perfectly acceptable ensemble for a trip to church, the next they’re in floods of tears because they’ve lost their hamster.

They are a mass of contradictions: monosyllabic, moody and manipulative, but also gentle and loving, as capable of throwing their arms around you in a heart-stopping embrace as they are of telling you they hate you.

If you leave these 14-year-olds to be whoever they want to be you are going to end up with dysfunctional adult women. These girls need their parents to raise them within a strong moral framework which will help to form a good character and encourage wise life choices.

What you don't want is 20-something women who are still a mass of contradictions and a special kind of crazy. Women like this tear apart men and tear down a culture of family life. And they don't inspire young men to want to defend them or, for that matter, the larger society. So, again, in the long run the terrorists win.

Saying "be whoever you want to be" implies that there is nothing strong or wise or virtuous or true that people can aspire to be. It implies that there is no natural telos to being a man or a woman. It suggests that there is no higher character type that we can lift ourselves toward as Englishmen or Australians or Canadians.

A liberal "freedom as radical individual autonomy" just doesn't work as the basis for a civilisation. Sarah Vine believes that we are defending it against the terrorists, but the urgent need is to return to the higher values that existed before liberalism became so dominant in the West.


  1. Mr. Richardson

    I think the most important word here is the word "raise", children need to be raised. But "being free to be whoever they want to be" implies that children can raise themselves.

    When I think of things I have heard Liberals say, I really do think children can raise themselves!

    Mark Moncrieff
    Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future

    1. That's a good way of putting it. And you can imagine why this is so. If you are a liberal and you think that there are no objectives purposes in life and that people should just "be themselves" however they see fit, then there is little purpose to parenting your child - there is nothing definite to raise them toward. Parenting just comes to mean accepting unconditionally. Not imposing anything. Giving the child confidence to "be anything you care to be". The parents are just there to ferry the child around as a kind of support crew, rather than transmitting culture, identity, purpose, wisdom, values.

  2. The process of sending young women off to live in college dorms, with in loco parentis abandoned, to find their way in the world induced a set of anti-civilizing behaviors. There is really no way to encourage this behavior and have defense of Western values as a result.

    I could write a thousand more words on it but you've said it so well.

    1. Flavia, this troubles me also. Perhaps I've mentioned this before, but when I first went to university I knew some young, beautiful women and within 12 months they had been damaged beyond recognition by a lifestyle that I instinctively knew was harmful, but which as a young man I didn't have the confidence to try to counteract. Witnessing the decline of these women is part of what set me on the path of rejecting liberal modernity. It is sad to experience it first hand with people you like and who showed so much promise. As the father of a daughter, it troubles me that I might not be able to protect her from a similar fate.

      Fathers have an extraordinarily strong instinct to protect their daughters from this kind of lifestyle - the instinct needs to be given some sort of expression within a community - it's there for a reason.

    2. Excellent comment. Colleges are indoctrination centres to which we send our youth.

    3. Your influence will be the most important in keeping her from running of the rails. My boomer father believed in career, money & independence above all else. I think a lot of my peers were taught a similar lesson. It is a very rude awakening to discover how little those matter to a meaningful life if you have to forgo being a wife & mother.

      If she gets good direction from her parents, she will do well.

  3. This story has been in the UK press recently - - beautiful young girl abused by her boyfriend "commmits suicide by strangling herself". Given that her boyfriend had recently been strangling her and that she herself said she was worried he'd strangle her to death, I am a mite suspicious.

    Either way, it is an extreme example of the harm the mixed college dorm system does to young women.

    1. I read once that in the 1800s parents tried to so arrange things that the first man their daughter fell in love with would be her future husband. From that view, we have travelled all the way to mixed college dorms and young women embarking on purely physical relationships - with a terrible outcome in the case you linked to.

  4. I am a born and bred Mancunian. My wife is Australian. Manchester is where we live. Ordinary people of all faiths and races have responded to the attack with fortitude and nobility. Politicians, pundits and celebrities, however, have succeeded only in uttering meaningless platitudes. They seem totally ignorant of the existential threat radical Islam poses. It's like they live in a fantasy land where cultural differences and non-liberal ways of viewing the world don't exist.

    The deeper problem is one of 'la trahison des clerics.' The Manchester universities, the Council, big business and the media all seem obsessed with undermining any and all traditional notions of the family and gender identity. This, as you know, is merely the most recent addition to the wider anti-Western, anti-Christian animus which is undercutting the bedrock of our civilisation.

    Roger Scruton calls it the 'refusal to inherit.' We scorn our patrimony and hate who we are, destroying everything that made Europe great, even the natural order. IS wait at the gates, meanwhile, waitng to strike.

    Britain, in short, is ripe for conquest. If ever we needed King Arthur to wake from his sleep it's now!


    Here is another good blog on this topic. Basically, as soon as an attack happens, it is swept under the rug and calls for more immigration or "refugees" ramp up.

    Sorry to be graphic, but The west need to look at the reality: bloody body parts of children strewn in the street. The images from Sweden were not widely publicized but they were gruesome. That is the reality the west must confront I it wants to survive. Prettying it up won't make it go away.