Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It goes back some way

I watched about one minute of Q&A last night. It's a TV show here in Australia in which "luvvie" left-liberals discuss political issues with insufferable moral smugness.

Anyway, a British Labour Party feminist, Harriet Harman, was speaking. There is something icy in her personality, but to draw a laugh from the audience she noted mockingly that a generation ago many young women would leave school and have as their highest aspiration finding a husband and starting a family. On cue there were chortles of laughter from the audience at the thought.

The underlying message is that the highest ambition for everyone, male or female, is to participate in the market as a unit of labour. Although their reasons might be different, left liberals and right liberals end up in agreement on this. Careers come before family.

And the message has seeped through society. I had one of those moments of mutual incomprehension with a group of my students the other day. The topic was career advice, some of the students were disengaged, so I urged them on with the comment that choosing a career and choosing a spouse were the two most important life decisions.

The girls (aged about sixteen) looked at me with astonishment. They said they agreed that choosing a career was important, but they didn't think that choosing a spouse mattered as much. They couldn't believe that anyone would think it was that important, especially compared to a career.

If you want to blame modern day feminism for this you would be mistaken. The problem goes back to the first wave of feminism in the nineteenth century. In 1869 a college for women, Girton College, was established at Cambridge. What was the outlook impressed on the young women at Girton? One Girton girl put it this way in 1889:
We are no longer mere parts - excrescences, so to speak, of a family ... One may develop as an individual and independent unit.
That is a highly significant, and radical, change in life outlook. Think of it this way. The traditional view is that we do not develop, ideally, solo. If, for instance, you are a 25-year-old man, then ideally you will look to develop who you are as a person by seeking to become a husband and a father. As a husband you can develop your masculine personality by fulfilling your drives to provide for and protect a wife, by fulfilling your desire to form a loving union with someone of the opposite sex; and by fulfilling the innate instinct to reproduce yourself biologically, to reproduce your own family lineage and to reproduce your own larger ethnic tradition.

There are also, of course, aspects of a young man's development, such as the cultivation of virtues like fortitude, which could be done solo, but much would be left out if it were left at this. And even a man who never marries is likely to develop aspects of who he is in relationship with others, such as his parents and siblings, or (if a priest) in relationship with a church and parish.

But look at what the Girton girl is saying. She is radically diminishing the importance of family in her self-development. In fact, she has been educated, by first wave feminists, to utterly dismiss the role of family in self-development. The language she uses suggests that being a member of a family is a merely mechanical, static, impersonal thing. She speaks of being a "mere part - excrescence" of a family.

She goes on immediately to speak positively of solo development. She conceives the alternative as developing "as an individual and independent unit".

For some generations, men have been encouraged to develop, as before, in relationship with others, but young women have been encouraged to see this as oppressive and to develop solo. It's possible that this explains, in part, the reluctance of many women to see their husbands as making sacrifices on their behalf - perhaps women assume that men have the same outlook, of solo development, that they themselves have been brought up to believe in, or perhaps they even think it wrong for a person to develop in relationship with others rather than as a solo act (so they mentally refuse the idea that it is a good thing for their husband to make sacrifices for them).

This is one aspect of life in which a traditionalist community could very readily distinguish itself. We could return to the older, fuller understanding of human development for both men and women.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The future is....?

What happens if you believe, as liberals do, that our sex should be made not to matter? You get a "rising star" in the Liberal Party, Senator Linda Reynolds, calling for elite sports like AFL and rugby league to be "desegregated," so that women play alongside men.

There is a certain kind of wishfulness or hopefulness in this kind of thinking. It reminds me of the Russian Bolshevik, Alexandra Kollontai, who gave public lectures in which she longed,
for the female body itself to become less soft and curvy and more muscular ... She argues that prehistoric women were physiologically less distinct from men ... Accordingly, sexual dimorphism may (and should) again become less visible in a communist society.

The idea that our inborn sex should not define us has led to an odd situation. The assumption is that women are now being "empowered" to enter masculine spaces. And so you get "go girl" slogans like the one I spotted on a shoe shop window at a local shopping centre:

But, at the very same time, the emphasis on unisexism is dissolving the notion of the female. Just as Kollontai, a century ago, hoped that the female body would change into something more like a male one, the modernist expectation is that women will be raised to be more like men. In their social function, men and women are expected by liberals, ideally, to be indistinguishable or interchangeable.

That's partly why the slogan "the future is female" is incoherent. In the unlikely event that the liberal West survives, the future is women in pantsuits doing much the same thing that men do.

It won't be difficult for a traditionalist community to set itself apart. Imagine how different it would be in a community in which men and women were encouraged to cultivate masculine and feminine virtues; in which men and women connected distinct and complementary roles to the fulfilment of their created natures and to the good of family and community; and in which our higher nature was felt, profoundly, to be connected to the expression of our manhood and womanhood.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Harvard letter

One of the flaws of liberalism is what you might call the "autonomy contradiction". There is a problem in making autonomy - a freedom to choose according to my subjective wants - the highest good. What if my want is a non-autonomous good? Liberalism then either has to accept the fact that I choose other than autonomy or it has to limit my autonomy and prevent me from choosing this good. In the end, liberalism is likely to reach a point at which it says "you can choose anything you want, as long as you choose liberal autonomy" - which is not very "autonomous" at all.

There was an example of this last year when Harvard University acted to restrict students from joining single sex fraternities and sororities. These organisations are not even university groups, but are off campus private associations. Even so, the Harvard authorities decided to punish students who are members of these groups by limiting their leadership and scholarship opportunities.

The fact that Harvard liberals dislike single sex groups is not surprising. If what matters is that we are autonomously self-determined, then liberals have to make our sex not matter, as that is something that is predetermined. If sex is something that is not allowed to matter, then it will be thought wrong to discriminate on the basis of sex (in the literal sense of the word "discriminate" - the ideal will be a situation in which people won't make distinctions between men and women, particularly in a social context). There will be a fear that if there is any discrimination, such as the existence of single sex clubs, that it might lead to a discrepancy in life paths or life outcomes ("inequality").

And so the Harvard authorities found themselves facing the autonomy contradiction. They want to get rid of single sex clubs as part of the larger liberal ideal of abolishing sex distinctions. On the other hand, they preach a mantra of autonomous choice, by which students should be allowed to choose according to their own subjective preferences.

How did Harvard deal with the contradiction? In a number of ways. First, the authorities have given the single sex clubs time to change into unisex groups. According to Harvard, this means that students have been given "choice and agency" in leading the changes:
at least as an initial step, we should proceed in such a way as to give students both choice and agency in bringing about changes to the campus culture.

The choice to belong to a fraternity is being taken away, but students get to be involved in the process of choice being taken away and this is supposed to uphold their "choice and agency".

Another response to the contradiction is this:
Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources. The process of making those types of judgments, the struggle of defining oneself, one’s identity, and one’s responsibilities to a broader community, is a valuable part of the personal growth and self-exploration we seek for our undergraduates.

The Harvard authorities are claiming that autonomy still exists because students get to choose between fraternities or sanctions, and that in being placed in this dilemma students have to define who they are. Someone went to a lot of trouble to think this up, which shows how keen the authorities are to try to retain a belief that they are not trashing their liberal ideal of autonomy in seeking to ban private association.

The final response to the contradiction is to admit that there is a contradiction:
Preserving choice and agency also honors the thoughtful concerns we have heard expressed about the need to balance competing interests wherever possible. The tensions between freedom and equality, between the rights of the individual and the welfare of the community have long challenged American society and have been the focus of much of the USGSO debate. As a professor of history noted in last October’s Faculty meeting, “the freedom of association enjoyed by some of our students comes at the cost of excluding the majority of our students from those associations.”

The last line is an eye opener. I would have thought that freedom of association necessarily involves "excluding the majority". Harvard University itself necessarily excludes the majority. So does an association of artists in Bavaria. Or an association of Dalmation owners. Or a Mormon mothers' club. Do we really begrudge the existence of associations that we ourselves can't be included in? To get to the point of inclusiveness desired by the professor of history, you would have to considerably erase the distinctions between people. Liberalism in this sense requires less, rather than more, diversity.

I'll leave the Harvard authorities there, struggling to reconcile the principle of autonomy which simultaneously requires them to ban single sex clubs and uphold choice and self-determination.

The traditionalist stance on this issue is relatively straightforward. If you do not start out with the same assumptions that liberals do, you will not have the goal of making our sex not matter. If you are not intent on erasing the distinctions between men and women, you will then be relaxed about the natural inclinations that men and women have to enjoy masculine or feminine social environments.

Traditionalists see the unfolding of our masculinity and femininity as significant aspects of our identity and of our life purposes. It therefore makes sense to create masculine and feminine spaces, as a means of cultivating this aspect of who we are and of encouraging our self-development.

Fraternities in particular are potentially valuable in creating a space in which the masculine virtues can be cultivated (though there needs to be a certain focus to such groups for this to happen). It is within a male group, particularly one that is dedicated to a significant aim, that qualities like loyalty, courage and honour tend to take hold.

So for traditionalists the general aim is to have more, rather than fewer, single sex social spaces.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Identitarians reach Britain

A video from the new British section of the Identitarian movement:

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Lauren Rose: defining the nation

The short video below is well worth watching. Lauren Rose does an excellent job in clarifying what nationalism is and is not:

Lauren makes clear that the term "civic nationalism" does not really make sense. It would be more accurate to call it something like "civicism" or "civic statism" or "the civic values state". However, for the time being I will still use it at times in order to draw a distinction with "ethnic nationalism", which, as Lauren points out, is a redundant term, as the nation and the ethny are the same thing.

One final point. I would love one day to be able to invite intelligent trads like Lauren Rose to tour Australia. Although we have a solid group here in Melbourne, we still need to grow a little to make this a reality. So I encourage interested Melbourne readers to consider supporting the Melbourne Traditionalists - you can visit out website for more information here.