Sunday, January 26, 2020

Melbourne Traditionalists 2020

I've reported previously on the encouraging growth of our Melbourne Traditionalists group over the past two years. We've been fortunate to bump up a notch in numbers each year, and each step forward in numbers gives a greater sense of the group's potential.

Hopefully there will be further growth in 2020. If you are sympathetic to traditionalist ideas (as put forward at this site or at the Melbourne Traditionalists site), I'd encourage you to get in touch about attending one of our gatherings.

There are no formal membership requirements at this stage and it's common for people who come along to express relief at having found a milieu in which they can freely discuss politics. Most of those involved are on the younger side, but we have a range of ages in attendance.

I look forward to seeing some of you at a future gathering!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Cardinal Burke, Christianity & love of country

Cardinal Raymond Burke gave a speech last year on the issue of patriotism. It's worth reading as it affirms traditional Catholic teaching that many Catholics might not be aware of.

His speech is titled "Filial piety and national patriotism as essential virtues of the citizens of heaven at work on earth".

Cardinal Burke begins by reminding his listeners that there is a transcendent truth by which we should attempt to order our lives:
Our happiness during our earthly pilgrimage and at its destination, eternal life, depends on the conformity of our daily living with the truth, that is, with the good order with which God has created and sustains the world and, in a most particular way, man and woman.

But is a patriotic love of country an aspect of this truth, of this good order which God has created? According to the church it is, as a matter of justice, piety and charity.

How are these virtues connected to patriotism? Let's begin with piety. Cardinal Burke says,
It is the virtue of piety...which expresses our recognition of the truth and our humble obedience before the truth...Piety...inspires and strengthens us to live the truth of our being as creatures created in the image and likeness of God to know, love and serve Him...

I'll go off topic for a moment here to point out that liberalism is impious when it claims that there is only meaning when we author or define our own being, in any direction, according to our own designs.

To put it simply, piety is recognising that we are created by God, that this is a truth of our being, and that it is right to love and to serve God.

What does this have to do with patriotism? This can be explained in terms of the virtue of justice. Justice means giving what is due to others. We have a debt to those who have formed us, who are responsible for our being. If God is primary in this respect, as outlined above, our parents and our family are secondary, as is our country. Therefore, piety is rightly directed not only toward God but to giving due honour and reverence, love and service, and fulfilling our obligations and duties toward our family and our nation. In this sense, piety toward God rightly flows as well into piety toward family and nation. It is the same virtue, the same "obedience before the truth" and one that calls forth charity, an expression of love, in this case, of family and nation.

Cardinal Burke quotes the theologian Louis Bouyer who wrote (in 1963):
The virtues of filial piety and piety toward fatherland...are annexes of the virtue of justice

Cardinal Burke goes on to note that filial piety is included as one of the commandments:
While the Fourth Commandment commands us to honour our father and mother, to show to our parents the piety which flows from the recognition that they have cooperated with God in giving us the gift of human life, it also commands the piety owed to the wider community in which marriage and family are possible and indeed flourish.

This quote from St Thomas Aquinas is also significant:
I answer that, Man becomes a debtor to other men in various ways, according to their various excellence and the various benefits received from them. On both counts God holds first place, for He is supremely excellent, and is for us the first principle of being and government. In the second place, the principles of our being and government are our parents and our country, that have given us birth and nourishment. Consequently man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one’s parents and one’s country.

Cardinal Burke comments:
It is clear from the Angelic Doctor’s exposition that, not only is patriotism not a sin, but it is a requirement of nature itself. The term, worship, when applied to one’s parents and one’s country, as St Thomas makes clear, is distinct from divine worship which is given to God alone. The second sense of worship is analogous and refers to the piety or devotion shown to those who cooperate with God for our good.

The New Catholic Encylopedia puts all this very clearly:
But patriotism as a form of charity, or love, has a more specific object in its actuation than mankind or the human family as such. According to St Thomas Aquinas, the particular love of one’s fatherland is an important aspect of that preferential form of charity that is called pietas. Through piety the person has an obligation of love to God, parents, and fatherland. Each is in some sense a principle of man’s being: God through creation; parents through procreation and education; fatherland through a formation of one’s cultural and historical identity.

It is also worth noting Cardinal Burke's comment on this passage:
Patriotism is an aspect of the grace of piety, which in its turn is an essential part of the matter of charity. Christ gives the grace of piety, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in order that we can live the truth of our human nature.

Patriotism as such is a precept of the natural law.

That's a powerful way to understand the issue.

Cardinal Burke understands as well the importance of nations in fostering intergenerational loyalties, so that we do not fall into the "presentism" of liberal modernity:
This piety is at once a deeply personal virtue and a powerful force to bring together the generations, allowing the young to take root in the soil of the old and the old to engraft their experiences onto the young, so that we sense that home is a place where the passing day partakes of long ages past and to come.

From the Catholic catechism:
[t]he love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity

Finally, Cardinal Burke states very clearly the opposition of the Catholic Church to the replacement of nations by a world government:
It is clear that we and our homelands have responsibilities within the international community, but those responsibilities can only be fulfilled through a sound life in the family and in the homeland. Patriotism, in fact, fosters the virtue of charity which clearly embraces citizens of other nations, recognising and respecting their distinct cultural and historical identity.

...The divine authority, in accord with the order written upon the human heart, does not make just and legitimate a single global government...On the contrary, God meets us and orders our lives for the good in the family and in the homeland.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stacey's feminism

I saw the following tweet this morning:

It was followed by this exchange:

Stacey seems to be pushing the idea that women should pursue their collective self-interests whilst men should also pursue women's collective self-interests. I replied:

And that's where feminism is at. There is an assumption, a remarkable assumption, that men in the past pursued their collective self-interests at the expense of women. So that it can now be justified as "equality" if the reverse is true and we have a society in which both sexes pursue the material self-interests of women.

This ideology helps to explain why there is so little gratitude for the sacrifices of men, past and present, within a feminist culture. How can there be gratitude when feminists assume that men did not make sacrifices, but instead acted out of a collective self-interest?

I think Stacey and other feminists are in for a shock. If feminists were to succeed in convincing people that the point of life is to pursue our self-interests, then relationships between men and women would degrade very quickly. Stacey is trying to circumvent this by requiring men to follow women's self-interests, rather than their own. But that just sets up an ideological tension. She is, in effect arguing:

1. The point in life is a pursuit of one's own material self-interests.
2. Men should pursue women's self-interests.

The second part of the argument contradicts the first. Therefore, it's not likely to hold in the longer term.

Stacey is wrong about Western culture. I've been reading Our Borders, Ourselves by the late Lawrence Auster. In the chapter "What is the West" Auster observes that "one of the characteristic features of Western culture is the drive toward self-transcendence". He elaborates by describing this as "the idea that man attains the true order of his being only by being united with a truth outside his own being." Auster complains that this aspect of Western culture has been undermined:
On the Left, the reduction of the human being to the power-seeking and resentful self not only denies the spirit but by doing so denies the balance of earthly and spiritual that is the essence of the West.

Young Western men have been drawn historically to family life for many reasons. Obviously the sex instinct played a part, as did a desire to have children and to fulfil masculine aspects of self related to being a father and husband. In the past, too, there was a social function to marriage, as sex roles were more differentiated than they are today. Men who wanted to preserve their own family and national traditions would also have sought out marriage.

But added to all this was the drive that Lawrence Auster describes. A man's love for a woman can, at its best, focus a man on a good outside of his own self that (hopefully) balances both the earthly (a flesh and blood woman/carnal desire) and the spiritual (the good of love/a transcendent sense of the feminine/mystery in the unity and drawing together and attraction of the masculine & feminine). This then can powerfully inspire a man toward sacrificial love and toward deeper loyalties and commitments.

But it only works if a man keeps the balance right (e.g. does not idolise & remains aware of human infirmities & works within the limits of human nature) and if women inspire this kind of love by embodying feminine virtue sufficiently.

And here's the thing. Whereas Western women were once raised toward habits of feminine virtue, they are now encouraged to rebel against it. Lawrence Auster writes about this in his book, in a section titled "The Rebellion against the Father":
In all its forms, the phenomenon we've been discussing represents the loss of authority in a father image. Symbolically, the father is the structuring source of our existence, whether we are speaking of male authority, of the law, of right and wrong, of our nation, of our heritage, of our civilization, of our biological nature, of our God. All these structuring principles of human life, in their different ways, are symbolically the father. The rebellion we've discussed is...a rebellion against the father. The belief that the universe is structured, intelligible, and fundamentally good, and that one can participate in this universe - this is the experience of having a father, which is the opposite of the experience of alienation that drives contemporary culture. (p.12)

We live in a culture shaped by intellectuals who have rebelled against the "structuring sources of our existence" and who prefer to stand, instead, within their own individual orbit, as beings defiantly organised by their own will and desires and choices alone.

There is an element of this mindset, it seems to me, in the aggressive way that some women promote abortion, or refigure their bodies with tattoos, or speak gracelessly or dress immodestly. The same kind of women will often hate male authority figures (commonly identified these days as old white men), but will believe at the same time in a diffuse, universal ethic of care. The latter is the go to version of morality because it is not a structuring principle of reality - it doesn't judge right or wrong and nor does it direct our loves and loyalties in any given direction (hence the apparent contradiction of leftist women hating conservative men with a passion whilst at the same time claiming universal benevolence).

Lawrence Auster wrote about the effect of feminism on men and women that,
All that's left to attract them to each other is their bodies, their bare utility, or their power, with the further result that...the love, sympathy, and friendship that used to prevail between men and women is reduced to jungle combat. (p.134)

You can see this in Stacey's feminism. Men exist for utility (serving women's purposes). What matters is a contest for power and material self-interest.

It's not difficult to predict that women will get far less out of men this way than under the old culture, in which men thought of marital love as one aspect of attaining "the true order of their being".

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Monday, January 06, 2020

A change of heart?

Six years ago Chrissy Stockton (writing as Amy Glass) wrote a piece titled "I look down on young women with husbands and kids and I'm not sorry".

The argument is one that crops up every now and then in feminist circles. The problem to be addressed is this:

1. Liberalism wants maximum individual autonomy. This means that each individual is to be free to choose as they wish without restraint, unless it limits the choice of others.

2. This presents a conundrum if a woman chooses to be a stay at home mother. On the one hand this choice does not maximise her autonomy as she is choosing to be interdependent within a family rather than an independent individual focusing on solo development. This fails the liberal principle. On the other hand, if she cannot choose to be a stay at home mother the liberal principle is also denied.

Chrissy Stockton argues in her piece that the stay at home option is the one that fails the test:
Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit.

Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?

Here she is clearly advancing the argument that what matters is independence. She goes on to draw out the argument that motherhood, being something common to women, is not a uniquely self-determined achievement - it is not "exceptional":
Having kids and getting married are considered life milestones. We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren’t accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them. They are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world.

...I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing...

...You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.

So in this worldview showing your independence by backpacking alone in a foreign country is a greater achievement than getting married and having children. (Which may help explain those articles encouraging women to journey solo to those parts of the world most dangerous to women - this being the realm of liberal female accomplishment.)

Chrissy Stockton wrote another piece at around the same time titled "Successful women do not fall in love". Again, this is one of those opinions that appears in feminist thought from time to time. The argument is that if what matters is a uniquely self-determined accomplishment, and if this accomplishment is our career, that love distracts us from our career goals and should be suppressed. Alexandra Kollontai, writing in the early twentieth century, put it this way:
this motive was a leading force in my life ... to shape my personal, intimate life as a woman according to my own will ... Above all, I never let my feelings, the joy or pain of love take the first place in my life ...

I still belong to the generation of women who grew up at a turning point in history. Love ... still played a very great role in my life. An all-too-great role! It was an expenditure of precious time and energy ... utterly worthless ... We, the women of the past generation, did not yet understand how to be free. The whole thing was an absolutely incredible squandering of our mental energy, a diminution of our labour power.

A century later Chrissy Stockton followed suit by arguing that it is important for a woman to guard against the impulse toward self-sacrificing love:
We’re kind of brainwashed to take care of other people, and make them happy and for me, being single is kind of an armor guarding against whatever cultural or biological intuitions are telling me, as a woman, to be self-sacrificial.

...I am in love with myself, in love with building my work, which will outlive me, and in love with proving people wrong, the ones who told me what I couldn’t do– be happy and secure and the center of my own world.

There were criticisms of Chrissy Stockton's attitude toward mothers. She defended herself by writing:
If we were convinced that motherhood and being a wife was a freely made goal that did not in any way encumber women, my post wouldn’t have over 200k social shares, I wouldn’t have received hundreds of emails in the span of a few days...

That's a revealing comment. It shows how much Chrissy Stockton based her ideas on a liberal worldview. Note that being a wife and mother are put in question because they are not "freely made goals" (i.e. not self-determined) and because they "encumber women". The dictionary definition of encumber is "restrict or impede (someone or something) in such a way that free action or movement is difficult." Liberals often use the term "encumbered self" in a disparaging way.

This is highly significant for what comes next. To this point in time, Chrissy Stockton's ideal is a world in which we are not restricted, in which our free action or movement is not impeded. It is also a world in which self-sacrificing love is a barrier to achievement and in which relationships are too ordinary to matter. And it is a world in which we are to develop solo, in denial of the longstanding belief that we are fundamentally social creatures.

Fast forward to the present day. Has Chrissy Stockton proved her critics wrong and become "happy and secure and the center of my own world"? Well, no. She does have an interesting job as an editor of an online magazine. She admits, though, that she has an anxiety disorder and that she is frustrated in love. She has also come around to the view that love is a fundamental human need. Most interestingly, she acknowledges that an unrestrained dating culture undermines her own ability to form loving relationships - an illustration of why restraint can work toward the human good (and should not always be sacrificed to the liberal aim of maximising individual autonomy).

Here she is, for instance, describing how a hook up culture can leave people jaded and less able to pair bond:
I don’t have an infinite reservoir inside me of love and affection and self-confidence. When a guy ghosts has a cost. I have to spend months getting over this.

Instead of viewing marriage and motherhood as being "super easy" to achieve, she now worries that they won't happen for her:
Men and women seem so different. There are so many ways we don’t speak the same language and yet there’s this overwhelming sense that I should one day find complete partnership with a dude. It seems like such an unlikely thing that we understand each other’s needs and are free enough from baggage and emotional dis-ease that this will become a reality.

It feels very disorienting to be asking for someone to at least be polite when they decide they don’t want to see you anymore. I don’t think these guys would behave rudely to a stranger they met off the street, but they are rude to me and it is sad and confusing.

Men lose interest when they’ve slept with you. It’s not the beginning of anything for them, it’s the end.

I just want to be full-time adored.

It’s scary that it’s [getting married] supposed to be so important but also that it’s so hard

It’s scary to be worn down. There are many things that get better with aging but you have to work purposefully at not getting bitter and the more tired I get the harder it is to frame my dating life as something other than failing. What is going to happen if I fail for another 10 years? I think it would be just fine to be single for 10 years or the rest of my life but I’m not sure I can take the pressure of knowing that I failed at something that is so fundamental to our humanity.

She is now complaining not of being encumbered by marriage but of men's fear of commitment. She writes to one such man as follows:
Maybe you’re afraid of commitment. The way someone runs from a scary monster or a man with an axe. But I’m a girl with a cozy bed and a full heart and a hand to hold. I want to love you...

Maybe you’re just busy. Though we all know “busy” means something like “I have a lot I’d rather do” and like I told you when we were in bed with our whole bodies touching: I just don’t know what else there is, besides this.

From previously having diminished the importance of relationships with men, she now utters the line "I just don't know what else there is, besides this."

She wrote this about another man who would not commit:
I spent a lot of nights that spring touching his skin and playing him music and telling him how great he was. In retrospect every feeling I was trying to hold in was completely called for, natural, and appropriate for the situation.

Nothing about the act of caring for someone makes you crazy. It’s human to care. It’s human to have a relationship with the people who touch us and play music for us and tell us how great we are. But we were in a silent competition to care less than the other person, to keep it more casual, to act more indifferent. Which is a pretty gross way to go through life.

She had once commended the suppression of love as a way of staying free to focus on career. Now an indifference to love is described as "a pretty gross way to go through life".

Here is a poem she wrote idealising love for a man:
We sit under cedar rafters
Cross legged and
Palms pressed
I say that I will make you the best person you can be
You will make me
I trust you completely
Everything in our lives together will be good and beautiful
With my eyes big like
In the Cancerian full moon
(Imagine that light on your skin in your bedroom at night)
I confess
(Light a candle with a wooden match)
(Wrap each arm around your body and
(Exhale deeply)
Way that I love him.

Her strident views on solo development and achievement also seem to have mellowed:
I don’t think I’m a particularly strong woman...And here’s the thing: I shouldn’t have to be strong. Why should I have to possess every single positive quality?...

...Here’s another thing: we need each other. We need each other to be different.

It’s so easy to see this with parenting. It’s not very controversial to say it seems ideal for kids to be raised by two parents. We acknowledge that mothers and fathers generally bring something different (and valuable) to the table

...The gift of community is that we don’t have to be uniform. We don’t have to do everything on our own, our gifts serve the collective and our weaknesses are balanced by it.

I don’t want to have to be strong when I think the ways I am weak are a price I pay for the other valuable assets I bring to my community. I am good at making people feel loved. I don’t care if it makes me too vulnerable sometimes. I’m okay with that. When people tell me all women are strong, there is a way I hear “it’s not okay for you not to be strong.” There is a way that this devalues characteristics that have long been associated with women.

Instead of promoting solo achievement along tough masculine lines, she is now defending what is brought by the feminine to a community.

Chrissy Stockton's story illustrates some of the weaknesses in the liberal worldview that is currently our state ideology. Her younger self was wrong to believe that it is only a uniquely self-determined achievement that brings meaning. There are experiences "fundamental to our humanity" that we do not uniquely self-determine but that still bring fulfilment, including loving relationships with the opposite sex. Nor are all women suited by nature to a lone wolf life of personal ambition or rugged individualism; Chrissy Stockton acknowledges that her own gifts as a woman are more relational.

The liberal belief that we should liberate people from restraints has also failed women like Chrissy Stockton. Some of the restraints on behaviour in traditional societies were aimed at fostering family formation and preserving the ability of people to pair bond. Without them men and women increasingly lose trust in and admiration for the opposite sex. In theory Chrissy Stockton has been sexually liberated, but it has left her working "purposefully at not getting bitter".

Chrissy Stockton does seem to have had something of a change of heart over the past six years. Perhaps others will do likewise and there will be a better chance to open up a conversation about the place of liberalism within Western culture.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.