Sunday, May 29, 2022

The melding of the modern mind

We have a new Labor Government here in Australia and one of their aims is to enact the Uluru Statement. The policy implications of this statement are not entirely clear, but the general aim is to recognise Aborigines within the constitution as a separate people and to give them a separate voice within parliament.

This raises the issue of the incoherence of modern politics. The Aborigines are being treated here as a traditional ethnic nation. If other groups were to claim the same status for their own identity they would be condemned in the harshest moral terms as being racist. This is true even when these groups are themselves the indigenous population, such as the ethnic Swedes in Sweden. The expectation for the mainstream population in countries like Australia is that rather than seeking to preserve their own ethnic identity that they should welcome diversity as a strength and reject "distinctions" (i.e. discrimination) on grounds of race or ethnicity.

If anything, the expectation is that a truly progressive individual would not take a communal identity for themselves seriously and would instead adopt the position of being a neutral observer of, or partaker in, other cultures. How seriously, for instance, does this person take the idea of upholding a homeland of their own?

In this view, we should only ever belong to voluntary associations that we can choose to enter or leave, rather than to inherited, longstanding traditions. But when it comes to Aborigines, the tune changes, and the length of their history is considered a virtue to be extolled rather than a vice to be personally liberated from.

The same sort of contradictions can be found elsewhere. Moderns often see themselves as belonging to the party of science but then claim that it is impossible to define what a woman is. They claim that gender is socially constructed and that femininity is oppressive, but that trans people are born with a feminine identity that is their positive, authentic self. And so on.

Why do moderns unthinkingly accept these contradictions in their beliefs? Years ago, someone (I think it was James Kalb or Lawrence Auster) made the the point that if your beliefs do not truthfully represent reality they will inevitably be contradictory. This is a good point, but I think the explanation can go further than this. 

From what I have read of the history of ideas, it seems to me that the modern mind is made up of several different currents of thought, none of which were ever able to establish supremacy over the others. Therefore, these currents of thought have melded together into a modernist mindset, despite being in certain respects incompatible.

One of these currents of thought is the voluntarist, subjectivist one which emphasises the freedom of the individual human will to self-create in whatever direction it prefers. From this current derives the idea that a woman is whatever a person defines it to be. 

Another current is the empiricist, materialist one. This is the current of thought that insists that all knowledge must be verified along the lines of the natural sciences and that knowledge is a matter of qualified expertise. Someone drawing on this line of thought might claim not to know what a woman is because they are not a biologist or ask you for an academic study if you claim that a woman is an adult female. 

The empiricist, materialist tradition is also connected to the organising of modern life along technocratic lines. It emphasises efficiency and managerial expertise over more private, informal and personal social relationships. (Technocrats would see traditional family life as being too opaque, closed off and amateurish to be an adequate basis for social life and they would criticise the lack of standardised outcomes.) There is, superficially at least, a contradiction between this technocratic intrusion into formerly private realms of living (think of the social credit system) and the modernist emphasis on liberation from all social constraints, though it may be that moderns would see the increased role of the state as "liberating" individuals from institutions like the family.

There is also a contradiction in the two attitudes toward human nature inherited by moderns. The first emphasises lower aspects of human nature, such as greed and the individual pursuit of pleasure, believing that these can be utilised for positive social outcomes. The second, in contrast, believes that human nature can be perfected through social reform. This second current of thought is, at times, utopian, believing that an Edenic existence can be restored through the eradication of power structures in society and via educational programs. The belief is that human nature will be regenerated, the end of history will arrive and humans will no longer have to work, but will live in Arcadia, showing only kindness and beneficence to others, in a world without distinctions but based instead on perfect freedom and equality.

These two approaches to human nature coexist uneasily, but nonetheless both have influence in the modern world. There would be feminists, for instance, who would see a woman pursuing her own sexual pleasure in her own way, without constraint, as positively demonstrating empowerment; whilst at the same time believing that the patriarchy needs to be defeated as a power structure in order to usher in a world in which sex distinctions would no longer matter and in which there would finally be freedom and equality. Feminists holding these beliefs are, in practice, drawing on two very different traditions of thought based on opposing views of human nature.

Why are moderns content to live with an incoherent view of the world? I suspect the reason is that it suits the purposes of the dominant social classes. The moneyed classes in modern society draw their wealth from corporate capitalism. The technocratic organisation of society, based on the logic of the market, and without competition from older loyalties and commitments, strengthens the position of these classes. At the same time, the intellectual classes get to think of themselves as the experts leading humanity forward toward the end of history and the realisation of humanity's ultimate purposes.

But why then are Aborigines given a pass from all this and allowed to exist more traditionally as a type of ethno-nation? The political reason is that Aborigines are thought to have the least power and privilege (the Uluru Statement emphasises that they are "powerless"). This confers upon them the most validity as a people and as an identity. 

It seems as well that Aborigines fill an absence within the modernist mind, namely that of the sacred. It is notable that Aboriginal issues are sometimes framed in ways which suggest a secularised expression of Christianity. Is there not, for instance, an expression of atonement in sorry days? Germaine Greer once wrote an essay in which she combined the idea that Aborigines have the only valid identity with religious concepts drawn from Christianity. She wrote that she earnestly desired and hoped (prayed) that one day all of Australia might adopt an Aboriginal identity "as if by an act of transubstantiation". 

Increasingly the solemn, formalised rituals of Australian life are focused on Aborigines. We have welcome to country ceremonies, the paying of respect to Aboriginal elders, and cleansing and purifying smoking rituals. The connection of Aborigines to the land is also a rare acknowledgement of the sacred within modern Australian life. (The bending of the knee, not to God and altar, but to the BLM is similarly a kind of secularised expression of Christianity in the USA, but I don't think the process has gone as far in America as it has here.)

None of this is to attack Aborigines maintaining their own identity and traditions - this I fully support. It is to highlight (and to attempt to explain) the incoherent thinking characteristic of the modern mind. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Their reasons why

There has been a big focus on transgenderism over the past few years. The official account of this is that there are large numbers of young people who are trapped in the wrong body and who therefore should "transition" into the right body, either by a change in outward appearance or, more radically, through the use of hormones and surgery.

There are now some young people, however, who have gone through this process and have regretted it to the point of choosing to detransition. It is worth the effort to read through their accounts of what led them to adopt a trans identity, because they do not match the official explanation. I read two such accounts on the weekend; I'll summarise them below, but the message is probably better imparted by reading the originals. 

a) Tree

"Tree" begins his account by pointing out, with some skill, the contradictions of the ruling "gender ideology". He then explains how he came to adopt a trans identity. It began when he was fifteen and became involved in a left-wing Tumblr online community:
When I was fifteen years old, I adopted a kaleidoscopic, schizophrenic ideology patched together from hundreds of individual posts talking about feminism, disability, gender identity, queerness, race, capitalism, and leftism. I didn't have the context for any of it, and neither did any of the other teenage kids on Tumblr at the time–of which there were many...We took this stuff in and internalized it. We believed it.

The underlying belief was that gender was socially constructed by the patriarchy to oppress women and that without the patriarchy all would be equal. But if gender is socially constructed why would the young people following this ideology want to transition to the opposite sex?

According to Tree, many of the trans people he knew did not really believe that they were born into the wrong sex:

Radical transsexuals will admit, to trusted cult members, that they believe gender is socially constructed. They'll admit that they weren't born trans, but chose to become trans.

But why choose to become trans? Tree describes very ably what he calls the "metaphysics" behind the movement - a set of assumptions about the world and human ends. It sounds very much like a modern Gnosticism. If you are familiar with the concept of "immanentizing the eschaton" you will recognise it in his account of the trans philosophy.

In short, Tree describes a vision of the world in which the world as it exists is wicked; in which souls are trapped in bodies ("corrupted material forms"); in which knowledge of evil allows us to be special, to be virtuous; in which this knowledge leads ultimately to a victory over the evil ones and the radical transfiguration of the world into a place of utopian equality and freedom.

He describes the trans philosophy he adopted as a young man as follows:
The world is wicked, and it is that way because it was made wicked by the Enemy...[the "White Supremacist Capitalist Cis-Hetero-Patriarchy"]

One has to understand the nature of the world’s evil before one can repair it. The first step in obtaining that knowledge is realizing that our bodies are not us, but things which we're trapped inside of. We're not humans; we're ghosts haunting rotting corpses. To stop the Enemy, trans people need to make us all understand that our true selves don’t exist in our corrupted material forms. This is what gender identity actually means: We are not our bodies.
This is a view of the material world as fundamentally evil and corrupt which is commonly associated with Gnosticism. It encourages the idea, as Tree points out, that "we are not our bodies" - which then makes possible the disconnect between our physical sex and our personal identity. 

The next step is to believe that some people are marked out in a special way to transcend this corruption. According to Tree, it is those who are most marginalised through their embodiment who, via their suffering, rise to virtue:
Virtuous souls have been unjustly trapped in profane flesh. The most virtuous are those who suffer most from their embodiment: women, “queer” people, the disabled, those lower in the hierarchy of the racial caste system...These are the Marginalized. The Marginalized are the chosen people. They are chosen because they suffer. 

Trans people are especially virtuous within this schema because they choose their own marginalisation: 

If you aren’t Marginalized, you can become Marginalized by deciding to transition. If you’re already Marginalized, you can become even more virtuous through transition...trans people are the converts who have voluntarily accepted Marginalization. They choose to suffer more from their involuntary embodiment. Because of this, they become virtuous. They are saved.

According to Tree, this underlying philosophy leads trans people to be highly motivated activists for the cause, rather than simply wanting to integrate into society. The ultimate aim is the familiar modernist one of maximum individual autonomy, where we can do as we will and where distinctions between individuals have been erased:

The dream of the trans movement is of a world where no one has to do anything they don't want, where no one is forced to work, where everyone can indulge their every desire without fear or shame, where all distinctions between people have been abolished and we're all completely equal. In a word: Utopia.

 b) Helena

Helena's account is longer and more personal, but it overlaps with the previous one. She begins by asking:

But what leads a girl with no history of discomfort with stereotypical “girl” toys and clothes, or even the slightest desire to be a boy in childhood, to want to be a “man” through hormonal injections as she approached adulthood?

She did not have as happy a family life as might have been desired and so at age fifteen found herself on Tumblr as part of an online community of disturbed teenage girls who were prone to self-harm and eating disorders.  

This community was also dominated by intersectional politics, in which being a "cishet white girl" meant having to be apologetic:

On Tumblr, the situation was such that any claim to being “oppressed” would accumulate social credibility, while any unfortunate “privileged” status was justification for verbal abuse. As a “privileged” person, you were expected to constantly grovel and apologize, you had no right to speak on any issue involving the group you were “oppressing”, and you could not object in any way to any mistreatment hurled against you because of your race, gender, or sexuality.

I found myself in a bit of a double bind. On one hand, I had found what felt like the perfect group of friends who understood me on an intuitive level, who I was able to talk to openly about the things I liked and made me “weird” in real life, but on the other hand I was a “cishet white girl” in an environment where that was one of the worst things to be. Since Tumblr users are mostly biological females, the “cishet white girl” holds the position of most privileged and therefore most inherently bad group. In this climate, you are made to feel guilty and responsible for all the horrors and atrocities in the world...

Its understandable that any young person exposed to this kind of belief system would grow to deeply resent being white, “cis”, straight, or (biologically) male. The beauty of gender ideology is it provides a way to game this system, so that you can get some of those targets off your back and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded youths. You can’t change your race, pretending to have a different sexuality would be very uncomfortable in practice, but you can absolutely change your gender, and it’s as easy as putting a “she/they” in your bio. Instantly you are transformed from an oppressing, entitled, evil, bigoted, selfish, disgusting cishet white scum into a valid trans person who deserves celebration and special coddling to make up for the marginalization and oppression you supposedly now face. Now not expected to do as much groveling and reaffirming to everyone how much you love checking your privilege, you can relax a little and talk about your life without wondering if you are distracting from the struggles of or speaking over marginalized groups, because you are marginalized too. With the new pronouns often comes a wave of positive affirmation from friends and followers, and the subconscious picks up quickly that there’s a way to make the deal of being on Tumblr even sweeter.

So by putting a "she/they" in her bio, she put herself in a much better position within the Tumblr community she belonged to.

From here she started to make rationalisations. She had body image issues and so rationalised that it must be because she didn't like her body being female. She did not have a lot of offline friends, and so rationalised that it must be because being a girl wasn't her authentic self and so on. 

She also became heavily involved in fanfiction, in which the main characters were boys and she began to identify obsessively with their lives; she was too bashful to see herself at this time as developing real life relationships with the opposite sex (she provides evidence here for the idea that trans identity is sometimes motivated by wanting to become the sex you are attracted to).

She provides this well-written summary of the pressures that led her toward a trans identity:

My perception of myself as trans formed in the intersection between overwhelming emotional struggles, heavy fantasy, emotional and intellectual infatuation with males (real people, fictional characters, and the idea of males generally), fanfiction, social and ideological incentives to be trans, and insulation from experiences and perspectives that might have challenged the views I was developing about myself and the world.

She went as far as taking testosterone for a period of time, but this made her emotional and psychological condition only worse and so she decided to detransition. It took several years for this process to take effect, but you can see from the photo below how she has recovered.

It may not be the case that all young people who seek to "transition" do so for the same reasons as the two people I have discussed in this post. Even so, these two accounts should give us pause for thought when it comes to how we approach transgenderism and transitioning.

Friday, May 13, 2022

How does Calvin Klein do Mother's Day?

Calvin Klein marked Mother's Day in the US this year with an ad featuring a "pregnant trans man". As one news outlet reported:

The caption to the ad read: "“Today, in support of women and mothers around the world, we highlight the reality of new families”, the brand wrote in its description, along with a carousel of photos riddled with images of single mothers and interracial couples.

It's liberal modernity on steroids. We are to be "liberated" from the constraints of nature. A woman can become a man but still be pregnant, her husband can be a woman. Something as straightforward as Mother's Day becomes a statement about "men" being pregnant, or women not needing a husband.

Patrick Deneen, in his book Why Liberalism Failed, notes that traditional societies saw the human person as being part of a natural order:

Premodern political thought...understood the human creature as part of a comprehensive natural order. Humans were understood to have a telos, a fixed end, given by nature and unalterable. Human nature was continuous with the order of the natural world, and thus humanity was required to conform both it its own nature and, in a broader sense, to the natural order of which it was a part.

What a strand of liberal modernity asserts instead is that we are free when there is no given nature that might constrain our will to do or to be as we choose. If you follow this strand of modernity, then talking about "pregnant men" on Mother's Day will seem edgy in a positive "progressive" way, rather than denatured or disfigured.

Who is responsible for the ad? The current CEO appears to be a woman named Trish Donnelly. She says of herself:

My family is everything. My husband and I have been together for 25+ years and our two kids are in college. I’m a big Premier League fan, love swapping Spotify playlists with my kids

Trish Donnelly
You'll notice that she herself is relatively conservative compared to the norm defying role models pushed by the company she leads. She is in a position where she can safely advertise the dissolving of natural categories because she herself has a stable, supportive family life and because the upper classes are more likely to have the resources to prevent dysfunctional individuals from sliding down into a social underclass.

I'm not sure that the members of this class understand the real world effects of this kind of liberalism on more marginal people. A loss of stability in identity or family relationships can have devastating effects lower down the social scale. It doesn't look trendily edgy anymore. Nor is it usually a status game of "say one thing and do another". It becomes instead a real life question of whether individuals can still hold together.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Standing for truth

I only first watched a Kevin Samuels YouTube video about a month ago. Since then I have watched several more. Sadly, he died of heart issues at the age of 53 just this week.

I obviously do not know enough about his views to give a full endorsement. I will limit myself to one observation, namely that Kevin Samuels insisted on people hearing the truth, as a form of tough love, with the aim of repairing damage done to the African American community. He held not only African American men, but also women, to account for the decline of healthy family formation.  It is uncommon to see someone modelling this type of masculine behaviour, and so he was either condemned for "attacking" African American women or else respected by both men and women as a paternal figure missing in their lives.

I wrote a post last year titled "On being true" and noted that the word "true" has a modern meaning, "consistent with fact", and also a more ancient meaning, "loyal, steadfast, trustworthy, faithful". In a modern, liberal society, the quality of being "true" is in short supply in both senses of the word. I could sense watching Kevin Samuels' videos that he was exasperated by this as much as I am. He wanted people to think realistically about family formation, and was talented at drawing out unrealistic expectations and assumptions. 

Liberalism is based, at least in part, on the idea that we should be free to follow our own will and that anything that limits our will is an unjust constraint that should be remedied by political action or by personal empowerment or by technological innovation. The liberal faith is that there will be "progress" toward these ends.

This is not a belief system that encourages individuals to recognise that there are constraints built into the nature of reality that we must acknowledge and prudently consider when making our life choices. Instead, the mindset of many of the women that Kevin Samuels interviewed was that a decent person should be rewarded by getting what they wanted. These women did not consider what they might contribute to a relationship; what men might be looking for in a woman; what stage of life they were at; where they stood in terms of attractiveness; and what it was realistic to expect of men in terms of employment status or finances or looks.

And here's the thing. As a generalisation women are not meant to be good at providing the reality principle. What we look for from women is emotional warmth, a talent for homemaking, the nurture of young infants, and some of the more appealing soft and sensitive qualities of the human personality. It is mostly a responsibility of men to provide the stable structure within which the feminine qualities can successfully operate and long-term, faithful relationships can be secured. 

Men do not have the same authority in society to carry out this responsibility that they once had. What we can do, however, is to try to model a masculine personality which is tough enough to hold people (including ourselves) to account and to insist on the reality principle, even in a culture that sets itself against the idea that our lives should be ordered to an objective good and to a reality that exists outside of our own will and desires.

In the meantime, the chaos of modern relationships is likely to get worse. On this topic, I'll mention a new book that's just been released, the novel No Hard Feelings. It got my attention because it is set here in Melbourne and describes the life of a young woman, presumably taken from the experiences of the author herself (Genevieve Novak). The 20-something heroine is overworked, survives by drinking too much wine, has a therapist to provide advice, and has a dog and an emotionally unavailable boyfriend. The novel is part of a booming modern genre called "sad girl lit". 

The sense you get from these books and authors is that there is no way out for these young women. Despite expensive therapy, they don't seem capable of critically reflecting on themselves or the culture. They continue to endorse the larger culture and to pursue what they believe to be "progressive" aspects of it. There is a deep gulf between their current state and what they would need to do to have better lives. They do not have the internal means to bridge the divide.

It is going to take a bracing dose of reality to shake things up. There will need to be not just one man or one leader, but a cohort of men who are willing to return to a tough love and a willingness to speak the truth for the culture to change. These men will have to be firm enough to withstand the inevitable criticism and insults. I suspect this won't happen all at once, but that there will be a smaller group of men who start the process and who become models for a larger group of men to follow. 

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Russia, nihilism, utopia

I am currently reading Nihilism Before Nietzsche by Michael Allen Gillespie. The first section is not an easy read, and not a good entry point into philosophy, as it deals with the difficult ideas of German idealist philosophers like Fichte and Hegel. The book, however, is an important one as it ties the ideas of these philosophers to the political nihilism that came later in the nineteenth century.

We often think of nihilism in terms of a depressed person who doesn't find meaning in life. But German idealist philosophy, particularly that of Fichte, had a complex reading of human consciousness in which an "absolute I" attempted to negate the phenomenal or empirical aspects of self and the world around it. So the act of negation becomes central to the activity of self.

Gillespie links this philosophy to the adoption by leading intellectuals of figures like Faust, Prometheus or even Satan as models who were at least partly admired. It's interesting to note that the young Marx fits into this mould. He liked to quote Faust that "Everything in existence is worth being destroyed" and he wrote a drama called Oulanem in which the title character declaims "If there is a something which devours, I’ll leap within it, though I bring the world to ruins–the world which bulks between me and the abyss, I will smash to pieces with my enduring curses."

This emphasis on negation, i.e., on the belief that what exists, whether good or bad, needs to be destroyed, so that a higher aspect of self can be realised, effectively set the self against the existing nature of things. This formula played out in a variety of ways, but I want to focus on one particular instance that Gillespie describes in his book, namely that of the Russian nihilist Chernyshevsky. 

This story begins with a novel written by the famous Russian author Turgenev. Turgenev was influenced by the philosophy of his times, admitting once that "I prefer Prometheus, I prefer Satan, the type who revolts, who is an individual". In Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons the lead character Bazarov is a nihilist:

Bazarov is one of the great Promethean revolutionaries in modern literature...The negative character of Bazarov's greatness, however, is part and parcel of his nihilism. As he himself admits, he does not stand for anything. He wants merely to clear the ground...He is a monster of negation and of freedom...As a nihilist, he stakes out a position against not merely autocracy but nature itself, including his own human nature.

Turgenev portrays Bazarov as a flawed character, who is, as one contemporary critic put it, "destroyed in his destroying":

Bazarov is in rebellion against the world and indeed against life itself. Like Fichte's I, he is a monster of will but his will has no object other than freedom. He is thus a creature of pure negation, a destroyer and revolutionary...As sheer negativity, this will cannot construct a positive new reality...

Bazarov believes he is an autonomous, self-creating being, a Prometheus who has freed himself from the rock of political and theological despotism...Turgenev, however, tries to show us that this heroic Prometheanism is essentially tragic, because it rests upon a faulty understanding of man and nature...Bazarov's belief in his own autonomy leads him to violate "natural laws" and he must pay the price that nature extracts...he discovers he is not thoroughly autonomous but bound by nature in ways he cannot overcome.

Some nihilists admired the character of Bazarov, but others saw in him an attack on the nihilist movement. One of those in the latter group was Nicolay Chernyshevsky, who wrote his own highly influential novel What is to be done?, which was an attempt to show that it was indeed possible to organise love, family and social life so that the individual remained absolutely independent.

In the novel, Vera Pavlovna marries Lopukov, but she then falls in love with Kirsanov. Lopukov fakes his death and leaves Russia so that his wife is free to marry Kirsanov. Vera Pavlovna "is driven by a desire for autonomy, to live as she pleases".

This all sounds tawdry, but according to Chernyshevsky it represents the height of human nobility:

These people, according to Chernyshevsky...are only what all men would be if they were not deformed by corrupt social institutions. Jealousy and all the other emotions that degrade human nature are the result of the corrupt "order of things," that is, the existence of private property. He suggests that in a properly ordered society the ill-tempered will all become kind because it will not be contrary to their interests to be kind."

Chernyshevsky sees human nature as being regenerated to an extraordinary degree, as is described in a dream had by the character Vera Pavlovna:

There is nothing loftier than man; there is nothing loftier than woman...It was her own face, kindled with the brightness of love; more beautiful than all ideals left to us by sculptors of ancient time and by the great artists of the great age of art...I have the reverence for purity which "chastity" possessed. But in me it is not as it was in them, but fuller, loftier, keener...till I appeared, people had no idea of perfect enjoyment of freedom.

Gillespie goes on to describe Chernyshevksy's newly configured world as follows:

It is a world of aluminium and glass, a communal world in which almost all work is done by machines and in which there are few old men and women since they remain healthy and youthful until shortly before they die. There is only freedom, satisfaction, and enjoyment, "an everlasting spring and summer, an everlasting joy".

This reminds me of the vision of a new society by the poet Shelley. He too thought that by overthrowing power structures in society that you would radically regenerate human nature. Shelley wanted an Edenic condition of life and bitterly opposed Christianity for suggesting that man's nature was too fallen to realise such an ideal in this world. 

There is a difficult mishmash of incompatible visions in Chernyshevsky's novel. He wants absolute autonomy for the individual, so that we can do whatever we please. He also wants to maintain traditional European moral ideals, such as nobility of character, purity and faithfulness. But how can you have people acting egoistically and still maintain moral character? 

Chernyshevsky believes that the solution is partly technology (machines will do all the work) and partly social organisation (removal of private property will harmonise my own rational self-interest with a beneficence toward other people).

Even on his own terms, though, the results are hardly persuasive. We are supposed to believe that a young woman who is liberated to act however she pleases, and who therefore leaves her husband for her husband's best friend, is acting according to an unparalleled level of chastity and fidelity. 

And, in practice, we know how the attempt to maximise individual autonomy works out. It means, as a matter of logic, accepting that everyone's choices in life are equally valid. This means that the traditional moral structure collapses. There is no longer noble and base, pure or impure, loyal or disloyal. There is only a technocratic organisation of society for enabling the maximum satisfaction of individual desire. The moral ideals change substantially, to focus on non-discrimination, inclusion, openness and tolerance of whatever people choose to do or to be, rather than on the quality of the choices themselves.

And we have had the liberation of sexual choices for women. It does not bring about the highest possible level of purity, chastity and nobility in either men or women. It does not even lead to people making judicious rational choices for their own longer-term interests. It is gradually having a disordering and dissolving effect, and not just because of the existence of jealousy. 

The main point I would emphasise here is the reliance of the nihilists and other revolutionaries of the time on the idea of a radical regeneration of human nature. They wanted radical autonomy and a pursuit of self-interest, alongside a higher realisation of traditional moral ideals. They pinned their hopes on the idea that something would change human nature so significantly that such an unlikely and seemingly contradictory utopia might be possible. Many hoped that the regeneration would take place once power structures were overthrown, whether these involved kings and priests, or capitalists (or, in today's language, whiteness and patriarchy).

Again, we had the overthrow of private property in Chernyshevsky's own nation of Russia in 1917 (and Lenin was a great admirer of Chernyshevsky). You would struggle, I think, to view the results as being "an everlasting joy" and a "perfect enjoyment of freedom" brought about by the creation of a loftier and nobler human nature.