Monday, January 22, 2024

Patria & Christianity

Christianity is sometimes held to be a universalist religion. I think that's a flawed understanding, given the assumption in both the Old and New Testaments that people live in God-given nations.

First, let me acknowledge that Christianity is clearly not a tribal religion. The Christian God is conceived to be the God of all nations. Second, it is also clear that we are to extend the moral code of the Bible to all people, not just to those who belong to our own group.

I'd like to focus on one particular Bible passage, from a letter written by Paul to the Ephesians (3:15). The usual translation runs as follows:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

One interesting thing about this passage is that the word translated here as "family" is in its original Greek the word patria. Patria in modern English means "one's native country or homeland". And what did it mean to the Greeks? 

According to the Expositor's Greek Testament:

The noun πατριά [patria]...means sometimes ancestry, but usually family, race or tribe, i.e., a number of families descended from a common stock, nation or people...Here the word seems to have the widest sense of class, order, nation, community.

The scholars I turned to for the definition of "patria" see it as having a wider meaning than "family" in the sense that we use the term (there is a different word in the Bible for one's household). They consider it to refer to family in a more extended sense such as a clan (think of the Scottish Highland clans who share a common surname denoting a shared ancestry or lineage) or to a tribe or nation (see here for a definition).

So Paul is writing that every extended family/clan/nation on earth is named from God the Father. What does this mean? Well, there are different interpretations, but some commentaries emphasise the idea that "patria" are divinely instituted, albeit imperfectly realised, models of community. Ellicott, for instance, defines "patria" as:

every body of rational beings in earth or heaven united under one common fatherhood, and bearing the name (as in a family or clan) of the common ancestor.
He explains the passage as meaning:

The Apostle looks upon the fathers whose names they delight to bear as the imperfect representatives of God, and upon the family itself, with its head, as the type in miniature of the whole society of spiritual beings united in sonship to the Father in heaven

Another commentator writes:

God is the prototype Father; He is the archetypical Father. Every other family derives its family pattern from Him. There is a policy of Scripture that relationship to God revolves around the family. Our descent from the Father affects our nature...

...there is the idea that God formed the principle of the family as a divine institution. This is especially important in our time because of the assault on the family. The family originates in the very nature of God as Father

The Expositor's Greek Testament has this:

The sense, therefore, is “the Father, from whom all the related orders of intelligent beings, human and angelic, each by itself, get the significant name of family, community”. The various classes of men on earth, Jewish, Gentile, and others, and the various orders of angels in heaven, are all related to God, the common Father, and only in virtue of that relation has any of them the name of family. The father makes the family; God is the Father of all; and if any community of intelligent beings, human or angelic, bears the great name of family, the reason for that lies in this relation of God to it.

On this interpretation, God created the patria which are patterned on a model of community that spans both the earth and the heavens. God is the ultimate source of all the patria and the patria function in this world as a necessarily imperfect manifestation of a more perfect or ideal model of community derived from God the Father.

Where else in the Bible do we find the word "patria" being used? Well, there is Luke 2:4:

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David

Here patria has been translated as lineage, but the commentary again states that the word itself means "Lineage, ancestry; a family, tribe. As if feminine of a derivative of pater; paternal descent, i.e. a group of families or a whole race." This passage is not as meaningful as the first one but is an example of ancestry or tribe being part of the cloth of human community in the Bible.

More significantly there is Acts 3:25. This is normally translated as follows:

You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’

Here, again, the word patria has been translated by "families", even though it means a more extended family of people with a common lineage or ancestry. The King James Version opts for the word "kindreds". Meyer's NT commentary insists the translation should be "nations". Barnes writes:

The word translated "kindreds" πατριαὶ patriai denotes "those who have a common father or ancestor," and is applied to families. It is also referred to those larger communities which were descended from the same ancestor, and thus refers to nations, Ephesians 3:15. Here it evidently refers to "all nations."

So God is saying to Abraham that, through his descendants, all the nations on earth will be blessed. Why would there be mention of nations being blessed if nations are not part of the divine order?

Saturday, January 13, 2024

On the origins of the great replacement

The following post was written by a guest contributor, Alex J. Rendell (the first ever guest post at this site!)

Many explanations have been proffered as to the origins of the Great Replacement, but none thus far have been able to withstand close scrutiny: specifically, they have not been able to explain why, where, and when replacement migration has occurred. 

If, for example, the problem was “white people,” then all white nations would be undergoing replacement. And yet this is clearly not the case. Likewise for economic modernity (not all first world nations), Christianity (not all Christian nations), colonialism (not all/only former empires), Die Juden (not all/only nations with a prominent Jewish diaspora), and so forth.

The one risk factor that *does* seem to account for practically all the evidence is this: the Hajnal Line, which separates Western Europe (centered on the North Sea coast) from the rest of Eurasia. With very few (and not particularly problematic) exceptions, it is fair to say that all and only countries north and west of this line (together with their offshoots in the New World) are undergoing replacement migration. 

Hajnal line

What is it that makes this region so unique? What accounts for the fact that, as a friend of mine once put it, the average Greek communist is a thousand times more “racist” than even the most right-wing Sweden Democrat? 

To answer this, we first need to draw a distinction within the concept of demographic replacement. All peoples, everywhere, have always experienced demographic replacement: as one generation retires from the workforce, another steps forward to take its place; as one generation grows old and dies, another is born and flourishes. 

Under conditions of economic modernity, however, this organic process of self-replacement is no longer occurring (one might call it “The Great Non-Replacement”): all first world countries (including the Jewish diaspora) are affected, and TFR statistics reflect as much.

What is special about the West is that this process of self-replacement is not only not occurring (as is also the case in Eastern Europe and Asia), but has in fact been rejected in favour of “other-replacement,” i.e., the replacement of retirees not by their own children and grandchildren, but by immigrants to whom they are unrelated. 

How are we to explain this? Well, the Hajnal Line describes a pattern of marriage and family life characterised above all by what one might call “voluntary associationism”: the belief that free association among relative strangers is or should be the bedrock of life in society. Indeed, for Northwest Europeans, marriage itself has been construed primarily as a social contract entered into on a voluntary (uncoerced) basis by a comparatively unrelated (no cousin marriage) bride and groom, one that normatively gives rise to a neolocal household, detached and separate from both sets of parents.

This emphasis on voluntary association is, of course, completely legitimate, and has led to a great flourishing of civil society in the West. Churches, clubs, guilds, etc. existing for the mutual benefit and support of their members: these are all good things. Moreover, it is certainly superior to a situation in which association is coerced, i.e., in which people are locked into a straightjacket of relationships appointed not for their benefit, but for that of another, and frequently at their expense. One can see here the origins of the characteristic Western emphasis on freedom and individualism, over and against what one might (somewhat uncharitably) call Oriental despotism and collectivism.

This brings us to the great rallying-cry of Western modernity: autonomy (the King of Virtues)! And to the great bugbear of Western modernity: heteronomy (the Queen of Sins)! With the advent (curiously enough, in England) of nominalism and voluntarism during the Late Middle Ages, the locus of valuation was transferred from Being to volition: things were no longer seen as Good (and therefore as valuable) simply in and of themselves, but only insofar as they were (autonomously) chosen. This hypervalorisation of the voluntary (“freedom of indifference”) is what ultimately has led to the reductio ad absurdum of consent-based morality (anything goes, no matter how objectively bad, as long as it is freely willed by all stakeholders).

What does this have to do with the Great Replacement? Well, as I see it, this hypervalorisation of the voluntary has been accompanied by an equally radical devalorisation of the involuntary, which, when applied to the realm of association, has led to the unchosen bonds of kinship being viewed (in contrast to the chosen bonds of friendship and civil society) as of at least questionable value, if not actually bad: “You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family” is the sort of quip that only makes sense on this kind of social/relational voluntarism.

Initially, this seems to have taken the form of “colour-blindness” with respect to kin: one ought not to (publicly) discriminate in favour of people who simply happen to be related to you (taboos against nepotism and other forms of clannish behaviour), but should treat all socio-economic actors fairly, impartially, as individuals, on the basis of their merits, and without respect of persons. It is surely no accident that Libertarianism has been, and remains, an almost exclusively Anglo phenomenon: a fact which to this day forms the basis of liberal nationalism.

Later on, this “blindness with respect to kin” was extended by New World powers to include “blindness with respect to ethny”: anyone could be an American (or Australian, under the WAP), as long as he was a “free white man of good character.” Non-whites were still, at this point, excluded on the grounds that they were too clannish, too untrustworthy to be capable of living in a society built around the free association of individuals, but replacement migration now had a foot very much in the door.

It was not long, however, before both liberal (ethnic) and racial nationalism came to be seen as unfair, arbitrary, and less than ideal: the requirement of ethnic/racial relatedness (not subject to choice) seemed to vitiate the voluntary character of the social order. As long as meritocratic norms were respected, why not have a society colourblind also to race (à la the Civil Rights Movement)? And, more to the point, why not a society built entirely around other-replacement (a voluntary phenomenon: migration)? After all, would not such a (civic nationalist) polity be superior to (or at least more consistently liberal than) one based on self-replacement (an involuntary phenomenon: birth)? The Great Replacement (“immigrants are the real Australians”) was now not only thinkable, but actual.

Moreover, at the same time that the involuntary ties of ethnicity and race were coming under attack, the equally involuntary ties of family life were also being deconstructed (feminism and the sexual revolution). Indeed, all three are really just variations on the same theme: the drama of natality, i.e., of birth (and of its prerequisite phenomenon: sexual difference), which, as Rémi Brague has pointed out, we do not, cannot, and could not even possibly choose, but which is always and everywhere chosen for us. 

For a society that so over-valorises autonomy, the fact of our birth into a body (male or female), family, ethny, race, and even world not of our own choosing simply *is* a serious problem: the ultimate affront to liberal self-determination.

In short, the ideology of the Great Replacement (as also of feminism, and of many others besides) is that of the voluntary society (a phenomenon unique to Western Europe), now radicalised to an absurd extreme: whereas the Great Non-Replacement appears to be common to modernity as such (likely connected to a nominalist devalorisation of Being in general, and of human life in particular), only liberal modernity so devalorises involuntary association that demographic replacement through (voluntary) migration comes to be seen as superior (and preferable) to replacement through (involuntary) birth.

Our line of attack, therefore, is clear: revalorisation of the involuntary, whether of existence as such, or of sexual difference, or of family, ethnic, and racial ties. This can only possibly occur if the locus of valorisation is shifted away from volition and back onto Being: if existence, if the body, if family, ethny, and race are all viewed under the rubric not of agonistic imposition (and therefore as an affront to freedom), but of agapeic donation (and hence as conditions of the very possibility of freedom). In other words, we must come to see Creation once again as Gift.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Was the feminism of the 1870s any better?

If we were to go back to the 1870s, and look at progressive politics in the US, what would we find? 

I stumbled across a newspaper that was published at this time by two suffragettes, called Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly. The editors were sisters, Victoria Woodhull (who was the first woman to run for President) and Tennessee Claflin. 

Victoria Woodhull

Reading through it, I drew the conclusions that, first, progressive politics was extraordinarily radical in that era and, second, that amongst all the failures the key one was a false understanding of freedom.

In what sense was the politics radical? Well, it comes through especially clearly in attitudes to marriage and to nation. 

Victoria Woodhull gave a speech in 1871 at Steinway Hall. She declared to the 3000 in the audience that,

Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere. And I have the further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to see that I am protected in it.

She did not, in other words, respect the ideal of marriage as a lifelong union. She also advocated for women to be independent of men. She said of women that,

Their entire system of education must be changed. They must be trained to be like is a libel upon say this world is not calculated to make women...self-reliant and self-supporting individuals.

The attitude to nation was worse. There was a notion that the world was progressing to global government and that American borders would soon be open to hundreds of millions. With the exploration of the last corners of the world complete:

We have begun the unitary culture and administration of this human habitat and domicile, instead of the fragmentary and patchwork management which has prevailed through all the past ages...And we are talking glibly of unitary weights and measures, of a unitary currency, of a common and universal language, and finally of a Universal Government

Elizabeth Cady Stanton thought that teeming millions from China would soon be arriving:

We shall have at the end of this century one hundred million of people. With the purchase of territory now proposed, we shall add greatly to this number. Forty thousand Chinese are already on the Pacific coast, but the entering wedge of 400,000,000 behind them.

Victoria Woodhull understood progress as meaning a merging of races in the US to form a new race that would ultimately lead to a world government:

These two processes will continue  until both are complete - until all nations are merged into races, and all races into one government...the people, who will no longer be denominated as belonging to this or that country or government, but as citizens of the world - as members of a common humanity.

So the question is why these women fell into such a radical politics. There are many mistakes to point to, but I don't want to confuse the issue by examining all of them, not when there is a foundational one that needs to be highlighted.

The foundational problem is freedom. Victoria Woodhull takes as a starting point here a position a little similar to that of Hobbes. She does not assert the idea of a God given free will. Instead, she sees individuals as natural agents whose actions are determined by how they are acted on by external forces. As these external forces differ for each person, then each person is uniquely determined:

But what does freedom mean? "As free as the winds" is a common expression. But if we stop to inquire what that freedom is, we find that air in motion is under the most complete subjection to different temperatures in different localities, and that these differences arise from conditions entirely independent of the air...Therefore the freedom of the wind is the freedom to obey commands imposed by conditions to which it is by nature related...But neither the air or the water of one locality obeys the commands which come from the conditions surrounding another locality. 

Now, individual freedom...means the same thing...It means freedom to obey the natural condition of the individual, modified only by the various external forces....which induce action in the individual. What that action will be, must be determined solely by the individual and the operating causes, and in no two cases can they be precisely alike...Now, is it not plain that freedom means that individuals...are subject only to the laws of their own being.

She has established a metaphysics here from which much else follows. In this view, there can only be individuals pursuing things their own way (and allowing others to do the same). There are no substantive goods that humans might rationally seek, nor are there common goods (i.e. my own good realised in common with others). 

You can see how difficult Victoria Woodhull's metaphysics makes the defence of both marriage and nation. She defends free love on the basis that we are simply acted on to have feelings for someone else, and that similarly we are simply acted on to lose those feelings. These things are passively determined by our own being or by external conditions upon us. If true, then there is no possibility of actively upholding love and respect within a marriage, and so an expectation of fidelity becomes an illegitimate, external imposition on my own being, a tyranny. 

Similarly, how can there be a defence of nation if the underlying understanding of man is that we are all sovereign individuals acting for our own uniquely formed individual goods? Where in this is the understanding that humans are social creatures who naturally form thick bonds with those they are closely related to by culture, language, religion, custom and lineage?

And what is the telos of man in this metaphysics? If we are all dissimilar in the goods we pursue because we are all determined uniquely by the forces acting upon us, then what does it mean to be fully formed as a man or a woman? What are the roles we should ideally fulfil in life? What are the spiritual experiences that constitute a higher point in human life? These questions lose sense in a world in which there are only uniquely determined, self-sovereign individuals.

What Victoria Woodhull chooses to emphasise at the beginning of her Steinway Hall speech is telling in this regard. She sets out a liberal framework for society in which individuals have an equal right to act in any way they wish as long as they do not encroach upon the rights of others to do likewise:

It means that every person who comes into the world of outward existence is of equal right as an individual, and is free as an individual, and that he or she is entitled to pursue happiness in what direction he or she may choose...But just here the wise-acres stop and tell us that everybody must not pursue happiness in his or her own way; since to do so absolutely, would be to have no protection against the action of individuals. These good and well-meaning not take into account...that each is free within the area of his or her individual sphere; and not free within the sphere of any other individual whatever...the most perfect exercise of such rights is only attained when every individual is not only fully protected in his rights, but also strictly restrained to the exercise of them within his own sphere, and positively prevented from proceeding beyond its limits, so as to encroach upon the sphere of another...

I have before said that every person has the right to, and can, determine for himself what he will do, even to taking the life of another. But it is equally true that the attacked person has the right to defend his life against such assault. If the person succeed in taking the life, he thereby demonstrates that he is a tyrant and that every individual of the community is put in jeopardy by the freedom of this person. Hence it is the duty of the government to so restrict the freedom of this person as to make it impossible for him to ever again practice such tyranny...

I would recall the the true functions of government - to protect the complete exercise of individual rights, and what they are no living soul except the individual has any business to determine or to meddle with, in any way whatever, unless his own rights are first infringed.

What can we say about all this? First, the "freedom" she claims to be upholding is a limited one as it is justified on the grounds that we are all different in being as we are all determined differently by external conditions. So we are not really "choosing" to act in any direction, but are rather being left free to act in the ways we are uniquely conditioned to act. 

Second, the freedom is limited, rigorously, to our own "sphere" - i.e. the space in which we do not impinge on others acting freely. This is more radical than it sounds. Can a wife then have expectations of what a husband might do in a marriage, or does that impinge on his freedom to act according to his own uniquely determined self? If she does have such expectations, even reasonable ones, is she then a tyrant? And how big is a sphere that is self-enclosed? Yes, I can choose what to have for dinner without impinging on someone else. Or what music concert to attend. But what can I ask or expect of others in terms of creating a well-ordered, stable, pleasant, prosperous community? In theory, very little - since others should be free to act within their own sphere however they like.

Then there is Victoria Woodhull's treatment of crimes like murder. She states that I have a right to act in any way, and therefore I have a right to commit murder. The government only prevents me from committing murder because in acting on this right I am impinging on the rights and freedoms of others. Again, this is a radical take. Yes, governments do act against murder, in part, to protect the freedoms of others in the community. But where is the sense of there being a moral issue at play here? Perhaps it is disregarded because if an objective moral dimension is introduced it might have to be acknowledged that there are principles of action that apply to all humans as moral truths - and that therefore place limits on what "self-sovereign" individuals might rightly choose to do.

Here is another significant problem with this liberal framework. In theory, it is meant to maximise my freedom. But it assumes that I am an individual level actor who is free to the extent that I can be my own uniquely conditioned self. As the 1970s campaign put it "free to be you and me". This campaign was focused on "liberating" boys and girls from....being boys and girls. And this makes sense within the given metaphysics. If I am uniquely conditioned, then I can only be free as "myself" and nothing more. But what if I am constituted, in part, by my given sex? Or by the longstanding communal tradition I am born into? Then I am free not just as "me" but as a man, or as an Englishman or as a Christian. These things form part of my self, and so I cannot be free unless I am free to be these things.

Note too the role of government in the Victoria Woodhull system. It exists only to force people to stay within their own individual spheres. It does not exist to represent a particular people and to promote the continuing existence of this people over time. It cannot do this as its sole reason for existence is to uphold individual rights.

Finally, once accepted, this system ties the hands of those who would defend their own tradition and attempt to transmit the best of it to future generations. It becomes difficult, within such a system of individual spheres, to defend goods that require cooperation between people communally. It becomes difficult to expect people to have the volition or understanding to discern and to uphold rational goods in life (because goods are thought to be unique to each individual, hence their freedom to act in any direction). It becomes difficult to assert the existence of higher, transcendent ideals that might elevate the life of a community (because, again, the one operative good is a freedom to act in any direction in order to be "oneself").

Monday, January 01, 2024

Making Lady Lawyer happy

One of the mistakes in modern culture is the idea that a husband can, and should, make his wife happy. If he fails in this task, then she considers herself aggrieved and justified in seeking to divorce.

You can see this mindset in the following exchange on social media, with a woman going by the moniker of Lady Lawyer.

Notice that Lady Lawyer has the expectation that the wife is "owed" happiness in marriage. This is not how traditional Western culture understood things. Being a wife and mother was thought of as a moral vocation requiring emotional self-discipline:

Nor does it make much sense to think that you can be "owed" happiness by a husband, not when you consider the kinds of factors that generally support happiness.

For instance, happiness can be influenced by genetic predisposition. It can depend on a healthy, self-disciplined lifestyle, on a good diet, exercise, sleep and sunshine. It can depend on the range and quality of our friendships. On the quality of the parenting we received and of our early childhood experiences. On the positive or negative influence of the culture we inhabit. It can depend on our level of connectedness to nature, to a family lineage, to a people and place, to a tradition and culture, to a history, and to a church. 

To be happy requires, to a considerable degree, an internal locus of control. We need, for instance, to take care with our inner monologue, to ensure that it does not talk us out of a positive mood and into a negative one (as per the Milton quote above). We need to cultivate a responsiveness to the world around us that includes gratitude, reverence and even delight. We need to cultivate the virtues that allow us to deal well with the difficulties life presents us with, such as fortitude, patience and forgiveness. We need to combat our own vices: envy and avarice, for instance, will leave us forever discontented.

We need the ability to both give and receive love, but this requires us to take care in embarking on relationships, particularly sexual ones, so that we avoid becoming jaded, hurt and withdrawn.

Our self-concept and world picture can influence our happiness. What kind of cosmos do we inhabit? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a man? A woman? How we answer these questions can make a difference in how we experience life.

Similarly, it helps to have a reasonable level of self-esteem. This can come as a gift from motherlove in childhood, but achieving a certain level of mastery in some thing, i.e. being good at something and being recognised for it, can also help.

Our ability to stay oriented to transcendent sources of meaning is important as well. Do we register beauty, truth and goodness? Particularly as connecting us to something meaningful outside of mundane existence? Is there a higher good embedded within virtue? Within the masculine and the feminine?

Our larger identities can promote our well-being. Do we identify positively with a communal tradition of our own? One that we can take pride in and wish to contribute to? That helps to give meaning to our work and to the sacrifices we make on behalf of others?

Then there is the issue of retaining a sense of integrity and self-respect. To what extent do we successfully resist the pressures toward entropy and dissolution? Are we still able to order ourselves toward the good? 

Having a sense of role ethics can make our inner lives more stable. This is because happiness is sometimes more a by-product of fulfilling our duties to others, particularly when we serve others whom we love and are closely bound to. I think this is what the following comment is suggesting:

Finally, a good level of self-knowledge and intelligence can help to promote our happiness. What we need at any particular moment can vary, and it helps if we know ourselves well enough to recognise what is lacking and what character flaws need addressing. Similarly, it helps if we react to those around us with intelligent insight. A woman, for instance, who makes no allowance for sex distinctions will undermine her relationships with men - she will be upset by well-meaning masculine behaviour that doesn't correspond with how she would act as a woman.

I hope this is enough to demonstrate that no-one can passively "receive" happiness from someone else. It is not the kind of thing that you can hand over to a spouse. That doesn't mean that a husband shouldn't do nice things for a wife. Or that he shouldn't be concerned for her well-being. A husband can help his wife by being a source of reassuring strength, by being warmly protective, by providing material security and physical safety, by offering physical and emotional intimacy, and by being a source of practical, worldly knowledge, as well as a wisdom derived not only from experience but from a rational discernment of Logos.

Ideally, also, men would cooperate together to create spaces that would best foster a good life for women and children - and this would include maintaining a healthy culture, with positive social norms, a high level of social connectedness, and a morality that encourages an elevated expression of human nature.

A good marriage does have an influence on our happiness. We were not designed for solo living. There is a deep impulse within our nature as humans to connect intimately to someone of the opposite sex in marriage.

But we are setting up marriages for failure if we suppose that a wife can passively expect happiness to come from the husband alone, i.e. that it is something that she is simply owed and that if it is missing, it is due to neglect on his part. A woman working within this frame will tend to have a judging attitude to her husband, focus on his faults, lack genuine gratitude for what he does contribute and, over time, develop resentments and distance herself from him. She will not achieve a genuine spousal union.