Monday, May 02, 2016

They assume we think the same way they do

An American leftist woman named Sally Kohn has claimed the following on CNN:
SALLY KOHN, CNN: Look, people are only voting for Donald Trump, most of his supporters are only voting for him because he’s a white guy. And frankly, if he were a woman, or if he were, I don’t know, let’s pick, Latino, Muslim, any of the groups that he’s stoked hatred amongst his supporters, if he were any of those, I don’t think he’d be getting support either.

It's not true. Even trads like myself who believe that men have a special responsibility to provide political leadership would still vote for a female (or minority) candidate who broke with political correctness in order to uphold national borders.

It's possible that Sally Kohn is assuming that everyone thinks the same way that she does. Her left-liberal political outlook runs as follows:

1. Society is a neutral space in which everyone competes individually for material outcomes like money and status.
2. Therefore, if women and blacks are not getting the same material outcomes society is not neutral but biased. It is biased because white men have organised together to rig society in their favour.
3. Therefore, equality demands that white male society be deconstructed. This will then bring about the long awaited promised land where everyone has an equal freedom to pursue their goals.
4. If white men object to being deconstructed it is because they wish to uphold the privilege that society grants them.
5. Women and minorities are therefore a progressive force who should unite together to defeat white men, hence identity politics. A female president would and should represent a dismantling of white male power structures.
6. White men are supporting a white male candidate to defend the status quo system of self-interested privilege.

What Sally Kohn doesn't understand is that not everybody is a liberal who accepts the first step in all this. For some people, America is not just a neutral space but a country and culture they identify with and that helps to form their identity. For such people, open borders represent the gradual dissolution of a larger communal existence that provides an important setting for their lives. What matters, in other words, is the defence of a national existence, rather than men banding together to assert power and privilege. If a well-spoken, well-presented and well-resourced woman were to come along and promote policies favouring America's national existence, I suspect she too would have become popular amongst those who are now supporting Trump.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Don't miss the Sydney Traditionalists Symposium

I feel a bit of national pride in announcing that the Sydney Traditionalists have put together a very impressive symposium on the topic of “transcendence: community, nation, civilisation; religious aspects of the present turmoil.”

This is exactly what the traditionalist movement needs right now: a bringing together of some of the intellectual heavyweights of the movement on an important theme.

It is also well-timed from my point of view. I am making a concerted effort to finish my booklet and so I will devote this website for a period of time to making commentary on the Sydney Traditionalist symposium. I'm going to try to comment on each contribution this year.

So far I have read through the introduction to the symposium. It's very well done - it certainly whets the appetite for further reading.

The first part of the introduction that really caught my attention was this observation by Gwendolyn Taunton:
by embracing capitalism and the ‘valorization of the worker’, [we] have created a nation which is no longer capable of generating authentic culture. The necessity of full time employment for both men and women in a capitalist worker/production society, requires that in order to live at even a level of basic subsistence, the prospect of any pursuits capable of generating culture are instantly negated.

It's one of those things that often go unsaid. You can't have great culture without having a class of people who have the time to appreciate and support that culture. And yet both the right and the left (including the radical left) believe that an individual is fulfilled through their competitive status in paid work.

The other day I vented to a radical feminist about a mutual friend who had dropped out of work and was choosing to live on welfare. This mutual friend now had time for family and for a range of creative pursuits, and I must admit I felt a bit jealous, as I can hardly keep up with the demands of my career despite very long work hours. But the radical feminist was not at all perturbed. She said disparagingly of our mutual friend "But she is never going to amount to anything" - the assumption being that work status is what matters. And this is from a radical leftist.

Well, here's a radical thought of my own. If we are ever to get out of this current situation, not only should we aim at reining in excessive work hours, we should also try to combat the idea of men acting "in servitude" to women. It is normal and healthy for men to want to fulfil a provider role, but if we want men to have time to be part of culture creation, then we are going to have to confront the expectation that men are just there to work on behalf of women (i.e. the idea that men should either be at work, or with their wife, with any other commitments being thought of as an offence to their wives.) A man should ideally spend part of the day working as a provider; part of the day as a husband and father; but crucially also have time to contribute to his community and to his culture.

The next quote that caught my attention was, unsurprisingly, from James Kalb:
James Kalb writes that the “basic proposition” of modernity “is that each of us establishes the good by his will, since individual preferences are what make things good or bad. The result is that each of us becomes a sort of divinity that creates ultimate moral reality ex nihilo.”

Regular readers will know that I share this thought, though I express it a little differently. This "basic proposition" of liberal modernity then becomes one of the logical foundations on which a liberal morality - with an emphasis on inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination - is logically built.

I was also very interested in this insight from Alain de Benoist:
For liberals, the notion of the common good makes no sense because there exists no entity likely to benefit from it: since a society is composed uniquely of individuals, there is no ‘good’ that could be common to these individuals. The social ‘good’, in other words, can only be understood as a simple aggregate of the individual goods, a result of the individuals’ choice.

I have to admit I haven't really pursued the logic of this as much as I should have in my own writing. It is the age old problem, the one that goes back to the classical liberals and even earlier to the proto-liberals, of beginning philosophy with an abstracted and atomised individual (what modern philosophers call the "unencumbered" individual) rather than with individuals who share certain characteristics which connect them to specific human communities. (It is the problem too of nominalism - in which there are held to be only individual instances of things.)

Finally, I thought it useful that this general criticism of the non-liberal right (the alternative right) be made:
most discourse within the political Sidestream, that heterogeneous milieu of individuals that are sometimes referred to as the dissident or alternative right, is rarely characterised by uplifting, positive or even hopeful rhetoric. Instead, and with few exceptions, contemporary criticisms of modernity tend to be cantankerous, sarcastic, mocking and often fall into the trap of nihilistic capitulation.

Nihilistic capitulation is, in my observation, the most common stance of those on the alternative right (i.e. the attitude that "there is nothing we can do, it will be good to watch it all burn down"). The nihilistic strand is, I think, here to stay, so we will have to just build around it, and be careful not to be drawn into it.

Once again, I encourage readers to visit the symposium. I'll be putting up some of my own commentary on the contributions over the coming week or two.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Getting there

I thought this interesting, given the momentum toward allowing children to decide their sex. Jenny Paul is an Englishwoman who, as a child, wanted to be a boy:
I looked and often acted like a boy and I know that had I been offered the chance to become a real one at the age of ten and given hormones I would have leaped at the chance

Her childhood photos do show her looking androgynous, but look at how she turned out:

She offers an interesting explanation for the transformation. She believed as a girl that boys had it better and so identified that way, but when puberty kicked in and she realised the power that girls had, she embraced femininity. In her case, what mattered was a positive appraisal of what it meant to be a woman.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Obama: Merkel on the right side of history

President Obama has told Angela Merkel that she is "on the right side of history" for opening the floodgates to Muslim immigration into Germany. He described her as humanitarian for doing so, though he appears to be unaware of how callous he is being toward the native German people in making such comments. The sadness of experiencing your own people being dissolved amongst an ongoing wave of immigration is apparently of no concern to President Obama.

The video below was taken in October of last year. It shows two women observing an Islamic march through Hannover and discussing, in a blunt and clear-sighted way, what this means for the future of their own society.

A reader on the college kids

A reader and I had a brief discussion on whether the American college students really believed the things they were saying in the video on identity. I thought my reader's last comment to be a good summary of the likely situation:

I think some of them are True Believers. I think others manage to go along with it and believe it by being very careful never to examine their beliefs too closely because there's a part of them that suspects that asking themselves real questions might trigger major cognitive dissonance.

The essence of doublethink is never to take the risk of thinking things through. They know that men and women are absolutely identical and interchangeable and that gender is just a social construct. They know from their encounters with reality that the differences between men and women are profound and obvious. There's no way to reconcile these two ideas so they simply shut down their minds.

You can see the mental struggle going on in their minds in that video. Lots of nervous laughter.

If they ever find themselves in a situation where they encounter lots of people who don't believe this liberal nonsense their liberal beliefs will start to fade. Eventually reality will triumph. Of course our whole society is now structured in such as way as to make sure that young people never ever encounter lots of people who question these crazy liberal beliefs.

I don't have much to add to that, except to reinforce my reader's point that the system relies on maintaining liberalism as an intellectual orthodoxy. That's one reason why I think it's important to present to young people an intellectually serious criticism of liberalism.

There's one other issue I'd like to raise. I've noticed many of my female peers saying that "they don't take themselves seriously". This could just be their way of saying that they're not stuck up or pompous, or that they find it best to let go of egocentricity in order to live well. Perhaps it expresses something about womanhood. Even so, I'm not sure that people in traditional societies would have said such a thing. If you believe you are made in the image of God, and that your manhood and womanhood connects you to significant masculine and feminine virtues, and that you have important duties to self, family and community - then who you are, i.e. your "self", does matter.

What concerns me is that if liberalism teaches people that we can define our "self" however we choose, to the point that we can even choose to swap sexes, then the self will become thought of as just an arbitrary, self-chosen thing that we could just have easily made something else. Why then would the self be taken seriously? Perhaps that is where it all ends.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cupitt vs Schall revisited

The video of the American college students now has over a million views on Youtube. If you remember, the video shows students from the University of Washington telling a white male interviewer that they would accept his claim to be seven years old, or Chinese, or female.

The video has been posted to a number of sites and has attracted many hundreds of negative comments, many mocking the students' views. But few of the comments have really identified the underlying problem, namely that the students are only expressing the logic of the liberal belief system they have been brought up with.

I wrote a post as far back as 2006, contrasting the views of two religious ministers, Don Cupitt and Father James Schall. Cupitt claims that we as humans are "outsideless" - that there is nothing of inherent value outside the individual. Cupitt's beliefs are described this way:
Realism is now understood by Cupitt as, 'spiritual slavery', nothing more than an imposition and restriction onto the world of free-choice and free-values. Morality is synonymous with freedom; the freedom to grow into an autonomous person. There is no longer any fixed truth by which one must align and judge oneself. We are free (and must be freed) to be who we want to be.

The key thought here is this: "There is no longer any fixed truth by which one must align and judge oneself." Traditionalists like myself do believe that there are standards external to the individual (that transcend the individual) that the individual orients himself to and attempts to measure up to. We believe, for instance, that masculinity is not just socially constructed but has a real essence that a man can either more or less successfully attempt to embody and that connects an individual man to a higher, transcendent good. It is an objective measure of how we fulfil our given nature; of how we embody a significant and meaningful good; and of how we fulfil our higher purposes in life. It would make little sense for a traditionalist man to decide to take on a female identity - this would not be thought of as "liberation" but as a disordered orientation.

One of the problems with the liberal modernist view is that whilst it expands choice it does so at the cost of making what we choose purely subjective and therefore less meaningful. Here, for instance, is a statement from the website of Don Cupitt's church:
Truths are made within human culture and language. Ideas, beliefs, faiths: we made them up ... So SoF proclaims its mission: "To explore and promote religious faith as a human creation." In this sense, Sea of Faith is humanist."

Its members ... know their religious practices and "truths," like everyone else's, are socially constructed, made by human communities ...

Father James Schall has answered the Cupitt position eloquently:
The initial choice that each of us has to make in life is whether we think the world and ourselves already exist with some intelligible content to define what we are or whether there is nothing there but what we put there...The trouble with being so absolutely free that nothing is presupposed, however, is that what is finally put there is also only ourselves.

Which brings me to something I have been thinking about lately. The issue under consideration is what brought the West to adopt liberal modernist beliefs. One angle I haven't considered much before is the way that God was conceived of in the Christian West. In pagan societies, the deities might act wilfully and arbitrarily - therefore, they might have to be propitiated with sacrifices. I have read as well that in Islam something is made good because it is the will of Allah that it be so - so again, what matters is the will of the deity. But in the medieval West there was not a deity ruling wilfully over a chaotic universe, but rather a divine order, i.e. reality was divinely ordered, even to the point that a hierarchy of beings might be identified.

The concept gives much spiritual depth to man's existence and it is also likely to stimulate man's efforts to use his reason to understand the reality he inhabits. But it has its weak points as well - it has to withstand evidence that the material world is not designed in as straightforward a way as might be imagined (e.g. consider the setbacks to Christian belief through the discovery of the fossil records).

Liberal modernity might be, in part, a reaction to a loss of belief in the existence of a divine order. Here, for instance, is how one Cupitt sympathiser describes his outlook:
Religion ... becomes like art. Christians are artists, creators of truths. We give up the notion of a divinely ordained hierarchical universe that we just slot into. We have always created ethics.

Instead of God the creator, it is now Man the creator. Instead of a universe in which moral values have a real existence, moral values instead are made up by humans.

I'm not sure that this is a key aspect of what has happened, but it's something worth considering.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The advanced liberal college mindset - astonishing!

I want to thank reader Clark Coleman for sending me a link to a video made by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

The video shows young American college students being interviewed on the topic of identity. These students have been brought up on the liberal principle that the highest good is a freedom to self-define who we are and that what defines morality is therefore our willingness to accept others defining themselves as they wish.

This, taken logically, leads to some extraordinary moments in the video in which students refuse to challenge the most absurd claims about identity:

David French at National Review summed up the mentality reasonably well:
Essentially the new morality is “you do you — so long as it doesn’t hurt me or someone else in a way that I immediately recognize.” The new immorality is any act of “intolerance” that purports to interfere with this radical autonomy.

That's well put, except that this moral principle isn't really new - it is the same liberal principle that has been driving social developments in the West for generations now.

The principle is not really respectful of identity. If anyone can choose to be a woman, then how is being a woman meaningful? It is significant only as an expression of choice, and the choice is arbitrary as the same person could equally choose to be a man or something else altogether.

Nor can you really uphold communal identities according to this mindset. The attitude of "you do you - so long as it doesn't hurt me" is radically individualistic. It is about me the individual choice making individual, rather than the group I am connected to through a real, objective set of attributes.

You can also see why transsexualism is the soup de jour. There is no way that Westerners with this mindset are going to object to a man identifying as a woman. Such Westerners are going to agree to all the demands of the transsexual movement.

Finally, I'd like to reiterate the basic truth that ideas have consequences. It can be difficult for some people to grasp the hold that ideas have on intellectual types. The most important thing of all is not even the culture war, as important as that is. It is not even the use of emotion to sway political debates. It is rather the establishment of first principles. It is the answer to questions such as "What makes a man good?" Or "What are the aims of human life?" Or "What is the good that human societies should seek?"

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The problem of male superabundance

This is one of those posts for throwing around ideas. The topic under consideration is "how are women ruined for marriage?". I have been mulling over what happens in a culture when young women are given an abundance of attention and offers from men. Just 60 or so years ago, there was not such a superabundance of opportunity for young women. There was no social media for men to be constantly "liking" women. Sex before marriage was still frowned upon and marriage itself took place much earlier. Women were still more likely to live at home before marriage, making short term live-in relationships less likely.

Most young men won't ever know what it's like for young women today, i.e. to have so many options and to know that if they drop one option a new one won't be far away. I do believe that this helps to ruin women for long-term committed relationships and, for that matter, for deeper forms of committed love. Instead, it sets up women to treat relationships as "play"; to take a more casually dismissive attitude to men and relationships that over time is corrosive of love and of the ability to pair bond; and to orient women more toward serial monogamy, if not casual relationships.

I suspect that men would be similarly affected, if they had the chance. Some men who have mastered "game" and who feel confident in their ability to seduce women on their own terms report that they eventually feel a sense of loss in reaching this stage, as they are no longer able to feel the same love for women that they once did. And when the balance of relationships changes men can also be similarly spoiled for relationships, for instance, in older age groups.

The feminist inspired sexual revolution may have robbed women of one of the deeper experiences of life, namely the capacity to achieve a loving, deeply bonded marriage.

It can seem daunting, though, to envisage a way to reverse the modern trends. Technology like Tinder and even other more sedate online dating sites isn't going to go away. Nor is it easy to control access to popular music and film which encourages a sexually "liberated" culture. The opportunity for young women to enter the workforce and live independently of their families isn't likely to change either.

This can make some people give up and just hope for the best. I do think it's worth trying to be counter-cultural on this issue. Not all young women, even today, are ruined for marriage. The ones who seem to survive best grow up in a loving home and meet their future spouses early, before too much spoiling happens. Parents do still have some control over their daughters before they move out, and in theory churches might still be able to have some influence over the moral outlook of young people.

(I should point out too that it would help if marriage was understood as being based on more than just feelings, but was held to be a sacrament binding two people; and an institution in which individuals were able to fulfil lifelong purposes such as those of being a father, a mother, a husband and wife; and as an institution in which a culture of family life was upheld and transmitted from one generation to the next.)

The culture war is a bit one-sided at the moment, but it needn't forever be so.

P.S. If it's not clear already from the post, I believe that part of the solution has to be ending the "free for all" situation pushed onto Western society by the sexual revolution. It should be replaced with some kind of "intelligent restraint", i.e. a system for the pairing up of young men and women that is intended to foster successful marriage. That is what traditional societies did and I think you can see from the modern Western experiment that traditional arrangements did have a reasonable purpose to them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Germaine can't stop her own revolution

Germaine Greer has been criticised for comments she made about transsexualism on Australian TV:
Controversial feminist and author Germaine Greer has come under fire after saying it is not fair for a man who has enjoyed the 'unpaid services' of a wife for years to decide he is now a woman.

Social media erupted following Greer's comments with many labelling her as 'transphobic', while others said her lack of empathy was 'appalling'.

The criticisms were framed in the usual liberal terms:
Stephanie: Someone please tell Germaine it's 2016. My gender is not up to you to decide Germaine.

Cass: Germaine, you're telling women how to be women and that's not OK.

It must be odd for Germaine to find herself subject to these criticisms. After all, she herself was once at the cutting edge of the liberal belief that the highest good is a freedom to self-define and self-determine. Here is a quote from her 1999 book The Whole Woman in which she argues in favour of a "liberation" version of feminism rather than an "equality" one:
Liberation struggles are not about assimilation but about asserting difference...insisting on it as a condition of self-definition and self-determination...the visionary feminists of the late sixties and early seventies knew that women could never find freedom by agreeing to live the lives of unfree men. Seekers after equality clamoured to be admitted to smoke-filled male haunts. Liberationists sought the world over for clues to what women's lives could be if they were free to define their own values, order their own priorities and decide their own fate...

It's a variant of liberal autonomy theory in which the overriding good is a freedom to self-define and self-determine. It's an interesting variant, as Greer does not emphasise the idea that men are privileged and that women should therefore seek to ape men. She looks at the lives men lead and doesn't see it as free at all; she logically concludes that women should try for something different.

However, what Greer didn't foresee was that once you place a freedom to self-define as the core good in a society, that the women's movement itself would eventually lose some of its status. After all, if it is oppressive to be defined by anything I don't choose for myself, then it is oppressive to be defined by my sex. Therefore, the cutting-edge freedom is to choose my own sex according to my will ("My gender is not up to you decide Germaine"). Therefore, transsexuals are the new heroes of a liberal social order - they are the ones leading the revolution. Which means that real women (i.e. biological women) aren't as important as they once were. Anyone who chooses to be so can now be a woman.

Consider this comment made by Greer in her TV discussion:
If you're a 50-year-old truck driver who's had four children with a wife and you've decided the whole time you've been a woman, I think you're probably wrong

Most people reading this post will agree with Greer on this (as do I). But in terms of the logic of liberalism, it is exactly this kind of scenario that represents peak liberation. Greer's example presents the most seemingly entrenched male throwing off a sex stereotype to declare himself to be female. What could be a more revolutionary act of self-definition than that?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Next stage transgenderism

Liberalism would have us believe that what matters is a freedom to self-define who we are. So it's no surprise that the transsexual movement is doing so well at the moment. Choosing to define your own sex is taking liberalism to the max.

Nor is it a surprise that the Australian Human Rights Commission is proposing changes to the law on transsexualism. At the moment, Australians have to get a certificate from a medial practitioner stating that they have undergone some kind of clinical treatment to transition from one sex to the other in order to officially change their sex. The Commission now wants to drop this requirement so that an individual can simply determine for themselves which sex they are.

That fits even better with the logic of liberalism, as it increases the extent to which the individual gets to define for themselves who they are. But at the same time it opens up a can of worms. Why couldn't someone who is biologically male declare themselves to be female and take advantage of their status? For instance, by competing as a woman in a women's sporting team? Or by claiming a job subject to a quota? Or by moving into a woman's college on campus?

While we're on the topic of future trends in transsexualism, I was interested to see a tweet at Australian feminist Clementine Ford's twitter feed. It was a complaint that a dating website has an option that allows people to opt out of being contacted by transsexuals. In other words, if you are a man seeking a woman, you can choose not to be contacted by a biological male identifying as a woman.

Some of Clementine's readers thought the opt out option to be morally wrong. One wrote: "wouldn't it be easier to have a button that says, "I'm a cis hetero bigot seeking same"??" Another lamented: "It's the 21st Century but society is changing sooo painfully slowly :-(".

I don't know if liberalism will follow its inner logic to the point of considering it discriminatory to prefer biologically female women over men identifying as women. It might possibly do so, as liberalism frowns on people who limit the "right" of others to self-define as they will. It might though pragmatically be a step too far even for a liberal culture. We'll see.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

This makes my head hurt

Some things aren't easy to grasp. Take the case of Jory Micah. She's an American evangelist who describes herself this way:
In a nutshell, I am a girly girl at heart who just wants to have fun!

This isn't so unusual. It's common to hear women say things like this. Women will often say that they want men who don't take themselves too seriously and that they themselves just want to have fun. It's as if some women experience life in a lighter way than men, skimming playfully along the surface rather than trying to drill down.

On her website Jory Micah shows pictures of herself looking happy together with her husband and pet chihuahua. But get this. The other side to Jory Micah is that she wants to overturn the evangelical tradition by staking a claim for female leadership of the church. She wants to break through what she calls the glass steeple.

She's a girly girl who just wants to have fun but she also wants to lead men in the church.

I just don't get this. The male character is different to a woman's. Consider the issue of gravitas:
As a Latin word, gravitas is understood to embody several complementary attributes. Generally, gravitas is understood to mean dignity, duty, and seriousness. All three qualities were thought to be important in male personal deportment, and were often used as a means of determining when a boy could rightly claim to have reached his majority and could be considered a man in both psychological as well as physical stature.

So a man raised to maturity with a sense of duty and seriousness is supposed to submit to the leadership of a girly girl woman looking for fun? It's pushing things isn't it?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Liberal modernity leads to Amanda Marcotte

I visited Dalrock's site and was interested to find the following quote on abortion by feminist Amanda Marcotte:
…[what a woman] wants trumps the non-existent desires of a mindless pre-person that is so small it can be removed in about two minutes during an outpatient procedure. Your cavities fight harder to stay in place.

That is the terrible logic of a liberal morality. For liberals there is no objective right and wrong. What is good is the act of individual choosing, desiring, will-making. For Amanda Marcotte, since the foetus cannot choose, desire or express will it is outside of the moral equation and has no rights. Therefore, all that matters morally are the wants of the mother.

Note too the dangers of the modernist view as expressed by Marcotte. She comes very close to expressing the idea that the person with the strongest will, the strongest will to power, has thereby demonstrated a superior moral status.

I decided to visit the link to Marcotte's original piece to make sure I wasn't misrepresenting her. The piece is interesting because Marcotte is very honest in the way she describes her attitudes. It's a look into the liberal, modernist mindset. Here is Marcotte explaining why, no matter what social policies are in place, she will never want a baby:
You can give me gold-plated day care and an awesome public school right on the street corner and start paying me 15% more at work, and I still do not want a baby. I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding. No matter how much free day care you throw at women, babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. No matter how flexible you make my work schedule, my entire life would be overturned by a baby. I like  my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby. I’ve heard your pro-baby arguments. Glad those work for you, but they are unconvincing to me. Nothing will make me want a baby.

She wants her autonomy - her freedom to do whatever she likes, whenever she likes - more than she wants the fulfilment of motherhood. And she is too much of a hedonist to give up a pleasure seeking lifestyle. Which is why she is so strongly in favour of abortion:
This is why, if my birth control fails, I am totally having an abortion. Given the choice between living my life how I please and having my body within my control and the fate of a lentil-sized, brainless embryo that has half a chance of dying on its own anyway, I choose me.

What I would say to fellow traditionalists at this point is that it's not enough to merely condemn Marcotte's moral position. Her moral position points to much deeper failings within modern society which we cannot ignore or pretend don't exist. Society is trending to exactly the mindset that Marcotte is honest enough to describe - the individualistic, hedonistic one. It is an end point of liberal modernity.

Marcotte herself concludes her piece with the admission that she is selfish and hedonistic, but she believes that this is how women should be and that it is only "gender norms" that make women anything else:
So, reading those three paragraphs above? I bet at some point you recoiled a bit, even if you don’t want to have recoiled a bit. Don’t I sound selfish? Hedonistic? Isn’t there something very unfeminine about my bluntness here? Hell, I’m performing against gender norms so hard that even I recoil a little. This is actually what I think, and I feel zero guilt about it, but I know that saying so out loud will cause people to want to hit me with the Bad Woman ruler, and that causes a little dread.

Amanda Marcotte wants a society built on hedonism and selfishness. With no babies. It's not much of a plan.

Friday, April 01, 2016

A female reader replies

I enjoy receiving interesting dissenting comments from readers. One female reader, calling herself Kate, wrote in to defend Laurie Penny's anti-maternalism. Kate's argument, in brief, is that it is a sign of intelligence to be able to override natural imperatives to have children and that it is logical for intelligent women to seek to have the least number of children. Here is her comment:
Higher IQ and more intellectualism sharply, sharply decreases the likelihood that a woman wants to have any children, once you get into the high IQ categories:

Intellectualism/higher IQ increases the likelihood that one is capable of conceiving of the difference between their subjective individual interests and the interests of their genes. And high IQ also sharply increases the likelihood that one decides to serve their own subjective interests rather than mindlessly and slavishly serving the interests of their genes, like all other animals.

It's no surprise that men are less likely to recognize the discrepancy between their own interests and the interests their genes have in reproducing, since they're not generally at odds. A man experiences an orgasm and thus replicates his genes, thus serving both his subjective interests and the interests of his genes in reproducing in the same action, with no conflict.

On the other hand, reproducing and serving the interests of her genes is extremely detrimental to the individual female. She risks death, drastically decreases her future ability to attract mates, becomes extremely sick and physically vulnerable, and suffers a whole host of detriments.

In all species, investing in the individual comes as a cost trade-off with investing in reproduction, and in some species reproduction automatically means death, imposing the highest possible cost. Luckily that is not so for humans, but there is a HUGE difference between the natural costs imposed for men versus women. The law tries to even it out a bit, but it's clear that most women, when given the choice, choose to invest the minimum possible amount in reproduction in order to get one set of genes into the future, which is exactly what we would expect given the high costs nature imposes on her. Men are naturally capable of investing the minimum amount and therefore we don't see the same strong drive to avoid reproduction. The more intellect a woman has and the more self-awareness and control over her destiny, the more likely she is to not want to have children at all, and why should she?

Serious question for the author: would you still be so enthusiastic about serving the interests of your genes in replicating, if doing so would make you very weak and ill for months or years at a time, make you MUCH less attractive to women, present a 25% chance of death (we're talking pre-modern medicine), require a day of excruciating pain and ripping open your genitals, and require your constant attention and investment of resources and energy for two decades? I'm guessing you would not.

I mostly disagree with this. Kate has referenced research by an evolutionary psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa. It is true that Kanazawa argues that highly intelligent people are more likely to adopt evolutionarily novel values. At the same time, he argues in his paper that voluntary childlessness by intelligent women, though a novel value, is highly maladaptive. Kanazawa is particularly concerned that intelligence is largely inherited through mothers and that if the trend for the most intelligent mothers to be childless continues, that average levels of IQ will decline.

He could also have pointed to other reasons why the choice is maladaptive. German women, for instance, have a remarkably low birth rate and this speeds the process by which the existing German population and culture is replaced by a Muslim one. In other words, German women may not be thinking ahead clearly even when it comes to what Kate calls their "own subjective interests" - and foresight is surely an indicator of intelligence, is it not?

Here's a further problem. There is at least some evidence that feminist women like Laurie Penny are not so much pioneering "evolutionarily novel" values, as much as wanting a return to prehistoric ones. Civilisation was built on the monogamous family, as this was the model that gave to the largest number of men a high level of motivation to invest productively in society. But it required the suppression of other, more ancient evolutionary "values", such as female hypergamy, in which women were free to mate with the most successful male in the tribe.

The hypergamous instinct is going to be especially problematic for highly intelligent women, as the numbers of men more intelligent than them will be limited and as they will have to compete with other women for them. The problem is compounded by the fact that highly intelligent women in modern societies will have been indoctrinated with ideologies that are hostile to men, to femininity and to family life - making such women less attractive as mates to the men who might otherwise be their partners.

This might help to explain why highly intelligent men do end up having children at an expected rate, whereas highly intelligent women do not.

Just to underline this point, it does seem as if one element of the feminist sexual revolution was to free women to pursue their ancient hypergamous instincts, rather than having to "settle" for a man of middle-ranking or low status. But this too is maladaptive in various ways. It means that the highest status men are flooded with female attention; these men grow confident in having a surplus of female interest and have the upper hand in relationships. They do not need to settle anytime soon. So the hypergamous women are not exactly getting what they want either, i.e. commitment from a high status male. Many will spend their years of peak attractiveness managing only to succeed in coaxing short term commitments out of these men.

And this relates to my next point. It is a sign of intelligence to be able to order the different instincts and experiences we have in life. For instance, a young man might face a choice between his instinct toward promiscuity and his instinct toward love and fidelity with just one woman. He can't have both in full measure; most men for some centuries now have ordered their lives by giving preference to love and fidelity, though no doubt hoping that their sexual impulses might be at least partially met within marriage.

To me, it is a sign of intelligence if a person is ordered towards the higher goods of family life, as these have a higher quality than the other goods that are necessarily compromised. Within a well-functioning family life we are best able to fulfil our natures as men and women by undertaking the roles of father and mother, husband and wife; we create our own unique family environment, one that is hopefully founded on love and care; we are best able to transmit our own culture and tradition into the future, thereby acting in defence of our own inner identity and of the communities and culture that we love and wish to defend.

Another issue I have with Kate's comment is that she jumps between what exists in a state of nature and what exists within civilisation. For instance, the costs of having children in a state of nature might well be heavier for women than for men - until recent times, the risk to a mother's health was considerable.

But in modern times? I'm not sure it's true anymore. A man who commits to marriage and children locks himself into a relationship as much as a woman does. He takes on the main responsibility for providing, with all the investment of time and energy this requires. He is legally vulnerable if the marriage ends, and will have to accept most of the negative consequences of this outcome, including loss of home, children and income. He will be under considerable pressure to make the marriage work and his wife therefore has much leverage over him in the relationship. From my own experience, when the children are small it might be true that the mother is under more pressure, but at other times it is likely that the father will be the one taking on the heaviest burden.

Finally, Kate asks some specific questions to me at the end of her comment. It is a bit artificial answering these questions, because I am answering them as a man with a man's priorities. For instance, the idea of maintaining my own tradition is very important to me, so when Kate asks if I would be willing to undergo hardships in order to have more children, then the answer would be yes.

One question I can answer as a man is the one about pregnancy and attractiveness. Pregnancy does not make a woman ugly to men. There is something quite beautiful about a woman who is carrying a child. And afterwards women don't necessarily lose their looks. There are millions of beautiful mothers out there - believe me, the male libido is more than strong enough to render this issue relatively unimportant. The real issue is that many men are not keen on raising other men's children - that is what might make a woman with children at least somewhat less attractive to a new partner.

I suppose it all depends on what a woman sets out to do. If a woman wants to play revolving relationships, then having children might be detrimental to her interests. But if she expects to live within a stable marital relationship, then I don't see that children are as detrimental as Kate describes them as being.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Laurie Penny's feminist love

As I wrote in the last post, English feminist Laurie Penny is, for some unknown reason, popular in Germany. She has given an interview to a leading German newspaper in which she lamented that babies could not be developed in laboratories. The second part of the interview has appeared and it concerns the issue of love between men and women.
Interviewer: Emotions often run high on the issue of equality between men and women. Why is that?

Laurie Penny: The gender question has not only a social dimension, it also has a very private quality. Many women - also many feminists - fall in love with men, many men fall in love with women, and so all the political gender questions land in the private sphere. The old saying, that the personal is the political is especially relevant to this issue. We can't talk about equality without talking about family, sexuality, love and romance.

Interviewer: Does feminism ruin love?

Laurie Penny: Feminism does certainly place in question our ideal of romantic love. But this ideal is the most unromantic that there is. There are countless studies that have discovered that sex in equal partnerships can be better. That the women is an autonomous partner who can say yes or no shouldn't be a problem for the sex life. Apart from that it is constantly suggested to us that a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman is the only possibility in order to be happy. I am a hopeless romantic and believe in love. I just don't believe that every love fits into the same box - mine doesn't.

Interviewer: What does your love look like?

Laurie Penny: At the moment I have a male partner, but I am polyamorous. That means I'm not able, and don't want to, tie myself down to just one person and that I distinguish between primary and secondary relationships. But at the moment I have the most intensive relationship anyway with my work.

So her work is the primary relationship in her life. Then she has a main relationship with a man. Then she has secondary relationships with other men. But she is also a hopeless romantic.

I suppose if your aim is to maximise autonomy, then this is what the result might look like. You attempt to fulfil yourself through something that is self-determined (your career) and you don't tie yourself down to just one other person.

Little wonder, though, that she earlier demanded that the state pay for women to be mothers. In her model there are personal relationships, but not much resembling a family life. In a way it's a "women going their own way" model, albeit one that would have to financially underwritten by the taxpayer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Laurie Penny: "We need technological alternatives to pregnancy"

Laurie Penny is a radical British feminist. For some reason, she has become popular in Germany. A recent interview with a leading German newspaper went as follows:
Interviewer: Your recent book is called Making Babies. So do you want one?

Laurie Penny: For me to be able to imagine having babies, the circumstances would have to change dramatically and I don't know if they ever will. It is a shame that women still have to choose between motherhood and everything else. Apart from that I'm not at all keen on pregnancy. There should really exist technological alternatives for that.

Interviewer: That's a joke, right?

Laurie Penny: No, I mean that entirely seriously. We need technological alternatives to pregnancy. Why aren't there any? Modern medicine can reattach limbs and transplant faces. Today so much is possible, that was unthinkable a few decades ago. Egg cells are already fertilised in test tubes. Why shouldn't babies be created in laboratories? Why is a technological alternative to the womb so inconceivable?...I don't understand at all, what is crazier about this than the idea of transplanting an arm, a heart or a face.

Interviewer: Wouldn't it be a disadvantage for women, if machines took away from them the bearing of children? After all, the ability to bear children is a unique characteristic of women.

Laurie Penny: It is a female superpower! But women with superpowers have to be controlled and criticised. Therefore motherhood is on the one hand so elevated, that women who decide against it are seen as odd. Women who have an abortion are expected at some time to regret it. The woman who never became a mother must be sad about it in old age. At the same time mothers are blamed if they achieve the aim of becoming solo mothers, even though they in fact do something wonderful and selfless for all of us. To define pregnancy and motherhood as work and also to pay it as such would actually be the least thing to do.

What can you say? Laurie Penny is probably right that one day scientists will come up with an artificial womb. But her lack of connection to the idea of physically bearing a child is telling. So too is her primary concern that women be able to have their children without the support of a male partner - that instead motherhood should be commodified - treated in market terms as a productive activity - and paid for, presumably by the state.

She doesn't state it directly, but it seems that Laurie Penny doesn't want to have a child together with a man. She wants the child developed in a lab by scientists and then she wants to be paid for the work she does to bring it up as its mother.