Saturday, October 04, 2014

The old church was different

Was the Catholic Church always in favour of an anti-national universalism? The answer is clearly no. Bonald, for instance, has found an encyclical of Pope Pius XII from 1939 in which there is a harmonising of the claims of patriotism and universalism. Bonald has posted a longer transcript (worth reading), but I'll try a summary.

Pope Pius begins with a reminder of the basis of the unity of humankind:
that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong, and by the redeeming Sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ on the Altar of the Cross to His Heavenly Father on behalf of sinful mankind.

But this doesn't mean that nations don't have an important place:
And the nations, despite a difference of development due to diverse conditions of life and of culture, are not destined to break the unity of the human race, but rather to enrich and embellish it by the sharing of their own peculiar gifts and by that reciprocal interchange of goods which can be possible and efficacious only when a mutual love and a lively sense of charity unite all the sons of the same Father and all those redeemed by the same Divine Blood.

There is no contradiction between the unity of the human race and our membership of nations - that is what Pope Pius is emphasising here.

To further underline the point Pope Pius goes on to say:
The Church of Christ, the faithful depository of the teaching of Divine Wisdom, cannot and does not think of deprecating or disdaining the particular characteristics which each people, with jealous and intelligible pride, cherishes and retains as a precious heritage.

And then this:
The Church hails with joy and follows with her maternal blessing every method of guidance and care which aims at a wise and orderly evolution of particular forces and tendencies having their origin in the individual character of each race, provided that they are not opposed to the duties incumbent on men from their unity of origin and common destiny.

The balance here is good. We cannot treat those not of our tradition in any way we like, as we share a common humanity; however, the church blesses the effort to wisely develop the unique tradition we belong to.

Pope Pius then goes on to speak about the proper role of the state:
Hence, it is the noble prerogative and function of the State to control, aid and direct the private and individual activities of national life that they converge harmoniously towards the common good. That good can neither be defined according to arbitrary ideas nor can it accept for its standard primarily the material prosperity of society, but rather it should be defined according to the harmonious development and the natural perfection of man. It is for this perfection that society is designed by the Creator as a means.

The state should not be "something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed". In particular, the state should not usurp the role of the family. Parents have an important and independent role in guiding the formation of their children:
Undoubtedly, that formation should aim as well at the preparation of youth to fulfill with intelligent understanding and pride those offices of a noble patriotism which give to one’s earthly fatherland all due measure of love, self-devotion and service.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's the state ideology

Via Laura Wood a story about how moral issues are decided in Germany. A German man who married his biological sister and had children with her has been punished under existing incest laws. However, a government committee (the German Ethics Council) has decided that incest should be permitted. On what grounds? The expected ones:
Incest between siblings appears to be very rare in Western societies according to the available data but those affected describe how difficult their situation is in light of the threat of punishment. They feel their fundamental freedoms have been violated and are forced into secrecy or to deny their love. The majority of the German Ethics Council is of the opinion that it is not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo. In the case of consensual incest among adult siblings, neither the fear of negative consequences for the family, nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships can justify a criminal prohibition. The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family.

So incest is now considered to be a "fundamental freedom" - the language of freedom is being invoked once again. And what is meant by freedom? It is the "fundamental right" to "self-determination" - and it is this right to self-determination which is thought to trump all other considerations, such as negative consequences for the family or the problems that arise for the children born to such relationships.

Here again we have a problem doing great harm to Western societies. Freedom is held to be the sole, overriding good and freedom is understood in a limited way as individual autonomy. Other goods in society are sacrificed to this one reductive understanding of morality - which means inevitably that people don't even end up feeling free or autonomous.

The better option is for a community of people to try to get as close as possible to an understanding of an "order of being" - in which a range of goods are harmonised as far as possible. That is not only the best way to uphold more than one good, it's also the best way to maximise freedom and to make freedom meaningful. (Is it really a meaningful understanding of freedom when incest starts to be considered a "fundamental freedom"? What's next?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kalb on the 60s

Jim Kalb has written a piece for Crisis Magazine about the 1960s. He takes a generous approach to the 60s radicals, arguing that their reaction to a materialistic culture was understandable but that their solutions made things worse.

It's written to Jim Kalb's usual high standard and is well worth reading. I'm not sure, though, to what extent the 60s radicals really were motivated by idealism (I'm not old enough to remember that decade).

When I looked into the main figures that Australia contributed to the 60s counterculture (e.g. Richard Neville, Germaine Greer) I found that many of them had been members of the Sydney Push. And the Sydney Push itself was strongly influenced by the left-libertarian philosophy of John Anderson.

Anderson's philosophy was not exactly idealistic. I've written a more detailed account here, but in short he laid the groundwork for some of the beliefs of the 1960s radicals by arguing that there is no morality embedded within reality; that reality can only be understood through a scientific methodology (scientism); and that the only "good" activities were those which were free, critical and creative. This meant that what mattered was not reform but an attitude of opposition.

Anderson also believed that sexual repression was a major means by which freedom was constrained. You were not supposed to have sexual hang-ups (jealousy, attachments etc.).

So the underlying philosophy of the Australian leaders of the 60s flower children was, seemingly, a harshly soulless one from the beginning (but, again, I wasn't there - maybe some of the rank and file were attracted by the idealistic sounding slogans of the movement).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweden Democrats make gains

Good news from Sweden. In the recent elections, the Sweden Democrats surged from 5.8 per cent of the vote to 13 per cent. They are now clearly the third largest party in that country. They have become particularly popular amongst young and rural voters.

More information here and here.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Choosing Kate

Laura Wood posted a really interesting piece on Kate Millett recently. Kate Millett, if you aren't already aware, was one of the leading lights of second wave feminism. I've written a post on her myself (here) about her later descent into loneliness, unhappiness and poverty.

What's new in the Laura Wood post is (amongst other things), the perspective of Kate Millett's sister, Mallory (see here - it's well worth a read). It seems clear that Kate Millett was suffering greatly from mental illness at the time that she was being lauded as a leader of the feminist movement.

What does it say when our elites choose to promote someone like Kate Millett to leadership in society?

Monday, September 01, 2014

His dream is not my dream

Paul Mason has written a Guardian piece about his dream city. He appears to be serious in setting out what would make up his utopia. So what does he want?

He says he wants neighbourhoods designed around hipster economics, and goes on to add "In the ideal form, these areas are home both to hipsters and ethnically diverse poor communities, who refrain from fighting each other."

In reality, they are usually just home to hipsters (that's true for Melbourne anyway).

He also wants a taxi system "under the control of old-style London working-class cabbies, who've been persuaded to give women and ethnic minorities equal access to the trade" (what a strange thing to think about when designing a utopia).

He also wants sleaze: "a massive ecosystem of gay, lesbian, transgender, BDSM and plain old sleazy heterosexual hangouts: clubs, bars, dancehalls, cabarets and all the dim-lit alleyways and grassy knolls inbetween."

Here's something I've noted already. The left is congregating in areas given character by historic, traditional architecture: "it must be happy with its Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and with anything salvagable that used to be a factory or warehouse. Harlem in New York, Fitzroy in Melbourne, Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin all derive an intangible positive atmosphere from their combination of brick, ornament, renovation and re-use."

Maybe modernism in architecture has lost its lustre for the artsy left.

Then there's this: "it must be ethnically mixed and tolerant and hospitable to women...The city of Gijon, in northern Spain, has a government that plasters the streets with ever more inventive propaganda against sexual harassment, domestic violence and general sexism. Stuff like that."

Right, plenty of sex war in Paul Mason's dream city.

Another oddity: "any slums have to be what UN Habitat calls "slums of hope" – staging posts for upward mobility, self-policing and non-chaotic." Is this supposed to add a bit of vibrancy into the picture?

Then, despite his initial support for microbusiness he writes that his utopia "indispensably, is a democratic political culture the inhabitants are proud of, that calls them regularly to the streets, to loud arguments in small squares, keeps their police demilitarised and in check, and allows them to assimilate the migrants that will inevitably flow inwards, and to self-identify as products of the city as they themselves navigate the global labour market."

So the city is to be borderless and subject to the global labour market but still think itself as having a unique identity with a strong level of civic commitment.

He finishes with this rousing call to arms: "If you could cut and paste everything east of Bondi Junction on to London's Soho and Barcelona's Raval, giving the whole city a feminist government recruited in Scandinavia, you might come close. But you can't so you have to dream."

They're not the same as us, are they?

Friday, August 29, 2014

And now Hungary?

Things are interesting now in Hungary:
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday lashed out against immigration, setting one of the main policy objectives of his next term in power after winning parliamentary elections in April. “The goal is to cease immigration whatsoever,” said Hungary’s prime minister. “I think the current liberal immigration policy, which is considered obvious and morally based, is hypocritical,” Mr. Orban said.

Orban urged, at a meeting of European PMs, that Europe set itself the aim of ceasing immigration. The response was mixed:
“There were two types of reactions: some envied me because they mustn’t say things like that although they’d very much like to. The others disagreed because they’ve failed to turn around demographic trends with family politics; have kept social tension at bay by subsidizing the jobless; and aren’t fazed if the ethnic basis of a nation state is broken,” Mr. Orban said.

Orban believes that European countries, instead of financing mass immigration, should boost development in the immigrants' home countries and focus on increasing the birth rate at home (he has five children himself).

Orban has introduced a number of measures to help boost the Hungarian birth rate, including an appeal to patriotism:
Another way the government means to boost newlyweds’ mood to make babies was the social ministry’s congratulation card, which couples received after state weddings. The card included quotes from Hungarian poets and the ministry promoting childbirth as a way to keep up the Hungarian nation.

“If your love for one another becomes the source of a new life, that’s the greatest gift to your family. A child is a blessing, and the pledge of survival of the family and our nation.”

I don't know a great deal about the politics of Orban or his party, but it's certainly worth watching the Hungarian situation for further developments.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Was Locke a Gnostic?

Has Gnosticism played a role in the decline of the West? I've just read an excellent article by Mark Shiffman (from 2009) which provides a good argument that the answer might be yes.

It's difficult to summarise the article adequately but I'll try. The traditional Christian view sees God's creation as a good thing:
The doctrine of creation presented in the Book of Genesis tells us that the world is good, that human beings receive this world as an undeserved gift, and that this makes them dependent upon their creator and bound in humility to acknowledge this gift with gratitude.

Gnostics, however, reject this outlook as suggesting limits and dependence and see the spirit or will as being "trapped" within such a created world.

Mark Shiffman argues persuasively that one of the fathers of liberal modernity, John Locke, was a gnostic in this sense. A gnostic outlook is assumed, first, in his economic theory:
In chapter five of his Second Treatise, Locke defends the individual right to property by arguing that the entire value of commodities derives from human labor. After reflecting a bit on the complexity of human economic activity, Locke ends up estimating that human labor contributes all but about 1/1000 of the value of things, whereas “Nature and the Earth furnished only the almost worthless materials.” The given world is essentially worthless, except as a source of the raw materials for human making...the attitude of Locke and Marx toward the given world can hardly be described as one exhibiting gratitude and reverence. It’s all what we make of it.

Second, Locke carried over this argument into his theory of the human person. Our own body and mind is worthless raw material until we labour on it through our will:
This is the sense in which Locke understands human beings as being their own individual property. All that they are that is of any value results from the labor they exercise upon themselves. Parents are, at best, the enablers of our self-creation, providing us with the material that is nearly worthless until improved by our own efforts.

In short, just as nature and the earth constitute the worthless world whose value lies in what humans can make of it, so too my body and mind are initially parts of that worthless world. It is when my will reshapes all this and turns it into some embodiment of itself that I lay claim to it. The world as given is essentially worthless, and the value things have results from our laboring to make the worthless material suitable to our wishes. It is the will that imparts value both by determining what will make something valuable and by causing that valuable something to be built up in it.

Pope Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote of Gnosticism that:
Human beings want to understand the discovered world only as material for their own creativity…. Gnosticism will not entrust itself to a world already created, but only to a world still to be created.

I've pointed out before that modern liberals reject most aspects of our created nature, but the one aspect they retain is that of the creative spirit. The argument put forward above helps to explain why liberals would have this focus.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marital happiness and partner count

Researchers at the University of Virginia have found that a woman's marital happiness decreases the more sexual partners that she has before marriage:
According to  new research by the National Marriage Project, more than half of married women who had only ever slept with their future husband felt highly satisfied in their marriage.

But that percentage dropped to 42 per cent once the woman had had pre-marital sex with at least two partners. It dropped to 22 per cent for those with ten or more partners.

The researchers surmise that this might be due to women with a high partner count judging their husbands according to their experiences with other men; or because it means that women with a high partner count will have experienced multiple break ups and therefore be more jaded about relationships.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Some thoughts on patriotism and religion

There's an Australian Aborigine (Mohammed Junaid Thorne) who has converted to Islam and who is now supporting ISIS. In one of his messages he criticised patriotism because it is a term that was not given authority by Allah:
The 25-year-old also went on to mock 'The ones who spew the nonsense of "patriotism", "Australian Muslims", "deradicalization", and other terms for which Allah has sent down no authority.'

I'm not someone who supports blind patriotism or patriotism in any circumstance. But at its best patriotism is a profound love for a people and a tradition you are closely connected to. It can be one of those transcendent loves, through which we recognise a good that goes beyond our own self-interest, and which draws out our loyalty and our willingness to serve. It can be, in other words, an expression of caritas (of "charity" in the Christian sense).

Now, there are certainly references in the Bible to the existence of nations and peoples, and there is a clear message that this is part of God's plan for humankind. But there is not (as far as I know) a commandment that we are to be patriotic. But it seems to me that we would be turning religion into a dead letter if we took this absence to mean that patriotism is therefore never a spiritual good.

The following aphorisms by Don Colacho could be applied, I think, to the kind of love I am referring to:
The particular creature we love is never God’s rival. What ends in apostasy is the worship of man, the cult of humanity.

To love is to understand the reason God had for creating what we love.

Nothing surpasses the beauty of loyal love, of the love that is not loyalty with love, but the loyalty of love itself.

Friday, August 22, 2014

More women against feminism

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism is still going strong. A lot of the arguments the women there are making are spot on, e.g. defending the existence of sex distinctions, not wanting to denigrate men and arguing against men and women being pitted against each other. Here's another selection of the WAFs:

Monday, August 18, 2014

I do not know...

“I do not know of a sin which is not, for the noble soul, its own punishment.”

Nicolás Gómez Davila

(Hat tip: Happy Acres)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More link love

Sorry about the light posting. There's much being published elsewhere though.

Mark Moncrieff has a good post up titled Why don't the poor marry?

Kristor has been writing up a storm lately. He has a piece at The Orthosphere titled There is No Patrimony and a comment of his has been posted at Collapse: The Blog as More on Far-Right Self-Identification (it's a more "advanced" piece, and maybe not for everyone, but I thought it interesting).

James Kalb has a good article up (which I might comment on later) called How to Accentuate the Positive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Even more curious

There have been some more immigration sceptical articles published in the left-wing Fairfax press. One concerns immigration fraud:
Hundreds of pages of leaked confidential departmental documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal that Australia's national security is being compromised by wide-scale visa rorting and migration rackets operating with impunity, including some with links to terrorism or organised crime.

Secret departmental operations have estimated that as many as nine in 10 skilled migrant visas may be fraudulent, while an internal inquiry into Afghan visa applicants in 2012 assessed that more than 90 per cent of cases contained "fraud of some type" and raised "people smuggling, identity fraud, suspected child trafficking and national security implications".

Also, a 2010 report reveals that immigration investigators had uncovered a Somali people-smuggling cell in Melbourne linked to terrorist suspect Hussein Hashi Farah, who "is believed to have links to the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Shabab" and who fled Kenyan counterterrorism officials using an Australian passport in 2010.

The other is by businessman Dick Smith pointing out that endless population growth is likely to affect living standards negatively:
Mr Smith said, left unchecked, Australia's population would hit “80 to 100 million by the end of the century if we keep growing”.

He said that kind of perpetual growth would only serve wealthy Australians, while the majority of the population would suffer a decline in living conditions and be worse off.

“The cake is a certain size, mainly coming from our mineral reserves and our primary production from farming, and double the population, I believe everyone's worth half as much,” he said.

Again, interesting that this is happening at Fairfax.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


This week Professor Bob Birrell warned (here and here) that high rates of immigration were making it difficult for young Australians to access the job market. Immigrants who have arrived in the past three years have filled 380,000 out of 400,000 newly created jobs. According to Professor Birrell:
The hardest hit are amongst young people seeking entry-level semi-skilled jobs and recent graduates in a widening range of professions, including nursing, information communication technology and accounting.

Professor Birrell goes on to show that the current immigration policy is not successfully targeting shortages in the labour supply. An example given is that there were about 7,000 accountants trained in Australia last year; despite a current oversupply of accountants, the government nonetheless went on to issue visas to an additional 7,000 overseas trained accountants. Australian graduates will be competing in a very tight job market with thousands of additional workers from overseas.

Why is it curious that this information has been published? Well, it appeared in the Fairfax press, which in Australia represents the politically correct left-wing point of view.

Additionally, a similar report has appeared in a business paper. The business writer is concerned that the government is trying to shift young Australians off welfare, whilst at the same time making employment access for young Australians more difficult through its immigration policies. He agrees that Australia's immigration policy is not meeting its stated aim of addressing labour shortages.

So here we have reports in both the left-wing media and the business media pointing out the failings in the current immigration system. I find this an interesting development.