Monday, March 27, 2017

Somewheres vs Anywheres

This is an interesting political conversion story. David Goodhart once saw himself as a member of the London liberal elite but has had a change of worldview. He describes the division in British society as being between "Anywheres" and "Somewheres":
The value divides in British society that led to Brexit, and may now break up the United Kingdom, stem from the emergence in the past generation of two big value clusters: the educated, mobile people who see the world from “Anywhere” and who value autonomy and fluidity, versus the more rooted, generally less well-educated people who see the world from “Somewhere” and prioritise group attachments and security.

Goodhardt believes that those who have "high human capital" (graduates of elite universities) are likely to thrive in open, competitive systems and so are more likely than others to support open borders. Similarly, such people are more likely to look to "achieved" identities (e.g. career) rather than "ascribed" ones (e.g. nationality). He believes, also, that the expansion of higher education has increased the percentage of such people in society, so that:
...over the past generation, it has dominated the political class and the national culture. Anywhere politicians who think they are governing in the national interest are, at least some of the time, governing in the Anywhere interest — in everything from the expansion of higher education to the unprecedented openness of modern societies.

So what led him to change allegiance, and to begin to see things from the point of view of the Somewheres? He believes that part of the reason is that his own upper class/Old Etonian social background always made him something of an outsider, which,
helped to make me aware of the strangeness of some of the instincts of my north London liberal tribe in the 1980s and 1990s: the far greater concern for suffering in distant lands than just around the corner, the blank incomprehension of religious or national feeling and the disdain for the ordinary people we were meant to champion.

Goodhardt wavers on whether he wants to reform liberalism or break from it. At times he writes of the possibility of a less individualistic and universalistic liberalism, one that might still uphold particular attachments and identities:
There were several lightbulb moments as I came to see past the narrative of progress that has helped to form the shallow liberalism that dominates our politics. This narrative sees race and gender equality as a prelude to the transcending of all exclusive communities, including the nation state. But the moral equality of all human beings — the beautiful, once utopian idea that became embedded in many western constitutions in the middle of the 20th century — does not mean we have the same obligations to all human beings.

This vital caveat to universalism keeps liberalism bound to the earth, to the reality of flesh-and-blood humans with group attachments and the need to be valued and to belong. Of course modern politics — the rule of law and more recently the idea of human equality — are partly designed to tame and constrain our tribal and animal emotions. But if politics disappears too far into the individualist abstractions of law and economics it starts to see society as just a random collection of individuals.

From this caveat can flow a more mature and emotionally intelligent liberalism that sees that there really is such a thing as society and one that functions well is based on habits of co-operation and trust and bonds of language, history and culture. Newcomers can be absorbed into such societies, and can retain some of their own traditions, but unless a critical mass of them embrace the broad common norms of the society, the idea of the nation as a group of people with significant shared interests — the idea of a people — will fracture.

...An emotionally mature liberalism must also accept that white majorities, not just minorities, in western societies have ethnic attachments too and an interest in a degree of demographic stability — and it is not shameful or racist for people to feel uncomfortable if their neighbourhood changes too rapidly, whether from gentrification or ethnic change.

Other things flow from the caveat, too — things that do not challenge the core beliefs of modern liberalism but temper and qualify their more dogmatic application. The belief, for example, that men and women are equal but not identical and that some sort of gender division of labour in the home and the broader society remains popular. That order and legitimate authority in families, schools and the wider society are a necessary condition of human flourishing, not a means of crushing it. That religion, loyalty and the wisdom of tradition deserve greater respect than is common among “blank sheet” liberals who tend to focus narrowly on issues of justice and harm.

As Haidt points out — contrary to the old claim that the right is the stupid party — conservatives can appreciate a wider range of political emotions than liberals: “It’s as though conservatives can hear five octaves of music, but liberals respond to just two, within which they have become particularly discerning.”

You do not have to be a conservative or a Conservative to see this and I would regard myself as a centrist, open to ideas from left and right. Indeed I am now post-liberal and proud, and feel that for the first time in my life I have had the confidence and experience to work things out for myself.

Am I trying to save liberalism or bury it? I am certainly trying to save it from the over-reach that has produced the Brexit/Trump backlash and want to convince as many as possible from my old tribe that we need a new settlement that is more generous to the intuitions of Somewheres. Come, join me, you have nothing to lose but your comfortably consensual dinner parties.

I know some of my readers would wish for a cleaner break from liberalism than this, but the important thing is the movement away from a dissolving liberalism and toward a politics that permits the existence of real, particular, localised attachments and identities.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Can medical science ignore sex distinctions?

Liberals hold that we should be autonomous, self-defining individuals, so that predetermined qualities like our biological sex should be thought not to matter.

One consequence of this belief is that liberals do not like to accept that medical science should consider differences between men and women, for instance, when testing new drugs. Hence this odd fact:
In 2015, when a female version of Viagra called Addyi was tested for potential side effects, it was tested on a sample of 25 subjects - only two of whom were female.

Claire Lehmann has written an excellent article on the resistance of liberals to accepting biological sex differences in medical research. (https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-xx-factor/).

She looks at some case studies where ignoring the biological distinctions between men and women has led to dosages being set too high for women, and she details the pressures placed on scientists to avoid research on biological sex distinctions.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cicero on human bonds

A reader sent in this quote from the Roman writer Cicero.  I like it as it avoids both an abstract individualism and an abstract universalism and attempts to describe instead the real, particular loves, loyalties and identities that are characteristic of human life:
This from Cicero in the 1st century B.C. (De Oficiis 1.53-54):
There are several levels of human society. Starting from that which is universal, the next is that of a common race, nation or language (which is what most of all holds men together). Further down comes membership of the same city; for citizens have many things in common - their town square, temples, covered walkways, roads, laws and constitution, law-courts and elections, customs and associations and the dealings and agreements that bind many people to many others. An even closer bond is that between relations: for it sets them apart from that limitless society of the human race into one that is narrow and closely-defined. Since it is a natural feature of all living beings that they have the desire to propagate, the first association is that of marriage itself; the next is that with one's children; then the household unit within which everything is shared; that is the element from which a city is made, so to speak the seed-bed of the state. Next comes the relationship between brothers, between cousins on the father's side and cousins on the mother's side; since the relatives cannot be contained in one household, they leave to found other households, just like colonies. Next, come relationships arising from marriage, which bring even more relatives. This extension and spreading of relationships is the basis of communities; for common blood forces men to help and care for one another.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Haidt: The Righteous Mind

I have been reading Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind". There is much for a religious traditionalist like myself to like and dislike, but I thought I'd begin with a quote. It is Haidt describing a moral theory developed by Richard Shweder.
The ethic of autonomy is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences as they see fit, and so societies develop moral concepts such as rights, liberty, and justice, which allow people to coexist peacefully without interfering too much in each other's projects. This is the dominant ethic in individualistic societies. You find it in the writings of utilitarians such as John Stuart Mill and Peter Singer (who value justice only to the extent that they increase human welfare), and you find it in the writings of deontologists like Kant and Kohlberg  (who prize justice and rights even in cases where doing so may reduce overall welfare).

OK, so that is the dominant ethics of autonomy to be found in the modern West. Shweden's theory goes beyond this and recognises two other ethics.
But as soon as you step outside of Western secular society, you hear people talking  in two additional moral languages. The ethic of community is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, members of larger entities such as families, teams, armies, companies, tribes and nations. These larger entities are more than the sum of the people who compose them; they are real, they matter, and they must be protected. Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as duty, hierarchy, respect, reputation, and patriotism. In such societies, the Western insistence that people should design their own lives and pursue their own goals seems selfish and dangerous - a sure way to weaken the social fabric and destroy the institutions and collective entities upon which everything depends.

The ethic of divinity is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, temporary vessels within which a divine soul has been implanted. People are not just animals with an extra serving of consciousness; they are children of God and should behave accordingly. The body is a temple not a playground. Even if it does no harm and violates nobody's rights when a man has sex with a chicken carcass (me: a moral scenario Haidt had raised earlier to examine the issue of disgust/purity), he still shouldn't do it because it degrades him, dishonors his creator, and violates the sacred order of the universe. Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as sanctity and sin, purity and pollution, elevation and degredation. In such societies, the personal liberty of secular Western nations looks like libertinism, hedonism, and a celebration of humanity's baser instincts.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Sweden 2017 - peak feminism?

Feminism is off the charts in Sweden. The following stories are from the front page of just one newspaper on just one day.



The details:
Environment Minister Carolina Forest (MP) want to see fewer cars in Sweden's cities. This is because men drive more than women, and thus are "stealing space from women," she says to Göteborgs-Posten.



A magazine has named Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson "Woman of the Year" despite the fact that she is open and proud about hating men:



The runner up for Woman of the Year wasn't much better:



From the article:
Radical Feminist Ebba Witt-Brattström, 62, ended up in second place in Expressen's appointment Woman of the Year in 2017. She says that all male TV personalities should be removed and replaced by feminist women.

The next newspaper item is about a photography museum which decided to raise the entry price for men and to donate the extra money to an organisation which campaigns for gender quotas:



Some Swedish men are encouraging all this. The directors of a building union apologised for being flawed white males:



These are the same men who wore vagina hats in solidarity with feminism:



Their grovelling statement gives away some of their motivation for acting this way:
"Today on International's Women's Day we want to pay attention to all you women in the construction industry and tell you how much you're needed and the respect we have for you because you dare to break gender roles," they wrote in an opinion piece published by public broadcaster SVT.

"We know we're going to have to endure some jibes, mainly from other men, because we are standing here in our pink, home-knitted hats. But to us it is an act of solidarity."

"God knows we're not perfect. We ARE a bunch of white middle-aged men. Sometimes we put our foot in our mouth. Often we hear it ourselves and apologize. Sometimes we don't notice it ourselves; please tell us and give us a red card. So that we learn for next time."

"We ARE a bunch of white, middle-aged men. But at least we're wearing pink hats."

Note that women get respect from these liberal men because "you dare to break gender roles". Why should that be such a good thing? It's ideological. If you believe that our predetermined sex is a prison that we have to be liberated from, then those who break gender roles will be thought of as blazing a trail of moral progress.

But that's a big ideological assumption. Most societies, in most epochs, have thought of our manhood and womanhood not as prisons, but as core aspects of our own self. In fact, if you take away the Cartesian mind body dualism, then you are likely to think of our sexed bodies as being inseparable from our minds and souls. So to bring our own self to fruition means developing ourselves toward what is best in our manhood and womanhood, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

How can these union leaders be oriented toward an integrated development of themselves as men, if they believe that their predetermined sex is something they have to be liberated from, or if they believe that it is the breaking of gender roles that represents moral progress, or if they believe that sex distinctions exist because they, as white males, created them to oppress women.

Little wonder that these middle-aged men do not have that masculine "steeled" look that you would hope men would develop over a lifetime of struggle and achievement (and they have entirely abandoned the virtues of gravitas and dignitas that were so important to the ancients).

(I'd like to give some publicity to the Swedish paper I drew these stories from, namely Fria Tider. I've only read a few articles, but it seems to be a good source of Swedish news and commentary.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

From Alain de Benoist

Below is a great quote from Alain de Benoist (hat tip: Wrath of Gnon):

Some thoughts on women

Women are so enigmatic. One way that men respond to a physically beautiful woman is to "read" virtue into her body - in other words, a man sees the beauty and then has a sense of the "virtuous feminine" which might include purity or grace or tenderness. But, of course, the individual woman might not embody these qualities very well at all, might not even be self-conscious that they are qualities that a woman might try to cultivate. It can leave men with the feeling that they are privy to an appreciation of the feminine that has been denied to women themselves - that women are, in some ways, strangers to their own virtues.

Women are more complex too in the sense that it is generally a good thing for a man to be as masculine as possible, as this brings him closer to the fruition of what he was created to be, but the same is not necessarily true of women - it is not simply the case that the more feminine a woman, the more she upholds an ideal of what a woman should be.

It is a good thing, for instance, for a woman to be more sensitive than a man. Most men will find it attractive if a woman tears up and sniffles at the sad parts of movies, or if she is more fearful of potential danger, or if she is a little more connected to the emotions of children. But too much sensitivity is not a good thing. It can lead to a woman never forgiving small slights she has experienced, or holding onto petty hurts that her husband may not even be aware of. An overly sensitive woman will make for a poor wife. There is some sort of sweet spot for a woman to have when it comes to this quality.

It is similar when it comes to passivity. If a woman is passive in the sense that she doesn't emasculate her husband and allows him to lead in a masculine way; or if she is passive in the sense that she keeps herself lovingly receptive to her husband, that is obviously a good thing. But I've noticed that there are women who interpret passivity as meaning that their role is to merely look on and critically judge the performance of their husband; or that their husband should take over the work of the household, so that he becomes something of a drone in her eyes; or even that the husband is responsible for her happiness - she externalises a responsibility onto him that can only really be carried by herself.

Torrisian poems

Sydney Trads have been publishing some poetry of late. Some of it is by me (here, here, here, here). There are also some little political poems by Luke Torrisi which I thought clever and enjoyable. He has a go at Dutch liberals here, and his take on French right-wing politics is here.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The left is doubling down on its hostility to whites and males

After the election of Donald Trump I wondered if the left would rethink blaming whites and males for the ills of the world. But they are still at it - if anything they have intensified their efforts.

A case in point is a student group at St John's College in Santa Fe. An email was sent to all students and staff at this college advertising the new student group (see below). The email runs:
This is a group where those who most often exhibit racist and sexist behaviour - white males - can begin to be self-critical of the very dangerous, brutal and depraved hierarchical pathologies of superiority, supremacy, and inferiority handed down to us by white Euro-American institutions.

The main topic for discussion will be an ongoing one. How do we deal with the depravity of whiteness and the brutality of masculinity? How can we get to the root of this problem?

Once the email came to light, the college announced that it had erred in not suggesting edits to tone down the "inflammatory" language. But the point remains that it is now considered a leftist position that whiteness and masculinity are to be looked on negatively as pathologies. The obvious thing for whites and males to do in response is to decouple from the left.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Left finds normal things toxic

You might have heard of "toxic" masculinity. Now it seems that whiteness is also toxic, so much so that you can pay feminists $100 to be purged of it:



What will come next? Toxic heterosexuality? Toxic fatherhood? Toxic motherhood? Toxic beauty? Toxic goodness?

Thursday, March 02, 2017

You can determine your own sex now?

This is something that seems crazy but is actually a logical application of liberal first principles.

Here are some excerpts from an interview (video below) between Tucker Carlson and a senior adviser to the Democrats, Zac Petkanas.

It begins with Carlson raising his concerns about the liberal attitude to how we identify as male or female:
Carlson: There’s no biological anchor to sex anymore. It’s all determined by the individual. So my obvious question for you is, how do I know if a person’s male or female? Is there some absolute standard people have to meet to be male or female, other than what they say?

Petkanas: One’s gender identity is enough to show what gender they are.

Carlson: Is there a scientific standard?

Petkanas: Your gender identity determines your gender. Period.

Carlson: As an apparent man, if I say I'm a woman is that enough, do I meet the standard, as a woman to play in a woman's sports team?

Petkanas: Yes. The answer is absolutely yes.

Carlson: I want you to name a single scientist, just one, who says you can determine your own sex just by saying so.

Petkanas: You clearly have some issues around this.

So the Democrats are committing to the idea that I can be considered a woman as long as I say that I identify as a woman even if I am biologically a man. If I say that I am a woman, then I can play on a woman's sports team, even if I am tall, muscular, broad-shouldered, bearded and biologically male.

It was predictable that this would happen. After all, liberals believe that the primary good in life is a freedom to self-define or self-determine. Therefore, the idea that something as important as my sex is predetermined by biology is a radical limitation on my individual freedom. Better, from the liberal point of view, if there are many sexes and if my sex identity is fluid and self-determined.

So you have to go one of two ways. If you want to stick with the liberal first principle, then you have to accept a future in which the idea of many sexes and self-determined sexes will be pushed on society. Alternatively, you can reject the consequences of liberal thinking about the sexes, which means challenging the assumptions on which liberal thinking is based.

If you take this second option, then you cannot view a freedom to self-define as always and everywhere the overriding good. You must, instead, be able to discern goods that are already there - that are given to us - as part of the created nature that we inhabit.


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Liberalism, honour, witchcraft and the no harm principle

American singer Lana del Rey has joined a movement of witches who are placing spells on Donald Trump. On reading this story I discovered that the key moral principle of witches is the Wiccan Rede, this being "An it harm none, do what ye will" - or in modern English, "Do what you want, as long it doesn't harm anyone".

This is striking, as it is also a key moral principle of liberal modernity. The idea itself goes back a long way. Rabelais, a French writer of the Renaissance, wrote (in the 1500s) of an ideal community based on the principle:
Do What Thou Wilt, because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour.

The idea here is that gentlemen, at least, can be free to choose in any direction because they will by nature choose what is honourable.

John Stuart Mill, the English liberal, had much the same idea in the mid-1800s, although he added to it by suggesting that all social classes could be educated to the level of being gentlemen. He also emphasised the "no harm" principle that had been clearly stated by the French revolutionaries in their Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789:
Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.

History has made clear that John Stuart Mill was wrong. We have had high levels of education in the West for many decades, but the level of gentlemanly honour has dramatically fallen rather than risen. One of the reasons for this is that people are generally much more attentive to the idea of "do what you want" rather than the condition "as long as it doesn't harm anyone".

Why doesn't the "no harm" clause work in practice? One problem is that people are able to rationalise away the harm that their decisions create. A woman might choose, for instance, to divorce her husband, thereby dissolving her family. Clearly it has a considerable effect on those around her. But she might say to herself "the children will be better off if I'm happy". Or "we will still be a family, all of us, I'll just be living with another man." Angelina Jolie took this line recently about her decision to divorce Brad Pitt:
'I don’t want to say very much about that, except to say it was a very difficult time and we are a family, and we will always be a family,' she said, visibly emotional.

'My focus is my children, our children,' she explained to the BBC.

'We are and forever will be a family and so that is how I am coping. I am coping with finding a way through to make sure that this somehow makes us stronger and closer,' she said.

In her mind, she can choose to divorce but not dissolve her family, in fact the divorce will make her family stronger and closer.

But even when there is no rationalisation, even when the harm is admitted, the no harm principle is pushed aside. Dalrock recently had a post about an American woman who decided to divorce her husband and who justified her decision using the following lines from her favourite author, Cheryl Strayed:
Go, even though you love him.

Go, even though he is kind and faithful and dear to you.

Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his.

Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him.

Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.

Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three.

Go, even though you once said you would stay.

Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone.

Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does.

Go, even though there is nowhere to go.

Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay.

Go, because you want to.

Because wanting to leave is enough.

This is so interesting, because the last line clearly states that "do what thou wilt" is enough of a justification, that you don't need to meet the moral condition of "do no harm."

Obviously, the instinct to honour is not strong enough in many people to hold them to virtue or to moral duty. They follow instead an individualistic impulse to follow "their own good" even if this harms others.

And here's the thing. Rabelais defined honour quite well: "an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice." But why not then encourage people to act virtuously? If you tell people that the moral thing is "to do whatever you want" it suggests that standards of virtue don't exist and that one act or choice is as good as another.

In other words, the "do what thou wilt" slogan is "de-moralising" - it places people in a moral vacuum, an empty moral landscape. Little wonder then that people lose some of the moral strength to do the right thing by others.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sydney Trads publish my poem

Sydney Trads asked me if I had ever dabbled in poetry. Dabbling is all I've done (wrote two poems last year). Still, they were kind enough to agree to publish a few of them. The first one is here.

Amerika interviews Mark Moncrieff

I was pleased to see Mark Moncrieff getting some much deserved exposure at the Amerika website. He is interviewed there about his traditionalist politics - he acquits himself very well. Worth reading.

(Mark Moncrieff runs the Upon Hope website and is a Co-Convenor of the Melbourne Traditionalists.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Marine vs Merkel

Marine Le Pen went to the EU Parliament and tore into Angela Merkel. An eloquent takedown: