Thursday, July 27, 2017

freedom - a good thing or a bad thing?

Everybody seems to agree that freedom is a very fine thing. “Conservatives” love talking about it. Libertarians get terribly excited by the idea. But what exactly does freedom mean, and are we quite sure it’s always a good thing?

If freedom means being able to do whatever you want then it seems to me that the only people in our modern world who are completely free are the billionaires. They are not constrained by financial necessity, or by the government (they own the government) or by the law (they own the law). A billionaire can wake up in the morning knowing that he can do absolutely anything he chooses to do that day.

For most people waking up in the morning means having to go to work, more often than not to a job that they hate. If you’re a wage slave you don’t really have freedom.

Free marketeers think economic freedom solves everything. The free market is kind of like magic.

Libertarians think freedom is great, unless one person’s freedom infringes another person’s freedom. 

The problem is that libertarians, and most liberals, do not understand how society works. It’s all very well to say that everything should be permitted unless it directly harms someone else but that overlooks the fact that so much of the harm done is done indirectly. If homosexuality is celebrated and children are taught in school that being homosexual is fun and liberating and cool and absolutely healthy and natural then how exactly am I going to raise my kids in such a way that they will recognise the dangers of what is actually a profoundly unnatural and unhealthy lifestyle? If every TV show and every Hollywood movie as well as the schools pushes the message of feminism how can I protect my daughter from a poisonous ideology that would condemn her to a life of anger and misery?

Freedom isn’t straightforward and it isn’t always good. 

Do people even want freedom? Today every child is free to choose any one of fifty-seven gender identities. When I was a child there was no such thing as gender, except as a grammatical term. There were two sexes, male and female, and whichever one you were born into you might as well make the most of it because it couldn’t be changed. In this case freedom just leads to insecurity, confusion and unhappiness. Maybe people are better off without some freedoms.

Today everyone is free to choose to indulge in a wide variety of sexual perversions. Strangely enough those who choose such perversions don’t seem to be particularly happy. They have high suicide rates and high rates of alcohol and drug abuse. Perhaps this sort of freedom is not a good thing?

Of course we have political freedom and no-one doubts that that is a good thing. If we don’t like the way Tweedledee is governing us we can throw him out and put Tweedledum into office.

On the whole I’m pretty dubious as to whether people really want freedom. What people want, more than anything else, is to belong. In order to belong they want to conform. This is in fact perfectly natural. Traditional societies weren’t very big on freedom but they were very good at giving people a sense of belonging. Not just belonging to a nation state but to an ethnicity, to a regional community, to a local community, to a religion, to a family. It seems to be the case that the more freedom you have, the less sense of community you have. Freedom tends to weaken social bonds. The entire history of liberalism is based on the belief that freedom is more important than social cohesion. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I’m inclined to think that freedom is a rather tricky thing. Sometimes it turns out to be an illusion. Sometimes it comes at a high price. 

Looking at our society today, maybe freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

From Bauhaus to Our House

Tom Wolfe’s delightfully savage 1981 account of the rise of modern architecture, From Bauhaus to Our House, remains as relevant today as ever. Most of all it provides a fascinating insight into the bizarre and disturbing ways in which cultural elites work.

The roots of the horror that is modernist architecture go back to the early years of the 20th century, a time when the worlds of art, literature and music were all beginning to embrace the cult of modernism. In architecture things really got going when Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus. 

Of course no-one actually wanted the bleak, depressing and ugly architecture promoted by the Bauhaus. The only clients these architects got were socialist governments wanting to build housing for the workers. The workers, naturally, were not asked how they felt about having to live in these architectural horrors.

Modernist architecture got its big break when suddenly these European architects, people like Gropius and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, arrived in the United States as refugees in the 30s. As Wolfe puts out, they were welcomed like great white gods who had consented to come down to earth and dwell among mortals. American architectural schools were falling over themselves to employ these godlike beings and young American architects eagerly abandoned any thought of trying to create distinctively American architecture in favour of a slavish colonial devotion to whatever the Europeans told them was the latest thing.

The result of all this was the abomination that became known as the International Style. Boxes. Boxes of glass, steel and concrete. 

The Bauhaus had been a kind of arty compound, cut off from the real world. The emphasis, as with modernist painting, was on theory. It was not necessary for the Bauhaus architects to have the buildings they designed actually built. Buildings that only ever existed on paper were just as good as real buildings. This emphasis on theory was something they brought to America with them. Getting academic posts was what counted. Once the modernists dominated the schools they could ensure that the International Style became the only approved style. It was the new orthodoxy and it was to be enforced.

An exclusive focus on theory was of course the hallmark of modernism in every field.

The horrors of modernism are of course mostly avoidable but architecture is kind of hard to avoid. People could not be forced to enjoy modernist paintings or modernist music but they could be forced to live and work in the soul-destroying boxes of modernist architecture.

Having done a brilliantly effective hatchet job on the modernists Wolfe then turns his attention to the post-modernists and proceeds to savage them as well, and rightly so.

In politics there is no weapon quite so devastating as ridicule and Wolfe is the master when it comes to wielding that particular sword. He’s in top form here. From Bauhaus to Our House is a very very funny book. Not just amusing but laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s not just funny, it offers extremely perceptive and important insights into the ways in which political and cultural elites operate. Wolfe understood right from the start just how vital cultural and artistic battles are.

Monday, July 24, 2017

winning with emotional arguments

I’ve been watching the culture wars with great interest for many years now. I’ve watched as social conservatives have lost every single battle. It’s been clearly obvious that the social conservative arguments are more sensible and more coherent but it hasn’t done them any good at all.

The mistake social conservatives have made is to think that if their arguments are true, and prudent, and properly thought-out, and logical that they will automatically prevail. It doesn’t work that way. The argument that will prevail is not the one based on truth and experience and common sense. The argument that will prevail is the one that is most emotionally satisfying.

This gets back to my post of a couple of days ago about emotional intelligence versus rational intelligence. If you want to get your message across to women you have to rely on emotion. But then that’s also true in the case of a very large proportion of men.

This is especially true in the case of political disputes, which tend to be complex. Arguments about social engineering and “social justice” are particularly complex because it’s necessary to weigh up not only the costs and benefits for the individual but also those for society as a whole, and to consider long-term as well as short-term effects, and to consider indirect as well as direct effects. This is all very complicated and confusing so most people will go for the argument that has been most skillfully presented and that feels true emotionally.

Social conservatives (and economic conservatives also) have had difficulty making their arguments emotionally attractive. The arguments of social radicals and SJWs sound wonderful on an emotional levels - they’re all about love, and caring and sharing, and equality and fairness. Their arguments are also progressive (we know their arguments are progressive because they keep telling that they are) and who doesn’t want to be seen as progressive?

There are two further factors that explain the dismal outcome of the culture wars to date. These are factors that can effectively cripple any political or social campaign. The first is to be made to look mean and nasty. The media has had extraordinary success in making conservatives appear to be a bunch of bad old meanies. In fact of course many economic conservatives really are mean and nasty and social conservatives have never realised that it would be wise to distance themselves a little from the economic conservatives. Portraying social conservatives as nasty hate-filled bigots has been an effective weapon used against us in the culture wars.

The second weakness of social conservatives has been just as deadly. Our enemies have consistently managed to make us look ridiculous. Mockery is one of the most potent of all political weapons.

So what can we do about all this? In truth, not much. It would have been nice if social conservatives had learnt to fight effectively 40 years ago but they didn’t. Now the SJWs have complete control of the megaphone. Even so, if we’re hoping to continue the fight we have to learn to fight to win. We need to find ways to make our arguments effective on an emotional level, and to avoid reliance on rational arguments which tend to make us look cold and heartless. 

It’s a losing strategy to oppose immigration on rational grounds. You’ll simply be portrayed as an evil racist, Literally Hitler in fact. You have to find ways to make immigration sound unfriendly and threatening and to make opposing immigration sound humane and enlightened. You can’t fight social issues on rational grounds because that makes you an evil misogynist. You have to find ways to make traditional values, like marriage and motherhood, sound emotionally appealing and to make the feminist obsession with careerism sound depressing and empty. You have to find ways to make heterosexuality (otherwise known as normal sexuality) seem exciting and appealing.

One thing the alt-right has realised is the importance of mockery. It’s been their biggest single contribution and it’s by no means negligible. The alt-right has also had some success in making the idea of being right-wing seem cool and glamorous. Social conservatives need to take note.

I have no idea whether the ideas I’ve suggested would work. But one thing I’m sure of. They couldn’t possibly fail more completely than the strategies used to date.

Friday, July 21, 2017

women, Christianity, superstition and heresy

The latest post at Oz Conservative, Male dominion, magical women, is extremely interesting and there have been a couple of interesting comments as well. It’s one of those posts that makes you think about an issue in an entirely new way.

There’s firstly the issue of whether women who conform to the traditional Christian virtues deserve to be considered to be “the crowning achievement of divine creation,” something that Mark quite rightly has some doubts about. He also mentions the extraordinary female attachment to bizarre beliefs in things like the Tarot and various forms of fortune telling. These are things that 99 percent of men would regard as laughable and nonsensical superstitions but a frightening number of women believe in such superstitions. What is really worrying is that extremely intelligent women are still quite capable of believing in stuff like astrology.

It’s another example of the profound difference between male intelligence and female intelligence. Men have the ability, to a large degree, to separate belief from emotion. Men tend to believe in objective truth, and they believe in weighing up evidence. Women believe in emotional truth. If it feels true then it is true. Of course this is a generalisation. But generalisations can be very useful things as long as you remember that they are generalisations and I think that this particular generalisation is both useful and mostly accurate. Certainly my own experience of women suggests that women do not perceive truth the way men do. 

I’m not suggesting that women are dishonest in this regard. It’s just the way they’re wired. They find it exceptionally difficult to make non-emotional judgments. Of course if society was still organised on the basis of traditional sex roles this would not matter, since in their proper domestic sphere emotional intelligence is a major asset. It becomes a problem when women take on roles for which they are unsuited, such as political leadership, where their emotional intelligence is almost certainly going to lead to disaster.

A commenter named Bruce added something that had never occurred to me before but which may well be very very important. He said that 

“...Christian women, at least the ones I know, are far more likely to claim that their decisions are based on direct conversations they have with God. They tell me that they literally speak to God and he speaks back - either in the form of "whispers" or direct conversation that they literally hear. I almost never hear Christian men claim this sort of thing.”

I think that this may explain a great deal about the current disastrous state of Christianity in the West. It seems quite possible that the female experience of religion is entirely and radically different from the male experience. For women religion may well be purely an emotional thing. That could be why women seem to be unworried by the widespread acceptance of heresy by Christian churches - women simply don't care about theology or doctrine at all. Men will often choose a religion, or reject one, because there is a key point of doctrine that they simply cannot accept. It seems likely that for women what matters is whether a particular religion or a particular denomination seems to them to be emotionally true. Which means that as long as they get the emotional buzz they'll accept any heresy.


This is certainly a very powerful reason to oppose the ordination of women and to oppose vigorously the appointment of women to any position of authority within the Church. Women are unlikely to oppose heresies or abominations like homosexual marriage because it simply doesn’t matter to them if such things are explicitly forbidden by scripture or by the historical teachings of the church. What matters are feelings.

A church dominated by women is inevitably going to drift towards heresy and doctrinal incoherence but it’s also going to drift towards New Age-y wallowing in superstitious wishful thinking or equally dangerous fatalism. Christianity cannot survive in any meaningful form unless men take back their proper leadership role. With women in charge Christianity is likely to do much more harm than good.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

nationalism, regionalism and localism

There are many reasons why nationalism went out of fashion in the latter part of the 20th century. One of the reasons, not usually considered, is that nationalism is in fact rather artificial. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that nationalism in practice has often been rather artificial.

The boundaries of most nation states as they exist today reflect historical accidents, military conquest, the whims of statesmen and the vagaries of long-ago dynastic politics. Most nation states are not organic ethnostates. Some European nations are true ethnostates. Poland for example, although that’s largely the result of some brutal ethnic cleansing after the Second World War. More typical are countries like Switzerland, Belgium and the United Kingdom - different and not always compatible ethnicities forced together for reasons that may have made sense centuries ago. The Swiss had their reasons and due to their federal system their country has succeeded. The United Kingdom has been less happy. The Welsh, the Cornish, the Irish and the Scots were all incorporated, very unwillingly, into an English-dominated state. As for Belgium, no-one really remembers why anybody thought Belgium was a good idea.

Even nations like Germany and Italy were (before they chose to commit suicide) not quite the straightforward ethnostates they seemed to be. To make those countries work strong regional identities had to be crushed. Prior to unification Germans had a sense of German-ness but Bavarians also had a sense of Bavarian-ness and Swabians had a sense of Swabian-ness. Northern and southern Italians retain some degree of regional identity, hence the push for independence for northern Italy.

The strongest ties of identity that we have tend to be local. Regional ties can be strong also. National ties can be more problematic. If a nation isn’t an ethnostate then there’s nothing really substantial to unite the population. Attempts to construct nationalism on the basis of “shared values” or “civic nationalism” have been dismal failures. There aren’t any shared values any more, and there never were.

It’s a particular problem for artificial nations like Australia, Canada and the United States. Australia really has no sense of national identity at all. One was perhaps starting to emerge in the first half of the 20th century but the tidal wave of American culture that engulfed us after the Second World War put an end to that. We don’t have regional identities either. The US does seem at one time to have had strong regional identities but they have been fairly relentlessly crushed by the monolithic trash culture of Hollywood, social media and pop music.

Nationalism is certainly preferable to globalism, but perhaps it’s not a complete answer. Whether regionalism or localism would be any more successful in resisting globalism is of course another matter.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

censorship and the sexualisation of pop culture

The process of dismantling censorship began during the late 1950s. It gathered stream during the 1960s and by the beginning of the 70s it seemed like most of the barriers had come down. There was resistance but at the time it didn’t seem likely to be all that disastrous. It was a classic example of the workings of the slippery slope.

In 1967, President Johnson established the National Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. The commission came to the conclusion that pornography was pretty much harmless. Given the amount of pornography around at the time, and the type, this conclusion might well have been quite reasonable. I’m inclined to think that girlie magazines and similar material really were pretty harmless. The trouble is that old slippery slope. The commission could not have predicted the explosion of hardcore porn in the US from the early 70s onwards, the rise of home video at the end of the 70s and the later advent of the internet, all of which changed not only the type of pornography that was around but much more crucially led to dramatic increases in both the quantity and the ease of access.

While I admit that pornography today is a problem I’m actually much more concerned by the ways in which porn has seeped into the mainstream popular culture. The relaxation of censorship allowed pop culture to become incredibly sexualised. While you still have to make a conscious effort to seek out pornography pop culture is inescapable. This has consequences when it comes to children. The average 13-year-old girl is very very unlikely to go looking for internet porn but she is going to be exposed to pop music, to popular movies, to TV, to the social media culture. All of which are awash with sexuality, mostly of a fairly unhealthy variety. Take your daughter to a Disney movie and she’ll be exposed to homosexual imagery, and this in a movie clearly aimed at children.

It’s not so much the explicit content that is the problem, it’s the attitudes. Young women are being encouraged not just to behave sexually like men, to behave sexually like homosexual men. As explained in a recent horrifying post at The Knight and Drummer Teen Vogue is encouraging your teenage daughter to explore the wonderful world of anal sex. Sexual perversion is being normalised and while porn has played a part in this it’s the mainstream pop culture that is doing the greatest harm.

I do have some sympathy with the idea that maybe censorship should not have been relaxed anywhere near as much as it was but any attempt to reintroduce meaningful censorship will be futile unless it targets that mainstream popular culture. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

why male privilege is a good thing

We are constantly told how men enjoy male privilege and how that’s a terribly evil thing. Men who hold conservative beliefs usually disagree although it’s depressing to note that these days most “conservative” men respond to the charge with groveling apologies. Those men who have not yet been completely emasculated do disagree but they almost invariably commit major errors in the way in which they do so. They make major concessions to feminist arguments right from the outset, accepting the pernicious doctrines of gender equality. Sad to say even some traditionalist men make this mistake. It’s interesting to note that women who reject feminism are often less inclined to make these sweeping concessions.

The fact is that male privilege is a good thing. It’s a very good thing. It’s an essential component of any traditionalist value system, although male privilege is not what most people think it is.

Men and women both have certain duties, certain responsibilities, certain rights and certain privileges and these reflect their differing social roles.

Men have always had a duty to protect women. They have always accepted this responsibility, often at great danger to themselves, often at the cost of their own lives. They still do so. Women used to understand this but today most women seem scarcely even aware of such a basic reality.

Men have also always had a duty to provide for women. Men did not go to work for fun. Unlike female work, which all too often involves nothing more than drinking coffee and talking, male work tends to involve actual work. You often get your hands dirty, sometimes you get injured, sometimes you even get killed. Women do not often get injured in workplace accidents, mainly since they’re unlikely to suffer anything worse than a paper cut. 

Historically women often made a direct economic contribution but it was a secondary contribution. A woman’s duty lay mostly in the domestic sphere, playing a nurturing role to both her husband and her children. This was an equally vital task, but it was very different from the tasks assigned to men.

This setup worked because it was not based solely on duty. It was an interlocking system of duties and privileges. Men took on the dangerous and often exhausting task of protecting and providing for their women, as well as the tasks of leadership in the society. In return they received certain privileges. They were entitled to exercise authority. Women kept house for them, reared their children and provided them with emotional support. This emotional support (and this will enrage feminists) included sex. This was male privilege.

Women took on the tasks of child-rearing, keeping house and providing emotional support to their men.  In return women got certain privileges. As well as the direct advantages of protection and financial support they got to be treated with courtesy and respect and they got a very high social status. They were entitled to be treated as ladies. That was female privilege.

Women still expect to receive female privilege but in the long run society is unsustainable without male privilege as well. Male privilege is a necessary condition for having civilisation.