Friday, 26 March 2010

One Generation of Tlonists4: Liberalism: Back to the Future





I. Liberal Stance

I am a liberal. It’s painful to admit in this day when a liberal can mean someone who wants to sell children (Rothbard), a drivelling neo-liberal oaf (Timothy Garton Ash), someone who thinks it’s sexist to laugh at Sarah Palin for thinking Africa is a country (Bidisha) or someone who writes self-help disguised as political discourse (uh, practically every liberal journalist I can think of).

Yet I define myself as a liberal the way that I define the term liberal: someone who is sceptical of corporatism whilst appreciating the benefits of a capitalist society, someone who is sceptical of the government as a militaristic force whilst appreciating its role in creating infrastructure and protecting its citizens and someone who reveres religion as a spiritual force whilst disliking theocratic forms of government.

However, using this form of definition, very few ‘liberals’ are in any way liberal. In fact the chief characteristic of our dominant ideology ‘neo-liberalism’ is an open-mouthed awe of business combined with an open-mouthed awe of the big brother state and an ambiguous attitude towards religion: turning a blind eye to fundamentalists in Bosnia, 'Kosovo', Israel and the USA whilst being highly critical of Apostolic Christianity.

Yet who am I to deny that they are liberal?

II: Madness gone Politically Correct

One area where I disagree with the mainstream left/liberals is political correctness. It does exist. It is annoying. And we have to get rid of it if we want to live in a free country.

Ironically enough, two East European friends of this blog, Bogdan and Leos, would entirely agree with me, and are very careful to separate British culture of hospitality for immigrants from the brutal ideology of political correctness.

Don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who leaves comments under ‘Love thy Neighbour’ clips on youtube, saying that there is a barbaric leftist conspiracy to keep this work of Chekhovian brilliance from our TV screens (though admittedly I have come close to saying ‘I can’t be homophobic, I love Mr Humphries and Liberace’). Yet I do think leftists have to stop supporting measures like all-women shortlists, and using the state to force B&B owners and Churches to accommodate gays (whilst at the same time I think that the state should never discriminate against homosexuals and have signed Avaaz letters to this effect). Furthermore, I dislike the way that some on the blogosphere try to shut down debate on immigration by saying that this is racist. I do support large immigration, but this is not the same thing as uncontrolled, unregulated immigration which often affects the poorest people in Britain and the USA.

However, I would point out that political correctness (which I would define as calling someone bigoted based on inference) is far from being uniquely left-wing. The smearing of Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic is equally an example of political correctness. As is accusing people of ‘Anti-Americanism’ for not liking neo-cons.

The French generally do not have a ‘political correctness’ movement and their country is not only more robustly intellectual but it also has a stronger left-wing movement, which is currently giving Sarko a kick in the derriere.

Maybe this is partially a heritage from their 9th Century liberals, especially Alexis De Tocqueville who introduced a kind of liberalism that was founded in scepticism rather than awe for institutions. Modern liberalism has come to disguise awe as scepticism. We need unregulated corporations to protect us from the state. But we also need a surveillance state to protect us from terrorism.

III: Protests not Prozac

Another more institutionalised problem with modern liberalism is that it has become a branch of the self-help industry. Many liberals don’t raise awareness of issues due to genuine scepticism and concern, but because they want to see themselves in a positive light.

Subsequently they will beat their chests in agony at the fate of the third world and join in condemning anyone who stands up to the corporations and sweatshops. Just look at Te Graun’s coverage of Venezuela and Russia and The Independent’s coverage of Russia. Avaaz's blog wrote a disgraceful apologetic response to Saakashvilli's bombing his own people: some countries are too big and white to get much support from the human rights community.

Modern liberal third-worldism can roughly be defined thus: We want the third world to break free of Western exploitation, but don’t want ‘burgeoning dictators’ like Hugo Chavez to save them because some rich well-dressed cool people like us don’t like him so it wouldn’t give us such a great narcissistic hit. We’re waiting for the good fairy to come along and stop third-world exploitation. Until then we'll attack poor people for not wearing tailored clothes but garments made in sweatshops, using the phrase ‘high street fashion’ to imply they buy clothes in Primark because they think it’s so much cooler than M&S.

Subsequently whilst many people regard themselves as liberals, they are considerably less liberal in practice than they are in theory. It seems whenever the USA supports ‘humanitarian intervention’ a chunk of the left will always break off like ice from a melting glacier to praise the bombing of a foreign nation. Not because they have had some conversion experience, but precisely because supporting a military campaign provides an easy source of flattery that will satisfy their pre-existing narcissistic desire to be seen as 'muscular' defenders of liberty, bursting with 'moral courage'.

Another way in which this manifests itself is a curious attitude towards religion: Bosnians and Albanians can be as fanatical as they want (as can Israelis for many liberals). But Apostolic Christianity is attacked as backwards and 'right wing'.

This is most evident from how much of the modern left frames the abortion debate. I have not seen a single credible argument why an unborn child should not be regarded as a human being with full rights. Yet if you express these views, it is taken for granted this is a sign that you are 'right wing' and 'misogynist'. I don't think a lot of left-liberals realise how unpleasant the pro-abortion debate actually is in many countries. Roe v Wade was passed during Nixon's time and the Republicans have been in power almost constantly since then. Yet they tolerate abortion because most of the children aborted are (sotto voce) black. Similarly in Europe the argument is often put forward that crime is reduced by abortion. And let's not get started on the BNP's attitude as to who should and should not be born.

Yet this simplistic left/right liberalism has infected even Christianity in Britain. Just look at Ekklesia's coverage of the BNP. Does it mention that the BNP is diametrically opposed to Apostolic Christianity not just because racism is contradictory to the Bible but because the BNP take a Malthusian and bigoted approach to bio-ethics and support eugenics? Why, no. They are afraid that the BNP might try to make cause with pro-life groups and 'conservative' Christians. After all five (get that, FIVE) Reverends were on the BNP's member list.

Whilst this is a low number it probably seems gigantic to Ekklesia for a simple reason. Reverends are (sotto voce again) middle class, and surely that type have no place in the BNP which every smug liberal knows is about to be elected by tens of millions of working class voters?

That Malthus was himself an upper-middle-class theological liberal will probably not seem too ironic to them.

IV: What is to be Done

If Tlonists regard themselves as liberal then ironically enough the collapse of many ‘liberal’ newspapers is ironically great news. It is unfortunate that we cannot send torpedoes into the sinking wreck that is The Independent and laugh at those asking for a bail out (Indy journalist Johann Hari criticised Israel for praising ‘Vladimir Putin's approach to Chechnya in the 1990s. One third of the civilian population died’ and also thinks that the state should be subsidising him for writing this dishonest Russophobe drivel).

Instead we have to look forward to the internet and backwards towards great liberal writers such as Herzen and Tocqueville.

15 comments:

  1. >>Yet I define myself as a liberal the way that I define the term liberal: someone who is sceptical of corporatism>>

    Please clarify what you mean here by corporatism? Is it of the Hobbes-Social Contract/FDR-New Deal kind, or the recent prevalence of big-business corporations?

    >>Yet I do think leftists have to stop supporting measures like all-women shortlists,>>

    Indeed. Jobs should be decided on merit. The Conservatives and Labour both now operate on these terms; unsure about the LibDems. The Greens (of whom I am a member) I am unsure of but suspect and hope not.

    >>and using the state to force B&B owners and Churches to accommodate gays>>

    Discrimination should be tackled; I do not think the Church should be able to use the criteria of sexuality to judge who can be a priest, or who can marry. Active discrimination should be combatted, allowing a level playing field; however, I would not favour a policy of forced compulsion, i.e. that B&B proprietors *have* to actively entice gays, Churches have to positively discriminate in favour of gay priests.

    >>Furthermore, I dislike the way that some on the blogosphere try to shut down debate on immigration by saying that this is racist.>>

    Hear-hear. Whilst many do approach the issue from at least a xenophobic POV, the left simply has to join the debate, rather than attempt to shut it down. The argument is there to be won from the Green-Left perspective; i.e. rapid expansion of our population is not sustainable, so we must have some limits imposed. Whilst the left has shut down debate in the sense you say, the right is detached from reality in that it doesn't identify global capitalism as the main driver behind high levels of immigration. The 'metropolitan elite' and an ill-defined 'left' is blamed; larger forces are at work.

    >>I do support large immigration, but this is not the same thing as uncontrolled, unregulated immigration which often affects the poorest people in Britain and the USA.>>

    Well said on that last point.

    >>However, I would point out that political correctness (which I would define as calling someone bigoted based on inference) is far from being uniquely left-wing. The smearing of Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic is equally an example of political correctness. As is accusing people of ‘Anti-Americanism’ for not liking neo-cons.>>

    Again, fully agreed. Most people in Britain seem to conceive PC as a trivial irritant rather than a closing down of free speech, which it can often become in the cases you cite.

    >>The French generally do not have a ‘political correctness’ movement and their country is not only more robustly intellectual but it also has a stronger left-wing movement, which is currently giving Sarko a kick in the derriere.>>

    Agreed, to a large extent. Though what do you say of the aggressive secularism shared by right & left, regarding the muslim veil?

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  2. >>Modern liberal third-worldism can roughly be defined thus: We want the third world to break free of Western exploitation, but don’t want ‘burgeoning dictators’ like Hugo Chavez>>

    How have the Guardian covered Chavez? I haven't really read much on him. The leftist blogosphere and some contacts 'on the ground' are on the whole very positive about him. The Guardian is often out of line with consistent left-wing thought, though, as on the Iraq War, with a minority of writers opposing it (with the likes of Hugo Young, old-style social democrat, and Paul Foot, old-style socialist - being the exceptions, both now sadly deceased).

    >> Subsequently whilst many people regard themselves as liberals, they are considerably less liberal in practice than they are in theory. It seems whenever the USA supports ‘humanitarian intervention’ a chunk of the left will always break off like ice from a melting glacier to praise the bombing of a foreign nation. [...] their pre-existing narcissistic desire to be seen as 'muscular' defenders of liberty, bursting with 'moral courage'.>>

    These people are a supposed 'left', self-annointed 'liberals'. Richard Seymour's book "The Liberal Defence of Murder" sets out a forensic, historical case against the pathetic likes of Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens, Blair etc.

    >>the BNP is diametrically opposed to Apostolic Christianity. [...] Why, no. They are afraid that the BNP might try to make cause with pro-life groups and 'conservative' Christians. After all five (get that, FIVE) Reverends were on the BNP's member list.>>

    Fair point; core (New Testament) Christian values have more in common with internationalist socialism than rabid nationalism.

    >>Whilst this is a low number it probably seems gigantic to Ekklesia for a simple reason. Reverends are (sotto voce again) middle class, and surely that type have no place in the BNP which every smug liberal knows is about to be elected by tens of millions of working class voters?>>

    An assumption unfortunately true; the middle-class xenophobe/bigot will more likely go for UKIP/Tories. It is borne out locally as far as I can tell: the BNP has done well in deprived areas of Sunderland/Newcastle, e.g. Elswick, Hendon, Castletown, Benwell, and not Jesmond, Gosforth, Ashbrooke, Barnes...

    >>Instead we have to look forward to the internet and backwards towards great liberal books: Herzen and Tocqueville.>>

    Excellent post; you make a pragmatic and well-reasoned political and philosophical case.

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  3. @Gregor,

    Great post. The term liberal can be pretty problematic, so much so that I try not to use it, at least not without some qualifier like “neoliberal” or “classical liberal.” I think I may have the same problem with the word “conservative” that you have with “liberal.” Back when I was a hardcore Republican I had no trouble calling myself a conservative. Now I don’t think I can anymore, even though I still consider myself a conservative in a certain sense. Basically, I think “real” conservatism is defending and nurturing the best aspects of human civilization. But even that definition is not helpful because different people have different definitions of what is “good” or “bad” about civilization, so one person’s conservatism can be vastly different from another’s.

    Even within a single personality there can be contradictions. For example, I often chafe under authority and have a marked preference for informal or personal relationships as opposed to official or bureaucratic ones. But at the same time, I can’t really go back to believing in “pure capitalism” because I now think it leads to too much injustice. Plus, my religious/moralistic side does give me a kind of “authoritarian” streak as well, so I am usually pretty conservative on family or life issues, and my opposition to turbo-capitalism is at least partially based on religious and moral impulses.

    I’ve been trying to make these disparate ideas come together lately, and I have been diving into less state-oriented forms of socialism. For example, I am currently reading G.D.H. Cole’s book “Guild Socialism: A Plan for Economic Democracy,” and I like a lot of what Cole has to say. His call for worker-ownership and worker-management and his emphasis on worker creativity and happiness as opposed to mere consumption is very inspiring. Furthermore, Cole provides a powerful critique of both capitalism and state socialism, as well as representative “democracy” of the kind we still have today.

    Regarding your critique of what passes for liberalism these days, I agree. Ever notice that media coverage of protesters in other countries seems to differ based on how sexy they are? If I was the head of a political movement in some foreign country, and I wanted the Western media to have a positive view of my protests, I would pay a bunch of models to protest in the streets. Oh, and they have to use Facebook and Twitter and wear trendy clothing. I mean, who wants to see a bunch of peasants or industrial workers protest? A lot of them are probably old and out of shape and wear boring clothing.

    Good points about abortion too, another weird thing about modern liberalism. What is interesting is that so many of the more mainstream (i.e. non-eugenic, although, disturbingly even these kinds of arguments are becoming more common these days) arguments for abortion only “work” if we assume vast amounts of vicious poverty, that is, poor women who cannot support children need abortion services so they don’t go to the back-alley abortionists. But what if, as a society, we moved away from vicious poverty? I think many of the more popular “practical” arguments for abortion would vanish, leaving the selfish, capricious, or eugenic arguments left, the ones most people, even most pro-choice people, probably don’t agree with.

    ---Mr. Piccolo

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  4. I have not seen a single credible argument why an unborn child should not be regarded as a human being with full rights.

    An unborn child is not regarded as a human being with full rights because it is not an independent human being but an entity that requires a host to survive - and to give the unborn child full rights would necessarily be at the expense of the rights of its host; it would mean denying a woman her autonomy to be fully in charge of her life. If a woman chooses to have a baby it will likely completely change her life, as well as have a lasting effect on her physical being and often mental as well. But the point is that, as a human being with full rights, she has a right to choose whether she wants that or not.

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  5. @Tom

    Thank you for your comment and positive feedback. Just to answer some of your questions

    -A corporation is a legal entity that is bound above all else to make money for its shareholders. There is an excellent documentary called ‘The Corporation’ which I would recommend everyone to watch. Though I would agree that ‘corporation’ is like many other things very difficult to define.

    -Can’t really agree with you about discrimination based on lifestyle. Firstly, where do we draw the line? Secondly, when you say someone should not have the right to do something you are saying that someone should have the right to take their right away.

    -French aggressive secularism applies to all religious symbols in public buildings. The point I’d make about French secularism is that France is an overwhelmingly secular nation so I think that they have the democratic right to express this. I felt very different about that woman trying to get Italy to ban religious symbols from the classroom when 80% of Italians want their symbols left there. As for banning the chador; I find these face coverings very creepy, but then as I said, where do we draw the line and who should take away these rights?

    -The Guardian has been very negative in its coverage of Chavez: especially Max Hastings, Rory Carroll and Nick Cohen (I know, Cohen writes for The Observer, but it is the same website).

    -Interesting point about the BNP. I always thought those articles saying that the BNP were ‘left wing’ because they support renationalising the railways (cray idea, given how wonderful our privatised tracks are) were really dumb. As if someone would say ‘Being a lefty I abhor racism, but I’ll vote BNP because I think railtrack have been a disaster’. But then maybe the point is that racist middle class tax bores are deterred from voting BNP because they aren’t free market fanatics.

    Still, my point was more about the idea that vast numbers of people will vote BNP. They have benefited from apathy but seen little real increase.

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  6. @John
    Thanks for your comment. I do agree that political labels tend to be more obfuscating than clarifying. Having hear that Noam Chomsky was ‘far left’, I avoided listening to him thinking it would be a blend of statism and whinging, but in recent months have watched lots of his interviews and think that people all over the political spectrum would find a lot to agree with re his views on statism (I find his critique of Leninism and liberal bias especially interesting). However, his own place in the media proves his points: he is dismissed as a maniac by intellectual midgets.

    Perhaps because I was born in the early 80s I’ve never been tempted to see myself as a conservative because I’ve only known the Tories in that regard: a fanatical ideological party with no interest in unborn children, British heritage, culture, education, small businesses or anything but maximising profits and recklessly privatising everything.

    Good point about protests; it would be difficult to parody some coverage of these designer revolutions especially given how obviously out of touch a lot of journalists obviously are. Just look at the ‘twitter revolution’; do these journalists know just how crap twitter is? Really.

    Entirely agree about poverty and crime. Whilst poverty does not excuse crime, it is unquestionable that a society that deprives people of opportunities is deeply flawed.

    @A Sane Person
    Thank you also for your comment. I didn’t say that I haven’t come across any arguments in favour of abortion but that none of them convince me (and Anatoly Karlin made practically identical points to yours several months ago). To destroy a human life is regarded as a supreme crime and efforts to imply that differences before and after birth form a dichotomy do not convince me.

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  7. You should see Bidishas latest output. About how fairytales opress women or some nonesense.

    Frankly I think Liberals and Conservatives are just a hangover from the French revolution, or maybe I am thinking of left and right. My point is I consider myself to have aspects of liberalism and conservatism.

    In Britain we do not have a proper conservative movement. The Tories are swines, concerned with keeping the drawbridges of privelisges raised. I am talking about European style conservatism, where they are willing to have high taxes for funding public services and to create equality of opportunity, but are more conservative on social issues and less prone to grand ideological issues like political correctness and multiculturalism.

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  8. To destroy a human life is regarded as a supreme crime and efforts to imply that differences before and after birth form a dichotomy do not convince me.

    Abortion is not destruction of a human life but a potential for human life, which cannot be fully realized without the help of its host. That is why greater rights are given to the mother, than to the the fetus, at least in the first trimester. The difference is not made before and after birth, as abortion is not really allowed after the first 12 weeks unless for serious reasons (threat to mother's life, etc). So the difference is made between an undeveloped potential for human life, and a more developed or fully realized potential for human life.


    @Napoleon K.

    About how fairytales opress women or some nonesense.

    Of course fairytales don't opress women, it is only natural that little girls should be from their youngest years taught that their ultimate achievement in life should be marriage and that they are necessarily defined by their relation to men, while boys get to have stories where they actually get to do shit in life and be something.

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  9. @ A Sane Person,

    Interesting arguments, but it appears that you consider the unborn child to be something akin to a parasite. But I don't think an unborn child can be placed in the same realm as say, lampreys or tapeworms. The unborn child, by biological necessity, must develop inside his/her mother's womb. The unborn child does not latch onto the mother like a lamprey, but is the product of actions taken by the parents of the child, a child with its own distinct genetics already in the womb.

    So yes, the unborn child is still in development, but it is still a distinct human person. I am wary of arguments that try to make rights distinctions between humans with differing capacities based on biology. Once you begin to put human life on a sliding scale based on differences in biology (like the capacity to care for oneself independent of others) I think we risk dehumanizing certain people, which I think is the end result of abortion, even if pro-choicers don't think so.

    ----Mr. Piccolo

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  10. I don't think an unborn child is a parasite, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't try to derail the conversation with such remarks just because I chose to point out the biological relationship between an unborn child and the mother. I haven't reduced a child to a tapeworm just because I focused on the biological necessity that a mother is. I appologize if my choice of words offended you, but I'm not a native speaker of English so maybe certain words are not as charged to me as they are to you as I don't feel their complete meaning and all connotations. Also, only an anti-abortion proponent would go so far as to equate a fetus with people who might be at risk of 'dehumanization', but I'm sure you will never hear a pro-choice person make that connection. You have subtly implied a disregard for all human life, particularly if somehow dependand on others, on behalf of pro-choice people. I object. Pro-choice people do not advocate abortion because they are prone to reducing the humanity of those dependant on others, but because they believe in the rights of the woman to exercise her sexuality freely, like men do, without the obligation to completely change her life if that results in unwanted pregnancy (none of the methods of contraceptioin guard completely against conception, bar sterilization). Yes, a pregnancy is the result of both parents' actions, but is the sole responsibility of one parent - the other may choose if he will get involved, and when he does, he will not suffer to have his body deformed, sex life possibly impacted by the streching of the vagina, in some cases forced to give up a career to be able to be a parent etc. Women invest immense amounts of time and energy in being mothers, we should acknowledge their right to decline these responsibilities if they so wish. That doesn't mean we in any way accept the idea that people should be judged based on their biological abilities as whether fit to live or not, as you seem to imply is the end result of being pro-choice.

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  11. @NK

    Bidisha’s article on Sarah Palin put me off reading anything she wrote ever again.

    @Asaneperson

    I never said that it is easy for women to give birth or to raise children. On the contrary I think it is sad that society does not appreciate more how strong women are in caring for children at all hours of the day and night. But the position that an unborn child is not a human being has no ethical or logical basis and people almost always have a choice as to whether they want to bring a life into the world. If a man leaves children (born or unborn) that he has fathered, it is a great sin and he will be judged upon that.

    The weird thing is though, how I see some ‘feminist’ men scoffing at pro-life groups who (they say) want women to be ‘baby factories’. This seems to me far more misogynistic than saying that we should be bound to protect human life at all costs. Especially bearing in mind that the vast majority of unborn children who are killed are girls. China currently has far more boys an young men because of the number of unborn girls who have been killed.

    I have a lot of sympathy with some feminist ideas: that women should be proud to be educated and have skilled employment, that the fashion industry’s use of starved models is awful, that violence against women is unacceptable, that judging women on how they look is very unpleasant.

    However, I also think there are some serious flaws with modern feminism. Firstly it tends to blame everything on men. Whilst it is true that men have done a lot of awful things, girls and women are capable of being extremely cruel to each other, and it is predominantly girls who run anorexia sites and try to make girls feel they have to look a certain way. Of course the media tells us how men should look as well, but because men aren't interested in how their friends look, it falls on stony ground.

    Secondly, it dismisses traditional cultures without looking carefully at them. I am bicultural and really think that women (especially the elderly) are far happier in the more traditional community (and ironically enough, often have healthier attitudes towards being educated). By contrast social-liberalism has created a society where men often abandon their girlfriends, the ‘liberated’ media is often misogynistic and there is strong pressure for women to send their children to nurseries for economic reasons.

    @John
    There is a lot in what you say: Lenin was the first national leader to legalise abortion. Despite the smugness of people like Ekklesia, I think future fascist movements will be led by people who support the 'scientific' findings of Charles Murray and environmentalist neo-Malthusians
    (like Boris Johnson who thinks the world is over-populated but is most profoundly fecund; I don't think he's afraid there are too many rich toffs in the world).

    This is emphatically not to attack science: but to point out that neither liberalism nor enlightenment are the pure preserve of left-wingers.

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  12. @ A Sane Person,

    I apologize, perhaps I was rather intemperate. Still, it is difficult for me to understand how an unborn child is not a human person, and thus deserving of the right to life.

    As far as the issue of female sexual liberation, my position is that men who abandon their girlfriends when they get pregnant are scoundrels, and I have no sympathy for them. But so many of the feminist arguments in favor of abortion rights seem to imply this “all or nothing” situation, where you are either an extreme feminist or a misogynist. To be honest, I am not sure the position of “liberated” women in the rich nations is all that great. For one, it has created an increasingly vicious “battle of the sexes” atmosphere that is not conducive to a healthy society.

    Also, the emphasis on ““free sexuality” encourages people to use each other merely as pleasure objects (see the “hooking up” culture so prevalent among young adults), with no consequences for anyone, because babies can be aborted and nobody has any responsibility for their actions. This kind of attitude demeans human sexuality to the point where it becomes a form of mechanical gratification.

    Furthermore, on the issue of careers, while I am supportive of female education, it seems like some feminists believe women can only gain respect in society if they succeed in the marketplace. I find this attitude rather demeaning towards women who choose to play the important role of homemaker and mother, as so many women do or try to do now that stagnant and declining wages among working men have forced so many women to enter the competitive marketplace, even if their first calling is that of homemaker, wife, and mother. In fact, I will go so far as to say that women in “liberated” society are often only valued if they meet masculine criteria of worth. Women are only respected if they are either boardroom tigresses or sex objects. Where is the room for other visions of female worth, like those proposed by the Marian feminists?

    @Gregor,

    You are exactly right. The Leninist emphasis on “scientific socialism” where the mass of workers would be organized by technocrats into a powerful industrial army was effectively dehumanizing, as was the Nazi emphasis on biological racism and eugenics. I am supportive of science as well, but I think ethics, and ultimately law, must have the final say in where science goes in terms of its application in the real world. This is why I think materialistic ideologies cannot protect us from “science gone wrong.” Despite valiant efforts by secular humanists, I am not sure how you can convincingly have a materialist worldview and at the same time uphold the sanctity of human life. I mean, if humans are just really smart apes with no souls, why treat humans with any kind of special dignity?

    People like Charles Murray and the neo-Malthusians use “science” (Charles Murray isn’t even a natural scientist, I think he is a political scientist) to try to claim some people (usually poor and non-white) are a threat to society by their mere existence, and present such ideas as if there is nothing we can do about it except perhaps eventually getting rid of them or “phasing out” those with “incompetent cultures” as psychologist and neo-eugenicist Richard Lynn put it.

    By the way, ever notice that few neo-eugenics types are even biologists? It seems like most are psychologists with a few smatterings of social scientists here and there.

    ---Mr. Piccolo

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  13. Still, it is difficult for me to understand how an unborn child is not a human person, and thus deserving of the right to life.

    When does personhood begin? As soon as the ovum is fertilized? When there are first signs of capability of feeling sensory stimulus? When there are first signs of self-awareness? Also, what does it mean to be a person, when a non-living entity, like a corporation, is also considered person under law? What gives a person its personhood? Is the very potential of developing into a person reason enough to confer full personhood onto that biological entity and forbid its destruction? That will eventually lead us to forbid masturbation, because that is the distruction of millions of potential possibilities for personhood.

    But it is wrong to say that an unborn child is not considered a person, when it is obvious that a limit is set on to which point in the pregnancy abortion can be undertaken. The unborn child is obviously given a degree of personhood, depending on how developed it is. However, to claim that an unborn child, from the moment of its conception, must have "full rights", and at the same time ignore the fact that this also means that "full rights" are not extended to all members of the adult population (i.e. women), is hypocrticial, or at least paradoxical.

    @Gregor: you have a too simplified vision of modern feminisim. Modern feminisim is a cacophony of thought, often contradictory and often in conflict. It is impossible to reduce modern feminism to a few sentences. Feminists think, and advocate, a lot of different things. Not all women percieve men as a homogenous group, quite the opposite. Not all women represent the fight for equality as the battle of the sexes, some see it as a battle of the clasess and acknowledge the role of middle and upper class women in perpetuating inequality of lower class women. Not all women are unaware that women are equally, and sometimes even more, guilty of perpetuaing mysoginist shit. Not all are unaware of the ways our culture oppresses not just women but also men, and the way it fashions patterns of social and sexual behaviour that it imposes on both sexes. Not all women think that a woman must be everything to everyone to be empowered - in fact, many women fight vigorously against this notion. Many women assert a woman's right to choose family life over career success and still call themselves feminists. Feminists hold positions of incredible variety, some of which are strongly contradictory. Feminists fight among themselves about what practices are feminist and what practices indulge the society's objectification of women. Feminism is an extremely complex school of thought.

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  14. ps. Sorry I hijacked your comments section with this abortion thing.

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  15. @John
    I’ve noticed that as well; one of Charles Murray’s greatest defenders is Andrew Sullivan who has no scientific credentials whatsoever (and his track record of being ‘right’ really does make me wonder how smart whitey is; as does the fact that John McCain won the overwhelming majority of white male votes).

    @Saneperson

    Admittedly I did simplify what modern feminism is, but it was based on my observations on major trends (which of course has to fit a market bias to reach mainstream outlets). Comments are always welcome whether I agree or not; I do think abortion is one area where people will never convince each other but I would only delete comments that are 1) personal abuse or 2) very stupid 3) Spam.

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