The positive side of bullying

If there’s one thing that everyone seems to agree on, it’s that it is horribly, terribly wrong to bully homosexuals, where “bullying” doesn’t just mean “beating the crap out of”, but can also mean teasing, insulting, shunning, and the like.  Bullying itself is thought to be an evil thing no matter who it’s directed at (unless, of course, it’s directed at “fascists”, “homophobes”, “Islamophobes”, or other reactionaries who aren’t getting with the program fast enough).  This belief is false.  While cruelty is always wrong, some forms of bullying serve an important social function.  Ironically, it has fallen on me–who was once a small, socially awkward and deeply unpopular kid whose two great passions were physics and Star Trek–to defend it.

Every society rests on a vast concensus about meanings and roles.  We all agree on what various words mean, and that’s what allows us to communicate.  We all agree on what constitutes polite behavior, and so we know how to avoid giving offense.  We all agree to regard the dollar as valid currency, and so we are able to buy and sell.  Individualists always condemn conformity and concensus, but no decent human life could exist without it.

Concensus on social roles is crucial.  For example, there is an expectation that parents don’t have sex with their children.  This understanding ensures that physical affection between parents and children is properly understood.  Our understanding of sex comes from seeing it as something a husband and wife do that makes babies.   Sex does indeed have other meanings–it symbolize self-donation and unites husband and wife, making them a family, a one-flesh “we”–but only because the nature of the act is to embody this “we” into a new person requiring a mother and a father.  Take away the procreative telos, and the association of sex with love is arbitrary.

Someone who publicly defies social expectations is a menace to the social order.  If conterfeiters are too successful, money loses its value.  If incest gets a high profile, fathers will be afraid to hug their daughters.  If sodomites become publicly visible and accepted, sex loses its old baby-derived meanings.  Male friends or female friends avoid physical contact, afraid it will be taken “the wrong way”.  Out of politeness to lesbians, fathers are regarded as dispensible to the family.

This cannot be allowed to stand.  Against the deviants, society must reaffirm its concensus.  The individualist will ask “why?”  Why can’t individuals who disapprove of the deviants just express their private disaproval, and then live and let live?  Why must the community punish?  After all, no one is keeping the rest of them from conforming.  The reason is that it is general expectation and concensus, not just majority adherance, that allows social roles to function as they do.

Suppose there were a man, call him “Bob”, who lived in your neighborhood and worked in your office and who was an open adulterer.  He proudly tells people about all the women he’s cheated with.  None of your business, do you say?  Live and let live?  Suppose everyone at work and at home were to try this.  Everyone decides to act like Bob is absolutely okay.  This will come at a price.  Nobody can ever say or imply the moral truth that adultery is wrong without logically implying that Bob is wrong, and we can’t have that.  Commitment to marital fidelity becomes a proscribed thought, something two people can only whisper in secret.  In your effort to accomodate Bob, he has become the true master of the community and you the outsider, you the one “in the closet”.

What needs to be done?  The community must assert itself.  Somebody has to call Bob a two-timing bastard and then punch him in his goddamn face.  Then the universe will be once again set to rights.

Why to straight kids pick on queers?  Because public homosexuality threatens to rob them of the masculine and feminine roles that inform and dignify their lives.  Are they unnecessarily cruel and violent?  Often they are.  This is what always happens when private citizens take over a job that the government should be doing.  Vigilante justice is always more vicious than lawful justice.  When an adolescent boy decides he’s sexually “confused” and starts acting in a deviant way, it should be his parents and teachers that settle his confusion, telling him gently but firmly to stop acting like a fairy and be a real man.

Defenses of patriarchy on the web

There have been some nice defenses of patriarchy on the web lately (or, at least, that I found lately).

Anthony Esolen, in another of his beautiful posts, applies Josef Peiper’s writings on work and leisure to defend the vocation of housewives.

The Thinking Housewife links to a rousing defense of traditional masculine and feminine roles at Cambria Will Not Yield.

Over at Chronicles, Thomas Fleming has been giving a historical overview of the patriarchal family, taking particular attention to dismantle feminist myths:  see parts one, two, three, and four.

The Elusive Wapati presents a sociological defense of patriarchy here and here.

Laura Grace at Full of Grace, Seasoned with Salt has put together an impressive collection of excerpts from the forgotten anti-female sufferage literature:  see, e.g. here, here, and here.

Requiem for Civilization has brought together an enormous amount of material on the arguments for patriarchy.

Of course, I’m rather partial to my own defense of patriarchy.  When I wrote it, I was not aware of anyone else who was willing to defend patriarchy by name.

When people hate you

I sometimes run across the following in internet articles.  Suppose you have a society composed of a majority group G1 (usually it’s whites or Christians) and a minority group G2 (blacks or Jews).  Two commentators, A and B, both belonging to the majority group, are having a discussion.

  • A claims that members of G2 tend to have hostility towards members of G1.
  • B calls A a racist, and says that G2 are perfectly innocent victims with nothing but love for everyone.
  • A confronts B with evidence that most G2s actively hate G1s.
  • B admits that G2s hate G1s, but says that this doesn’t matter because G1 deserves the hatred it’s getting for its long history of oppressiong G2.  For this reason, members of G1 should take no measures to defend themselves, either verbally or physically.

Continue reading

Rabbi gives thumbs up to fornication and adultery

if it’s done to promote national security, that is.  A while ago, I criticized the Muslims for being soft on lechery, so I think it’s only right that I criticize the Jews too.  In fact, given the notorious Leftism of the Jews, this rabbi is to be commended for only approving fornication in such restricted circumstances.  I suppose it’s also nice that he has a slight preference for using unmarried women for these jobs.

By the way, I notice that no one at First Things seems to object to having women doing espionage work in the first place.  Another victory for sexual equality, this prostitution by the fatherland!  Real men will fight to the death to keep their women from being despoiled by enemies.  Our allies, the Israelis, on the other hand, order their women to go out and willingly be despoiled by their enemies.  What kind of men are these?

Metternich is my kind of reactionary

Go check it out.  For now, I have nothing to add.

Debating American conservatism

There have been some very nice essays lately on the web on the nature of American conservatism.  The meaning of conservatism being a major theme on this blog, of course I’m going to jump in.

Patrick Deneen presents a strong case that America has never had a genuine conservative tradition.  Our founding documents–the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, are both liberal.  The Founders were Lockean liberals.  The Constitution naturally leads to the modern centralized liberal state, as the anti-federalists correctly understood.  In a crucial part of his argument, Deneen refutes the idea that conservatism can rest on a benign moderated form of liberalism, because moderate liberalism inevitably leads to extreme liberalism.  Stephen ably summarizes Deneen’s points and then suggests communitarianism as the political doctrine worthy of conservatives’ allegiance.  By this, he means communitarianism as it should be…

“What distinguishes communitarianism is that it recognizes that the bonds that tie individuals together–religion, family, and local commitments–are good. People need limits, such as hierarchical structures and authority, in order to flourish as individuals, not lifestyle freedom.”

rather than what its proponents generally make of it.  As Christopher Lasch has pointed out, most academic communitarians abandon their own principles to support lifestyle liberalism.

Meanwhile, Maximos sympathetically reviews Leftist intellectual George Scialabba’s thoughts on conservatism.  Scialabba concludes that conservatives’ claim to defend tradition and morality are not credible, and conservatism in America is really just a defense of “privilege”.  Maximos thinks this far to simple (and not even terribly meaningful–he notes that privilege is not so univocal a thing as Scialabba assumes) and suggests that anti-communism was the driving force of the American Right.  With the Cold War over, American conservatism is in a state of confusion and drift.  This provoked a long discussion at What’s Wrong With the World, in which I contributed slightly.  In a follow-up post, Paul Cella identifies American conservatives in a Schmittian way:  they are the Americans who identify certain groups as enemies of their country, and who think that in a fight we should stick by our own.

On the other hand, Paul Gottfried, perhaps the most knowledgeable and intelligent commentator one is likely to find on the topic of the American Right, takes a possition directly opposite to Scialabba’s.  In his books on conservatism (see Jim Kalb’s review here and mine here), he argues that the problem with American conservatism is precisely that it doesn’t defend privileges.  That is, there is no class whose interests it exists to represent.  This makes it vulnerable to ideological drift, a process he has lately been reviewing in his articles on Alternative Right.  The Leftward drift has proceeded so far that Gottfried denies that the contemporary American Right, even its “extreme” forms can be called “conservative” in any historically meaningful sense at all.  As he points out

And even more outrageously, such faux conservatives accuse long-dead Democratic presidents, who were well to the right of the current conservative movement, of being more radical than they actually were. It would be no exaggeration to say that Wilson and FDR were far more reactionary than any celebrity in the Tea Party movement. One could only imagine what such antediluvian Democrats would have said if they had heard last year’s “Conservative of the Year,” chosen by Human Events, Dick Cheney, weeping all over the floor about not allowing gays to marry each other. And what would that stern Presbyterian and Southern segregationist Wilson have thought about the cult of King or the attempts by Tea Party leaders Palin and McDonnell to impose feminist codes of behavior on business and educational establishments. Wilson had to be dragged even into supporting the extension of the franchise to women.

The Tea Party sounds so often like the Left because it is for the most part a product of the Left. Its people were educated in public schools, watch mass entertainment, and have absorbed most of the leftist values of the elite class, to whose rule they object only quite selectively. From the demonstrators’ perspective, that elite isn’t patriotic enough in backing America’s crusades for human rights and in looking after the marvelous welfare state we’ve already built.

In Gottfried’s view, the main culprits of conservatism’s corruption are the neoconservatives.

The neoconservatives not only neutralized any real Right but also managed to infantilize what they took over. An entire generation of serious conservative thinkers were bounced out and replaced by either lackeys or by those who were essentially recycled liberal Democrats. The latter had recoiled from the anti-Zionist stands of the leftwing of the Democratic Party and then were given as a consolation prize carte blanche to swallow up the conservative movement.

In his attack on Red Toryism the (libertarian?) writer Jacob Levy also appeals to class ideas to define conservatism.

Liberalism (and here I include both its welfarist and libertarian variants) has been the party-idea of the rule of law, religious toleration, careers open to the talents, and markets. It represented the interests and ideas of agricultural smallholders, lawyers, religious dissenters, entrepreneurs, urban traders, merchants, and artisans, as well as the interests and ideas of a portion of the wealthier classes — particularly those involved in finance and trade, and those who were “new money.” It has also, I think, often been associated with the young and single.

Socialism has been, of course, the party-idea of economic equality within industrial society, and an equalization of power over economic decisionmaking. It quintessentially represented the interests of the organized industrial working class, and disproportionately represented the ideas of professional intellectuals and urban artists.

Conservatism is the party-idea of slowing the pace of change, of preserving order and returning to real or imagined lost virtues and communal ways of life. One part of conservatism’s base has traditionally been the armed agents of the state — the military and police. But the rest of its social base has an odd character. It is the alliance of the rural landlord and the rural peasant, of the established-church priest and his relatively poor flock. It is the party idea of resisting the changes associated with the urban middle class and working class alike, of protecting traditional ways of life (including, importantly, traditional hierarchies) against the disruptions associated with both markets and politics.

Socialism is famously ambivalent about what came to be known as capitalism, appreciating its tremendous productive capacity and disruption of old power relations, while indicting the new power relations it creates. Liberalism is committed to capitalism, in more or less restrained forms. But conservatism is bitterly anticapitalist, much as it is anti-urban and for much the same reasons.

Levy evidently despises conservatives for their concerns, thinking that the material prosperity of the 21st century completely vindicates the modern project.  Interestingly, he understands communitarianism in a way opposite to that of Stephen, namely as a project within liberalism to “round sharp corners, soften rough edges, and slow rather than reverse changes.”  Those who take ideas seriously will hope Stephen’s view gains ground.

In my essay “Can there be an American Conservatism?” I ask what about the American way of life conservatives can legitimately strive to preserve.  Is our society really liberal to the core?  I argue that, in fact, every society relies on illiberal ideas about legitimate authority and particularist loyalty, and America is no different.  I grant that there is hardly any articulated conservative tradition to speak of in America.  However, Americans abide (as they could not help but do so without losing coherence as a society) by a number of practices that imply unstated conservative principles.  Our goal as American conservatives is to defend these practices and to help our countrymen to come to a conscious appreciation of their own ultimate principles.

The abominable sin of onanism II

Forgive me as I continue on this unpleasant but necessary topic.  See part I here.

The only redeeming aspect of masturbation is that there’s so little pride mixed up in it.  Fornicators and adulterers may boast about their “conquests”, but I doubt there’s a guy on Earth who brags about how often he spanks his monkey.  I suspect that even those who indulge in this vice regularly wish that they didn’t do it at all.  It is a sin of weakness, rather than pride or malice.  A person finds himself in a situation where he expects to be deprived of a legitimate sexual outlet for a long time.  Perhaps he is unmarried, or he must live apart from his wife for months or years.  The prospect of extended celibacy rolls out before his mind.  The first week or two isn’t so bad.  Then the cravings get more intense.  He keeps catching himself staring at girls on the bus to work.  Sexual fantasies keep coming to mind during boring conferences.  He starts waking up in the middle of the night with powerful yearnings for sexual release.  He thinks to himself, “This is just going to keep getting worse and worse as time goes on.  I won’t be able to endure it for long.”

The story, I suspect, is very similar for contracepting couples.  (Indeed, the Church regards contraception and masturbation as two forms of the same sin, and the word “onanism” can refer to either.)  Some medical or financial circumstance makes pregnancy unwise.  They must either live celibately or give in to sin.  Here there is an element of pride involved, in that the husband may well come to feel emasculated at being unable to exercise his marital right.

To many, complete celibacy seems unendurable, but complete abandonment to vice seems degrading.  The idea presents itself of just engaging in nonprocreative sex acts occasionally, say once a week.  This temptation must be resisted.  If one is going to do it once a week, there’s no principled reason not to do it every day.  An arbitrary rule like this will never stand up against the body’s desires, which grow more imperious the more they are appeased.  I suspect that men who give in to onanism before marriage will find it difficult to give it up after marriage.  This vice is, after all, so much more convenient than a real woman.  It’s available any time with no potentially awkward propositioning, no emotional expenditure, no messing around with foreplay.  A man may turn to masturbation as a substitute for real sex, only to find that he has marred his soul so that real sex becomes only a poor substitute for masturbation.

What would I say to those people facing long spells of celibacy?  I know what you’re going through.  My wife and I had to go through it too, when medical considerations once forced us to delay childbearing for years.  When I say that celibacy can be endured for months or years, I know what I’m talking about.  Yes, the cravings get worse for the first few “dry” weeks, but then they level off and even decrease a little.  Your body stops throwing tantrums so much once it finds it’s not going to get its way.  This is the first key to getting through these times:  knowing it can be done and that it won’t overwhelm you.  A second piece of advice:  avoid impure thoughts as much as you can.  I wish I had followed this advice myself, because ogling girls just made things worse for me.

The most important piece of advice:  find religion.  As I say in my defense of religion

The intuition that all sin offends God also gives believers a stronger motive to avoid “victimless” crimes like non-malicious lies, use of pornography, masturbation, or disrespect toward the dead.  An atheist may realize the immorality of these things, but he would not have the same incentive to avoid them, because, after all, he wouldn’t see how they harm anyone.  The believer’s love for God gives urgency to all aspects of morality.

The best way to defeat lust, I am convinced, is to become a Catholic.  The Protestant may find motivation in his wholely spiritual relationship with Jesus, but for most people–and certainly for a statue-worshipping papist like myself–this needs to take some concrete form to seem real.  I doubt I would have endured without the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  For the Catholic, communion with God isn’t just a state of mind–given to all the vagueries of subjectivity and the possibilities of self-deception–it is something concrete, a thing that can be tasted.  If you transgress once in mortal sin (such as contraception or onanism), you break communion with God, and you don’t just know this; you experience it the next Sunday.  While you’re sitting in your pew watching everyone else move through the communion line, you are struck by the fact that you have made yourself a rebel against God and a stranger in His house, someone unwelcome at His table.  From the few times I’ve been in mortal sin in my life, I can tell you that this is a terrible feeling.  It inspires a powerful longing to be like those blessed souls you’re watching in line to receive the Lord’s body.  And so merciful is the Lord that He provides in His church a way back.  It’s not pleasant, in that it involves telling a celibate man, presumed to be holy, exactly what you did.  But the public nature of Confession, the fact that it involves another person (and through him, the whole church) makes the reconciliation seem more objective and more real.  Your absolution happens at a particular instant–it is an objective, public fact–and your restoration to communion is assured.  Once restored, you will be strongly motivated to avoid breaking communion again.  I suspect that this is the reason that the Catholic Church has remained true to traditional Christian morality while the other churches are surrendering to modernity.  It’s not that Catholics have better arguments.  It’s that no other church has the same resources to help believers endure.