Tag Archives: progressive

Our “Modern” Pagan World

If you could effectively make adoption safer and easier to effect than a chemical abortion or “emergency contraception,” you could reduce the overall demand for abortions. But it is very likely there would still be some abortions, and abortion would still have its apologists.

Because in many cases, the point of abortion isn’t just to end the inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger of a pregnancy; it’s not just to avoid the grave responsibilities of parenting a child. Instead, the purpose of the abortion is to completely extinguish the child’s moral claims on her parents.

The Claims of the Unborn

But I think we are seeing something much larger than pushback against male predation. What we are seeing in the broader culture now is something that has been evident on college campuses for some time: Women are unhappy about the state of sex and romance. They feel pressured, they feel disrespected, and they are fighting back. Sadly, our culture has so exalted sexual license that the only form of sexual conduct women are permitted to protest is coercion. It should not be surprising, then, that the terms “assault” and “rape” have been expanded beyond reasonable bounds.

. . .

Feminists hate to seem to pine for love and romance, yet their responses to Grace seem to hint at the disappointment the sexual revolution has delivered.

. . .

Or is it the sexual free-for-all they hate? Perhaps the new feminist slogan should be “Down with the sexual revolution!”

What Is the Real Message of #MeToo?

We’ve seen it happen: A new assault on the sanctity of human life appears—say, infanticide being promoted in a major bioethics journal, or officials in Iceland bragging that no children with Down syndrome are born there, thanks to prenatal genetic screening—and some horrified opponents respond in horror, “That’s what the Nazis did!” It’s an easy accusation to wield, but rarely a wise one. Often, these proposals and policies have little to do with the crimes of Hitler and his minions—and a great deal to do with the eugenicist movement that preceded them.

Take the euthanasia killings of people with disabilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada. Certain analogies to Nazi horrors spring to mind: German doctors killed disabled babies between 1939 and 1945—as is happening today in the Netherlands, despite being technically illegal. And German doctors terminated disabled adults in hospitals. In the latter example, however, there are some crucial differences. Unlike legal voluntary euthanasia of disabled people in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada, the disabled victims of the Nazis were part of mass killing experiments at the start of the Holocaust. And since people who are accused of Nazi thinking don’t appear threatening—they don’t wear “SS” insignia on tailored black leather coats or boast funny mustaches, and they haven’t swallowed the poisonous ideology of fascism—the Nazi epithet is more likely to undermine the accuser’s credibility than persuade his audience.

So, what are we supposed to do, Wesley? Ignore history? Not at all. In fact, I think a more apt thought connection to the culture-of-death practices and proposals of today can be made to the invidious beliefs that animated eugenics—a movement still disdained by most people. This analogy is less likely to be rejected out of hand.

The Deadly Legacy of Eugenics

China was supposed to have its Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962, under the leadership of Chairman Mao. That didn’t work out — Mao’s policies ended up killing about 50 million people instead. China later had its genuine Great Leap Forward after the market-oriented reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping. “To get rich is glorious,” he declared. “It doesn’t matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice.” (He was a prolific aphorist.) Deng’s program was “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which turned out not to be socialism at all. But beginning in the late 1970s, China experienced an economic boom for the ages, with economic growth averaging 9.5 percent from 1978 to 2013. In purely material terms, life got substantially better for the average Chinese and radically better for the upper middle class and elites.

China isn’t the only country that has had a period of growth like that. The old Soviet Union had one, too, beginning in the late 1920s and lasting about 15 years. Both the Soviet experience and the Chinese experience are examples of the fact that a sufficiently brutal police state can, if it implements the right policies, transform a backward agrarian economy into a modern industrial economy, generating tremendous economic growth — once. But brutal police states get it wrong as often as they get it right, hence the sorry state of Cuba, North Vietnam, Venezuela, etc.

The Great Leap Forward

What really happens when you couple [John] Dewey’s pragmatic and collectivist ideas with the value neutrality that grew out of Mann’s non-sectarianism? The product is a philosophy that sees the student as merely an animal who functions in a kind of stimulus/response/adaptation cycle. Education is tedious because its utilitarian nature subverts development of the ability to see the beauty that underlies much literature, history, and the natural sciences. At the same time, its collective nature devalues them as individuals. Their souls deadened, students see only an ugly world—one which they do not care to understand.

Progressive education has ultimately failed because its premises are anti-human. Mann’s and Dewey’s ideologies must bear much of the responsibility for the deplorable state of American public education.

How John Dewey Destroyed the Souls of Our Children

The sexual revolution has a well-known masculine bias. Though feminists have won real battles, the outcome of the war has never been in doubt. Unmooring sexuality from the home, from marriage, and from religion has benefited nobody more than lecherous, grasping men.

The two most consequential gains of the sexual revolution in my lifetime have been birth control and pornography, both of which have radically shaped the public square in the image of male desire. Both oral contraceptives and abortion have been cast as victories for female liberation, and to the degree that “liberation” means the weaponizing of our bodies against nature, this is true. But it is the men who have reaped the richest rewards (sex without children), without any of the tradeoff. Men, after all, need not concern themselves with the physiological effects of the pill, or with the surgeon’s knife, or with the risks of darkness and depression. It is the liberated women, not the men, who are asked to sacrifice their bodies for equality.

Likewise, pornography has been pitched as empowerment, the public affirmation of woman as a self-sufficient sexual being. If this is so, why are the kings of the mammoth porn industry so male? Why is Hugh Hefner lionized and eulogized as a social revolutionary, while the women in his sweatshops toil away, often at the cost of great social shaming and self-loathing? We haven’t even mentioned the porn industry’s influence on mainstream entertainment, expressed violently in the testimonies of women like Salma Hayek, coerced by Harvey Weinstein into filming a sexually explicit scene. And we could spend much time contemplating porn’s influence on the modern, Tinderized dating scene. Does the age of swipe-right sound like an egalitarian age to you? Or does it sound like a horny frat boy’s dreamland, a sex factory designed by a grown-up, amorous Augustus Gloop?

Purity and Prejudice

Loyalty to Place Can Renew American Towns

I don’t know how much anyone here knows of Batavia [New York]—I’m afraid we keep our little light well hidden under the bushel—but I will skip lightly over the first 160 or so years of our history and say only that it is rich, mythopoeic, beguilingly strange, as befits the cradle of the Anti-Masons, the first third party in American history.

Batavia was a prosperous little city, manufactory of combines and tractors and shotguns. English and Scots and Germans were the early settlers, coexisting uneasily with the late 19th-century polyglot influx of Italians and Poles. I’m a mongrel, a mixture of several of these streams—though my beloved late Italian grandmother insisted that we were “northern Italian—almost Swiss.” So in my book I gave myself license to write freely, even raucously, of the ethnic conflicts that once cleaved Batavia—but also gave it a good deal of its spice.

In some ways we were a typical small American city but in other ways we were “Batavia”—our own place. We did not yet bow down before the new American royalty: Burger King and Dairy Queen.

Then, as Joseph Heller would say, something happened. Urban renewal. My old boss Senator Pat Moynihan once said, when driving through Auburn, New York, which was decimated rather as Batavia was—I would do my Moynihan impression but I’m afraid I teetotaled at the reception—”in the 1950s, with a progressive government and newspaper, you got into urban renewal and destroyed everything of value in your town. If you’d had a reactionary newspaper and a grumpy mayor, you might still have it.” (Try to imagine any U.S. senator today saying something one ten-thousandth as perceptive.)

Batavia’s urban renewal was an act of parricide, really, unequalled this side of Rumania, where the vampiric Ceausescu once waged war on pre-communist architecture with all the decorum of Vlad the Impaler. Our city fathers rushed headlong into this mad program whereby the federal government paid Batavia to knock down its past: the mansions of the founders, sandstone churches, the brick shops of Main Street—the whole damned—or, rather, blessed—thing.

Batavia tore out its five-block heart and filled the cavity with a ghastly mall, a colossal failure built in the aptly named Brutalist style. We are used today in urban-planning texts as a case study in disaster.

The economist Martin Anderson had published The Federal Bulldozer, his scholarly demolition of urban renewal, in 1964, when so much of our city might still have been saved, but we never got around to reading that book.

Apart from the noble Landmark Society of Genesee County, organized opposition to this destruction—this wholesale vandalism—was meager. For this was “progress,” the American religion, the true and only god of the Greatest Generation, to borrow a phrase from Tom Brokaw’s ghostwriter.

. . .

If you wanna change the world you’ve gotta do it within your own ambit. Within your own circle of love. Anything grander—more far-reaching—and you’re dealing with people not as flesh and blood but as constituents, as soldiers, as abstractions, as faceless numbers on a bottom line. You wind up shipping them off to war or herding them into housing projects—always for their own good, of course. I’m not saying shun politics, but from my angle of vision, the healthy imperative is to decentralize, to devolve power to the most human scale levels: to the small community, the urban neighborhood, the family business, the individual. That will be the source of our renewal.

Loyalty to Place Can Renew American Towns

Ban Catholics from public life!

Those in England who have always worried more about Catholicism than any other religion seemed to spy in the [Pope] Benedict visit a chance to let out their fears. The railing against [Jacob] Rees-Mogg for diverging too heavily from modern values, and the suggestion he should be put out to political pasture, looks like another possible expression of such atheism-cum-anti-Catholicism.

That Rees-Mogg is being singled out for a more savage-than-usual Twittermobbing and media criticism is clear if one compares him with Muslim public figures. There are many Muslims in public life who hold similar views to his. But the likelihood of any Muslim ever appearing on the front page of the Guardian next to the word ‘bigot’ is literally zero. What we can see here is an extraordinary double standard on religion. A combination of a long-standing liberal fear and loathing of Catholicism with a censorious reluctance ever to criticise Islam, even traditional forms of Islam, means Catholics can be demonised far more harshly than Muslims for believing similar things on marriage and abortion.

Indeed, today we have the perverse situation where to criticise Islam’s repression of women is treated virtually as a speechcrime, as Islamophobia. So not only does the chattering class hold back on criticising Islam – it pressures everyone else to do likewise. How about we have a truly equal and secular form of freedom that allows all religion to be criticised, and all people to hold whatever religious beliefs they choose?

So, should we ban Catholics from public life?

See also:
– “Dianne Feinstein renews her decades-long crusade against Catholic judges
– “Dianne Feinstein and the Anti-Catholic Bigots
– “Concerns of ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ as judicial nominee questioned about faith

Why Do Progressives Hate the West So Much?

Let’s look at Mr. [Peter] Beinart’s dexterous sleight of hand a little more closely; in slow motion, so to speak. He is suggesting that the struggle of Christians against the militaristic expansion of Islam from the early middle ages right through to modern times is not merely a struggle for religious and political freedom but is “racial.” When Charles Martel, way back in 732AD, defeated an Islamist army, which had invaded Spain and most of France during the previous twenty years, advancing as far as Poitiers and Tours, he was not defending Christian civilization from a murderous military invasion but was somehow being a racist. When, almost eight hundred years later, in 1529, the people of Vienna defended their city from the siege placed upon it by the Islamic imperialist, Suleiman the Magnificent, they were not defending their homes and their families, and their faith and their freedom, they were being racist.

And what of the numerous people of impeccably non-white heritage who have fought the good fight for Christendom and have been canonized by the Church as saints? The website Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) lists no fewer than 937 of them. From an orthodox Christian perspective these saints are beacons of the West, the heroes of Christendom. It might be argued by those who are as racially obsessed as Mr. Beinart that some of these so-called black saints were from north Africa and might not be technically black but Arab. From a Christian perspective, it doesn’t matter whether they are black, white, or any of forty shades of grey in between. To be of the West is to be part of Christian civilization. It’s a question of creed, not of colour. In other words, the juxtaposition of “racial” and “religious” is not merely a sleight of hand but an outright lie.

The irony is that Mr. Beinart and his ilk are as “religious” as the rest of us. It’s just that they worship different gods. “Every president from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama emphasized the portability of America’s political and economic principles,” enthuses Mr. Beinart. “The whole point was that democracy and capitalism were not uniquely ‘Western’. They were not the property of any particular religion or race but the universal aspiration of humankind.”

In point of fact, contrary to Mr. Beinart’s belief, “democracy” and “capitalism” are uniquely “Western,” insofar as they began in the West, though they are not uniquely or originally “American” as he seems to imply, the former having its origins in ancient Greece and the latter originating in England. They are, however, not applicable to the West alone but have become global phenomena, much as Christendom has become a global phenomenon.

Why Do Progressives Hate the West So Much?

D’s and R’s….

The Democrats are torn between being the party of Elizabeth Warren and the party of the guy who cuts her grass, and it is inevitable that the people who provide the Democrats with their votes and manpower are going to eventually start asking why it is that their policy agenda, which is economically focused, is being held hostage to the excretory and sexual obsessions of a relatively tiny cabal of Wellesley graduates and puffed-up assistant vice principals.

You’d think that Republicans, who like to think of themselves as the party of economic growth and opportunity, might reach out to a few of those voters interested in upward mobility for themselves and their children. But Republicans are locked in the political toilet with the Democrats.

. . .

As it turns out, Texas Republicans have a rich fantasy life, too.

Strange Obsessions

Josh Barro is a recovering ex-Republican who is now a member of a niche political group: the non-crazy Democrats. He coined a cute phrase — “the hamburger problem” — to describe the relentless politicization of everything by progressives and Democrats. He writes, “Democrats’ problem isn’t that they’re on the wrong side of policy issues. It’s that they’re too ready to bother too many ordinary people about too many of their personal choices, all the way down to the hamburgers they eat.” He cites nonstop Democratic hectoring on, inter alia, the team name of the Washington Redskins, the way men sit on subway trains, and even some Americans’ choice not to abide by China’s one-child standard as the reasons why the party is today as electorally wobbly as Rocky Balboa in the 15th round. Yet the GOP’s success puzzles him still, because so many core Democratic cultural ideals (notably, gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization) poll more and more strongly.

When John Stuart Mill called the British conservatives “the stupidest party,” it stuck. Today the Democrats are the Annoying Party. The Left thinks Americans are picturing Mary Poppins when they talk about the nanny state; in truth, they’re thinking of Nurse Ratched. The prospect of a new set of nuisances being dreamed up and lashingly enforced by Hillary Clinton is what led voters to roll the dice with an Atlantic City grifter.

It wasn’t that long ago — say, the early 1990s — when Republicans were perceived as intruding into people’s private lives by talking about family values, saying no to drugs, and framing issues in moral terms. Today there can be little doubt that the broad American wish to be left alone is more strongly identified with the GOP, and that the Democratic party is providing a lavishly welcoming political home for the busybodies.

Professional progressives will not eliminate their hamburger problem. They can’t. Their nonstop need to hector others is fundamental to who they are. They genuinely think they’re creating a better world, one tweet or argument or angry unsolicited suggestion to a total stranger at a time.

Jonah Goldberg has been saying for years that progressives are the aggressors in the culture war. The war will never end, because whenever the Left wins a new victory, it pushes forward to the next fight, often over a policy position that would have seemed ludicrously extreme even to Democrats just a few years earlier. Because of what Jonah astutely dubbed “Selma envy,” the virtue-signaling, the marches for this or that, and the insistence on bending the arc of history toward social justice are baked into the cake that the Left demands you provide for it, on pain of destroying your business.

The Left’s ‘Hamburger Problem’ Is Not Going Away

Trump as Mr. Magoo

I’ve been writing about Chesterton’s fence for years. For those of you who don’t remember because they lost most of their memory after waking up in that dumpster handcuffed to a horse’s severed leg (or for some other reason), here’s the relevant passage:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

I reference Chesterton’s fence all the time, usually in the context of progressives who are imbued with the fierce arrogance of now. They have special contempt for tradition, custom, etc.

And that is basically the context Chesterton had in mind. But I think there’s a lesson here for Trump as well. Trump’s glandular approach to every situation is a kind of lizard-brain version of progressivism. Tell Trump he can’t do or say something and he almost instinctively does it or says it. It’s like there’s a homunculus in there screaming, “You’re not the boss of me!” 24/7. His fans love this blunderbuss approach. And whenever you criticize it, the immediate response is some version of “It got him elected!”

And it’s true: Trump has been an improviser in the grand tradition of underachievers his whole life. His entire, spectacular, run to the White House was like a running spontaneous jazz performance. And he hasn’t stopped improvising. The problem is that the White House and Washington in general are a vast maze of what might be called Chesterton’s Invisi-Fences. Unlike the original Chesterton fence, these fences cannot be seen, but they exist all the same. Some of them, of course, should probably be gotten rid of — but, again, you have to know why they’re there before you try.

. . .

Liberals are still convinced Trump is some kind of autocrat-in-waiting. And he may well be in his heart. But the would-be autocrats who actually become real-life autocrats only achieve success because they are popular and know how to manipulate the system from within — and because they did their homework. That’s not Trump. Yes, he’s violating democratic and political norms, but he’s not doing it according to some master plan like an Erdogan or a Putin, he’s doing it more like a weird hybrid of Mr. Magoo and Chauncey Gardiner.

Anything Goes in Our New Bro Age

“Science” and Power

The Indiana Jones heuristic — the search for fact is science, the search for Truth is philosophy — can go only so far in finessing the inherent conflict between science, which is organized around assumptions of objectivity, and the poisonous identity politics holding as its fundamental principle that everything is subjective.

. . .

But if it were really about science, we’d be hearing more from scientists and less from people who have batty, superstitious attitudes about modern agriculture and evidence-based medicine. You will not hear Democrats complaining about the fact that the Affordable Care Act clears the way for subsidizing such hokum as acupuncture and homeopathy. Seventh-day Adventists may make some claims about the world that sound ridiculous from the scientific point of view, but so do practitioners of yoga and sweat-lodge enthusiasts. The public adoration of Science isn’t about science.

. . .

The postmodernists were correct in one thing: There is some politics built into the scientific method, in that the scientific method assumes an environment in which people are at liberty to speak, debate, and publish — a liberty with which the American Left, particularly on college campuses, is at war. They are not interested in debate or conversation. They are interested in silencing those who disagree with them, and they have high-profile allies: Democratic prosecutors around the country are working to criminalize the holding of nonconformist views about global warming (some prominent activists have openly called for jailing “climate deniers”), and Howard Dean has taken up the novel argument that the First Amendment does not actually protect political speech with which he disagrees. (It is, he insists, “hate speech,” a legally null term in the American context.) Dean has argued that the federal laws governing the conduct of political campaigns could and should be used to regulate all public speaking.

The partisans of Science believe themselves to be part of an eternal war between Galileo and the Inquisition, but they have in fact chosen the Inquisition’s side. They have chosen the side of the Censor and the Index — so long as they get to choose who serves as Censor and who manages the Index. That is how they have reconciled Science and its claims of objective fact with identity politics and its denial of the same: They are engaged in neither the pursuit of fact nor the pursuit of Truth — only the pursuit of Power.

The Inquisitor’s Heirs