Friday, February 15, 2019

feminism - root cause or consequence?

Feminism is without a doubt the worst plague ever to afflict the human race but was feminism a root cause of the evils that followed or merely a consequence of other social changes?

By the time second wave feminism made its appearance in the 1960s a number of crucial social changes had already occurred. The first and the most disastrous (possibly the single most disastrous event in human history) was the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1961. That irrevocably turned sex into a recreational activity rather than a part of the sacrament of marriage. It made sex all about short-term pleasure. From that point on traditional marriage was doomed.

While in theory divorce was still difficult in many places it was clear that there was a trend towards making it easier in practice. And from about the 1920s onwards divorce had gradually become more socially acceptable. Divorce means marriage being transformed from a sacred unbreakable bond into a short-term arrangement to be terminated when it becomes inconvenient.

Women moved into the workforce in increasing numbers in the first half of the 20th century. That was not necessarily a problem. Women had always worked. But work was something women did until they got married. By the 50s it was becoming more socially acceptable for married women to work. This was a very unfortunate trend.

Even more disastrous was the expansion of higher education for women after the Second World War. In fact the expansion of higher education in general was a calamity. A university education is something that only a small proportion of the population (maybe 5%) will benefit from. For most people it is actually a bad thing. For all but a very tiny handful of women it is a disaster.

And of course the 20th century saw a continuation of the decline of Christianity. Without religion there is no basis for morality. Without morality there is only power (for the elites) and pleasure (for the masses).

These changes did not come about as a result of second wave feminism. These changes preceded second wave feminism, and in fact were largely responsible for making that horror possible. By the time the feminists got going western society had already started to lose its way.

There was also the Sexual Revolution, which was mostly a result of the contraceptive pill. The Sexual Revolution was of course very bad for women. Sexual liberation does not work fir women. They’re not wired that way. It simply makes women self-hating and miserable and chronically emotionally dissatisfied.

Men made the mistake of thinking the Sexual Revolution was going to be great for them. It would mean lots more sex. In fact it meant lots more sex for a very small number of men.

This is a large part of the explanation for the failure of men to stop feminism in its tracks at a time when that was still possible. Men were inclined to think that feminism was like the Sexual Revolution - they would end up getting more sex. Mostly they didn’t get the extra sex and what they did get was an ongoing nightmare. By the time the realities became apparent it was too late.

Feminism was largely a symptom of a society entering the terminal stages of decadence. It appeared at the same time as other symptoms like the drug culture and the worship of homosexuality. Maybe feminism could have been stopped but it would have required a willingness to confront other much more basic societal failings.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Space - the Final Frontier?

One of the many major changes to the western world over the past century has been the disappearance of the frontier.

In the early 20th century, in fact to some extent even up to the 1950s, westerners who wanted to opt out could find a frontier territory in which to do so. There were the remoter outposts of the British Empire (and of the other European empires). For Americans there was South America. For those who found their lives unsupportable there was always that escape hatch - they could start a new life in the Colonies or in South America where they were unlikely to be bothered too much by questions about their past and unlikely to have too much trouble with intrusive bureaucracies or police forces.

Britons would commonly choose somewhere like Kenya or Malaya. There was plenty of money to be made if you had drive and if you didn’t have drive there were fellow countrymen to sponge off, who were reasonably indulgent of expatriates (even if they mildly disapproved of expatriates who “went native”).

All that is largely gone. Escaping from the modern surveillance state is next to impossible. Any bolt-holes that are left are pretty uninviting and bureaucrats and police are likely to will hunt you down anyway.

One response to this is the emergence of the idea of space as the final frontier, the one sure refuge for someone who wants or needs to opt out completely. It became a major theme of science fiction in the 20th century and it also took on a definite political complexion. It became a popular right-wing fantasy, and it became a very popular libertarian fantasy. The fact that colonies in space would in reality face immense practical difficulties tended to get glossed over (and libertarians never do worry too much about irritating details like reality).

It’s a fantasy that also has a following among the nerdier elements of the alt-right.

Personally I find it very amusing that so many people have convinced themselves that colonies in space or on other planets would be havens of liberty, veritable libertarian paradises with no government at all. It amuses me because I’ve always assumed that a space colony founded on libertarian principles wouldn’t last a week. Space, or colonies on Mars, are not the sorts of environment that are likely to be very forgiving of rigged individuals with a contempt for regulations. They’d be the sorts of environments where one mistake would mean death, and quite possibly death for every member of the colony. Such a colony is more likely to succeed if it’s composed of rigid conformists with no imagination, no more than moderate intelligence, a respect for hierarchies and a passion for following rules and regulations to the letter. Military-style discipline is more likely than glorious liberty.

Such colonies would also have a very much better chance of survival if they adopted a very traditionalist approach to morality and to sex roles. You would only need one member of a colony to start sleeping around to very soon find yourself sitting on top of a ticking time-bomb. It’s also very obvious that no colony can survive without children and therefore the women would need to focus more on child-rearing than personal fulfilment and careers.

A space colony might well end up being more of a traditionalist paradise than a libertarian one.

Not that it matters, given that the practical difficulties (not to mention the political obstacles) are so overwhelming that colonies in space will probably remain science fiction for a long long time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel

Isaac Asimov’s classic 1954 novel The Caves of Steel might not sound very relevant to this blog but bear with me.

The Caves of Steel is usually considered to be important and interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a crucial book in Asimov’s famous robot cycle. Secondly, it’s a genre hybrid - it’s both a science fiction novel and a traditional fair-play puzzle-plot murder mystery. And it’s a rare example of a novel that is a success in both genres.

There is a third reason why this book should be celebrated. It’s an extremely interesting dystopian novel with very strong political overtones. I personally don’t agree with Asimov’s politics but he was an intelligent liberal (yes such creatures once walked the Earth) and his work has been immensely influential.

The future Earth of the novel is massively overpopulated. Almost everyone lives in enormous cities. It’s a world that makes the world of Orwell’s 1984 seem benign and even idyllic. Food is in short supply (the rationing is nightmarish in its pettiness) but living space is in even shorter supply. There is zero privacy. Zero. Even high status individuals do not have bathrooms. A washbasin is considered to be an almost unimaginable luxury. Absolute social conformity is enforced. This is the soft totalitarianism of Brave New World but combined with the squalor and misery of 1984. There is an all-pervading atmosphere of resignation and pessimism.

It’s fascinating to see overpopulation hysteria in such a fully developed form as early as 1954.

Of course being a science fiction writer of the golden age Asimov saw the answer to the problem as lying in the colonisation of space. This is something that has always seemed rather fanciful to me.

Leaving aside the overpopulation hysteria it’s a fine example of what I would consider to be a plausible dystopia, enforced by propaganda rather than overt repression. And it’s an interesting look at the psychological consequences of soft totalitarianism - the way people end up not even contemplating rebellion because they can’t even imagine doing such a thing (or even thinking such thoughts).

It’s also actually a very entertaining book and while there’s plenty to disagree with it is an interesting example of intelligent dystopian science fiction. And the murder mystery part is fun.