Monday, April 30, 2012

Is it art or porn? Nanny will decide

The major problem with censorship (apart from its Nanny State connotations) has always been that it leads to silliness. Drawing the line between art and pornography is not always easy (as I discovered when the image hosting service I used to use for my 19th century art blog decided that almost the whole of the western art tradition is nothing more than filth that Nanny needs to protect us from).

The Metropolitan Police in London clearly share these Nanny State views, ordering the removal of this photograph (by Derrick Santini) from a London gallery. Trying to explain that Leda and the Swan had been a favourite subject for artists from the Renaissance onwards cut no ice with the Met. They decided this was bestiality and that Londoners could not possibly be allowed to make up their own minds whether they liked the photo or not.

It’s another example of the push for censorship coming mostly from the Left these days (and anyone who doesn’t think that police forces are becoming the enforcers of Political Correctness hasn’t been paying attention). Apparently no-one had complained about the photograph but that didn’t stop the plod from taking immediate action.

Lucky the gallery hadn’t been rash enough to display a print of Correggio’s 16th century version. Perhaps they might want to alert their opposite numbers in Berlin to remove this disgusting filth from the Gemäldegalerie where it currently resides.

Personally I think the photo is a reasonably effective modern rendering of the myth, and certainly preferable to most of the stuff that gets classified as art these days.
Correggio, Leda with the Swan, 1531-32
Correggio, Leda with the Swan, 1531-32

Thursday, April 26, 2012

art as a hate crime

No-one who’s ever been unlucky enough to wander into a museum of modern art could doubt that art since the Cubists has had an obsession with the rejection of beauty. To many modernist and postmodernist artists and critics ugliness seems to be synonymous with Serious Art. 

Artists who continued to pursue the ideal of beauty in the 20th century found themselves marginalised and scorned.

This is not accidental. It reflects an entire worldview, a belief that there is nothing to celebrate in western civilisation, and that the purpose of art is to attack our own civilisation. There is an agenda to make art depressing, negative, squalid and generally miserable, a celebration of victimhood rather than a celebration of truth and beauty.

The purpose of what has passed for art since the early 20th century is to demoralise the popluation of the west. Modern art is in fact a hate crime against western civilisation.

In 1932, Stalin directed the Communist Party apparatus in the U.S. to "cultivate the ugly, futuristic and aberrant in art, literature, the drama and music. Every sick-brained fanatic must be used, every talented artist must be discouraged. Control all juries of selection, but by a bare majority. Never shut out the regulars entirely. Give the prizes to the worst, most hideous and worthless paintings or sculpture in the show. Keep rational art out of all public exhibitions, allow only empty or distorted art to be shown in museums, dealers' exhibits. Eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms. 

"It is astonishing what we have been able to get away with. Even our most experienced experts directing operations can scarcely believe it. No good citizen wants to be the first to step up and protest! It is almost a shame to take advantage of these silly, cowardly people."

The worst part is that much of this so-called art is paid for for by the taxpayer. If these overgrown babies want to throw their toys out of the pram let them do so, but they should buy their own toys and their own prams.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

a free market in education

It appears that the new conservative government in NSW may follow Victoria’s lead in introducing a “student entitlement” system for vocational training which allows people to choose either the public system or private colleges. 

This sounds like an excellent plan. If the state-run colleges cannot compete in a free market with private colleges then they have no right to survive.

Predictably teaching unions are up in arms, which merely confirms the excellence of the plan. Real educational reform will not be possible until the power of the teaching unions is broken, and this seems like a positive first step.

Personally I think it should be extended to school education, with an end to direct funding of state schools. Instead give parents vouchers so they can choose either public or private schools. If the public school system finds itself without pupils and therefore without funding then perhaps the teachers might consider a move towards actual education rather than political indoctrination. 

A true free market in education would surely be better than the present system.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

how totalitarianisms fail

The two great dystopian novels of the 20th century were George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Both were in their own ways remarkably prescient and the differences between them are fascinating, Orwell’s novel being a portrayal of Soviet-style hard totalitarianism, Huxley’s novel showing us a 21st century-style soft totalitarianism on the model of Europe, Australia and the US. The weakness of both books is that they failed to predict how such societies would die.

That both systems are destined to die is now obvious, but the cause of death will be different. We know that both systems are doomed to collapse because we have real-world examples with which to compare their fictional counterparts.

By the time the year 1984 actually rolled around Soviet-style communism had less than a decade of life remaining to it. It still gave the appearance of strength and its western cheer squads in the universities and the media were entirely oblivious of the coming collapse but it was already in its death throes.

The totalitarian state of Orwell’s 1984, like the Soviet Union, failed to provide its citizens with even the necessities of life. Orwell showed us a world of ever-declining living standards and chronic shortages, a society that could not even provide its people with decent food and razor blades. In the Soviet empire lengthy queues to buy the pitifully inadequate supplies of such basic necessities as shoes had been a feature of the Worker’s Paradise for decades.

Soviet communism broke down not because it was evil, repressive and inhuman but because it was evil, repressive and inhuman and also hopelessly inefficient. Had it at least been able to produce sufficient economic growth to bribe its citizens with material goods it might have had a chance of survival. Its inability to do this led to despair but also to sullen resentment. By the 1980s the unlucky inhabitants of the eastern bloc countries were not merely resentful, they were angry and rebellious. Strikes broke out in countries such as Poland over increased prices, falling wages and declining living standards. These strikes gave birth to protest movements demanding freedom, but the precipitating factor was the falling standard of living.

By the late 80s hatred of these regimes among their own people was almost universal. The Soviet Union could not intervene militarily to prop up its puppet regimes in places like Poland because it could no longer trust its army. The Kremlin was faced by the strong possibility that Soviet troops would refuse to fire on Polish strikers and protesters. The Polish government could not use its own troops to maintain its control for the same reason. Nobody was going to risk death to defend communism. The power of communism proved to be an illusion and collapse followed swiftly.

Huxley shows us a society that maintain its control over its citizens in more subtle ways. It’s not the boot in the face that maintains the ruling elite in power, it’s consumer goods, drugs and unlimited sex. Rather like the western world today, except that we have Prozac rather than soma.

Huxley thought this would allow them to maintain power indefinitely but our own experience in the socialist utopias of today suggests otherwise. Cellphones, plasma TVs, internet porn and Prozac are not enough to give people a reason to live. Modern western societies have instead chosen civilisational suicide. We have simply stopped breeding.

The official figures for fertility rates in the western world are alarmingly enough but the true situation is much worse. The official figures are inflated by the very high fertility rates of huge immigrant populations. The fertility rates for the actual European populations are in many countries not much more half the replacement rate. The situation in the US by comparison seems less catastrophic but that is mostly because of the extremely high fertility rates among Hispanics.

These low fertility rates can be attributed to variety of cause, but the most likely one is that westerners no longer believe their own civilisation has a future. Even worse, they no longer believe their own civilisation has a right to a future. They are crippled by irrational guilt, hatred of their own culture and fear.

The only answer to this seems to be massive immigration from the Third World. But it won’t work. The immigrants are from cultures that are implacably hostile to the West. These immigrants will not and do not wish to assimilate and they are not becoming productive citizens; they are becoming an additional drain on already overburdened welfare systems. But still they come, both in the vain hope that they will offer a magic solution to thew West’s intractable economic problems and to assuage liberal guilt.

The liberal socialist utopias will not survive mass Third World immigration. The immigrant communities, once they gain political power, will systematically overturn the policies of Cultural Marxism. The western women who refuse to have children because it might interfere with their freedoms will then find all of their freedoms taken away from them. The very Cultural Marxism that allowed the creation of the soft totalitarians of the West will destroy them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Left and the war against the Catholic Church

It’s been obvious for several decades now that the Left is determined to destroy Christianity. They are of course practising this intolerance for diversity in the name of tolerance of diversity. It’s also clear that their main target is the Catholic Church.

This was an agenda that was also pursued enthusiastically by the Soviet communists and the German National Socialists in the 1930s. Leftist hatred for the Catholic Church is nothing new. Interestingly enough the Italian fascists were much less keen on destroying Christianity, just as they were relatively indifferent to the idea of persecuting Jews (at least in comparison to other totalitarian regimes).

All totalitarian regimes are however basically hostile to any structure that is capable of acting as a focus of loyalty to anything other than the state. This is as true of today’s soft totalitarianism, the totalitarianism of political correctness, as it is of the hard totalitarianisms of the past.

Totalitarianism essentially means that every aspect of life is political, so therefore everything is the business of the state. If there is an organisation that stands against that view, it must be destroyed. And Christianity by its very nature has to take the view that some things are not the business of the state. Christianity by its very nature has to oppose the social engineering so beloved of the Left.

The Catholic Church was (and is) one of the few organisations with the moral authority to stand against the relentless growth of the power and pretensions of the State. And in the 1930s it not only had the necessary moral authority, it had the courage and the will to do so, as it has today. For those on the Left committed to the limitless expansion of State power, either in the 1930s or today, the Church represents a major obstacle. It must therefore be destroyed.

The Left faced a particular problem from 1978 onwards. The Catholic Church had as its head not only a strong and courageous Pope, but a very popular one. John Paul II won the respect of the entire free world for the part he played in destroying the evil of Soviet communism. And most importantly, he was no doddering bumbling do-gooder. He was an intelligent man who understood politics. Suddenly the Catholic Church was looking like a very dangerous enemy indeed for the Left.

Interestingly enough, the methods used in the 1930s were the same as those used today - allegations of excessive wealth and allegations of sexual misconduct against priests.

While some accusations of sexual misconduct against priests are undoubtedly true there is no question that the Left has a huge incentive to magnify and if necessary to manufacture such accusations. In the case of the allegations made by the National Socialists the vast majority were untrue. That is almost certainly the case today as well.

When false accusations of sexual impropriety are rewarded (and they are lavishly rewarded these days) then there is not the slightest doubt that the numbers of such false accusations will be very high indeed.

The other method favoured by the Left today is one that it embraces with fanatical fervour - the rewriting of history. The fact that both Pius XI and Pius XII vigorously opposed both Soviet communism and German National Socialism is conveniently removed from history, as are the courageous efforts by the Vatican to save Jews from the Holocaust. The Church continued in these efforts after the Nazis occupied Italy and the Vatican found itself isolated in the midst of the enemies of civilisation. The Left certainly doesn’t want us to know about the huge number of priests and even bishops who were martyred in the struggle against these evil regimes.

The not inconsiderable part played by Pope John Paul II in bringing down the Soviet empire is another inconvenient truth that the Left would like us to forget. They don’t even like the idea of discussing the fall of the european communist regimes unless they can spin it as a example of American wickedness.

The even more inconvenient truth that the trades unionists in Poland who toppled that particular communist dictatorship were mostly devout Catholics must also be suppressed.

I am not personally a Catholic but to ignore these truths is both dangerous and intellectually dishonest.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

temporal stereotyping

I get very annoyed by the sorts of attitudes towards the past that are all too common these days. The arrogant assumption that the people of the past (whether it be the 1950s, the 1930, the Victorian age or whatever) were bigoted and stupid compared to our own gloriously enlightened era. I get particularly irritated by condescending statements like, “Those were simpler times.” No they weren’t. Life has never been simple, and if human beings had been more naïve and more stupid than the people of today they would never have survived.

These attitudes always include the assumption that the beliefs and values of people in the past were less valid and less enlightened than the beliefs and values of today. They weren’t. They were simply different.

Those people of earlier eras may have believed in ideas like the sanctity of marriage, ideas that are treated with derision today, but they had perfectly good reasons for believing in such things. And when you survey the wreckage of western civilisation in the 21st century it becomes very difficult to argue that our contemporary values are obviously superior.

These attitudes toward the past of course imply an almost complete ignorance of history. If you don’t know any history then you’ll accept this sort of temporal stereotyping without question.

And that’s exactly what it is. The people who espouse such contemptuous attitudes towards people who lived in earlier periods of history are the sorts of people who would become filled with righteous indignation at any hint of racial or sexual stereotyping and yet they are quite happy to stereotype the people of the 1950s or the 19th century. This kind of what might be called temporal stereotyping is naturally very congenial to the agenda of Cultural Marxism.

One gets used to liberal hypocrisy but it never ceases to irritate.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power

Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power is an important book with some important truths to tell, but it is also a deeply flawed and deeply problematical book. The problems with the book can be laid at the door of its author’s inability to understand that a left-liberal pro-feminist critique of feminism is likely to miss the point.

Farrell was a self-identified and active feminist for several decades before supposedly recognising in the early 90s (this book came out in 1993) that men were being victimised by feminism. He is now a proponent of a rather wobbly theory he calls gender transition which he believes will rectify the problems with feminism and lead us all to the Promised Land of gender equality, fairness and justice.

The key to Farrell’s thesis is firstly that traditional sex roles did not discriminate against women, that men had apparent power but this was balanced by responsibilities to protect women and children, often at the cost of men’s lives. Men and women had different areas of responsibility and exercised power in different spheres and in different ways. Much of this still remains in today’s feminist world. Men are still expected to die in defence of women and children, and they still do. Most obviously they do this as soldiers and in other highly dangerous jobs such as fire-fighting. Less obviously practically every dangerous job, from truck-driving to commercial fishing, was and to a great extent still is male-dominated. Men are ten times more likely than women to be killed at work, and infinitely more likely to suffer disabling injuries, often in overlooked jobs such garbage collection where the hazards can be terrifying. All of this is most certainly true.

The second strand to his argument is that feminist claims that women are still discriminated against are nonsense. Even the argument that men earn on average more money turns out to be a myth since men are saddled with much greater financial responsibilities in areas like child support. Men might earn more money but a large proportion of their income ends up in the hands of women. Again this is most certainly true.

Men also face savage legal discrimination. Farrell identifies a dozen different defences that women can and do use when arrested for a crime, defences that are available only to women. The result is that men are much more likely to go to prison, even for committing the exact same crimes as women, and they are likely to serve much longer sentences, again even for committing exactly the same offences. In the US men are much much more likely to receive the death penalty, and once again this applies even when the crimes are identical. Again this is unquestionably true.

Men face further hazards. Divorce and child custody laws are biased against men, and when it comes to dating men walk a legal minefield where one unwise or even unlucky move can lead to imprisonment for sexual assault, in many cases on the basis of extremely dubious evidence.

So far there is nothing to disagree with here. The problems come when Farrell proposes solutions. Solutions such as “gender transition” and “Stage II” marriages. This sounds worryingly like woolly-minded liberal pop psychology feel-good thinking.

Farrell is unable to escape from the prison of his own left-liberal bias. As a result his criticism of feminism is superficial. He clings to the belief that feminism can somehow be made less hostile to men, that a kinder, gentler feminism is possible. This is a fantasy. Feminism is an ideology of hate. Not just hatred of men, but hatred of women. Especially hatred of women. Feminism confounds equality with sameness, just as liberalism in general does. Feminism therefore wants men and women to be the same. It cannot accept that a fair and just society might be a society in which men are free to be men and women are free to be women. Men and women must be made the same. The idea that men and women might be of equal value but fundamentally different is anathema to feminism.

Farrell is unwilling to challenge feminism at fundamental levels. He is a feminist who believes that a bit of tinkering can fix feminism and then everyone will be happy and free in the caring sharing and nurturing Brave New Word of Liberal La-La Land.

Farrell remains at heart a male feminist and like almost all male feminists he is deeply uncomfortable with his own masculinity and with masculinity in general. And being a feminist he is terrified of the concept of femininity. He wants to emasculate men, but in a nice way. A caring and sharing way. Ideally men should emasculate themselves and then learn to love their new emasculated selves.

While his argument that pre-feminist society was not anti-woman is sound, he takes it for granted that any kind of pre-feminist society was bad and wicked and needed to be changed. He is unwilling to confront the possibility that traditional sex roles may have been

His belief in a Liberal Disney World view of reality leads him to further egregious errors. Since men have been killed at a disproportionate rate in war, he seems to think that war should simply be eliminated. Because it’s wicked and liberals find it upsetting. Good luck with that Warren. Admittedly he was writing in the 90s, when the uncompromising nature of Islamic jihadism was less obvious and pacifist ideas were slightly less absurd than they are now.

He cannot accept organising a society taking into account traditional sex roles might in fact be a saner and more successful way of organising a society and might in fact have made people happier than our current hate and guilt-riddled socially engineered world. He cannot being himself to accept that the social engineering of the past half-century has been catastrophic not because it was done the wrong way, but because it was done at all. being a liberal he clings to the delusion that everything is a social construct and therefore everything that liberals don’t approve of can be magically eliminated thus ushering in a happy-clappy future.

I don’t want to be too hard on Farrell. For anyone to question any of the sacred cows of Political Correctness takes courage these days and very few academics today possess that courage. There are within our universities many many people who are sceptical of Political Correctness but most are far too cowardly, too frightened or too attached to their cushy academic jobs to speak out. Farrell has, predictably, been savaged by the attack dogs of academic feminism and to his credit has not backed down.

He has much to say in this book that is important, truths that are being energetically suppressed by our political and academic elites and by the mainstream media. His arguments about the discrimination faced by men are well-documented and backed with copious references. These things need to be said. It’s just a pity that he doesn’t take his arguments far enough and that the solutions he proposes are fuzzy and woolly-minded.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

the thin end of the PC wedge

What's worrying about the The Australian Communications and Media Authority's recent action against Sydney shock jock Kyle Sandilands is not just that it's yet another attack on freedom of speech. It's the vagueness of the ruling, and the secretiveness of it. He's been ordered "not to say anything that could be regarded as offensive or demeaning to women or girls." Now what on earth does that mean? It sounds suspiciously like offensive or demeaning can mean anything this particular totally unnecessary bureaucratic waste of time wants it to mean.

The fact that The Australian Communications and Media Authority won't reveal what it means adds to the suspicions.

Whatever this guy said is not worth yet more restriction on Australians' freedom of speech. He might be an ignorant arrogant yobbo. But if we won't defend his freedom to speak we will all lose. Freedom of speech must include the right to offend, otherwise it's meaningless.

And it's yet another yard of lost ground for defenders of freedom of speech. For defenders of freedom of speech everywhere, not just in Australia. The Thought Police operate internationally. If they get away with restricting freedom in one place they will use it to attack freedom somewhere else. Even the US with its constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech is not immune. If freedom of speech disappears in other countries the Thought Police will argue that the US is "out of step with the international community" and that Americans must accept limitations on this right as well. That "out of step with the international community" line is one of their favourite arguments to extend the global reach of Political Correctness.

It’s also one of their favourite arguments to extend other aspects of their political agenda. If they get abortion on demand or gay marriage in some places they then tell other people that they are now "out of step with the international community" if they don’t allow such things.

With the PC lobby you always have to beware of the thin end of the wedge.