Tuesday, February 25, 2020

feminists baying for Bettina Arndt’s blood

So the feminists are once again out for Bettina Arndt’s blood.

For the benefit of those outside Australia (where she’s been quite a celebrity for more than forty years) Bettina Arndt started out as a controversial and outrageous feminist sex therapist back in the 70s. She then reinvented herself as a journalist and social commenter and more recently she has reinvented herself again as a men’s rights activist. Along the way she abandoned feminism and embraced social conservatism.

She started doing horrific things like suggesting that maybe men weren’t responsible for every problem. She even had the temerity to suggest that maybe some of the problems men and women encountered in their marriages might have something to do with the fact that men and women are different and react differently emotionally.

This year she was honoured by being made a Member of the Order of Australia. And all hell broke loose, with feminists foaming at the mouth. Labor and Green senators passed a motion calling for her to be stripped of the honour and, predictably, the supposedly conservative LNP senators behaved in their usual craven manner and joined in the witch hunt.

What makes this story more interesting than most such stories is that when attacked (and she’s been attacked countless times in the past) Bettina Arndt does not back down. She does not apologise and she does not grovel. So, predictably, she has now launched an energetic counter-offensive.

For those not familiar with this colourful and courageous woman here’s a link to her website.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

communities and individualism

You don’t have to spend long on any right-wing online forum before somebody starts talking about how wonderful it was in the past when everybody lived in tight-knit high-trust communities. You could go out and leave your front door open. You could leave the keys in your car and no-one would steal it. Your kids could play in the local park.

This is all true. Sort of. Up to a point.

We have gone way too far in the direction of hyper-individualism. Modern life is too atomised and too alienating. And too materialistic. This leads to despair and nihilism, and it leads to hedonism and consumerism. That’s all fairly obviously true.

However that doesn’t necessarily mean that people actually want to return to traditional tight-knit community life. People don’t want absolute freedom. In fact they don’t want very much freedom at all. But they do want some. The problem with traditional tight-knit communities is that they tend to enforce social rules and social conformity quite rigidly. Usually not with legal sanctions but with social sanctions (which can be more a lot more oppressive than laws). Life in traditional tight-knit communities can be stifling and demoralising. Maybe everybody looks out for one another but this also means that everybody wants to take a hand in telling others how to live.

If the people who wax lyrical about the joys of living in tight-knit high-trust communities had to live in one for a while most of them would change their tune.

That’s not to say that atomised modern societies are better than close-knit traditional societies. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. We should not romanticise traditional communities too much. It might be nice to be able to leave your car unlocked but it’s not quite so great when you realise that the reason you can do so is that everybody is minding everybody else’s business. It can be more stifling than living in the modern surveillance state where the state might be watching you but the state doesn’t really care very much what you’re doing most of the time as long as you’re not plotting to overthrow the government or planning to kill people. Most of the time you’re under the surveillance of bored government employees. In close-knit traditional societies other people care very much what you’re doing and they regard any deviation from the accepted social norms with suspicion or even hostility.

Obviously what is needed is some kind of balance between freedom and a sense of community. It worries me a little that there are quite a few people on the Right who are inclined to push things to extremes. Moderation is seen as boring or cowardly. But there is much to be said for moderation.

There’s also the complication that men and women do not see freedom in quite the same way. Women, for sound biological reasons, value security more than freedom. In close-knit traditional societies women are often the most zealous enforcers of the social norms, and they are often particularly severe in policing other women.

As to how we can get back to a sensible balance, I must admit that I have no idea. It would require goodwill and that’s in short supply these days.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

the joys of the two-party system

The current orgy of bloodletting known as the Democratic Party primaries seems puzzling on the surface. Surely the Democrats realise that if only they could choose a reasonably decent candidate and unite behind that candidate they’d have a fairly good chance of recapturing the White House in November. I’m not saying that their victory would be assured, but they’d have a good chance.

The fact that instead of doing this they’re busy shooting each other seems like a sort of madness. In fact it’s even given rise to a brand-new conspiracy theory - that this is all a Deep State plot to get Trump re-elected so he can then be forced to go to war with Iran.

In fact what’s happening is simply the inevitable result of a rigid two-party system. In such a system you don’t have coherent parties that are united by common interests and/or common ideologies. You have instead uneasy coalitions of factions that have no common interests and are bitterly opposed ideologically.

You just have to look at the seething hatred between the Corbynistas and the Blairites in the British Labour Party. Or the vicious faction wars which tore the Australian Labor Party (ALP) apart for decades. These factions are at best reluctant and uncomfortable allies on the surface but in reality they’re bitter political enemies. These factions care more about the internal struggles for control of the party than about winning elections.

This applies to a limited extent also to parties of the Right. The Economic Right on the one hand and social conservatives (and the Religious Right in the US) on the other have no real common interests and no coherent shared ideology. This matters less to parties of the Right. They don’t quarrel so much about principles because the Economic Right doesn’t have any. And in any case the parties of the Right in the Anglosphere have for the past few decades been so completely dominated by the Economic Right that they appear to be united. Even the Religious Right in the US is now politically fairly insignificant, and is becoming ever more insignificant.

But parties of the Left in a two-party system cannot avoid being divided between competing interest groups and ideologies.

So in a two-party system the party of the Left will always be subject to faction-fighting. Which means that such parties will always seem disunited, because they are. These parties only enjoy electoral success when they are able to call a truce between the warring factions. When that happens they can enjoy considerable electoral success, given that the parties of the Right are generally united only by cynicism, opportunism and greed.

There seems to be a growing belief on the Right that Trump’s victory is assured. I’m not entirely convinced. When the Democrats finally do pick a candidate they will presumably stop shooting at each other and turn their guns on Trump. And the media will presumably concentrate its fire on Trump as well. That’s assuming they pick an electable candidate, which is a big assumption. And that’s also assuming they really do fall into line behind that candidate. They may be a big assumption as well. Their problem is that Sanders is by far their most electable possible candidate but he’s the one they’re least likely to back to the hilt. They just have to decide if they’re really serious about winning in November.

Friday, February 7, 2020

men, women and cults of unreason

It seems that one of the many ideas accepted as an article of faith by dissident rightists is the women are more irrational than men. The popularity of belief in things like astrology and New Age mysticism is often advanced as evidence of this thesis. But do women really have a monopoly on irrational beliefs?

One of the more spectacular examples of a ludicrously irrational belief system that seemed to be just as popular among men as among women is Freudianism. And of course all the other silly psychoanalytical theories such as Jungianism. Freudianism was if anything even less rational than astrology. It became popular because it appeared to have  a faintly scientific tinge to it but in fact the scientific content to Freud’s theories was absolutely zero. It was a new and exciting belief system and it had no connection with boring traditional beliefs about religion and morality so both men and men swallowed it with enthusiasm.

The truth is that there’s a small number of scientific disciplines that are actually scientific, that are actually testable by the scientific method. Outside of these very narrow fields (such as physics, mathematics, engineering, etc) every belief system is based on faith. The pseudosciences and social sciences (such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, climate science) are not actually scientific at all. Even disciplines such as cosmology are largely speculative. Some of the things that pseudoscientists and social scientists believe may well be true. But in these fields people to a large extent choose their beliefs based on their own prejudices and their own emotions.

People certainly choose their political and economic beliefs because those beliefs appeal to them emotionally. If you find concepts like fairness and justice to be emotionally appealing you’ll probably become a socialist of some variety. If you find concepts like the virtuousness of selfishness and the struggle of all against all to be emotionally appealing you’ll become a free-marketeer. If both greed and total freedom appeal to you emotionally you’ll become a libertarian.

We also choose between rival belief systems like blank slatism or human biodiversity (HBD) on emotional grounds. People who believe in anthropogenic climate change generally do so because it makes them feel virtuous. People who reject anthropogenic climate change do so because it’s emotionally satisfying for them to do so.

Of course men in particular like to think that their beliefs are based on logic and facts but when it comes to most such beliefs the evidence is so sketchy and so ambiguous that they are really matters of faith rather than science.

Is it really any more irrational for women to believe in New Age nonsense or astrology than it is for men to believe passionately in free markets or libertarians, or Marxism?

Men have embraced some pretty kooky political ideologies over the years. And some pretty bizarre religious cults. There are plenty of male Scientologists. And male UFO cultists. Men seem to be more prone to believe in truly bizarre conspiracy theories (the Illuminati, dastardly plots by the Freemasons, etc).

We are not really rational creatures. Men and women tend to be irrational in different ways and to favour different irrational ideas but it’s hard to argue that either sex has a monopoly on either rationality or irrationality.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Metternich quotes

Quotes from Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich(1773-1859).

“In Europe democracy is a falsehood. I do not know where it will end, but it cannot end in a quiet old age.” - Klemens von Metternich

“The word 'freedom' means for me not a point of departure but a genuine point of arrival. The point of departure is defined by the word 'order.' Freedom cannot exist without the concept of order.” - Klemens von Metternich

“The events which can not be prevented, must be directed.” - Klemens von Metternich

“There is a wide sweep about my mind. I am always above and beyond the preoccupation of most public men; I cover a ground much vaster than they can see. I cannot keep myself from saying about twenty times a day: 'How right I am, and how wrong they are.” - Klemens von Metternich

“Stability is not immobility.” - Klemens von Metternich