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Friday, March 28, 2014

What Is Your Social Class?

Upper class Burmese couple, 1890s.
I recently tried a quiz offered by the Christian Science Monitor, “What is your social class?” It put me in the middle class, which is just about spot on. Ain't nobody here but us bourgeois. But I found the analysis behind the questions shocking. It turns out that the current American upper class, based on real science, is the "small slice of society that tends to feel the least bound by the legal and moral rules observed by other Americans” In other words, the US has a corrupt and immoral upper class. 

If this is news, it is bad news. It seems to me that keeping the upper class honest is the sine qua non of civilizational success. This is the whole ball o'wax. It is what codes of chivalry, Confucianism, gentlemanliness, honour, professional ethics, are all about trying to do. That fight is always an uphill fight, because there are always fewer practical constraints on an upper class; self-indulgence is an eternal temptation. And the New Testament is no doubt right that the poor are always more ethical than the rich. But I do suspect things have gotten much worse since the Sixties, which were largely a rebellion by the upper classes against any constraints on their desires.


Police lead upper class New Yorkers through the slums of Five Points, 1880s.
A corrupt upper class is the sole difference between the Third World and the First. I suspect as well that the New Testament's persistent warnings about the corruptabiltiy of the upper class are the secret key to the Christian West's tendency to keep ahead of the rest of the world on most measures of social success. The upper classes are now in open rebellion against all that, in a way we have not seen for almost two thousand years.

On specifics, the studies behind the CSM quiz show that the American upper classes of this day are 1) more inclined to envy; 2) less inclined to courtesy (i.e., stopping for a pedestrian); 3) more inclined to steal; 4) more inclined to lie; 5) less inclined to trust or think highly of others; 6) less able to read others' emotions; 7) more inclined to spoil their children; 8) vastly less inclined to enjoy gospel music; 9) more likely to be atheist or agnostic; 10) less likely to give to charity; 11) more concerned about status in buying clothing. 

Hunting tigers out in India.
All bad traits, it seems to me.

Number six is particularly interesting: it suggests that the upper classes have less empathy for others. It also suggests that one does not get ahead in this culture by being sensitive to the feelings of others, but by being insensitive to them: that "emotional intelligence," to the extent that it really is a key ingredient in personal material success, is not a matter of learing empathy, but of learning psychopathy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fascism and the Modern Left




There is much dispute over whether the Fascists were a movement of the right or of the left. In the end, such a discussion is meaningless, since the terms “left” and “right,” taken out of a specific political context, a specific time and place, are almost meaningless. I think it is more profitable to point to specific common features between Fascism and the modern American/Canadian/European left. Here's my list:

  1. Both embrace nationalism. This is the second element of Fascism, the thing that distinguishes it from orthodox Marxism. But in this, Hitler was simply ahead of the curve for the left. Stalin followed him into nationalism soon after, as did Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Tito, and, most dramatically, the Kims in North Korea. While nationalism is also found on the right, in Canada, the right is for free trade, the left against it; the left in Quebec seeks separation, the right is against it. In Ireland, India, the Basque lands, Scotland, and most of the Third World, the left is the nationalist option. 
  2. Both are big on Darwin. Hitler’s whole racial theory was the application of Darwin to human society. No doubt the modern left would not touch “social Darwinism” with a ten-foot pole; they see Darwin instead (as Hitler also did) as a stick with which to beat religion and conventional morality. But the embrace of Darwinism as an antidote to conventional morality opens the door wide, down the road, to atrocities like those of the Nazis. It's survival of the fittest, after all. 
  3. Both are hostile, as above, to conventional morality. Both love Nietzsche. Both believe in moral relativism. This opens the door to moral atrocities. 
  4. As a necessary corollary, both are hostile to the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, aka “ethical monotheism.” Both have distinctly New Age interests, in paganism and in a rather distorted version of eastern religions, as a substitute. That’s where the swastika comes from. Perhaps not significant in itself, but a creepy parallel. 
  5. Both are big fans of nature and the natural. As in, ecology, environmentalism, and so forth—notably in opposition to the demands of business. Remember, Hitler was a vegetarian; being “one with nature” was a big part of the Nazi ideal. 
  6. Both believe in sexual libertinism—a strong draw for gaining popular support. There is a common misconception that Fascism was morally straightlaced. This is entirely wrong; if you were Aryan, you were encouraged to have sex whenever possible, with whomever possible. Prostitution was not just legal in Nazi Germany: it was state-sponsored. 
  7. Both believe in the power of the state, and seek to increase that power. As Mussolini summed up Fascism: “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Even the personal was political. 
  8. Both believe in cultural relativism. 
  9. Both believe in collectivism and are hostile to individualism. 
  10. They share many of the same constituencies: both claim to represent the interests of the common working man, but both gain their strongest support from within the government bureaucracy and the schools and universities. Both seem to have a special appeal for the young. Sadly, both also have a strong following among artists. Demographically, it’s the same guys in both movements. 
  11. Both believe that everything is political, and everything is based on power relationships. In practice, this can justify anything: “I’m just doing it to him before he can do it to me.” That sums up the main argument of Hitler's Mein Kampf. 

So there you are. Offhand, the only elements of Fascism that do not seem to me evident in the modern left are overt racism and the full-blown leader principle—the ideal of absolute one-man rule. That said, I think it is fair to say that the modern left is more racist than the modern right—with their racial quotas, their tendency to see people not as individuals but as members of groups, and their hostility to certain identifiable groups, notably Southern US whites, straight white males, WASPS, and so forth. Yes, they will argue that this is okay because these groups are socially powerful. Hitler said the same of the Jews.

On the other hand, I really can’t think of a single similarity between the Fascists and the modern right. Perhaps you can.
















Friday, March 21, 2014

Christianity and Homosexuality


No comment.

Like most Christians, I have little interest in the issue of the ethics of homosexuality. Judge not; let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Anyone who believes Christianity or Catholicism is especially hostile to homosexuality should visit the Philippines. It is an overwhelmingly, and devoutly, Catholic nation, 90% Christian and 80% Catholic, but homosexuality is quite open. Effeminate transvestites are everywhere. Nobody cares.

To be clear, homosexuality is immoral. But then, so is adultery, so is fornication, so is masturbation, so is lusting after a woman in your heart. Someone else’s sex life is still no business of mine, and it is immoral in turn to be too interested in it. Homosexuals have nothing to fear from the Catholic Church.

Accordingly, it is also no problem for Catholics, or Christians, if homosexuality is legal. Morality and law are two different things, and making the immoral illegal can be a mistake. It is not just that it is a terribly blunt instrument: if one does what is right out of fear of civil punishment, one has done nothing moral. True free will has been removed, and without free will there are no moral acts. So any law that seeks to eliminate immorality is eliminating morality just as surely.

So there need be no problem for homosexuals here. But what is happening in the West right now is something quite different from making homosexuality legal. Instead, in jurisdiction after jurisdiction, it has been declared, often unilaterally by the courts, to be a human right.

This is a big problem. For everyone.

First, while Christians have no problem tolerating it, Christians cannot simply decide homosexual sex (as opposed to having homosexual preferences) is perfectly moral after all. Homosexuality is clearly condemned in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. Since Christianity holds that the Bible is the word of God, Christians cannot pick and choose. If God says homosexuality is wrong, the case is closed, whether or not we understand the reasons why. You stop listening to God, and you are no longer following your religion. Not to mention going to Hell and stuff.

Some will point to the fact that we no longer stone adulterers, etc, etc, as evidence that these things can change. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. Stoning adulterers, etc, etc, is part of the Mosaic Law, which is to say, the Old Covenant given to Moses. The Old Covenant, for Christians, is superseded by the New. This is why we no longer circumcise ourselves, or keep kosher, or celebrate the Lord’s Day on Saturday. But homosexuality is clearly condemned in the New Testament as well as the Old, and by the early Church Fathers. No fudge factor here: it is part of the New Covenant.

Therefore, Christians cannot accept that there is nothing wrong with homosexual sex without discarding their religion itself. The same is true of Judaism and Islam.

Setting up a human right to homosexual sex (again as opposed to having homosexual urges) and to protection from discrimination on that basis, therefore creates a basic conflict in the doctrine of human rights: between this new right to lack of discrimination on the grounds of homosexual sex and the right to freedom of conscience and of religion.

I suspect that those who are promoting the idea of a right to homosexual sex are doing this largely if not entirely out of hostility to religion, knowingly hoping to eliminate freedom of religion. However, the threat to religion is actually secondary. The more direct threat is to the doctrine of human rights itself, as this new right makes it self-contradictory. Anyone who believes in human rights, as well as anyone themselves religious, must therefore be opposed to this new supposed inalienable right to sex. We must, in other words, recognize that people have the moral right to disapprove of homosexual sex, and the right to act on this disapproval, including the right to pass laws against it. The issue is only whether such laws are advisable.

Are they? Possibly.

The claim to an inalienable right to homosexual sex is based on two premises: first, that homosexuality is involuntary, that people are just “born that way,” on the analogy of sex, ethnicity, class, or skin colour; and, second, that homosexual sex is a “victimless crime,” that it harms no one. Both of these things must be true to justify a right to homosexual sex: being inborn is not enough. Pedophilia is also currently claimed to be inborn, yet nobody presumes an inalienable right to sex with children. Some believe that a tendency to alcoholism is at least partly genetic. Yet nobody is defending an inalienable right to alcohol.

But even this first premise, that homosexuality is inborn, is unproven.

Indeed, if people are born homosexual, Darwin must have been wrong on a fundamental point: natural selection. Since homosexuals tend in the nature of things not to breed, any homosexual gene must be selected out of the gene pool muy pronto: in a generation or two. Some theorize instead that a hormone imbalance in utero during pregnancy can cause homosexuality. This does not solve the problem, only obscure it: natural selection should breed out mothers with said hormone imbalance just as surely, if not just as quickly.

It more or less follows that people are not born homosexual. Yet even if they were, it is a leap to assume that, because someone is born with homosexual urges, they must have homosexual sex. After all, anywhere else we do not presume such a right: we can and do control our sexual urges as a matter of fundamental morality, as well as self-preservation. The fact that I feel powerfully attracted to one particular gorgeous redhead does not give me the right to have sex with her. 

And what if I have urges to rob a bank?

Now, to the second point: does homosexuality harm no one? Actually, it is clear that homosexual sex harms homosexuals. The body isn’t designed for it. As a result, gays are far more likely to contract sexually-transmitted diseases of all kinds. The bottom line is that the average life expectancy of a self-identified gay man is twenty years less than that of a straight man--even when you leave AIDS out of the equation. Seventy-five percent of self-identified gay men carry at least one sexually transmitted disease, apart from AIDS. (Thomas Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? (Downer’s Gove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995).

So, while both parties may consent, homosexual sex is a bad idea, and if one party entices the other party into it, he is for all intents and purposes an assailant, and the other a victim. 

But if nobody enticed anybody, there would be no homosexual sex.

Now let’s consider another troubling possibility. If homosexuality is not inborn, how does one become homosexual? The obvious likelihood is that one is introduced to it by another who already has that preference. Our early sexual experiences may well be influential, even definitive. This was always understood as the essential nature of homosexual encounters up to quite modern times: that they were a question of an older, mature man seducing a young adolescent. Maybe that is no longer the case; maybe it is just politically incorrect any more to say so.

A homosexual who seduces a young non-homosexual into the lifestyle is doing the latter a clear injustice. You can kind of see why a just God would object.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Romney Boomlet Begins?

This is probably nothing; but as I've noted here before, Mitt Romney does deserve another crack at it. His one flaw as a candidate was that he was too perfect. People could not identify with him, and doubted he could identify with him. His tough loss to Obama four years ago makes him more sympathetic, and perhaps repairs this flaw.

I suspect a lot of people now feel bad about not voting for him four years ago, and they would like a chance to make up for it. A similar sentiment, I think, helped George W. Bush in 2000--folks felt bad about voting his father out.

Romney could probably count on the backing of the Republican establishment. Chris Christie was their early choice, but he seems to have been damaged by the bridge controversy, and there may be more where that came from. Jeb Bush is another rival for this vote, but there is probably a feeling that the Bushes have had their turn; Republicans tend to think like that.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Ukraine

Realistically, nobody is going to stop Russia from taking over Crimea, because nobody can.