Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You can't, said Kant

Although I am not a big fan of Emmanuel Kant, I like his wisdom here, which famous liberal (but anti-Marxist and not progressive) philosopher Isaiah Berlin took for the title to one of his books:  
Out of the crooked timber of humanity 
no straight thing was ever made.
Although it is supposed to be sort of un-American to accept limitations, to confine your dreams, etc. that is a half-truth. The Founding Fathers certainly were dreamers, but they never doubted that their dreams had to find a place within the limits of reality. They knew history in detail, the actual story of man as he actually has been, and although it gave them hope for liberty, it was a sober hope. In history, despotism is the norm. (The more "visionary" dreamers of the French Revolution wound up, in short order, with The Terror and Emperor Napoleon.) The kind of republican freedom they wanted was rare and not particularly long-lived. They knew this. Witness Ben Franklin's response to the woman who asked him, outside the Pennsylvania State House after the Constitutional Convention was over, what kind of government he and his fellows had given the new country: "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

One of the limits they were mostly all aware of is the limit of human nature itself. The genius of Madison's constitutional vision was not to make a governmental system for angels but for men. His separation of powers in three branches of government assumed, assumed, assumed that they would naturally struggle with each other for supremacy. He did not attempt make men rise above ambition, but sought to use their ineradicable ambitions to counter one another's lust for power.

The American Revolution was finally a rather conservative revolution. That, I believe, is the secret of its success and longevity. It was willing to live with unpalatable things like slavery. And the men who wrote the words "All men are created equal", did not hold the silly idea, now regnant, that every human being is equally gifted, talented, capable, able or deserving. It was a far more modest claim. And if they actually intended it to mean adult white males, that was not --as now so huffily asserted-- a tragic flaw, but common sense in the context. It is no accident that the primary unalienable rights they list were not "life, liberty and happiness", but "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." A crucial distinction unnoticed by our current age, where we are told by marketers, teachers and politicians about how much we "deserve".

What provoked these thoughts was a news items describing the flight of males from Reform Judaism, the transformation of that most common form of American Judaism into a female ghetto. The majority of new rabbinical students are now women. Men are staying away in droves.

This feminization is showing up all over the culture: the humanities in the university, most churches outside the Catholic/Orthodox fold, in some professions --certainly my own psychological one. While feminists, and people who now think that feminist ideology is just The Obvious Truth, may certainly pathologize this trend as a flaw in the male gender's ethical structure, it is true to say that part of the crooked timber of humanity is that men and women are indeed very very different. Opposite, even. Opposite sexes. Different needs by nature, by design.

And where a realm is dominated by women, or even begins to be so, men will now leave it. The common wisdom fed to us by the media and our betters still can speak with victim nobility about "old boys clubs", but the truth is that the girls' coffee klatch is now established in our culture. And men certainly want no part of it. For that reason alone, theology aside, for Catholicism or Orthodoxy to admit women to the priesthood would be suicidal. Christianity has enough of the feminine in it already.

Gay men are usually far more at home in a feminized space, and so that cadre of males might remain and even grow. In the clergy, in academia, in therapyland, etc. But your standard man will withdraw.

I once shocked my Board at the psych institute where I was executive director for many years by asking them to be conscious of how they were making their organization a place where straight males would not come, a place increasingly dominated by women and gay men. Not, I said, an archetypally healthy balance. They simply stared at me. To my knowledge, only one straight male, an East Asian, has entered their training program in the last five or seven years. One year the new class was entirely female. They yammered on embarrassingly for years about "diversity" while making the place more gender-uniform all the time.

It is supposedly a mark now of Western identity that women are free and equal. This is one of the things we use to distinguish ourselves from Islam. But if the West continues to be feminized, what is the eventual outcome...especially if other large and unfriendly parts of the world remain, as nature seems to prefer, patriarchal? If you succeed in converting your neighborhood to Quakerism, but the rest of South Central is run by the Crips and the Bloods...how long do you think you'll last? As the author of Androphilia puts it, "A society dominated by women and effeminates cannot survive."

I ask myself this question: if a classless society is impossible --certainly the Marxist experiment showed that-- what makes anyone think that a non-sexist society is possible? Or a racially blind multicultural one? If we are to believe anthropologists, during our long hunter-gatherer phase --the longest and most determinative phase in human history-- there really was no class as we know it. That only became possible with sendentism and agriculture, a mere ten to twelve thousand years ago. One could argue then that sex and tribe differences are far more deeply engrained in human nature than class.

It seems to be that men establish their own sense of manhood and their status as worthy mates for women, by competing with other men in hierarchical masculine realms. Feminine rites of initiation are very rare compared to rites for young males. It may be that nature herself, through menstruation and childbirth, initiates girls into womanhood. Males can really only be made into men by other men. Undo that construct and those patriarchal places of separate power, and they cannot complete their archetypal task. The US Marine Corps, though forced to comply with the societal drift, still insists on keeping genders entirely separate for basic training, basic initiation. Beating out a woman in competition brings no honor to a man and losing to one is catastrophic. Like or not, nature has made the two sexes quite different.

It is not uncommon to discover, if you talk long enough with a liberal or progressive, that they basically find the world as it is to be a scandal, an outrage, a crime. If they can imagine a just, fair, peaceful and egalitarian world in their heads, --a source of enormous ethical pride for them--it enrages them that such a world does not exist outside. And in typical human form, visible since the story of Adam and Eve, they look for Someone Bad To Blame. I have to say that this is also the hallmark of an adolescent mind. Who is both more self-righteous and clueless than a teenager?

Conservatives are more likely to take the world as it is as given, to take reality as a teacher rather than an enemy, to adapt to limitation rather than froth about it. For all its flaws, conservatives are more likely to be amazed that things are not a lot worse, because they know that they have been and can be again. Any time. Hence, the urge to "conserve."

One of the favorite quotes of progressives is one attributed to Robert Kennedy.
       “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
Well, Bobby, there are a lot of things, it turns out, that never were because they can never be.  

Wishing, Bobby, does not make it so.


Anonymous said...

Re Quakerism: George Fox depended on his friend Oliver Cromwell to deal with the Crips and the Bloods.

Anonymous said...

"This feminization is showing up all over the culture: the humanities in the university, most churches outside the Catholic/Orthodox fold, in some professions"

While we were wroking on the Blood-Brotherhood book, Mr. D was asking me why I didn't go into anthropology, because it he thought there might be the beginnings of a master's thesis in it. But my thought is why bother going into a field so dominated by feminist and Rousseauist hooplah? I've effetively "blasphemed" against 'em already, even before entering. I wouldn't want a career where I'm constantly clashing with others over fundamentals.


OreamnosAmericanus said...

I excepted Catholicism from the feminization trend but that is not entirely true. As part of the egalitarian fear of hierarchy, the priesthood has been practically recast in many places, North America especially, as just another form of "ministerial service". Many parishes are in fact dominated not only numerically by women, except for the lone male pastor, but ideologically by feminists, and many of the many gay priests go along with this, many of the old time straight ones too.

But it has no future. Despite all the pious blah blah about "servant leadership", anyone who knows anything about male psychology knows that you cannot ask men to study for many years and then undertake a life without sex without giving them some kind of special status or power in return. To go thru all that just to wind up being one of the girls at the Monday morning staff meeting...how unattractive a prospect!

DoDoGuRu said...

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

They're not asking "why not" even. They're demanding, "Make it so."

OreamnosAmericanus said...

Acute insight, DDGR.

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