Friday, December 02, 2011

Conservative Tectonics.

I get the impression that I'm persona non grata at several traditionalist websites. I can understand their position as many of my comments are decidedly nontraditional. As I've argued before, in previous posts, part of the problem with current modern predicament is traditionalism, which paradoxically provides the "life force" for leftist ideas.  For example, the traditionalist idea of creating a social structure which subordinates women to exclusive domesticity innervates the feminist movement by reaction.  Happy women, like happy workers, are not militant except by injustice; and societal structures which rub against human nature are ultimately percieved as oppressive. Sure, there are individuals who are objectively evil and wish to destroy what is good, but evil ideas, much like weeds, can only grow in the fertile soil of discontent.

My contention, and that of G.K. Chesterton and Whittaker Chambers, is that traditional society, whilst good overall, had several "structural anomalies" which produced profound discontent. It's also my contention that traditional western society could have survived intact (albeit in different form) had it changed in a way that accommodated those pressures without compromising the foundations upon which it was built. The problem was that it didn't, and it created the pressure cooker situations from which radicalism emerged.  Of course, traditionalists deny this; attributing to outright malice the motives of their opponents. This has the dual convenience of entrenching their own sense of moral superiority and permits the avoidance of any self reflection as to their own part in the state of affairs.

Therefore the traditionalist is always always harking to reset the system to "initial conditions". The problem is that initial conditions generate the same pressures that radicalised society in the first place, and thus the seeds of revolution are re-energised again. Tradition is the midwife of modern radicalism.

And I think this is why conservatism has failed in the 20th Century; it's failed because it's hitched it's star to traditionalism. I mean, what Negro would want to go back to traditional society? What intelligent woman would? Or even your average worker? How many of them would want to return to peon's existence that was the lot of the worker in early industrial capitalism? Is it any surprise that the main advocates of traditionalism are reasonably prosperous white males?

Practical,  that is political Conservatism, has realised that a return to initial conditions is political suicide and hence has to accommodate the wishes of the electorate. The net result is that modern political conservatism gradually morphs into liberalism by incorporating many of liberalism's ideas as a matter of political expediency.  Indeed, today's conservatism would be regard as leftist radicalism by the conservatives of a century ago.  The question is, why does it morph liberal?

It's my contention that modern liberalism is the only "new ideas" generator out there at the moment. The problem is, because of the liberalism's intellectual underpinnings, it's highly likely the solutions proffered by it  a likely to wrong.  Conservatism, strongly influenced by traditionalism, doesn't generate new ideas because all the "solutions" were worked out years ago by our forefathers. There's no need for any new thinking as all the thinking has been done for us before; it's a question of defending. Conservatism is always on the back foot.

But it's worse than that. Because people don't want to return to "initial conditions" traditional conservatism becomes an exercise in defensive irrelevance. Russell Kirk may have been admired and read amongst thinking conservatives but no one else cares.  From James Kalb's recent essay:
The canonical writers weren’t much help even among conservatives. Kirk’s romantic Burkeanism never had many adherents. Weaver and Voegelin, from most people’s perspective, were off in an ivory tower. And favoring the free market over socialism has gotten some traction, but it’s not enough for an overall conservative movement.
Now, I've had philosophic differences with Mr Kalb,  and I think I'm "on the nose" with him, but being a  man of ideas and not personalities, I've got to applaud him for his this essay: Liberal Values and the Seduction of the American Right. It appears that Mr Kalb has had a shift in his thinking, and it's a shift in the right direction. Commenting on the failure of Conservatism:
We’re in a political hole because we’re in an intellectual hole. If the problem is what people think makes sense, then we have to change or at least challenge accepted understandings in a very fundamental way.
and,
So much for the good. With respect to the true, it’s evident that we need the concept of transcendence, of something that exceeds what we can say or know. The point of talking about truth is that what we say about almost anything is certainly incomplete and might be altogether wrong. That shows we need “truth” as a higher point of reference. It’s an ideal standard that we can’t altogether attain, but can’t do without.
Our debate with the liberals is not over preference choices, rather, the conservative  understanding of reality implies that certain things are, or are not, in accordance with the "truth" of reality: Things are either right or wrong. Truth is the idee fixe of the Conservative, tradition is the idee fixe of the Traditionalist. Now, it's true that there may be truth in tradition, and the Conservative is happy to embrace tradition where it is true,  but where tradition is in error the conservative will ditch tradition.  Of course, by framing conservatism as traditionalism, this immediately pushes him outside of the conservative fold. Both the Left and the Right hate him.

The task then, for the modern conservative, is to look at history and ask, "Where did it go wrong"? "How can we change without compromising our core principles"? Even more importantly; What are our blindspots?" The most effective attack is the one that is not foreseen.

The fundamental error of thinking conservatism has been its assumption of the infallibility of tradition. This is the intellectual hole which conservatism has fallen in to and has effectively rendered it irrelevant. This is why any "Right Renaissance" is not going to occur within the mainstream right but rather outside it. It won't be the academy but the in the blogosphere where the right is reborn. This is not because I'm some technological junkie, rather because the internet provides a forum where all the "odballs" can debate and thrash the ideas out. Orthodox conservatism permits no such discussion. To quote Curtis Le May, speaking of American military culture in Fifties and Sixties:
We must-but do not-have a defense organization which permits controversy, which permits the "unthinkable" condition to be debated freely, which permits the screwball idea to come forth, and which tolerates the maverick officer. The Andrew Jacksons, the Zachary Taylors, the Ulysses S. Grants, the George Deweys, the Alfred Thayer Mahans, the Billy Mitchells, are not nurtured in orthodoxy. They are not products of a party line. And we have not infrequently called on them to save our shirts.
(Curtis Le May, America is in Danger. )

It is only after the traditionalists have been nearly ground into the dust that their prodigal sons will come back to save them.

53 comments:

Jehu said...

The conservative is really more of a right-liberal. Conservatives and Liberals share a visceral rejection of what I call the fundamental axiom of Reaction.

That is, any political decision, system or change that you make WILL have definite losers and it will suck for someone. Decisions and systems that have only winners exist only in fevered imaginations.


By shining the spotlight selectively on certain 'annointed losers', it is pretty easy to manipulate a population to where we are now if they don't grasp that axiom deep in their bones. Anyone who can't or won't tell you who their proposed policy's ox is going to gore should never be allowed anywhere near power.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to like your blog, but the turgid prose worthy of a modern sociology professor does not permit me. Ponder sans ponderousness.

Simon Grey said...

"My contention, and that of G.K. Chesterton and Whittaker Chambers, is that traditional society, whilst good overall, had several "structural anomalies" which produced profound discontent. It's also my contention that traditional western society could have survived intact (albeit in different form) had it changed in a way that accommodated those pressures without compromising the foundations upon which it was built."

Well, that's a very tall order. I'm not sure that it could be done. I believe that there are some people who are contentious for contention's sake. As such, there is literally nothing that can be done to satisfy them. Every generation has its malcontents.

"And I think this is why conservatism has failed in the 20th Century; it's failed because it's hitched it's star to traditionalism. I mean, what Negro would want to go back to traditional society? What intelligent woman would? Or even your average worker? How many of them would want to return to peon's existence that was the lot of the worker in early industrial capitalism?"

Yes, but how much of this is due to social structures, and how much of this is due to the absence of technology. While I would be better off politically living in the 19th century, I certainly do not want to live in that time frame because life just sucked back then. I mean, no internet...

"The fundamental error of thinking conservatism has been its assumption of the infallibility of tradition. This is the intellectual hole which conservatism has fallen in to and has effectively rendered it irrelevant."

I believe it was Thomas Sowell who observed that rejecting tradition is a very risky thing to do. That doesn't mean that you stay stuck in a repetitive loop. Rather, you refine tradition instead of rejecting it. In fact, that is the oldest tradition of all: continual refinement of beliefs and culture. Changes, then, should be incremental, not wholesale. In this, conservatism cannot rightly be considered traditionalist because it is less flexible than tradition. And inflexible ideologies are always bound to fail because they only work for a brief period of time, if ever.

Incidentally, your closing comment regarding the US army reminded of a book called "Adapt" by Tim Harford. I'd imagine that you'd find it a very profitable read.

Simon Grey said...

BTW, you're always persona grata in my corner of teh interwebs, though I can hardly be considered a traditionalist.

Anonymous Protestant said...

Perhaps the issue at heart is one of principles vs. tradition. Traditions can and do fade away when cultural change renders them moot. Principles ought to be timeless.

Separating out timeless principles from time-bound tradition is one of the tasks before us.

Anonymous Protestant said...

I have an open ended question that might be worth considering. Let us take as granted that we are "conservative" in some sense. Now let's consider this question in the broadest possible sense, the widest scope:

What exactly is it that we want to conserve?

Anonymous said...

I am no fan of the reformation. I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian. And I do revere tradition. There is no compromise with tradition.

I understand your desire to be relevant in a political sense, but it is no way conservative. Trying to come up with the better changes isn't conservative, it's just a form of competitive liberalism.

And you know this.

Anonymous Protestant said...

Anonymous, I have no desire for a theological discussion on SP's site. When I refer to tradition vs. principle I'm not looking at liturgical or other religious tradition. I'm trying to discuss cultural tradition.

60 or more years ago it was the custom in much of the world for men to wear hats. It was traditional. That has gone by the wayside since the 60's. Should conservatives go about urging everyone to wear hats, in the hope that a saner culture would result? I do not think so. I have a retired neighbor who still wears a hat, and he's rather liberal in his politics.

So there's a tradition that is not significant.

But consider the traditional Christian teaching of chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards. Many good things come from this tradition, as we should expect because God commands it. Consider a society in which even secularists acknowledge that promiscuity spreads disease, causes mental and emotional harm, makes the marriage bond more difficult to create. In such a society, the popular music culture would not urge promiscuity on women, but "wait for marriage". Young women would not regard their virginity as a burden to be shed as soon as possible but a treasure to be guarded until the right man, in the right time, is to receive it.

That would be a tradition worth fighting for. Much good would come to even unbelievers if it were to become a normal part of culture. In my opinion, that is because it follows the right principle of obeying God's commands, of following the God-ordained path of marriage.

But I believe it can be shown to be a good tradition scientifically as well, so even secular conservatives should support it. Therefore, promotion of chastity and fidelity is something that conservatives now and in the future should do. It is a tradition worth conserving.

Does that help explain what I'm trying to discuss?

The Social Pathologist said...

@Simon

Well, that's a very tall order.

And yet it must be done. I understand that there are malcontents in every society and my aim isn't to accommodate them. The thing is though, the poisonous ideas of modernism could not have taken hold unless large portions of society was discontented with the way things were.
I suppose what I want to understand is firstly, what were the causes of the discontent? And secondly, is there any way to alleviate them legitimately within the Christian understanding?

Yes, but how much of this is due to social structures

Social structures are a reflection of the intersection between culture, environment and technology. Technology does play a role, but it's no where as important as the underlying "ideas" society has in its head. Traditional society was strongly influenced by religion, and it was religion, which until recently, shaped the trajectory of the society.

Rather, you refine tradition instead of rejecting it.

That's my point entirely. I don't aim to ditch Christianity, rather refine it. The problem is that any refinement will be non-traditional, and therefore rejected by the traditionalists. Traditionalism prevents any sort of feedback loop to allow the system to accommodate societal changes.

Thanks, I'll have a look at "Adapt".

The Social Pathologist said...

@Anon.

Ponder sans ponderousness.

My aim is instruction, not entertainment.

@AP

What exactly is it that we want to conserve?

With due respect, I think this the wrong way to frame the question. I think the question we should ask is "What is the right way to live?". You see, I think that how the saints and thinkers before us approached the question. They wanted to live according to God's will, but as faith is limited to letting us see "through a glass darkly" their "solutions" may have a degree of inaccuracy in them. Our job is to go back to first principles, the truth so to speak, and work things out from there.

The truth however, is also those things which are empirically verifiable. And it's my contention that truth is a "seamless garment" uniting the natural and supernatural. I think that's why the Biblical teaching is pretty much confirmed by scientific experiment.

Thus science is a aid to discovery of the truth. If the natural world differs in some way from our understanding of Divine imperative then either our science or religion is bad.

The Social Pathologist said...

Anon

I understand your desire to be relevant in a political sense

I'm not interested in being relevant, I'm interested in being right.

David Collard said...

Another problem conservatives have is low spirits, of which this piece is an example.

Tradition can be fun. My wife is currently baking and collecting stuff for Christmas. I am sure she doesn't see that tradition as oppressive.

On the happiness of women over time, there was a survey a few years ago that showed that women are less happy than they were a generation ago. Men were about the same, as I recall.

I certainly think people shoukd be given choices and genuine mavericks shoukd be free, but to take women again, most women still freely choose to be wives and mothers, and choose to do less paid work than men.

Also, I think it is a good and common debating trick to write of blacks and women in the same rhetorical breath, but I don't think it is fair. White women got any of the benefits of racism along with white men.

Lastly, if one group, white men, created modernity, I think they (we) are entitled to the lion's share of the benefits. Things could have been better for women, but they were made bearable by men, including the military sacrifice of men. Life for, say, African women is certainly harder. Liberalism is ahistoric in this regard and systematically ignores reality.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ David Collard

Another problem conservatives have is low spirits, of which this piece is an example.

True. But perhaps they are demoralised because they have suffered pretty much nothing but setbacks over the past hundred years or so. It does sort of wreck your self confidence.

there was a survey a few years ago that showed that women are less happy than they were a generation ago.

I've read the study as well. Whilst overall, women were happier in the past than now, there were still large segments of unhappiness in the past. It was from this latter group of women that feminism arose. Now, it's true that they could have been simple malcontents, and the traditional approach to their grievances was to dismiss them, but perhaps some of their grievances have some merit. The question is, can we accommodate them without destroying the fabric of society?

I think it is a good and common debating trick to write of blacks and women in the same rhetorical breath, but I don't think it is fair

It wasn't meant to be a debating trick. But it is a common intellectual error to extrapolate from one's personal circumstances onto the universal. The fact that your wife is happy at home baking does not imply that all women will be happy with this state of affairs.
Dave, as Catherine Hakim has showed, lots of women are intrinsically unsuited to homemaker duties.

About Liberalism ignoring reality; you have no disagreement with me on that issue.

David Collard said...

My wife is not a SAHM. She has mostly done what Australian women like to do, work part-time in support of a full-time chief breadwinner. She has often discussed Catherine Hakim's results with me. I believe she found that some women want to be SAHMs, some want to be career women, but most want balance.

She just likes the Christmas thing. I didn't say to her, "Wife, now you must perform Christmas". Women like to do this stuff, and they like to complain about it as well. Double the fun.

Only ill-mannered types like me will say it, but it does need to be said. Men, mostly white men, created modernity. It is maintained by men, and if men were to give up, the ladies are welcome to their grass huts.

I consume my share of popular culture, and I don't see the total liberal victory that others do. Nor do I see it in the broader culture.

The Social Pathologist said...

@David

She has mostly done what Australian women like to do, work part-time in support of a full-time chief breadwinner

She wouldn't of had that choice 50 years ago. The ability to have that choice was spearheaded by the feminists and not the conservatives. The thing is, women are happier by having this ability to choose, and certainly in your circumstance, your wife has not become a raging feminist by choosing to do part time work or neglect the family.

Most women like home duties, I agree, but there is a surprisingly large fraction that don't, or find it very stressful. And it's not due to any form of malice, but is intrinsic to their nature. David, I can't stress to you enough the amount of women who's depression improves once they get a life out of the house. Trying to fit these women into the traditional homemaker role injures their nature. My position on the woman/homemaker role is not made as a result of some ideological prejudice, rather it's the consequence of clinical observation of lots of women. The idea that a woman's natural place is in the home just doesn't square up with observed facts. The traditionalist conception of the female role in society did injury to a lot of women's natures.

Men, mostly white men, created modernity. It is maintained by men, and if men were to give up, the ladies are welcome to their grass huts.

Agree.

David Collard said...

As my mother once said to me, women of even her generation and relatively high social class could enter professions. They mostly chose not to. Being forced to work as a housewife was bad for many women, but so was being gassed in the trenches in France, which happened to some of my male ancestors.

To take a less lurid example, many men were and are stuck in shitty jobs. I had a good, fairly privileged education, but I have had my share of dull patches at work.

My wife's mental health was one reason I wanted her to work, albeit part-time. It was also good for me to have a fallback lest I cease being able to work. In fact, I am about to retire on a pension, supplemented by my wife's salary.

The Social Pathologist said...

@David

(Rainy Sunday)

As my mother once said to me, women of even her generation and relatively high social class could enter professions.

Yeah, but not all women were of high social class. That was the problem.

but so was being gassed in the trenches in France, which happened to some of my male ancestors.

It was a volunteer army, they had a choice. The social structures of the time "sort of" conscripted women into the home; they had no choice. They had their own form of gassing. Intelligent women slowly being driven mad by domesticity. My colleagues used to call large swathes of Melbourne's Eastern suburbs "Valium Valley". Lots of women lived profoundly depressing lives trapped in gilded cages.

Still, I think getting out of the house should not be conflated with trying to act like a man. I'm all for women working, but not working in jobs which injure their femininity.

David Collard said...

Nor were all men of high social class. That is why both my grandfathers never got to go to university. Both would have benefited. As for going to war, there was social pressure and eventually conscription, as in Vietnam.

Does anyone seriously imagine that women will ever be conscripted? Joining the military is just another lifestyle choice for women.

It is also possible that women are just intrinsically less happy than men. One in four American women is on mood-altering drugs, as the Wall Street Journal apparently reported of late.

David Collard said...

My mother was a Toorak matron, as was my grandmother. They had fun, did charity work and went to art shows. Boring people get bored wherever they are.

The Social Pathologist said...

One in four American women is on mood-altering drugs, as the Wall Street Journal apparently reported of late.

Having choices does not necessarily mean that people make the right ones.

David said...

I don't think intelligent conservatism requires a belief in going back to some zero point and keeping everything the same from there; rather, it involves an understanding that in complicated systems involving human beings, it is very difficult to change things in radical ways without bringing about major unexpected consequences. An analogy that I've used is this:


You have inherited a chemical plant which makes a valuable and vitally-needed product. It is a vast facility, covering many acres: kind of a spooky place, too, with steam jets and gas flares everywhere. The plant has grown up over time, and the piping and wiring diagrams, if they ever existed, have long since been lost.

The plant’s chemical process has been developed by trial-and-error, and is not well understood. It is controlled by hundreds of set-point knobs adjusting various temperatures, pressure, and rates of flow. The plant operators, most of them with years of experience, have been able to make some changes in the plant’s efficiency by making slight occasional adjustments to the set points. They do this very carefully: several times in the past, adjustments which proved to be unwise have resulted in explosions, destroying equipment, shutting down the plant, and even sometimes injuring and killing people. Some of these failed adjustments were based on mathematical process models which said that they should have worked out just fine.

Two of your executives come to see you with a proposal. One is a chemical engineer, the other an MBA. They have a new, very elaborate process model in which they have very high confidence, and a proposal for optimizing the plant based on this model. If you will just give approval for all the setpoints to be simultaneously reset to new values, then the plant will increase its production by 75%–as verified by the chemical engineer’s process model–and will make you lots and lots of money–as verified by the MBA’s spreadsheets.

The conservative is unlike to follow the recommendations. This doesn't mean that he believes he plant is the best of all chemical plants or that he doesn't want to improve it; it means that he wants to be sure he doesn't blow it up in the process.

David Collard said...

My point was that maybe many women will be unhappy whatever their choices. There is no perfect way to live your life. Biology makes life difficult for women.

The Social Pathologist said...

Biology makes life difficult for women.

That's why their happier when they're paired with a man.

They really aren't all that complicated.

Kathy Farrelly said...

"The fact that your wife is happy at home baking does not imply that all women will be happy with this state of affairs.
Dave, as Catherine Hakim has showed, lots of women are intrinsically unsuited to homemaker duties."

Yes, this is true SP.. However if a woman chooses to marry and has a family as a consequence, then she should be prepared to sacrifice her own wants and interests for the good of the family...

It's her duty.. It's her job. She should just suck it up..

In any event her poor husband more than likely would rather be home with his family than slogging away at work to pay the bills and put food on the table and a roof over his families head..

But he toils away without complaint..

A woman who loves her man unconditionally however, will put up with anything, because the payoff is well worth the effort.. ;)

This:

"That's why their happier when they're paired with a man.

They really aren't all that complicated."

Indeed SP..

The Social Pathologist said...

@Kathy.

As I've said before, it's O.K for a woman to sacrifice herself for her family, but it's not OK for her to take them down with her.

The problem with depression is that it creeps up on people without them knowing it. They become bitter, snappy and withdrawn, even though they're soldiering on with their duties. The biochemical changes that result from chronic stress lead people to undergo involuntary changes of personality. Quite a few women whom I've treated for depression had to prised away from their home duties in order to get better. For many of them it was a last ditch measure.

Lots of people have had a terrible childhood with a mum who stuck at her duties but was terribly unhappy.
Trads tend to paint the wife role as a sacrifice for the sake of the family.

The role of a good husband is to manage his wife. If she's not coping in her role she either gets help or quits the role.

David Collard said...

I agree that a good husband "husbands" his wife. That is what I have done by encouraging my wife to work at her profession (librarian) - consistent with the good of the family as a whole. There was one time when she and I were both working full-time and it was driving us nuts with the kids still young. So, I put my foot down and she went back to part-time work. Even the last pope, a self-described feminist, wrote of the rights and responsibilities of the father to look after the good of the entire family. That does not necessarily mean pandering to his wife.

My problem with following the feminist script on the bored housewife is that it provides the perfect excuse for women to drop their bundle. Men also get bored and stressed at times in their jobs, but no-one valorises the choice of a husband to drop his bundle.

No doubt, SP, you see these women in your practice but there is some selection bias here.

The Social Pathologist said...

@David.

I see a lot of stressed men as well. Our current culture is toxic.

Just a little anecdote for you.

When I started working in General Practice, I could not believe the amount of depression/stress/anxiety that I was diagnosing. I thought I must have been making a mistake and over diagnosing the condition. I spoke to my colleagues who assured me that the condition was common, but I was still unsettled at my diagnosis rates.

I'm not sure that your aware of it, but Medicare Australia tracks our prescribing habits, well anyway, I received this letter from them and a "helpful" brochure entitled, "Have you considered Depression?". Apparently, according to my drug prescribing data, I was way under prescribing for the condition. Apparently I was missing cases when compared to my peers. It's a massive problem in society. For every patient that accepts the medication, probably one doesn't, such is the resistance to treatment and so strong is the culture of "sucking it up".

It's not the bored housewife that I worry about, it's the depressed one.

As for selection bias, I used to worry about it as well. It's too long to go into but it's not that great an issue.

The Social Pathologist said...

@David.

I see a lot of stressed men as well. Our current culture is toxic.

Just a little anecdote for you.

When I started working in General Practice, I could not believe the amount of depression/stress/anxiety that I was diagnosing. I thought I must have been making a mistake and over diagnosing the condition. I spoke to my colleagues who assured me that the condition was common, but I was still unsettled at my diagnosis rates.

I'm not sure that your aware of it, but Medicare Australia tracks our prescribing habits, well anyway, I received this letter from them and a "helpful" brochure entitled, "Have you considered Depression?". Apparently, according to my drug prescribing data, I was way under prescribing for the condition. Apparently I was missing cases when compared to my peers. It's a massive problem in society. For every patient that accepts the medication, probably one doesn't, such is the resistance to treatment and so strong is the culture of "sucking it up".

It's not the bored housewife that I worry about, it's the depressed one.

As for selection bias, I used to worry about it as well. It's too long to go into but it's not that great an issue.

David Collard said...

But what makes you think the problem is any worse now than in the past? I see no reason to think people are markedly less happy now than in the past. Or indeed less moral. It is the same with the moral panic over drunk, sluttish girls in London, and the infamous pictures. Technology lets us treat the melancholics and view the slatterns. But melancholics and slatterns have always been a part of humanity.

Kathy Farrelly said...

"The role of a good husband is to manage his wife. If she's not coping in her role she either gets help or quits the role."

Could the focus on materialism be why women are so unhappy and depressed.?

Depression in women is 10-20 times more common than it was 50 years ago, with teens now experiencing depression as well.

Materialism has no room for God or the soul..

I know that I could not have made it as far as I have without God's help... God gave me a good husband, but he also gave us a challenging child with Autism, ADHD, OCD and resultant anxiety issues. We love him to bits, but he is hard work nevertheless.

The divorce rate is twice as high for couples who have an autistic child.
For my husband and I God is a big part of our lives..
We pray for strength to be able to cope.. We appreciate the times that we do have together when our son goes into respite.. Things others take for granted..

Our focus is not on the material.. Our son has basically trashed the house.. It's sparingly furnished... But, in the end it's just a house.. We are all in good health, and we have each other..

That's what counts..

We don't get to go out that much so we are together quite a lot..

The simple things in life are really the most pleasurable and don't cost that much.

On a typical Friday night:

A couple of beers, a good wine with a bbq sirloin steak.. Winding down and talking, just the two of us after the kids have gone to bed... That followed by a damn good r**t..

Ah, well, I wouldn't swap it for the world.... :)

Brandon said...

"But melancholics and slatterns have always been a part of humanity."

The problem is, today, they are the majority of us.

Mike T said...

I think the only way conservatives are going to get out of this is to break the liberal belief that the past was this wretched age of heinous evil and see it as being as mixed as what we have today. Unfortunately, most of the American conservatives I know actually tend to believe that the history of much of the West was closer to a reign of terror by crazy monarchs and religious tyrants than a mixed bag.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Kathy

Could the focus on materialism be why women are so unhappy and depressed.

Partly, money puts a lot of pressure on marriages, it sucks the joy out of them in many ways. A husband, tired from working, is a resentful helper and this fuels some marital discord. Being stuck at home with the kids all day does as well. So does having a "wussy" husband and having unrealistic expectations. Our modern culture is toxic on so many levels.

@David.

People are more unhappier today. Freedom brings lots of more choices and ways to live badly. A lot of people find self actuation highly stressful and do well in a structured society, something we've destroyed. Structure however is not enough; it must be a good structure, and the problems with the traditional conceptions of women led to a societal structure that was not good. Not that the contemporary one is better.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Mike T

Unfortunately, most of the American conservatives I know actually tend to believe that the history of much of the West was closer to a reign of terror by crazy monarchs and religious tyrants than a mixed bag.

One of the big problems of American conservatism is the "not in house problem". With due respect, it's my experience that many Americans don't take foreign experiences seriously, regarding anything not from "in house" as suspect. Continental absolutism had its problems but so has democratic absolutism as well.

7man said...

I think much of the reason for the modern increase of depression in women is women’s resistance to male leadership. It is taxing for a woman to control her environment and decide everything. If woman was truly created as a companion and a helper to man, then submission and obedience is a position of freedom when bonded to a benevolent dominant man of integrity. There is less responsibility for her. This is a calm relationship where the man can help manage the emotionality of a woman without being oppressive.

Without this natural order to a relationship, it is not surprising that women are depressed. The assertive rebellious woman is often depressed and overwhelmed.

The Social Pathologist said...

@7Man

Without this natural order to a relationship, it is not surprising that women are depressed. The assertive rebellious woman is often depressed and overwhelmed.

Agree and part of the reason they're depressed is because there has been an overall failure of masculinity. The men that women will be happy with simply aren't there. Part of the reason for this is because of the desexualised ideal of masculinity that has been promoted.

Kathy Farrelly said...

"I think much of the reason for the modern increase of depression in women is women’s resistance to male leadership....

Without this natural order to a relationship, it is not surprising that women are depressed. The assertive rebellious woman is often depressed and overwhelmed."

Good point 7 man.. This is probably why in 16 years of marriage I have never been depressed myself.. Yes, there have been hard times, but no depression.. My husband has always been my rock.. :D

nydwracu said...

Who, especially in academia, believes in the infallibility of tradition?

The charge of disproportionate deference to tradition would probably have a better chance of sticking, but Alain de Benoist formulated a working response to that, albeit in the context of paganism, not politics: to translate it into the political realm, it's not about turning back the clock, it's about taking the past as a starting point. From there, it looks to me like it would answer your argument to say that the goal of the traditionalist should be to see, with the added knowledge we have now, if the past holds answers to our current questions, and if those answers can be implemented to improve what we have.

Or, if you want to talk rewind, the question would be whether a rewind, combined with the added knowledge we have now, would allow something better than what we have now to be built. This, however, disregards that a complete rewind is impossible because of that knowledge: if Germany were to go Third Reich again, they'd mind their Hitlers and Himmlers much more than they did the first time around.

The Social Pathologist said...

@nydwracu

Who, especially in academia, believes in the infallibility of tradition?

What ideas are they prepared to yield?

Anonymous Reader said...

Who, especially in academia, believes in the infallibility of tradition?

That depends on what the meaning of the word "tradition" is. I find many academics who clearly believe that each child is born as a "blank slate", despite both the growing body of evidence found in science and the evidence any father or mother can see with their own eyes. Also, I find many academics who see the economic world, or the historical world, or the social world, through the lens of Marxism, despite the repeated failures of that model. There are many other examples I can point to but those two are enough.

Therefore, if one can define the word "tradition" in the sense of "we've always done or thought things this way, therefore this is the right way to be, to do, to think, no matter what results" then academics are extremely traditional people. They are people who clearly believe in a tradition that is indeed infallible. One need only read the various apologists for Communism over the last 100 years or so, each one of whom essentially pleads "Mistakes were made, but the intent was pure" to see a kind of faith in a tradition that is regarded as infallible.

In my opinion, the tradition they cling to can be traced back to Rousseau with his notion of the "noble savage" and other errors. It is a pernicious set of ideas that has lasted quite some time.

Now, if you are referring to a narrower definition of tradition, then perhaps academics are not following any tradition at all. It would be prudent to define our terms, would it not?

CL said...

Agree and part of the reason they're depressed is because there has been an overall failure of masculinity.

While this is true, the problem with this statement is that it leaves the "man up" crowd with an opening. The cause was the unleashing of female sexuality, which by nature is wilder than male in many ways. The advent of artificial, reliable birth control (i.e. The Pill) brought unforeseen (by most, at any rate) changes to society, the results of which we see today.

If there are no ladies, there are few gentlemen. A man looks around and sees that there are pretty well nothing but whores and thinks well, no sense acting the gentleman/good man in this mess and either opts out or behaves accordingly.

Women have no one to blame but themselves for the mess we're in.

Mark Richardson said...

My colleagues used to call large swathes of Melbourne's Eastern suburbs "Valium Valley". Lots of women lived profoundly depressing lives trapped in gilded cages.

But SP there are now record numbers of women on antidepressants. One in four women in the US. By your logic, the reverse should have happened.

Happy women, like happy workers, are not militant except by injustice

There are many reasons why women became feminists. For some leaders of second-wave feminism it was because they felt abandoned by their fathers. For some it was because their lesbianism left them as outsiders to the mainstream. Some became radicalised first as part of libertarian or communist movements before expressing an interest in gender issues.

I was once a leftist radical myself. It is absurd to claim that I became so because I suffered injustice. Nor were the radical women I mixed with victims of injustice. They were privileged young women. They were not impeded at all when it came to education or careers. And yet they still became feminist radicals.

And the same could be said of recent generations of feminists. It has been many years since women were unable to pursue education or careers (since the late 1800s). So what exactly is the "injustice" that keeps churning out generations of feminists?

GK Chesterton said...

One of the big problems of American conservatism is the "not in house problem". With due respect, it's my experience that many Americans don't take foreign experiences seriously, regarding anything not from "in house" as suspect. Continental absolutism had its problems but so has democratic absolutism as well.

<*cough*> One of the problems with non-Americans is their insistence on American's paying attention to things that they themselves ignore when placed in a similar frame. I admit to not knowing much about the Australian government beyond the names of a few posts and the fact that its a parliamentary system but most people in the world would know only a limited amount about the US government as I was able to prove with a left-leaning mouthy New Zealander once.

Nor are non-American's interested in stories that reach the front-page here. Mexico is probably equivalent to Malaysia as far as news influence (though not being Australian I am only guessing). Mexico, which makes front page appearances here fairly frequently, probably never makes it to the front page in Australia.

We're also _BIG_. We share that with Australia but with a much higher overall population density. California, admittedly one of the larger states, is almost twice the size of the entire UK.

So it isn't that we dislike the world, despite that being a popular sob story even in our own media which ironically _feeds_ us the stories. Its just that we are large, regionally diverse, and have two sizable oceans on each side of us. I promise you we do read about Canada, Mexico, Central America, and Columbia fairly regularly along with the regular "G-7" stories.

And yet it must be done. I understand that there are malcontents in every society and my aim isn't to accommodate them. The thing is though, the poisonous ideas of modernism could not have taken hold unless large portions of society was discontented with the way things were.

Here I think you underestimate malcontents. For example, the exact same mass of complainers still exists today even though it is totally illogical that they do. I also think GK Chesterton's "democracy of the dead" get's short shift here with your general attack on traditionalism which seeks to preserve truth as discovered by societies over long periods of time.

A good conservative also recognizes that every new advance in society will traipse down the isle of history hand in hand with some new calamity because of the effects of the Fall.

In the end thought these are small quibbles as I generally agree that true conservatism must be oriented towards truth and not traditionalism for traditionalism's sake.

The Social Pathologist said...

@CL
While this is true, the problem with this statement is that it leaves the "man up" crowd with an opening.

I do think that the "man up" crowd have a certain legitimacy. I do think there is a failure of masculinity going on at the moment. But the feminist version of "man up" is codespeak for marrying the repulsive. The whole point about a good man is that he has standards, and sorry, but a woman who has been riding the carousel is not any sort of prize. So when I say "man up" it means something entirely different to what the Feminists mean.

@GKC

In the end thought these are small quibbles as I generally agree that true conservatism must be oriented towards truth and not traditionalism for traditionalism's sake.

That is the take home message.

@Mark
The right to enter the workforce has also come about in context of other societal changes, most of them bad.

Many women who work today don't want to work and this causes significant grief to them, but it causes no grief to women who want to work. I still think that you are thinking of women as a homogenous block of opinion and desire.

Much of today's female depression has got to do things with such as overwork, divorce, financial pressure, loneliness and spiritual emptiness. It's the other social changes that have contributed to the massive upswing in depression rates.

Mark Richardson said...

I still think that you are thinking of women as a homogenous block of opinion and desire.

I think sometimes we are creating a level of difference in our perspective that doesn't exist.

If I could wave a wand and create an ideal traditionalist community, there would be some paid work undertaken by women, just not at the level to undermine the male provider role.

I don't believe that women would have to be repressed to achieve this, as I'm confident that most women, after having children, wouldn't want to work full-time into their 60s.

So the aim for a traditionalist like myself is to try to remove the influence of the liberal ideology which suggests that women are not fully human unless they are participating equally with men in the paid workforce.

It's that liberal imperative which threatens the traditionalist vision of society, not the desire of some women to undertake paid work.

Simon Grey said...

"I suppose what I want to understand is firstly, what were the causes of the discontent? And secondly, is there any way to alleviate them legitimately within the Christian understanding?"

Many complaints of discontent are legitimate and can be alleviated within the Christian understanding. It's not easy to do this, in part because Satan is such a subtle bastard, and in part because those who hold the power tend to focus on what they lose (wealth and control) instead of what they'll gain (peace and respect).

"Social structures are a reflection of the intersection between culture, environment and technology."

I think you misunderstand me. What I'm trying to say is that I much prefer living in this current age because of the technological advantages it offers even though I would be better off politically. More to the point, if you ask people when they would prefer to live, few would say the past. Not because of the legal structures, but because of the absence of technological innovations. Getting back to the original quote, not many rich white males would want to go back in time one hundred years because it sucked way back then. Thus, the biggest concern is not social structure as much as it is systemic poverty, relatively speaking.

"The problem is that any refinement will be non-traditional, and therefore rejected by the traditionalists."

I think we'lll have to define terms here. I'm using "traditionalist" to refer to someone who uses tradition as a guide for behavior. This doesn't preclude altering tradition, it simply means that one starts with tradition and goes from their. I know a wonderful family that is very traditional (in a Biblical sense), yet the specific application of that traditionalism has a handful of variations. I view it as building upon what already exists.

In contrast, I use "conservative" to refer to those who have a kneejerk reaction to change regardless of the benefits said change may offer. These are not traditionalists in a sense because their opposition to change is not necessarily based on a defense of tradition as much as it is based on a dislike of change.

Anonymous Reader said...

Slumlord / Social Pathologist, your concern about the happiness of women is interesting. It seems that you place that as one of the highest priorities of a civilization.

Is there anything more important to you than the happiness of women? Is there any limit to what you would be willing to do to make women happy?

You might look at the current thread at Dalrock's site, in which we are discussing all the things that have been done to make women's lives risk - free, and what the cost is turning out to be...it's not cheap.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Simon

I think we'lll have to define terms here. I'm using "traditionalist" to refer to someone who uses tradition as a guide for behavior

The problem though Simon, is when you ask what tradition traditionalist would be prepared to change they behave exactly like your conservative. The development of any tradition requires the the acceptance of at least some innovation, but when innovation is presented it is rejected. It's a circular logic that does not permit any escape.

The other issue is what Tradition. The tradition of ancient Rome, Victorian England, the Renaissance, etc. It all seems rather vague and heuristic being motivated more by some memory or sentiment than practical principals.

Pin a traditionalist on what's the role of women and he will say they should be at home. When you provide an argument that this fueled Feminism, then they argue that that's not what they really meant. So when you say, "So it's Ok for women to work outside the home?" They say no. It's an endless circle jerk.

This is why I propose the following definitions.

Conservative: Someone concerned with living according to the truth.

Traditionalist: Someone who believes the truth was defined in the past; they behave in a de facto (if not explicit) manner as if the past was innerrant .

This was Chesterton's insight:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected

Here he is using Conservative in the Traditionalist sense.

The Social Pathologist said...

AR

Slumlord / Social Pathologist, your concern about the happiness of women is interesting. It seems that you place that as one of the highest priorities of a civilization.

There seems to be this dreary branch of Christianity that seems to see the Christian's life as one of endless suffering, misery and pain. Swinburne's line;

Gallilean, the world has gone pale with thy breath, encapsulates this dull and anaemic form of Christianity.

The God of love wishes that his children are happy and it pains him to see either the Black man, the worker, the woman or good man miserable and depressed. It needs to be remembered that Our Master started his mission with a party; he even bought the really good booze.

That fact that large sections of the Christian community seem at piece with obvious injustices and misery reminds me more of an Oriental fatalism than a Christian energism, an energism which results in joy and happiness.

Making women happy is not the most important principal in society; living according to God's will is. But living according to God's will will make women happy. It will also make men happy, the worker is paid his just wages, and operation of caritas perfects the world in all of dimensions.

It's all about the Love: I'm all about caritas.

Samson J. said...

Is it any surprise that the main advocates of traditionalism are reasonably prosperous white males?
Not really, because reasonably prosperous white males are the most responsible members of society. To put that another way, I would say that the personal qualities that allow men to become successful (responsibility, integrity, strong work ethic, etc.) are the same qualities that have led us to become traditionalists.
Pin a traditionalist on what's the role of women and he will say they should be at home. When you provide an argument that this fueled Feminism, then they argue that that's not what they really meant.
I'm not sure what you mean by suggesting that traditionalists are weasels when pressed on what they actually stand for. I haven't encountered that. In any event, I'm not really impressed by your (apparent) view that feminist complaints were actually valid. I think that the number of women who really, truly joined the feminist movement because they felt "oppressed" by their traditional roles is tiny, dwarfed by the number who subscribed to it out of a subconscious desire to win greater sociosexual power.

Samson J. said...

Is it any surprise that the main advocates of traditionalism are reasonably prosperous white males?

Not really, because reasonably prosperous white males are the most responsible members of society. To put that another way, I would say that the personal qualities that allow men to become successful (responsibility, integrity, strong work ethic, etc.) are the same qualities that have led us to become traditionalists.

Pin a traditionalist on what's the role of women and he will say they should be at home. When you provide an argument that this fueled Feminism, then they argue that that's not what they really meant.

I'm not sure what you mean by suggesting that traditionalists are weasels when pressed on what they actually stand for. I haven't encountered that. In any event, I'm not really impressed by your (apparent) view that feminist complaints were actually valid. I think that the number of women who really, truly joined the feminist movement because they felt "oppressed" by their traditional roles is tiny, dwarfed by the number who subscribed to it out of a subconscious desire to win greater sociosexual power.

Samson J. said...

The problem is that initial conditions generate the same pressures that radicalised society in the first place, and thus the seeds of revolution are re-energised again.

Again, I'm not terribly impressed by this argument; we could say this about anything - anytime society takes a mis-step, and we could look back and say, "Gee, maybe we shouldn't have done that! Oh, but wait, we can't just turn back the clock, because then we'd just be re-creating the conditions that made people angry in the first place!" The statement is not quite, but almost, tantamount to saying that we should never seek to reverse a social change.

On the other hand, I don't completely disagree with the statement, either. But if it's true that reversing feminism would simply re-escalate the pressure, the solution seems to be brutal repression, not accommodation, since as I've said I think it's only a tiny minority of women who caused the ruckus in the first place. (Or, we can just let society follow its inevitable Spenglerian cycle.)

Jonny said...

The Problem with Marxists is that they blather and hem haw about Hegel and dialectics and thesis-antithesis-synthesis when it benefits their particular agenda.

But they never grant similar possibilities for evolution to the development of non-Marxist societies. Socialism is always their one-size-fits-all solution.

The USA started with a good document that was inadequately implemented from the start, half-heartedly obeyed and contaminated by corrupt Leftist politics and economics. Now we want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and regress to old tried but not true forms of tyranny that are mislabeled "Progressive".

Why don't we stick with the singular ideals of the constitution and work on making them real in practice. I think we have been, despite all the efforts of the left to subvert and undermine the Constitution.