Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Promiscuity Data.

Back in 2010 Anthony Paik published a study which received widespread media attention at the time. The findings were "spun" in such a way to show that casual hookups could lead to successful long term relationships. Susan Walsh had a look at it and found that the media reporting was quite biased, but this is to be expected, as selective reading of the findings were supportive of the liberal social script.

He did manage to get another study published in 2011, however, the findings in this one could not be spun so easily and hence the media gave it only a nominal amount of  coverage.

Titled, Adolescent Sexuality and The Risk of Marital Dissolution, the study attempted to find out whether adolescent sex was a risk factor working against long term marital stability, and if it was, whether the effect was causal or selective. The paper is available from here. (You can get the .pdf at the site)

The science of Slutology is still in its infant stages and Paik acknowledges that there have been very few studies done.  He lists the previous work in the area and some of the mentioned papers have been presented on this blog previously.
Only four nationally representative studies have examined whether premarital sexual experiences are linked to divorce (Heaton, 2002; Kahn & London, 1991; Laumann et al., 1994; Teachman, 2003). Nevertheless, the core finding—the association between premarital sex and increased risks of divorce—is robust[Ed]. Teachman (2003) found that women who had sex only with their future husbands did not have higher risks of marital dissolution, which suggests that the premarital-sex effect on divorce is related primarily to having sex with multiple partners
Now the question that Paik wanted to answer is whether premarital sex made a good woman risk or whether risky women engaged in premarital sex.
Despite the many contributions of prior research, there is a need for an approach that distinguishes between selection and causation explanations and that focuses attention on whether the timing and unwantedness of adolescent sexuality are linked to divorce.
He looked at the sexual histories of approximately 3,800 women taken from the 2002 U.S. National Survey of Family Growth and crunched the numbers. You can read about the methodology in the paper but the important findings are as follows:
  • Women who had unwanted first sex were at increased risk of divorce.
  • Women who had sex prior to 16 years of age were at increased risk of divorce, regardless of whether the sex was wanted or not.
  • Women who had sex after 16 were not at greater risk of divorce if they had only ever slept with one man. Once they had slept with more than one they were at increased risk of divorce.
  • He was able to pretty much replicate Teachman's findings that the increased rate of divorce amongst co-habitors is due to their multiple partner count. Note: He also replicated guest commentator Intrepid's finding that virgin brides are the safest bet of all.
  • Finally, his findings support the hypothesis that having multiple partners exerts some sort of effect on a woman that increases her risk of divorce.  Women who are prone to divorce are not born but are made that way:
My results support the argument that observed linkages between adolescent sexual debut and marital disruption is one not of selectivity but of changes in beliefs and attitudes about marriage and relationships that result directly and indirectly from these [Ed: Multiple Sexual]experiences.
I have argued that these formative sexual experiences directly change attitudes toward marriage and sex or lead to these changes indirectly through later life-course transitions, such as the accumulation of sexual histories or
experiencing premarital fertility.
Now Paik cautiously advocates that this is only a tentative conclusion and that more work needs to be done. I personally think that Paik wasn't too happy with the findings either. Throughout the work there appears to be a grudging acknowledgment of the effect of multiple sexual partners on divorce risk. Most sociology professors are liberal but he is to be commended on letting the chips fall where they may.

No one, of course, has yet been able to explain the rock solid association between premarital virginity and decreased risk of divorce.  These women, either through partner choice or personal quality have "something" which protects them against life's vicissitudes. No "scientific" explanation is yet forthcoming. Yet for the non-virginal, the bulk of data available seems to indicate a positive correlation between partner count and divorce. I can't but help but think of GBFM, and wonder if promiscuity is a mechanism of desoulment . It's a good an explanation as any.

Note. I can hear the bleating of Left already.

I know that correlation is not causation but the whole point of looking for correlations is that there is a likelihood of finding causation as well. For years the risk of smoking was only correlated to the risk of lung cancer. Tobacco companies for years denied the link and it was only in the late 1990's that a direct mechanism was demonstrated.  Feminists and Leftists will, with same logic of tobacco company lawyers, attempt to do the same. I am not attempting to convince them. Logic and empirical evidence are no use to people who practice cognitive dissonance as a voluntary habit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brendan, Dalrock and Sluts. (NSFW)

Commentator Brendan is one of the more thoughtful commentators on the internet and I have a great deal of respect for him.  Over at Dalrock's, there has been a discussion going on with regard to what constitutes sluthood and Brendan chimed in with his thoughts on the matter:
On the “what is a slut” issue, the question really isn’t about a numerical cutoff, which is why that’s generally an unfruitful way of looking at the question. A slut is someone who has an instrumental view of sexuality — that is, one who views sex in a hedonistic way for the most part. A person with this mentality towards sex will not link sex with marriage exclusively, because the view of sex is distorted and based on hedonic elements which we all know can well occur outside of marriage as well. That is, sex is about two (or more) human beings collaborating physically to bring each other sexual pleasure, and this is a “good” in and of itself as long as ‘enthusiastic consent’ is present. That is an instrumental/hedonist view of sexuality, and is the sine qua non of being a slut.
While I personally agree with a lot of Brendan's views, I disagree with his reasoning on this one. Now, I do think the number of previous partners does matter, and to be fair to Brendan, he does counsel that men avoid women who have high numbers, but the executive summary of his view seems to be that number does not mater as much as "women who think sex can occur justifiably outside of marriage". I think that this is good practical advice but the problem occurs when we get to the woman who's view of sex has changed and the the real problem is how to deal with the "reformed slut". It's a bit like the reformed alcoholic or drug addict, despite their protestations how do we know they aren't going to lapse into their former ways? Real life experience shows that many do.

The whole "my previous number doesn't matter" argument frequently touted by feminists is premised on the assumption that sexual continence is easy and its just a matter of being a simple choice.

It isn't.

The pleasures of the flesh, like the bottle, are source of temptation to many people. Lot's of good Christian people, who live in fear of the Lord, go to Church regularly and believe that sex is exclusively reserved for marriage, have been caught up in affairs. It's a stock staple for atheists to snicker when some Christian Pastor is caught In flagrante delicto, and attribute to hypocrisy what is in reality an act of weakness.   When it comes to the practice of virtue, philosophy is less important than habit.

This is what I think is the weak point in Brendan's argument, sluthood becomes a philosophical position instead of moniker of actual promiscuity. I mean, take the example of feminist who has only ever slept with one man. Is she is a slut? Her view of sex may be instrumental but common sense would say no. The other problem with Brendan's approach is that is that it tends to de-emphasis the importance of the actual number count, which this blog has shown before to be a far better predictor of both divorce and infidelity.

Now, it is a well known fact that co-habiting couples have higher rates of both infidelity and divorce  should they eventually decided to marry. For years the conventional wisdom was that this fact was attributable to the more liberal philosophy of the co-habitors.  A study done by Teachman, which I have linked to previously, dispelled that theory;
The results presented in this article replicate findings from previous research: Women who cohabit prior to marriage or who have premarital sex have an increased likelihood of marital disruption. Considering the joint effects of premarital cohabitation and premarital sex, as well as histories of premarital relationships, extends previous research. The most salient finding from this analysis is that women whose intimate premarital relationships are limited to their husbands—either premarital sex alone or premarital cohabitation—do not experience an increased risk of divorce. It is only women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship who have an elevated risk of marital disruption. This effect is strongest for women who have multiple premarital coresidental unions. These findings are consistent with the notion that premarital sex and cohabitation have become part of the normal courtship pattern in the United States. They do not indicate selectivity on characteristics linked to the risk of divorce and do not provide couples with experiences that lessen the stability of marriage.
In other words, the risk of divorce did not depend on a person's sexual philosophy, rather, what mattered is the actual number of partners they had. Teachman showed that liberal women who were not slutty were good bets.

Now, common sense would dictate that a woman who embraces a hedonistic philosophy is probably going to be a bad bet compared to woman with a more overtly Christian approach. But this graph below will show you just how little comfort you can take from that line of reasoning.
The data was taken from this paper, The Benefits of Religious Worship, by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute. They didn't do a breakdown of the different denominations in this paper, and so I imagine the conservative Christians are lumped together with the liberal ones. Frankly, I'm surprised that 4.33 is the average for weekly attenders as I thought it would be much less (I imagine the pious divorcees distort the figure). But there you go. Viva La Sexual Revolution!

Having a Christian philosophy helps but it is no guarantee against carousel riding, and even your apparently averagely pious Christian girl has gone for a quick spin. But what is evident though, is the more seriously she takes the faith the lower the partner count.  But Philosophy doesn't matter nearly as much as practice, because the greater the number of partners the greater the risk of divorce. All the studies show that a zero previous partner count is the safest bet. N matters.

The other problem with the "philosophical approach" to the definition of a slut is that it supports the bad theology of what commentator at Darock's blog called "sloppy seconds agape." The idea here is that once a woman professes her love for Jesus and repudiates her wicked past she suddenly becomes a good catch. The "theology" can be briefly summed up as "Because Jesus forgave sinners you should marry them even if they don't appeal to you". Any quite prudent reservations with regard to her marriage worthiness are dismissed as a lack of charity or too much judgement(with all the negative Christian connotations that it brings). The philosophy of Sloppy Seconds Agape conflates forgiveness with imprudence and thrives in the church's where goodness is equated with niceness. The well meaning but naive Christian young man is a sheep amongst wolves in this crowd. All forms of psychological pressure and dubious theological argument will be put on him to "man up". He will be made to feel guilty for having sensible reservations. Scripture will be quoted to make him feel bad. Appeals will be made to his chivalry.

Six years later he'll be paying alimony and seeing the kids every two weeks.

As a Christian, I do realise people change. God's grace is transformative and I don't want to write off men and women who are honestly trying to make a change. I've known many women who have had torrid pasts and did their best to try and escape it by living good lives and being stable partners. I know players who realise that the lifestyle was damaging them and have opted out. People do change. But the habit of virtue is more important than the philosophy of it.  Before a man (or woman) invests their future, and their children's future in a spouse, a degree of prudence  and common sense is required. Actions speak louder than words.

Once again, I've got the highest respect for Brendan but I disagree with him on this one.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A reply to Jason.

I felt that a comment from Jason in my previous post deserved an extended reply.
Anyway, as far as your essay is concerned, it seems to me that Mencken (and you) are really inquiring into the issue of intelligence and how it relates to citizenship. 
Not so much citizenship as governance.  A say in the governance of a country is not a conditional property of citizenship. A man may be a citizen of a country yet still not have any voting rights. This is an important distinction as we are so conditioned to conflate the two. Governance is about running the country properly, citizenship is about the possession of rights which are peculiar to that country. A man who does not have the right to vote can still be a citizen.
Since the Greeks it has been known that democracies cannot survive in places where there are peoples who lack good citizenship; also since the Greeks, it has been understood that good citizenship is inseparable from the habitual practice of virtue – if citizens don’t have good families, good work habits, a certain civic knowledge of politics and history, and so on, then eventually their republics, constitutional monarchies, or whatever are eventually going to disintegrate and fall. 
I think the term virtue needs to be clarified. The virtues, with respect to politics, can be divided into two types. The moral virtues and the civic virtues. Each has its particular role to play in a community. Morality governs our relationships with each other, whilst civic virtue is directly concerned with how the state is organised. The important point to remember is that to a certain degree, each can exist without the other.
The elephant in the room that many do not want to face though – on both the right and left - is the relationship between intelligence and the ability to be virtuous.
I don't think that it's the elephant in the room. Firstly, with regard to virtue and intelligence, I really don't think it is much of a problem. From a classical perspective, it is a problem though. The ancients all thought that a man had to be at least a bit "philosophical" in order to live a good life. This in turn implied intelligence which, if lacking, condemned the stupid man to a life of misery. Christianity solved this problem by giving a man the "Ten Commandments".  It didn't ask a man to think through the problems of life, it just told him how to live. No thinking required. The fantastic thing about this approach is that by insisting on rules instead of reason it lifted a lot of stupid people up from the swamp. With the decline in morality however, the stupid are sliding back into the mire.

The real problem, especially amongst religious conservatives, is the conflation of moral goodness with political virtue which is a serious misconception. Let me explain what I mean. Jimmy Carter was by all accounts a morally better man than Richard Nixon, but he was a far worse president. His moral goodness did not translate into good political action. For all his faults, Nixon governed the country better than Carter with all his good intentions.

Civic virtue, in my opinion is only loosely related to moral virtue. Moral virtue deals with perfections of the person. Civic virtue deals with the optimal organisation and running of the state: two different things. 
Now to be sure, people with low or average intelligence can certainly act with virtue (e.g. many lesser intelligent individuals have fought very bravely in wars), yet are they always equipped to make good political decisions? A dense but nonetheless very good and devout Hispanic Catholic American, for example, might be a good family man and do good deeds in his community, yet be totally single-minded as far as the issues of ethnicity and illegal immigration are concerned. The idea that the sovereignty of the U.S. and the rule of law might be more important than identification with his ethnic and religious brethren might simply be beyond him, and not due to malice or willful obtuseness but simply to lack of cognition. In plain English, he just doesn’t know any better. Yet multiply such Hispanic Americans by millions, those who simply cannot comprehend why other native Americans might term illegal immigrants as actually being “illegal” rather than “undocumented” or other Orwellian terms, and you have a real problem on your hands.  For the ability to make thoughtful political decisions in a democracy where the people are sovereign does require a certain capacity for abstract thinking, namely the ability to weigh competing values (e.g. sympathy for immigrants vs. the capacity of nations to absorb such immigrants). Needless to say, a capacity for such abstraction is unequally allocated in the population – hence the perennial danger of tyranny of the majority or of various minorities.

In his Notes on Democray, Mencken quotes William Hartpole Lecky.  Lecky was an Irish Jurist who was opposed to universal suffrage and wrote a two volume book arguing against the notion. The books can be found online here.  I was reading the first chapter of the book when I was struck by the extraordinary similarity between your comment and passage from the book.
The men who vote through such motives are often most useful members of the community. They are sober, honest, industrious labourers; excellent fathers and husbands; capable of becoming, if need be, admirable soldiers. They are also often men who, within the narrow circle of their own ideas, surroundings, and immediate interests, exhibit no small shrewdness of judgment; but they are as ignorant as children of the great questions of foreign, or Indian, or Irish, or colonial policy, of the complicated and far-reaching consequences of the constitutional changes, or the great questions relating to commercial or financial policy, on which a general election frequently turns. If they are asked to vote on these issues, all that can be safely predicted is that their decision will not represent
either settled conviction or real knowledge. 
The book was written in the end of the at the end of the 19th Century and is remarkably prophetical with regard to the social effects of democratic government. He was really harsh on the U.S. I'll finish today's post with this last quote.
Yet, surely nothing in ancient alchemy was more irrational than the notion that increased ignorance in the elective body will be converted into increased capacity for good government in the representative body; that the best way to improve the world and secure rational progress is to place government more and more under the control of the least enlightened classes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mencken on IQ Tests and Liberals.

Menken here writes on his opinion of IQ tests and liberals. I've highlighted what I think are the important points.
Here, of course, I flirt with the so-called intelligence tests, and so bring down upon my head that acrid bile which they have set to flowing. My plea in avoidance is that I have surely done my share of damning them: they aroused, when they were first heard of, my most brutish passions, for pedagogues had them in hand. But I can only say that time and experience have won me to them, for the evidence in favor of them slowly piles up, pedagogues or no pedagogues. In other words, they actually work. What they teach is borne out by immense accumulations of empiric corroboration. It is safe, nine times out of ten, to give them credence, and so it seems to me to be safe to generalize from them. Is it only a coincidence that their most frantic critics are the Liberals, which is to say, the only surviving honest believers in democracy? I think not. These Liberals, whatever their defects otherwise, are themselves capable of learning, and so they quickly mastered the fact that MM. Simon and Binet offered the most dangerous menace to their vapourings ever heard of since the collapse of the Holy Alliance. Their dudgeon followed. In two ways the tests give aid and comfort to their enemies. First, they provide a more or less scientific means of demonstrating the difference in natural intelligence between man and man-a difference noted ages ago by common observation, and held to be real by all men save democrats, at all times and everywhere. Second, they provide a rational scale for measuring it and a rational explanation of it. Intelligence is reduced to levels, and so given a reasonable precision of meaning. An intelligent man is one who is capable of taking in knowledge until the natural limits of the species are reached. A stupid man is one whose progress is arrested at some specific time and place before then. There thus appears in psychology and the next instant in politics-the concept of the unteachable. Some men can learn almost indefinitely; their capacity goes on increasing until their bodies begin to wear out. Others stop in childhood, even in infancy. They reach, say, the mental age of ten or twelve, and then they develop no more. Physically, they become men, and sprout beards, political delusions, and the desire to propagate their kind. But mentally they remain on the level of schoolboys.

The fact here is challenged sharply by the democrats aforesaid, but certainly not with evidence. Their objection to it is rather of a metaphysical character, and involves gratuitous, transcendental assumptions as to what ought and what ought not to be true. They echo also, of course, the caveats of other and less romantic critics, some of them very ingenious; but always, when hard pressed, they fall back pathetically upon the argument that believing such things would be in contempt of the dignity of man, made in God's image. Is this argument sound? Is it, indeed, new? I seem to have heard it long ago, from the gentlemen of the sacred faculty. Don't they defend the rubbish of Genesis on the theory that rejecting it would leave the rabble without faith, and that without faith it would be one with the brutes, and very unhappy, and, what is worse, Immoral? I leave such contentions to the frequenters of Little Bethel and pause only to observe that if the progress of the human race had depended upon them we'd all believe in witches, ectoplasms and madstones today. Democracy, alas, is also a form of theology, and shows all the immemorial stigmata. Confronted by uncomfortable facts, it invariably tries to dispose of them by appeals to the highest sentiments of the human heart. An anti-democrat is not merely mistaken; he is also wicked, and the more plausible he is the more wicked he becomes. As I have said, the earliest of modern democrats were full of Christian juices. Their successors never get very far from Genesis 1, 27. They are Fundamentalists by instinct, however much they may pretend to a mellow scepticism.

One undoubted fact gives them a certain left-handed support, though they are far too discreet to make use of it. I allude to the fact that man on the lower levels, though he quickly reaches the limit of his capacity for taking in actual knowledge, remains capable for a long time thereafter of absorbing delusions. What is true daunts him, but what is not true finds lodgement in his cranium with so little resistance that there is only a trifling emission of heat. I shall go back to this singular and beautiful phenomenon later on. It lies at the heart of what is called religion, and at the heart of all democratic politics no less. The thinking of what Charles Richet calls Homo stultus' is almost entirely in terms of palpable nonsense. He has a dreadful capacity for embracing and cherishing impostures. His history since the first records is a history of successive victimizations-by priests, by politicians, by all sorts and conditions of quacks. His heroes are always frauds. In all ages he has hated bitterly the men who were labouring most honestly and effectively for the progress of the race. What such men teach is beyond his grasp. He believes in consequence that it is unsound, immoral and of the devil.

Mencken here notes the fundamental opposition between democratic ideology and metrics which demonstrate the falsity of the ideal. Mencken is also quite astute in recognising that when confronted with empirical confirmation of the falsity of democratic equality, the democrat will argue against the finding on non-empircal grounds.  Democracy is not just a method of government, it is a religion, especially amongst liberals. But if you think about it a bit more, radical democracy with its profound insistence on egalitarianism, is front loaded with moral relativism. Superiority of any kind is profoundly undemocratic, so in a democratic society there will be a relentless underlying pressure to "level" everything. Radical libertarianism complements this state of affairs, since the libertarian with his desire to "damn well what he pleases" frustrates any attempt at collective action which will result in a superior outcome for the common good. The problem really isn't with the intelligent libertarian, who can be persuaded with logical argument and factual evidence towards a course of action which clearly superior. But what if the libertarian is a democrat or an idiot? What then?  Unfortunately, libertarian ideology also seems to  assume that all men are created equal. They aren't.

The two ideologies feed each other.

Mencken also realises that empiricism and rationality are the enemies of universal Democracy which totally refute its underlying assumptions. This strain of thought goes against a large body of "romantic conservative opinion" which see's rationality as the enemy of conservatism.  Liberalism is founded on irrationality, conservatism is empiric, and conservatives who diss intelligence are sawing away at their own branch.

Unlike most of the HBD crowd, Mencken still seems to harbor some reservations with regard to IQ tests.  Whilst he recognises their validity, he seems to hint that there are limits to their usefulness. Mencken recognises that the problem with the liberal ideology is not stupidity but fantasy. The liberal prefers the world to be a certain way and ignores evidence which is contrary to his ideal. The liberal pathology does not rest on a deficiency of data processing but a deficiency of data recognition.  A philosophy which rests on ignoring data would appear to be manifestly stupid, but lots of people who embrace this ideology seem to do quite well these days and wield and inordinate amount of influence. 

It's obvious most people that flying a plane by democratic vote is stupid, but moronic input into the running of the state is percieved as being benign.  The reason for this is that the consequence of bad decsion making in the air is immediate and usual fatal. The average mind is therefore able to appreciate the dangers. But when the danger is gradual and far away the danger is dismissed. It is the phenomenon of stenosophism at work.

Modern democratic ideology is profoundly hostile the conservative notion of the good running of a society. This does not mean that the alternative is to embrace a conservative dictatorship, rather, conservatives need to embrace a political ideology which limits the power of the moronic proles and yet protects the proles against the maliciousness and exploitative nature of the mainstream elites.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Conservative Noble Savage.

DEMOCRACY CAME INTO THE WESTERN WORLD TO THE TUNE of sweet, soft music. There was, at the start, no harsh bawling from below; there was only a dulcet twittering from above. Democratic man thus began as an ideal being, full of ineffable virtues and romantic wrongs-in brief, as Rousseau's noble savage, in smock and jerkin, brought out of the tropical wilds to shame the lords and masters of the civilized lands. The fact continues to have important consequences to this day. It remains impossible, as it was in the Eighteenth Century, to separate the democratic idea from the theory that there is a mystical merit, an esoteric and ineradicable rectitude, in the man at the bottom of the scale-that inferiority, by some strange magic, becomes a sort of superiority-nay, the superiority of superiorities. Everywhere on earth, save where the enlightenment of the modern age is confessedly in transient eclipse, the movement is toward the completer and more enamoured enfranchisement of the lower orders. Down there, one hears, lies a deep, illimitable reservoir of righteousness and wisdom, unpolluted by the corruption of privilege. What baffles statesmen is to be solved by the people, instantly and by a sort of seraphic intuition. Their yearnings are pure; they alone are capable of a perfect patriotism; in them is the only hope of peace and happiness on this lugubrious ball. The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy!

This notion, as I hint, originated in the poetic fancy of gentlemen on the upper levels-sentimentalists who, observing to their distress that the ass was over-laden, proposed to reform transport by putting him into the cart. A stale Christian bilge ran through their veins, though many of them, as it happened, toyed with what is now called Modernism. They were the direct ancestors of the more saccharine Liberals of to-day, who yet mouth their tattered phrases and dream their preposterous dreams. I can find no record that these phrases, in the beginning, made much impression upon the actual objects of their rhetoric. Early democratic man seems to have given little thought to the democratic ideal, and less veneration. What he wanted was something concrete and highly materialistic-more to eat, less work, higher wages, lower taxes. He had no apparent belief in the acroamatic virtue of his own class, and certainly none in its capacity to rule. His aim was not to exterminate the baron, but simply to bring the baron back to a proper discharge of baronial business. When, by the wild shooting that naturally accompanies all mob movements, the former end was accidentally accomplished, and men out of the mob began to take on baronial airs, the mob itself quickly showed its opinion of them by butchering them deliberately and in earnest. Once the pikes were out, indeed, it was a great deal more dangerous to be a tribune of the people than to be an ornament of the old order. The more copiously the blood gushed, the nearer that old order came to resurrection. The Paris proletariat, having been misled into killing its King in 1793, devoted the next two years to killing those who had misled it, and by the middle of 1796 it had another King in fact, and in three years more he was King dejure, with an attendant herd of barons, counts, marquises and dukes, some of them new but most of them old, to guard, symbolize and execute his sovereignty. And he and they were immensely popular-so popular that half France leaped to suicide that their glory might blind the world.

Meanwhile, of course, there had been a certain seeping down of democratic theory from the metaphysicians to the mob-obscured by the uproar, hut still going on. Rhetoric, like a stealthy plague, was doing its immemorial work. Where men were confronted by the harsh, exigent realities of battle and pillage, as they were everywhere on the Continent, it got into their veins only slowly, but where they had time to listen to oratory, as in England and, above all, in America, it fetched them more quickly. Eventually, as the world grew exhausted and the wars passed, it began to make its effects fell everywhere. Democratic man, contemplating himself, was suddenly warmed by the spectacle. His condition had plainly improved. Once a slave, he was now only a serf. Once condemned to silence, he was now free to criticize his masters, and even to flout them, and the ordinances of God with them. As he gained skill and fluency at that sombre and fascinating art, he began to heave in wonder at his own merit. He was not only, it appeared, free to praise and damn, challenge and remonstrate; he was also gifted with a peculiar rectitude of thought and will, and a high talent for ideas, particularly on the political plane. So his wishes, in his mind, began to take on the dignity of legal rights, and after a while, of intrinsic and natural rights, and by the same token the wishes of his masters sank to the level of mere ignominious lusts. By 1828 in America and by 1848 in Europe the doctrine had arisen that all moral excellence, and with it all pure and unfettered sagacity, resided in the inferior four-fifths of mankind. In 1867 a philosopher out of the gutter [Ed:Marx] pushed that doctrine to its logical conclusion. He taught that the superior minority had no virtues at all, and hence no rights at all-that the world belonged exclusively and absolutely to those who hewed its wood and drew its water. In less than half a century he had more followers in the world, open and covert, than any other sophist since the age of the Apostles.
(H.L Mencken. Notes on Democracy)

I'm still suffering from a degree of writer's block and whilst I have quite a few ideas in my head, putting them down seems to be quite difficult.  In the mean time, I thought I would put up some passages from H.L. Mencken's, Notes on Democracy.

A good writer, trying to get his message across,  faces a special danger. Should he be a brilliant wordsmith, his polemic is more likely to be appreciated as literature rather than message; the message being lost in the delight of the writing style. Chesterton is one of those that comes to mind. Mencken is another. His mocking irreverent writing style is so pleasantly enjoyable that one tends to forget that there is some seriousness to his work. Mencken's professional occupation, like Chesterton's, was that of a journalist. He received little formal education but was one of those individuals whom one can consider a natural scholar. But unlike a typical scholar, cloistered away amongst his books in his study, Menken's reportage and journalism bought him into direct contact with object of much of his contempt: Democratic man.

People misunderstand Mencken. He was one of the first populisers of Nietzsche in the English language and assume by this association that he shared his philosophy. This view is incorrect. Mencken was more the empiricist than the Nietzschean and it was his strict empiricism that led him to views which were in accordance with Nietzsche.  Mencken believed in the untermensch not through the influence of philosophy, but through the day-to-day experience of his journalism and contact with the American Public.

In Mencken's world, there was a clear graduation in both ability and character amongst men. Mencken also recognised that the harder the task, the fewer the men fit to undertake it. Good governance he felt, was a balancing act of competing demands which required both extensive study and experience, something which the bovine masses lacked.  He saw that the average man was both stenosophistic in his intellect and local in his prejudices, and therefore he would work in the long run for personal advantage over the common good. His polemic against democracy was not so much against democracy as against universal suffrage. He realised that giving power to a fool allowed the malevolent to exploit him.  As such, he defined democracy as the worship of jackals by jackasses.

Mencken saw that with each iteration of the democratic cycle the stupid mass guided by the malevolent would conspire against the good. Moral relativism and defacto socialism would become entrenched as democracy pushed its militant egalitarianism. The mob's desire for security would triumph over their love for liberty. Bribery and corruption would become entrenched. Eventually the system would crash to ruins.

Mencken's concept of superiority did not mean the man from the "upper class" of society, blue blood or even "elite" as commonly understood. Mencken regarded many of what we would consider the "elite" as nothing more than proles that had climbed the social ladder. His concept of superior man was that of a civilised, intelligent, learned man of character. It is to these men, Mencken thought, that the fate of the country should be entrusted. The proles needed to be protected from themselves.

He particularly railed against the idea that the "little man" by being of low birth, was somehow intrinsically superior to all others.  It's an idea that was supported by two of the most diametrically opposed streams of thought. The Enlightenment, with it's idea of the noble savage, and a perverted Christianity which mistook the brotherhood of men as implicitly meaning the equality of all. Christianity's railing against the rich (whom were frequently the most obviously vile) supported this idea, but it needs to remembered that it was the common mob that shouted "give us Barabbas." It was the jackals and jackasses working together against the good.

And yet, this liberal idea of democratic man, has been adopted hook like and sinker by modern Conservatism. It is perhaps why conservatism withers under sustained liberal attack, because it is a house built on liberal sand. The rain comes and slowly it washes away.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The ideal of the Gentleman.

John Henry Newman was an academic and Church of England priest who eventually ended up being a Catholic Cardinal. His importance in today's post is in this passage from his work The Idea of a University. The passage is important because it probably best illustrates Victorian England's ideal of a gentleman. I've underlined some of the important bits.

It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast; — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder. [From The Idea of a University, 1852]
Newman's idea of a gentleman has lost the power of self assertion, he simply rolls over when challenged and never dreams of challenging.  How does such a man respond to a challenge?

Some men are born beta by temperament, but others are educated into betahood. The cultural meme which facilitates this transformation is the Idea of the Gentleman. Victorian England, and its ideals, still exert a powerful influence on Anglo/Nordic culture, particularly the culture of the middle class. Now, by middle class, I don't mean economic middle class, but cultural middle class; the strata of society from which most of the thinking is done in the Anglo/Nordic world. In order to be admitted to this class, to be "one of us", a man has to adopt the habits and behaviours of such a gentleman in order to be classed as a full member. It's true that the modern gentleman is not as calm and effacing as perhaps Newman illustrates, but the emphasis on getting along and being non-offensive is still of pre-eminent importance.

It pretty obvious what happens when a shrieking harpie collides with a polite middle class man or woman. The shrieking harpie wins.


The problem with the cultural ideal of gentlemanly behaviour is that it is especially vulnerable to the "offended victim" attack. The attack is particularly devious in its effectiveness as it relies on a three prong psychological approach to destroy its opponent. Firstly, if he is of genuine good will, he will be horrified that he has caused offence and genuinely be contrite for his actions, self-censoring himself for the indiscretion. Effectively, though policing himself.  Secondly, the Gentleman victim of the attack is made to feel as if he has acted as in culturally inferior sort of way, marking him out as one of the declasse, especially if there is a strong "redneck like" like association with his gaffe.  His efforts to maintain social standing lead him to immediately apologise. Should the victim doubt his sincerity he will redouble his efforts just to maintain social standing. Thirdly,with most modern left wing social causes are on the nose with the proles, their support of our hapless gentleman will further prove his prole associations.  Support of the NRA does not win you approval with the SWPL crowd.

Traditionalists take note.

Now, with regard to the proles, their simplicity and lack of "gentlemanly manners" gives them a certain forthrightness which conservative commentators mistake as some form "native goodness" which it isn't. It also leads to some conservatives having suspicions of the refined and cultured life; seeing high culture as a corruption of simplistic rustic goodness. However, the conservatives with prole sympathies seem to forget that the aversion to gay perversion is not moral but aesthetic. Their psychological revulsion to homosexuality is as animalistic as their embrace of heterosexual promiscuity. Their innate morality is biologically utilitarian and their support or opposition to any cause is in proportion to its agreement with their biological desire. Joe average is not necessarily the Conservative's friend.