Dalrock has recently tackled the question “What is the manosphere?“ Posts like this are an important service to other branches of the neo-reactionary tree, somewhat sympathetic outsiders trying to decide whether the entity in question is entirely, partly, or not at all compatible with their own commitments. “Definitions are important”, Dalrock rightly says. I would add that dogmas, properly enunciated, facilitate conversation rather than shutting it down. It helps to know very clearly what one is being asked to agree or disagree with. This is, if anything, even more true for the “orthosphere”, since the words we would ordinarily use to describe ourselves–”social conservatives”, “traditionalists”, “orthodox Christians”–have been stretched and debased almost to the point of uselessness. I don’t blame liberals, men’s rights activists, or anyone else for believing that social conservatism is what prominent people calling themselves social conservatives say it is. What else are they to think? Nevertheless, what passes for conservatism, even Christian conservatism, these days is deeply contaminated by liberalism, as a look at the historical record and an examination of basic philosophical premises makes clear. By the same standards, the orthosphere is not thus corrupted. The following will be a work of dogmatics, not apologetics. I will not try to convince you that the orthosphere’s beliefs are true, but I do want to give you a sense of what they are and how they differ from those of related schools of thought.
Here’s something closely related to my last post. At the Atlantic, Ann-Marie Slaughter calls us to commit ourselves more fully to the feminist dream: more public day care so that women can spend their days self-actualizing in an office while their children are raised by paid professionals. Sunshine Mary isn’t buying.
[...] The best option, both for individual children and for society as a whole, is high-quality, affordable day-care, either at the workplace or close by. High-quality means care provided by trained professionals who are specialists in child development, who can provide a stable, loving, learning environment that can take care not only of children’s physical needs but also provide stimulation and socialization.
Day care workers do not love the children they care for. They may care about them, but they do not love them; it is dishonest and denies human nature to claim that they do. Should children spend fifty hours per week with someone who does not love them? Only a very sick society would choose this, but Mrs. Slaughter is fully on board with it.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, the article on gay marriage by John Milbank (Mr. Radical Orthodoxy) is pretty good:
During the course of recent debates in the British Parliament over the proposed legalisation of gay marriage, it has gradually become apparent that the proposal itself is impossible. For legislators have recognised that it would be intolerable to define gay marriage in terms equivalent to “consummation,” or to permit “adultery” as legitimate ground for gay divorce….Why, then, should Christians worry, if this is all just a matter of terminology? Can we not live with differing definitions of marriage? …This may, indeed, be the direction that the churches now need to take. However, the graver fear surrounding the new legislation is that secular thought will not so readily let go of the demand for absolutely equal rights based on identical definitions. In that case, we face an altogether more drastic prospect. Not only would “marriage” have been redefined so as to include gay marriage, it would inevitably be redefined even for heterosexual people in homosexual terms. Thus “consummation” and “adultery” would cease to be seen as having any relevance to the binding and loosing of straight unions…
Secondly, it would end the public legal recognition of a social reality defined in terms of the natural link between sex and procreation. In direct consequence, the natural children of heterosexual couples would then be only legally their children if the state decided that they might be legally “adopted” by them.
And this, I argue, reveals what is really at issue here. There was no demand for “gay marriage” and this has nothing to do with gay rights. Instead, it is a strategic move in the modern state’s drive to assume direct control over the reproduction of the population, bypassing our interpersonal encounters. This is not about natural justice, but the desire on the part of biopolitical tyranny to destroy marriage and the family as the most fundamental mediating social institution.
Heterosexual exchange and reproduction has always been the very “grammar” of social relating as such. The abandonment of this grammar would thus imply a society no longer primarily constituted by extended kinship, but rather by state control and merely monetary exchange and reproduction…
It is for this reason that practices of surrogate motherhood and sperm-donation (as distinct from the artificial assistance of a personal sexual union) should be rejected. For the biopolitical rupture which they invite is revealed by the irresolvable impasse to which they give rise. Increasingly, children resulting from anonymous artificial insemination are rightly demanding to know who their natural parents are, for they know that, in part, we indeed are our biology.
Set aside for the moment that heterosexual divorce is as great an abomination as gay marriage, and you’ll agree that Milbank ably makes two key points. First, gay marriage does affect straight marriage by forcing straights to radically impoverish their understanding of their own unions. Second, this is an attack by the state on a rival social structure, the kinship group.
Next, Milbank realizes where his logic is leading him and tries to draw back:
From this it follows that we should not re-define birth as essentially artificial and disconnected from the sexual act – which by no means implies that each and every sexual act must be open to the possibility of procreation…
Perish the thought.
By the way, the discussion we had here earlier on paternity testing got my thinking about what marriage really means from a purely legal standpoint. Here is what I came up with:
Marriage is an agreement that party A (the husband) should automatically be recognized as the father of any children born to party B (the wife), “automatically” meaning that once the marriage is contracted, neither party may refuse to acknowledge A’s paternal rights and duties to any children subsequently born to B.
There is much more to marriage, of course, but it’s all built on top of this. The point of marriage is to legally establish fatherhood. Once this is explicit, it is quite obvious that 1) marriage is heterosexual (such a contract would still be meaningful for an infertile heterosexual couple, but not a homosexual one); 2) a woman can have no more than one husband (since having more than one father would negate the essential paternal authority of all of them); 3) women may not divorce and remarry (because otherwise fatherhood would depend on the mother’s subsequent will, in violation of the contract). Again, everything else is on top of this. Love is the reason to make this contract, but it is not the essence of the contract itself. This contract is a fitting metaphor for the union of Christ with His Church, but only because it already has a nature fixed apart from theological considerations to make the metaphor apt.
I’ve already shared my complaints about the humanities and the natural sciences; now I’d like to turn to the social sciences. As with these other disciplines, my “problem” with the social sciences has more to do with a general attitude I sense pervading the whole enterprise than with any particular result. That attitude can be summed up in the following statement: the correct way to understand a human being or a social system is to look at it from the point of view of a hostile outsider. The hostile outsider has a privileged perspective. The ways human beings and social organisms understand themselves are illusions; they are unscientific; they are masks behind which hide the reality of structures of oppression, unconscious desires, blind economic or sexual striving. Thus, the skill college students are to learn above all else is critical thinking, which basically means learning to assume the perspective of the hostile outsider. They are to critically question the assumptions of their upbringing (unless, of course, they are from urban Leftist homes). And if the student decides his inherited religion and ethnic loyalties are defensible? Well, then, he obviously hasn’t thought critically enough! The “questioning” of gender roles and inherited tradition has a predetermined outcome.
Needless to say, social scientists–psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists–are, by and large, my political enemies. However, my ultimate objection is philosophical. I don’t disagree that one can study human beings in terms of their psychic desires, or that one can study societies in terms of economic forces and structures of coercion. Nor do I deny that some insights can be drawn from this. What I do deny is that this gives us the ultimate truth about men or communities. It is an exercise in abstraction, of systematically ignoring aspects of the subject in order to more clearly focus on some particular structure of interest. The most important thing about a social practice is how it is experienced and understood by its participants. Even when the things critics claim to find “beneath the surface” are really there, it’s the “surface”–the lived conscious reality–that is most fundamental and most real.
This is even more true when it comes to the study of the individual human being. I myself have had two types of encounters with psychology. (My experiences with the psychiatric profession I’ll save for another post.) First, as a teacher I’ve been exposed to some of the results of research on how people learn. Overall, this work is empirically grounded and consistent with common sense and my own experience. The studies of memory, cognition, visual perception–basically of any type of mental activity that we humans are conscious of performing–also seem relatively healthy by soft science standards (although I am here speaking without much knowledge). On the other hand, as a reactionary I am also exposed to psychological claims purporting to explain my authoritarian, homophobic pathologies. That I might actually have reasons for my beliefs is dismissed out of hand. This type of psychology demands that human behavior have explanations rather than reasons. The explanations involve my unconscious fear of new experiences, my unconscious fear of my father, my unconscious homosexual urges, or some other such unconscious prompting. None of these claims has any credible evidence behind them, and they all clash with the evidence of direct introspection–hence the recurring need for “unconscious” qualifiers.
“The unconscious mind” is one of those things that people are afraid to question for fear of being thought “unscientific”; I’m sure I’ll shock some readers with even the basic observation that “unconscious mind” is a contradiction in terms.
I just saw this map (here’s the post in which it is embedded) of anti-liberal blogs at Habitable Worlds, and it’s pretty cool. At least at a quick check, both the groupings and the connections seem about right. Presumably, the Orthosphere would be placed in the middle of “Christian Traditionalists” (hereafter “CTs”) with no connections to other groupings. The map has an obvious focus on secular reactionaries–not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is obvious that CTs are the cluster least integrated with others. This is to be expected, given that the various groups of secular reactionaries aren’t separated by any sort of deep philosophical differences from each other the way they all are from us. The map correctly shows some CT sites leaning toward manosphere/femininity territory. One might have expected us to blend in seamlessly with the Christian manosphere, but if you read their blogs like I do, you know that they despise us. A tighter connection to the “Political Philosophy” cluster might be an unrealized possibility. Our goal is 1) to be right and 2) to make our arguments strong and interesting enough that we can seed ideas among the wider class of people disaffected with the modern world.
Some dogmas of the modern world are evil, and some are merely stupid. A few might actually be true. As reactionaries, we often face the choice of how widely to spread our quarrel. Do we fight all the beliefs of the Leftist establishment with which we disagree, or only the evil ones? The answer depends both on the extent of a given reactionary’s passions and also his current social status. Is it a case of saving one’s ostracism for that one issue closest to one’s heart, or a case of already feeling so cut off from one’s fellow men that one might as well let loose on everything?
What do we usually mean when we use the word “hope”? Perhaps when theologians say that they’re hoping for something, they mean that they are confident that God will get them that thing, but this is not how the rest of us use that word. Usually, to hope for something means to want it, and not only to want it, but to be emotionally invested in this desire. Let us explore the full meaning of this. Here I will be using a slightly different meaning of hope from that in my previous post, this one having no necessary tie to actions. Even so, we will see that hope can be one of our most painful duties.
I have sometimes had difficulty seeing how hope could be regarded as a virtue, as all Christians are obliged to do. We conservatives are always being encouraged to hope rather than to despair, and used this way “hope” seems to mean willfully blinding ourselves to the inevitability of defeat. Such an attitude seems less manly to me than one that resolves to fight on to the death in the face of inevitable defeat propelled only by the grim prompting of duty.
At other times, I have argued to myself that hope actually means something very similar to this resolve to keep fighting in the face of imminent defeat.
Like most reactionaries, I have harbored an intense hatred for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization whose purpose seems to be to paint bright targets on people like me for the benefit of timid employers and bold antifa terrorists. However, if Charlotte Allen’s Weekly Standard article on the SPLC is to be believed, I have completely misjudged them. It appears that the SPLC’s primary function is to fleece rich, gullible liberals out of their charity money. Ordinarily, I would be against such a thing, but in this case it may be the lesser evil. Consider Allen’s point that other Leftist legal charities, like the ACLU, are more honest and efficient with donations. That means each dollar given to SPLC could have done much more evil if it had been given to the ACLU instead. I’m feeling a strange appreciation for Morris Dees for doing just what a reactionary secret agent should have been doing all these years.
I love academia. What’s more, I suspect that a very large fraction of the Orthosphere’s readers are connected to the university system in one way or another. (Hopefully, we’ll have our next installment of the reader survey soon to test this suspicion.) So it has long pained me to see the universities so strongly associated with the forces of evil. Sociologist Neil Gross even argues that the perception (which in this case very accurately reflects the reality) of academia as a Left-liberal bastion is doing a great deal to discourage young conservatives from pursuing academic careers.
In fact, it is time to reevaluate this perception. While it is as true as ever that the faculty, administration, and campus culture of universities are monolithically liberal, they are no longer distinctively or abnormally liberal compared to the rest of society. Back during the Cold War, there was a striking difference between the universities and ordinary America; the professors wanted the commies to win, and the uneducated didn’t. With the end of the Cold War, the differences became less sharp, and they are continuing to fade. The mainstream has moved radically to the Left, while the professoriate has changed very little. Roger Kimball once called them “tenured radicals”, but the professors I know (excluding myself, of course) seem to hold what are now blandly mainstream views. Anti-white demonization, sexual nihilism, gender egalitarianism, and the cultural Marxist reading of our past history are as taken for granted in the business world, in popular fiction, in both political parties, and in most of the churches as they are in faculty meetings. Consider the implications of the last presidential election; for the first time, the winning candidate felt no need to move to the center. He embraced sodomitical “marriage” and picked a fight with the Catholic Church over a new nonnegotiable imperative of universally subsidized sexual immorality, and he did this during an election time because he realized that it would win him more votes than it would cost him. This tells us more about the electorate than it does about Obama. (Indeed, the President has since been working on compromises to the HHS mandate. As a statesman, he wants an arrangement everyone can live with, which makes him actually more moderate than the populace that elected him.)
Universities were also once known for their Orwellian speech codes and Maoist indoctrination programs. These still exist, of course, but they’re now as common outside the university as inside it. Are HR departments in corporate America so different from their university counterparts? Sure, someone known to believe that homosexuality is immoral could probably not get tenure in one of our universities, but by now we’ve all heard enough stories to know that such people will be penalized–and often fired–in any line of work. In fact, we have arguably reached the point already that there is more resistance to the sexual revolution on campus than there is in the military. To take just one more example, someone who wanted to criticize an official victim group could hardly fare worse inside academia than he would outside of it.
So to our young readers, if you feel a calling to do academic work, go for it! There are many, many beautiful things in the universities, as anyone who’s taken a class in statistical mechanics or differential geometry will well know. For myself, I can’t imagine a happier life than the one of research and teaching. Yes, it’s controlled by the Left, but they control everything else, too.