Saturday, May 29, 2010
Human Rights Fraud
If you are like most people, when you hear about “human rights abuses”, you probably think about forced labor or extermination camps, about military dictators summarily executing their critics, about torture and ethnic cleansing, and other things similar to these.
What do all of these have in common?
First, they are all activities of governments rather than by ordinary people.
Secondly, they all involve actual physical suffering of some sort imposed on a large scale.
Finally, they have nothing to do with the laws and institutions established by progressives in Western countries like Canada, ostensibly to protect “human rights”.
Take the Canadian Human Rights Act, for example, which Parliament voted into law in 1977. This piece of legislation was clearly written, not to protect people from government abuses like ones mentioned above, to authorize government intrusion into the every day interactions of ordinary people.
In fact, this is blatantly stated at the very beginning of the CHRA itself. The “Purpose of Act” (Section 2) states:
The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.
Observe the following:
First, while governments are the perpetrators of the abuses we most commonly associate with “human rights” in ordinary conversation, the Canadian Human Rights Act’s declared purpose is “to extend the laws in Canada”, not to limit the power, scale, and scope of government.
Second, while we ordinarily think of “human rights abuses” in terms of extreme physical suffering, death, and unjust confinement, the CHRA is about economics.
Third, the CHRA points to an underlying principle as its justification. Upon closer examination that “principle” is just a standard progressive/leftist ideal. A principle, remember, is something you learn over time, at home growing up, in church, and from the folklore, traditions, and customs that represent the accumulated wisdom of your society, which forms your character, and guides you in your everyday decisions. An ideal is something that you dream up in your youth, as an abstract exercise in imagining a perfect world, and seek to impose on others.
“Equal opportunity” is an ideal not a principle. In its best form it is a negative ideal, declaring that individuals should rise and fall on their own merits or lack thereof, and that the government should not do anything, one way or another, to give any particular person an advantage over others. In its worst form it calls upon the government to create “equal opportunity”.
One person has an advantage over another because his father is a doctor and can afford to send him to the best schools whereas the second person’s father is the janitor’s assistant at the local grocery store and cannot afford the same privileges to his son. This is intolerably “unfair” to progressives and leftists who declare that the government needs to get involved and tax the doctor to pay for the education of the janitor’s assistant’s son so that they both have “equal opportunity”.
The “equal opportunity” of the Canadian Human Rights Act is also a form of the kind of “equal opportunity” that calls upon the government to take action rather than simply asking it to mind its own business. In this case, the CHRA authorizes the government to take action to protect “individuals” from “discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.”
What are these discriminatory practices? Do they involve torturing, confining, or killing people because of their race, their national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or any of the other criteria listed?
No. Acts of that nature were already illegal in Canada prior to the passing of the CHRA. Well, at least they were until the Chretien government followed the American government’s bad example in voting itself the right to do these things to anyone suspected of “terrorism” after 9/11. That is a topic for another time however.
The acts which are considered “discriminatory practices” by the CHRA include the denial of “access to, any such good, service, facility or accommodation” which is “customarily available to the general public” (Section 5) or the denial of occupancy of “commercial premises or residential accommodation” (Secion 6), and the refusal of employment or termination of employment (Section 7) to anyone based on the prohibited grounds.
At first glance these rules might make sense to some. Consider, however, the implications. If you own a business or an apartment block and depend upon that for your and your family’s livelihood, these rules say that you do not have the final decision in who you do business with, who you hire to work for you, or who you rent your apartments too.
Lets say you own a restaurant. The services it provides are “customarily available to the general public” and so fall under Section 5. Someone comes into your restaurant who is drunk and abusive and starts harassing other customers. That person is of another ethnicity to yourself. What do you do?
The right thing to do, of course, is to boot the guy out on his arse. Your family depends on you to support them, the restaurant is your livelihood, and you cannot afford to give the impression to potential regular customers that they will be harassed if they come to your establishment and that you will do nothing about it.
However, because of his ethnicity, Section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act forces you to reconsider. If you kick this man out it will not be because of his ethnicity but because he is a drunken, boorish, lout. You know that but that is not what matters. What matters is that the law says you cannot deny services to this man because of his ethnicity, and if he complains to the Human Rights Commission that you kicked him out of your restaurant because you were prejudiced against him, it is his word against your word.
Who will the adjudicators of the CHRA be most likely to believe, him or you?
It would be nice to say that the traditional, prescriptive, English right to the presumption of innocence applies here, but in fact it doesn’t. The CHRA, like all forms of anti-discrimination legislation, is stacked against the defendant. It will cost the man nothing to file a complaint against you – you will have to hire a lawyer to advise you of your rights and defend you. And the adjudicators of laws like this operate on a presumption of guilt – to doubt the word of a “victim” of “discrimination” is to victimize him again in the thinking of progressives.
Laws of this nature are not necessary. Civilization survived for millennia without them. Moreover, as we have just demonstrated, these laws can be a positive evil. Lord Falkland once declared “When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change”, to which excellent conservative axiom I would add the corollary “When it is not necessary for there to be a law, it is necessary for there not to be a law”.
It is the government’s job to provide us with the protection of the rule of law against murder, theft, assault, rape, and other criminal activities in which someone causes real physical harm to our persons or property. It is not the government’s place to interject itself into our everyday interactions with others and decide who has been treating who unfairly, and when it attempts to do so it makes things worse because it is not competent to do so.
What the Trudeau government and the progressive Left have done with the Canadian Human Rights Act is a form of sleight-of-hand. It was the Left that introduced the concept of “human rights” into our political discussion, selling the concept as a protection against the worst abuses of government. As a result we have come to associate the opposite of “human rights” with the horrors of tyranny.
Then it introduced legislation in the name of “human rights” that does nothing to protect people from such tyranny, but rather empowers the government to intrude into their everyday lives, and boss them around about who they do business with, who they rent their property to, and who they hire, fire, and promote in their businesses.
If it were done on a stage for our entertainment it would be trick worthy of standing ovation.
Since it was done with the laws of our land and affects our everyday lives, it is instead a fraud worthy of nothing but condemnation.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Toryism and Personal Liberty
There are many who would see a fundamental inconsistency in standing for "throne and altar" and "liberty" at the same time. I see no such inconsistency. In my essay "On Being A Tory in the Age of Whigs" I provided an argument for how and why one can uphold the authority of social institutions, including government, while simultaneously upholding personal liberty against intrusive government. Both the authority of the institutions and our traditional liberties are rooted in societal prescription, in the ancient constitution of society. To promote either at the expense of the other is to attack the foundation of both.
Many who call themselves "conservatives" today argue for limits on government out of reasons that are essentially liberal. I will try to avoid such arguments at this blog. This is not because classical liberalism never had any good arguments but because there is a solid Tory case for non-intrusive government that has never been linked to such erroneous concepts as progress, the inherent goodness of mankind, contractual society, or the universal brotherhood of man.
Evelyn Waugh, the 20th Century British satirist and novelist, was a convert to Roman Catholic Christianity and a High Tory. In an appendix to his book Robbery Under Law, which arose out of his trip to Mexico in the 1930's, he gave a brief statement of his political beliefs. Donat Gallagher, in his anthology of Waugh's prose entitled The Essays, Articles, and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh, reprinted this statement under the title "A Conservative Manifesto". In this Waugh states:
I believe in government; that men cannot live together without rules but that these should be kept at the bare minimum of safety.
Here we find the Tory position on limited government in a nutshell - government is necessary and good, but the rules should be kept to what is necessary. Government, in other words, should be non-intrusive.
This position has a long pedigree in Tory thought.
Robert Cecil, the Third Marquess of Salisbury, the 19th Century British peer and Prime Minister, is said by the conservative journal that bears his name to have declared that "good government consisted in doing as little as possible".
Samuel Johnson, who dominated 18th Century English literature, and was the quintessential Tory of that era, in verse he wrote for Oliver Goldsmith declared: How small, of all that human hearts endure,/ That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
To the Tory, the true conservative, the truly important events in human life and human society, do not take place in the sphere of the political, or, for that matter, in the sphere of the economical. What truly matters is not what occurs in the halls of Parliament or in the marketplace. It is what happens in the home, in the church, and in your local neighborhood. It is there that civilization stands or falls. It is there that government should have the least amount of say - if any at all.
To the progressive, who believes in the inherent goodness of man and that a better world is possible through reason and science, the temptation has always existed to regard the government as an instrument for effecting whatever social change he regards as desirable at the particular moment (it changes from age to age). This was true even in the days when classical liberalism and progressivism were more or less synonymous. Consider the case of Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, who had no patience for the prescriptive "Rights of Englishmen", i.e. to trial by jury, habeas corpus, etc., regarding these as a hindrance to government in the work of improving society. It fell to Sir William Blackstone, the famous British jurist and commentator on the Common Law, to defend these basic rights. Blackstone, a High Tory, believed in the ancient constitution, and the Divine Right of Kings.
As government has become more democratic, the temptation of the progressive has increased. Modern democratic governments have asserted a larger, more intrusive role in the societies they govern. The standard model of the modern democratic-administrative state, is of a strong central government, consisting of elected politicians, who appoint large departments of "experts" to write regulation after regulation covering every conceivable area of life, and then hire armies of inspectors to knock on the doors of your homes, churches, schools, and businesses to make sure you are complying. It is the progressives' dream come true, but the Tory's nightmare.
As government has become more and more intrusive into our everyday lives it has become increasingly less effective at providing the basic protection of the rule of law to society that has been the basis of its existence for as long as there has been government. The late and brilliant American conservative commentator, Dr. Samuel Francis, coined the term anarcho-tyranny to describe this situation.
Among North American "conservatives" the idea has become popular, as of late, that the democratic-administrative state can be "taken over" and turned into an instrument of a "conservative" agenda. This is essentially the view of the "neo-conservatives" in the United States ('50's and '60's era Cold War liberals who supposedly moved to the Right in the '70's) and it appears to be the philosophy of Stephen Harper here in Canada as well. It is a sad age we live in, when Tories have fallen prey, to the progressive temptation.
Government exists to enforce the law and keep the peace. It does not exist to change society. It does not exist to advance anyone's agenda.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Ideals or Principles?
Yet this idea, that youth and ideals, are the traits most to be desired among our leadership defies both common sense and the collective history of mankind.
Which would you rather your leaders possess – a great vision for your community or wisdom? If your reason is at all functional, the latter will be your choice. Wisdom, which is more than just the knowledge of facts but the ability to discern and make right choices is essential to good leadership. It is a trait, however, that one does not ordinarily associate with youth.
The reason for this is obvious. Wisdom, in most cases, is the product of long experience which people simply do not possess in their youth. Some people never achieve wisdom and the old saw “there is no fool like an old fool” conveys much truth. In general, however, wisdom is the property of age, for which reason communities worldwide have traditionally been led by their “elders”.
The road to wisdom, however, begins in youth. For this reason it is important that we do everything possible to encourage young people to develop principles. Principles are sounder and more lasting than ideals.
What is the difference, you ask?
An ideal is the product of looking at the world, comparing it to a perfect model you have imagined in your mind, and concluding “I could do better”.
Ideals generate passion. Someone who believes in the ideal of equality, for example, will passionately desire to change the world so that everybody is equal. What if, however, the world does not want to be changed and the only way to achieve one’s ideal is through force that harms other people? “You cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”, Stalin famously remarked. That is idealism talking.
Principles differ from ideals in a number of ways.
First of all, principles have a different origin than ideals. Principles are not the product of imaging a perfect world, but are learned from your own experience, and from the collective experience of your society and of mankind, passed on to you through society’s traditions, folklore, folk wisdom, and religion.
Secondly, principles are behavioral guidelines that you strive to follow in your own life experience. They do not require you to try and change anyone other than yourself. The best way to pass principles on to others is by living them out and demonstrating them by your example.
In the ancient Greek stories, the hero Theseus, son of the king of Athens, having been raised by his mother in her father’s kingdom in Troezen, upon coming of age was sent to his father’s kingdom. On the way, he encountered and defeated a number of monstrous villains. One of these was Procrustes, who would invite people who passed by his home to stay the night. He insisted, however, that they be the exact length of the bed he had made. If they were not, he would stretch them if they were too short, or chop a bit of them off if they were too long.
Procrustes was the epitome of idealism.
Someone with principles however, has a standard of right and wrong, to which he hold himself and nobody else accountable. If he is a man of character, he upholds his principles even when everyone else around him is doing the exact opposite. He tells the truth, when all around him are lying, he is honest in his business dealings when everyone else is cheating, he is loyal to his wife and children when others are betraying and walking out on theirs.
Character is growing harder and harder to find because we simply don’t value it the way we used to.
It was only a few generations ago that Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous poem “If”, illustrating the qualities of character. “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you/If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you/Yet make allowance for their doubting to/If you can wait and not be tired by waiting/Or being lied about don’t deal in lies/Or being hated not give way to hating/And yet don’t look too good nor talk too wise” he began.
Kipling’s philosophy of personal restraint and accountability would be regarded as alien by many today. The same popular culture that exalts the idealism of youth teaches us to put self and pleasure first.
It is easier, you see, to demand that the world change to accommodate ideals, than to hold yourself accountable to a moral code. It is less painful to blame others for failing your vision, that to admit your own guilt when you fail to live up to your principles.
The easier, less painful road, however, is seldom the right road.
It is tempting to ask the question: “What if we all stopped dreaming up utopian fantasies, gave up our ideals, and ceased striving to change the world, but instead strove to develop our personal character and to live up to principles”? The ironic answer, might be, that the world would be a much better place.
To ask that question and come to that answer, however, is to miss the point entirely. Attempts to change the world and recreate Paradise are doomed to failure. We should develop character and strive to live up to moral principles, because it is the right thing to do.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Authority and Power
Authority and power are two different things. They cannot be separated from each other, but they must be distinguished. The distinction may very well be the most important distinction in political science.
Authority is the right to give orders and receive obedience within a specific sphere, a right that a person enjoys by virtue of their position within an institution. It is a matter of status. Parents occupy the positions of authority within the family. Clergymen occupy the positions of authority within the church.
Power is the ability to force other people to obey your commands against their own volitions. It is a matter of strength or the appearance of strength.
To a certain extent, all authority needs the backing of power. Human nature makes this necessary. We, as human beings, have a natural inclination to disobey those in authority over us. Liberalism, which many, especially in North America, confuse with conservatism, exalts this inclination to the highest of virtues. Traditional Christianity, however, provides a different perspective on it, by identifying it as Original Sin, the estate of Adam’s fall, which is the inheritance of all men. To those who prefer civilization to chaos, the Christian perspective is the more accurate of the two.
Parents have natural authority over their children. They brought them into the world, they are responsible for raising them, and have the right to command their obedience. Their position of authority, is the most natural human authority on the planet, within the institution, which is the most basic institution of all human society, the family. Children do, however, require discipline because disobedience comes naturally. When parents use discipline to train their children to obey, they are using power to back up authority.
Parents do not require a lot of power to back up their authority however. The more natural the authority, the less power it requires. The government is the lawmaking institution in authority over the polity, i.e., the sovereign political unit whether it be a city-state as in ancient Greece and medieval Italy, or the modern nation-state. Its authority is also natural and legitimate, but it is the least natural of all legitimate human authorities, and requires the most power to back it up. Parents can tell their kids to do something and receive obedience without attaching a threat of discipline to each command. The government, on the other hand, must attach a penalty for disobedience, to each of its laws. Furthermore, the penalties the government imposes are far more severe than the discipline a parent gives.
The amount of power necessary to support authority can be seen then, as being inversely proportional to the degree to which that authority is natural. The most natural position of human authority, requires the least power, and the least natural requires the most. The size of a position of authority’s legitimate sphere is also inversely proportional to the degree to which it is natural.
Parents, whose authority is most natural, govern the smallest number of people, in the smallest social institution, the family. Governments, whose authority is least natural, govern the largest number of people in the largest social institution, the polity.
Note that human authority has its natural limits. A parent is in a position of authority, but not over other people’s children and in other people’s households. A king or queen holds a position of authority, but not outside the borders of their realm.
Another limit upon human authority, is its range of command. A father or mother can tell their child to clean up his messy room. It would be inappropriate, and grossly intrusive, for a government official to do so. The range of command for human authority, is inversely proportional to the size of its sphere. Parents who govern only their children in their own homes, have the right to tell their kids when to go to bed, when to get up, when and what they will eat, and a host of other things that no one else in the world has the right to boss people around about. Governments, who govern sovereign polities, are far more limited in their range of command. The larger the government, the more power it requires to back it up, the less laws it should be allowed to pass. The government of a large modern country like Canada or the United States should not pass laws against anything other than criminal behavior – robbery, murder, rape, assault, or any other behavior in which quantifiable harm is done to others and/or their property.
What a government should do and what it does do are very different things however. The contemporary governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and other Western countries, do not limit their laws to necessary laws against crimes that are demonstrably mala in se. Modern governments insist that virtually every area of life be regulated. They have established large bureaucracies, whose officials and inspectors are empowered, to invade our homes and businesses, to make sure we are complying with every petty regulation they have seen fit to pass “for our own good”.
Some would consider it ironic that this has happened as governments have become more democratic. Medieval kings would never have dreamed of keeping an army of inspectors to knock on their subjects’ doors and make sure their fire alarms were working. Modern democratic politicians do not blink an eye about doing so. There is no irony here however. Democracy is the most power-based of all forms of government.
Kings govern by authority they have inherited. This authority can be possibly be considered natural, if the king is the heir of the first father of his nation, as Filmer argued. The authority of the heir of an old dynasty is certainly based on ancient prescription. Democratic governments however, even at their best, base their authority entirely on power. A democracy is a government that rules because it has the weight of numbers behind it. The majority of the people are behind them, or at least the largest single segment of the electorate. This is a form of “might makes right” and a particularly ugly form of “might makes right” at that. It bears more resemblance to the demagogic leadership of a lynch mob than any other form of government.
By democracy I do not refer to the traditional role of the Commons in the British-Canadian system of parliamentary monarchy. The people in our tradition, are not sovereign. Sovereign authority is vested in the Crown. Parliament, is by tradition and ancient prescription, the place where the Sovereign and the representatives of the people meet to talk, from which conversation, the law arises. This tradition, incorporated the best elements of democracy, and excluded the worst, into the best simple form of government, monarchy, producing the Aristotelian mixed constitution. It is the best form of government mankind has ever known. Even the original American republic was just a cheap rip-off in comparison.
Unfortunately, that system has gone into decline, like the American republic, as the role of the Commons has expanded, the role of the monarch has shrunk to that of a figurehead, and Britain and Canada have become more democratic, with an ever-expanding bureaucracy of government experts, officials, and inspectors, marching forth to make our lives hell, by wrapping us up in red tape, and bossing us to death. That is the power of the people in practice.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Happy Mother’s Day
Written by Gerry T. Neal on May 10, 2009.
A country’s holidays are an important part of its culture and identity. They commemorate important events, people, and things. The two most important holidays in the Christian calendar have historically been Christmas and Easter, commemorating respectively the birth and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These remain important to this day, although in the new calendar of secularism Christmas has become the Great Feast of corporate consumerism presided over by Santa Claus, and Easter now commemorates the resurrection of the Easter Bunny who died to bring us chocolate eggs.
Mother’s Day, at least as celebrated in North America, is a more recent holiday. It started in the United States in the early 20th Century and has been picked up in Canada and several other countries around the world. It too has become highly commercialized. Despite its recent origins that which it honors and celebrates has been honored and celebrated in every culture around the world from time immemorial – and rightly so.
Mother’s Day commemorates mothers and motherhood – the women who carried us, gave birth to us, nursed us, and watched over, trained, and cared for – in short mothered us, as we grew up. Everybody has a mother – even the Son of God. Without mothers and motherhood no society could survive beyond the present generation. The human species itself could not survive without mothers.
Motherhood, is by far the most important calling a woman could ever have. It used to be we didn’t shy from saying that. We do nowadays largely because of a small group of highly vocal ideologues who have been attacking wives, mothers, motherhood and femininity for the last 50 years. These fanatics call themselves “feminists”.
To say that motherhood is the highest calling of women is not remotely the same thing as saying that woman’s place ranks lower than that of men or that other things women may do are not important in and of themselves. That is what the feminist hears in such a remark but that is only because of her warped perspective.
In a healthy, functioning society women bring up their daughters to be women, and at some point men take over the training of their sons, who they train to be men. That is the common sense, practical, rational, and traditional way of doing things. Men, in training their sons, do not teach them to wish they were girls or to envy a woman’s position. Similarly women, in bringing up their daughters right, do not teach them to wish they were boys or to envy a man’s position. Both sexes, if properly raised, are taught a respect for the other sex – a respect mingled, ordinarily, with a healthy degree of contempt for their ways
A man, properly brought up, holds women in the highest esteem – but considers their ways to be beneath him. A woman, properly brought up, feels the same way about a man. Man looks at the bearing and raising of children, and thinks “That’s all fine and good for women, but how can it compare in importance to what I do – the building, maintaining, and advancing of great civilizations?” Woman, in response, smirks at man’s self-importance because she knows that the building and leveling of cities is beneath her. How could any of that compare in importance to bringing a new life into the world, nurturing it, and caring for it?
Which of the two is right? Why both are of course! Every society, and the species as a whole, needs a next generation. Only mothers can provide this, and so motherhood is essential to society in way which can be said of nothing man does . On the other hand, the contributions men have made and continue to make to civilization are what make it something worth passing on to a next generation in the first place.
God and nature have made us in such a way that our lives begin within the bodies of women, grow there for about 9 months, and following birth remain dependent upon the body of the mother for nourishment for some time. Motherhood, encompasses a heck of a lot more than just that biological minimum, but that biological minimum is such, that only a woman can fill the role of mother. Since motherhood is absolutely necessary, and since only woman can be mothers, it follows that for women as a group nothing else they do can possibly be more important. Likewise, since men cannot be mothers, it follows that for men, the things they do will be more important than the bearing and raising of children.
The woman’s point of view is absolutely correct – for women.
The man’s point of view is absolutely correct – for men.
What is wrong, is the feminist point of view that tells women that they should take the man’s point of view and value the bearing and raising of children less than the building and leveling of civilizations, contributions to medicine, law, science, literature, and thought, or even menial labor for a minimum wage.
This nutty way of looking at things, began like so many other wrong-headed movements, in the 1960’s. True, its basic concepts go back further than that, finding their source in the writings of 18th and 19th Century leftists like Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. An important founding text of feminism, The Second Sex by Jean Paul Sartre’s much-abused consort Simone de Beauvoir first appeared in 1949. But the movement itself began with the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and the establishment of the National Organization of Women 3 years later.
This movement, contrary to its claims for itself, had nothing to do with the women’s movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which achieved, among other things, the right of women to vote. In addition to securing property and voting rights for women, these movements fought, in an age when industrializing was moving work off the farms and into factories in large urban centers, for a “family wage”, i.e., a wage large enough for a man to support his wife and children on a single income. These women’s movements alliance with the industrialists in the cause of prohibition was correlated to the family wage – they wanted to be sure the men brought that income home instead of spending it in the bars.
Now one might not necessarily agree with all of the reforms these movements sought, or at least their pursuit through political means, but these women were no feminists. These movements were filled with Christian women and their leaders honored the things that feminism attacked - marriage, family, and motherhood.
Feminism did not arise in countries where women were really oppressed by cruel practices like clitoridectomy or infibulation. It did not arise in countries under Islamic law where women had no rights whatsoever. Feminism began at a time and in a part of the world where women had the right to vote and own property, had long had the opportunity for a full education, were free to work for pay outside the home, and had the right to decide who and when they would marry. It was in such a country, at such a time, that Betty Friedan claimed that women were being oppressed by TV commercials, stories and ads in women’s magazines, and classes in schools and universities, which presented a glorified vision of the happy housewife/mother as part of a government conspiracy to get women to return home so the jobs they had filled during WWII could go to the returning soldiers. As a result, Friedan argued, women were turning to drugs and alcohol in record numbers, as they found their education and talents going to waste. The only solution was for women to put their own self-fulfillment as individuals ahead of everything else, and the way to do that was through a glamorous, paid career.
Ironically, by the end of the 60’s Friedan was beginning to look moderate in her views. Even more radical versions of feminism arose, as the female adherents of black power groups, anti-Vietnam war groups, student radicals, and other leftist movements of the time, grew sick of being treated poorly by the male revolutionaries and struck out on their own. Some promoted lesbianism as the ideal lifestyle for the “liberated” woman, others argued that rape was not a crime by individual men against individual women but a means by which men as a class oppress women as a class (Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Wills) or even that all heterosexual intercourse was demeaning to women and would be as long as power was unevenly divided between the sexes (Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse). And this was before things really got crazy in the 90’s!
Needless to say these radicals were no friendlier to motherhood than Friedan. Friedan, tried to distance herself from the radicals and present her version of feminism as more family-friendly (this was what The Second Stage was all about) but do not be deceived. The feminist movement, while Friedan was its acknowledged leader, made as its agenda the legalization and subsidization of abortion, and state provided daycare centers to free up mothers of young children to pursue careers. It promoted the sexual revolution, promiscuity, and no-fault divorce. It promoted the world Aldous Huxley described in Brave New World as its vision for the future.
The fight between feminism and the traditional family and social order was never about such trivial things as jobs, salaries, and household chores. Economic arrangements change. What men and women do in a hunting/gathering tribal economy will widely differ from what they do in a primarily agricultural economy, which will again widely differ from what they do in an industrialized economy. In the latter kind of economy – such as ours – a great variety of jobs are open to men and women alike. These kind of arrangements come and go. The family, the basic building block of society in which man and women come together to raise their children, is a permanent thing. Motherhood is – as long as mankind lasts – a permanent thing.
Despite its presentation of itself as being the movement for women’s choice, feminism is against women’s choice. For as long as women keep choosing to have children and raise them themselves instead of trusting them over to a cold, state institution, and keep choosing careers that will assist them in their choice – part time jobs, jobs close to home and school, or jobs after the children are born and in school – feminism’s goal of a world where women and men are equally represented at every level in every career in every field can never happen. It is these choices made by women that create the so-called “wage gap” (in which women’s wages are represented as a percentage of men’s). The gap disappears when never-married women and men of the same age and same career are compared.
The reason feminism can never truly win is because women will never stop choosing to be wives and mothers. They know, even many who will not verbalize it, that motherhood is the highest calling they or any other woman could ever aspire to. They know this, not because of some conspiracy among all males to keep them in second-class status by deceiving them into valuing motherhood over careers. They know this because it is in their hearts and natures and they cannot help it. It is to women such as these that I say:
Happy Mothers’ Day.
Today I will be posting another old essay. Today is Mother's Day and this essay entitled "Happy Mother's Day" I wrote and posted to Facebook on Mother's Day of last year. It is a political essay, basically intended to give the feminist movement a good slap in the face. Some may question the propriety of attacking feminism on Mother's Day of all days. To attack feminism, however, is not to attack women. Auberon Waugh put it this way many years ago:
"It is a great cliché of the feminist movement — by definition composed of women who are unhappy in the feminine role — that men who oppose it are misogynists or woman-haters. The truth, of course, is that it is men who love women who are distressed to see them making such fools of themselves."
Feminism is anti-woman and anti-motherhood. There can be no more appropriate day to point out its follies than Mother's Day.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
On Being a Tory in an Age of Whigs
written by Gerry T. Neal on May 4, 2009
I am a Tory. Not necessarily in the sense of “a member or supporter of the Conservative Party”, but certainly in the sense of being a High Tory in principle and belief, i.e., a “throne and altar conservative”. Enoch Powell, the greatest British statesman of the 20th Century, and himself a Tory (even after he left the party) defined the term this way “a Tory is a person who regards authority as immanent in institutions”. That is probably the best simple definition of a Tory that I have ever come across.
What is authority? It is often considered identical to power but they are not the same thing. Power is effectual influence over the minds and wills of other people. Power can be obtained in various ways. In some cases it is the equivalent of brute strength and operates by the use or threat of force. Other times, power is obtained more subtly.. Regardless of the manner in which it is obtained, however, power does not make the imposition of your will legitimate. Might does not make right. That is where the difference between power and authority lies. Authority is the right to be listened to and obeyed. To illustrate, lets say that a kid is walking to school and a bully shows up and demands “Give me your lunch money or I’ll beat you up”. The kid does so, because the bully is bigger and stronger than he is and is easily capable of following through on the threat. That bully has power. Later, the kid gets home after school. He drops his schoolbag on the floor, throws his coat towards the coat rack and misses, and heads towards his room without cleaning up his mess. His mother sees this and says “Stop right there young man, hang up your coat, and put your book bag where it belongs”. Whether or not the mother backs up her words with a threat of punishment, they carry something the bully’s words never could, i.e., authority. She has the right to be obeyed. If she uses a threat of punishment to back up her command, she is using power legitimately, whereas the bully was not.
To say that “authority is immanent in institutions” as Powell put it, is to say that authority rests with an office rather than a person. The queen’s authority, rests in the office of monarch and not in the person of Elizabeth II who occupies it.
What are institutions? They are the building blocks of society. Most exist in every society, although some are unique to a particular society, and those which are universal take on particular characteristics to suit the society to which they belong. The family is the most basic institution. The church is another basic institution. The highest institution (or set of institutions) in any society is the government, the institution which exists to make and enforce society’s rules, to represent that society’s interests to other societies, and to protect the society from attacks from the outside. In the United Kingdom and Canada, the government consists of the institution of the monarchy in which sovereignty rests and the parliament through which people have a say in how they are governed. Other government institutions carry out the day to day business of enforcing the laws the government makes.
The Enlightenment Project, which marked the beginning of what is called “the Modern Age” launched a war against the institutions of society that continues to this very day. The sophists of the Enlightenment blamed society and its institutions for the ills that have assailed human society through the generations. Some argued that society and its institutions needed to be reformed and reshaped in accordance with ideals thought up by rationalist philosophers, among these being equality, popular sovereignty, the rights of man. Others argued that society could not be reformed, but needed to be razed to the ground, and rebuilt anew in accordance to these same ideals.
Tories recognize the foolishness and danger in all of that. Evil cannot be eliminated from the world by human means. Its source, is not society or its institutions, but the human heart, and so it will always be with us, as long as the present world lasts. In theology, this is called the doctrine of Original Sin, a doctrine taught by every major branch of historical, traditional, and Biblical Christianity – Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. The purpose of law and government is not to eliminate evil but to contain it to a certain extent by prohibiting and punishing acts of evil which harm others and society itself. This is, as it should be, a very small role. As Dr. Johnston, the 18th Century Tory wrote “How small, of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.”
Today, government has taken upon itself a larger role, which exceeds the legitimate authority vested in it by tradition and prescription. The “nanny state” watches over its citizens like a mother hen with the aim of preventing them from making mistakes that could possibly injure themselves. Thus, we now have laws against smoking inside buildings and vehicles, laws against drinking and driving, laws against speeding and laws saying one must wear a seat belt in a moving vehicle. The “surveillance state”, in the name of providing us with around the clock security against criminals and terrorists, spies on us night and day. The “welfare state” takes upon itself the responsibility for maintaining our existence from the cradle to the grave.
Each of these expansions of the role and responsibility of government find their origins in some philosophy or another derived from the Enlightenment Project. When the rationalist philosophers began their war against the institutions of traditional society they declared themselves to be fighting for freedom and liberty. But the inevitable result of their efforts has been the creation of the modern state which is the enemy of freedom and liberty. The true defenders of liberty and freedom, the true libertarians, have always been Tories. For our rights and freedoms ultimately are derived from the same source as the authority vested in traditional institutions.
To Christians the ultimate source of liberty and of authority is God. The immediate source, however, from which liberty, rights, and legitimate authority are derived, is the social order, embodied in tradition, and prescription. The word tradition is derived from the Latin tradere – to give up, hand over, pass on. It refers in English to customs, habits, and ways of life, which have been inherited from our ancestors, and which we are expected to keep and pass on to our posterity. Prescription, was defined by American Tory Russell Kirk as “things established by immemorial usage”. Through tradition and prescription the social order, each particular society’s variation on the natural order, is transmitted from generation to generation. From the social order, the institutions of society including government, derive their authority. Note this is the exact opposite of what the modern state and its defenders would have you believe, i.e., that order in society comes from the state down.
The state would also have us believe that it is the source of our rights and freedoms. But when the state is the source of our rights and freedoms, the state can take those rights away. Our real rights and freedoms, are prescriptive rights and freedoms, i.e., rights and freedoms vested in us as individuals, by our membership in a society in which those rights and freedoms have been passed down by tradition. Since tradition and prescription are the source of the authority vested in government as an institution, it cannot take away the rights and freedoms which tradition and prescription have vested in us as individuals, without attacking the source of its own authority. Thus, do tradition and prescription, place limits on the authority they make immanent in the institutions of society.
If we would recover the rights and freedoms that have been taken from us and recover the social order that has eroded away to almost nothing, we must reconnect with the English and broader Western tradition, which the heirs of the Enlightenment Project have done so much to sever us from.
I am working on a follow-up essay to my royalist essay of yesterday, an essay which will explore the differences between authority and power. After that an essay in defense of church establishment and against the left-liberal "wall of separation" is next on the docket, assuming some other topic doesn't come up to distract me. It may be a few weeks before I get either of these written and posted however. In the meantime, I will be posting older essays that I had previously circulated privately among my friends. The first of these, which I will add after this post today, is my personal favorite "On Being a Tory in the Age of Whigs". In older essays I will include the "original date". This indicates the date the essay was first posted to my Facebook profile. In most, if not all cases, that is the same as the date the essay was completed.
Some may have noticed that while the title of the last essay posted spoke of "the divine right of kings", the essay itself was a defense of the "natural authority of kings". I find that there are many truths that can be approached from both a theological and a philosophical perspective. Regal authority is one of those. The nature of man is another. The empirical observation that there is a fatal flaw in human nature which prevents human beings from ever establishing a true paradise on earth, and the theological doctrine of "Original Sin", are simply two different approaches to the same subject. I am frequently reminded of that part of C. S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where they run across the star Ramandu, living in retirement on an island. The progressively educated Eustace says "In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas" to which Ramandu replies "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of". In the centuries of darkness the Western world has known since the eclipse which was the "Enlightenment" we have elevated the one aspect of reality over the other, to the point where for many it is all there is left. This is a loss most tragic.
The liberal notion that authority is something that the people give to their government, holding the right to take it back in reserve, is unworkable nonsense as theory, and a recipe for revolution and chaos in practice. Parents are not given their authority by their children. God is not given His authority by His creation. Neither is any intermediate authority a gift from the governed to the governor. We who cherish our traditional liberties and rights, need to look elsewhere than to the revolutionary doctrines of the Left, for their foundation.
Friday, May 7, 2010
The Divine Right of Kings Versus the Tyranny of the People
In the minds of many, perhaps most people, today, the concepts of “democracy” and “freedom” are inseparable. This is undoubtedly the result of the United States becoming the pre-eminent power in the West. Democracy and liberty have been linked in the American psyche since the Declaration of Independence. In the famous preamble to that document, Thomas Jefferson wrote that it is to secure the “unalienable rights” of men, to “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness”, that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.
This is what Edmund Burke (who had defended the rights of the American colonists in King George’s parliament) would call an “armed doctrine”. Its only purpose is to stir up the masses and turn them into an instrument of destruction against the established authority. It is also palpable nonsense.
Human authority can be divided into two basic types, the natural and the usurped. While natural authority, being vested in fallen and imperfect men, can be abused, usurped authority is the gateway to tyranny. Indeed, the Greek term tyrannos originally referred to one who had seized power by force. It came to refer to rulers who abused their people because an abusive rule is what is usually to be expected from a usurper.
Natural authority is never derived from the “consent of the governed”. The most basic natural authority in society, is the authority of parents in the family. Parents are not elected by their children. Parents do not hold authority over their children because their children have voluntarily contracted, or otherwise consented, to being under their authority. Parental authority is natural, derived from the very nature of the institution of the family, and reinforced by millennia of prescription and precedent.
The liberal doctrine that government derives its legitimacy from consent, has gotten the cart before the horse. Whereas unnatural authority must always rely upon force to obtain obedience, natural authority, exercised justly, can inspire voluntary, consensual obedience.
Sir Robert Filmer, in Patriarcha: The Natural Right of Kings, a tract published in 1680, several years after its author’s death, argued for monarchy as the natural form of human government. The first kings, he reasoned, were fathers, whose households grew to become the first nations, and who passed their patriarchal authority down to their firstborn sons.
While liberals and progressives believe that Filmer’s arguments were overthrown by John Locke in his Two Treatises his understanding of the origin and nature of the authority of kings is closer to reality than the Social Contract theory of society that Locke had bought into.
According to the Social Contract theory, men originally existed in a “state of nature” as sovereign individuals. They then came together, and voluntarily formed a contract, whereby they relinquished a portion of their sovereignty to a new entity, the state, forming society. Thomas Hobbes, an earlier Social Contract theorist, argued that this was done out of necessity, because men in the state of nature were savages who needed the Leviathan of the state to keep them from destroying each other in the “war of all against all”. Hobbes, at least, understood human nature enough to know what a world of sovereign individuals would look like.
Both Hobbes and Locke were wrong, however, in believing individualism to be man’s natural state, and society to be the artificial creation of individuals contracting with one another. Society is man’s natural state because the family, which is the building block of society, society in miniature, is prior to the individual. It is the individual, isolated and alienated from society, who is unnatural.
Contemporary libertarians honor Locke as a hero. They believe his concept of the sovereign individual to be the foundation of personal liberty. His theories, however, led to the rise of modern democracy, which contrary to popular opinion, is no friend of personal liberty.
The next great Social Contract theorist after Locke was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau believed that the people, collectively, were sovereign, and that the democratically established State, would be the instrument through which the “General Will” of the people would be expressed. Dissent from the “General Will”, was not to be tolerated in Rousseau’s vision of the New Order. Rousseau’s ideas became the foundation, both of modern democracy, and of totalitarianism.
The first group of people to seriously attempt to put Rousseau’s ideas into action, were the French Revolutionaries, who overthrew their king and established a Republic, where power vacillated between rival groups of Revolutionaries, who treated their opponents brutally in what has come to be known as the “Reign of Terror”. Ultimately, the power fell into the hands of the usurper Napoleon, who sought to subject all of Europe to his will, before finally being stopped.
The next group would be the Communists.
Then, in 1933, a dictator arose in Germany who enjoyed tremendous popular support. If there was ever a man who represented the “General Will” of his people, it was Adolf Hitler. I say this, not to blame the Germans as a people for the crimes of Hitler and his party, but to illustrate a point. Democracy and dictatorship are not mutually exclusive. Historically, dictators have enjoyed and depended upon, the support of their people. Indeed, dictatorship, is the natural, logical, and ultimate manifestation of democracy.
There is a world of difference, however, between a dictator, and a king.
Lord Acton said that “power corrupts”, but it would be more accurate to say that it is the pursuit of power, rather than the possession of it, that corrupts. Kings inherit their authority. They do not seize it, the way military tyrants do, nor do they seek it through bribery and deception, the way democratically elected politicians do.
A king can be good or bad, depending upon how he exercises his authority. History is full of examples of both. Finding a good politician, however, is like finding a needle in a haystack. Politicians are by definition people who seek power – they are therefore the last people in the world that should be allowed to exercise it (as Douglas Adams pointed out, in one of his novels). A politician’s power is usurped. A king’s authority is natural.
Today, democracy is everywhere present in the Western world, even in countries like ours that are still presided over by a monarch. The British/Canadian system of parliamentary monarchy predates liberalism by centuries, and has naturally developed to be the closest thing in reality to the mixed constitution Aristotle wrote about in theory, the world has ever known. It is the best political tradition in the entire world. Since the rise of Enlightenment liberalism, however, the constitution has become unbalanced, the democratic element has become too strong, and the monarch is treated as a mere figurehead by most politicians.
This is unhealthy. It should also be noted that freedom has not been increased thereby. Indeed, as the Commons have become more and more powerful, in the UK and Canada, they have seen fit to extend legislation to cover areas of life that no medieval king would ever have intruded into. Further, they have created huge departments of government officials, whose job is to invade our private lives, and boss us around in our homes, our businesses, and our families.
Democracy and freedom are not the same thing.
God save our Queen.
Greetings and Welcome
Greetings and welcome. For years I have had friends tell me that I should start a blog. To which I have always replied with some variation of "Yeah, I intend to one of these days". I guess that day has finally arrived.
Introductions are in order, should someone happen to come across this blog who does not know me either in real life or through Free Dominion. My name is Gerry T. Neal and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I majored in theology in college/seminary and theology remains one of my interests to this day, alongside classical literature and music, history, philosophy, and, as you may have surmised from the title of this blog, politics.
Most of what I post here will be political and social commentary. I wear my political biases on my sleeve, so I will lay them out front for you. I am a Tory, not in the sense of a supporter of the Conservative Party, but in the sense of someone who believes in a traditional, prescriptive, moral, political and social order, led by the institutions of the monarchy and church. Yes, I am aware that that order has long been overthrown by the revolutionary forces of progress unleashed by the Enlightenment Project. I suppose I am also a libertarian of sorts. While I find the individualist philosophy of classical liberalism to be silly and insipid, I am in full agreement with the general idea of libertarianism that the government should butt out of our everyday lives unless we are about to do serious harm to one another. Finally, I am a patriotic Canadian and a Protestant Christian.
My first post, after this introductory post, will be to my essay "The Divine Right of Kings versus the Tyranny of the People", just written yesterday. I have a number of essays that I have written over the course of the last year or so, and made available to my friends through private e-mail and Facebook. New ones will also be posted here and I will probably get around to posting most of the older ones as well.