As Western man entered the Modern Age, he began to regard those things which had been central to his worldview but which cannot be directly perceived by the senses as being less real and therefore less important than those things which are directly available to him through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Whereas previously he had accepted that God, as the Creator and Source of the physical world available to man through his senses, must therefore be more real and more important than that world, modern man reasoned that what is most real and important to us is that which we can observe directly and that God, if He exists at all, is out there somewhere doing His own thing and of little consequence to us. While St. Paul had traced to its inevitable terminus the route which this train of thought must travel in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, modern man ignored his warning, jumped aboard that train nonetheless, and has been travelling it ever since.
Modern man has both gained and lost by his decision to travel this path. By concentrating his attention on the physical world he has gained sufficient knowledge of that world to manipulate it to accomplish his ends – and so has managed to prolong his life, to make his labour easier and more efficient thus increasing both his productivity and his leisure time, and to combat scarcity and sickness. These gains are not to be sneered at or lightly dismissed and the fact that they are immediately present to us and observable makes them strong evidence indeed on behalf of the project of modernity.
Now let us think about what we have just noted about the gains of modernity. If such benefits to modern man as prolonged life, better health, abundance of material goods and leisure are evidence on behalf of modernity what is it that they are testifying to on modernity’s behalf? The answer is that they are testifying to modernity’s possessing the quality of being positive, beneficial, or good. Here we encounter a dilemma. If we are required to prove modernity to be good by pointing to the evidence of how it has benefited us this means that goodness is a standard to which modernity is held accountable, which means that goodness is higher than modernity, more important, and therefore more real than modernity and all of its benefits. Yet goodness is not something that we can look upon with our eyes or hear with our ears or otherwise directly detect through our senses. We perceive it indirectly in the many ways it manifests itself in the world of the senses but we approach it directly only through the avenues of faith and reason. In other words the very fact that we find it necessary to prove modernity to be good by pointing to the ways in which it has improved and enriched our lives is a contradiction of this fundamental tenet of modernity that it is the physical world of matter and energy, that we observe through our senses, that is real and important, and that the God Who created that world and such invisible and intangible qualities as goodness itself are less real and less important.
What this tells us is that although we have obtained real, tangible, benefits from modernity, benefits which must not be casually waved aside as if they are nothing, these benefits do not prove the ideas that comprise the foundation of modernity to be true. Truth is another one of those invisible and intangible qualities like goodness, which can be approached through faith and reason, but only perceived indirectly. While modern man talks much about truth, professes a high regard for it, and claims to possess it in greater quantities than men in previous eras, he has altered and reduced its meaning, almost beyond recognition, in accordance with his new understanding of what is real and important. To modern man, “truth” is merely the quality of accurately describing in our speech, what happens in what modern man considers to be the real world, the physical world. While modern man may have more facts at his disposal than ever before, he has lost the larger part of the very meaning of truth itself, and so truth must be marked down on the loss side of the ledger of modernity. In this we see that the losses of modernity, must not be lightly dismissed either. This is a sobering thought when we consider that if we have lost the concept of truth in its fuller sense, we may very well have to count among the losses of modernity the information and standards we need in order to properly weigh the gains against the losses and to determine whether the former are worth the price of the latter.
The end of the modernity project all along has been the subjection of reality to the will of man in a universe where man has usurped the place of God. The elements of the physical world are directly available to man – therefore, since man has declared himself to be the centre of everything, they are the most real and the most important. The elements of the physical world are themselves ranked in importance according to their utility, i.e., how useful they are to man and we now concentrate our intellectual activity in the accumulation of the knowledge and the development of techniques which maximize that usefulness. Man used to find meaning in life, existence, and the world around him by searching and striving for goodness, truth, and beauty, (1) which were what they were in themselves and were regarded as being more real and important than the physical, visible, and tangible elements of reality. Modern man, rather than searching for meaning, projects it upon the world around him, by, for example, creating and choosing values rather than cultivating virtues.
It is illuminating to consider the way in which modern or postmodern man has now moved beyond treating the invisible and intangible as less real and important than the physical and observable and is now treating elements of physical reality in the same way. The obvious example of this is sex.
Sex is very much an observable, physical, element of reality. It is a trait that human beings share with many other living creatures, plant and animal. We come in two kinds, male and female, each with a distinctive physiognomy, each of which produces its own gamete which must unite with that of the other for reproduction to take place. With some animals, male and female come together only for short periods, at certain seasons, to reproduce. With human beings, however, male and female couple with each other for the long term, and all human societies and cultures have ceremonies in which this coupling is formally recognized, establishing unions that come with responsibilities and rights. In part this is because human children are born helpless and dependent, a condition in which they remain for a long period of time, making a long term partnership between their mother and father the optimal way of ensuring that they are raised to maturity. In part it is because we are self-aware individuals and as such we form intellectual and emotional bonds with the other self-aware individuals with whom we mate, thus elevating the sexual union to something that transcends the merely physical.
Sex is such an obvious part of the reality we know that it would seem incredible that anyone could think of it in the way so many modern minds think of beauty, as something that has no meaning or existence, except that which we choose to endow it with ourselves. Yet that is exactly the way some people appear to be thinking of it!
Suppose that someone you know was to come home one evening, announce that he is a chicken, move out into the chicken coop, make himself a nest, and sit there trying to lay an egg. Would you try to get him psychiatric help? Or would you say that if he considers himself to be a chicken that must be what he is, condemn everyone who does not accept his avian self-assessment as being bigoted, and head out to the coop every morning in search of eggs?
I think it is safe to say that most, if not all, of us would consider the first to be the sane and rational option. A man is not a chicken nor by any act of the will, no matter how forceful and inventive, can he make himself into a chicken. Yet today, if a boy announces that he is a girl, or a girl that she is a boy, there are many who would say that the rest of us are under some sort of moral obligation to go along with this. Three years ago, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 33 or “Toby’s Act”, which amended the provincial Human Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated against on the grounds of their “gender identity” or “gender expression”. Protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of “gender identity” or “gender expression” is euphemistic language for telling everybody else that if a man says he is a woman or vice-versa they have to accept this and treat he/she/it accordingly. What this meant in practice was that people who identified as members of the other sex would be allowed to use washrooms designated for the use of that sex. There are plenty of good and valid reasons for having sex specific washrooms, but these were swept away as being of no consequence so that a miniscule fraction of society would have the “right” to make everyone else pretend that men who say they are women and vice-versa are what they say they are, even though they no more are what they say they are than the man who says he is a chicken is what he says he is.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Ontario’s Bill 33 was merely proof of the extreme flakiness of the Dalton McGuinty Liberals and that this sort of thing couldn’t happen elsewhere. It has been happening all over North America. The problem is far deeper than a dispute about who gets to use what washroom. There are cosmetic surgeons today, who claim to be able to change a person’s sex. If a technique were discovered whereby a beak and feathers could be successfully grafted on to a man this would still not make him a chicken. No more so, does removing a man’s penis and testicles and building an artificial vagina make him into a woman. This “sex reassignment therapy” is made available as a treatment for “gender dysphoria”, which is the medical designation for the condition of being so convinced that you are the sex other than the one you were born into that all the evidence that this is not the case causes you to suffer emotionally. The doctor who proposes as “therapy”, for the man who thinks he is a chicken, a jelly doughnut, or Napoleon Bonaparte, that we change reality to conform to the delusion would be regarded as being crazier than his patient. Yet our governments regard sex reassignment therapy as a legitimate treatment, pay for it with our tax dollars, and register it as having changed the person’s sex in the eyes of the law.
This sort of madness does not come upon a people overnight. This collective denial of the reality of sex took place in a series of stages, in each of which, under the guise of accomplishing a social and political reform, an element of the reality of sex was denied, until finally, cumulatively, the reality of sex was denied in its entirety.
The first stage was feminism. The so-called women’s movement began in the nineteenth century as a response to industrialization. The early feminists believed, not without justification, that the changes wrought by mass factory production and urbanization had undermined the security of women thus creating a need for legal protection in the form of recognized rights to own property, pursue a professional education, and a career. This seemed reasonable enough and so we accepted the justice of these demands. The problem was that feminism demanded something other than justice, it demanded the equality. The cosmetic similarities between the two are such that the deeper differences are often overlooked. Had feminism made the case that women had been harmed by industrialization through a loss of their security and were therefore entitled to compensation in the form of legally recognized rights this would have been a demand for justice. By demanding equality, however, feminism demanded that society accept a fiction, the fiction that there is no substantial difference between male and female, man and woman. Justice requires that people be treated right, be given their due, whereas equality requires that people be treated the same, which is not the same thing at all. As feminism has evolved from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, it has continued to march under the banner of the equality of the sexes, but the demands of the harpies and harridans who rule the roost in present day academia, unlike those of the early suffragettes, do not bear even a superficial resemblance to justice.
So in feminism, we have the first stage, the denial of substantial difference between male and female. The revolution was the second stage. The sexual revolution, which had been the dream of libertines for centuries, began in the 1950s and 1960s after the theoretical foundation for it was laid by Boasian anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and the “research” of Alfred Kinsey, and has been ongoing ever since. The basic idea behind the revolution was that with new scientific discoveries and inventions, particularly of effective contraceptive technology such as the birth control pill, sexual activity had been divorced from reproduction, and so all traditional rules governing sexual behaviour from cultural mores to religious dogmas to government decrees had been rendered outdated and obsolete. This too, was a denial of part of the reality of sex. By saying that the invention of contraception had separated sex from reproduction invalidating the old rules, the sexual revolution denied that for human beings sex had always been more than mere animal reproduction. In doing so it cheapened both the reproductive and the non-reproductive aspects of sex. By saying that the reproductive aspect of sex was something that could and should be made optional by contraceptive technology the sexual revolution reduced the reproductive aspect of sex from the exalted level of being the means of our survival as families, societies, and a species to being the unwanted consequences of the act of carnal gratification. The sexual revolutionaries debased the word love, which traditionally denoted sexual union and the attraction that leads to it as conceived of as being higher than mere bestial copulation, by stripping it of that which made it higher, its connotations of self-sacrifice and self-denial, and making it mean the virtual opposite, mutual self-gratification. In the end, what emerged from the sexual revolution was a concept of sex in which it was less than animal reproduction and not more, as evidenced by the way the phrase “it is just sex” is now used to casually dismiss any attempt, however slight, at reasserting the old standards.
The third stage was the gay liberation movement. What began decades ago as the fairly reasonable demand that people who are attracted to members of their own sex be allowed to go about their private lives without fear of police raids, violent attacks, and other persecution has evolved into an intolerant, bullying, demand that state and society, at every level, in every way, and in every institution, both accept homosexuality and reject and persecute anyone who does not. Much could be written about this transition from a call to let us be to a refusal to let others be but it is the movement’s denial of a reality about sex that concerns us here. Here is that reality: Human beings are a sexual species, which means that male and female must unite for reproduction to take place, which means that the natural order is for male to be attracted to female, and for female to be attracted to male, and not for male to be attracted to male, or female to female. For whatever reason, some people find themselves attracted to members of their own sex, and while we should treat such people with compassion, kindness and tolerance – provided, of course, that they agree to the quid pro quo of reciprocating these attitudes toward others which the self-appointed spokespeople on their behalf appear to have little interest in doing - it is a plain and simple denial of reality to claim that attraction between members of the same sex is equal to opposite sex attraction in the natural order of things, which claim is what the gay liberation movement is now insisting that everybody accept or be branded a heretic and treated accordingly.
The fourth stage is, of course, the one we began this discussion with, in which a person’s sex, male or female, is no longer something that just is, that one is born with, but what a person decides it to be, and if they decide that their sex is something different from the one they were born with, the rest of us have to accept it, and go out of all of our ways to accommodate their delusion.
We have traced this denial of a reality that is immediately present to us in the physical world available to our senses through the stages of several social and political movements from feminism through the sexual revolution through the gay liberation movement to the present stage. This process, by which we have come to deny a part of reality that is right before our eyes, could not have come about, had modern man not first denied, the greater reality of those higher verities, goodness, truth, beauty and ultimately God Himself, that cannot be looked upon directly, but which nevertheless are there to be seen indirectly, reflected in the world around us. By rejecting the reality which we cannot look upon directly, we have lost our hold on that which we can see all around us, and are now reaping the insanity we have sown.
(1) It will seem strange to many to say that beauty is not visible but it is nevertheless true. You do not directly see beauty as it is in itself, you see beauty in a beautiful person or object, that is to say, indirectly.
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca