Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Service Announcement.

Just a brief note to my readers that I will be not posting for the next five weeks, as I'm off to "the home of the brave and the land of the free."

I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Romantic Adultery

One of the curious feature of our decarnalised view of romantic love is that its intellectual underpinning permits a lot of moral evil to fly under the radar. One of the themes raised in Dalrock’s post, concerned the subject of porn. In the movie, Fireproof; one of the justifications that the “heroine” uses to leave her husband is because of his consumption of it. The movie presents her grievance in a sympathetic and justified light and several commentators on Dalrock’s blog felt that this position was both unjust, and that divorce was a disproportionate response in any case. As commentator Grerp put it:
I don’t like porn. It’s dehumanizing, and the industry grinds already broken people up for its own profit. But it sounds like Caleb was only dabbling in it – which is worthy of a trip to the confessional, rather than divorce court. Clearly Katherine was dissatisfied with the bargain she’d made and wanted a “Christian” excuse to get out. Porn use was it.
It’s the “Christian excuse” part of the comment that warrants further elaboration. I think that Grerp’s comment is rather perceptive in that in that many Christians equate porn to a type of adultery.  I imagine it all harks back to the biblical view that looking at a woman with “lust in your heart” is equivalent to adultery and therefore suitable grounds for divorce.

In my post, Anaemia, I argued that traditional Christianity had decarnalised sex, and I imagine that part of porn’s opprobrium is due to the fact that it is inherently and explicitly “fleshy”, It’s not about plot, it’s not about feelings, it’s all about the sex. Porn is all about “carnality”  But what’s really interesting is that this “decarnalised” view of sexuality raises a curious dichotomy.

Theses comment from Grerp:
The thing that annoys me about these sorts of narratives[Ed:Fireproof] is that they are crafted in such a way that it is hard to make a specific judgment because the info isn’t there, but they stand in for a reality that would not be hard to judge. So we don’t really know much about Caleb’s porn habits, and it appears that Katherine didn’t actually sleep with the doctor. But IRL she probably would have slept with him and we would know what Caleb’s real proclivities are. In a similar way, Harlequin romances are chock – absolutely CHOCK – full of single mothers who aren’t single mothers. Or aren’t single mothers of their own doing. They’re the aunts who’ve suddenly inherited children and are trying to do the right thing or widows whose husbands have suddenly died. Or they had to get divorced because he became a raging monster/drug dealer overnight, etc. This sort of narrative allows readers who might disapprove of single motherhood to still enjoy reading the rescue of a single mother by a handsome, well-funded hero who’s always wanted to be a father. Read enough of these things and you start thinking that all women are mere victims of circumstance. And from there it’s only a short leap to believing that they all have a right to be rescued. (To be fair, within the genre, this is changing somewhat. Now you have single mothers who are choosing to be single mothers, whether by sperm bank or ONS, because they are *independent women who can take care of themselves* but who might still like to have a white knight take care of some of the peskier problems of life. Fully entitled to the rescue that’s not a “rescue,” though.)
Another thing I’ve noticed about romance novels that is still more troubling is that the female characters in them have become more realistic – older, fatter, more career oriented, sexually experienced – while the male characters have become hyper masculine. This Batman-obsessively-pursuing-Liz-Lemon narrative is obviously total wish fulfillment (read: delusion) on the part of female romance readers.
My reply to Grerp:
Isn’t a Harlequin novel a female version of porn? I mean for most guys porn is a fantasy, but so are romantic novels for women. The whole idea of the romantic novel is to get the female reader to identify with the heroine and have a bit of fantasy adultery. True, that female porn places far less emphasis on those “yucky” anatomical bits and much more emphasis on “feelings”, but in the end both partners consummate their affections as assuredly as Linda Lovelace did with her lovers. Both “art forms” have fantasy adultery as their end point.
The question is why does our society look down with opprobrium on men who look at porn but at the same time not give a second thought to women churning through the Mills and Boon? It appears that as long as artistic depictions of adultery don’t involve any genital display, then its O.K.
Most religious folk, myself included, will intuitively recognise porn consumption as a moral wrong, and it still attracts a degree of opprobrium from non-religious polite society, but why is there no condemnation of decarnalised fantasy adultery?  Porn, being so overt, is easily recognised as a moral evil, The problem is, that a lot of poison can fly under the radar if its not recognised as such and because romantic love is desexualised some of the more pernicious effects of the romantic novel are not recognised.  To quote commentator Grerp:
My view is that there isn’t anything wrong, intrinsically, with a love story. People have been telling, and hearing, and reading love stories for thousands of years, and readers who read them aren’t wanting to commit adultery any more than people who play video games really want to kill someone. The problem is that a steady diet of even the “clean” romances will set you up with overly high expectations regarding relationships between men and women. The fact that romance novels have become more ubiquitous and regularly read indicates that something is wrong between the sexes and that women are getting their emotional needs met outside of human interaction.
I think she has a very good point. Just as porn seems to influence sexual expectations, so does the romantic novel influence the female expectations of a relationship, and yet our society seems relatively indifferent it.

In Fireproof, the disaffected spouse forms a close relationship with a doctor, something which is portrayed in a sympathetic light by its Christian producers. But as commentator Brendan noted:
Men don’t want to meet the women in porn, they don’t want to have affairs with them or with other women. Porn is an aid to masturbation for men. I’m not a big fan of it myself, but it isn’t at all like flirting with a real life person of the opposite sex in a romantic/sexual/emotional way. The latter doesn’t always lead to affairs, but is pretty much always the gateway to an affair. It is treading on thin ice, and in the case if you fall through it isn’t “virtual adultery” or “lusting in the heart” — it’s good, old fashioned “fucking someone else” adultery. Porn viewing, by contrast, does not lead to adultery. Now, if Caleb were perusing personals sites, or Ashley Madison, or Craigslist or something like that, it would be comparable to what Katherine was doing. Viewing porn for masturbation purposes is not — it’s sinful, but a sin of a very different order than the kind of sin that is the natural gateway to real, physical adultery.
And that’s what I think is curious. Why is overt fantasy sexuality viewed as an obvious evil whilst real intimate(non-sexual) friendship with another member of the opposite sex whilst married, not? I think it’s because we’ve so stripped our feelings from our sexual natures, through ascetic decaranalisation, that we believe that intimate friendships in with the opposite sex are completely possible without a sexual element eventually making its way into the picture. Romantic love is ultimately completed in sexual union, and the decarnalised view of romantic love so downplays the sexual component of it that it causes people to adopt the heuristic of thinking of sex and love as two separate things. Therefore it's perfectly understandable how “Christian” producers could portray our heroine as doing nothing wrong even though she has exposed herself to the real possibility “old fashioned” adultery. Whilst her husband is considered adulterous by looking at fantasy images.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Elementary Forces.

Dalrock recently put up another thought provoking post. He gives a commentary on a truly awful film, Fireproof. The film is about the breakdown of a marriage and its story is typical of many marriages. You can go over to his site and read about the details of the movie and his commentary, but I thought it would be worthwhile to make a few comments of my own, especially on the subject of love.

A while ago I wrote a post on the subject of "parasitic lovers". It appears to me that a lot of marriages today are an arrangement of mutual benefit between two parasites ; each staying in a relationship only as long as they are a recipient of some benefit from the host. As soon as the host stops providing the benefit they move on. Another name which I've seen to describe the phenomenon is "Hedonic Marriage".

"Hedonic Marriage " really should be seen as a "fruit" of the modern culture and it is the end consequence of viewing marriage as a sort of "contract"; an exchange of goods. I suppose it is the natural consequence of the "Me" society; a view which places the happiness of the individual above else, even above the happiness of those about them. It's inevitable that in such a culture its constituents will want to emphasise their rights whilst dismissing their obligations. It is the underlying motive behind social atomisation.

Symbiotic love, on the other hand, recognises that's its own well being is contingent upon the well being of the host. Even at its basest level, the recipient of the host's benefits recognises that if they wish to continue receiving them, they've got to ensure the well being of the host. Unlike parasitic love, it is the love that binds.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Conservative Tectonics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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