Lecture No. 8
“Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.” – Barry Goldwater
What is it that enables us to live meaningful lives? This is a question with a long history, and after more than two thousand years of scratching our heads, our species is not much the wiser. Answers fall just as easily as they are formed. Perhaps the only real wisdom to be imparted by centuries of soul-searching is that the solution cannot be reduced to the realization of only one value. Efforts to bring about a social system based upon the realization of one value in particular – be it religious doctrine, the will of the nation, or social equality – have invariably resulted in widespread repression, and not the golden age of peace and virtue as postulated by their ideologues. In contrast, those societies which have managed to create and maintain the space for people to actually live what they might call ‘meaningful lives’ are those which have kept a number of values in balance. This is not a very exciting solution, but it is better to be dissatisfied with the great mysteries of life than to be enserfed or ‘disappeared’ by a regime in pursuit of a more enticing dictum.
Whatever the case, the argument for autonomy seems convincing – balanced, as it must be, against other values. It is difficult to see how one’s life could be considered meaningful where one does not possess even the most basic rights of self-determination. On this point, I am superficially in agreement with the feminists, who have made autonomy (and not equality) their guiding principle. Of course, in their case, it is only women’s autonomy that matters, and this is to be extended as far as possible. Nevertheless, we do agree that autonomy, in and of itself, is a good thing, although I would qualify my support with the corollary that it must be balanced against other values so that it does not become license.
It is the most spectacular irony, then, that so long as they remain feminists, women will never knowingly taste freedom. Feminism is a victim ideology which freezes women perpetually in Struggle; it cannot afford to indulge in Liberation, else the game is up. To continue playing, feminists must imagine that they are under the control of external forces which are responsible for every fate that befalls them. They have a name for this mass delusion: The Patriarchy. Every bad decision, every unwanted consequence, every minor inconvenience can be traced back to this mystical, mythical and invisible system of control which exerts influence over women, in much the same way that animistic tribes explained severe weather phenomena by reference to angered and vengeful deities. If feminists are to pretend that Struggle is still relevant, then it cannot be admitted that women are in control of their own actions, for this would imply that they are free moral agents. Women must be made to believe that they are delicate vessels being tossed about in an ocean storm, with navigation and steering rendered futile, and no land in sight. Perhaps we could contrast this to the MGTOW movement, which resembles a series of wooden canoes, light but durable, whose occupants paddle alone on calm seas – for the time being, at least.
Even when women are privileged beyond their wildest dreams – which is inconceivable in feminist theory – they still may not be considered free. Women are not permitted to enjoy freedom; it must be denied for the ideology to survive. It must be reiterated, until it comes to mind reflexively, that “we still live in a patriarchy,” and “women are still not yet equal,” and so forth. Feminism’s adherents can never rest, because they will not allow themselves to. They are forever chasing rainbows.
They are mentally barricaded in, shut off from the very world that they impose their designs upon. They are forced to conceive of themselves forever Struggling, lest they become Liberated, and therefore irrelevant. As I said last week, a tripartite perception of history (past as Oppression, present as Struggle, and future as Liberation) is a constant of feminism, and this is decided upon in advance of the facts. Regardless of context, the present is Struggle, with Liberation perpetually set some way off into the future. As the proverb states, tomorrow never comes.
As I have mentioned previously, feminism is fundamentally anti-contextual, deciding upon the story in advance, and then fitting the facts around this. The process is simple. Take the key points about the given situation, and through the use of dislogic, eristic, moral relativism, symbolism, self-contradiction and dreamlike fantasy, frame the discourse as one in which women are moving from Oppression to Liberation, but will not get there without feminist Struggle.
This is not to say that feminism operates statically. The first step in the process just described is to draw in the facts from real life. If feminists did not do this, their preaching would have zero appeal to the non-feminist sector, because it would seem to have no bearing on the experiential world. Feminism is anti-contextual in the sense that the story is decided prior to the facts, but it is nevertheless dependent on the context of any particular situation. The real life context must first be experienced and understood, and only then can it be co-opted into feminist discourse. To take a clear example, feminists in the United States today do not agitate for women’s right to vote. They would get nowhere if they did, because, having the vote, they have nowhere else to go (in this regard). The franchise is not now a relevant issue in the context of the real world. On the other hand, the fact that most business leaders are men will be verified by most people’s experiences of the world; this, then, can be drawn into feminist discourse, as an example of Oppression.
Forgive me for being overly simplistic. It must be made clear how the process of manufacturing Struggle is playing a pivotal role in the changing nature of rights.
What is a right? As it has typically been understood, a right is a claim which, in usual circumstances, is inviolable. In other words, if I have a right, then I have some kind of claim – the permission to do something I wish to do, or to be protected from something I do not wish for – and other individuals may not deprive me of this claim. To take a clear example, I have the right not to be assaulted – other individuals are not permitted to assault me. They may do so nonetheless, in which case they have transgressed against my right; they have done what they are not permitted to do, and prevented me from doing (or avoiding) those things which I am permitted to do (or avoid). Accordingly, I am permitted to seek recompense for the violation of my right.
A theory of rights requires an enforcer, in order to prevent rights transgressions and provide recompense to those whose rights have been violated. The enforcer that we are familiar with is the state, particularly those institutions involved in the creation and practise of law: the legislature, the judiciary, the police force, and so on. It is necessary that the state possesses the monopoly on the use of force, else its rule would go unenforced, and there would be no deterrent against rights violations. In an extreme case, the citizens may rise up and overthrow a weak state, subsequently instituting their own form of justice which may be far from impartial. Max Weber famously described the state as “the monopoly of the legitimate use of force.” I have left out the word ‘legitimate’ from my definition here, because it strikes me as an entirely subjective judgment, not to mention an inevitable one from the point of view of those in control of the state. Those who seize power and use it to persecute one section of the population will surely believe their own monopoly on the use of force to be legitimate – indeed, they will most likely believe their own use of force to be of greater legitimacy than that of the regime which they deposed, no matter how that regime conducted itself.
Note that there is no inherent limitation to the concept of rights; there is no in-built brake system. There can never be a point where we say, “now we have all the rights.” There will always be potentially more rights that we could possess. That is not to say we categorically should possess more rights. The full possession of all conceivable rights would be an inconceivable license – total autonomy, in which all claims would be permitted. This would mean that the individual with license would be free to violate the rights of others. In this case, the rights of others would be meaningless whenever they encounter the licensed individual. Logically, all people cannot have total possession of all rights, because each would be permitted to infringe upon the rights of all the others – which means that nobody’s rights would be secure, and the strongest individual or group would be entitled to establish arbitrary rule by physical force alone.
Clearly we need limitations, and the Constitution of the United States of America is the exemplar in this regard. As the finest statement of personal liberty and representative democracy the world has ever known, it exists to protect a number of fundamental rights from being overturned by the strongest collection of individuals – namely, the government. Laws may come and go, but so long as the constitution is upheld, the foundational rights of the individual citizen are set in stone – or, at least, are extremely difficult to remove or alter. Where a government repeatedly violates its own constitution, it (ideally, at least) runs the risk of being overthrown by an uprising of citizens, who would, together, form a stronger collective.
The United States Constitution, adopted in 1787, built upon the liberal philosophy of the time, most especially that of John Locke. Sections of the Declaration of Independence, signed eleven years previous, are more or less lifted from his Second Treatise of Government. The ideas expressed in this work are not those of the liberalism we know today; they sit somewhere closer to what we would now term libertarianism. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that liberalism underwent the profound transformation into the collectivist ideology we more readily associate with the term today.
In his 1859 text, On Liberty, J. S. Mill introduced a new articulation of the traditional liberal moral defence of individual rights. It runs something like this: individuals have the right to do whatever they choose, so long as this does not harm others. Mill exercised caution when considering the application of this principle: one would not be harmed, for instance, by losing in open competition (e.g. the free market). Following Tocqueville, he voiced concern that democracy, if unmoderated, could devolve into majoritarian tyranny.
We may thank the successors of Mill for the perversion of individualist liberalism into a collectivist and authoritarian philosophy. It was one small step from Mill’s axiom – individuals have the right to do whatever they choose, so long as this does not harm others – to the doctrine of New Liberalism: if I cannot do what I would otherwise choose, then somebody must be harming me. It was the self-proclaimed ‘liberal socialist,’ Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, who built upon Mill’s premises and added a new twist: that freedom is not good in and of itself, but must be subordinated to some higher end. It follows that any freedom which is not subordinated to this higher end is not morally justified. It was the social radical Richard Henry Tawney, building on this development, who advocated an egalitarian society based on the premise that “freedom for the pike is death for the minnows” – in other words, that certain identifiable groups are not deserving of equal autonomy, but must have their share restricted. It was Lester Frank Ward who disavowed the individual altogether and argued that the state should direct all social and economic development, including the happiness of its citizens. Perhaps most tellingly of all, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the notion that women are innately superior to men. To quote an especially relevant passage:
And now from the point of view of intellectual development itself we find her side by side, and shoulder to shoulder with him furnishing, from the very outset, far back in prehistoric, presocial, and even prehuman times, the necessary complement to his otherwise one-sided, headlong, and wayward career, without which he would soon have warped and distorted the race and rendered it incapable of the very progress which he claims exclusively to inspire. And herefore again, even in the realm of intellect, where he would fain reign supreme, she has proved herself fully his equal and is entitled to her share of whatever credit attaches to human progress hereby achieved.
The purpose of this detour into the changing nature of rights was to hone in on the historical developments that precipitated certain aspects of modern feminism. Some contributors to the Men’s Rights Movement have somewhat abstractly attacked ‘modernity’ and ‘Enlightenment values.’ This is fine if they are intending to attack individual autonomy in general, but we must look more carefully if we actually want to get to the root of the problems facing men, as men, today – which, I would argue, coalesce into the deprivation of male autonomy. It is modernity, and particularly Enlightenment thought, which made individual autonomy a possibility – and it is social liberalism, and most especially feminism, which are turning it into an impossibility for men.
The innovation of social liberalism is conspicuous in the section of the Ward quote above which I have emphasized. It is entitlement; the creation of new obligations for others to fulfil; the construction of rights claims, not rights of individuals, to be held equally, but against an identified segment of the population (the ‘enemy’ group). Of course, every right, if it is taken seriously, demands obligations of others – if I have a right to not be assaulted, then you must not assault me, and vice versa. The difference between such a claim and the claims of New Liberalism is that the former is an obligation to inaction, while the latter is an obligation to action. My obligations to inaction mean that I cannot transgress certain boundaries – the rights of other people. I may not hurt them, steal from them, or do damage to their possessions. I am forbidden to do certain things which would interfere with the autonomy of others, but apart from that, I am free to do as I please. Obligations to action are of a different sort altogether: the one who holds me to such an obligation has the power to command me. I am told how to act, and I am forbidden to act any other way. This curtails my autonomy.
For instance, if you require some object in order to accomplish a certain project, then your autonomy is curtailed if you do not possess the object. Therefore, you have a claim to my object, presuming that I possess one. It matters not if I have earned or otherwise rightfully own my object; the theory goes that you should have it anyway. Claims of ownership and desert are subordinated to the autonomy of individuals, which translates to the wants (not needs) of specially identified ‘victim’ groups. If, say, I am interviewing a man and a woman for a position in my employ, and the woman demands that she be given the job as a crucial step in her career plan, I am denying her autonomy by not employing her, even if she is the least qualified candidate. She needs the position in order to achieve what she ultimately wants, and so she is wronged if she does not get it. The doctrine of New Liberalism – if I am unable to do what I would otherwise choose, then somebody must be harming me – clearly serves the victim agenda of feminism. Any limit whatsoever on the actions of women, including those introduced in the name of fairness and impartiality, can be taken as a new Oppression according to this doctrine.
‘New’ or ‘social’ liberalism is in fact the perversion and corruption of liberalism – and it finds its highest expression in the caste system of rights feminists are busy creating. Women’s rights, a catch phrase once trumpeted as a progressive march towards a fairer future, has become the trump card that never loses its value, ready to be played any time a woman wants to ‘get one over the guys’. In the early days, the idea of Struggle was more creditable, and even seems admirable in retrospect. Women struggled for rights which men possessed: the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to divorce, the right to the same wage as a man doing the same job. Once upon a time, it was perfectly plausible, to an unbiased observer, that feminism meant to bring about equality between the sexes. That is not to say this view is inherently correct, only that it was believable, from a point of view external to feminism, that the feminist project carried this altruistic goal.
But what are the women’s rights advocated today? The right to confiscate men’s money, the right to commit parental alienation, the right to commit paternity fraud, the right to equal pay for less work, the right to pay a lower tax rate, the right to mutilate men, the right to confiscate sperm, the right to murder children, the right to not be disagreed with, the right to reproductive choice and the right to make that choice for men as well. In an interesting legal paradox, some have advocated – with success – that women should have the right to not be punished for crimes at all. The eventual outcome of this is a kind of sexual feudalism, where women rule arbitrarily, and men are held in bondage, with fewer rights and far more obligations. To date, the transformation of rights into obligations to action have given us a welfare state in which, according to The Futurist,
virtually all government spending […] from Medicare to Obamacare to welfare to public sector jobs for women to the expansion of the prison population, is either a net transfer of wealth from men to women, or a byproduct of the destruction of Marriage 1.0. In either case, ‘feminism’ is the culprit […] Remember again that the earnings of men pays 70%-80% of all taxes.
Feminism views the independence of individual citizens as a barrier, not a safeguard. Personal autonomy hinders feminism’s progress in moralizing the world and bleeding men dry for the benefit of women.
Women’s rights? It’s nothing but a power grab.