Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lama vs. Papa

The Dalai Lama's visit to Canada is receiving a lot of media attention. Yesterday I saw CTV's Robert Fife interview the holy man, after which, in trying to explain the experience to Mike Duffy, he said it was like meeting Nelson Mandela.

That Mandela line brought to memory a funny Youtube video featuring Australian tv personality John Safran. There is a certain unambiguously heroic aura that, for Westerners, only leaders of the "third-world's" oppressed can now obtain, given the centrality of guilt-ridden anti-Western ideology today. As Safran shows, the Dalai Lama has an image that "progressives" love, even though he happens to have views on sexuality that would shock them, the kind of thing for for which many would condemn the Pope.


Anonymous said...

Your specific point, as I understood it, is that progressives dislike conservatives from the own culture yet overlook potentially offensive conservative strains in their foreign heroes. There is some hypocrisy (effectively mocked by Safran). People have a way of whitewashing their heroes, foreign or domestic. I recall reading that some American conservatives were thrown for a bit of a loop when they discovered that their favoured anti-communist Czech intellectuals also enjoyed rock music (of course, this minor bit of surprise is not nearly as offensive as the distance some on the hard-left kept from the eastern-bloc dissidents; I’m simply noting a common theme of projecting our own biases onto our heroes).

In the West there is also a long history of struggle against the societal role of the Catholic Church that comes into play. Where to draw the line between cultural self-hatred and learned skepticism of a sporadically authoritarian religious institution? What is the proper progressive response: ditching the Dalai Lama? Embracing the Pope? Mocking is fun. In the case in question I’m not sure I like the implications of ideological consistency though.

truepeers said...

Well, I'd kind of hope that the result of the mocking might lead some to question their ideology, and not double down on its consistency; but if it takes the left trashing every possible authority figure for people to see what's wrong with their nihilism, so be it.

There really is no kind of overbearing authority in our country any more. So people have to find out the consequences of sexual libertinism - e.g. the commodification of sex and hence of persons on the dating scene - for themselves, and often people end up middle-aged, often childless, and unhappy because they see they've been living a lesser truth in the name of freedom. Or they end up married and unhappy because they think they are missing out on some terribly important sexual practice...

The problem with condemning the Catholic Church is that you are, at best, like the generals always fighting the last war. It seems to me that if you live in a country with religious freedom, many will want their religious leaders to appear somewhat authoritative. (There is widely held this fanciful image of the Pope as domineering over the lives of Catholics, but of course he has no real power over what they do in their bed rooms, he can only encourage with all the tools of reason and faith at his command). If there are truths that religions communicate, especially truths that require discipline of our powerful sexual drives, then you want someone to challenge you compellingly to obey this truth.

And in any traditional society, before birth control, there has to be a strong authority regulating sexuality if there is to be order and successful child rearing.

Ultimately, any debate we might have on the church should deal less with the question of the legitimacy of its moral authority vis a vis its members, than with the truths this authority presumes to uphold.

My specific point was that the equivalent of Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama cannot emerge from any Western country, in this day and age. The kind of status those men have is strictly limited to leaders of more marginal countries. It's important to reflect on why and on the consequences of this for our politics. adam Katz was writing along these lines the other day.

truepeers said...

Man o'man I just read an article by Anthony Esolen which really helps clarify all that is at stake in this mockery of the progressives, which in the video is not as full as it should be. Here's an excerpt:

We think of divorce, pornography, unwed motherhood, abortion, and suicidally falling birthrates. But the sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.

What is more, those who will suffer most from this movement are precisely those whom our society, stupidly considering them little more than pests or dolts, has ignored. I mean boys.

Safely Shared Beds

How is this so? Return to the example of Lincoln. His age was surely not more tolerant of homosexuality or of sexual deviancy generally than is ours: Accounts of the Civil War show young men brought to the brink of blackest despair by their inability to break the habit of self-abuse. How, then, if deviancy was such a reproach, could Lincoln risk sharing a bed with a man and having the fact be publicly known? But that is precisely the point. Only in such a case is the bed-sharing possible.

I am sorry to have to use strong language, but only when sodomy is treated as a matter of course for everyone (as in the institutionalized buggery of boys and young men in ancient Sparta) or when it is met with such opprobrium that nobody would assume that a good man would engage in it, could Lincoln and his friend share that bed without suffering ridicule. The stigma against sodomy cleared away ample space for an emotionally powerful friendship that did not involve sexual intercourse, exactly as the stigma against incest allows for the physical and emotional freedom of a family.

In Japan, families bathe together, and it is considered a mark of the highest honor—the deepest trust—to be invited, as an outsider, to join them. This custom is only made possible by the assumption that any sexual dalliance among family members, including anyone invited to “belong” to the family, is absolutely out of the question.

The converse is also true. If your society depends upon such emotionally powerful friendships—if the fellow feeling of comrades in arms is necessary for your survival—then you can protect the opportunity for such friendships in only two ways. You may go the route of Sparta, or you may demand on pain of expulsion from the group that such friendships will not be sexualized. Essentially you must do for all-male groups exactly what a husband and wife must do with regard to other members of the opposite sex. Adulterers and sodomites there will be—but they must be called so, that we may have chaste spouses and bosom friends.

How does this latest twist of the sexual revolution hurt boys in particular? Some will say that it leaves them more vulnerable to be preyed upon by older men, and I have no doubt that this is true, given the psychological springs of male homosexuality, given the historical examples of ancient Greece and samurai Japan (among others), and given the terrible fact that many homosexual men were themselves abused as boys.

But I do not wish to overemphasize this; certainly most homosexual men abide by the law. I mean something quite different.

Men’s Signs

The prominence of male homosexuality changes the language for teenage boys. It is absurd and cruel to say that the boy can ignore it. Even if he would, his classmates will not let him. All boys need to prove that they are not failures. They need to prove that they are on the way to becoming men—that they are not going to relapse into the need to be protected by, and therefore identified with, their mothers.

Societies used to provide them with clear and public ways to do this. The Plains Indians would insert hooks into the flesh of their thirteen-year-old braves and hang them in the sun by those hooks, for hours—a test of endurance and courage. At his bar-mitzvah the Jewish boy reads from the Holy Torah and announces, publicly, that on this day he has become a man.

In our carelessness we have taken such signs away from boys and left them to fend for themselves. Two choices remain: The boys must live without public recognition of their manhood and without their own certainty of it, or they must invent their own rituals and signs.

And here the sexual revolution comes to peddle its poison. The single incontrovertible sign that the boy can now seize on is that he has “done it” with a girl, and the earlier and more regularly and publicly he does it, the safer and surer he will feel. If sex is easy to find, and if (as mothers of good-looking teenage boys will testify) the girls themselves seek it out, then you must have a pressing and publicly recognized excuse for not having sex. To avoid scandal—think of it!—you must be protected by your being a linebacker on the football team, or by being too homely for any girl to be interested in you.

A boy who does not agree to a girl’s demand for sex will be tagged with homosexuality. She will slander him herself. Ask teenagers; they will tell you. But even a linebacker known as a rake will not dare to venture into the dangerous territory of too-close association with the wrong sort. He, too, will avoid the close male friendship. The popular and athletic boys will thus have their tickets punched, while the others live under suspicion, alienated from the other boys, from the girls, and from one another.

This must happen. In large part, it has already happened. But we must try to remember when it was not so, if we are going to gauge what we have lost.

So far, I have lamented the attenuation of male friendships, which suffer under a terrible pincers attack: The libertinism of our day thrusts boys and girls together long before they are intellectually and emotionally ready for it, and at the same time the defiant promotion of homosexuality makes the natural and once powerful friendships among boys virtually impossible.

Anyone can count up the resulting cases of venereal disease and teen pregnancies. A few social analysts of more penetrating insight can note what is unquantifiable, the despair among our young people, the dullness in the eye, the feeling that people are never to be trusted, that to fall in love is to be a contemptible fool.

Audacious Men

Yet the most daunting task of all is to mark the good things that this sexual precocity has smothered in the very birth. It is one thing to say that it has made friendships among boys more distant and difficult, and to suppose that that is a bad thing for the emotional lives of those boys. It is quite another—and it takes someone willing to see through our jaded dalliance with androgyny—to see that the loss of such friendships stunts the boys intellectually and goes a long way towards depriving everybody of the benefits that such intellectual development used to provide.

That is, after all, one of the great things that male friendships are for. Consider how strong and audacious are the emotions of the young man. Suppose these are not directed towards sexual liaisons with young women, towards playing house. They do not therefore cease to exist; they must find some object. In the past that object would be the world and the group’s conquest of it.

The boys might get together to build a car from scratch. They might set up a series of telegraph connections. They might pitch themselves into learning everything they could about aircraft carriers and bombers. They might form a club to read Nietzsche, or to read the Scriptures, or to read both—audacity at this age can be wildly inconsistent. They might attach themselves to an acknowledged teacher, as did the young men of Athens who followed the chaste Socrates, or, dare I say, the young men of Palestine who followed Jesus. They might form guilds to ensure that the men they paid to teach them actually followed through on their end of the bargain—and thus would they create the medieval university. They might invent jazz music. They might rob banks.

They might do a thousand things fascinatingly creative and dangerously destructive, but one thing they would not do. They would not, as our boys do now, stagnate. They would be alive.

Anonymous said...

What is the equivalent of Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama? What is your category? It looks to me like sainthood, or some form of recognition by mainstream intellectual opinion-makers that a set of people are to be held beyond effective criticism. The west is pretty good at granting secular sainthood to its own ranks. Kennedy and Trudeau approach it in the US and Canada. Some of the former Eastern European dissidents maintain a position close to sainthood. We practically worship Terry Fox in this country. Martin Luther King maintains a ‘heroic aura.’ Should we narrow it to living saints?

Beyond that, though, I always rolled my eyes at the way the media talked about the former Pope. I maintain some respect for his fight against communism. The whole way he was portrayed as speaking for all Christians was odd (something a Protestant would say…). Part of a media generated circus. And we saw the effects of it when he visited Canada; all the big politicos lined up for a blessing. The media gushed. I get that ‘here we go again’ feeling with the Dalai Lama coverage. Sure, his supportive crew tends to be a bit left of John Paul’s. It’s the same style of idol worship in the news though. This time with a few more celebrities thrown in.

Not sure how that Esolen article clarified things for you. Male youth can’t find close friendship because society stopped shunning queers? This fellow is out of touch. Guys today are similar to guys from my father’s generation: they bond over sports, drinking, talking about fucking, fighting, working, and so on. At what point did normal young guys form a Nietzsche book club? Where the hell is this guy coming from? “The dullness in the eye.” Horseshit. The type of horseshit that is carted out by chicken-little fogies every generation.

truepeers said...


I think my category is a combination political-religious-spiritual leader whose cause is seen as so right, whose demeanour is holy, that he is able to obtain a sacred status without it becoming the target of the postmodern deconstruction or "irony". MLK more or less fits the category. And unlike you, I don't want to pull the Dalai Lama or Pope down and say he's not a great man. They are. But there are all kinds of "saints" out there we will never hear about. The most famous living Canadian exampale I can think of is Jean Vanier, and how famous is he? Terry Fox, sad to say, is the icon he is because he tragically died in his quest. Had he survived and, say, gone in to politics or the church he would have had to face all kinds of criticisms for his views, whatever they may have been. Or he could have made wrong moves and been forgotten like that Steve Fonyo fellow. Or, he could have ended up someone like Rick Hansen who has a definite good guy image, but he's not the Dalai Lama. For example, as an example of a less than respectful Canadian, I used to like to tell the story of seeing Hansen park his SUV, display his physical strength in getting out and hobbling to the back to unload his wheel chair (from the rear - he didn't need to use the side doors). Then, because I too partake in begrudging celebrity, I'd laugh that even Rick uses the handicapped parking space. The humour lies in the realization that if you had jokingly said to Rick: "what's a superman athlete like you doing using the disabled parking space?" he might feel he would have to take umbrage on behalf of all people in wheelchairs (even though he is a super athlete). Rick's public greatness, though we can never really say this politely, is tied to his victim status, however genuine. No one knows or cares much about what great feats of endurance or fundraising able-bodied amateur athletes get up to. We care, if at all, about those most well-paid.

Able-bodied men in our society can't have Rick's kind of good-guy image to the same degree. In politics, Kennedy and Trudeau are I think at once the last of some heroic-charasmatic type and the sign of the change because they are not universally loved, but divisive figures often hated, in part because some give them idol status (Trudeau much more divisive than Kennedy because the latter was assasinated). Trudeau was recently voted, in Beaver magazine's write-in ballot, the worst ever Canadian. Beaver put this down to the legacy of the National Energy Policy, the national-federalism and Quebec questions. But i think he was in this instance actually the target of an anti-abortion campaign (I found myself on their mailing list and I think Morgentaler was voted third worst...). But in any case, there are people (especially in his home province) who strongly dislike T's political legacy. I am one of them.

As for Esolen, I think you're right to question the "world is going to hell in a handbasket" line. It is certainly an age-old theme. And how can you look at the economic dynamism of our society, the low crime rates (for those not living near the drug culture) and say our society is falling apart? And as for the much missed nineteenth century, what would Esolen make of their rampant prostitution, or the violence of the various kinds of men in groups. The powerful fraternal culture of the past - something that really was linked to the risks men had to take at work, to survive, that made backing each other up, and loyalty, a life or death issue (remember even mundane things like health insurance were often until the 1930s provided by fraternities which had to police their members for moral hazard) - was predicated on more centralized forms of the sacred, forms that entailed various forms of scapegoating and often a more or less gangster, clubbish, or "racketeering" mentality. A hundred years ago if you wanted a blue-collar job with the City of Vancouver, it was reputedly important to be a member of the Loyal Orange Association. Not everyone found that kind of thing congenial. But it undoubtedly entailed different kinds of friendship - both better and worse I imagine - than those today.

However, while I think it has been necessary in one way or another, we do pay a price for making each individual sacred and making his or her choices in the marketplace (as long as they are not the desire for more traditional social relationships) beyond debate. There is no such thing as an ethically neutral social order. Libralism continually lies to us in the ways it tries to put itself, or its particular incarnations, beyond debate in the name of "human rights" and bureaucratic solutions. Any gains come with losses and while simple-minded old fogeyism can be written off, serious attempts to remind us what we are losing should be sincerely engaged. The human historical condition as I see it is rather more tragic than anything linear or progressive.

I have to admit that I too am out of touch. As I understand it, today "queers" come out in high school. In my time (only 20 years ago) they came out in university in often highly fraught experiences.. I'm told that everyone in high school today officially believes that homosexuality is ok, normal (even as many still show, in private circles, negative feelings about it and sign on to a popular culture in which the young heterosexual couple is still clearly the valued norm, albeit one in which girls are far more likely to take the sexual lead with boys than in the past).

Every young person today also apparently believes that some people are simply born "queers", and that those who make a point of it being a choice open to contest are some kind of dinosaur. Well, all my experience and historical study will never allow me to believe it is as simple as that. Homosexuality, perhaps especially in the form of pederasty, has been, and still is in many places, widespread, not the practise of a small minority but fundamental to social order. Even in cultures officially "homophobic" like much of the Muslim world today, by all reports male homosexuality is common, though one is not seen as "queer" if one dominates another.

At the same time, while I know that human desires are not something innate, but something we learn from each other in a mimetic, cultural, process, I do think that people are born with some kind of innate personality. The differences among very young children can be striking. How what is innate mixes and clashes with the desires that are privileged in a given culture is a mystery that requires a certain humility when pronouncing on these issues.

But a certain humility from all those backing the sexual revolution should also be in order. It is not a great stretch to say that much of our Western culture is rooted in a struggle against the earlier cultures of pederasty. If the Old Testament makes a protest about (specifically male) homosexuality it's because some such conduct was not a marginal or inconsequential thing, but something widespread and wholly within the bounds of most men's human nature. While I identify with the heterosexuals, I'm quite convinced the potential to go the other way is in me. That's normal as I understand it. The Jewish culture went to war with (male) homosexuality (and polygamy, another very natural thing) because to the extent homosexuality imposed itself on public and family life, it made some things possible and not others: it mitigated against the Hebrews becoming the kind of people they became, and ditto for the Christians.

There are inevitably consequences to our choices and those who would now throw out age-old understandings about the social dangers of publicly celebrating homosexuality (something quite different from recognizing it exists and not talking much about it) who think they have found the key to our liberation and enlightenment strike me as people just swigging from the good old Gnostic jug. In just the last 40 years we've seen our way clear of all the old prejudices and seen they had no important purpose or function whose loss won't effect us? Only someone without humility can believe it.

na, one of the primary reasons I blog anonymously is that if my views on homosexuality were known in my family and with certain close friends, it would cause some bitter conflicts and divisions; people close to me would feel personally rejected. And yet I want to be able to write about the truth as I see them. My circle is almost entirely more liberal than I am. Does this make me a hypocrite or a coward? Perhaps, and no doubt those horribly righteous types who go around "outing" closeted public figures for not signing on to the public homosexual celebration would call me just that.

But this is to miss the point that the human situation does not provide us with easy solutions to certain burning dilemmas. One has to recognize that there are very real and competing kinds of multiple truth. It would be wrong of me to disrupt the pragmatic peace in my family in which homosexuality is deemed ok if it meant creating unbridgeable divides with close relatives. While I could be called a hypocrite for saying this, it is entirely possible to love an individual and not love their sexual conduct. It would also be wrong of me to deny certain non-pragmatic truths if I believe in them after proper reflection. We want to celebrate individual choices, but do we want to be honest about all the consequences our officially neutral or nihilist public culture entails? Only if we are willing to embrace the fundamental paradoxes and recognize that real moral progress is actually something that happens very slowly if at all.

You have nothing but contempt for the view that young men today are often stagnating, with "dullness in the eyes". But I see much evidence for it. If one wants to be less polite about it, one can talk about the feminized or androgynous young men. Or drugged out nihilists, or compulsive shoppers and computer gamers, etc. etc. You can't walk the streets of Vancouver withoug smelling the weed (bewails someone who smoked enough in his time...) I'm just old enough to have seen a remarkable change. Of course i know there have always been young men who never achieved great things. But it's clear that very basic things like family reproduction just aren't going on at present to a sustainable degree. The fertility rate is low all over the modern world. Countries without immigrants are in decline.

I'm just old enough to have lived through the time when our universities went through an umistakeable transition. When I started the seminar or tutorial room was like a debating society, full of loud and aggressive young men, for better or worse. Through the 90s they were increasingly shut up by political correctness and its ties to the sexual revolution. Today young men aren't even coming to university in the same kind of numbers.

When I was an undergraduate, the men's rugby team had an initiation where they all stripped naked and ran around the campus in a human chain, bending over and holding the penis of the guy in front of them. That kind of thing, I imagine, would be impossible today, outlawed for being offensive to women if not to gays. In fact, one of the notable things of my undergraduate years was the war against fraternities and fraternal culture in the universities. They and their initiations became very uncool. Everything was to become co-ed. The other big event was the AIDS crisis/fear and the consequent preaching all over the place of "safe sex". We were already a highly sexualized youth culture but were now taught publicly by highly righteous people about things like "frottage", if I recall the term correctly. Sex could kill, but few if any took abstinence seriously.

The rugby team were not a bunch of "queers", I imagine, however many got a secret sexual charge out of their initiation. I think Esolen is right to suggest they were trying to find a kind of male bonding by openly playing with what is both an attraction and a danger for male bonding: homosexuality and attendant assumptions about how men should relate to each other. Their initiation was a kind of momentary, carnivalesque, turning the tables and a casting out of the homosexual option for day to day locker room life. Only when that possibility was cast out could they develop a certain kind of intimacy and trust which need not get complicated by internal team sexual rivalries. But this all-male intimacy, and all that it can and cannot lead to, was also challenged by the expectation of women to be fully integrated, including sexually, in the youth culture.

Esolen is arguing that when sexuality become center stage in the youth culture, one has to make choices, assume identities, whereas in the past certain things, notably homosexuality, could be cast out (or alternatively embraced) in rituals that did not require people to talk about what they were casting out (or secretly embracing). We take it for granted today that hiding (homo)sexuality is a bad thing. And I can remember the hell that young men of my generation went through in "coming out". Still, I also remember how infatuated with sex my generation was and I can't but think they could have achieved more if they hadn't been. It's not because homosexuality was still semi-uncool, and hidden, but because publicly embracing sexuality, and making it the focus of so much of hte popular culture, is inherently distracting and challenging to young people who are always either getting too much or not enough. One can never just sublimate the sexual desires and focus on other things. And the pervasive sexualization of life does affect personal friendships in so many ways. Girls have almost become pure commodities. You can argue the ways today's friendships are better than in the past, but I don't think you can seriously argue they remain unchanged. The widespread fraternal and sororal/club culture of the pre-WWII civil society is almost completely gone. This has consequences for us to work through.

But anyway, why do you think the Dalai Lama or the Pope hold the views they do? Do you really think there is no distilled wisdom of centuries of experience in what they say? Do you really think they are just authoritarian old fogies? Will you not grant them at least a piece of the truth?

Anonymous said...

I think my category is a combination political-religious-spiritual leader whose cause is seen as so right, whose demeanour is holy, that he is able to obtain a sacred status without it becoming the target of the postmodern deconstruction or "irony"
Mother Theresa falls comfortably into this camp (Hitchens’ opinion notwithstanding). In this country Stephen Lewis is up for beatification. Romeo Dallaire is something of a tragic, though never criticized, hero. I get the feeling the category is being purposefully tweaked to arrive at the intended result though (progressive love is exclusively held for non-Westerners).

My reading of Esolen was that there is a direct causal relationship between acceptance of homosexuality and the decline of male bonds. Beyond the lack of evidence I don’t even think the logic of the argument is coherent. Societal acceptance of homosexuality leads youth to fear accusations of homosexuality and thus leads to a lack of male bonds. Societal rejection of homosexuality means young men don’t fear accusations of homosexuality and therefore form strong male bonds. Why would the erosion of a societal taboo lead young people to fear accusations? This isn’t intuitive and, in my experience, not consistent with what I know about youth. The fall-back is to some claim that the taboo takes homosexual identity effectively off the table and allows a full expression of male fondness. I know this ‘construction of homosexuality’ line is currently trendy with post-colonial queer theorists (Joseph Massad is beating a similar drum). This is more of a logical leap than I’m willing to take. An erosion of the taboo should lead young men to worry less about accusations of homosexuality and ease fears about close friendships. Primarily because identifying someone’s sexuality is easier when the social sanction on homosexuality is eased. This reduces uncertainty and eases fears.

The male-bonding argument was my main target. You’ve managed to put up a whole set of new causal claims. Feminized men (broadly conceived) are linked drug abuse and gaming addictions. And low fertility rates. This all seems weak. Fertility rates are related to a lot of things, though I have never validly seen them linked to a nation’s sense of machismo. Don’t the southern European countries have the lowest rates? By your own narrative, the Eden of your old university was corrupted by the integration of women more than some opening of opinions about homosexuality. I get the sense that I’m aiming at a multiple shifting targets.

We could tie everything together into some broader narrative of ‘social change causes bad shit.’ I’ll accept the law of unintended consequences. I just want a solid argument that explains how social change A causes bad outcome B. Esolen’s argument fails on this point. You appear to be in some ambiguous zone, decrying perceived (and exaggerated) negatives while acknowledging that things aren’t so bad (low crime rate, high economic growth).

On religious leaders, I maintain a sceptical tolerance. The major religions know a thing or two about survival and, we can assume, offering people a sense of purpose and hope. I don’t mind if they preach against perceived sexual libertinism. There’s nothing in a free society that demands other people must hold my opinions. My scepticism is based primarily on a reading of history that finds established religious leaders quite willing to use the state’s coercive power to enforce morality. They aren’t the only group with authoritarian tendencies. I do think they need to be consistently checked or, in other words, reminded that their proper societal role is to remain at some distance from the state. The overall contribution of both the Dalai Lama and John Paul II has been positive. I like deeds and arguments more than I like men though. And whenever I see idol worship I grab a rock.

truepeers said...

Sorry, I'm not going to have time to give you a full response for a couple of days, na, as I'm just about to leave town.

Esolen did not make his argument very clearly. What he's saying is that in a world where sex is everyone's obsession, there is a great deal of pressure on young people to be sexually active and open about it. (I'm not sure kids actually are having sex a lot earlier than in the past, but it's pretty clear that the the girls don't have to hide it, as they once did to preserve their reputations) He's saying girls are actively pressuring boys into having sex. Now, maybe you don't see the problem in this, assuming it's every young man's fantasy. But boys mature later and a lot are unsure about how to get intimate with girls and many will be made uncomfortable by sexual advances. But, says Esolen, they are scared of refusing the advance, or alternatively of never getting them, because this will lead to accusations of homosexuality.

But, you ask, how can this be a problem if the taboo against homosexuality is being lifted. Well, it's being lifted by the teachers and other liberal do-gooders. But the pc gets so rammed down kids throats today, there is a lot of rebellion against it. So, even though everyone knows the party line that queer is cool, they will still, in private, have a lot of resentment toward the idea. I recently saw a community cable tv show where the intrepid young activists who had been given cameras and mics were charged with challenging kids who say "that's so gay" in an ironic vein. Imagine the reaction to that kind of thing...

In any case, it bears thinking how the general sexualization of the youth culture is not simply an addition of a greater degree of freedom, but also a distraction, a tension, a hindrance to relationships developing in all kinds of ways, relationships that can be sidetracked by sexual rivalries, fears, embarassments, etc. It's certainly happened to me; i can think of instances where an intellectually and professionally useful friendship could have been developed, had it not been for my sense that the other guy was coming on to me. Maybe he was just being like Lincoln's bed pal and I just didn't get it because I was young and confused.... Then again, maybe not.

truepeers said...

progressive love is exclusively held for non-Westerners
-well, I've never said that. Of course progressives love their own, if never unconditionally. It is a question of what kind of centre for the nation or world can a Lewis or Dallaire be. Even on the left, there are many who dislike Lewis for his extreme righteousness. There are some who question whether Dallaire acted appropriately during certain crisis moments in Rwanda, or whether he was too defensive. But in any case, the point is that neither can or will ever receive the kind of treatment from the Mainstream global Media that a Mandela or Dalai Lama can receive. How many non-Canadians have a clue who either L or D is? And so, by the same token, no Canadian should want to mistake L or D for the world-class status of M or DL. If Dallaire or Lewis were to begin talking religion, could we ever treat them like the Dalai Lama? If D or L were to begin talking up the evils of colonialism, could we ever treat them like Mandela? No, the mere fact that they are white would disqualify them from that kind of status and they would, just like Stephen Lewis, be inclined to turn to extremes of victimary patronage and self-righteousness in order to get heard, to justify their place on the stage.
In contrast, the Dalai Lama can exude humility - he can be himself - and still get rock star treatment - that's the essential point. Lewis and Dallaire have a public presence according to the rules that limit (but also unjustifiably sustain) that presence for modern Westerners - keeping it within professional bounds, demanding they respect the religion of White Guilt . If Dallaire becomes a politician, all his good work in Rwanda will not save him from all kinds of political attacks. If Stephen Lewis ever asks how, in addition to preaching to Westerners, he can further Africans' escape from the AIDS crisis, I think he will have to get more humble, question some of his leftism, and all in all become a less public figure by becoming someone who puts more emphasis on the local and personal responsibility of Africans, than on guilting international elites. But by the same token, this is to suggest there is a public limelight for the marginal African who gets up and says to Stephen Lewis and his kind, you're not really helping us by blaming the likes of America for not doing enough. We need ways of increasing a sense of personal responsibility even among the poor who can't afford condoms or drugs. It is this African who might become the next Mandela or Dalai Lama, not Stephen Lewis. But there are already Africans saying this, but they never get heard in the MSM. This is to suggest that the next "Stephen Lewis" or "Romeo Dallaire" has to be someone from the West who can help those Africans get heard in the West (and so be reflected back to Africa) but without himself wanting to become a mini celebrity like Lewis or Dallaire.
Fertility rates are related to a lot of things, though I have never validly seen them linked to a nation's sense of machismo.
-you're right, there is no simple explanation for the decline of fertility. At bottom I take it to be a spiritual question for both men and women: their ability to undertand and live their responsibility to make a commitment to the future as their proper exchange with all those past who have made the world in which we presently live possible. One can point to many other proximate "factors", like economic conditions, the costs of middle-class life styles, but all this is ultimately subsidiary to the religious question. From here we would then have to go on to explore the links between gender roles and the kind of spiritual or religious well being that leads people to pursue, if not always realize, their commitments to past and future, in this day and age. It is not, surely, a question of "machismo" for that suggests a kind of masculinity rooted in a warrior and somewhat pagan past that is not the manly type that is likely to find a way in the moden market-oriented world. When I invoke the "feminized" male, it is a short hand, with all the gross generalizations and stereotpyes this necessarily entails, for pointing to the chap or gal who is rather more interested in consumption than in (re)production, an altogether common thing for most of us in our youth in this day and age.
By your own narrative, the Eden of your old university was corrupted by the integration of women more than some opening of opinions about homosexuality. I get the sense that I'm aiming at a multiple shifting targets.
-Come on, you've been reaidng this blog long enough to know I don't believe in Edens. As I said in the previous comment, I'm not sure I believe in any great moral progess, at a society-wide level, but similarly I don't believe in great declines either, unless and until it's obvious that a society has collapsed, which does occasionally happen. As I said, for all its violence, the old fraternal culture was up to the task of many social necessities. In deconstructing the old fraternalism, to reveal its limits, we have destroyed something that was necessary if not perfect, and for which we may - this is what I tend to believe - not yet have found a suitable replacement. Inevitably the sacred centres around which we organize our existence have to be renewed. Inevitably they will be deconstructed by our resentment of the less than perfect, but doing so creates a responsibility to defend the centre in new representations of the sacred mystery, not to forego resonsibility towards it.
But of course you're aiming at multiple shifting targets: would you prefer that I reduced history to a Gnostic vision in which one analytical key opens all doors, like the Marxist's relations of production?
quite willing to use the state's coercive power to enforce morality. They aren't the only group with authoritarian tendencies
-ah but to some degree it is the resonsibility of the state to enforce morality (e.g. to define the criminal law and terms of access to social benefits) and it is the responsibility of all members of the state to lobby and negotiate their ideas about morality. All kinds of organizations should do this, and this includes the churches. The idea that in a country like Canada there is any chance of an established church is an odd fear to hold. That debate basically ended more than a century ago and the likelihood that any established church could develop, in either French or English Canada, has only diminished with time. Churches have of course played a role in the delivery of social services, like medicine and education, a role that was once quite pronounced in Quebec, but minimal elsewhere. But surely that is as it should be unless we favor a totalitarian state. We now realize - though unfortunately our Supreme Court does not - that we have separated church and state precisely because we are a (post) Christian culture that believes in rendering unto Caesar, but only what is his due.