Tuesday, 19 March 2019

An Alt Left Trichotomy

My observation of people drawn to alternative politics is that they're guided by certain categories of philosophical passions. Plus, people seem to like to be categorized according to their political thought, as discussions of the political spectrum evidence. For those on the reactionary right, they have their own trifecta of constituent philosophical pillars: Theonomists, ethno-nationalists and techno-commercialists. Or fundamentalist theocracy, racist fascism and sweatshop capitalism, were we to be honest. If I were at all serious about creating a truly resilient society worth preserving, I'd say none of the above, thank you.

In alternative and dissident left circles, I've noticed a roughly comparable trichotomy, based on the what seem to be three core political passions. The names I've given them are my own, and I think that they best encapsulate the core principles driving each of them. These are, in no particular order:
  • Enlightenment Rationalism: This correlates to the classical liberal tendency. It is most concerned with individual rights, limited scope and power of government, an elevation of reason, rationality, skepticism and the scientific method and is opposed to collectivism and is put off by dogmatism and fanaticism. 
  • Cultural Communitarianism: This correlates to the classical conservative tendency, and its presence on the alt-left is what makes it the alt-left, and not the mainstream left. It is concerned with ideas, relationships and institutions that foster social stability and cohesion. This is the soft spot many of us have for religion, tradition, family, nationalism and the like.
  • Materialist Political Economy: This correlates to the classical socialist tendency. Without it, we'd be paleoconservatives, libertarians and neoreactionaries. It sounds Marxist, and certainly can be, but doesn't have to be, but it rejects neoliberal capitalism. It's concerned with social regulation or ownership in part or in whole of the means of production, with workers rights and social welfare, as well as with a view of society that emphasizes class antagonisms and structural social injustice. And yes, it does pay attention to marginalized people and victims of discrimination also, and as well it should.
What is crucial is a comprehensive theory of liberation, which classical liberals, libertarians, reactionaries, socialists or social justice warriors have all thus far failed to deliver. This is because the main camps in our current political divide tend to consist of, at most, two of the three core political passions. One tends to be disdained all together. This leads to problems, and to backlash from people who rightly value whichever core passion is disdained by whatever movement or ideology is under consideration. 

Focus exclusively on enlightenment rationalism, and one loses sight of the fact that the individual is nested in and sustained by a network of broader social structures and traditions that enable him to function most effectively. It also ignores the positions that individuals occupy within power hierarchies, how these hierarchies themselves operate and how these factors can determine an individual's propensity to success. 

Enlightenment rationalism not tempered by cultural communitarianism and materialist political economic considerations becomes a recipe for a Dickensian hell of dark Satanic mills, sweat labor, horrendous wealth inequality, a get ahead by any means necessary kind of mindset, so probably a lot of crime, antisocial behavior and deviancy also. In the end, this kind of society fails even in its core mission of upholding the individual. Individuals can't thrive in this kind of environment.

Focus exclusively on cultural communitarianism and become a fascist or a theocrat. It's not just that individual rights are trampled, it's that individuals are not free to think and act as they will within mutually beneficial relationships and exchanges. This leads to economic, technological and societal stagnation. It also doesn't care for the rank injustices and flagrant cronyism and rent-seeking that can become embedded in ossified traditional social structures. Abuses of the marginalized at the hands of the privileged simply become accepted and commonplace. 

Cultural communitarianism not tempered by enlightenment rationalism and materialist economic considerations causes the society that embraces it to descend into a dark age wherein new ideas and different kinds of people are eschewed, and dogmatism and a cult like atmosphere runs rampant. The rights of individuals are trampled and the rankest of injustices are tolerated, so long as the supremacist patriarchs at the top are the beneficiaries. In the end, this kind of society does not uphold its best traditions and ideals. Healthy and functional social norms break down.

Focus exclusively on materialist political economy and the politburo and the gulag sooner or later are what you end up with. Ideological systems that categorize some groups as oppressors and other groups as victims become deterministic. Individuals who thrive and succeed are assumed to be doing so at the expense of some minority or impoverished group and punished accordingly. Institutions and relationships that fulfill vital social and cultural functions are denounced as being exploitative or discriminatory in some way or another. 

Materialist political economism not tempered by enlightenment rationalism and cultural communitarianism begins to stagnate, due to a lack of incentive to excel, produce or stand out in any way. These societies also become increasingly dysfunctional socially, as relationships and social norms of all kinds are denounced and attacked as being oppressive somehow. In the end, this society becomes stratified in its own cruel way, and the elites who lord power - oblivious to the irony of their so doing - perpetuate the worst systemic abuses against the most vulnerable members of the society, rationalized on the grounds that it is their victims are "oppressors" or "privileged."

So you can see now that a good society doesn't arise out of rejecting either liberty, equality or social order. People love to adopt political labels, it seems, and to clash with those who adopt rival types of labels. While that is tempting and amusing, it will also lead to a failure to achieve a comprehensive theory of liberation. That isn't easy to do, since it involves reconciling sets of ideas with natural tension between them. 

Minimize enlightenment rationalism, and you end up with the kinds of collectivst dystopias science fiction writers so enjoy to depict. Mussolini was probably the main theoretician of this kind of social order. It didn't turn out too well, if I recall. Less perhaps need be said here. The history of totalitarianism speaks for itself.

Minimize cultural communitarianism, and you're in the realm of the contemporary progressive.  These are the sorts of people who don't grasp why despite gaining more freedoms and liberties, or more equal rights, more equity, more representation in the media and so on, why people are getting more rather than less angsty. People have in inborn need to belong to something bigger than themselves, something with lasting worth or significance outside wealth accumulation. Families, nations, religions, shared systems of mythology and meaning - this is what the cultural communitarian tendency deals in. Moreover, if ignored, cultural communitarianism's own concerns will bleed into the ideologies of the enlightenment rationalists and the materialist economists, and so libertarianism and social justice alike take on increasingly romantic and religious qualities.

Minimize materialist economism and the concern for social justice, and you're in the realm of the contemporary conservative, and of reaction in its various forms. These kinds of people don't grasp why the bulk of the population doesn't heed their ongoing prattling about the supremacy of western civilization or of free markets. And that's because they're blind to how systems of power operate, how they perpetuate themselves at the expense of an underclass, which people quite understandably don't want to be a part of. 

Sure, your free market capitalism creates a lot of wealth, but the bulk of the population doesn't want to slave away in sweat shops for a living, and be reduced to begging in the streets should they lose even that. It will fail due to its mistaken belief that personal and cultural greatness are the sole causes of success, and that rent seeking, various bad business practices and surplus value production have nothing at all to do with it.

Sure, western civilization has done great things, but women, ethnic minorities and others don't want to be subordinates in a patriarchal social order. Tiresome as SocJus dogma can get at times, I can't say I blame them. And on a related note, who decides who the master race and the one true religion turn out to be? What if it isn't 4chan or a reactionary blogosphere that decides this, and it ends up being the black Hebrew Israelites, Wahhabi Islamists or Dianic Wiccans who end up calling the shots? Not so good then, isn't it, Mr. western civilization uber-alles?

Even if it were true that wealth and power stemmed entirely from moral character, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The upper class, be it in a government bureaucracy, a military junta, a feudal aristocracy or among corporate CEOs can be expected to act in their own immediate class interests, not in accordance to some abstract notion of loyalty to the white race, western culture or Christian morality. Doubly so if no mechanisms to hold leaders accountable exist. Autocratic social systems have a remarkable tendency to enrich their elites at the expense of their host populations, and since they've been allowed to accumulate vast amounts of wealth and power, their capacity to do harm is truly vast.

To assume they'd do otherwise is breathtakingly naive. Not that they'd achieve desirable results if racism and/or religious fundamentalism were what they were truly aiming for in any event. Either way, dictatorship and concentration of productive resources are the greatest threats the west faces. They're what got us here, they won't save us. 

Finally, the right can't seem to realize why it ultimately loses every significant political and social conflict it engages in, given enough time. This is because they've blinded themselves to how power is institutionalized and concentrated. Be a good person and you'll achieve great things, and so rich and powerful people must be good, talented and fair-minded. Or so they tell themselves and others when justifying existing levels of wealth inequality and hierarchy.  So this leaves them incapable of explaining ideological feminism's ascendancy in Hollywood, academia and much mainstream media. What they can't explain or understand adequately, they can't effectively fight against. So the ultimate irony is that in their ongoing denial of social injustice, they've now all but guaranteed that they will be the victims of it - radical libertarian and traditionalist voices getting shut down on social media being a classic case in point. 

These three supraordinate political tendencies are not easy to reconcile with one another. Achieving social equality jeopardizes individual rights and long term cultural and social viability. Achieving individual rights jeopardizes social equality and social stability. Achieving social order through a unicultural identity jeopardizes the human flourishing on an individual level and threatens to lock in unjust social orders based on inherited privilege. 

 A conservative culture devoted to strong social norms will fail if it exports its industry. A progressive culture devoted to social equality will fail if it doesn't have functional and sustainable cultural norms - if it eschews having families in favor of some or another flavor-of-the-month sexual deviancy. And both will fail if they don't allow for individual freedom to question the party line, just as a libertarian society won't be free if its full of poverty, alienation and social deviancy. 

Yet as we've seen, each needs some elements of the others to achieve its better goals. We can't be led to believe they're incompatible.

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Attacks

I don't know what the answer is to the kind of tragedy and horror seen today in New Zealand is, though I've done my best to be and provide some thing of an antidote. But I know damn well what it isn't.

It isn't to step up calls for censorship of the internet. As we all should have seen following the 9/11 terror attacks, the powers that be love to exploit horrific events in order to consolidate their own power. Make no mistake, an internet policed for "hate speech" will likewise be policed for serious criticism and dissent against harmful policy.

It isn't to engage in the mudslinging over who the worse terrorists are: Jihadists or Nazis. Let's agree that they're both abhorrent, and it's logical to assume that each will be more murderous where they have a demographic advantage. Middle America isn't going to see a preponderance of Jihadist suicide bombings, and the Middle East isn't going to see very many alt-right nutjobs shooting up Mosques.

I can't help but wonder if this terrorist shooter had been in Palestine instead of Christchurch, would he have been ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas or something similar? As Eric Hoffer so brilliantly observed, true believers are of a similar sort of nature, however different their beliefs may actually be. Here the similarities are remarkable: young men frustrated by a lack of career and relationship options being exploited and lied to by the elites in their homelands, and so opened to being exploited and lied to by toxic ideologues.

As for the ideologies themselves, they are alike as potently toxic mixes of religious fundamentalism, bizarre conspiracy theories, atavistic tribalism and the most black hearted hatred and bigotry you'd ever cringe were you to be exposed to it. Note the rank antisemitism in both cases. Note also the retrograde and extreme machismo in their constructions and ideas of masculinity and disdain for gender equality and sexual liberty. Having said that, I do agree that the cultural left takes things too far the other way - into a disdain for men and masculinity, which doesn't help. In fact, it hurts. It fuels the underlying sexual anxieties that typify this type of radicalized young man. Feminist pontificating isn't the answer either.

But also, even the worst alt-right and Jihadist nonsense also confronts us with the sins and failings of a globalist imperialist order that has no qualms sacrificing, or at least abandoning, the lives of the kinds of young men who end up radicalized. Among many other lives. While Jihadist terrorism and Neo-Nazism are unequivocally indefensible as belief systems in and of themselves, perhaps there really are underlying factors in what makes these belief systems attractive to certain types of people that are harder to simply dismiss. And maybe they have some legitimate grievances, were they to turn their anger in the right direction and express it in less brutal ways. The right cringes when the left suggests an element of legitimate protest mixed in with militant religious or ideological fervor in the actions of Jihadist terrorists. The left cringes when the same is said of the alt-right. Of course, whatever grievances you may have are lost when you resort to the murder of innocent civilians in the name of whatever cause you happen to espouse.

Which leads me to what I do think the answer is. Not a magic bullet solution, of course. But the best that one person can do in the face of such reckless hate. Against bad ideas that lead to such senseless and tragic slaughter. And that's to use such resources as one has to articulate better ideas. If the perpetrator of this terrible shooting can be said to represent the alternative right, and he most certainly can, then what would its diametric opposite look like?

That's a work in progress, and you can be rest assured that myself and my associates won't be stopping any time soon, and I hope that followers of this blog and its various social media platforms won't either.

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Socialists: Deplorables of the Left

Prior to Trump's election, we were all warned to fear the "basket of deplorables" that constituted a hefty portion of Trump's electoral base: racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes and Islamophobes. I think there might have been some transphobes in there too. You get the picture. Trump was an evil fascist bogeyman who was going to destroy all things good in America if the ruling DNC regime were removed from power. So not surprisingly, a frustrated electorate removed them from power. Shocker.

Two years on, Trumpenreich has not materialized. Muslims and Latinos have not been rounded up and deported. Blacks and whites are not being forced into separate amenities. Women have not been relegated to the status of either marthas, econowives or, of course, handmaids. Worker's rights are getting trampled, but that's par for the course Stateside. Nothing new there.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. Increasingly, millennials are growing frustrated with their economic lot in post great-recession America, and more and more of them are expressing their dissent via an ideological outlook that one doesn't typically associate with the land of the free and the home of the brave.


That's right. Socialism is on the march in the good old U.S of A, of all places. And now the shoe of political moral panic is on the other foot. Now, the deplorables come from the left, and the red flag is the their banner. While CNN not so long ago tried to paint Trump up as a goose-stepping ultra nationalist, they're now asserting that Bernie Sanders once favored the wholesale nationalization of American industry. Self described socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is daily lampooned by conservative social media as a kind of leftist equivalent to Sarah Palin. Indeed, they both used the term "death panels" unironically. However, only one did so accurately.

My hope would be that anyone smart enough to roll their eyes at the idea of Trump being literally Hitler would also be smart enough to react the same way at the thought of Chairman and General Secretary Bernie Sanders becoming President of the Supreme Soviet of the American Socialist Republic, and immediately kicking off agricultural collectivization, anti-religious campaigns, and the pouring of legions of blue haired red guards into the country side to hound God fearing, gun toting red state, white skin, blue collar Americans as if they were the kulaks of the 21st century.

Because if you think anything like that is going to happen, you've lost the right to ridicule "THE RESISTANCE" for its propensity to hyperbole and overdramatization.

Yet despite all this, it's not just the right that's gotten in on this new red scare that's swept social media in the last year or so. The classy classical liberal minded blog Areo, which typically engages the noble cause of attacking campus social justice culture from the left, has recently published a piece by one Aaron Tao, urging us to "Listen to Immigrants Who Have Lived Under Socialism." Tao cites his own parents, who grew up in Maoist China, a Romanian student whose parents grew up under CeauČ™escu, a student who recently left Maduro's Venezuela, as well as anti-socialist commentator and author Jordan Peterson.  All remind us of the horrors of Stalinism and Maoism.

They are not wrong. I'm not unfamiliar with the Black Book of Communism, as a matter of fact. It proudly adorns my shelf.  Yet I can't help but think that this is precisely the problem with Tao's article. It's attacking something with arguably even fewer supporters than Hitler and the Nazis have. Bad as they are, and as anyone who's ever delt with leftbook can tell you, they are insufferably bad, there just aren't that many tankies in the USA. Tao even admits that:
"For the purposes of this article, I will use the Library of Economics and Liberty’s definition of socialism: “a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production.” This is synonymous with communism. The end goal of socialism is to abolish private property, free markets, exchange, prices and profits, and substitute collective ownership and decision-making to determine the allocation of resources."
I wholeheartedly support Tao's opposition to this political and economic system. And so too would Bernie Sanders. Why? The reason for this is that rhetoric aside, Bernie Sanders is a social democrat, not a Marxian communist. Big difference between the two, and it's past time the specter of communism was exorcised from the fevered nightmares of reactionaries and libertarians the nation over for once and for all.

Here's the difference: Social democrats come to power through the democratic process. They face the voters periodically as democrats and republicans do, and if they lose elections, they step down. They do not aim to seize the means of production wholesale. Typically, the most they end up doing is nationalizing a handful of key industries and essential services. Most of the economy is left in private hands.

Just in case you missed that, let me repeat it: most of the economy is left in private hands. Moreover, successive governments can simply privatize state owned enterprises that are not performing well and might be better run by the private sector.

How do I know this? Outside the United States, social democrats actually win elections and the results are, well, actually quite good more often than not. Some notable examples:

I'm Awesome. Deal with it.
Great Britain, 1945. World War 2 has recently ended and the UK is going to the polls. To the surprise of many, Conservative war hero Winston Churchill loses to Clement Attlee's Labour Party. This ends up resulting in the creation of the UK's National Health Service, as well as nationalization of several industries, making him among the most socialistic of social democrats. Due to his reforms, UK citizens got access to health care, housing and other necessities via an elaborate social welfare system, in the late 40s after the nation had been devastated by the blitz. They live longer and better, which is what conservatives and libertarians go to great lengths to tell us won't happen under socialism. In case you're wondering, Attlee hated communism. In 1951, the UK electorate voted for a Conservative government, Churchill's back in, and Labour stepped down as democratic parties in democratic societies do when they lose. No purges, no famines, no gulags.

Sure, many European social democratic parties had more radical, revolutionary and Marxist origins. But these were abandoned for various reasons, mostly because they were impractical and were achieving terrible results in the USSR and its client states. Sometimes on paper, always in practice, the social democrats were pragmatists and reformers. Perhaps too much so in some cases.

From the 1990s onward, the British Labour Party had, until the ascension of Jeremy Corbyn, been existential proof of the falsehood of Conquest's and O'Sullivan's laws mandating an inevitable leftward drift in all non explicitly right wing organizations. Tony Blair's Labour Party was not Attlee's party, that's for certain. And socialist purists derided Attlee in his day in similar terms.

Elsewhere, According to Wikipedia,
"In 1959, the SPD (West German Social Democratic Party) instituted a major policy review with the Godesberg Program. The Godesberg Program eliminated the party's remaining Marxist-aligned policies and the SPD became based upon freiheitlicher Sozialismus (liberal socialism).  With the adoption of the Godsberg Program, the SPD renounced Marxist determinism and classism and replaced it with an ethical socialism based on humanism and emphasized that the party was democratic, pragmatic and reformist."
When social democrat Willy Brandt became West German Chancellor in 1969, he did not initiate a great leap forward or a cultural revolution. Instead, again according to Wikipedia:
According to Helmut Schmidt, Willy Brandt's domestic reform programme had accomplished more than any previous programme for a comparable period. Levels of social expenditure were increased, with more funds allocated towards housing, transportation, schools, and communication, and substantial federal benefits were provided for farmers. Various measures were introduced to extend health care coverage, while federal aid to sports organisations was increased. A number of liberal social reforms were instituted whilst the welfare state was significantly expanded (with total public spending on social programs nearly doubling between 1969 and 1975), with health, housing, and social welfare legislation bringing about welcome improvements, and by the end of the Brandt Chancellorship West Germany had one of the most advanced systems of welfare in the world.
For most of the 20th century, the Swedish social democrats and their Nordic Model were the standard bearers for social democracy, and prior to the party's more recent descent into radical feminist and open borders nonsense, they did quite well. The Scandinavian social democracies, which are not limited to Sweden but also encompass Norway and its brilliant Government Pension Fund, as well as Iceland, Denmark and Finland, consistently score at or near the top of international indices measuring overall prosperity, social equality and yes, political and economic freedom as well.

Far from being communist dungeon-states, these Nordic social democracies are a kind of capitalism that works for everyone, not just a tiny rich few. Imagine that. Even in my own home province of Alberta, Canada, the social democratic government of Premier Rachel Notley (daughter of former party leader Grant Notley) elected in 2015 has, among other things, cut child poverty in half. That's right, they've reduced hunger, not increased it. I thought resentful and peevish socialists were supposed to starve everyone to death because they hate the rich. What does Notley think she's doing? How does that work?

And crucial to all of this, so much so that it bears repeating, is that social democratic parties face the voters in periodic elections, as per the election laws of their respective lands, and step down when they lose. Plus they're constrained by the same constitutional (or comparable) factors that constrain executive and legislative branches of government in all liberal democracies. Were a social democrat to be elected President of the United States, they'd still have an independent congress, an independent judiciary, the constraints imposed by the constitution and the bill of rights and a free press, such as it is, to constrain them. And most significantly of all, an established tradition and history of democracy, which the crumbling monarchies of Russia and China didn't have when their respective communist revolutions took place.

On top of all of this, the reasons for the millennial generation's resurgent interest in socialism is often barely touched upon by anti-socialist commentators. In the Areo article, Tao does admit that
Many millennials lived through the 2007–8 financial crisis and graduated college with uncertain job prospects and crushing student loans. Gen Z (iGen), the newest kids on the block, grew up with smartphones in their pockets before they started high school and “do not remember a time before the internet.” Living in an economically uncertain world, in which anyone with a smartphone can easily document an unjustified police shooting, it is understandable that many young people are drawn towards social justice activism. 
And this is generous, compared to what your average macho reactionary libertarian has to say on the matter. I suppose that a generation faced with dismal work prospects, low wages, poor working conditions, lack of access to affordable health care and a host of other poverty related concerns should just shut up and be a good little peon because some internet tough guy with a lot of yellow and black in his profile pictures figures he's an economics major because he's read a bit of Ayn Rand, possibly Economics in One Lesson, dabbled a bit in the theories of Mises and Friedman, listened to some Jordan Peterson videos and so storms into any online space, invited or not, to sound off about how stupid left of center millennials are and how they're just resentful towards those saintly billionaires, who've acquired every dime they have because they're just so smart and so moral and just. Nothing to do with lopsided tax and trade policy and a broken trade union movement, or anything like that. They're rich because they're virtuous, end of story you commie wimps! Beginning each display of false bravado with "lol", of course.

If your millennial (or any) leftist should walk away from an interaction with this kind of jackass with a newfound appreciation for Antifa, a thought that the SJWs might be on to something (these free market tough guys are always white guys, I hate to say), and a suspicion that a gulag might not be such a bad thing, I increasingly wonder: can you really blame them? It should be noted that I do not regard Aaron Tao as one of these phony tough ancapistani types.

These boors insist that social democracy and Stalinism are indistinguishable, and are no more honest in so doing than your typical smug urban liberal Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart types are when they conflate Trump and Hitler, or when a woman's studies prof suggests that disagreeing with feminism equals misogyny. Which is not honest in the least. In all these cases it's willful dishonesty, contrived to feed red meat to the base, and they damn well know it. This may well suit the interests who benefit from the status quo and frustrate social democratic reform just fine. But it has real consequences for poor and working class Americans of all racial and demographic backgrounds who struggle to acquire basic necessities. It needs to stop.

The facts are plain here: social democracy, while not perfect, works just fine overall. Even in times where the popularity of social democratic parties wane, their core ideas do not. The performance of the Nordic countries proves that. Libertarian neckbeards have been shrieking that the sky is falling on the European welfare state for decades now. The only real concern is actually taking the hysterics seriously and buying into the ideology of neoliberal austerity. The improvements over central planning this results in are marginal.

The more the no-step snake crowd flies into hysterics trying to deny or suppress this, the more alike their SJW cousins they become as far as ideological hysteria is concerned.

Indeed, they've been at the game of baseless political hysteria a lot longer than the SJWs have. Remember the Tea Party? Remember the birthers? Remember Obama somehow managing to be a Muslim, a communist, a Nazi and a liberal all at the same time? It was old hat even then. Newt Gingrich takes that shameless playbook back into the Reagan years.

If they keep it up, they should be no more welcome than grandstanding SJWs in the company of people who want to take political discourse with the intent on solving pressing issues facing the western world at all seriously. With any luck, their shrill hysterics will backfire in like manner to the manner in which the Clinton campaign's fear mongering against the basket of deporables backfired and got Trump elected. A social democratic America can't come soon enough, in my opinion.

Aaron Tao, Jordan Peterson (himself a former social democrat, from Alberta no less) and pundits the nation over are correct to be opposed to authoritarian socialism and authoritarian leftism in general. But they should be assured also. Electing a Bernie Sanders will result in an Attlee, a Brandt or a Notley, not a Mao, a  CeauČ™escu or a Maduro. America could do worse. A social democratic USA will result in considerably less poverty, not more.

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Friday, 8 March 2019

Feminism: the New Religion?

As International Women's Day rolls around again, I wonder if feminism has become the new religion of the western world? At first glance, the answer would be no. Even up here in Trudeau's Canada. The relationship between feminism and religion has been complicated at times, but usually icy and ambivalent at best.

Feminists have criticized, generally accurately, the propensity for religions to relegate women to 2nd class roles. Male dominance in religion is claimed to be either implied or directly mandated by the following:
  • God reveals himself as masculine, not feminine. Ditto for the angels, for most the history of their representation leastwise.
  • God mandates strict gender roles as part of the divine order. 
  • The husband/father as head and absolute ruler of the household.
  • This patriarchal rule carrying over into the church: positions of authority in the ecclesiastical hierarchy (and it is, of course, a hierarchy) being occupied exclusively by men. 
  • The woman Eve being the first sinner in the Garden of Eden, and subsequently tempting Adam, the first man, to sin.
  • Women being expected to adhere to strict rules of chastity and modesty, lest they "tempt" men into sexual sin. 
  • Sexual strictness, going as far as to claim that a man who looks at women with "lust in his heart" is already guilty of adultery. Women's vulnerability to the same sin is never mentioned.
This list is not exhaustive, and the list of sexist practices in the church throughout its history is long. 

To be fair, there is an opposed point of view. This view claims that Jesus was as free and open (and quite naturally sinless) in his relationships with women as with men, that he frowned upon any sort of dominance of one gender over the other and his stance of relative leniency towards a woman accused of adultery (let he who is without sin cast the first stone), among other things. And St. Paul carries on this tradition, claiming that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ".[Galatians 3:28] As such, some denominations have liberalized, allowing for the ordination of women and so on. 

Moreover, even those who adopt a religiously patriarchal stance maintain that it's not about men lording power over women, but of having responsibility for both the physical and spiritual well being of his family.

I have here confined my analysis to Christianity. Is the plight of women better in other faiths? Based on what we've seen in Iran since 1979, what we're seeing in Saudi Arabia and what we saw in Afghanistan under the Taliban, I'd say that Islam would be an "out of the frying pan and into the fire" kind of deal for women. The occasional Linda Sarsour claiming otherwise notwithstanding. I can't speak for Hinduism, Buddhism and others.

On the surface, the rationale for this is quite simple: most religions mandate a subordinate place for women vis-a-vis men, and feminism is quite naturally and rationally opposed to this. Fine so far. But is there a deeper reason? Could it also be that claims to absolute truth are naturally mutually exclusive? Strict ideological systems tend to view other belief systems as competitors. They may ally with one another out of convenience or against a common foe, but never as a matter of principle. 

Why do I suggest this? Because it seems to me as though feminism has grown to be quite alike a religion in more recent times. At least in some regards. Feminism makes no claims about the supernatural or truly transcendent, except occasionally suggesting that God be a woman, or something such. Funny that the devil is never likewise possibly a woman. In any event, religion isn't just about supernatural entities. It's also about philosophical concepts that are bigger than the lives of individual people. Gods obviously fit the bill. So too can philosophies or social systems.

Despite very obvious doctrinal differences, these kinds of belief systems inevitably end up sharing a lot of meta-political characteristics. Let's look then at the similarities between current year intersectional feminism and historical Christianity in the west:

Man exists in a fallen state: Original sin in Christianity vs white male privilege and complicity in historical atrocities such as colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade for feminists.

Manichean World View: This means that history is seen in terms of a sweeping and epic conflict of good against evil. In Christianity, it is the Church's ongoing struggle against Satanic infiltration and rule over worldly affairs. In feminism, it is the movement's ongoing struggle against patriarchy, racism and other forms of oppression. 

Claims of Ideational Exceptionalism: This means that each either implies or states directly that its own world view is the one and only truth, and must be accepted on faith. Claims of papal infallibility, scriptural inerrancy and church magisterium in Christianity vs feminist standpoint theory: the belief in the philosophical superiority of the world views of marginalized people, or their self appointed representatives.

Belief in pervasive evil outside the faith: There is no salvation outside the church, and some variations of Christianity take this to the extent of total depravity, meaning that man cannot consciously choose good and therefore requires divine grace for salvation. Feminists tend to view everything outside feminist theory as being creations of a patriarchal society, and therefore rooted to some extent or another in the oppression of marginalized peoples, if only subconsciously.

On the plus side, both have a tendency to champion the oppressed, the poor and the marginalized. At least in theory. The last shall be first in both feminism and Christianity. This can be a two edged sword, though. Both can also define who is and isn't poor and oppressed in self serving ways, placing themselves squarely in the oppressed camp even when that's clearly not the case. When victimhood becomes a virtue and a badge of entitlement, it also becomes a sought after commodity.

A darker side to the above is a proneness to antinomianism. This means that the elect are not bound by moral law. The elect are saved by grace no matter what sinful or evil acts they do. Likewise, the oppressed and marginalized are incapable of being racist, sexist, oppressive, etc.

Both have an antagonistic relationship with science and the enlightenment. At least on occasion. The Christian church's standoff with the theory of evolution is well known and perhaps the best example. Less well known is feminist academia's contention with biological sex differences, sometimes going as far to claim that science and reason are "masculine" and therefore oppressive ways of knowing. Some on both sides have bemoaned the enlightenment, worrying that loss of religion will lead to widespread social chaos, devaluation of human life and the loss of European indigenous culture (in Christianity) vs propensity to oppress and impose white western values and cultural norms on non-European indigenous cultures (in feminism).

What initially tipped me off to feminism and Christianity's common philosophical roots is a mutual tendency to sexual puritanism. The alliances formed between the religious right and feminists to combat pornography are the most obvious examples. One can't help but see the influence of Christ's claim, "But I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28) in current feminist obsessions with sexualization and objectification.

In more extreme cases, a tendency to live in community and shun outsiders. This can be physical, in the case of Christian cults or the feminist Womyn's lands. Both seemed to have strong counter-cultural movements emerging from the socially turbulent times of the 1960s and 70s. Both can be very stifling environments for free thinkers. Questioning the leadership and straying from strict codes of personal conduct can result in shunning and excommunication from the stricter and more doctrinaire groups of feminists and Christians alike.

Widespread institutional study and a large body of apocryphal work: Feminism and Christianity alike present themselves as complex doctrines and both have produced large volumes of self-referencing devotional literature. Christianity has its numerous seminary schools and monasteries, feminism has institutionalized itself in the women's studies departments of colleges the world over.

Ritual observances: One thing that atheist critiques of religion do not often account for is the need for ritual and mythology in the lives of many people. Christianity has its liturgical calendar, feasts in honor of the Saints, lent and advent. Feminists celebrate international women's day, black history month and gay pride week, among others. Likewise common to both is a faith based vocabulary - words commonly used by the faithful to signal belief. To outsiders, this means a lot of buzzwords, slogans and jargon. Both feminists and Christians understand, at least subconsciously, that belief is very much a social thing and reinforced through regular communion with other believers.

Emphasis on victimhood and oppression: Christ tells his followers that they will be hated for his namesake (Matthew 10:22) and the bible is replete with warnings that Christians will face persecution, especially in the end times. This carries over into the present day, when conservative Christians claim that they are being persecuted by a liberal political and cultural establishment.  Likewise, feminists have become notorious for their claims of widespread rape, violence against women, objectification in the media, opposition from right wing political and media figures, among other things. In some cases, activists on both sides conduct themselves in so obnoxious a way that you can't help but wonder if they're not intentionally visiting criticism on themselves, to legitimize claims of oppression.

Propensity to censorship and drives to control media content: Both have activists concerned with media content. Concerns that video games drive youth to violent tendencies appear on both sides, notably Jack Thompson (conservative Christian) and Anita Sarkeesian (feminist). Both have criticized heavy rock music, rap music and have sought, with varying degrees of success, to influence film, television and comic book content. Both have an antagonistic relationship with "geek culture." Both Christians and feminists are adept at organizing to achieve these goals, but they occasionally backfire and galvanize backlashes against them - think GamerGate or punk, metal and rap musicians pushing back against the Parent's Music Resource Center. 

Whence come these similarities between belief systems otherwise so different in their emphasis and goals? Some possibilities:
  • Feminism and social justice's roots in Christianity. This seems strange at first, given Christianity's above listed patriarchal characteristics. But issues of concern among early feminists tended to involve reining in immoral and unchristian conduct among their men: curbing alcohol use, gambling and so on, as well as the aforementioned sexual purity issues. The social purity movement exemplifies this. Social justice was originally a Christian concept. 
  • Feminism stepping in to fill the void left by declining religion. Kind of like how communism and fascism played a similar role in the early 20th centuries, replacing a declining Church. This seems plausible. Some people, at least, seem to need what religion provides, and if religion has been discredited, a surrogate ideology can fill the same role.
  • A certain type of person, be it the authoritarian personality or the true believer, craves systems of thought that profess absolute truth, and gravitate towards such systems.
  • People naturally gravitate towards that which is successful and capable. Organized belief systems give otherwise disparate people a common identity and a common purpose. This in turn leads to group cohesion and a propensity to organize and strategize to achieve specific goals. Even neutral bystanders conclude that they're doing something right, and decide to be a part of it.
  • Both profess to champion the marginalized and downtrodden. How effectively or sincerely is another matter.
  • There are only so many tools at the disposal of individuals or movements seeking to create a morally homogeneous society, thus explaining why ideologically divergent religious and political movements end up creating doctrines and societies with similar characteristics. 
  • Success copies success. If the Moral Majority can achieve political success by adopting certain methods, why can't the Feminist Majority?
Of course, they are frequently enemies in the political and cultural sphere. Religion, when it becomes political in the western world today is usually conservative and allied with the Republican party. Likewise feminism skews liberal and towards the Democrats. There have been exceptions, of course. The issue of abortion will forever bitterly divide the two.

But this division reminds me of the division between fascism and Bolshevism in early 20th century Europe. So different in some ways, so similar in others.

For more relevant content, view The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, on Samizdat Broadcasts!
Read Intersectionality is Itself a System of Power at the Alternative Left.
Read The False Promise of a Return to Religion and Tradition at the Alternative Left.

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