Anonymity and temptation

The young rioters in England wear hoods and masks to hide their identities.  British authorities trying to tamp things down are pondering allowing police to require people to show their faces.

Anonymity is indeed tied to bad behavior.   Shame is one of those first-use of the law phenomena that helps keep our sinful natures from breaking out.  But when no one knows who we are, our inhibitions are released.  We certainly see this in the internet, when people in blog wars and email flames can become much more vicious than they would be in actual person-to-person contact,where the online bomb thrower is often quite a nice guy.

On the other hand, anonymity has its positive uses too, protecting legitimate privacy and shielding the individual from negative social pressures.

Is there a way to balance all of this?

Britain weighs personal freedoms against need to keep order – The Washington Post.

Authority crisis

Rioters as young as nine are looting shops and burning buildings in cities across Great Britain.  Pundits, of course, are trying to answer the question, “Why?”  The left is predictably blaming social conditions–government cutbacks in particular–and the right is predictably putting responsibility on the individual “hooligans.”

I haven’t seen any interviews of the actual perpetrators (fill me in if you have), but I suspect there is not all that much “rage”–pictures I’ve seen are of the young folks laughing as they run off with vodka and electronic appliances–and minimalistic responses on the order of “whatever” to journalists as to all adults.

My theory is this:  Western nations in general are suffering from a crisis in authority.  Specifically, young people today tend not to perceive the validity of ANY authority over them.  Not their parents.  Also not the police, their teachers, their pastors.  Nor the law or a moral code.  And certainly not their governments.

I would say too that we conservatives, while being strong on the authority of the family, may be contributing to the erosion of authority, especially when it comes to the contempt we tend to express for  government authority of every kind.

Not only the person who holds the office–always subject to political opposition–but the office itself seems to be denigrated.  We oppose not just our local Congressmen but “politicians” and “Congress” in general.  That’s different from how I remember it in the good old days of Goldwater and Reagan conservatism, which tended to be very patriotic, “law and order,” “my country right or wrong,” even to a fault.  I don’t deny that our office holders contributed to this new cynicism towards government.  But I’m saying that the social contract needs a general respect for authority, including the authority of the state–a notion that is explicitly Biblical–otherwise, civilization will come apart, as we are seeing in England.

 

UK RIOTS 2011: Manchester and Midlands burn but London is ‘under control’ | Mail Online.

And now the Marriage Pledge for politicians

Republican presidential candidates keep getting asked to sign pledges–not to raise taxes, to oppose abortion, etc.–in order to get the support of key voters.  The latest is a pledge about marriage that goes on to include stances on various issues of sexual morality.  Signers must promise not only to oppose gay marriage, but also to oppose divorce, extra-marital sex, pornography, women in combat, and to believe that homosexuality is a choice.  Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum have signed it.  Mitt Romney refuses to.  Tim Pawlenty has said he agrees with the substance of the document but refuses to sign it.  (Complicating the pledge was a statement since removed that said African-American families were better off under slavery than they are today.  Again, that statement has been removed and the signers are repudiating that part.)

Are such pledges wise?  While they might seal up some voters, won’t they alienate many more?  Given the cultural climate of today, isn’t a politician who signs a statement like this doomed to defeat?   Might Christian activists who demand this kind of ideological purity be engaging in a counter-productive effort, ensuring that candidates sympathetic to their cause will lose rather than win?

via Pawlenty punts, Romney rips Iowa marriage pledge – latimes.com.

Gay marriage & totalitarianism

We have discussed gay marriage in terms of theology and morality.  Now let us consider it in political terms.   What kind of government is it that takes to itself the power and the authority to make such a radical change in the institution of marriage?   George Weigel makes the connection between gay marriage and totalitarianism:

As analysts running the gamut from Hannah Arendt to Leszek Kolakowski understood, modern totalitarian systems were, at bottom, attempts to remake reality by redefining reality and remaking human beings in the process. Coercive state power was essential to this process, because reality doesn’t yield easily to remaking, and neither do people. In the lands Communism tried to remake, the human instinct for justice — justice that is rooted in reality rather than ephemeral opinion — was too strong to change the way tastemakers change fashions in the arts. Men and women had to be coerced into accepting, however sullenly, the Communist New Order, which was a new metaphysical, epistemological, and moral order — a New Order of reality, a new set of “truths,” and a new way of living “in harmony with society,” as late-bureaucratic Communist claptrap had it.

The 21st-century state’s attempt to redefine marriage is just such an attempt to redefine reality — in this case, a reality that existed before the state, for marriage as the union of a man and a woman ordered to mutual love and procreation is a human reality that existed before the state. And a just state is obliged to recognize, not redefine, it.

Moreover, marriage and the families that are built around marriage constitute one of the basic elements of civil society, that free space of free associations whose boundaries the just state must respect. If the 21st-century democratic state attempts to redefine something it has neither the capacity nor the authority to refine, it can only do so coercively. That redefinition, and its legal enforcement, is a grave encroachment into civil society.

If the state can redefine marriage and enforce that redefinition, it can do so with the doctor-patient relationship, the lawyer-client relationship, the parent-child relationship, the confessor-penitent relationship, and virtually every other relationship that is woven into the texture of civil society. In doing so, the state does serious damage to the democratic project. Concurrently, it reduces what it tries to substitute for reality to farce.

via No Homophobia – George Weigel – National Review Online.

“Totalitarianism” does not just mean that the government is authoritarian and anti-democratic.   Plenty of dictators preside over that kind of government, but they are not totalitarian.  That term  means a government that is “total,” that asserts its sovereignty and its control over EVERYTHING.   A government that presumes to alter the institution of the family is surely over-reaching in that direction.

And now, the gender-free pre-school

In Sweden, a government-run pre-school is refusing all gender categories in their dealings with children, to the point of avoiding personal pronouns:

On the surface, the school in Sodermalm – a well-to-do district of the Swedish capital – seems like any other. But listen carefully and you’ll notice a big difference.

The teachers avoid using the pronouns “him” and “her” when talking to the children.

Instead they refer to them as “friends”, by their first names, or as “hen” – a genderless pronoun borrowed from Finnish.

It is not just the language that is different here, though.

The books have been carefully selected to avoid traditional presentations of gender and parenting roles.

So, out with the likes of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, and in with, for example, a book about two giraffes who find an abandoned baby crocodile and adopt it.

Most of the usual toys and games that you would find in any nursery are there – dolls, tractors, sand pits, and so on – but they are placed deliberately side-by-side to encourage a child to play with whatever he or she chooses.

At Egalia boys are free to dress up and to play with dolls, if that is what they want to do.

For the director of the pre-school, Lotta Rajalin, it is all about giving children a wider choice, and not limiting them to social expectations based on gender.

“We want to give the whole spectrum of life, not just half – that’s why we are doing this. We want the children to get to know all the things in life, not to just see half of it,” she told BBC World Service.

via BBC News – Sweden’s ‘gender-neutral’ pre-school.

The sociology of the gay marriage debate

Australian Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at the University of Kent,  looks at the sociology of the gay marriage debate, how the cultural elite are using the issue to achieve moral superiority over the non-elite.

From a sociological perspective, the ascendancy of the campaign for gay marriage provides a fascinating story about the dynamics of the cultural conflicts that prevail in Western society. During the past decade the issue of gay marriage has been transformed into a cultural weapon that explicitly challenges prevailing norms through condemning those who oppose it. This is not so much a call for legal change as a cause: one that endows its supporters with moral superiority and demotes its opponents with the status of moral inferiority.

As a result, it does not simply represent a claim for a right but a demand for the institutionalisation of new moral and cultural values. This attitude was clearly expressed last weekend by Trevor Phillips, chairman of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission. The burden of his argument was to accuse Christians, particularly evangelicals, of being more troublesome than Muslims in their attitudes towards mainstream views. In particular he warned that “an old-time religion incompatible with modern society” was driving Christians to clash with mainstream views, especially on gay issues. Incidentally, by “mainstream” he naturally means views he endorses.

Phillips’s use of language implies opponents of gay marriage are likely to be motivated by “old-time religion”, which is by definition “incompatible with modern society”. From this standpoint, criticism or the questioning of the moral status of gay marriage violates the cultural standards of “modern society”. What we have here is the casual affirmation of a double standard: tolerance towards supporters of gay marriage and intolerance directed towards its opponents.

The declaration that certain values and attitudes are incompatible with modern society tends to serve as a prelude towards stigmatising and attempting to silence it. That is why the so-called enlightened opponents of “old-time religion” more than match the intolerance of those they denounce as homophobic bigots. . . .

In the US, questioning the status of gay marriage is often depicted as not simply a rhetorical expression of disagreement but as a direct form of discrimination.

Consequently, the mere expression of opposition towards a particular ritual is recast as not a verbal statement but as an act of discrimination, if not oppression.

As American journalist Hadley Freeman wrote in The Guardian, gay marriage is not a suitable subject for debate.

“There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgment of subtleties and cultural differences,” she wrote, before adding that “same-sex marriage is not one of those”.

Why? Because “there is a right answer” she hectored in her censorious tone. The phrase “there is a right answer” represents a demand to silence discussion. And just in case you missed the point, she concluded that opposition to her cause should be seen for what it was: “As shocking as racism, as unforgivable as anti-Semitism.”

It is worth noting that the transformation of gay marriage into a crusade against sexual heresy coincides with the cultural devaluation of heterosexual marriage. In contemporary times, heterosexual marriage is frequently depicted as a site for domestic violence and child abuse. . . .

Paradoxically, in some quarters the idea that marriage for heterosexuals is no big deal coincides with the cultural sacralising of a same-sex union.

via Where gay matrimony meets elite sanctimony | The Australian.

HT: Joe Carter


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