April 2022

Selected essays, including Esme Partridge on a generational rejection of ideals; Nina Power on the family as a bulwark against the tyranny of Left and Right; and pseudonymous lawyer, Techno Fog, on the political power struggle over moral identity in public schools.

The death of Ideals

Esme Partridge in The Critic on "Goblin mode" – a social media trend that, she argues, discloses an underlying metaphysical orientation against all ideals.

Liberalism, itself a product of the Enlightenment, is equally anti-Platonic. Now a thing of this world, truth falls into the hands of the individual; and without a belief in an eternal realm beyond the individual, there can be no ideals.

Within a couple of centuries, Liberalism came to fear ideals. After all, their very existence evinces some standard that is superior to the human individual and his or her personal preferences, causing he or she — knowing of nothing but a world in which their own agency is taken as the prime source of meaning – to be offended by them. For the liberal, the very principle of the eternal appears totalitarian; that it should have any control over their life is practically fascistic.
Goblin mode — and the nihilism that it represents — is the final destination of this anti-idealism, and last nail in the coffin for the world upheld by Platonism. It marks the abandonment of human life as a quest for meaning and the ideals that allow ordinary people to live healthy, happy and productive lives. And in this culture, yet to find a real alternative to materialism, there may be no way back.

Left and Right vs. Mom and Dad

Nina Power in Compact defends the merits of the family as the fundamental bulwark against the tyranny of inhumane forces, which she describes as a war waged by Liberalism, both on the Left and on the Right.

There is a war on the family, waged by both the left and the right. The left wants desperately to abolish the boring, old family in favor of queer communes, polyamory, and alternative “glitter families.” It sinks its hope into artificial wombs, surrogacy, and other grotesqueries designed to sever the maternal and paternal bond and turn all humanity into interchangeable blob-commodities consuming other commodities.

The right, meanwhile, promotes an image of the “traditional” family to paper over the fact that its economic policies make it increasingly harder to start and maintain one. As the oldest millennials hit their early 40s, they are much less likely than Gen X at the same age to be living with families of their own. Many younger people who would like families are finding it economically impossible to do so.
The family, far from being a constraint on freedom, is a source of it: Here you can be loved and understood for who you are. You are not an interchangeable economic unit or homogenized identity. You can protect those you love and those who love you, and try at least to shield them from harm. The market seeps in everywhere, but it can’t ever fully sever genuine human bonds.

For more commentary on the alliance of Left- and Right-liberalism against traditional ways of life, read Patrick Deneen's The Unholy Marriage of Marx and Ayn Rand, also in Compact.

In order to achieve liberation and self-realization, [revolutionary Marxism] ended up embracing the very tools that made the “affluent society” possible: scientism, technology, and capitalism. Ironically, Del Noce concluded, “Marxism led the bourgeois spirit to manifest itself in its pure state.”

Ironies abounded, but none so rich as the fusion of the revolutionary spirit of Marx with the unbounded dynamism of capitalism—the marriage of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand. Thus, Del Noce observed, Marxism’s simultaneous triumph and failure was a peculiar combination of revolutionary fervor and a conservative comfort with bourgeois society. Its revolutionary passion was directed at overturning all traditions and inheritances, both religious and cultural, a generalized “warfare against oppression” that had no aim beyond the shattering of institutions, norms, and communities.
Now we face a new alignment of forces, an “alliance between the technocratic right and the cultural left.” Conservatives focus on expanding and celebrating economic and technological technique. Progressives focus on the liberatory project of sexual emancipation. Their projects intersect in the progressive corporation whose commitment to an equality of liberation is nestled comfortably within a relentless effort to monopolize its sector of the market, transcend any national loyalties, and attain sufficient power to resist political challenge.

The War on Young Minds

Pseudonymous lawyer, Techno Fog, in IM–1776 criticizes the condition of public schools, observing that State mandated instruction has become a political power struggle over what moral identity will be compelled in the classroom, and how that inevitably victimizes children.

If we are to view the latest progressive instruction as new freedoms (liberation from religious or moral constraints), then we must also recognize that they do not come without costs. Redefine the family unit and watch your sons be incarcerated and your daughters become single parents. Throw aside Christianity and be subject to the trends of secular morality, wherever those might lead you. Grant the people “choice” and observe the bodies processed as biological waste and the flirtation with infanticide (or, what the Left repackaged as “perinatal death related to a failure to act”). Albert Camus was right when he wrote that once cast off the fetters of religion, “hardly was [man] free, when he created new and utterly intolerable chains.” Liberty becomes bondage.
Who will pay the price for the sexualization and indoctrination of the young? And at what cost? The answer to the first question, of course, is the young themselves. As for what the cost is, on the large scale – the question of its effects on society – that answer is unknown. What is the impact of adding more broken people to an already broken society? We might soon find out, but for the time being, we can only speculate.

For more on the ethics of parenthood, religion, and State education, read Mary Harrington's  The rise of the liberal groomer in UnHerd.

This moral standoff is the logical end-point of a tug-of-war as old as liberalism: the question of who is responsible for shaping children — and to what ends. In Roman times, parental — well, patriarchal — authority over children was absolute, to the point of granting fathers the right to kill their children. It was the Christian faith that first ascribed universal personhood and dignity even to children, limiting the scope of this authority.
Christian teaching, though, still held that children should submit to their parents. It was the liberalising thinkers at the wellspring of modernity who began winkling out people from under the authority of the church — and children from under the authority of their parents.

How to prevent the coming inhuman future

Erik Hoel uses the moral framework of longtermism to speculate about possible futures related to A.I., genetic engineering, and brain tampering, and makes the case that we should want humanity to remain human.

There are a handful of obvious goals we should have for humanity’s longterm future, but the most ignored is simply making sure that humanity remains human.

It’s what the average person on the street would care about, for sure. And yet it is missed by many of those working on longtermism, who are often effective altruists or rationalists or futurists (or some other label nearby to these), and who instead usually focus on ensuring economic progress, avoiding existential risk, and accelerating technologies like biotechnology and artificial intelligence—ironically, the very technologies that may make us unrecognizably inhuman and bring about our reckoning.
[L]et us consider four possible futures, each representative of a certain path that humanity might take in the big picture of history. While we’re at it, let each path have a figurehead. Then we can imagine the longterm future of humanity as a dirty fistfight between Friedrich Nietzsche, Alan Turing, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and William Shakespeare. Of the four, only Shakespeare’s strikes me as not obviously horrible.