Tag Archives: closing of the american mind

The collapse of gender roles: an unseen revolution with unimaginable consequences

Summary: Here is another brief note looking at the revolutions of our time that are reshaping our world. This looks at gender roles, changes that will take generations to work out and with implications probably beyond imagining.

Gender Equality

Two of the utopian goals of the late 1960s are within reach, but their success is not fully appreciated. First, the West is at zero population growth (before immigration) — a goal coined by Kingsley Davis in Science (10 Nov 1967), although he said it could not be done by voluntary means (government action would be needed). Second, the shift to a unisex society — with the role of gender drastically reduced (e.g., in child-reading, education, the workplace, dress, behavior).

Combined these two mutually-reinforcing trends (a drastic drop of fertility made possible a more unisex society) represent revolutions larger than those in politics and perhaps even technology. History has seen nothing like these since the shift to agriculture millennia ago.

In one sense we have already made the change: in fiction. Books, TV, and films reflect a more unisex world. Change the names and pronouns in books (e.g., military science fiction), TV, (crime shows “Castle” and “Forever”), and films (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) — can you identify the gender of the characters?

Like most speculative fiction, they assume that gender roles evaporate leaving society otherwise unchanged. That seems unlikely to me. Society might take generations to adjust to the changes that have already occurred, as the existing but outmoded forms of thought and behavior only slowly adjust to the new realities. But the resulting changes might be large beyond our ability to imagine today.

There are few books that even hint at the future that awaits us. One of those is Plato’s The Republic. He describes a city in many ways more alien that that found in most science fiction stories, but which we might be approaching in this one sense. Here Allan Bloom explains how Plato’s insights illuminate our situation.

Excerpt from Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

All the romantic novels with their depictions of highly differentiated men and women, their steamy, sublimated sensuality and their insistence on the sacredness of the marriage bond just do not speak to any reality that concerns today’s young people. …

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Look to the Left to see the force powering Trump and Carson

Summary: Moderates and liberals look with incredulity at the rise of far-right candidates to leadership of the Republican Party, both in the House and in the presidential campaign. How can this happen? The answer is seen in the news, as people look at the Left and choose what they consider the lesser evil on the Right. The Left prefers to ignore how their actions contribute to our darkening politics.

“The world revolves around the inventors of new values; it revolves silently.”
—- #12 from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). See the full excerpt here.

The new era begins

Why have so many Americans embraced the ignorant throwbacks on the extreme Right, servants of the 1%? perhaps because they fear the madness of the Left, and choose what they consider the lesser evil.  Racial and gender quotes plus transgendered bathrooms, taking extreme measures to fight an imaginary “rape culture” on campuses, revising our economic system to fight untested theories of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (following their previous false apocalyptic forecasts about pollution and population growth), opening America’s doors to unlimited immigration, etc. It’s a long and scary list.

Events on US campuses (a bastion of the Left)  most clearly show where the they seek to take America. We see demands for “safe spaces”, “trigger warnings”, mandatory re-education programs (e.g., “diversity” and “sensitive” training), and punishment of “microagressions”. Radicals hold our rights, such as free speech, in contempt. The news overflows with examples, but here are few recent and noteworthy ones.

Can We Start Taking Political Correctness Seriously Now?‘ by Jonathan Chait. WaPo: “These college protesters are demanding the media who cover them support their cause.

Free yoga classes halted at Ottawa College because they are “‘cultural appropriation”. “Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced {and the cultures they} are being taken from {who} have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy … we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga”.

Someone posted vague threats on Yik Yak against minorities at Western Washington University, a response to protests about its mascot (a Viking). Police didn’t consider them a danger. The President cancelled classes, starting Thanksgiving holiday a day early. (AP story.)

As this movement accelerates, even in this early stage it has become quite mad. For example, see this summary describing how “Occidental College May Burn Self At Stake“.  Reason magazine has posted the draft; it must be read to be believed. The faculty is proposing to Occidental College’s faculty is proposing to end it as a place of serious learning. Tuition is $49 thousand per year. Parents paying it should order their children to change schools.

How did this happen? What are the roots of these events on campus?

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The revolution in gender roles reshapes society in ways too disturbing to see

Summary:  Today we start a new series about one of the most profound revolutions ever to hit western society — the change in gender roles. The conclusions of the series are, like so many on the FM website, wildly non-consensus — and disturbing to most readers. This is the warm-up pitch.

Gender Roles

I updated my list of accurate predictions and the (thankfully much smaller) list of failed predictions, and drew two conclusions. The list of “hits” is impressively long (posting the score makes me careful!) but I’ve not made many new predictions in the last year. I’m confused about the economic and geopolitical issues that bedevil our world. So I’ll change the focus to something I believe much easier to forecast: the revolution in gender roles now under way.

Side note: what’s the secret of my forecasting success?  I describe the obvious things that we all see, but that we do not want to acknowledge. This accounts for the dark tone of so many posts on the FM website (despite the occasional posts with good news). For example, the posts about cybercrime and cyberwar by various experts describe trends of extreme importance in a manner understandable by a general audience — yet gets fewer-than normal views. Too disturbing; we prefer not to see. I suspect that this series will provide another example, as its observations and conclusions will upset almost everybody — Left and Right (as usual for the FM website).

For the opener in this series we start with an excerpt from Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. Published in 1987, he clearly foresaw the changes coming to American society. It’s at the top of my list of recommended books.  He’s the equivalent for social issues of Martin van Creveld about war. Here Bloom looks at the revolution — one of the most profound ever — coming to the family and gender roles. It was mind-bendingly prophetic when written 30 years ago; it’s implications remain stunning today.

 From The Closing of the American Mind
Chapter Three: “Relationships”

Relations between the sexes have always been difficult, and that is why so much of our literature is about men and women quarreling. There is certainly legitimate ground to doubt their suitability for each other given the spectrum — from the harem to Plato’s Republic — of imaginable and actually existing relations between them, whether nature acted the stepmother or God botched the creation by an afterthought, as some Romantics believed.

That man is not made to be alone is all very well, but who is made to live with him? This is why men and women hesitated before marriage, and courtship was thought necessary to find out whether the couple was compatible, and perhaps to give them basic training in compatibility. No one wanted to be stuck forever with an impossible partner. But, for all that, they knew pretty much what they wanted from one another. The question was whether they could get it (whereas our question today is much more what is wanted). A man was to make a living and protect his wife and children, and a woman was to provide for the domestic economy, particularly in caring for husband and children. Frequently this did not work out very well for one or both of the partners, because they either were not good at their functions or were not eager to perform them.

In order to assure the proper ordering of things, the transvestite women in Shakespeare, like Portia {The Merchant of Venice} and Rosalind {As you Like It}, are forced to masquerade as men because the real men are inadequate and need to be corrected.

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The third step to reforming America, with music

Summary: Listen to our music for evidence that the steam has gone from America’s engines of reform. The Sixties were the last great age of reform. It two major themes, the civil rights movement (a historic success) and the anti-war movement (a partial success), were partially powered by popular and vital music. What do we have today? How can we conjure up citizen energy when our artists remain bystanders? Or is it our apathy which leads to artists’ disinterest? These things are beyond my ken, so we consult an expert to explain the political power of music.

“Was there a time when you could say that music could change the world and be serious?”
Comment by Cathryn Mataga, who posted this video:

“If I Had A Hammer” by Peter, Paul, and Mary as broadcast on 6 April 1963 at ABC’s “Hootenanny”. See the lyrics.

Reply by Coises

It was perhaps better understood in the sixties that our social institutions derive most of their power from shared beliefs. Change what you believe, and you experience the world differently; change what a critical mass of people believe, and surely the world itself must change. Much of the counterculture was a grand experiment to see what would happen if a large number of people simply stopped believing in some things and began believing in others.

I think the results of that experiment are in, and they indicate that in practice just trying to change beliefs is usually a failing strategy—the critical mass is a much larger fraction than one might imagine. Social systems (and the beliefs that allow them to exist) are incredibly resilient: half a century after the victory of the civil rights movement, it still sucks to be black in America.

… Music can help to change the world, but it has never been enough all by itself.

I believe that reform of America will only come by breaking the box around our thinking, and offering a new way to see America and our politics. For reasons explained below, we’ll know we have hit the mother lode, the foundational love of liberty on which America was founded, when we get musical accompaniment. It can be sought, but not forced (as the Soviet Union attempted with “socialist realism” art).

Recommendation: work to recruit artists to the movement. There is more politics than “interests”, facts, and logic.

The power of music

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
—  William Shakespeare by Victor Hugo (1864), Part I, Book II, Chapter IV

To better understand the power of music, we turn to one of the great sources of insight about modern America: Allan Bloom’s  Closing of the American Mind (1987). This is an excerpt from Part One, chapter 3. Red emphasis added on the vitally important section at the end.

Though students do not have books {as an active force in their lives}, they most emphatically do have music. Nothing is more singular about this generation than its addiction to music. This is the age of music and the states of soul that accompany it. To find a rival to this enthusiasm, one would have to go back at least a century to Germany and the passion for Wagner’s operas. They had the religious sense that Wagner was creating the meaning of life and that they were not merely listening to his works but experiencing that meaning.

Today, a very large proportion of young people live for music. It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does … The enthusiasm for Wagner was limited to a small class. The music of the new votaries knows neither class nor nation.

… The power of music in the soul — described to Jessica marvelously by Lorenzo in the Merchant of Venice — has been recovered after a long period of desuetude. And it is rock music alone that has effected this restoration. Classical music is dead among the young. … Classical music is now a special taste, like Greek language or pre-Columbian archeology, not a common culture of reciprocal communication and psychological shorthand.

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What’s the future of the family in America? How will that change our government?

Summary:  As the dust from the election settles, let’s not forget the powerful elements of the conservative critique of 21st C America. Here we look at one of the many forces driving the expansion of the government — the family. What might be its fate in the next few generations?

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Contents

  1. A question about the family, our government,
    and the future of America
  2. The answer: it’s toast, it’s growing, and …
  3. Allan Boom explains
  4. For More Information

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(1)  A question about the family, our government, & America

Question from Matt D, in response to Civil rights just took a step forward, the slow hard way. The right way. (about same-sex marriages):

I read your first link with quotes from de Tocqueville, and I have a question: How does your support for gay marriage square with de Tocqueville’s observation that the suppression of natural hierarchy among individuals drives societies towards centralized despotism? It is clear enough that the legitimization of same-sex marriage is not a driver of the degeneration of well-defined gender roles, which has been taking place over the last half-century. But it is the direct result of this degeneration, and helps to make it more durable.

Through the lens of de Tocqueville’s analysis, would not the blurring of male-female distinctions represent the elimination of the last natural focus of authority in the smallest and most basic unit of human organization? I won’t speculate about the observable results of this process, as that is a topic where there is much diversity of opinion. But on a purely theoretical level, using de Tocqueville’s framework, will not the man who can no longer order his family and the woman who can no longer be protected by her man be filled with a thirst for an ever-stronger and more intrusive centralized authority?

(2)  The answer: it’s toast, it’s growing, and …

Here we come to deep waters, in which the conservative viewpoint has much to say — if we can find these insights among the trash in which it hides today.

In brief, the family is toast in its current configuration. My guess is that the places where this disintegration have advanced most (eg, Scandinavia, Los Angeles) society is coasting, support by inherited cultural traditions which no longer have any foundation. My guess is that this is one of our greatest social problems, which the boomers bequeath to future generations much as the Founders did slavery. We’ve built a system that we don’t like with hopes it will all work, but no ideas as to how.

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