Saturday, July 31, 2004

Philosophy: The Greatest Threat to Civilization Is...

Not terrorism. Not rogue nuclear and biological weapons. Not the increasing tension between China and the US. Not AIDS. Not the looming resource battle over fossil fuel energy sources. Not crazy ideologues weilding power. Not resurgent fascism. No ... it's feminism ... at least according to the Pope.

Vatican criticizes radical feminism
Fears movements blurring differences between men and women

The Associated Press
Updated: 1:59 p.m. ET July 31, 2004
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Saturday denounced feminism for trying to blur differences between men and women and threatening the institution of families based on a mother and a father.

The drive for equality, the Vatican said, makes “homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

The concerns, raised in a 37-page document written by one of Pope John Paul II’s closest aides, broke no new ground, maintaining the Church’s ban on women priests, for example.

But some observers said they feared how the document might be used.

Professor Paul Lakeland, an expert on the Catholic Church at Fairfield University in Connecticut, said the paper could be used by Church conservatives to condemn any form of advocacy for women.

The pamphlet by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog, was published during a Vatican campaign to protect what it terms the Christian family. Earlier salvos have blasted same-sex marriage and appeals to politicians, regardless of their religion, to prevent them from winning legal recognition.

Addressed to bishops worldwide, the document contended that new recent approaches to women’s issues are marked by a tendency “to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men.”

Such an attitude, the document said, “has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.”

First of all I agree that the family is taking a hit, and a conservative and an educator I would argue that this has an undoubtedly corrosive force on the evolution of our society and the education of our citizens. Things really are getting worse out there. However I think that times like this point out the major flaws in religious hierarchies. Other religions have their follies as well, but the problem is that when you combine the self-importance of religious conviction with dogmatic hierarchies that claim absolutist correctness you have a big problem.

Personally I think there are a lot bigger threats to the family out there. For instance the fact that most families do have to have two incomes. But they have to do this for economic reasons. Of course some people could argue that these people could get by with less, live in a worse neighborhood, in a smaller house, go to worse schooles, etc. However I would challenge these people would you accept such a standard of living and passing on of expectations to your children? If not, then they should just freaking shut the hell up.

Families put two people to work not because they want to, and usually not because they want the extra cars - it's the reverse - the extra cars are there because people have to work. Kids in high school have to work, not because they need the spending money but because their parents realize they need to absorb the work ethic early to succeed in life. The parents both work, again not because having fancier cars are better, but because they grimly understand what happens to the kids of those parents who are willing to settle less and they see clearly exactly what society is willing to relegate them to.

If you're not getting ahead, you're falling behind, and that's the simple facts in modern day America.

I would support wages high enough so that one spouse could stay home and be the care-giver. I don't think it has to be the mom, though I think for personal and biological reasons generally the mom will choose to do so more often. But I'm all for dads getting into the parenting act. However if you're forcing people not to just choose between a standard of living, but what track their kids are going to get onto and what expectations those children are going to have out of life ... then people will choose to work harder to provide better opportunities to their family.

It's that simple.

Now I'm not saying this because I'm a big feminist guy. I remember meeting my first feminazi. At the time, the word hadn't even been coined. It was this girl, and she was dressed androgynously. I'm not against that, but on her it looked terrible. She didn't have the body to pull it off. She was also incredibly intelligent, and incredibly wrong in only the way that high intelligent and educated people who have learned to believe in utter bullshit can be. I didn't think she was wrong because she had different priorities and values, I thought she was wrong because she slanted her arguments and twisted her logic to meet her preconceptions.

Now I'd always been open minded about feminism. It sounded like a good idea. However the more the avowed feminists I met, the less I had a liking for them. I still maintain that feminism as a policy promoting social equality of opportunity and gender-blindness in business competition is a great idea. I dislike as much as the Vatican the tendency of feminist philosophers to blame patriarchial power structures for their oppression.

Most little girls if you give them the choice, will actually play with dolls. Some will like fire engines instead. Let the little girls who want to play with dolls, play with dolls and the ones who like fire engines play with fire engines. And disturbing as I find it personally, the same goes with boys. I figure if a little boy is going to be interested in playing dress up, maybe he's got a future as a fashion designer and you can't get in the way of that out of a little squeamishness that your little boy might be hitting for the other team. That's just economic reality.

Is there such a thing as a glass ceiling? Sure there is. I didn't deny it. I just don't think that carping at length about it is going to be the best way to remove it. Women are making progress. Perhaps that's why feminism as a philosophy has morphed among young women. They're all about the equality of opportunity and competition, but they'd like on the main to be just girls socially.

However as much as I dislike the feminists I've met and the strange writing of many of their thinkers, the fact is that the movement has declined. The very things I've mentioned have turned off so many people, including women, so that by now the movement has almost no modern social influence so to speak. It's no threat at all.

Which is why it's weird that the Vatican should choose this moment, when people are being raped and burned alive in the Sudan, while HIV infections spread throughout the world, while economic trends squeeze families into working harder to stay in one place, while meglomanacial politicans battle for power while the very sustainable basis of civilization is endangered ... to attack a weak and descredited ideology with almost no political impact so to speak.

I'm sure the pope is a nice guy, but clearly his perspective is limited. It just brings about a spectacle of ridiculousness when he launches an attack like this. Of course other religious leaders do it too, but the fact that power is spread out among many of them dilutes the ridiculousness of any one person's foolish attitudes. The centralized hierarchy of the Catholic church then backs Catholics into either ignoring their pope, backing him up in a ridiculous situation, or becoming guilty of failing to adhere to Church policies.

I mention all of this because it's really a big power play. The Vatican feels that the American parishes have become too liberal and too powerful and too independent from Rome. So it attacks their social values, yada yada yada in the name of the social blight it produces. When viewed in that light, the statement makes perfect sense. Politicians are always ready to play king of the hill, even if that hill is a pile of rubble from their neglecting real priorities for their power games.

It's just that playing a game like that while normal to a politician, is just a little disappointing from a religious and spiritual leader.


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