Cultural Kelvin

image_thumb.pngAwash in the reek of my own community’s orgy of modernity, I found Tim Stanley’s ablution most welcome:

In the words of Joe Orton, “Cleanse my heart … let me rage correctly.” So what do I rage against? I hate our economic system that speculates on people as if they were cattle in a market. I hate modern art that swaps form for dead sharks; and modern music that exchanges harmony for noise. I hate our Conservative Party that preserves nothing and our Left that would destroy everything. I hate religious leaders who think that God is found “in the spaces” and that worship is therapy. I hate our pornographic culture, our tasteless battery foods, and our TV that treats adults like children and children like adults. I hate our obsession with irony, as if a shrug of the shoulders is cleverer than serious inquiry. I hate the death of chivalry, manners and the doffed hats. I hate our promotion of sex over romance – today’s Brief Encounters are very different things. I hate the eradication of guilt and shame, very useful concepts that hold us back from indulgence. I hate the populism that passes for patriotism. I hate our obsession with youth, as if life ends after 30 (I’m 31). And most of all, I hate the new series of Doctor Who. It’s the Death of the West in a nutshell.

. . . .

. . . . I’ve reached the conclusion that traditionalists should reject politics and focus on art. We should take back control of the cultural institutions – universities, academies, churches, periodicals – and use them to promote beauty. We should try to live charitably, fully and well – to be examples and trend setters. We mustn’t turn our backs on the people we disagree with, but embrace and cherish them (please, do not conflate traditionalism with snobbery – Yukio wrote, “The highest point at which human life and art meet is in the ordinary. To look down on the ordinary is to despise what you can’t have.”) And we should not accept our fate as mere critics of civilisation (the figurative version of Mishima’s suicide) but instead become the architects of a new one. For we traditionalists don’t contribute nearly enough to our society. Helping to improve it could mean anything from blogging to writing a symphony. My favourite way to keep the flame burning is to attend the Old Rite Catholic Mass. There is the real synergy of art and action: an ancient ritual, unchanged, unchanging that represents a communion with the past. And, of course, to God.

Besides, it’s pretty lazy to criticize a culture that can’t decide whether families are a priority or whether cities are better off as adult playgrounds. It’s easy to make your community an adult playground – just treat it like such and families stay away on their own.  But it’s impossible to keep a community family-friendly once the hedonists set their sights on it. The law gives family values little protection – mere “sensibilities,” it calls them, meriting no deference.  Don’t like smut in the public square?  Deal with it.  “We are expected to protect our own sensibilities simply by averting [our] eyes,” the Supreme Court holds.  Let a thousand flowers bloom.  No culture is better than another.  Traditional norms are beneath the law’s protection.  To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, the refusal to allow the protection of cultural norms is seen not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of multiculturalism, or at the least, as government support of the beliefs of those who think that cultural norms should be conducted only in private.

False neutrality is the Law of the Land.

Photo credit: Ed Templeton

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187 thoughts on “Cultural Kelvin

  1. The Childless City article is hogwash. I live in one of those famed hipster/adult playground neighborhoods in NYC and I see plenty of parents with kids and babies in strollers. These parents are looking for ways to educate their kids in the city rather than having to move to one of the suburbs. People of my generation and socio-economic group generally want to raise their kids in the city.

    The adult play ground aspect of neighborhood is not that hedonistic either. Its people hanging out with friends in bars or restaurants or, weather permitting, in parks or on the street.

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    • I’ve parented in Seattle and Vancouver. They are great cities for kids they are also very hedonistic in that they take quality of life seriously. Both are outstandingly beautiful natural locations. Both invest in plentiful urban parks with adequate public transit. There are plenty of accessible museums and educational opportunities. The regional cuisine is anything but bland with an abundance of local sea food and local agriculture. Vancouver is way behind on the beer/gastro pub development but things are starting to grow.

      The whole piece is off. What get’s me is he’s writing this drivel from HB. The first piece he links to gives a good traditional look at HB and its culture. Our writer obviously isn’t a HB traditionalist. He’s an interloper complaining about the heathens.

      This brings up Mr. Buchanan. A number of years ago had the terrifying experience of realizing that I agreed with a lot of his ideas: protectionism, isolationist, and Federalism. I’m not racist, Christian, or a US flag waiver. However, when I look at my own society in the NW how should I define myself? I’m not liberal in relation to my surrounding culture I’m conservative. Likewise, conservative Christians are not “conservative” in relation to this culture.

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  2. I’d also argue that the law favors families over hedonism considering how hard it is to get a liquor license, open a drinking establishment, or a club. If its hard to make cities more family friendly, its because nobody wants to pay the tax dollars necessary for family friendly cities. Besides adequate housing, you also need daycare facilities, schools, parks, museums, and other services and amenities for people with kids. These things cost money and business people seem uninterested in providing these services and amenities for the most part. You make a lot more money by providing “adult playground” amenities. The cities largely turned into adult playgrounds because policy favored the automobile suburb since 1945. With a different set of policies, our cities would still be places to raise your family rather than adult playgrounds.

    I also still think that your freaking about one riot. Should riots happen? No, they shouldn’t but one minor riot in one city in a huge nation isn’t a sign that culture is on a decline.

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  3. I don’t agree with any of it but I must say that the conservative mind is able to go on quite the dramatic maximum rant.

    It would be nice if he spelled somethings out like:

    1. How does culture treat adults like children?

    2. How does it treat children like adults?

    3. What does he mean by “tasteless battery foods”? There is a ton of different food out there (Markets! Yay!) Why is it a culture of decline because one dude can’t find anything he wants to eat?

    4. What is pornographic about our culture?

    5. Why should anyone care if he hates the new Doctor Who?

    6. What’s his proof that the Left would destroy everything?

    This is another conservative who sounds like he wants to live in the Shire. A place that never existed and never will.

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    • Yes, lets all go back to the days where most people ate a grain or tuber of some sort for the most part with some vegetables, heavily salted meat, cheese, and butter if they were really lucky.

      During the much longed for earlier days of our republic, most people ate horribly. From Gotham by Burrows and Wallace, the diet of the NYC working class consisted of “bread and potatoes, corn and peas, beans and cabbage, and milk from cows fed on ‘swill’ -by-products of the city’s distilleries.” The horrible diet of the rural poor in the South and the diseases and malnutrition it caused is well known.

      Long live properly regulated free trade and the FDA.

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      • My dad used to say the old greek men he knew in the 30’s would survive on feta, olives and bread. I also assuming there was a more than fair amount of ouzo. That diet might sound good, but if was your only option it would get pretty damn repetitive and boring. Even the foods people used to eat that we consider good now were often their only choice and would often not keep long.

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      • Lee,
        what, you’ve never heard of collard greens? We might have had rickets in NYC, but the country folk didn’t eat /horribly/ even if they were often light on the meat by modern American standards.

        Folks ate beans, they ate peanuts, they ate tomatoes and plenty of greens.

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      • Please, modern music today is about a thousand times better than 50 years ago. At least now I have, at my fingertips, more musicians and more genres and more sounds than stuck listening to the top 10.

        He’s lazy, is what he is. Complaining about other people’s tastes because either they don’t like what he likes, or more likely because his tastes aren’t as popular and thus it’s not spoon fed into his ear via radio.

        Between satellite radio, Pandora and streaming radio, Amazon and ITunes….Jesus, how can you complain about modern music?

        I can dig up The Piano Guys or Lindsey Sterling on YouTube, or on streaming radio dig up anything from Regina Spektor to Beatles, grab any symphony by any composer since the dawn of time to now off of iTunes or Amazon….

        That’s a classic BS rant — because someone didn’t personally hand deliver it to your ear, it must not exist. *eyeroll*

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      • No one needs to be “stuck listening to the top 10,” true, but the result is not universally beneficent. Think of the parallel in American politics: when lots of politicians cater to constituencies whose views do not represent that of American society more broadly, we see lots of undesirable effects in our lawmaking bodies. We can spot similar effects in music, film, and other media. Because it is so easy to reach narrow audiences, we find less and less need to appeal to notes holding broader appeal. Thus, lovers of jazz, or blues, or classical, or blue grass, etc., may find modern music greatly improved since their favorite musicians can more readily reach them. The dark side, however, is that less savory forms are also able to reach audiences. Thus, we get “Top Tens” that need appeal only to the youngest of our society, the most impressionable, and the most hungry for themes of sex and violence. It is in this regime where ditties like Big Man with a Gun find success.

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      • Top Tens are about numbers and buying power

        In short, your complaint is most of America has bad taste, which has always been the case everywhere for everything.

        Shakespeare was once the gutter poet and bawdy writer, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

        Seriously, when was music ever better for anyone? What golden age are we comparing it against? The 50s and 60s where bands, sounds, and lyrics were even MORE heavily managed — and nobody could be heard by anyone without the labels?

        The 1800s or so, when it was the tastes of the rich that were catered to?

        Seriously, who are the Top Tens SUPPOSED to appeal to but the masses? Music is business, like everything else — with the art living in the shadows, like it ever was.

        Heck, Michelangelo spent more time working on crap he hated for patrons than doing what HE wanted — and we call it all art, even though by his standards half of what he popped out was, well, the closest to mass market crap as a sculptor or painter can get.

        Victor Hugo? He wrote for money — paid by the word. Which is why reading unabridged Victor Hugo is an exercise in pain.

        Same gripes as always, really. At least now, well — the niche stuff I can find. I don’t have to live in New York and hope I hear the underground hype or hope they hit it big.

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  4. Perhaps I’d understand the OP better if I took time to read the links and not only the parts of them quoted in the OP. But I have only a limited amount of time in this world, and I have to make choices, and based solely on what’s in the OP (and not knowing who Tim Stanley is, and having had to look up the definition of “ablution”), this post seems like something with some kernels of truth to it, or if not “kernels of truth,” then at least some things that are discussable, to wit:

    1. Hedonism: good or bad? How do we know whether it’s good or bad? How far ought my prerogative to pursue it be permitted to interfere with your right not to condone it? Or, if we quit “what is permissible in a liberal society?” and go on to “what is the good life?,” how do we know hedonism when we see it? If we do know it (or we do see it), how do we know it’s pure, unadulterated hedonism, or just the exuberance we see before everyone sobers up and goes back to work?

    2. Is “society” (however we define it or however we limit ourselves to LA, California, the U.S., western civilization, the world, the universe, etc), getting worse and worse? How would we even go about measuring it? And let’s keep in mind the counterargument presented by the famous Guillermo de Joel: “The good ole days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

    But even conceding these (and perhaps) other items as without knowing much of the context, I have to say the OP seems like what Mike Schilling, above at 5:32pm, suggested it seems.

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      • Tim,

        I didn’t necessarily mean those questions to be sequential, although I admit numbering them and writing them in a sequence makes them seem, well, sequential.

        What I meant to say is that those are the types of questions that are very much worth discussing and they seem to implicate what can be called a “conservative” worldview, although we must acknowledge different types of conservatism and avoid lumping conservatism together as one thing. I personally believe conservatives might be better served by being a little more direct that those questions are among the questions they are asking. And if they do, they might find agreement or at least thoughtful disagreement, from unexpected quarters.

        The League’s commentators and most of its authors, for whatever reason, are mostly almost reflexively non-conservative. So I admit you have an uphill battle. But I also think you’re the one to do it. I don’t read all your posts, but in those I read and comment on, you have been uniformly courteous to me (and it seems to others, as far as I can tell) even in disagreement.

        However, the quoted piece in the OP and the final paragraph come off as more of a rant. Maybe the argument of the OP could be un-packaged. I think a lot of the pushback you’re getting in this particular OP comes from the temptation most of us (me included) succumb to, namely, that we think we see some faulty leaps and assumptions about those who might dare to see it differently.

        So, my questions is, could you clarify what your argument(s) is(are) here? I know I have been snarky in some of my other comments on this thread, but here I’m being serious, because I’m having a hard time parsing it.

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    • “1. Hedonism: good or bad? How do we know whether it’s good or bad? How far ought my prerogative to pursue it be permitted to interfere with your right not to condone it? Or, if we quit “what is permissible in a liberal society?” and go on to “what is the good life?,” how do we know hedonism when we see it? If we do know it (or we do see it), how do we know it’s pure, unadulterated hedonism, or just the exuberance we see before everyone sobers up and goes back to work?”

      I would argue that this seems to be one of the fundamental splits between the left and the right. In the end, I would have to say that most things should be allowed by a liberal society even if I don’t personally get or approve of them. Poly strikes me as being unworkable in the long term (and the idea of trying to concentrate on multiple romantic relationships is headache inducing). The fetish scene is also a bit odd to me. But I can think of no reason to criminalize most behavior between adults if done with complete consent and in private.

      To me being an adult is not about how people choose to spend their free time.

      Yet the right seems to think of freedom differently.

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  5. So i glad to here you’ve come over to the Social Demo side Tim. Many SD measures aim to support traditional families; Uni HC helps people survive in our economic system, many euro SD countries give new parents a stipend AND generous mandated family so parents can stay home stay home with their children, they often have heavily subsidized day care to help out families that need it. All those things are supported by conservatives in the euro countries because they promote stability and allow people to keep traditional roles and give them more options then our freaking system. Glad to have to have you aboard.

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    • The conservative worldview is not pinned on anarcho-libertarian cranks. The idea of subsidizing child-rearing through various means gives me no pause. But I suspect we will differ on what other items ought and ought not to be on the menu. As I mentioned above, the bulk of the problem will not be resolved by throwing money at it.

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      • I’m not talking about your dismissive “throw money at it.” I’m talking about concrete steps that support families and traditional ones at that. I’m certainly not talking about nebulous stuff like taking back a culture or utter vagueness about protecting cultural norms. Whose norms? How do you protect them? Who loses out with the protections you envision? Who gets to decide which norms?

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      • Not being dismissive. I’m saying we may largely agree on the spending programs, just that we’d likely disagree on the cultural aspect. But even there, we could start with an easy one: Virtual child pornography. Can we stipulate that enshrining a “right” to produce, sell, distribute, and consume depictions of children engaging in all manner of sexual conduct as part of our society’s Basic Law suggests something somewhere has gone wrong?

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      • If merely desiring a thing makes obtaining it perfect in a moral sense, then any person whose kid isn’t shoplifting every day of his life by the time he’s 8 yrs old is a complete and utter failure as a parent.

        Which is to say, consideration of social norms can be of societal benefit.

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      • So the Harry Potter Slashfic Archive should be destroyed. Should the 11-year old girls who write stories about Harry/Draco and Neville/Draco (my OTP) go to prison or should they just be put on a list making sure that they never get a job?

        How large of a government task force should be devoted to stamping out Harry Potter slash?

        Should it be unionized?

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      • Well i’ve been researching the WORLD SHOCKING NEWS about Peter Capaldi being the new Dr Who so i may have missed something. Is there a right to make videos of adults having illegal sex with children? Sex with children is illegal, so i would assume making videos of doing that would be justly illegal in a variety of ways. What have i missed? I wonder if the guy you quoted will be happy with the new Dr. Who.

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      • Tim, what is the history of “virtual child pornography.” I mean, for most of our history, any child pornography — and as long as there has been pornography, there has been child pornography — was “virtual” in the sense that it didn’t involve photographs or videos, because photographs and videos weren’t around. What were the laws in the major culture of our history on the production, distribution, and possession of such “virtual” images?

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      • No I saw the word virtual…i just couldn’t imagine what the hell it meant. Are we talking about fantasy or slash fic? If so then of course people can write whatever the hell they want. People have been writing offensive or weird porn for ages.

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      • I believe that Australia has recently made it illegal to have/watch pornography starring actresses with bust sizes below a certain amount. It they cannot be described as “gazongas”, they’re illegal.

        Yay government. Protecting us from yabbos and smaller.

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      • I understood Tim to mean the manipulation of images to make something that appears to depict children engaging in sexual activity although no children are actually involved in it. I have qualms about it myself, but I don’t see the value in making it illegal. There’s always going to be a demand for such things, it’s going to be quite small, and unless we outlaw the internet, its going to be met.

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      • Ahh i see. I guess computer animated child porn is a thing. I’ve seen weirder stuff, usually cthululu themed stuff. Whatever. Weird fantasy porn is as old as the hills. You generally have to look for it to find it. I doubt people are broadcasting it at 9am over the airwaves.

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      • Greg, I think it’s taken on a renewed emphasis because technology is getting to the point where going forward, it won’t be as cartoony as it is now. It has the potential to become very, very explicit. Different from cartoon porn.

        I can understand the concern, even if I don’t agree with the prescription. Aside from free speech arguments, I think it mostly comes down to whether or not it will do something bad. Will this stuff – and I am figuring computer stuff that will actually look like a 30 year old man raping an eight year old girl – promote destructive behavior or prevent it. I think the case for the latter is actually stronger, provided that we limit exposure (and make people who want it have to go out and get it). Much along the same lines as “pornography prevents rape” (by satiating desires) except made all the moreso by the complete (and righteous) unacceptability of their desires being met in the physical realm.

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      • Will- I can see that…well i can see your point that is. If someone wants to see it they should, and will, have to really search for it. The various theories about whether porn, of whatever type, reduce or exacerbate sex crimes don’t have much of any proof as far as i know. I can’t really picture how that type of thing could be researched in any rigorous manner.

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      • It’s already been done, over 20 years ago when the pornography protesting in front of convenience stores was going on.
        The study was funded to find a link between porn & violence against women. They didn’t find any link. In fact, the only notable effect discovered in consumption of porn was dissatisfaction with one’s current sex partner, for males and females alike.

        OTOH, I don’t think I suffer any notable negative effect from my view of my tackling ability by watching the Super Bowl. It seems there would be a threshold level.

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      • They didn’t find any link. In fact, the only notable effect discovered in consumption of porn was dissatisfaction with one’s current sex partner, for males and females alike.

        I believe it, though heck if I have the first clue of what can be done about it… (Did the dissatisfaction lead to any measurable increase in infidelity?)

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      • I’d want to see more than one study. Also studying whether child porn led to child abuse would be different than Playboy leading to rape. To really make a conclusion there would need to be quite a bit of research ( multiple studies, many different populations). Its possible porn doesn’t lead to rape in general but that certain kinds of porn might cue the behavior of people with certain predictions.

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      • Jaybird, if thats true than thats one of the stupidest laws I’ve ever heard of. Bust size is not necessarily a signifier of adulthood.

        Virtual child porn is a tricky thing. Making it illegal makes no sense since no actual children were involved, probably. Yet, its very easy to be disgusted by it. There is a lot of virtual child porn in Japan and it freaked me out during my stay there. It was one of the few times in my left that I felt that something had to be done to stop this and I was only twenty.

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      • I would be concerned about the technology for producing the stuff getting so good that you couldn’t readily distinguish virtual from reality. Then you would be in a position of not necessarily being able to determine if an actual child had been harmed and totally justifiable laws being broken.

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      • Given that existing anti-child pornography laws lead to the creation of more child pornography with new victims, we should welcome virtual child pornography porn. It would appear to be the definition of a victimless crime.

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      • Tim,

        But even there, we could start with an easy one: Virtual child pornography. Can we stipulate that enshrining a “right” to produce, sell, distribute, and consume depictions of children engaging in all manner of sexual conduct as part of our society’s Basic Law suggests something somewhere has gone wrong?

        I probably come down on the side of not outlawing it, as long as it really is virtual and no live people are used as models. Even then, I’m still skeptical of the claim that it satiates rather than exacerbates otherwise harmful desires. I simply don’t know what effect it has.

        But Tim, please keep in mind that my disagreement with you is not based on some glib embrace of hedonism or victimizing children. It’s not even based on a “right” to engage in such virtual pornography. The “right” in this case is the right to speech, of which I believe such pornography is an incident, not a basic right in itself. And my defense of that “right” in this case has more to do with where we draw the line and the ultimate effect of such bans in legitimating something that so far seems justly marginalized. I could be wrong. And you and I could probably argue about whether the right to speech should extend as far as I would extend it, and you, being better versed in law than I am, might very well have the better of the argument.

        Again, I’m in disagreement with you, but it’s not because I’m a hedonist. Even the thought of the virtual stuff disgusts me. To suggest, as I interpret your comment as suggesting, that one’s willingness to permit it necessarily implies approval for it is incorrect without further evidence.

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      • Jaybird, if thats true than thats one of the stupidest laws I’ve ever heard of. Bust size is not necessarily a signifier of adulthood.

        Sigh. Check this out when you’re at home (it’s text but the URL itself may freak out the IT guy at your work). From the link itself:

        For instance, magazine photographs of women with A breast cup sizes have been censored in recent years, reportedly leading to an increase in the average breast size of women in Australian magazines.

        Which brings me to There is a lot of virtual child porn in Japan and it freaked me out during my stay there. It was one of the few times in my left that I felt that something had to be done to stop this and I was only twenty.

        Assuming no children were harmed (which, let me tell you, is *MORE* than sufficient to put a stop to this sort of thing, if you ask me) it seems that this opposition is based on taboo alone. Given that I probably would not be okay with another country imposing its taboos upon the US, I think about why we should impose our taboos on others.

        I mean, would you be okay with an Australia level of boobage bannage in the US because they would look at the various websites out there and respond “something ought to be done”?

        (And there are more interesting countries to choose than Australia, believe you me!)

        To what extent should I give craps about such things as the taboos of employers when it comes to their employees? The taboos of people in that country when it comes to people in this county getting married? The second you divorce evidence of harm from your right to impose your religious (or areligious) taboos on others, it seems to me that we’re in a situation like what Carlin said about driving… anyone who has fewer taboos than you is a pervert and anyone who has more taboos than you is a prude.

        And I read the above and wince as I imagine the followup question would be some variant of “well, are *YOU* okay with people owning really, really, really, really gross stuff? You think that that’s just fine and dandy??? Here’s an anecdote where someone was harmed!”

        And I’ll just say in response that, barring evidence of harm, I don’t see how it’s my business or your jurisdiction.

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      • Schools have started to have to instruct students, particularly female students, explicitly about “sexting” and the like. The number of videos out there… self-made videos of underage girls engaged in both soft-core and hard-core pornographic acts (mostly solo, sometimes with partners) is galling. This presents difficulty for law enforcement because often time the only people involved are minors. I read about one case where charges were brought against the girl who took the “selfie” and the boy who distributed it via text, though both were underage (16 I believe). You also have whole websites devoted to these videos, which I’m sure are run by adults. Those are harder to prosecute because not all the girls are underage but a lot are and proving who is what is damn near impossible.

        Which brings up an interesting question about the morality and legality of all that, given that the “victims” are willing participants, if not sole creators, of the content. Whether they consent to the distribution is another question, one that is not necessarily best addressed via child pornography laws. I think there should be consequences for a 16-year-old sharing his ex-girlfriend’s “selfie” with his buddies against her wishes, but I don’t think they should necessarily involve having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life or hard jail time.

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      • JB,

        I’m going to expand on my earlier point about anti-child pornography efforts creating more victims.

        A few years back I heard a piece on the radio about efforts to curb the flow of child pornography. One thing that the government did was to collect troves of existing pornography and assign digital watermarks to them (I don’t know the tech of it). This made it easier to identify people who possessed or traded this existing material. Much of the material that was out there had been out there for a long, long time. There wasn’t a ton of it so it got good milage. Well, this new system threw a wrench into the gears. The purveyors of the stuff couldn’t trade the same old stock from the 60’s because it was getting them arrested. So, they had to make new stuff. Which meant new victims. New stuff was already being made, but this churned up the demand for new stuff, meaning far more of it was now needed and far more victims were created.

        So while I don’t disagree that harming children via the creation of child pornography is morally wrong and should be stopped, I think we must also consider whether we are actually stopping it. If our efforts create more victims, not fewer, we must seriously reconsider them.

        So when I hear that girls (and some guys, I suppose) are now making their own child porn of themselves and are not victimized, or at least not victimized the way someone forced to do it was, I wonder if maybe that is something that should be tacitly accepted. Virtual porn would be better still.

        I don’t know that we’ll ever quell the demand for it. So if we can satiate the demand with as few victims as possible, well, that is preferable, right?

        Now, this leaves one very major question unanswered: Can the demand be satiated? If a guy who has never looked at child porn suddenly gets the itch and finds some pics and videos, will that suffice? Or will exposure to it make him want more and more and more, thus expanding the demand that way? I can’t say. I don’t know how that all works.

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      • Well, I think that if we look at what has happened to sex-related crimes in the last… what numbers would you want to use? Since Gateway had its first $999 computer? Since AOL hit the scene? Since we had the Netscape vs. Explorer wars?

        Ever since “everybody” had the internet, what has happened to sex-related crimes?

        Are there subsets of the crimes that have gone up?

        I’m under the impression that they’ve gone down and they’ve kept going down but I don’t know if, maybe, there’s some subset that has skyrocketed since the internet has taken off.

        If *ALL* of it has gone down, we just throw up a little in our mouths and shake our heads and move on, I’d think.

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      • JB and Kazzy, I don’t have numbers, but my understanding is that sex crimes have indeed gone down in correlation (not = causation blah blah) with the rise of ubiquitous internet pornography.

        IOW, for all of the worry about how the internet has replaced flesh-and-blood IRL interactions, there are certain kinds of flesh-and-blood IRL interactions that we WANT to replace.

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      • That is my sense as well.

        But do we extend that logic to child porn? Should the FBI or whomever stop using digital watermarks? Even if it helps them arrest some distributors but ultimately leads to more victims? I’m tempted to say yes. But I fear that somehow gets me labeled as pro child pornography. I’d rather the pedos trade photos from the 60s of girls who are dead now than take whatever steps it takes to make more of it.

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      • Kazzy, sexting is an interesting legal phenomenom and a puzzling more one. My belief is that it should not be illegal because teenagers shouldn’t be sent to jail or put on a sex-offender list for doing stupid teenage things. Do not make a potential bad situation worse. Kids experiment with sex once the reach adolescence unless they come from a very strict culture with parents in draconian culture. At the same time, the actual practice of sexting is probably kind of stupid because its one of the things that can kick you in the ass. Your pictures might get much more widely distributed than you intended. Your teenage antics might have consequences latter in life when your workmates find things about your past that you would rather hide. Thats why I think that jailing kids or putting them on sex-offender lists is a stupid idea. It makes something potentially bad much worse than it has to be.

        Does anybody know if there was a similar scandal when the poloroid camera appeared on the market?

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      • Um.
        Definitions around here are making my head hurt.
        Adolescent porn could be treated differently (and ought to be, in my opinion) from actual child porn.

        Folks can spend hours drawing a picture of Bart & Lisa. Maybe you don’t want to see that, but it is actually providing a decent outlet.

        Kazzy,
        Corporations exist that traffic in child pornography. I don’t think they are much affected by American Laws.

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  6. Of course, there’s much that I like and many luxuries of the modern age that I happily exploit; today we treat each other – especially those who are different – with greater kindness than we ever did before. But that doesn’t shake off the sense that I don’t belong in this era and I really do not like it.

    This is inconceivable to me. First, Stanley acknowledges that entire classes of people are now being treated as human beings for the first time in centuries. Second, he makes his living writing on-line editorials and a highly-focused political biography – something that would have either been completely impossible in another age or would have left him destitute. And these two factors – his personal livelihood and the equal rights of his fellow citizens – are outweighed by the fact that some people liked the Yeezus album? Unless he’s exaggerating for effect, this argument is very hard for me to comprehend.

    That said, he’s right to advocate for more engagement with art at the academic level; the art and entertainment culture would benefit substantially from a more diverse outlook on the world. But engaging with the art community is very different from simply “promoting beauty” as he suggests. Artists that choose to express themselves conceptually rather than pursue beauty do so for the same reason that Stanley himself chooses to write critically about modernity and culture – because it’s damn interesting. He may enjoy the “unchanged, unchanging” Old Rite Catholic Mass, but something tells me he’s not interested in joining the Order and performing that same ritual every week for the rest of his life. I hope his call for engagement is a two-way street and not just a means of telling other people what they should like.

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      • I have to say, I’ve gone through one listen on Yeezus and it didn’t really hit me. I have to listen again. I liked some songs, but I didn’t feel it grabbed me like some of his other work. Felt very different. Not necessarily worse, but different. Darker? I dunno. I have to listen again.

        “Black Skinhead”, the song that most stood out, felt very familiar. Almost like Outkast’s “The Whole World”. Did it sample that?

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      • I was a little bit worried that you wouldn’t like it after you talked about your love for horns and maximalism. This is, on many tracks at least, as close as Kanye gets to minimalism.

        I don’t hear “The Whole World” (which may be my favorite song on that album) in “Black Skinhead,” but I definitely thought the beat was from Marilyn Manson, which is apparently the case. Here’s a list of the samples:

        http://www.vibe.com/article/listen-kanye-wests-yeezus-samples-revealed

        All parts of the decline of Western Civilization, no less.

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      • Chris,

        When people rail against modern art, I always wonder what their stopping point is.

        The swipe at Damien Hirst was obvious and I am not really a Damien Hirst fan myself* but I wonder how the author of the essay would feel about David Hockney, Matisse, Chagall, Wayne Thiebaud, etc. I find all those artists to be very beautiful.

        *Hirst is good for wonky conversations on the fine line between art and commerce and whether the artist is tricking the rich or vice versa. Then again, this might be the point.

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      • If he insults Matisse, we’re going to have to throw down. Or from his preferred era, pistols at ten paces.

        Relatedly, I cannot stand contemporary poetry. I mean seriously, I cannot stand it. I’ve been close to two serious poets (academics, who basically wrote and talked about writing poetry for a living), and spent way too much time reading and discussing their poetry and the poetry of other contemporary poets, going to readings by contemporary poets, etc. When I didn’t find it unreadable, I generally found it pointless. Most of it is poets writing for poets, and it’s not hard to get them to admit that. It would make no sense, however, for me to think that this is a piece of evidence in any case I might make that we need to return culture to its 19th century state (when, of course, there were a whole lot of people who felt like society had declined into some sort of hedonistic, secularist chaos since the 18th century, or the 4th century B.C.E.).

        Hell, if you put a beer or two in me, you might get to hear my rant about capitalism, consumerism, and culture (it’s a big hit at parties!), but you won’t also hear me say, “This means we need to go backwards, to a time when only people who think like me had a voice, not forward.”

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      • Seriously, I’ve heard that whole “Conservatism means to conserve” thing a few times, and it’s basically a line of crap.
        Regardless of its source, it’s still a line of crap, was a line of crap before it was ever uttered, and will remain a line of crap long after this planet disappears into the galaxy in a giant flaming mass.

        And the reason it’s important to recognize that is that treating it as if it is not tends to derail a lot of conversations which might otherwise have had some sort of opportunity to be at least a little bit productive.

        And then it degenerates into the historical verbiage.
        One bullshit line after another.

        Like I’m really out to change every Xbox into a Sega Genesis.
        Get real.

        Fact:
        Conservatism, like liberalism, is about ideals; the ideals of people here and now, and for concern of the ideals of persons long dead.
        Were the ideals in question not contemporaneous, they would cease to be of use or of purpose.

        Conservatism differs from liberalism in the weighting of values.
        That’s it in a nutshell.

        Really, conservatives typically have concerns more important than simply resisting the turning of the calendar pages.
        And if not, they’re screwed from jump.

        Which reminds me, I need to go turn my calendar . . .

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      • Contemporary poetry isn’t all bad, though the value of the jewels vary in value in direct proportion to the size of the dung heap. Music written for other musicians suffers from the same problem: mighty trains full of pretentious bullshit pull out of the marshalling yards of academia every day, bound for glory / oblivion.

        I’ve said hip hop rises and falls on the strength of its poetry. The music is incidental and most of that is borrowed. It’s certainly not the music which holds hip hop together: it’s the poetry and the poet.

        There are plenty of good American poets. You just don’t know where to look for them. Try the poems of Heather Christie. Brilliant little things.

        The entire point of Conservatism is to translate its values into modern times. That means conserving, however much you might find that to be bullshit. Listen to what the modern self-described conservative is saying — are you seriously implying this is just a philosophy, a set of ideals? It is a plan of action and it doesn’t take prisoners. It justifies itself on the basis of supposed errors made by Liberals and it does so all the day long. Read Robert Bork, the single greatest conservative writer and tell me again this is just bullshit. Of course it’s about values — the values of the past. There’s no innovation in there, like the fundamentalist Islamists who call innovation bid’ah, they do not brook any discussion on the subject of Eternal Truths.

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    • Second, he makes his living writing on-line editorials and a highly-focused political biography – something that would have either been completely impossible in another age or would have left him destitute.

      It is an idealized past, so presumably he would have inherited a modest competnce, invested sensibly in Consols paying 3%.

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  7. From the linked piece, “So, short of building a time machine and going back to the 1860s, what is there left to do?”

    There are quite a few reasons why I wouldn’t be inclined to build a time machine and go back to the United States’ 1860s. And pining for Victorian Britain from a UK conservative, how very predictable.

    From I, Claudius,

    Thallus: The Theatre isn’t what it was.
    Aristarches: No, and I will tell you something else. It never was what it was.

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  8. Basically:

    “Kids today have bad taste in art, music, are surrounded by smut and are having too much sex, don’t care enough about the generation after them and drink too much. Also they have haircuts, which makes me very mad.”

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      • What generation are you, Will? In spite of all that I know about you, I’m not sure I know that. I hit 30 in 3 1/2 weeks… AHHH! I don’t think I’m one of the “kids these days”, but I’m curious if I’m closer to you or them, both chronologically and culturally.

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      • Kazzy, I am right in between X and Y. I consider myself at the tail end of the former rather than the beginning of the latter simply because my brothers are older than I am and I consider myself of their generation, if that makes sense.

        Truthfully, though, I don’t actually consider the kids today to be worse. I think it hit rock bottom with my generation. By some metrics, things have been getting better since.

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      • I tend to dismay over the “kids these days”, which includes a number of people my age or older (Generation Y), but more because I think they are assholes than that they are ruining society. I doubt if their assholeishness is really worse then previous generations, though it might be amplified or pushed to weird limits by the proliferation of the internet. Take hipsters: it’s not enough to just be the most ironic person in their neighborhood. They have to be the most ironic person in the world. Which means if they live in NY but catch a Twitpic of some dude in SanFran wearing a feather in his hair, they feel the need to go full headdress.

        I do sometimes wonder about the proliferation of sex and “sex-lite” behavior among increasingly young kids. It’s hard to know how much of the shift is real and how much is ginned up by fear mongerers in the media* or kids just being more open and honest about it**. And not because I think such behavior is evidence of moral decay, but because I was the type of kid that fell in love with any girl I even so much as held hands with, so the emotional component of physical relationships can risk damaging kids like myself. Albeit, not all kids are/were like me, so, their mileage may vary. I also am sometimes concerned about porn, only insofar as I believe that it can have a deleterious effect on sexual relationships between real-life partners. That has more to do with technology than it does with shifting morals and I wouldn’t seek to ban it as much as I’d like to do a PSA entitled, “Don’t expect triple anal, brah.”

        * When Oprah did a special on “hook up” culture, my mom decided she was going to talk to us about “hook upping”. Excruciating.
        ** I doubt making out was the only thing that went on at the various “makeout points” scattered about the country. But back then, you couldn’t LiveTweet your friends about the hummer you got in the back seat.

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      • I teach lots of kids who are on that cusp between adolescence and adulthood. I find most of them are all right, a few absolutely suck, and more than that are really good. Pretty much the same proportion I find among the generations ahead of them.

        Tim Stanley, though, is much younger than me, and so his hate-filled intolerance makes me question the generation born in the ’80s. ;)

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  9. If you are unable or unwilling to teach your children about the world, including the smut and that which you don’t personally agree with, you have no business bringing them into this world.

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  10. The world is burdened with young fogies. Old men with ossified minds are easily dealt with. But men who look young, act young and everlastingly harp on the fact that they are young, but who nevertheless think and act with a degree of caution that would be excessive in their grandfathers, are the curse of the world. Their very conservatism is second hand, and they don’t know what they are conserving.

    -Robertson Davies

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    • I recognize myself to much in that quote. I’m not a conservative in the political sense but I was blessed or cursed with a sense of caution that really prevented me from getting really wild. I’ve done some amazing things in my life but none of them were hedonistic.

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      • Ecch, the pleasures of hedonism are overrated. Once sated, the hedonist becomes bloated and bilious and nothing can please him any more.

        Was a day when I was a Dutiful Child and a terribly serious young man. I wanted to please my elders and feared the consequences of displeasing them. Should have seen me back then, a ridiculous young man, aping my betters, a revolting, unctuous little cheeze-eater. It all came to a head when I looked in the mirror my sophomore year of college and saw myself turning into my father.

        Timothy Stanley will burn out soon enough. I’ve known this sort of guy all my life. For quite a while, I was him. Americans have rum ideas about the British — but their ideas about us are even odder, especially a Temperamental Conservative such as this bumptious young Catholic-by-conversion gentleman and nostalgic little snob. Tim Stanley has made much hay opining on American politics. Like a man messing about with the tongs in someone else’s fireplace, Tim Stanley will soon find a burning log rolling out onto the persian carpet: I suspect his Pat Buchanan biography is that log.

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      • Lee,

        For me, the issue is choice. It is one thing to have a limited life experience foisted upon you and another to opt into it. In many ways, Zazzy and I took a more conservative route. We did the whole get married, buy a house, and have a kid thing all before 30… which probably puts us behind the pace of generations past but puts us ahead of most of our peers. Other friends quit their jobs and traveled through southeast Asia on a whim… or abandoned a career to sell cheese with a boyfriend who she couldn’t live without until a few months later when they broke up, but cheese she still sells… or travels the country in a well-paying job throwing parties for celebrities to promote liquor. It’s awesome that they could carve those paths for them. I had every opportunity to do something similar, but took another route. There were some demographic factors in there (e.g., it is easier to quit a job when you know you can fall back on your parents for financial support if need be), but personality drove the bus.

        Funny thing is, for a time, I’d look at them and think, “I wish I could do that. Good on them!” Now, when I talk to them, I think, “Cheese!?!?! You can’t fund your 401K with cheese!” Different folks, different strokes. To me, it doesn’t get better than that.

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      • Kazzy, I hear stories about people doing things like all the time. To a certain extent I envy them. I just don’t have the personality to take a risk like that no matter how badly I want to. Its a combination of responsibility and fear. I keep wondering what the negative consequences would be. At the same time, a lot of these people do screw up their lives and I have a bit of schnderfraude (sp?) over it.

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      • We took the path we did for a number of reasons;
        1.) What you described about as a combination of responsibility and risk-aversion.
        2.) Zazzy and I are both “planners”.
        3.) A desire to have children relatively early, both because we were eager to become parents and we wanted to best avoid down-the-road age-related complications (for either Zazzy or the children).
        4.) We have set ourselves up, theoretically at least, to retire relatively early. I’d rather travel the world at 55 with a lifetime of savings to bankroll it and (hopefully) passions that have moved beyond getting drunk on the local mead than at 23 when I have to nickel-and-dime it and potentially shortchange the experience.
        5.) Related to #1, Zazzy and I are both savers. By and large, we’ve been raised to be financially independent*. Most of the friends I know how took the bohemian route has more familial safety nets in place should finances become an issue.

        * Zazzy moreso than I, largely because my parents were of more means than her. Both sets of parents contributed to college, leading to us both graduating debt free (her primarily because of ROTC, me primarily because of money left by my grandmother; both parents helped pick up ancillary things). Both sets of parents are able to help out here and there… a $500 check when the baby arrived or the purchase of a rocker for the nursery. But were we to end up unemployed, rent checks would not be forthcoming. We’d be welcome to return to our childhood beds under the condition we don’t eat them out of house and home, but we would not be bankrolled. Also, we both grew up in households where money was tight (both families saw this situation improve as we aged), and this ingrained a certain thriftiness and risk aversion. I don’t think the ingrained sense of financially security can be overstated when looking at who does and does not take the sorts of risks described.

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  11. Others have pointed out the general principle that traditionalists are nostalgic for something that never existed. But for a traditionalist to issue a call “to restore authority to the Emperor” is particularly laughable.

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      • Even if there are right-wing nationalists in Japan that would be right at home in the Meiji oligarchy, it’s a lot harder for anyone outside that particular bubble, including non-Japanese traditionalists, to wax romantic about the traditional saber-rattling militarism.

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      • I have my own theory about the Japanese right wing. The Japanese were propelled straight out of a particularly onerous form of feudalism into the modern world. There was no Enlightenment phase, though there was a Renaissance of sorts.

        The West had the legacy of the Church, which had preserved some aspects of the ancient pre-Christian writers but it was the Muslims who reintroduced most of the freethinking ancients to the West. The Japanese had the legacy of Shinto, their own organic religion. Buddhism was an import. As with all things Japanese, they’d sized up Buddhism, gotten out the chisels and files and built an intricate piece of joinery to fit them together into a single piece. Buddhism and the warrior ethos never quite fit, especially not Hachiman the god of war.

        The Meiji Era was a frank admission Japan needed to unite in the face of external threats or face the same dreary fate as the Manchus in China.

        Tim Stanley is wrong about Yukio Mishima’s writing. Stanley, if you’re reading this, read Kinkaku-ji, Mishima’s novel about the arson on one of Japan’s most beautiful buildings. Mishima’s friend Ivan Morris translated it into English and wrote The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan.

        The traditionalist does have a role in the world: the conservator, the restorer, the preserver of good things. The art of calligraphy guided Steve Jobs to create a computer capable of creating beauty — but Steve Jobs was never a calligrapher. The traditionalist cannot hope to Create Trends. In a world full of shoddiness, the traditionalist’s job is to be the critic who points out that wretchedness and ugliness. If traditionalists have not contributed to society, they’ve been unwilling or unable to preserve what’s good and right from the past, transfiguring mere tradition into something right and proper for our times. Traditionalists will not take control of cultural institutions, not while they’re whinging about guilt and shame. That’s very silly.

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      • The farther south you go in Germany, the more Catholic it becomes. and by the time one gets to Munich, it’s all Catholic for all practical purposes. We see the same phenomenon in Louisiana, where the Protestants run the show north of I-10 and the Catholics run the show south of that mighty highway.

        The Catholics have raised both guilt and shame to an art form. This leads them to interesting ways of blowing off steam. Oktoberfest is just a vast party. But Fasching is where you can see just how much weirdness is bottled up in these people. Mardi Gras, same – same.

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  12. Also, am I the only one who pictured Stanley uttering his “that’s just so… Japanese” line with a cup of tea in his hand, pinky stuck out, to a bunch of white guys with with perfect posture and bad comb overs who say “splendid” too often and go on fox hunts?

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    • What I’m picturing is going to a friend’s house, and it turns out to be a high tea with cucumber sandwiches and petit-fours, followed by a spot of sherry. When I ask what it’s all about, the host says he was inspired by Stanley. And I say “Kowalski?”

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      • Nah. You’re falling into a clichéd view of UK snobbery. You need to understand Tim Stanley is not a cucumber sandwich type. His type hate Tories. He’s a Labour twit, much enamoured of the doughty working man and he’s not having afternoon tea at Harrods, thank you. He’ll be having a good strong cup of PG Tips and a meat pie.

        Americans always get this wrong. High tea is really an early dinner. It’s a working class thing. Afternoon tea, with all those goodies on the pushabout cart, that’s an upper crust affair.

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      • Speaking of Kowalski, if I wanted to write an essay for Mindless Diversions on Blue Jasmine. Where would I send it to?

        BlaiseP, I know a woman on the Internet from North of England. She always says a steak sandwich is a tea time treat. Though I find it hard to argue with buttered scones.

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      • It is So Very Japanese. Japanese love failed heroes, Don Quixote types, they’re terribly excited when a baseball game goes to a tie score because either side could win and one won’t. Hougan-biiki , from Yoshitsune, sympathy for the tragic hero. Americans have something of the sort, rooting for the underdog, but the Japanese carry it much farther. Mishima is just such a failed hero, an oddball in a conformist society. Even in their rebellion, the Japanese are true to form.

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      • Look, you can go on inferring what you like from Tim Stanley’s interpretation of Nihon no okashina, Japanese bizarreness. Stanley completely misunderstands Mishima’s point, or to put a finer point on it, muimisa, the senselessness of the act. Mishima had no sense of the sacred as we’d understand it in the West. Mishima famously said sacredness was like dreams and memories: out of reach.

        I’m no authority on the Japanese mindset, though I speak the language reasonably well and could pretend to be. This much I do know about Mishima, he’s a failed hero in a long tradition of failed heroes in Japan, heroes because they failed greatly where most people fail quietly. The Japanese respond to failure by committing suicide. It’s viewed as the honourable way out, a conscious choice. Death before dishonour, that sort of thinking goes right to ground level in Japanese society.

        Your problem, it seems to me, is the same problem Tim Stanley has: you’re projecting some elitist attitude onto Stanley-the-Englishman out of your own lack of experience with them, as Stanley’s projecting onto Mishima-the-Japanese from the shallowness of his own experience with Japanese people. Whatever is wrong with Tim Stanley isn’t elitism of the sort you’d grasp immediately without contact with Labour Twits. Tim Stanley is a Miniver Cheevy who adores the American Republican Party, seeing it at a great remove from the reality of actual American life.

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  13. Tim, I know you’re getting a whole lot of pushback from this post, but I wanted to let you know that I liked it. I don’t agree with all of it, and do agree with some of the criticisms (others I think are off-base), but a lot of it definitely does strike a nerve with me.

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  14. I’m generally sympathetic to the line that neutrality requires a G-rated public space.* Why? because some things cannot be unseen. So, if some people wish to go through life without seeing certain things and others want to see certain things, then having a non G-rated public space systematically disadvantages one group over another. It is difficult to avert one’s eyes while walking about in public.

    * It seems to me that with sex shops and lingerie ads right out in the open, public spaces are more PG-13. But people under 13 go outdoors without supervision too. Substantive views about what levels of prudery are appropriate are just that: Substantive views which it would be illiberal for the government to impose even if it were correct.**

    **I see that to some extent imposition of cultural norms is unavoidable, as we don’t require women to wear burqas, but everyone can at least point to a general standard which they can violate for their own kids by exposing them to sex earlier. Suppose we allowed advertisements to show full on sex where anyone could see it. I’m sure a lot of parents would complain and if they were told that such are the facts of life and that we are too prude and hung up about sex anyway, parents could reply (rightfully IMHO) that we may think that and if we could raise our own kids that way but we have no right to tell them how to raise their own kids or for that matter exposing their kids to things that they think that their kids are not ready for.

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    • I’m actually in agreement with you. In a past thread I argued passionately that certain actuals should not be done in public because they disturb the public peace and the enjoyment of the commons. Public wildness isn’t necessarily a good idea. However, I doubt that many parents would complain to much about ads full of sex in public. NYC is filled with sex shops and ads for things like grindr. They don’t depict the act but they come as close as possible. People really don’t complain about it.

      More conservative parts of the country are actually worse. When I drove across country, one of the sights that struck me as really weird were all the billboards for porn shops in some very conservative areas of the country.

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      • I’m an over-the-road truck driver. That means I literally drive all over the lower 48 (plus D.C. of course). And you’re right, the Bible belt has by far the most huge porn emporiums.Some places it seems like there’s one every twenty miles or so on the interstates. Also humungous fireworks stores for some reason.

        I recall reading somewhere that Utah consumes the most porn per capita. Naughty, naughty Mormons I guess.

        Maybe blue-states just get theirs more over the Internet or something.

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      • I think I have an old post somewhere where I more or less said that the conservative parts of the country are not really that conservative as they have few if any practices that could help rein in their libido.

        Once you let your teenage kids start dating you’ve lost the battle already.

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      • Murali, what do you mean by fewer restraints on their libido? I think its more of a thing that they have fewer things to do for entertainment/leisure and more space to do the naughty in it. If you want to to get intimate with your partner in a big, dense city than you have certain logistical problems if you don’t live alone because you need a bit of privacy. Roomates are one thing, parents and other relatives are another.

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      • I come from a much more socially conservative culture than what you call social conservatives in the US. I am not entirely atypical among men of my generation in the Brahmin community here namely being 28 years old and still living with one’s parents, never having been on dates etc etc etc. The amount of social disapproval of even going on a date in your teens is extremely large. Because the community is relatively small and close knit, a good or bad reputation can develop very quickly.

        Marrying someone who was not pre-approved by parents is mildly scandalous. Marrying a non-Brahmin Indian more so and marrying a non-Indian results in people just ignoring the whole thing. The Mormons have nothing on us. Compared to the Brahmin community in Singapore, most (as in almost all) sub communities in the US are hedonistic libertines.

        The problem with the US is that they don’t have the sheer weight of social expectation. i.e. even if they have very conservative ideals, they have no expectation of follow through on those ideals. They have already tacitly accepted that they very likely would not be able to live up to those expectations. That is where the I am human and humans routinely fail thing comes from.

        Here, it is not the case. Somehow, the expectation to not participate in standard mating rituals has been so firmly entrenched that there are significant effects on behaviour.

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      • Murali, that makes sense. The teenagers in America that are least likely to have sex are the ones that have a lot of social expectations on them. Not social expectations in terms of dating, romance, and sex but in what they want to do with their life. They do a cost-benefit analysis and decide not to have sex encase any of the unintended consequences happen. Elite schools like MIT or the Ivies have a higher percentage of self-reporting virgins than non-elite schools. In the United States, ambitition seems to be the best way to promote abstinence.

        That being said, I don’t think that your social expectations can ever be re-introduced into Europe and European-derived cultures like the United States or Australia. The love match has been idealized for so long and the arranged marriage so out of practice that its going to be nearly impossible to get rid of things like dating and anything else. The assumption is that you should find your own mate even in some of the most socially conservative circles.

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      • Lee,
        The teenagers in America that are least likely to have sex are the ones that have a lot of social expectations on them.

        … haha. this is silly.

        You do realize that one can report being a virgin despite not being one? That one can think they’re a virgin despite not being one?

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      • In 2008, there was an article in the New York called Red Sex, Blue Sex about the different sexual morality conventions among U.S. Demographics. One thing that struck out to me is that apparently surveys show that Jewish-American teenagers/young people are:

        1. The groups least likely to have any moral or psychological hang-ups about sex. I.e. they have no fear about burning in hell or moral disapproval because of it.

        2. However, they are the group most like to delay having sex (not too late or until post-marriage) but because they fear an unexpected pregnancy delaying valuable educational and career opportunities like internships, studying or working abroad.

        So the best way to prevent pregnancy before marriage is not to say it is sinful and you will burn in hell but to say “What if you got an opportunity to work or study in Lomdon?”

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      • I think a part of the reason for the porn emporia is that setting stuff up in town can be made more difficult by meddlers, bible thumpers, and moral showboaters. And so stuff gets pushed out of town where land is cheap and plentiful and why not go big?

        I know that back in Colosse, you go out of town a ways and suddenly you just have a never-ending row of porn places and strip joints. It’s not that this particular place is so immoral. It’s that a while back Colosse set up a bunch of ridiculous restrictions on strip joints that made it easier for them to form out of town. (And, of course, a lot of the inner suburbs didn’t want that stuff anywhere near them.)

        No, I don’t think that this is all that’s going on. But I think it plays a role.

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      • Newdealer,
        again, statistics are not kind to your argument. You’ll find the pregnancy rate between CTY and “Jewish Summer Camps” to be markedly different, with the main difference being “how much adult supervision” is given.

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    • Murali,

      You make some really good points here. However, I do think we’d benefit from more natural exposure to the human body. I doubt kids who grow up in cultures where women are often topless suffer for their exposure. And I bet if they saw breasts in contexts other than ones that are titillating they would be something other than titillated by them. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with being titillated by breasts; much of that is evolutionarily baked in. But I can say that from personal experience, I have become less titillated by breasts (in a good way!) since Zazzy has started breast feeding. Not only do I see them as something more than just “fun bags”, but their presence has become normalized. They are exposed so often (in the house) that there is neither something forbidden nor special about their appearance.

      Much of it is the whole forbidden fruit thing. I’m actually considering writing a post on the matter. I agree that hypersexualization can be an issue, perhaps even such that we should seek to restrict it. But not all expressions of the human body need be sexualized. A woman breastfeeding, a group shower in the men’s locker room, a couple sunbathing nude… all of that helps to normalize the human body, to make it less taboo, and to ultimately tone down the sexy. You’ll probably sell less soda using woman with puffed up lips and buoyed breasts in teeny bikinis in a culture where nudity is normalized than one where it is forbidden.

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      • Kazzy, you might be right in terms of what is good for people, but as with all conceptions of the good, it is not something that the state can legitimately impose on those who disagree. This is where what Rawls called reasonable pluralism comes in. Some other person who does the minimum required amount of thinking about such things that can be legitimately be expected of everyone can come to a different answer. For example, you might say that all these hang-ups about sex cause unnecessary guilt and angst. Someone else may just say that these are things that people should angst about. That repressing these feelings is the right thing to do even if it is difficult psychologically. i.e. bodily or psychological harm are sometimes the price we have to pay for moral rectitude. The worry is that there are values that are often kept implicit in all these discussions which not everyone necessarily shares.

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      • I agree. I was musing more on, “This is what I think would be better,” than arguing, “This is what ought to be.”

        I should be more specific in my compliment of your original comment, while I have your ear. I’ve long resisted the idea of doing what I call “catering to the lowest common denominator.” I push back against the idea that we should cater to the people with the lowest possible threshold. Your point on things being unable to be unseen is a worthy challenge to that. I can’t say I’ve changed my mind (when do I ever???), but I can say it is probably the best counter I’ve seen and has given me pause.

        I must also note that conversations like this often make it very hard to use terms like “conservative” and “liberal”. Are the African peoples whose women walk around topless “liberal”? What do we make of liberal parents who shield their children from pop culture not necessarily because of its hedonistic decadence but because of concerns about sexism? Their path is different, but they often arrive at a similar destination as their conservative peers: less boobs on TV.

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      • I agree. I was musing more on, “This is what I think would be better,” than arguing, “This is what ought to be.

        Fair enough.

        I should be more specific in my compliment of your original comment, while I have your ear

        So that’s where it was…. couldn’t remember where I put it. Would be forgetting my head next if it weren’t screwed on…

        …Sorry, couldn’t resist. *grin*

        Agree with you about what happens when people make similar choices for different and disparate reasons. Calling that liberal or conservative gets less and less viable. But, is the problem just terminological or is there a deeper matter at stake?

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      • I think it is an issue terminological, but that isn’t the major one.

        Maybe the conservative prudes and liberal feminists agree that the billboard with the busty model is wrong. They hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and make a bipartisan effort to eliminate it. Huzzah! But then it is replaced by a Cheerios ad featuring a young girl and her two dads sitting around eating Cheerios together, all fully clothed. Or a Clorox ad showing a woman in 50’s garb on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. My hunch is Kumbaya would come to an abrupt end.

        Strange bedfellows might not stay strange bedfellows for long, and could simultaneously create a slippery slope that runs in both directions.

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      • The entire forbidden fruit thing is bunk. Drugs are a forbidden fruit in the United States and certainly a lot of people are attracted to them for that reason but many people just want to do drugs and other people go through their lives without any desire for experimentation. Legalization isn’t going to cause people who are doing drugs to stop doing it. It doesn’t work that way with drink. I imagine the same thing is going to occur with sex. Nobody is going to grow more puritanical in a more openly sexual society. The wild people are still going to be wild.

        The danger with having a society that is do hedonistic is that there is a bit more to life than hedonism and the pleasure crawl. Not even getting into things like rape or pedophilia, a lot of people get into some rather serious trouble because of sex or other pleasure. They kind of over indulge and need others to bail them out. Some level of discipline and restraint is necessary on any pleasure in order for society to work.

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      • Lee,

        I think a lot of our hangups about sex are because of a Janus-like relationship with it. Advertisers can bombard us with images of women wearing next-to-nothing, but a woman walking down the street topless will be in trouble with the law. It’s screwy. And I think sexual attraction and urges, which have evolutionary and biological roots, function differently than drugs and booze. I think if we saw the human body as more than just a smattering of sexual organs, we’d be in better shape.

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  15. I hate … music that exchanges harmony for noise.

    Let he who has ears to hear, hear. I once despised heavy metal music as mere noise, but it was an uneducated spite. I have a vivid memory of the day a friend sat me down and taught me to actually hear heavy metal and I–a (hack) musician myself, who had taken music appreciation and music theory courses–suddenly heard the music (and harmony) in it. I still don’t like it much, but I know that those who think it is mere noise are less sophisticated than they imagine themelves to be.

    I hate …our Left that would destroy everything.
    What a crock of shit. Any time someone makes such an absolutist statement, particularly when it is to imply that group X has no redeeming value, we shouldn’t just hear warning bells, but should stop reading and consign the author to our dustbin of “fools we should ignore” without any hesitation.

    And all that from a guy who claims to value “serious inquiry.” There’s nothing serious in his argument, and his parade of hates suggests someone slightly pathological rather than someone truly thoughtful.

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    • lol. I once hated beer — true story. Loathed the stuff. Couldn’t explain why anyone would drink the crap.

      Then a friend sat me down, and I learned what I hated was crappy beer. Which was, apparently, what my normal circle of friends drank.

      Not that I’m a beer snob — it’s more akin to realizing that, well, Coors ain’t for me. :)

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      • Not that I’m a beer snob

        Are you criticizing us beer snobs?

        I hate the prevalence of cheap mass-produced horse-piss beer. Back in my day we all drank high quality craft brews. It was a better culture back the, but it’s been destroyed by the liberals, who hate everything good about America. Hell, you can’t attend a Democratic county party meeting, an academic faculty meeting, or some snooty lefty art opening without having that vile swill being the only refreshment available!

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      • I’m pretty sure you’re being sarcastic. Wasn’t the only beer available in America for a long time of the mass-produced variety? It might have been made better back then, but I don’t think most of the great breweries in production today were in production 30, 40, 50 years ago… at least not the domestic ones.

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      • Me? Sarcastic? Don’t even know the meaning of the word.

        Funny thing about breweries. Before stupidity…er, prohibition, most beer was locally produced; after repeal mass breweries took over. Only in the last few years have we again reached, and I believe surpassed, the number of breweries we had before prohibition…er, stupidity.

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    • suddenly heard the music (and harmony) in it. I still don’t like it much, but I know that those who think it is mere noise are less sophisticated than they imagine themelves to be.

      And you can go even further afield than heavy metal, and find other types of music in which melody/harmony is de-emphasized even further in favor of rhythm (hip-hop, various dance musics etc.) or structure/texture (there are whole genres of music that deal with sound-qua-sound, with sculpting feedback/static/”noise”). Doesn’t make it inherently unmusical, so long as it’s being deployed by the musicians in a purposeful manner and to moving effect.

      There is no shortage of melodic Beatles-derived pop music to be found, nor will there likely be a shortage any time soon. I’m a fan of good melodies too, there’s a real art to it, but melody is only one ingredient in music, the “sugar” in *some* recipes; complaining that one ingredient has been “exchanged” for another is like going to an Indian restaurant and complaining that the menu has “exchanged” ice cream for vindaloo.

      It’s OK not to like vindaloo, but it’s insane to complain that it’s not ice cream.

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      • No, but the analogy would be closer to saying that vindaloo is not desert. One of the central if not necessary features of something being desert is it being sweet. If something is now sweet, that is a good reason to discount it as counting as any kind of desert at all. Similarly, while rhythm is important, what makes music music is the tune. Without tune, its not musical and thus its not music. It might be closer to other kinds of auditory enjoyments like poetry instead.

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      • Er, without tune it’s not music?

        Several kabillion drummers from the entire history of the human race would like to speak with you.

        Music is organized/purposeful sound.

        If I knock “Shave and a haircut” on your door, it’s music.

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      • Similarly, while rhythm is important, what makes music music is the tune. Without tune, its not musical and thus its not music.

        You have it exactly backwards. Further, I dare you to say that face-to-face to any drumline. :) In music, there can be rhythm without melody, but there cannot be melody without rhythm.

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      • What ktward said. Rhythm is the skeleton over which melody can be draped (or, it’s the noodles which support the sauce – which is either sweet, or sour, or spicy, in varying proportions, as dictated by the recipe).

        Or, to reduce even further, the fundamental element of music is time (of which rhythm is a measurement). What makes a sound music is that it intentionally occurs (or does not occur) in a specific, set period of time. Melody is nice, but not strictly necessary – a single note that never changes, but lasts for a set period (or repeats at set intervals) is still music.

        (Insert obligatory philosophical rabbit hole about how “time doesn’t exist” here).

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      • Honestly, I used to think like Murali does, and clearly remember arguing that rap was not music because it was all rhythm and no melody. But as I thought about African drumming, Native American drumming, and drum lines, and even the theme from Jaws (if that counts as a melody, just barely so), and I realized I was actually talking about my preference in music, not a good definition of music.

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      • I don’t know enough about human evolutionary history to say whether we could “sing” (utilize our vocal cords to string together notes of varying pitch into a melody) before we could at least make sounds percussively with either mouth or hand, but I’d be willing to wager that we probably learned how to beat on things rhythmically before we “sang” or even spoke. IOW, I would guess that rhythm predates melody in humanity’s musical history. But maybe I’ve seen the opening sequence of 2001 too many times.

        And like I said, there’s even stuff that’s “beatless” (though of course it still has rhythm of some sort, since it exists in time) and STILL doesn’t have “melody” as such – ambient/white noise/feedback type stuff, stuff that is focused more on texture or the interplay/clash of tones than on melodic or rhythmic movement.

        But it’s still music if it was produced intentionally and for effect. Melody is a common ingredient, and it’s a pleasing one – but it’s not the only one, and it’s entirely possible to de-emphasize it or remove it entirely*.

        *And it’s worth noting that even many things that we might think don’t have a “melody”, like a drum solo, actually do in a certain sense, since even drums produce different “tones” (boom or bip or bap or tick or tock, etc.) depending on their structure/size and materials, or the manner in which they are struck.

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      • Glyph, I have done a bit (read: way too much) reading on the evolution of music. I ain’t gonna write about it here, ’cause it’s not really on topic, but if you or anyone else is interested, I could turn it into a Science! MD post.

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      • DO IT!!!

        Also, the videos I have coming up this Friday are beautiful music – yet melody is nowhere near their most important component (it’s not entirely absent, but rhythm and texture and space/ambience are far more prominent).

        So Murali and anybody else who contends that music=melody (if that were true, then why are they two different words?;-) should check that post out.

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    • The problem with heavy metal is that it lacks the capacity for grace in mediocrity. Most heavy metal is lousy. This is no less true of any other genre, but bad music of most other genres usually has the decency to fade inoffensively into the background. Metal’s an attention whore. If it can’t make you like it, it’ll make you hate it.

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  16. I enjoyed this post. It sort of goes in a bunch of different directions though. I take Tim Stanley to be saying that heartbroken traditionalists (my term) should avoid the example of Mishima and get on to creating a constituency for themselves through cultural means. To my mind, the example of Mishima isn’t just about suicide but about politics, which is an area that heartbroken traditionalists do not frequently do well and often do quite badly- see also: Knut Hamsun. Besides, there’s an argument to be made that people who are ruled by past aesthetics should be making art (period) and that people who are making art should not let politics poison their work (also period).

    So, I take the Stanley piece as fairly lively high curmudgeon dudgeon with a positive program for cultural change- be lapel-grabbers about the things you love instead of glowerers. After all, let’s be honest, Spengler was full of it. Then, it sounds like you read it quite differently in your last paragraph. which criticizes the state staying out of establishing community standards. So, do you think heartbroken traditionalists should go into law and art and education?

    The thing is, I know plenty of heartbroken traditionalists. I’ve heard myself sometimes described as one from the window of my monastery cell while hunched over the vellum scroll I’m working on. I’ve also heard myself described as a hedonist, or at least a libertine, so who knows (the French proved long ago that cultural curmudgeons can be hedonists just fine- it’s all a matter of scheduling)?

    Where was I going with this? Ah yes- I know very well the sorts of people who shudder internally at the fact that young people aren’t required to read the Iliad or Corinthians anymore and the mass culture is frequently stultifying and stupifying and who feel themselves to be out of step with the world. But they’re, ya know, usually drippy liberal bleeding hearts whose politics don’t really enter into their calling as educators and artists. And they are, for the most part, enthusiasts instead of glowerers. It’s fun to listen to them complain about tv or pop radio, but it’s thrilling to listen to them hold forth on the things they love. Heartbroken traditionalists should do that a lot more. They might even create and discover a new culture to love and get over their broken heart.

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    • +Many to your last paragraph.

      As for art and politics, they, like art and many things, have a complicated relationship. Guernica is overtly political, and awesome (in the literal sense), but if you do art strictly to do politics (say Rand), or do politics to do art (as in, say, the Soviet writer’s union), you’re probably not going to do well at either. But if you do art well, and create what you see, then if you see politics, you can probably do art that is political well. I suppose it’s a matter of putting politics in art the same way you put anything else in art.

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