Archives For ideological radicalism

In her 1981 magnus opus, ‘Public Man, Private Woman’, American political scientist and Lutheran, Jean Bethke Elshtain presented a painstaking analysis of feminism.

Her work as a political theorist is one of the best all rounded academic introductions to the origins and branches of feminism, which comes from within the feminist movement.

Elshtain is best described as a classical feminist. Although she accepts certain criticisms made by feminists, Elshtain is honest about the fact that feminism can, and does go too far. Her chief aim was to present the ideological nuances and obvious contrasts of each branch of feminism.

What makes ‘Public Man, Private Woman’ unique is how her experiences within the feminist movement, particularly radical feminism, allow her a high degree of objectivity.

In the late 1960s, Elshtain and a friend were confronted by the exclusionist ideology of feminist supremacism.

They both linked up with a feminist group, only to find themselves silenced because they raised genuine questions about the prevalent anti-familial force within feminism. According to Elshtain, they attended the group, looking for a community who could help them embrace both the healthier side of early feminist critique and motherhood. However, they soon found out that for some within the feminist movement, there was no reconciling of the two. In the middle of her friend’s turn to speak, the group’s facilitator ‘abruptly and publicly’ cut off their discussion declaring, “We will have not diaper talk here. We’re here to talk about women’s liberation”.

Elshtain recalled, ‘my friend and I left, for we could not treat our children as abstractions, as nuisances to be overcome, or as evidence of our “sad capitulation” to the terms of patriarchy.’

Alarmed by her confrontation with female supremacist exclusivism, Elshtain not only saw the dangers it presented to those outside the feminist movement, but how female supremacist ideology threatens legitimate feminist criticisms about what defines a woman, and how women define themselves in the traditionally male dominant public space.

Other than a general analysis of the state of feminism in 1980-81, Elshtain was also preoccupied with a personal quest, seeking to answer the nagging question about whether feminism could be reconciled with motherhood. And if so, what kind of worldview would this look like?

Her conclusion rejects Marxist feminism, Liberal Feminism and Radical feminism, and instead embraces a politics of compassion which works towards reconstructing a woman’s place in public and private, by ‘truth-seeking’, not ‘truth-construction’.

Elshtain describes a ‘politics of compassion’ as a ‘robust opposition to despair and cynicism’, noting it as being a ‘recognition [on the part of feminists] that no good can come from the widespread dehumanization and destruction of others.’ This would help protect legitimate parts of feminist criticisms, because a politics of compassion recognizes that feminism is undermined by a radical feminist supremacism which feeds on ‘the enchanting lures of resentment and the poisonous destruction of rage.’

Abortion isn’t a key concern for Elshtain. However, her conclusions and personal experience are relevant to the abortion debate.

Elshtain agrees that reproduction doesn’t define women. However, feminism shouldn’t reject the stability of the familial unit. It should be mature and flexible enough to embrace the unique-to-woman, gift of reproduction and maternalism. Motherhood shouldn’t be so easily thrown out by the feminist critique. This is because motherhood is the quintessential definition of an empowered, liberated woman. Strength and servant leadership are a core elements of being a mother. The woman capable of choosing to look, not just to their own needs, but also to the needs of others is not only liberated, but engages in the act of liberating others.

What Elshtain offers is clarity. Her criticism of the feminist crowd, which was ironically awakened by the feminist crowd’s rejection of her (as a patriarchal cliché, because she was married and had children) gives us a vantage point from which we can join with her and say,

‘the presumption that some universally true, ubiquitous, and pervasive misogynistic urge explains everything is simplistic and wrong.’ (p.xv)

When it comes to abortion and the feminist death grip on it, there will be disagreement, but that disagreement doesn’t have to be destructive. There is another way around the ‘radical and destructive social surgery’ pushed by those who demand uniformity in an ideological alignment with abortion and its accompanying progressive platform.

Elshtain’s inherent “no” to this kind of forced allegiance, especially to supremacist ideology is something to applaud. Her “no” is spoken from under the shadow of remembrance, as she recalls the blood that followed the ‘Nazis and Stalinists, the most destructive instances so far of this sort.’

Noting,

‘if everything every basis of human existence, every rule and prohibition not excluding  the incest taboo, is “up for grabs,” those who unscrupulously grab will inherit the earth and we will no longer have  the earth as out inheritance…Each successive generation must respect some moral necessities, must have some “taken for granted,” rules without which even the minimal aspects of a human existence that propelled our prehistoric ancestors to place flowers on the graves of their beloved, will be jeopardized.’

This supremacist ideology is seen in abortion advocates adoption of Simone de Beauvoir’s incongruent use of the term ‘parasite’ in reference to both women and the fetus (The Second Sex).

Supremacist ideology is prevalent in the inherent historical parallels between the Nazi doctrine of “life unworthy of life” and deceptive new term for abortion, “reproductive healthcare”. Abortion is an outworking of radical feminist supremacism. The “choice” argument underpins this because it advocates the totalitarian supremacy of a mother over against the life of her unborn child and the choice of his or her father.

How is a woman living out her liberation, if she’s coerced to kill her unborn child because of pressure from a pro-abortion society, state and peers, in the name of what they deceptively call freedom?

How is a woman living our her liberation if all the information necessary to make the best “choice” possible is hidden from her by her pro-abortion society, state, and peers– “for her own good”?

It would seem that the liberated woman, under the shadow of pro-abortion and the supremacist ideology of Marxist, liberal and radical feminism, is not so liberated after all.

We cannot miss this point. We cannot afford to overlook the fact that pro-abortion, and even pro-euthanasia laws, remove protections for the citizen against a tyrannical state. They remove protections for citizens from supremacist ideology.

Anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia laws are restraints that don’t just apply to one individual having absolute power over another; they hold back the overreach of despotic, crony corporations and these laws restrain the creation of authoritarian governments. These are necessary limitations which protect freedom, rather than being a denial of it.

So it is that we should, and can legitimately stand with Jean Bethke Elshtain and those like her, such as the brilliant Dr. Mildred Jefferson, and say:

“Today it is the unborn child; tomorrow it is likely to be the elderly or those who are incurably ill. Who knows but that a little later it may be anyone who has political or moral views that do not fit into the distorted new order?[i]…I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned, have the right to live [ii]…I say “no” and I am not willing to give up the role of doctor as healer to become the new social executioner…If the destruction of life is permissible for social and economic reasons, why not for political reasons? [iii]


References (not otherwise linked):

Elshtain, J. 1981, ‘Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social & Political Thought’ Princeton University Press

Photo by Cassidy Rowell on Unsplash

First published on Caldron Pool, 13th August, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Who Are The Real Fascists?

November 13, 2018 — 1 Comment

If the facts cannot be squeezed into a meme the level of attention those facts receive is reduced. Attention to detail is overlooked for what will best attract a view, a like, a follow or a share. Information is seen purely as a commodity.

The problem is that when information is seen purely as a commodity, truth is easily compromised.

We don’t need to look any further than the internet. It’s now common place to log on and find someone accusing someone else of being a Nazi or a racist. This may have reached the status of cliché, and as such is easily dismissed. Nevertheless real concern should be given to it. Especially, when we’re bombarded with celebrity endorsed outrage, and articles written by professionals, (often falsely) equating their opponents with the National Socialists of the 1930’s, without qualification.

For example: in August 2016, a lecturer from Sydney University,  compared fair-minded conservative opposition to same-sex marriage, with the Nazi treatment of homosexuals. In addition, a student was reported to have been disallowed from presenting a case, linking examples of how anti-Israel sentiment, is linked to anti-Semitism. [source]

Historical comparisons made between present and past, should be measured for accuracy. Responsible self-criticism leads us to ask ourselves whether or not our opponent has a point. However, measuring the accuracy of our opponents claim shouldn’t stop with us. For it to be completely fair, the enquiry must also include the consideration of whether or not our opponents, are themselves guilty of doing the very things they’re accusing others of doing.

One good practice, when being likened to the Nazis, is reading material from those who’ve studied the historical context; the history of and the history associated with Nazism. Read those who’ve engaged with the primary sources, and who understand not just what the Nazis did, but how, and why, they did it.

It’s here that Thomas Doherty’s insightful and well researched 2013 book, ‘Hollywood & Hitler‘ shines:

Page 9, citing a PCA[i] report on the prohibition of the movie ‘All Quiet on The Western Front‘, Dec, 18, 1930:
“There is no doubt that this wave of intense national prejudice, which is for now going on, will continue and that any pictures, particularly foreign pictures, which offend the sensibilities of the National Socialists will be a signal for riots and demonstrations.’ [i]
Page 21: ‘Even before Goebbels laid down the law, the Nazi rhetoric on race was being implemented by pumped-up S.A. thugs and zealous party bureaucrats. From Berlin radiating outward, the iron grip tightened over all aspects of film-related culture – artists and technicians, film content and style, trade periodicals and reviewer bylines, theatre ownership and ticket buyers.’ [ii]
Page 97: ‘The Nazis, said Prince Hubertus Lowenstein [an early critic of Nazism], had annihilated all that was good in German culture.”Everything that had made for the glory of Germany has been destroyed in the past three years. The best actors and artists have been expelled. Approximately 1100 scholars and scientists have had to leave, only because they believed in freedom of art, of thought, and of religion.” Jews were forbidden to buy milk for their children, and Catholics were jailed for keeping the faith. The jackboot crushing Jews and Catholics, he predicted, was but a preview of oppressions to come. All those speaking that night urged a united front against Hitler. “We must organise to fight the Nazi invasion before Americans lose their constitutional liberties”‘[iii]

Doherty helps to shine a light on where, and if, Nazism or fascists are active today. When matched against current events descriptions such as, “intense prejudice, the iron grip, that which offends the sensibilities is a signal for riots and demonstrations; rhetoric on race by pumped-up thugs and zealous party bureaucrats”, all show that those pointing their finger and crying wolf about Nazism and fascism, reflect it the most.

The radical Left is already becomes suspect when its adherents use its political platforms to denounce all opposition as Nazism, without any real qualification. It’s already suspect when those same adherents ignore questions, make false claims and turn all fair criticism into “hate speech”. It’s already suspect when this very same ideology backs policies that undermine the humanity of the unborn, democratic debate, diversity of thought, reasoned opinion, expression and faith.

It’s already suspect when some of its most fervent adherents remain silent about the current events in Turkey, or Islamism in general, and yet continue to promote the BDS academic boycott movement against Israel. [source] The radical Left is more than worthy of our suspicions when we only hear the sound of crickets chirping to the tune of double standards, hypocrisy, selective outrage, suppression of faith and reason, political evasion, and propaganda.

As Theodore Kupfer asked, ‘Where are the Academic Boycotts of Turkey?’ It’s tragically ironic that anti-Israel protesters are loud and proud, yet they remain silent about Turkey:

“The response of Western academia has thus far been limited to expressions of grave concern for the fate of individual academics who have been subject to the purge [in Turkey].
No organised boycott effort has surfaced on any level. Mere proclamations of solidarity are supposed to suffice in the case of Turkey, while the same organisations agitate for nothing short of a blanket institutional boycott in the case of Israel.
Mind you, academic conditions in Israel are far superior to those in Turkey. Even attempts to portray Israel as hostile to academic freedom are evidence for this.” [iv]

The irony feeds suspicion of the radical Left. All that’s missing from the trajectory of this ideological radicalism is a figure-head with the power to influence enough people to fanatically fall in line behind them. With what’s happened in opposition to Donald Trump’s election in the United States, such suspicions should be weighed carefully.

Whether we like it or not, we’re being forced into categories by those who want to define us, determine what we think, and turn our freedoms into a carrot on a stick. The agenda isn’t about equality, it’s about dominance. The agenda isn’t about rights, it’s about power. The agenda isn’t about progress, it’s about pride.

It’s ironic that a people’s court stands ready to condemn those who don’t align, agree or pledge allegiance to the Left. The oppressor presents themselves as the oppressed, and no one is allowed to have an opposing view. It’s at this point that we’re not far from Gene Edward Veith, in his underrated 1993, book ‘Modern Fascism’, rightly suggested that there is a link between Heidegger’s revisionist/deconstructionism and fascism.

For example:

“What is the deconstructive basis for condemning Nazism? Would it not be in keeping with the in keeping with the logic of deconstruction, the deconstructive basis for condemning Nazism, reverses a claim like “the Nazis oppressed the Jews,” showing instead that the Jew cooked in a Nazi oven was really the Nazis’ oppressor.
The real-world endpoint of Heideggerian (and now Derridean and de Manian) deconstructionism [and its elimination of] the logocentric (Judeo-Christian) tradition is Auschwitz […]” [v]

This is why theology is important. As Timothy Gorringe states, ‘[Judeo-Christian] theology stands as a critique of ideology,’ [vi] but if it’s to remain authentic theology, it will have to navigate society’s obsession with the Left/Right metaphor. This is partly why I’m not big on the Right/Left metaphor in regards to describing factions within the State or the Church. Throughout history, the meaning has shifted. The metaphor is inadequate. We cannot rely on it entirely.

Another reason for why theology is important is because faith seeks understanding. To confess that Jesus Christ is Lord necessarily means to admit that Jesus Christ is no human pawn. Whether they be, deconstructionists, modernists, futuristic, archaic, primitive, progressive, communist, fascist, conservative, material or spiritual; Any Christian theology worthy of its name-sake, is and always will stand as a critique of all human centered strongholds that claim godlikeness; a challenge to all towers of Bable.

Genuine Christianity is, as Karl Barth duly noted, ‘the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ (Karl Barth C.D IV/II p.524).

To say that history is being repeated is not overstating the current zeitgeist. History is not, however, being repeated in the same way that the Left often sells it. Based on what is presented by Doherty, Kupfer, Vieth and Hirsch above, it’s those who recklessly cry wolf about Fascists, and subsequently point to the Right, who have more in common with the Nazis, than they do the victims of Nazism.

May we continue to be free, and well informed enough to differentiate between the real and the wrongly labelled.


References:

[i]  Doherty,T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939 Columbia University Press

[ii] ibid, 2013

[iii] ibid, 2013

[iv] Kupfer, T. 2016 Where Are the Academic Boycotts of Turkey? sourced 24th August 2016 from nationalreview.com

[v] Hirsch, D. 1991. The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism after Auschwitz (p.87) Cited by Gene E. Veith, Modern Fascism, 1993. Concordia Publishing House.

[vi] Gorringe, T.J 1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony Christian theology in context Oxford University Press New York

[Updated and edited from an article posted in August, 2016, called, The Usurping of Things To Come?’ Also published at The Caldron Pool, 13th November, 2018 under the heading, ‘Who are the real fascists?’]

Photo credit:  Taton Moïse on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018.