On the Absurdity of “Gender Multiplicity”

Cogar leat, as the Irish used to say: “a whisper with you.” If gender is now to be considered mere cultural conditioning (like the preference for trousers or a kilt) rather than biological hardwiring, then why are we as a culture expected to tolerate all genders? I can put on a tie if it offends the group into which I seek acceptance for me to have an open collar. Why, then, should we not expect people to desist from, say, transgender behavior if it isn’t part of our broader culture? People eat stray cats and dogs in some parts of the world, but we don’t. If your puppy wanders off and ends up on my table, do you have a right to be upset with me? I should think so, in the context of the culture that we’re supposed to share! Do you have a right to sit in a restaurant without having to listen to people all around you slurp, burp, and smack their lips? Inasmuch as our cultural context disapproves of such behavior, I should say, “Yes, absolutely!”

So why should I be expected to tolerate without a whimper the teaching to my children of promiscuous sexual practices or a complete comfort with homosexual marriage? To the extent that the educational establishment has ever been able to construct a rational case for imposing such a curriculum upon us, it has done so on the assumption that sexual behaviors are dictates of nature rather than free choices—and that persecuting someone for being attracted to the same gender is as unfair as persecution of redheads or people of short stature. (Personally, I would strongly contest that restricting the definition of marriage constitutes persecution, any more than the limited opportunities for employment as jockeys indicate a persecution of six-footers… but let that pass for now.)

If the new doctrine of the educational elite has now abandoned that moral premise (i.e., that our sexual habits are in fact forced upon us by an irresistible genetic program), then why should we any longer be required to be lectured and schooled in matters of taste and preference? If you as a teacher insist that my child not only be allowed to belch, but that he accept that behavior in others and even wag his finger at me if I show disapproval, then you’re not teaching “diversity” or “tolerance”: you’re imposing one set of cultural values—your own—upon another culture that rejects them. You are manifesting an intolerance of my culture and demanding that my divergent ways fall into lockstep behind yours. You’re not just a dictator: you’re a pious hypocrite.

For the record, I believe that a very few people probably have, indeed, been dealt a bad hand by Mother Nature and cannot relate to the opposite sex in a manner that will give them access to the joys and comforts of family life. I regard them with commiseration, for Mother Nature has shortchanged most of us in one way or another. As old Seneca says, Nulli attigit impune nasci: “No one has entered this life without some shortcoming.”

I’m just as convinced, however, that the vast majority of people who are wrestling with their sexuality today are refugees from the sexual revolution that has raged since I was young. Heterosexual dating has grown so carnivorous that many flee the opposite sex; and as for family, our “Where’s mine?” culture of egocentrism as so undermined the ethic of self-sacrifice that only bad examples of conjugal life and bad experiences with it seem to surround us.

From some elevated perch in the high towers crowning the impenetrable citadels of politics and education, a few perverted and corrupt minds are smiling at all this and devising new ways to promote it. The fragmentation of gender into a million pieces, as a mere “cultural construct”, is one of those ways. The more we are uprooted from the significant relationships natural to human beings, the more we become putty in their squalid, ambitious hands.

 

Postscript: Questions About Catholicism

I don’t need to say that I have had many Catholic friends, and I won’t say that I’ve had more (of the few good friends I’ve ever known) than a random sampling of the American public could possibly account for. I also understand that, while my Catholic friends share many of my own reservations about “the Church”, they don’t necessarily like to hear me review them item by item. That’s human nature. As a Texan by birth and a Southerner by lineage, I’m painfully aware of the foibles and limitations of both groups… but I can get a little irked when I have to listen to an outsider mock a drawl or reduce the Civil War’s causes to racism.

Just let me add this, then, to my previous comments. A professor of physics at Tulane named Frank Tipler wrote a book titled The Physics of Christianity that I lately read… well, kind of read. The degree of physics in the early going seemed rather ostentatious to me and was way over my head; but the point where I actually couldn’t make myself continue (for pride kept me trudging through the formulas that I pretended to half-understand) was somewhere later, where suggestions about the Christian faith—these from a devout man who’s obviously more intelligent than I’ll ever dream of being—began to depress me deeply.

Professor Tipler, you can’t seriously believe that God’s plan for the salvation of the soul is being accomplished by digital technology—that our minds and personalities will be overwritten to chips that can be transferred to an indefinite series of corporeal residences—no, you don’t truly believe that such is the eternity promised in the Gospels, do you? Is that really… it? No higher revelation of the ends of goodness? No reunion with spirits from centuries ago whose creations have awakened us? No admission to such beauty and order as even the Milky Way can only imply in the dullest manner?

I had heard before that parthenogenesis can naturally occur and, apparently, does in an almost infinitesimal number of cases. If the Holy Spirit’s fertilizing a human egg turns out to be a metaphor for a freakish but entirely explicable reproductive anomaly, then… then there’s really no role for the supernatural to play, is there?

And indeed, Professor Tipler, you argue repeatedly that miracles are merely rare occurrences rather than physically impossible ones. But the universe’s very birth from nothing is a physical impossibility, from the standpoint of human reason (I didn’t understand your case to the contrary). If our faith cannot assert that ultimate reality contains events and powers inconceivable to our temporal intelligence, then for what do we need faith?

To me personally, this one is especially obnoxious: that Jesus retained his purity because, thanks to biological parthenogenesis, he was born as sterile as a mule. Do you not grasp, Professor—you whose mind encloses so many mathematical truths that leave me at the starting gate—that a eunuch can incur no moral credit for having mastered sexual impulses? If a sage or spiritual guru never feels anger because he has undergone a lobotomy or never knows fear because he has destroyed his sight and hearing, then he’s no teacher at all and has mastered nothing.

In a Catholic context, I’ve noticed that certain behaviors tend to receive more attention than the state of mind in which they are performed. Frank Tipler, a very devout Catholic, represents some of my greatest apprehensions on this score. He has explained (at least to his own satisfaction) a universe whose physical laws permit the fulfillment of every biblical promise in terms we can understand (or might understand if we were gifted physicists). In his zeal to defend God’s realm, the Professor seems to me to have exiled God from that realm and redefined its parameters to suit the human hand and footstep.

Just as excusing the utopian crusade to create permanent peace all over the earth could well lead to a dystopian, Orwellian hell, so the project of envisioning the life of the soul through computer chips and the abstemious discipline of moral guide through hormonal privation is… well, horribly depressing. It’s cultic. It makes me want to weep for so much intelligence so abused.

Why I Cannot Be Catholic (In a Nutshell)

I had another topic on my mind… but, after hearing a remark made on Greg Gutfeld’s show last night, I lost my original train of thought. This is more important to me.

Gutfeld had assembled three representatives of major world faiths on his cozy stage: a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and an Islamic imam. The segment was more shtick than discussion—more SNL than Firing Line. (Actually, I recall now that my original intent was to explain why I just can’t adapt myself to “tweeting”—the electronic trail of splattered bodily fluids left after careless collisions. The Gutfeld Show is to William F. Buckley what Twitter is to The Critique of Pure Reason.) In a dangerously close approach to seriousness, Gutfeld dared to inquire of the priest if Pope Francis were… um, maybe just a shade… um, naïve. The prelate (whose name I cannot recover from the Internet, for some odd reason) responded, “Well, what’s so bad about that? What’s wrong with being a little naïve? Would you rather he be bitter and cynical? Isn’t it a good thing to have a world spiritual leader who believes in the possibility of peace?”

I paraphrase, but the response was of this nature. I wanted to tear my hair out.

No, Father! It’s not a good thing! Naiveté is not productive or benign! It’s unbecoming in an older man of any station in life; but in an international leader—and especially a spiritual leader—it is grotesque and potentially lethal on a massive scale. Gandhi was with some justice faulted in certain quarters for staging “peaceful” demonstrations in places and at moments when he ought to have known that a match would ignite the whole ammunition dump. Fools who naively “believe in peace” have a pronounced tendency to draw us into war. They underestimate the duplicity of the Machiavellian tyrants with whom they negotiate. They exhort their followers to overlook alarming signs of imminent hostility in deference to “keeping the faith”. They may even end up offering themselves (and a host of others) to the slaughterhouse in a conviction that their martyrdom will blaze future trails to conflict resolution.

At some point, such reckless gambling with innocent lives and insouciance to the dark side of human nature becomes a squalid ego trip. “Sure, you have your martyrdom, Holy Father. Great. I wish I had my two sons back that were killed in the invasion you declined to notice as it massed on our borders.” I can imagine many a believing Catholic having some such thought at key moments throughout history.

I almost became a Catholic myself in my youth. I worked at two different Catholic schools (one Jesuit and one Benedictine). I was disturbed at how the bad actors on campus were always able to shift into confessional mode and convince a priest that they were just little lost lambs… but I was naïve myself at the time, and I would psychically smack the back of my hand for having bad thoughts.

What really bothers me about the Gutfeld interview is not the Pope’s personal naiveté, but its public and energetic defense by a prominent member of his clergy. The Catholic equation of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses with spiritual elevation is a potential life-ruiner. How does it differ, may I ask, from lighting up a joint or having a lobotomy? Or permitting a chip to be inserted into one’s brain with CorrectThink Update 3.4? For that matter, as we approach a world where lasting peace might really come to pass—because we will all be computer hybrids, and our programming will preclude violent behavior (as defined by the programmer)—how will the Catholic braintrust resist that Nirvana? For doesn’t it offer everything that the rose-tinted glasses foresaw?

The first words out of the mouth of Sophocles’ Teiresias when he appears on stage are, “What a frightful thing is thinking, when thoughts are of no profit!” And Oedipus does indeed pay a fearful price for his pursuit of truth… but Sophocles eventually celebrates him as a hero, I believe, precisely because he chooses the anguishing misery of full truth over the flattering delusions of ignorance. Doesn’t God demand such dedication to truth of us?

Final word: yes, I know that the Protestant denominations have mucked up their glasses and decided to call the color “rose” in much the same way as has Catholicism. There’s nothing much to separate them any more. The name of the only real church is in your heart, not in your checkbook.

One Small Step for Incoherence, One Giant Leap for Anarchy

I used to think that I would eventually get used to student papers littered with sentences like. “Each patient knows their chances are not good,” and, “An author at that time would be rejected if they had no sponsors.” Nope. Ain’t gonna happen.

The third-person plural pronoun referring to a singular antecedent has become a fixture in our postmodern babble. Too bad. Sometimes the result is insolubly confusing. “The applicant who convinces the judges of their argument’s vulnerability from either direction will become a finalist”; “the patient whose doctors understand that they need more sleep is in good hands”; “a coach whose players perform beyond their expectations is very lucky.”

Why must we put up with this skull-mush purée? For it seems that we must; not only do you and I commit such agreement errors all the time in conversation (where misunderstanding can be quickly corrected), but the arbiters in university English departments are increasingly decreeing that third-person agreement gaffes are correct—not tolerable, but the only way to go. One ambitious termigant in my own department has refused to address me civilly in the two years since I challenged her championing of the singular “they” in a public email. I hadn’t realized that the issue was so sensitive. Guess I’m lucky that I didn’t get slapped with a sexual harassment suit.

And that’s what it’s all about, you know. Maupassant once quipped that all stories are about either sex or death, and this one is about both. Our language must die so that sexually specific pronouns may never again be spoken. If the student or patient in our sentence is designated a “he”, then we have just committed a sexist crime; and if we choose “she” to privilege the female, the new god is still not propitiated. In fact, we may have made our situation worse, for our willingness to shift feminine in all generic cases could be misread as a gesture arising from that hotbed of quintessential sexism, chivalry. (Naturally, “she or he” runs into the same quagmire if we try to redeem the offensive order of “he or she”).

Equal time for the genders is no longer what’s at stake. The new objective is the utter annihilation of genders.

I could go on and on about what psychological perversion lies at the heart of such linguistic anarchy… but really, what lies at the heart of anarchy in any of its expressions? “Evil, be thou my good!” cries Satan in the masterpiece of that arch-sexist poet, John Milton. The anarchist desires to see the world helter-skelter. Up must go down, and in must go out. Creation must be undone to the point that no clue of its original design remains. The people who push such counter-programmatic programs have some kind of invincible grudge against life. Since they cannot remake it to be just the way they would have liked, they will satisfy themselves (so they think—for these people are never satisfied) with stealing the sense of life from everybody else. At least they will have accomplished something, merely by doing that. They will have forced everyone to share their single guiding insight as they shout from atop an infernal dunghill, “None of it means sh*t! Nothing! None of it!”

You think this is too far a reach from a single solecism? After all, as the academic advocates of illogic never tire of saying on this issue, Shakespeare also used “theys” with singular antecedents once or twice (as if the Shakespearean corpus were the meticulous relic of a single intelligence writing under minimal pressure and entrusting his work to the capable hands of infallible redactors). Well, you probably don’t watch this sort of degeneration happening every day from a dozen directions, as I do. A brick here, a brick there…. The edifice isn’t going to blow up: that’s not the plan. It’s going to collapse into rubble one fine day when one brick too many is removed from a critical wall.

That day, by the way, may already have arrived.

Why “Gender Studies” Is the Enemy of Women

Without a guiding principle of common humanity, all of the “minority studies” prosecuted on campuses around the nation can only substitute one kind of bigotry for another. Unless we have a coherent, transcending, and immutable value—a moral idea—from which to moor our conviction that disparaging certain classes of people is wrong, the oppressed can only rise up to become the oppressors in a closed circle of insane activity.

This is my conclusion after wading through a semester’s worth of papers infected by feminist ideology. Have women been largely deprived of a voice in the past? They, among others, have tended to be silenced: yes. Should we therefore not study the literature of the past? How much of the tree should we cut away—because any well-trained feminist will tell you that the muted only began to raise their shouts volubly in the Seventies and Eighties of the last century. So no texts should be studied, then, which precede those decades? Or do we study eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts composed only by women? The pickings will be slim, if the feminist claim is correct that few women in the past were allowed to publish, or even to write. We could dig up personal artifacts like diaries and private letters; should we replace Racine, Swift, Goethe, Balzac, Hawthorne, and all the other males with volumes of retrieved billets doux and missives from sister to sister?

Or maybe we should rewrite the male classics so that they no longer offend our newly developed sensibilities… or maybe we should teach them with constant whistle-blowing and lecturing about infractions during lengthy time-outs. Of course, we must not assume that there is anything other than “the gender issue” in these or any other texts that is worth discussing. All the other “values” claptrap”… mere propaganda designed to dull young minds to the subjugation being worked upon the under-class: mere spin to secure the “patriarchy” in its position on top of the socio-political dog-pile.

But if it is wrong for human beings to behave like scavenging jackals, nipping and scratching for first bite at the carcass, then why is it wrong? Why shouldn’t the strong overpower the weak? Why should we be outraged that men have oppressed women, or the majority the minority? Isn’t that nature’s law? And when feminists try to make us trash our male authors and recreate a canon full of female authors, aren’t they just trumping with the guilt card to get what they want—aren’t they just playing the fox’s part rather than the wolf’s in the fable?

The only possible protest against such cynicism is that, no, human beings are not mere animals—that right and wrong do exist independently of cultural conditioning, and that using raw physical power to seal up a soul silently inside a frail body is culpable brutality. The acquisition and appreciation of such higher values would be excellent reasons for reading literature. But if three are no such values—if all literature is only propaganda—then there can also be no cause for any man to feel obligated to extend equal rights to women, or for any tyrant to care about the feelings of his miserable subjects.

The more college literature programs draw us away from seeking basic human values in time-honored texts, the more they condition us to a decadent world where might makes right. The more teachers of literature insist that combing through the pages of the past in search only of “gender relevancy” is what literary specialists do, the more they ensure that gender inequality will come roaring back with a vengeance—inequality, and every other kind of barbarism. To shout above the shouters is to promote a degenerate culture of mindless screaming.

Not A Christian?

Voltaire wrote a short novel titled L’Ingénu about a stoical Huron who had been transported to Paris and proceeded to make one disturbingly sensible criticism after another of Europe’s most “advanced” culture. Imagine such an ingenuous, naïve reasoner engaged in a conversation with an exponent of rigid Christian orthodoxy. I shall dub the latter the Catechist: that is, one who corrects gullible young people endowed only with common sense about what they must believe to qualify as faithful.

Huron: I understand that Christ is the perfect man, such as none other of our kind ever was or ever will be. He is without sin, and his example is one that we can only approach but never reach. What I do not understand is your insistence that his blood was required to cleanse the rest of us of our sins.

Catechist: That is because of your heathen presumptions. Just as none of us could ever lead a life wholly without sin, so we could never break the cycle of sin and find redemption before God without the intercession of Christ.

Huron: Why? Why is God so vengeful that He demands a slaughter before He will forgive us for being as He made us?

Catechist: Hold thy tongue! God asked but one thing of us when He created Adam and Eve: to abstain from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. It was a modest stricture, yet we broke it.

Huron: Adam and Eve broke it—for I will not hold my tongue, an it please thee or please thee not. Nay, I will ask further, what just man punisheth a great-grandchild for his distant ancestor’s trespass? Is that not true heathenry, such as is practiced by the tribe I left behind?

Catechist: I see thou art a retrograde subject. Know, then, that all of us are Adam and Eve. As they two did, so we all most certainly would have done in their place.

Huron: I accept that—and I go farther. Theirs was an act of defiance, yet true sin lies in the mere thought, the intent. One of us who should crave and long to know the forbidden yet refrains from pulling back the veil in a coward’s fear of reprisal is just as guilty as Adam but without Adam’s courage.

Catechist: There is a perverse kind of truth in what you say. So do you accept, then, that we were all under sentence of death before Christ took our punishment upon his head?

Huron: I do, yet I do not. What I cannot accept is that an all-just God would condemn to death any man, much less all men, for drawing veils, when it is our self-destructive nature to probe beyond what we can understand. Even an ordinary, fallen man is likely to have enough goodness in his heart that he would not inflict the ultimate penalty on another for so pitiable a failure,

Catechist: But God does not think as you and I do, fool!

Huron: No—He is infinitely more understanding and compassionate! From Him do we draw whatever inklings of enlightenment and mercy we possess. Yet you ask—you demand—that I picture Him as requiring our life’s blood for a stumble.

Catechist: You forget that Christ is God, or you have not paid enough attention to learn so earlier. God is no bloodthirsty Moloch demanding that His altars run red. No; He is a father who sent His beloved son to be the needed sacrifice.

Huron: But a son who is also his father is not like a mortal son of a mortal father, so the words “son” and “father” are more hindrance than help to speak this truth. And a father who would sacrifice his son rather than himself—and that to his own wrath, not to some alien threat—is inconceivable and insane to me.

Catechist: I cannot abide your blasphemy any longer. You are stiff-necked and irredeemable. You seem to believe that our corrupt nature is but a child’s blunder that makes his parent smile, not an abomination that only supernatural grace can reconcile to God’s goodness.

Huron: And you, teacher, refuse to see that I agree with you so much about God’s goodness that I cannot embrace the notion of an abominable reconcilement. Why do you insist that our human blood-rites will set us straight with God for our human blood-letting—for we are, truly, a sanguinary tribe, and our overreach for knowledge always ends up closing its fingers around the handle of a knife. Our errancy is no minor lapse, and I erred when I made it seem so. We kill God in our world when we make ourselves the gods of our world. But all the more reason to ask: why must you put blood on God’s hands?

Catechist: True faith is a gift… and thou hast it not, thou damnèd wretch!

Many of the “people of faith” I have known would be horrified to see that I had penned such a dialogue as the one above… but then, few of them spent more time talking to me than was needed to confirm that I am a nobody in this life. You can’t desist from speaking to someone whom you haven’t spoken to in years.

Pampered, Morally Superior Youth: Socrates Saw Them Coming

Honestly, I chose to do Plato’s Euthyphro in one of my classes because it’s short and we didn’t have a very big slot on the syllabus. It came as a shock to me, as I read the work over for last week’s presentation, that this dialogue is a little masterpiece.

Just one point is suitable to raise in the present small space. Euthyphro perfectly represents a type of well-educated, somewhat pampered, under-occupied, morally pretentious young person. As Socrates (answering to the charge that will end up costing him his life) waits outside the law courts with the lad, Euthyphro explains his own business. He’s there to charge his father with homicide. The case is clouded, involving a servant who got roaring drunk, killed another servant, had to be restrained while the authorities back in town were consulted, and seems to have died in his bonds due to inattention. Euthyphro treats his dad’s conduct like straight-up cold-blooded murder. Indeed, he is so eager to demonstrate to one and all his transcending, impartial application of moral standards without any regard for the transgressor’s personal status that one must wonder if he hasn’t painted his father’s criminal negligence in darker colors than it deserves. Perhaps the drunken killer drowned in his own vomit… but that wouldn’t give Euthyphro an occasion to display his high-minded disinterest and utter devotion to pure principle. Though Socrates subtly implies that the young man bears more than a passing resemblance to Meletus, the holier-than-thou firebrand who accuses the old philosopher of corrupting Athens, all that Euthyphro can see is that he, like his persecuted teacher, is being martyred for daring to adhere to the truth.

This kid reminds me ever so much of certain exhibitionists in our society (young, more often than not) who have an insurmountable need to be martyred in a cause. Of course, they would crumple like tissue paper if presented with real martyrdom: theirs is entirely a matter of sound and fury. They see the racism with which the rest of us criminally conduct our daily lives; they see our sexism, our greed, our insensitivity to the poor, our hypocrisy at claiming to believe in a supreme moral being. If we were sincere, we would be like them (though, if we were like them, they would have to find yet another way of creating distance between their lofty plateau and the vulgar mass). We could try to point out to them the complexities of the situation: that indiscriminate charity invites exploitation and indigence, that cultural friction can hardly be racism since race is genetic while culture is taught, and so forth. All such parsing of the issues is just carping and equivocating. They know what we really are… because they know what they need us to be. We must be the squalid, two-faced scoundrels that leave paragons like themselves gleaming in bright contrast.

This is true even—perhaps especially—when we are old enough to be their parents. We don’t deserve any respect: it was our generation that made of the world the mess that it is. And so they consign us to the dustbin as they irresistibly and inevitably age into arrogant, self-righteous ideologues whose orthodoxy emanates from the presumption of their own infallibility.

It’s some small comfort, I suppose, to discover that these same annoying people existed even in the days of Socrates.