Introducing civic natalism

“The early 20th century was the summit of civilization and human accomplishment.”

I think there is a good argument to be made for that statement. However, that is not quite what this post is about.

It’s about the worldview I’ve adopted as I’ve come to appreciate and learn more about that era of human history, a mere century or so ago. I discussed the idea that this blog was a way to work out an alternative to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and now I think I’ve got a grasp on what that alternative is.

Civic natalism.

This post is just an introduction to the phrase as concept.  Civic natalism was what a surprising number of Americans had a century ago, but it was an effect.  We can look at what they had access to that we don’t have now and the goal is to find out how we can have those things in a modern society.  Theirs was atomized and global, too, they were the vanguard of globalism.  Natalism also is about more than just maxing your pregnancy numbers, it’s about making it possible for motherhood to be something fully human, so women don’t want to reject the natural outcome of marital intimacy.

They had the following:

  • Large casual labor pool, particularly of women.  This means that there were maids and nannies and cooks, but it means so much more than that.  It means that you could pay people to do a lot of normal things and lend occasional assistance.
  • No commuting. The commuting was, mostly, the long-distance travel type, which human societies have developed a lot of tools to deal with.  It typically wasn’t the hurry up and wait tension that daily commuting tends to put onto people.  It is very possible to reduce commuting, but a deeper analysis of commuting patterns with an eye towards family improvement and cohesion is needed.
  • Rational autonomy for children. This means society is structured so that children take as much responsibility for themselves as possible, appropriate to their age.
  • Advocacy for feminine leisure.  

Starts are always rocky, so I’ll just conclude with this.  I’ve finally secured enough readable copies of Gene Stratton-Porter’s non-fiction nature books and essays that I will resume a publishing order review of her work in the coming weeks. She was a fascinating example of civic natalism, even though she herself had only one child.  Her entire career as a housewife who wrote bestsellers and spent hours in nature studies that are a direct line to the Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan strain of environmentalism and farming is an Ur-example of what civic natalism can provide when “just” a side effect of wider social norms.  She was also an influential advocate for other women to have better homemaking conditions and society-wide support.

And yes, there will be some commentary about the politics of civic natalism.  They intersect with how the right wing in America used to have a pretty good deal for bright women to be housewives and how they threw it away.  But those same politics also intersect with radical feminist policy ideas about how to support motherhood.  To summarize those future posts, let’s just say Phyllis Schlafly was a radical feminist when it came to motherhood.

Blew my mind, too.

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A brief overview of mass pornography exposure from World War II until the 21st Century, part 1

 

Early Superwife fantasy.

 

Something that goes very unremarked is how many generations we’ve had of pornography exposure being a significant male rite of passage in America.  And how government funding injected enough cash into the industry to industrialize its production.  You can start a timeline with World War II, in which pornography was distributed as an alternative to camp followers and the “gifts” they brought (mostly venereal disease, but also babies).  There were millions of young men exposed to pornography in a mostly or all-male environment.  Then, after seeing hundreds and thousands of pictures of women dressed even less discreetly than the picture opening this post and doing way more than what that lady is, they went home to wives and future wives.

That was the Greatest Generation.

Their sons got exposed a little earlier, magazines under the bed, late teens high school bonding.  But it was already normalized as something a young man might want to do.  It was acceptable fringe.  Not to mention their sons were coming of age in the middle of “free love”.  There was now some idea that it might be ok to try a few of those things in the magazines out before marriage, just not with the girl you planned to marry.

Well, we all have a pretty good idea how the Boomers and Silents handled the influences of mass pornography getting even more normalized and mainstream in their young adulthood.

They were the swingers and nudists and the earliest waves of  what is now called “polyamory” on the secular fringe.  On the Christian-inflected fringe side, they were Flirty Fishers and sisterwivers in the 1970s and 1980s.  There was also the acceptable fringe of taking your date to a pornographic theater, although now that is moving more into Generation X.

It’s hard to accept, but these were the parents of the Millennials and Generation X.  And this is just part one.  Part two is going to note what the consequences were to those Millennials and Gen X’ers.

Might also want to notice that this is an early example of managerialism and modern efficiency thinking, too.

Gnostic Americans, Ted Cruz and why conservatives play to lose.

This was originally going to be about gnostic conservatives, but I came to realize while talking about the post instead of writing it down that it’s really about Americans overall.

To begin, there is a core to American-ness that is Gnostic.  It’s about retreating into a fantasy world of abstractions and perfections to take yourself away from the realities of your drudgery.  There is a divide in American society between those for whom suffering feeds that retreat away from reality and those who are more…practical.  For the former, political solutions revolve around embracing someone who promises a return to an abstract perfect time where Constitutionalism reigned supreme and people dutifully and legitimately followed process correctly and honestly.  Thus, Ted Cruz.  He did a lot of symbolic stuff that in the abstract was highly conservative by this measure, but in practice was useless because it was never going to be made law and could never be made law as it was written.

Conservatives tend to hail from frontier stock, and it’s long been a frontier staple to retreat into a fantasy world after the long, brutal, difficult days of frontiering.  And there’s been an Amish-ing, a longstanding tendency for the most conservative conservatives willing to vote Republican or otherwise be mainstream to marry each other and it’s been going on for quite a few generations now.

The kind of personality that can thrive with a frontier mindset will be detail-oriented and tend to hyperfocus, mildly to extremely anti-social and pathologically independent minded.  Yes, this sounds kind of spectrum-ish.  I think there has been a lot of intermarriage between men and women with those traits and that now a mindset even a little removed from that is considered inauthentic.  Anyway it leads to embracing abstractions over solutions because there is no sense of you personally being able to conquer it all.

Relating all this back to the Gnostic thing, there’s this idea in Americanness more broadly that beautiful symbols are worth more than practical results.  One first female x is worth more than better living conditions and social status for women in general.  In many ways the ridiculous left half of the political aisle is just taking that symbolism-love to its natural extremes.

But so does the right half, with their retreats into more and more disordered private spheres, constantly clinging to individual symbolic examples of how those spheres are perfectly functional and an effective substitute for numerous public goods.

What alt-right criticism of “cuckservatives” fumbles at is this long-range outcome of being worn down by that endless retreat into being unable to consider anything other than beautiful loserdom as your lot in this life.  Of course they commit their own gnostic errors with the over-emphasis on protests and populist politicking.

But as I watch God-fearing, pro-life Christians debate supporting the ($(@#*@$* Libertarian Party because oh golly gee that Trump feller is sCArY, I find this core gnostic tendency irritating and stupid.  I do have pity and sympathy because understanding where it comes from means it makes sense, but other people around them without that information will just think that Christians and especially Republican-voting ones are ignorant and hypocritical once again.

Oh, this is also why the SAHM situation is so hopeless.  Gnostic American SAHMs fall in love with obviously fake personas crafted by narcissists who tell them that they should feel great about getting a second load of laundry in that day precisely so they never feel they can ask for real society-wide or even family-wide support and assistance.  That woman obviously isn’t out thar a farm wifin’ in such expensive hair styles and clothes, but yet women who are truly struggling believe her to be a role model and “honest, authentic” wife and mother.  And they believe because they get caught up in the charismatic pantheism that says you should spend your time cheering the presence of God in a floorboard you’re scrubbing and that this will grant you a state of bliss and spiritual uplift no matter how much drudging your days seem to pile up.

The idea that a lot of SAHMs just have a technical problem and a maid twice a month or whatever would suddenly improve their personal quality of life and improve their families’ lives as well, this idea is too…practical.  Too concrete, not airy enough, not promising spiritual ecstasy in the middle of screaming kids and chopped hot dog dinners.

Because as Frontier-Americans disproportionately, conservatives bring to their version of Gnostic Americanism the unformed immaturity of a child, as the frontier mythos is entirely shaped by children’s views of the frontier.  The Little House books are the Ur-example.  The numerous adult memoirs never became mythical in American society, only the stuff written from the perspective of children and teenagers.

The Frontier was a massive subsidized LARP project and just because it was a game that could kill you doesn’t make it any less hugely subsidized and welfarist.

Anyway this is very much a beginning, as ever.

Immigration restriction led to Sex in the City lifestyles for young women.

There is a narrative among the more reactionary and dissident conservatives out there that immigration restriction in America in the 1920s led to a (white) paradise of family wages and happy housewives until 1965.  One of the subtexts of this narrative is that the women were purer and less scandalous because they could easily count on marrying at 18-19 to a 21 year old husband who was already making a middle class income.

Good thing it’s a subtext, because it’s not really real history at all.

As early as 1940, young women were flooding out to live alone, something they pulled ahead of young men in doing by 1960.  After all, nearly half of the supposedly glorious immigration restriction period of American history was the Great Depression.  This gets left out of the “easy middle class income on one salary” reinvention of history.

Prior to immigration restriction, almost nobody (including young men) lived alone.  As immigrants flooded in, boarding and rooming houses accommodated them.  And extended family living was more common even among “nuclear” German and English descent households.  People also labored for room and board and other barter goods rather than wages.

Once the labor pool was restricted, though, the resultant increase in wage work (along with urbanization) allowed even young women to move out and live alone in larger and larger numbers.  The median age of first marriage for white women was around 23 until the 1950s and two decades later had already begun the return back to that level, with the current age of 26 mirroring historical levels from before the late 19th century.  The window of time in which young white American women were barely twenty when they married was a small one historically, hardly a generation in length.

The white middle class needs black dysfunction and government handouts to exist as a middle class.

It is a canard of the alternative or dissident right that the black middle class is purely government jobs and could not otherwise exist.  It is a canard because the dissident right is astonishing in its historical ignorance and corresponding pretentious arrogance about history.  But the truth is that the white middle class is a government-funded creation too.  The massive edifice of expensively credentialed whites who are paid middle class wages and pensions to administer to (mostly) black dysfunction is just as much a bunch of makework projects as, say, the apocryphal angry black employees at the DMV.

And it is massive, consisting of psychologists, teachers, lawyers, nominally private sector business owners, and so forth.  Not to mention Information Technology, the industry that wouldn’t even exist without FDR’s cheap energy infrastructure projects.  Including rural electrification so that “self-sufficient” white people can indulge their “homesteading” pretensions funded by telecommuting jobs in IT.

This has been sitting around a long time, and while it was, some very naughty and unsafe for work alternative right folks came up with a podcast (podcasts I simply never listen to on general principle, but someone sent me the link with a summary of the podcast) in which they reverse the usual canards and agree with this post, which is pretty hilarious.

Related, the California dream was funded by Vietnam War spending.  Those good engineering jobs were bought with the blood of less connected and poorer whites (and some blacks as well).

Obsession with physical virginity and purity is preChristian, not Christian

Historically, in American society, it’s led to a Gnostic denial of the importance of the body.  Separate from that problem, it leads to things like (WARNING VERY DISTURBING SEXUAL CONTENT CONCERNING CHILDREN AT THOSE LINKS) rampant sexual assault of young girls.  Christian sexual morality is unique.  This doesn’t mean non-Christian societies or subcultures don’t have sexual morality, but it does mean that it’s important to understand when traditional sexual mores are stemming from non-Christian or pre-Christian traditions vs. Christian traditions.

In fact, one problem American conservatives have is believing that only Christians have sexual morality.  This is very much not true.  It’s just very different than Christian sexual morality, which is grace-filled.

White American women have never been highly fertile

I was looking around in old Census data the other month and stumbled upon a fairly shocking bit of demographic information–white American women have pretty much always been at the lower end of fertility.  I am defining “American” here as “after 1776”.  They were having only a couple kids per woman way back in the 1840s and such.

Regionalism is part of how the myth of fecund white women oppressed into sterility by “the libs” or “feminism” gained traction.  In a few regions, white women did have huge families, 8-12 kids being quite usual.  However, this was a single-digit percentage of all white women of childbearing age, and this has been the case almost from the very beginnings of America as a nation.  White women in America have always tended towards having relatively few children, long before 1960s or even 1920s feminism.  The Baby Boom years weren’t a bunch of white women feeling free to have five or six kids, they were a bunch of white women *who would have otherwise had none having one* being added to the overall pool of mothers.  This is, needless to say, not part of the conservative happy 50s mythmaking.

American women have frequently throughout American history taken more personal freedom and economic power in exchange for the lack of genuine domestic support, on average.  This is part of how childrearing in America has become so awful and health-damaging for women.  Men bought our great grammas off with “freedom” and this was supposed to compensate for not having a feminine or domestic sphere.  And there’s always been extreme subcultures having huge families to point to, even though they never represented much more than 15-20% of the total population themselves.

But I guess that’s also part of the secret history of domesticity in America–a typical American woman really wasn’t raising six kids alone while her husband worked all day or was gone for months.  She was about as likely to be raising one or two in 1870 as 1970, which explains quite a bit.