We are both convinced of, and this essay will take more or less for granted, that the political traditions of libertarianism and feminism are both in the main correct, insightful, and of the first importance in any struggle to build a just, free, and compassionate society. Libertarianism and feminism, when they have encountered each other, have most often taken each other for polar opposites.
Now, to reiterate my title, this is what is wrong.
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This is the huge modern heresy of altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul…it is the huge heresy of Precedent.
It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also.
Examples are clearly needed, but before we continue, a digression. Chesterton is a brilliant writer and a genius in understanding the human soul. And the difference between brilliant physicists and brilliant students of human experience is that physicists are less likely to convince anyone else.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, within the last few years, the woman has in public surrendered to the man. She has seriously and officially owned that the man has been right all along; that the public house or Parliament is really more important than the private house; that politics are not as woman had always maintained an excuse for pots of beer, but are a sacred solemnity to which new female worshipers may kneel; that the talkative patriots in the tavern are not only admirable but enviable; that talk is not a waste of time, and therefore as a consequence, surely that taverns are not a waste of money.
All we men had grown used to our wives and mothers, and grandmothers, and great aunts all pouring a chorus of contempt upon our hobbies of sport, drink and party politics. And now comes Miss Pankhurst with tears in her eyes, owning that all the women were wrong and all the men were right; humbly imploring to be admitted into so much as an outer court, from which she may catch a glimpse of those masculine merits which her erring sisters had so thoughtlessly scorned.
Now this development naturally perturbs and even paralyzes us…We knew quite well that nothing is necessary to the country except that the men should be men and the women women.
We knew this; we thought the women knew it even more clearly; and we thought the women would say it. Suddenly, without warning, the women have begun to say all the nonsense that we ourselves hardly believed when we said it.
The solemnity of politics; the necessity of votes; the necessity of Huggins; the necessity of Buggins; all these flow in a pellucid stream from the lips of all the suffragette speakers. I suppose in every fight, however old, one has a vague aspiration to conquer; but we never wanted to conquer women so completely as this.
Men have from time immemorial been pushing the importance of male pursuits like politics and public life; women have been equally pushing the importance of family, virtue, and the private household.
Feminists are then a group of women who have given up, admitted men have always been right about everything and all female pursuits are a waste of time; now women are desperately pleading that men allow them to join in their superior ways.
Therefore, Chesterton opposes feminism not because he is against women being equal to men, but precisely because he wants to keep women equal to men. The entire book is like this — paragraph after paragraph of verbal judo in which you end up opposing conservativism because you want things to stay the same, or supporting rebellion to protect the integrity of the state, or whatever other crazy inverted idea Chesterton has turned his brilliant but twisted mind to.
At its worst, I worry Chesterton has actually lost, through atrophy, the ability to think in a straight line. Ask him whether we should drown puppies, and he will come up with an extremely convincing argument that we should drown puppies precisely because we abhor cruelty to animals. Conservatives demand that we keep things exactly as they are, social problems and all.
For example, women traditionally value having a home of their own and getting to spend time raising children, but this is inconsistent with women working full time in factories — therefore, socialists and feminists demand we put people in communal housing, have children raised communally, and promote women taking on the male gender role — so that all barriers to women doing factory work full-time are removed.Free maker papers, essays, and research papers.
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K. Chesterton’s collection What’s Wrong With The World surprisingly does not open with “this is going to take more than one book.” In fact, he is quite to-the-point about exactly what he thinks the problem is: Now, to reiterate my title, this is what is wrong. This is the huge modern.
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