Swearing, Murder and Sex
Over the Christmas break I read William Dalrymple’s brilliant, but depressing, The Last Mughal. As a condemnation of the evils of colonialism Dalrymple’s account of the 1857 Indian ‘mutiny’ is stark. But in the lengthy telling of betrayal and horror one short quote from a young British officer to his mother on the eve of the assault on Delhi stood out to me. What it reveals about our cultural shift is startling:
I believe we are to escalade. You know what that will be – rush up a ladder, with men trying to push you down, bayonet and shoot you from above. But you must wave your sword and think it capital fun, bring your men up as fast as you can and jump down on top of men ready with fixed bayonets to receive you. All this is not very pleasant to think coolly of, but when the moment comes excitement makes you feel as happy as possible…I hope it won’t make me swear, though that is almost allowable for you are mad with excitement, and know not what you are saying. But I will strive against it with all my might.
When the British entered Delhi they committed the most appalling atrocities against the inhabitants – friend and foe alike. The looting, lynching, and rape would appal us today, and against this background it seems almost comical that a soldier should do his utmost not to swear when in the thick of the action. This is a complete opposite to the case of ‘Marine A’ who shot and killed a wounded Taleban fighter in Helmand in 2011. Having dispatched the Taleban, saying as he did so, “Shuffle off this mortal coil, you ****”, Sgt. Blackman was subsequently tried and imprisoned for committing a murder, but no one batted an eyelid about him swearing.
Western culture has moved an incredibly long way in 150 years.
While our cultural assumptions about violence and swearing are very different to what they were in previous generations, it has been the shift in assumptions about sex, sexuality and sex roles that is the most obvious way in which western society has rapidly changed. Because these new sexual attitudes have so dramatically attained cultural normality those with ‘traditional’ views often seem to be left floundering and unable to articulate what it is they believe, and why. But sometimes help can come from unexpected quarters.
In the culture wars the pro-abortion, pro-pornography, pro-prostitution, self-identified gay and trans Camille Paglia might seem an unlikely ally. But Paglia is currently one of the most rational and clear voices speaking against the flow of the normal cultural narrative. Take, for example, this selection of quotes from her lecture ‘The modern battle of the sexes’, included in Free Women, Free Men.
Too many feminists now seem interested in motherhood only as it relates to day care, private or government-supported – in other words, child-rearing is seen as merely an adjunct to success in the workplace.
Feminist ideology has never dealt honestly with the role of the mother in human life. Its portrayal of history as male oppression and female victimage is a gross distortion of the facts. There was a rational division of labor from the hunter and gatherer period that had its roots not in the male desire to subjugate and imprison but in the procreative burden which has fallen on woman from nature…The atrocious exceptions have been used by feminist theorists to blame all men, when over the whole of human history, men have given heroically of their energy and labor and indeed their lives to benefit and protect women and children.
Motherhood has become so secondary to professional ambitions in the American middle class that it is impossible to imagine a second-year undergraduate at an Ivy League university, for example, announcing to her friends that she plans to drop out, get married, and have a baby. She would be treated as a traitor to her class. “You’re wasting your life,” she would be told. “You’re throwing away your expensive education. You are a future leader!” So these girls of 18, 19, and 20 are coerced not to listen to their bodies but to suppress natural instinct for some ultimate professional goal, which they may or may not be interested in and which may take a decade or more to come to fruition. It is no coincidence that these elite schools have suffered an epidemic of eating disorders, which originate not with fashion magazines, as some have falsely claimed, but with a deep disturbance in female sexual identity rooted in ambitious, demanding, and overprotective middle-class families.
The irony is that the more that men accept the feminist line on what women want, the less women want them.
Beginning in the 1970s, there was an irrational pressure in feminism to deny any kind of hormonal basis to sex differences, a scientifically illiterate fantasy that still flourishes in postmodern cultural studies.
[Most women] want men to be strong, and they know that the only way to make them strong is to pay attention to them. What most men are looking for is female attention and female approval. How simple men are! When women are encouraged to think that they are powerless, we are destroying their ability to recognise reality and to triumph in their own terms.
There are many parallels between our time and that of the Roman empire. Whenever you get cosmopolitan cultures that are very tolerant and permissive, where women begin to move forward, where there is open homosexuality, it seems to be the case that such cultures are ripe for collapse!
Sentiments like these are near-heresy in the contemporary west. To our po-mo culture they are as bizarre as a soldier attempting not to swear as he bayonets an opponent. But then again, it could just be that it is our culture that is bizarre.