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Friday, 31 March 2017

Damon LInker on Those Who Have A Problem With Mike Pence's "Rules"

Learning new things, (and learning that I'm not learning some i ought... what's Storify?)
A columnist named Damon Linker created a Tweetstorm in response to the Mike Pence Actually Takes Steps To Help Insure His Marriage Is Never Imperiled And How Dare He? nonsense that's going on on Those Interwebs, (and even, i fear in some print media.)
And it's great and ought to be in a more readily readable form, (which I gather this mysterious Storify would do.)
About this surprisingly intense controversy about Mike Pence's marital habits.
The man currently VPOTUS said 15 years ago that he never dines alone w another woman, or attends an event where alcohol is being served.
The implication being that this could place him in a condition of temptation with someone other than his wife.
I'm a secular liberal & think it's a bit extreme, yet I don't find this scandalous. In fact, I consider it admirable.
But not many other secular liberals, who have been expressing unrestrained outrage, feel this way. The question is why.
I think it's because this difference is rooted in profoundly different, perhaps incompatible, anthropologies (visions of human nature)
For Pence, I surmise, human beings are fallen, prone to temptation and sin, in a state of moral degradation.
Place a man alone with a woman w no one around, esp if he's in a position of power, & he'll be tempted to be unfaithful to his wife.
Confronted w facts of human nature, there are 2 options: first, faith in God, which is real and powerful, but (given sin) unreliable.
Second option: act to avoid temptation. Don't place yourself in a situation where you'll be tempted to betray your marital vows.
The secular liberal outlook is very different. It is, broadly speaking, Kantian.
Despite obsession w sex, gender, etc., we believe morality involves overcoming bodily inclination/desires, which everyone is free to do.
So there's no reason not to immerse ourselves in sexualized culture, have (married) men & women work tog in all settings (dine w alcohol)
They might experience temptation, but there are internalized universalizable moral principles like "don't cheat!" to keep them in line.
One morality-abiding, bodily transcending subject should be able to have dinner w another w/o incident. Right?
This shld be possible, b/c as Kant says, it must be possible to do what ought to be done, follow principle, overcome nat inclination.
Pence's way of living denies all of this. It denies we're able to restrain ourselves with any reliability.
We need God's help, and we need to keep ourselves away from situations in which we will be tempted to cheat.
I could understand if secular liberal Kantians rolled their eyes at Pence. But why the anger about it?
I don't buy that it's because of a grand injustice to women. He could meet w a woman at the office with coworkers around.
Why isn't that an acceptable accommodation? Like how when I teach college, I'm told not to shut my office door with a student.
Isn't that the same kind of double standard? Yet there's no outrage. It's seen as a prudent measure to protect young women & male profs
The reax w Pence is disproportionate, even given the intensity of partisan rancor at the moment.
So what's really at stake? I think secular libs intuitively understand their Kantian outlook is being challenged by Pence's behavior.
And there is considerable, obvious evidence on Pence's side.
From T Kennedy @ Chappaquiddick, B Clinton & the blue dress to campus sexual assault, not to mention behavior outside modern West, …
Everywhere we see examples of people (esp men) NOT acting like good Kantians, ignoring universal principles, acting on desires.
The secular liberal response is invariably to implore the bad actors, "Act better! Do what's right!" And yes, wouldn't that be nice?
But what if this is a battle that can never be fully won on these terms?
What if it's *possible* to act morally w/o external social/cultural support, but more diff than most secular liberals like to believe?
What if morality requires more social & cultural supports & encouragement than secular liberals are willing to live with?
What if morality requires social & cultural supports that limit individual freedom & that secular liberals are unwilling forgo?
In that case, Pence's simple rules for marital living become an enormous challenge and provocation.
He's called the liberal bluff. Like saying: "If you want to make marital fidelity more likely, you might need to accept less freedom."
And that is simply an unacceptable proposition. Hence the anger, the mockery, the derision, the defensiveness.
It's the response of someone who's been forced to confront possibility that all good things might not go together as easily as hoped.
The freedom of atomistic individualism can be delightful, but it requires/presumes an awful lot from people.
Perhaps it requires far more than most of them can give, at least with any reliability.
Perhaps Pence's more morally traditional outlook has something in its favor—namely, realism.
That would mean the liberal outlook is more fragile, weaker in its foundations than most liberals are willing to accept.
And when you point that out to someone who's heavily invested in that outlook, response is what we've seen: anger and defensiveness.
FWIW, I think liberalism is better off being made aware of its weak spots, and incorporating norms/practices that shore them up.
Even if that req (modestly!) curtailing liberal individualism. In that sense, the (somewhat extreme) Pence example is salutary. //ENDIT
Does one correct spelling, fill out acronyms when one does this?
Not sure, maybe will fix later.

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