Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Boring Bourgeois Morality

I remember the Sixties really well, when the beatniks and marxists did a synthesis and we ended up with an amorphous "hippie" culture, the whole point of which was to be the opposite of that boring old bourgeois morality. Basically, everything the Western world had learned about morality and honorable behavior for the last couple of millennia was to be thrown out with the trash, and we were just going to make things up as we went along. With a little help from our groovy intellectual betters, of course. Doing your own thing was okay as long as it was an approved countercultural thing.

Paradoxically, it's long been a feature of Western Civilization to question things, and to be suspicious of tradition and consensus. That's where the whole idea of science came from, of course, and it was applied to lots of things outside of science. But questioning isn't the same thing as ignoring or rejecting. For example, it's also been a long Western tradition to question the authority of the church. Or any church. That's what Luther and those other guys were all about. Interestingly, though, Luther didn't come up with the opposite of Catholicism. He came up with what he regarded as a reform of Catholicism.  And he didn't think of it as something new — He thought of it as a return to what the Church originally was and ought to be, from which the Church authorities had strayed over the centuries. He wasn't, in his mind, creating a new religion, but was discovering what religion was supposed to be.  And that's been the Western tradition of skepticism for a long time now.

But in the Sixties, "skepticism" sort of changed its meaning, and simply became doing as you damn well pleased because tradition and authority were bad by definition. Anything new was good, and it was okay, nay, required, that you make up new rules of morality and toss out the old. This was when "situational ethics" became a concept, I believe. Luther would have called it BS, or self-serving nonsense. Or casuistry, and we know what he thought of that stuff.

Well, I stray. The main point here is that traditional Western morality (and a lot of morality from other civilizations) works pretty darn well for human beings, because most of what it encourages is rational and healthy, and most of what it prohibits is pretty stupid and self-destructive. Whether this is because God made it up or because it evolved to its basic form because it worked so well is an interesting question, but not crucial to understanding this: if you behave immorally by traditional Western standards you are going to hurt yourself and other people. Especially the most vulnerable. Like little girls. And the hipster crap that got so popular fifty years ago doesn't work very well at all. Kathy Shaidle elaborates over at Takimag:

A Lust for Lolitas


She was an atheist and I’m a (half-assed) Catholic, so neither one of us is supposed to believe in karma. But I like to think that just before a thieving employee hacked her to pieces, that cuntish human toothache known as Madalyn Murray O’Hair pondered the possibility that she was getting precisely what she deserved.

Or maybe the thought had crossed her mind earlier, back in 1980. That’s when her son William—the plaintiff of record in her successful 1963 case to ban compulsory prayer in schools—told her he was a Christian. Later he even became a Baptist minister.

Alas, this sort of thing doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Liberty Bradford Mitchell’s story comes close enough that I’ll take it.

Her father Artie and uncle Jim were the Mitchell brothers, who ran what one-time night manager Hunter S. Thompson called “the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America”: San Francisco’s O’Farrell Theatre. They didn’t just screen porn films—they made them, the most famous one being Behind the Green Door.

Now, Larry Flynt is a pain in the ass. Al Goldstein was a creep. Bob Guccione? A pretentious poseur. Hugh Hefner is just plain embarrassing.

Yet the Mitchell brothers were so shamelessly odious, they make their fellow 1970s porn kings look like the chaplains on the Dorchester.

(One biography of the Mitchells is entitled The Bottom Feeders.)

In her new one-woman show, The Pornographer’s Daughter, Liberty, now 42, talks about being exposed to pornography at age four, when she wandered into a screening of the dailies and her father let her stick around.

As her name suggests, her parents were let-it-all-hang-out hippies who raised their kids “free range” style. Liberty’s childhood was lousy with all the porn, hookers, pot, and coke that $25 million could buy—that being the Mitchells’ estimated profit on…Green Door.
(Read the rest HERE.)

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