Saturday, March 08, 2008

Stuff White People Like

The blog "Stuff White People Like" is a self-parody of yuppie culture that is pretty funny. As is quickly apparent, it is not about all white people -- in fact, the current item on the blog, #84 Tee-Shirts, cites "Getting Lucky in Kentucky" as unacceptable because it is worn by the "wrong kind of white people." But that, itself, is part of the parody -- the kind of white people who are self-conscious about being white, and parody themselves because of it, are drawn from the yuppie end of Anglo culture.

And the #1 thing white people like? Coffee.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Why Are There So Many Useless Young Men? Easy Sex

Kay Hymowitz has an excellent article in the current City Journal, "Child-Man in the Promised Land," on the spread of educated, employed, socially retarded young men. These are the men that society has made a huge investment in, in hopes that they would become responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. But they remain in gadget-strewn arrested development. Hymowitz notes that these guys, with the resources to make a social contribution, spend their time and money on proudly immature self-indulgence.

The punchline, though, is that all this self-pleasuring doesn't fill them with pleasure. It makes them numb and apathetic.

Hymowitz cites two successful "lad lit" authors, Nick Hornsby and Benjamin Kunkel, in naming the source of slacker apathy: the easy availability of sex.

I think Hymowitz buries the lead. She set out to chronicle this new social type, the happily immature Single Young Man. As a sociobiologist and a Calvinist, I do not need any convincing that most men, left to their own devices, would live for the sense pleasures of the moment.

I am more interested in what turns boys into men. The great lever that civilization has is the intense, passionate interest of most men in sex with women. I think Hymowitz, and other promoters of civilization, should put that in the lead of each marriage article. If men could only get sex in marriage, the vast majority of SYMs would straighten up within a year.

It is a free country. Men don't have to be responsible. Neither do women. But there is great wisdom in the near-universal social custom of women strictly limiting sex outside of marriage. And without some responsible men, society itself will fall apart. Women can't do everything by themselves.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Richest Families Are Having More Kids

I have previously reported the good news that the marriage rate and the birth rate among the most educated women has risen recently. I attribute this to more study of good sociology. :-)

Now there is evidence that the richest families are bigger. Among the top 1.5% of families by income, the proportion of 40-something women with three or more kids has risen over the past decade from 29% to 41%.

This group is too small to affect the overall birthrate very much directly. Indirectly, though, trends among the rich do tend to affect patterns among the upper middles, at least. And the rich are the people who can best afford more kids. This is a hopeful small development.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

57% of Pakistani Britons are Married to Their First Cousins

Birth defects follow. Altogether, 70% of Pakistani Britons are married to relatives.

The West is in a race between the dangerous social patterns that immigrants bring with them, and the assimilation to our social patterns. We are hampered by the fact that some of our social patterns are also dangerous. Pakistani Britons rightly fear that if their children do not marry safely within their own families, they may assimilate to the British pattern of illegitimacy, which is now becoming the norm among the native British population.

I am not for either wholesale assimilation or wholesale rejection of the host culture. And I am certainly not for restricting immigration just because the immigrants, if there are enough of them and have a strong enough culture, resist assimilation. I think each case of assimilation or not should be judged on its merits.

Mark Steyn, who publishes these scary facts, is worried that the relativism of elite culture in the West gives us no grounds to resist the bad practices that immigrants might bring. I think he is right about that. Things are worse in Europe and Canada than they are in the United States. But we also have a problem with spineless relativism. It is worth practicing vertebrate enhancement of our culture, in anticipation of similar problems.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Low-Sex Marriage is Only a Problem if it Is.

CNN has an article on the reliably titillating subject of the "sexless marriage," which their experts describe as having intercourse less than ten times a year. One of their experts, Marty Klein, a licensed marriage counselor and certified sex therapist in Palo Alto, California, says that one cause of the problem of sexless marriages is "America's obsession with marriage."

I think this is exactly backwards. I think one cause of the problem of unhappy marriages is America's obsession with sex. Sure, sex is a fun, and is one of the many channels through which married people build up their ties with one another. Human beings are built for strong sexual desire at times, especially men. And you can't beat sex as a way to make babies.

Still, there are many more important things in life than sex. Sex is a normal good of marriage, but its good is not best measured in quantity. The more educated people are, the less often they have sex. This doesn't mean there is something wrong with them. It more likely means that they have other good things to do.

If a couple doesn't have sex much, that could be a symptom of a problem in their marriage. But a low-sex marriage is not a problem in itself.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Divorce Cuts Close Ties With Fathers in Half

Penn State researchers Alan Booth, Valarie King, and David Johnson,and Mindy Scott of Child Trends, studied how close adolescents felt to their fathers before and after divorce. The great majority (70+ percent) felt close to their mothers early and late in adolescence, regardless of whether their parents divorced.

With their fathers, most -- 57% -- felt close when asked in early adolescence. In later adolescence nearly half (48%) of the kids with married parents still felt close to their fathers. For the divorced kids, though, those feeling close to their fathers dropped to a paltry 25%.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Who Tortures? The Loyal. Who Won't Torture? Those with a Higher Loyalty

This week Centre College was visited by Darius Rejali, one of the leading experts on torture in the world. In his public lecture, he said that torturers are not chosen for their intelligence, but for their loyalty. One consequence of this fact is that torturers often can't tell when their victims have told them the truth. Their cruelty is for nothing.

In private remarks to another group at the college, Prof. Rejali was talking about the whistleblower at the Abu Ghraib military prison scandal, as well as in some other cases of torture. The whistleblower is usually someone just like the torturers in rank, in class background, in authority at the torture site. What they differ on is their commitment to a higher standard that gives them the courage to say "this is wrong, even if my superior says it isn't." Among Americans, the whistleblower is usually an evangelical Christian.

I think all of us have the capacity of be torturers if we thought it was the only way to protect our loved ones. Scholars like Prof. Rejali can convince our heads that torture does not work to do that, and creates worse harm to society. To move our hearts and guts to say no and stop torture usually requires an additional conviction, from a more spiritual source.