What is patriarchy? Is it evil? One would think so, given American culture today.
But no. In the words of Pythagoras, it’s arguably a given. We will explain why today with reference to a book published in 2017.
In addition, this post is the first in a series on men or manhood, which we’ve chosen to emphasize now because men and their nature, as ever, explain the lion’s share of America’s problems. Furthermore, we are quite certain this has always been the case. As we’ll explain in the series, we don’t consider this opinion, but fact.
Worldview theory often derives from facts that jump out at us from the natural world into which we’re born. They are givens, and the “ontological” fact of the biological sexes is perhaps the most basic and impactful differentiator gracing human consciousness.
One might even say, “Being is about sex.”
(So, today, that’s what we’re talkin’ about.)
But first, there is the issue of defining patriarchy, and it’s more problematic than one might think. Of course, pater means father in Latin, so to start, patriarchy would mean the rule of fathers over family, clan, tribe, or larger group. Of course, a broader definition would be rule by men or rule with men having a disproportionate share of power – presumably greater than one vote per person or over 50% of total “imagined” power, assuming an equal dispersion of males and females within the group being observed.
But then there is group rule by consent, merit, morals, religion, ideology, custom, law, strength, intimidation, fact – it gets complicated very quickly.
When simply considering law, there is the question: What is the accepted form of political rule? Dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy, republic, democracy, clan, cult, chaos. All of these legal forms (except chaos) can have implications on which sex rules, if either one, the other, or both, dating from ancient times to now.
In most ancient worlds – Greece and Rome, for example – and in some Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Asian societies, the father had absolute authority over the family, as the paterfamilias in the Roman world – even to the point of control over life and death.
In more recent times, some Western monarchical societies featured primogeniture, arguing the necessity of maintaining estates of many types that were believed to be difficult to construct but good for society or community, thus vital to preserve.
Lastly, it might be fair to say today that most societies outside Western Europe and North America still give Dad an outsized say-so in the family’s final decisions and maybe even in the political realm. Here in the States, most American dads recognize it’s a 50-50 partnership, with the truth often varying over time, situation, and from couple-to-couple.
Then, there are the seemingly simple and apparently much smaller, related issues of, say, term of office. With respect to marriage, most consider it for life.
But with “presidents for life,” are Russia and China now betting that it’s more effective and best for the people to have a tightly directed nation over the long run than the every two-to-four year offices that seem to be creating only political chaos in America? We can’t even balance our budget, and we know no family can function that way.
Or are China and Russia simply Mafia- or Mob-based dictatorships, with presidents for life being only another political form used to serve oneself? As such, Russians and Chinese are being honest about the life-term but dishonest about its basis – feigning broad democracy to mask sophisticated, sometimes bone-crushing absolute rule.
Many Americans today question the operating effectiveness of our democracy, and, especially since last month’s national election, its underlying integrity.
In any case, we can all agree that the Unites States today, thank goodness, is not a patriarchy in any real sense. Bottom line: It’s not what we have, and it’s not what any of us has wanted for a very long time.
Who knows how long?
It’s probably been at least 100 years since America formally rejected rule by men. We would argue a balanced democracy evolved over hundreds of years in the West and was formally recognized at the national level in 1919 with the 19th U.S. Constitutional Amendment (giving women the vote). Today, equal authority permeates society in just about every way. The democratic concept has won at every level from the federal government to the traditional family.
In fact, we’ve gone today well beyond “equality of the sexes” to the point that our educational institutions discriminate in favor of women and African-Americans, particularly, to the disadvantage of men and other government classified race categories. (We do not support such categorization, BTW, because it creates a permanent, unequal legal status.)
Just recently, most universities and many secondary schools even have gone on record supporting an organization has expressed an intent to destroy the traditional monogamous family – Black Lives Matter – presumably because its leaders believe marriage is a locus of white male supremacy – i.e., a racially-based patriarchy.
(We don’t know about you – any white American male husbands of the world out there – but good luck with that one.)
Come to think of it, being anti-male is kind of everywhere. Want to get published? Try this.
So, here’s a question before proceeding with today’s book presentation that’s a bit of an aside, but not much: Are we placing all of our American chips on a political model based upon the assumption that Americans are intelligent and of a high character? What happens if the average American voter is not informed, intelligent, or virtuous enough to have good judgement and vote well?
It seems the United States remains “the American Experiment” for all to observe, admire, or mock, like it or not. Ultimately, we American citizens will determine how it goes.
In our last blog post we presented a picture of a stack of books and declared that Praxis Circle would investigate the question of What should Christians do? given, arguably, the unsatisfactory state of America today. Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (2017) is an elegantly written, direct, and short attempt to answer all questions posed here in only 193 pages. As stated previously, Praxis Circle loves pirates and Tar Heels, and, as author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization and as a professor of English with a doctorate degree from UNC, Dr. Esolen qualifies on both counts.
We would normally attempt a short book summary, but in this case, Out of the Ashes provides its own excellent summary inside its book cover. We don’t think we can outdo Dr. Esolen or his publisher, so we offer their own summary here at the very bottom. It includes eight specific recommendations in bullet point fashion, beginning with the restoration of truth. We would only add, if we may, that Dr. Esolen seems to be calling us to give increased attention to what used to be more in vogue – natural law.
Today, the academically self-anointed smear natural law, dualism, metaphysics, and the supernatural every chance they get. However, after thousands-to-billions of years in the making, we don’t think natural law has been suspended; not yet, anyway. To us, it’s laughable to imagine such a fantasy is even within human control.
Now about the science of the sexes: Upon review of such recent summary works as Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class (2020), it seems science is finally catching up with regular human experience. In particular, among the accepted categories that Identity Politics allows – gender, race, and class, gender is not only a social construct. It’s probably more nature than nurture.
In fact, there are significant biological differences between the sexes which make supreme sense of gender roles and our fundamental institutions, like marriage. With every passing day scientists are uncovering more evidence that sex or gender is fundamental, though Cancel Culture prevents us from speaking the truth. A great cultural lie is that State, culture, and science can cover for and even change nature.
One of Mr. Murray’s primary themes is that such Identity Politics orthodoxy – talk about hegemony – is in the process of being overthrown.
Here are just two of Mr. Murray’s propositions based on extensive review of the scientific data. While all of us are very much biologically alike as human beings: “1. Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures, 2. Many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior.” (Propositions #1. and 4. on page 7) Mr. Murray believes that sex differences are more pronounced in egalitarian cultures because each person is more free to follow where nature wants to lead.
Mr. Murray doesn’t write much about the obvious physical differences between male and female related to reproduction or to size, strength, speed, etc., most likely because they’re already obvious, but also because some of these physical differences appear anecdotal in isolated cases. In other words, while there are many individual women who are bigger, stronger, and faster than individual men, the differences between the sexes in most relative physical averages are not disputed.
And, of course, women do have many significant biological advantages over men, “advantages” that science usually credits as having something to do with survival or longevity. But there are many differences between the sexes beyond the purely physical, and, arguably, this all aids survival. Most important, differences between man and woman help the world go round, and over the long run it might just kill us all to deny it.
To proceed, if you take a glance at Dr. Esolen’s recommendations below, you will see they are general and wide-ranging. Since this post features his more specific comments about “patriarchy,” some of which follow here, we thought it might be good to be clear that we are placing them within the context of his recommendation to restore manhood and womanhood (#5, as we tagged it below). Obviously, this recommendation involves both sexes and how they relate to each other.
And last, a little worldview philosophy from Sir Roger Scruton might help place the science in context. In our opinion, what philosophers do for a living is use reason to create their own worldview on an ongoing basis, which they then use in turn to agree with, critique, or destroy the worldviews of others, also on an ongoing basis.
Not a bad profession, though it’s difficult to monetize because every human being is doing it.
On the other hand, few are as gifted as Roger Scruton.
With this in mind, please review the playlist reproduced immediately below, which offers an overview of Sir Roger’s theory of cognitive dualism. We’ve added a few more clips from the interview to place it in context. It’s total video time is 7:41:
We actually asked Sir Roger a question about the Esolen passage on patriarchy quoted below by paraphrasing it; see the fourth clip SRS-38 (1:30) “Are good men necessary to control evil men?” As you can see, Sir Roger was a bit taken aback by the question. Not surprising, since he probably knew it could get us all in trouble.
Dr. Scruton often led his answers with a thoroughly British, impish, understated humor. Anyone who knows Roger would have anticipated a studied appreciation for the many great female leaders of British history (and world history) – as examples, Queen Elizabeth I and II, Queen Victoria, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Clearly, for a very long time, women haven’t had any problem leading or inspiring Englishmen.
So, to lead off, Roger smiles and says Dr. Esolen must have been experiencing “nightmares”! ☺
Well, yes, this is what many think the West has gotten itself into. We won’t belabor Sir Roger’s points because we want his video and writing do the talking.
But we do want to say that his answers suggest the following: If we as humans over the course of our lives come to believe something fundamental to be true, then it probably is.
We should not let reductionism or science question the obvious because such practice often mixes apples and oranges or enables pure sophistry. As Roger says in the playlist and as people like Dr. James Davison Hunter suggest (see his book mentioned in our last post), science is about cause and effect, not what human beings do with it.
If we believe we can act freely using our reasoning capabilities to help steer behavior and events, we probably can. If we believe the circumstances we call charity are good and murder are bad, they probably are. If we believe men and women are beautifully different and complementary, they probably are. In sum, we should be very slow to attempt upsetting our common human experience with Mother Nature.
From what we can tell, in the long run, She remains mostly undefeated, like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Clemson in most recent football years. (And congratulations to the Irish over the Tar Heels in the second half last Friday.)
The last task before turning you over to Dr. Esolen’s own words is to explain the featured video at top from the beautiful ending of Father of the Bride (1991).
As mentioned, patriarchy is rooted in pater or father, and we regard the presentation of fatherhood as shown in that movie as a triumph of cinematography that all fathers with daughters worldwide could agree on. Such a vote would unanimously confirm Sir Roger’s theory. Most important: Such blessings of a son or daughter is what parenthood, fatherhood, motherhood, and family are most about.
In the West, the concept of paterfamilias is gone, and, as defined in ancient Rome, good riddance.
When we Boomers came of age, the family was celebrated with comic seriousness with shows like I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Danny Thomas Show, Leave It to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show (Mayberry), The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show. All of these TV shows portrayed quirky though traditional families in a positive way.
To most, all of this seemed to culminate in cinema with the Greatest Generation’s celebration of family as the center of life with Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music in 1964-65. We would argue these efforts were nothing more than portrayals of natural law as the West had come to see it.
Like Anthony Esolen, Roger Scruton, and Charles Murray, we believe these values are universal. Today, a growing number of female writers, philosophers, and social scientists would agree.
With our last cultural comment today, we would like to zero in on Mary Poppins (1964) and The Father of the Bride (1991) for the simple reason that the lead fatherly characters in both cases are named George Banks; this was intentional on the part of Father of the Bride’s film makers.
As most of you know, the story of Mary Poppins centers around how “that Poppins woman” and the Wheel of Fortune delivered George Banks an extreme attitude adjustment about life’s sacred priorities. If you will, please glance though the following scenes from the movie; they’re in sequence:
Today, radical feminists everywhere will cheer and think this was a still early-stage triumph of womanhood counting coup on the patriarchy. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) had just set the stage with more progress soon to follow.
But that was not our impression as kids watching the movie, with literally all of the rest of America and much of the West. Instead, Mary Poppins seemed more a recognition of what all of those Greatest Generation men knew had sustained them in the hedgerows of Europe and the jungles of the Pacific. God bless them all, everyone. We were sitting in the movie aisles the product of a Baby Boom enjoying the blessings of what George Banks had discovered and what life in a free and good country had to offer.
In its historical setting just before World Wars I and II, Mary Poppins was a reminder, but in no sense new information to any Westerners then.
So, having come of age and being fathers and mothers by the time of Father of the Bride, we editors of Praxis Circle viewed the final scene shown at top here as a similar celebration of life’s triumph of the mysteries of God and Nature. Indulge us one more time with a similar progression of how life delivers timeless and marvelous lessons of fatherhood and motherhood, the only sound basis of all “patriarchy”:
Since the glorious but overrated, underrated 1950’s and 1960’s, America TV and film has tended to emphasize, though not exclusively, husbandry, fatherhood, and family life as a form of neurosis: All in the Family, Kramer versus Kramer, The Bob Newhart Show, The Simpsons, Mrs. Doubtfire, South Park, Family Guy. All of these shows are wonderful, often side-splitting productions, but, admittedly, there have been fewer Happy Days, Cosby Shows, Good Times, and Wonder Years with each passing year.
The good news, as the Blender Scene above indicates, is that Dads are not yet obsolete, with good husbands and fathers in relatively short supply. In fact, the fate of America might depend on good patriarchy making a comeback and getting the rest of the male population back on Western civilization’s reservation.
Finally, at long last, here is the selected quote form Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes about patriarchy, with his summary book recommendations following immediately. Even if his words seem offensive, we recommend you buy the short book and read it.
It never hurts to know more about worldviews different from your own. That’s what we at Praxis Circle do for a living.
The Necessity of Patriarchy
We train boys to be men. If you believe that the Church, the nation, and what is left of Western culture and civilization can be revived or rebuilt without the leadership of men, I suggest you take an honest look at what happens when men retreat from the public square. You do not get rule by women. You get anarchy – social chaos that requires the vast machinery of state control to manage, control that enters into a host-parasite relationship with the chaos itself, much to the destruction of true liberty and the flourishing of communities.
Why is this so? All we have to do is to rub the self-administered past from our eyes. Men are bigger, stronger, more aggressive, and more tolerant of violence than women are. That is a plain fact. Foolish social scientists often look for esoteric explanations for violence. They miss the explanation that is nearest of all. Violence is fun. It makes things happen.
If you do not raise men to be fathers – not just progenitors of children, but fathers in the full sense implied by a phrase like “city fathers” – they will not therefore become compliant and gentle mothers. They will either drag out their days in ennui and desperation or go very bad, very fast. Nor will they lack for women, and plenty of them, too, who will be attracted to the dangerous man, the rebel, the leader of the gang. The alternative to rule by fathers, which is what patriarchy means, is male dominion in the form of a police state or in persons of men outside the law.
The evidence is everywhere . . . (pages 103 – 104)
From the Out of the Ashes book cover:
What do you do when an entire civilization is crumbling around you? You do everything. This is a book about how to get started.
– The first step is the restoration of truth. America’s most powerful institutions – including the government – are mass producers of deceit. We have to recognize the lies and clear out the minds of cant (#1).
– Our culture produces only the drab or the garish. We must restore beauty – in art, architecture, music, and worship (#2).
– There are two things wrong with our schools – everything our children don’t learn in them, and everything they do learn. Public schools are beyond reform. We have to start over (#3).
– Our universities are as bad as our schools. A few can be saved, but for the most part, we must build new ones. In fact, this is already being done. We have to support these efforts as if our children’s souls depended on it (#4)
– Repudiating the Sexual Revolution, that prodigious engine of misery, requires more than zipping up. The modern world has made itself ignorant about sex – in particular that there are two of them and they’re profoundly different. We must restore manhood and womanhood (#5).
– In our servile economy, we raise bureaucrats not craftsmen. We must rediscover how to make things that are beautiful and lasting – the products of human work. And we must dispense with the “rent-seeking” – the proliferation of middlemen whose own work contributes nothing (#6).
– We have turned sports into a job for our children. Instead of playing we “workout.” A genuine civilization is based on celebration. We must restore play to human life, seeing all other days of the week in light of the Sabbath (#7).
– The gigantic scale of government has made us a nation of “idiots,” incapable of attending to public affairs and the common good. We must insist that the Constitution is not whatever judges say it is, complying with but not obeying their edicts while we reclaim our freedom of religion one outdoor precession, one public lecture, one parish picnic at a time (#8).
We must love this world, but we have here no abiding city. The great division is between those who place all their hope in the present life and those who know that we are pilgrims. There is no retreat, but take courage – we have our map. Let us begin.
And this brings us back to Pythagoras, perhaps the most underrated man in history. Most know him only as the person who discovered the formula about the squares of the right-angled sides of a triangle equaling the square of the hypotenuse. We also know that very few Americans today would know anything about Pythagoras if it wasn’t for the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
Too bad, because in some ways Pythagoras was the true beginning of the Classical part of Classical Judeo-Christianity. Like Homer in The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Simpsons, Pythagoras has received much more credit than probably deserved for his religious, philosophical, and scientific thinking.
Though he certainly did not discover the Pythagorean theorem, he was a legendary religious leader to Ancient Greece and Rome, and he heavily influenced Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Pythagoras is even credited as the first to call philosophers “lovers of wisdom.”
What’s important for today, however, is the how Pythagoras proved his theorem using deductive reasoning. Such reasoning always starts with something that every mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and student can agree on: “It’s a given.” In The Theorem’s case, “it’s a given” is that the area of a square is always equal to the square of any of its sides.
To sum up in agreement with Dr. Esolen: In building terrific human societies that maximize human love and flourishing, we might want to jump-start our thinking about the proper, complementary roles of men and women. We should rest easy in that we can be equal as human beings in God’s image without being the same.
We suspect that if there is an All-Powerful Creator God Who wants humanity to be of one sex, then after billions of years we might already be there. Moreover, even if it’s within our power, we should be very slow and loath to change.
To follow, more on the severe downside and the upside of having men in the world . . .