Freedom's Progress?: A History of Political Thought, by Gerard Casey
The opening chapter of Casey’s book is entitled “The Dawn of History.” Through this chapter one can discern why much of what is advanced in today’s society is destructive to society. But before getting to this, Casey constructs what is unique about man:
Human beings are singularly badly constructed for survival. …David Hume comments, “Of all the animals with which this globe is peopled, there is none towards whom nature seems, at first sight, to have exercis’d more cruelty that towards man in the numberless wants and necessities, with which she has loaded him, and in the slender means which she affords to the relieving these necessities…”
Ibn Khaldûn offers that many dumb animals were given more perfect power than God gave to man. Man must consciously contrive necessary behaviors whereas other animals have such behaviors instinctually. These contrived behaviors begin at birth; from Frank Tallis:
“The human infant must have a high quality of care, and this is best delivered by two parents working together for an extended period of time – in effect, two parents in a monogamous relationship, sharing a strong pair-bond….”
A male and female, committed to each other for at least long enough to raise the children that they produce. Hard to see how human life on earth would ever have survived absent such an institution.
It is also hard to see how human life would have survived “if procreation had not been put under the dominion of a great passion.” I think I need not explain how this kept the man interested in what otherwise results in a lifelong burden.
So now we have a male, female and child. Next comes the division of labor – and guess what? It was sex-based: women specialized in child-bearing and child-rearing, and foraging near the home; men specialized in long-range hunting and protecting the family. The father was more expendable than the mother; as long as the female survived, more children were possible. Overall men had the worst of the bargain: whereas women faced danger primarily in procreation, men faced danger in both provision and protection.
Casey examines the impact on these relationships brought on by two very recent revolutions: the Reproductive Revolution and the Technological Revolution. In just a few short decades, abortion has gone from rare to common, divorce has no social stigma, even the concept of illegitimacy is forbidden, and homosexual behavior has gone from being vilified to being praised. Sex can now be totally separated from reproduction – friends with benefits, if you will.
In what amounts to a few moments of the history of man, his entire social structure has been overturned; the social, economic, and political consequences are yet to be seen. The implications are still being worked out, “with fear and trembling.”
Casey next addresses the patriarchy. We are told that patriarchy is the universal political structure that favors men over women. No mention of the burdens that come to the man or the benefits that come to the woman; no mention that the structure is rooted in the protective function played by men – and can only have been played by men if the species was to survive. No mention that most men are as politically, socially, and economically impotent as most women.
Men have to be prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to protect the women and therefore the species, as it is only women that can give birth. Casey offers an example of the “low and devious cunning, nineteenth century British parliamentarians – all of whom were men – who…
…attempted to conceal their male dominance by legally prohibiting women from working in coal mines and reserving those delightfully dirty and dangerous jobs for their brother patriarchs.
Even today, the bulk of physically demanding – and dangerous – jobs are dominated by men. Is it a scheme? Casey offers that men must be the only oppressors in history that are…
1) Less well-served by the education system that they created
2) Are greater victims of physical violence
3) Are treated with greater severity by the criminal justice system in respect to divorce and child custody as well as criminal sentencing
4) Do a staggeringly greater proportion of the dirty work – the real dirty, and dangerous, work
5) Are less well-treated by their health systems
6) Live statistically shorter lives
…than the oppressed “other.” It is difficult to identify any other alleged oppressor / oppressed relationship where such things would be the case. Perhaps this does demonstrate one thing: as far as “oppressors” go, men might very well be the dumbest of the lot, and, therefore, the dumber sex.
Perhaps the most compelling argument: Casey suggests one considers the imbalance in the demand for sex. Who really holds the power in this relationship?
Through the institutions revolving around family, and the necessity for such a stable and long-term relationship in order to ensure continuation of the species, Casey offers that man is a social being because man always had to be a social being if he was to survive. It is difficult to imagine children surviving to adulthood had man not been a social being…before he had children (such a chicken and egg thing, I know; but you get the point).
It is also difficult to imagine how man could have survived among the wild animals had he not been a social animal. Remember, men have been placed on earth with none of the physical means to compete against other land animals. Alone – with no division of labor and no large numbers – man was easy prey for beasts of every type.
As social animals, our survival depends much on having appropriate emotional responses to others – being happy in the good fortune of others, showing empathy when called for. Survival also depends on favoring insiders to outsiders – the safety of the known vs. the unknown; the safety of common tradition as compared to foreign.
Morality is much more easily extended to members of the in-group vs. the out group. We band together against the unknown. No need to be upset about this; if not for this you likely would not be here today.
Language – by far the most complex and differentiating skill man has developed relative to other animals – came about spontaneously. It is a social product that offers a model of what is (and, at times, has been) possible in legal, economic and political orders, according to Thomas Sowell.
Don’t compare man’s language to the grunts of some animals. Yes, animals do communicate with each other, but try to find singular or plural; past, present or future tense; suffixes and prefixes. Try to find things that have never been said before in the animals – as we often do in man.
Casey demonstrates the foundational differences in men and women. Legislation and technology are not likely to modify these relationships into a new model that can thereafter survive the transformation. Our history is too long to be toyed with in such a manner.
Further, one cannot read this chapter of Casey’s work without finding something extraordinary in man – something present in man and not in other animals. Is it just random atoms smashing together? And these atoms smashed together in no other species, yet all other species hold in common that these randomly smashed atoms produced nothing of the complexity of the human central nervous system and the unimaginable concept of consciousness?
Randomness produced uniqueness in humans and commonality in every single other animal species on earth? How is that random?
Which takes more faith, to believe in the luck of random atoms or…I don’t know…God?