Vita Sackville’s Debauchery was Stunning and Brave
For those involved in the culture wars, LGBTQ issues, debates on gender, pro or anti abortion positions and other such controversies seem to be of crucial importance. The turbulence caused by activists on either side has been so profound, it became part of the cultural divide, surfacing even in the last USA presidential elections.
Centrists always regarded polarisation on these issues to be a ‘red herring’, a false problem whose purpose is to divide and demoralise society so that one group or another would gain political power.
If we were to regard the Liberal project in its full historical scope, Progressives are still fighting the good fight for radical individual autonomy, and sexual matters have an important role in this.
I was recently watching a horror mini series episode (Haunted, ‘Cult of Torture’) about a family who joins an extremist Evangelical sect that regards every vice as being the result of demonic possession; the pastor realises that the family’s 6 years old son is gay and for 10 years they submit him to an abusive treatment in order to exorcise the demon of homosexuality. Everyone watches this with indignation and fury at the Christians’ bigotry. This is the dominant Progressive emotion, the psychological impetus that has fuelled their revolutionary spirit ever since the French Revolution. And you get it up to a certain point; Christianity sacralised certain institutions, people have become prudish and puritanical and defended those institutions with too much violence. What can a man do to escape an unhappy marriage if the Church forbids divorce? What can a woman do to escape an unwanted pregnancy? Let them deal with their own problems; why so interested in their private affairs?!
This fury and indignation has been extinguished after decades of sexual liberation in which marriage has become increasingly feebler, while the rates of divorce and involuntary celibacy have grown steadily. Only a few middle aged Guardianistas and former Evangelicals are still frothing at the mouth, especially those who happened to have an unhappy marriage. It’s good to be autonomous, I get it. It’s good not to condemn you for being autonomous; to even applaud you; to put on rainbow stickers on windows and windshields; to admit that every choice you make on familial matters or their complete rejection, is perfectly valid. But are there vicious ways of exerting one’s autonomy?
Vita Sackville-West, an early 20th century British aristocrat, married Sir Harold Nicolson, with whom she had 2 children. Both Vita and Harold were gay, but loved each other. They both had same-sex relationships, the difference being that for Harold those were strictly sexual and short lived, whereas Vita would get involved emotionally. Her second crush – the writer Virginia Woolf – convinced her to abandon her family and commit exclusively to her thundering romance. After much pleading, Harold barely managed to convince her to return.
From her Elisabethan tower on her immense estate, still enjoying the benefits of an open marriage and tolerant husband, Vita would later write that she is dreaming of a time in which social progress will allow us to abandon the constraints of monogamy and any ideals of loyalty; to let people truly love each other! And in the 90s BBC released a tear-jerking documentary, shoving this story down the throats of obedient Brits: ‘don’t you dare to judge the stunning and brave avant-garde author who suffered immensely as a queer waman.’
As a reactionary, I have the following unqualified reservations:
1. Vita Sackvile was a mediocre writer who benefited from undeserved fame due to her privileged position. She did not have to work to sustain her family and this allowed her to invest time in literature and sexual experiments.
Peaceful, prosperous times create weak, decadent navel-gazing people. Think about the immense technological cost of a sex change operation. The lower classes never develop such preoccupations because they simply don’t have time for them; subsistence fills that void. For them, loyalty and monogamy make all the difference between a life of poverty and misery (teen pregnancies, single mothers, alimony and child maintenance payments) and a stable one.
The new managerial elite does not employ titles of nobility to legitimise itself; it rather maintains its status through the smokescreen of LGBTQ issues (insta victim status, therefore fit to rule in the inverted Intersectional struggle) or race baiting (insta victim by proxy). All these are in fact luxuries not affordable to anyone outside their bubble.
2. The monogamous family represents the most efficient and robust way of raising children. It is the point in which you realise the importance of values other than autonomy. If you sacrifice these values for the sake of autonomy, other people end up hurt and dysfunctional. Not all of us choose to have children, but we’ve all been children at some point in our life. No one forced Vita to marry and have children, especially if she knew she was not particularly attracted to men. Her cousin was gay and chose not to marry. If she had any integrity left she would have admitted that the intent to abandon her family had been a moral failure. But she couldn’t even bring herself to do that in retrospect; she rather chose to glorify her vice as being the sublime manifestation of free, unprejudiced love. The exaltation of Liberal virtues cannot be dissociated from self-congratulation.
3. Although people should have the freedom to separate whenever they choose, matrimonial fidelity is one of the principles I adhere to. When others or myself violate this principle, I consider it immoral. Not emitting this judgement would make me unprincipled, inconsistent, lacking integrity.
Simply holding to this principle, on the other hand, will turn me into a bigoted reactionary, an enemy of social progress, a [buzzword]phobe and part of the problem. The only way in which you avoid this trap is by exclusively sacralising tolerance (in its contemporary redefinition) and inclusion. Thou shalt have no other gods!
4. Centrists regard LGBTQ activism as a betrayal of classical Liberal values, because it involves statism and bureaucratic surveillance of matters pertaining to private life. However, the classical Liberal values do not offer a principle strong enough* to oppose the alphabet people. How can you prove we have already gained enough autonomy? That the matrimonial institution should not be totally disregarded? As long as people sacrifice parts of their autonomy for the sake of their children or any other purposes, the liberation struggle must go on. And in this process, Liberalism becomes more totalitarian, puritanical and prudish; it revitalises public shaming and humiliation – a phenomenon that had been extinguished 2 centuries ago. An excess of liberation has led to cancel culture.
The only difference between Christian and Progressive Puritans is that the first treasured valuable institutions, while the only thing treasured by the new Puritans is Leviathan, behind a smokescreen of narcissism, decadence and self-congratulation.
* Theoretically one could draw a line between negative natural rights and positive rights, created by states. In practice, classical liberals have lost all battles, suggesting this might not be the right hill to die on