Tolstoy’s Prescient Critique of Postmodern Sexual Ethics

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy tells the story of the adulterous romance between the title character and the dashing Alexei Vronsky. Experiencing true love for the first time, Karenina leaves her stifling marriage to a religious, conservative, and cruel husband, while Vronsky leaves behind his life of womanizing. Yet not all is happy in the relationship between these two consenting adults. Joshua Pauling sees in the novel a powerful corrective to Western morality in the era after the sexual revolution:

Several of the book’s main characters reject marital and familial commitments, and their choices leave themselves and their families deeply broken. Vronsky and Anna’s affair, with its unrestrained and disordered desire, ultimately consumes them both, as Vronsky confesses: “As a man, I’m a wreck, [stuck in] a wholly useless remorse never to be effaced.”

The book also explores how sexual liberation affects children. To Vronsky, “a man is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of culture should live,” and children are inconveniences that should not “prevent their parents from enjoying life.”

As Anna and Vronsky begin their affair, Anna’s son Seryozha haunts them. Vronsky often notices the child’s “bewildered glance fixed upon him, . . . as though the child felt that between this man and his mother there existed some important bond, the significance of which he could not understand.” Despite being pricked in their consciences by Seryozha, they refuse to reorder their desires; instead they flee to Italy. Seryozha becomes a casualty of their self-serving love.

Alongside Vronsky and Anna’s libertine relationship, Tolstoy portrays a contrasting experience of marriage and family through the character of Konstantin Levin. Levin’s thoughts on marriage are quite different from those of his aristocratic friends. Levin was “so far from conceiving of love for woman apart from marriage that he positively pictured to himself first the family, and only secondarily the woman who would give him a family.” While the [members of Vronsky’s urbane and aristocratic circle] saw marriage as a life accessory, “for Levin it was the chief affair of life, on which its whole happiness turned.”

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Leo Tolstoy, Literature, Sexual ethics, Sexual revolution

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion