This is the great paradox of our time: In 2017, it has never been easier for us to satisfy our wants, but we seldom have been more dissatisfied. In the United States, in Europe, in Latin America, and even (more quietly) in parts of Asia and in Australia, there is a sense that things are not going quite right, that the old order — not only in politics but also in commercial and religious life — is dead on its feet. People have turned to leaders and movements of very different kinds — Hugo Chávez, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, black-mask anarchism — in search of alternatives. In a sense, they are all the same: Those who had felt themselves to be on the outside looking in are now on the outside looking out.
Once, the question the ambitious and dissatisfied asked themselves was: “How do I climb that ladder?” Current tastes run more toward smashing the ladder and the hierarchies for which it stands in the name of . . . whatever: feminism or anti-feminism, black liberation or white nationalism, global justice or national sovereignty.
We spend our days surrounded by great miracles and minor irritations.
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We do not have a problem of privation in the United States. Not really. What we have is something related to what Arthur Brooks (“the most interesting man in Washington,” Tim Alberta calls him) describes as the need for earned success. We are not happy with mere material abundance. We — and not to go all Iron John on you, but I think “we” here applies especially to men — need to feel that we have earned our keep, that we have established a place for ourselves in the world by our labor or by other virtues, especially such masculine virtues as physical courage and endurance. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the exaggeratedly reverential, practically sacramental attitude we current express toward soldiers, police officers, and firemen.
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The newly unemployed man of 40 seeking to reinvent himself is not in the most promising position.
Two things are going on here related to American unhappiness: The first is that as our economy becomes less physical and more intellectual, success in life is less like war and more like chess, and extraordinary success in life — i.e., being part of the founding of a successful new company — is a lot like being a grandmaster: It is an avenue that simply is not open to everyone. It requires talents that are not distributed with any sense of fairness and that are not earnable: Hard work is not enough.
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But the marriage and family that once was a source of security is today a source of insecurity, an unstable and uncertain thing scarcely defended by the law (it is far, far easier to walk away from a marriage than from a student loan) and held in low regard by much of society. Again, this works differently for men than for women: A single mother is still a mother, but a father who lives apart from his children and their mother is not a father in full. If he is not fixed in this world by being a father and a husband, and if he has only ordinary, unexceptional employment, what, exactly, is he? Self-sufficient, perhaps, and that isn’t nothing. But how does he stand in relation to other men, to his neighbors, and to those who came before him and will come after him? His status is vague, and it is precarious.
And there is the paradox within our paradox: The world is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, and many of us have trouble finding our place in it, in part, because it is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, so much so that we have lost touch with certain older realities. One of those realities is that children need fathers. Another is that fathers need children.
But these are what my colleague David French calls the “wounds that public policy will not heal.” Our churches are full of people who would love to talk to you about healing, but many have lost interest in that sort of thing, too. And so they turn to Trump, to Le Pen, to Chavismo (which is what Bernie Sanders is peddling), and, perhaps, to opiate-induced oblivion. Where will they turn when they figure out — and they will figure it out — that there are no answers in these, either?
And what will we offer them?
Posts tagged ‘children’
In 2016 in the United States, most parents have no reason to worry that their children will be malnourished; in fact, obesity is more of a problem than undernourishment. Our grandparents grew up in a time of war, and with that mindset, they raised their own kids with a healthy sense of perspective. But the current generation of parents, raised without knowing real deprivation, lacks that perspective. In this climate, having a child who is a picky eater has gone from mild annoyance to potential health crisis in need of a solution. Kids aren’t sent to bed hungry anymore, nor can they be allowed to eat their chosen limited diet; instead something has to be done. And since we live in a society that would never miss a marketing opportunity, a company that occupies an entire toddler food group—Cheerios—has discovered a way to play to those fears with a new product: “Cheerios Protein.”
Cheerios Protein is marketed as “fuel” in a new ad campaign. This isn’t the standard parenting trick of tossing some vegetables into baked ziti or pureeing butternut squash and slipping it into the mac & cheese. Cheerios Protein has put more protein into its cereal in the production stage, evidently to combat the supposed problem that some kids eat Cheerios as their major food source. The problem is that the company also ended up adding far more sugar than protein into the final product (seventeen times as much as the original version) with very little added actual protein to show for it.
This is a familiar story for anyone familiar with how food companies have engineered our food from its more natural state into one that is supposedly more “healthy” according to the sensibilities of current food fads. The unintended consequence of altering food in order to make it fit with our current ideas of health is that food engineers often end up accomplishing the opposite of what they intended. The war on fat led companies to take real fat and butter out of our food, replacing them with carbohydrates, sugar and trans fats.
The prejudice against children begins from an immoderate desire for order. Order, the first need of all, is like all other goods in that it can be taken too far. And disgust with the intrinsic disorder of children (especially boys) takes this good to the point of denying the value of life itself. When one adds to this prejudice the social science myth that traditional societies remain poor because they include too many children, one gets a powerful argument against life. Some traditional societies are ruled by policies, such as subdividing inheritances and multiplying the obligations of family members, that do in fact discourage economic advancement. That said, however, contemporary policies in the West have gotten to the point of substituting the government for the family so thoroughly that they, too, have undermined entrepreneurship while having the further disadvantage of sapping the spirit out of communities and increasingly isolated individuals.
Traditional societies are poor for many reasons. They survive because their families remain strong. Modern societies, after decades relentlessly pursuing wealth, are becoming poorer, and increasingly have only the state to look to for “social” security. That state, while seemingly unstoppable in its growth and grasp for power, is running out of money and drowning in the bureaucratic red tape it uses to bind the rest of us to its will.
In addition, society itself is becoming increasingly disordered even as we in effect consume our children. As our middle class disappears, those children who do survive until birth are either palmed off to the state, then to drugs, technology, and further dependency, or put onto “the path to success” at the hands of various facilitating professionals who coddle them in a stress-filled manner creating sky-high suicide rates and the pathetically fragile creatures who inhabit elite institutions of education. This is a society suffering from a veritable death wish, as those with the responsibility for raising responsible adults either eschew children altogether or abandon them to others while they pursue their own vision of personal success, treating spouses and children as mere accoutrements, consumer items made more precious by emotional attachments that, alas, are rooted in precious little practical experience at shaping lives and characters together.
It would be all too easy to throw up our hands and say that this is the inevitable route of decadent cultures, and especially of cultures rooted in the drive for economic well-being. While understandable, such a reaction would be misguided on several levels. First, material goods are in fact good. It is pursuing them for their own sakes, rather than as necessary but limited tools in building a good life for one’s family, that is wrong. Moreover, the progress toward our atomistic society was not paved merely with greed, but more fundamentally with a revolt against nature. By this I mean not merely the rejection of traditional families and the necessary role of women as primary caregivers, but also rejection of men’s obligation to marry, have children, and stay married, supporting their families in good times and bad.
The West’s War on Children, by Bruce Frohnen
“[A]s communities become more ethnically diverse they in fact become socially frayed,” as Jonah Goldberg wrote in The Tyranny of Cliches:
Putnam found that as a community becomes more ethnically and socially varied, social trust plummets. People tend to “hunker down,” in Putnam’s words banding together with a shrunken and shrinking group of friends or alone in front of the TV. Trust in political leaders, the political process, and even voting decline precipitously. Volunteerism, from charitable giving to carpooling, deteriorates. Political activism increases as people look to government to solve problems that once might have been solved by a simple conversation across a coffee table or a shared fence between neighbors. Note: Putnam did not find that diversity fuels racism; the vast bulk of the people interviewed for the study were not bigots. What he found was that diversity promotes alienation, disengagement, and social isolation. This all runs counter to a host of prevailing clichés and pieties.
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A healthy, vibrant society requires citizens who see themselves as parts of things that are larger than themselves, in which they must play important, though rarely central roles. This means that families, churches, voluntary associations, and states are part of a way of life. They are aspects of our nature as social beings.
When we ignore our social nature—or substitute mere political activism for community life—we may enjoy ourselves as flies of a summer, whether singly or in swarm-like mobs. More likely we will merely make ourselves miserable in pursuit of pleasures and honors of the moment that will never satisfy because they have no place in any larger order and so lack any intrinsic meaning or value. And so, no matter how many toys we accumulate before we die, we die fundamentally alone and un-mourned, in a society that is dying, largely unnoticed even by its own members.
The differences in life prospects between children brought up in married-parent households vs. those raised in the new ordinary chaos of American family life are pronounced, correlating with everything from income to felony convictions. In this age of “Do It For the Children” social posturing, the one thing we won’t do for the children is be decent parents, giving them the benefits of a stable, safe, nurturing home. A hashtag campaign is no substitute for that.
Of all the stupid and destructive products of 1960s-style liberation politics, the effective abolition of marriage (and hence of family, properly understood) will, in the end, turn out to be the worst. And spare me your banal self-justifications: “I divorced my child’s mother, but I’m a good father!” “I was never married to my child’s father, but I’m a good mother.” I’m sure you think you are.
Statistically speaking, your domestic situation is about as healthy for your children as would be your picking up a drug habit. (Yes, yes, I’m sure that you are the special-snowflake exception to the rule. One of these days, a three-legged horse might win the Kentucky Derby, too.) The numbers are the numbers.
Strange thing: Wildly different philosophical and religious orientations all point to the same central fact of human life. In Genesis, it’s “male and female he created them.” In Plato, we spend our lives seeking the lost half of ourselves from which we were separated by the gods. In good ol’ Darwinian terms, the getting of healthy offspring is the very purpose of life itself. We parted ways with the chimps a few eons ago, and somewhere along the way we developed habits and institutions that helped us to connect our libidos with one of our most useful and uniquely human traits: the ability to engage in long-term planning, even beyond our own lives.
And then, around 1964, we said: “To Hell with it, let’s just be chimps.”
And here we are.
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Social constructs? That’s a glib way of refusing to talk about reality. And the reality is that men and women are happier when they and their opposite numbers are given the opportunity to be what they are. You can do your damnedest to create an androgynous society, but little boys are still going to reach for the toy gun before they reach for Barbie.
Religious affiliation is less important than regular religious attendance when it comes to predicting divorce.
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Shared prayer is even more strongly associated with higher relationship quality, such that men and women who report praying together frequently (almost once a week or more often) are 17 percentage points more likely to say they are very happy together. Joint prayer is likely to engender a heightened sense of emotional intimacy, communication and reflection about relationship priorities and concerns, and a sense of divine involvement in one’s relationship. However it works, shared prayer is a stronger predictor of relationship quality than other religious factors in our statistical models.
Praise children for acts of kindness, hard work, and tenacity.
People, regardless of their skills, abilities, and talents, can always be kind, work hard, and be tenacious.
One of the less-recognized core purposes of marriage is to structure the sexual behavior of the unmarried. In the past it may have been easier to see this structuring, since the basic message was, “Don’t do it until you’re married.”
But even today the prospect of marriage shapes young adults’ sexual behavior—it’s just that the shape has been turned inside-out. Instead of waiting until marriage, you’re supposed to try a few different sexual partners. You prepare for marriage not through chastity but through sexual variety.
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Regnerus and Uecker draw out the beliefs about the self which shape this ethical norm: for example, the belief that you should only marry when you’re done with “life,” done with change and personal growth.
This post is about identity. How to see yourself. How to figure out if you can remake yourself. How to make a life that is true to yourself. And, put more bluntly, how to get the best deal in a wife given who you are.
For men, there are three choices: breadwinner, and stay-at-home dad, and shared responsibilities.
How to pick a wife if you want to have kids
Oh, and don’t kill your children in the womb.
“Get an ugly girl to marry you”
You cannot pick a husband to have kids with until you know if you want to work full-time while you are raising them. Some women will say they know for sure that they do want to work full-time. Most women will say that they don’t know for sure. But there are actually only two choices: be a breadwinner or marry a breadwinner. Then, within those two choices, there are a few strategies you could use.
Scenario 1: Be a Breadwinner
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Scenario 2: Be Home with Your Kids
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Scenario 3: Denial. Don’t do this.
Hypergamy. Reality. Deal.
Having children is nothing like having a dog or cat. A child is not an accessory.
“Look before you leap.”
“Get yourself on the right track.”
“Finding a good man is like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“We’re looking for you, gonna find you”