Saturday, June 7, 2014

Do Americans Have a Sick, Twisted and Distorted View of Parenthood?


An Ohio father is in jail because his pregnant, unmarried daughter did not want to get an abortion. After the 17-year old told her parents she wanted to keep the baby, they both began beating her. (Her mother was not charged because the victim wanted her mother to be able to care for her two younger siblings.) Even if we disregard these people's murderous rage for  their grandchild we are forced to wonder what misguided instinct for self-preservation would lead two people to so resent their own daughter as to lash out against her for what is, after all, a natural response to her own pregnancy. They reacted to her crisis as if she were their property, a thing, whose future was to be decided as cold bloodedly as if she were a car with a faulty engine that needed to be taken to the mechanic for repairs.
         I guess if you assume that your children are your property, and that you can dispose of your property in any way you choose (as long as you can get away with it) that kind of behavior makes sense.  What you think is love for them is really more of a narcissistic possesiveness which makes you think they are no more than extensions of you and your ego, without wills and identities of their own. Their existence then serves mainly to reflect and embody your plans, dreams, tastes, and hopes. This is never present in your awareness but you regard it as your responsibility to ensure that they turn out "right", "right" being whatever reflects your own prejudices and aspirations, the ones you carry from your childhood and the ones you learned from society.
        I used to get very irritated at television commercials (usually "educational" public service announcements, which are the most banal expressions of our national values) showing a small child, usually a dark-skinned one (patronizing and banal) next to a large picture of a star, announcing that "you can be whatever you want to be!" Or the commercials with a very young child who announces she's (usually its a girl--more patronizing) going to be a doctor or an astronaut or president. The only requirement for these achievements is said to be not hard work, sacrifice, and exceptional talent, but one's imagination. If you can think it, then it can become a reality. Television commercials are not, hopefully, where most people learn life's lessons, but some people believe this stuff. I think if you go to public school--or even Catholic school--in America you absorb this claptrap through your skin. Public schools do not educate children, they mold them--and that is the intent going all the way back to John Dewey who said "The school is the embryo of the social comunity".  The community Dewey had in mind was a socialist utopia, and the schools were to be the means for implementing this aim.
    While our schools have not succeeded in inculcating the kind of socialist values John Dewey had in mind, they are certainly seen not as places where children are educated but as places where they are molded . Education theory is just an extension of Social Science, and the purpose of a school is to train citizens and transmit values, not to develop minds and bodies. The values they are transmitting right about now are the illusion of happiness as the reward of satisfied ambition. The source of this is a kind of introspection--something akin to the kind of decision-making imposed on a customer at a buffet. What you become is not based on your nature, or gifts, or abilities, but on what looks attractive to you. Because John Dewey did not especially believe in human nature. It is something socialists don't really  like to think about. Humans are malleable creatures created by the civilization around them, without free will, without souls. Education is the most logical way to transform society. And transform it he did.
     If everything outside of me is for me--existing either as a threat or as something to be possessed--if my opinions determine what is real and what is not, if my appetites determine what I do,if my humanity is based not on an organic membership in a family or a community but on my own individual drives and perceptions, then all that is left is for me to successfully exert my will on the world around me. Other people are seen as beings whose essence is that they are not me.  What is not me, if it is not in my favor,has to be eliminated.
     We know this is how a sociopath thinks. It is also how a lot of other, normal people think about their lives, on a very primitive and almost unconscious level. Education should free us from this prison of self, but it does not if it does not give us the tools with which we can be free--not free to impose our will on the world, but free to develop according to who we are and what we are meant to become. It would be easy to say that those two wretches simply did not grow up, that their personalities did not develop and they were not socialized.  But no amount of growth and development can occur where there is no recognition that one is a person dependent on others, whose existence can only be fulfilled in and through others.  It is necessary to see one's child as another self. The vehicle for that is and has always been love, which starts in families.
     It is this nature of the family, to transmit an appreciate of the other person as another self to be cherished and valued for his own sake, which is at odds with  the whole rest of the culture. Parents are seen as not much more than the primary causes of psychological disorders, and  financial enablers. Not esteemed, they do not esteem themselves.
     Somebody somewhere decided to treat people as if we were experiments and could be remade. This was for our own good. The problem with social science is that it never takes into account the value and unpredictability of the individual, whose nature it is always to be self-directed. Nature will assert itself if needs be at its most primitive. She cannot be conquered or dominated.  Without civilization, we are not only animals, we are worse than animals.


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