YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 10, 2015

Is there life after birth? State’s rights and controlling our children

“Halloween 2013” by unidcolor (Deviant Art)

I have come to suspect that the current fights over “local control” versus “Big Government” are greatly about controlling the education of our children (seen as an extension of constructing the curriculum).

State’s rights used to be code for the defense of slavery both before and after the Civil War. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/States%27_rights).

What I am about to argue will offend many conservatives, perhaps less so Independents. I’m sorry, but we are talking about not only the emancipation of women, but about self-determination in our children, and the current imperative to defend “the family” against all allegedly disintegrating influences, whether these be (liberal) feminism, or enforcing national education standards, both hotly contested by some Rightist factions.

What do children want and need from parents? In no particular order:

  1. Safety. I have stated before that if parents are not willing to stay together, despite the fading of romantic love, they should not have children. [update: owing to reader feedback and recent research in parenting, divorce in some cases may be beneficial to children; of more relevance are the parenting skills of the single parent]. I have never heard of an instance where children did not blame themselves for parental discord, let alone separation and divorce (though this is rarely admitted). I have already expressed my opposition to divorce here: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/16/thought-crimes/. A true confession: my own parents divorced when I was nineteen years old, and I never got over it. The world was never experienced as safe for me after that, and I made a lot of hasty decisions that I have come to regret in recent years. Obviously, there are cases where divorce is absolutely necessary, but be prepared to take the consequences if you have children. As one respondent to my blog wrote, strong, emotionally honest communication is desirable at every stage of life. (If only we knew when we are entirely honest with respect to our emotions.)
  2. The careful management of each stage of child development. It used to be acknowledged that the early years of childhood are “the magic years.” Why do grownups persist in such irrationalism, inventing magical escapes into apocalyptic fantasies or beliefs in various monsters?  (The fight between science and religion cannot be conciliated unless the religion in question favors empiricism and a realistic view of what is (dogmatically) called “human nature.”)
  3. Talking about “evil” as an independent force in the universe fortifies demoralization and escapism. I.e., we will always be too weak to overcome such diabolical forces. That way lies authoritarianism of every variety. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/06/21/apocalypse-and-the-escape-artist/.)
  4. A realistic appraisal of the differences between men and women, including the strengths of each gender. No one who has had boys AND girls will doubt this truism. (See https://clarespark.com/2014/06/14/is-the-us-feminized-a-fathers-day-blog/)
  5. Children model their parents’ behavior. If we want to raise political awareness in our children, the parents’ involvement in the world beyond the home is crucial. This is how elites reproduce themselves, by frank talk. The more sophisticated elites talk about sharp differences with competing ideas about social organization with empathy and historically grounded understanding. This is probably the hardest thing to accomplish of all my categories of ideal parental conduct, for it possibly entails both affirmation and rejection of our own parents’ foibles and accomplishments.

If this sounds utopian to most readers, it is, but then the great historian Frank E. Manuel once alleged that the utopian element is a part of the human personality. At least the blog sets out what I take away from my own experience in families. There never was nor will there be a “golden age” with no conflict, but we can imagine alternatives… or can’t we?

The Golden Age, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530

The Golden Age, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530

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June 27, 2015

Gay marriage and what “liberty” signifies

Mediaite sign pro-gay marriage

Mediaite sign pro-gay marriage

The SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage throughout all the states, despite voter opposition in many instances, has aroused furious debate, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, which is semi-hysterical in nature. This blog situates the SCOTUS decision within the culture wars, and argues that “liberty” and “freedom” are terms that do not invoke a common meaning between factions.

I will not go into the mixed motives that inform defenses of both heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriages (androgyny; misogyny; resentment of male power; defense of, or opposition to, state’s rights; deference to ancestors; monogamy; bisexuality; hyper-masculinity; to mention only a few factors).

Some social conservatives, not content with the religious pluralism inherent in the separation of Church and State, may wish to impose their beliefs on others. Already some comments suggest that “democratic debate,” not decrees from Big Government under pressure from a particular interest group, should have decided the issue, as if social conservatives would suddenly relinquish their belief systems in recognition of rational argument, or similarly would abandon their beliefs in the slippery slope toward perdition (if gay marriage is okay, what is next: polygamy? pedophilia? bestiality? children of gay parents diverted from heterosexual into gay relationships?)

I have argued before that there is no reconciliation possible between libertarians and social conservatives through “democratic debate,” for their conceptions of “liberty” are incompatible. Traditionalists are defending the submission to their gods as “liberty”, while libertarians believe in choice dependent on the individual and her or his unique proclivities, whether chosen or genetically transmitted.

We have been having this fight since the Enlightenment. It is yet another irreconcilable conflict, like antebellum slavery/Reconstruction or abortion rights today.

(For related blogs, see https://clarespark.com/2014/01/23/androgyny/, or https://clarespark.com/2012/05/10/androgyny-with-an-aside-on-edna-ferber/, or https://clarespark.com/2013/03/27/power-in-gay-andor-heterosexual-attachments/.)

Satyr and Goat

Satyr and Goat

November 7, 2012

“Capitalism” is on the line

As I watched Mitt Romney’s most recent stump speeches, noting his emphasis on bipartisanship, my heart sank, for the current polarization is not about matters that are easily conciliated through finding “common ground” or “compromise.” Romney’s is the voice and admonition of the moderate man, avatar of the neutered state (see https://clarespark.com/2012/06/29/the-neutered-state/).

Rather, the nation is polarized around capitalism itself, whether or not our market society can offer upward mobility and a better quality of life for all persons willing to work. Let us not forget that “capitalism” is a relatively recent development in the world, and, in the propaganda of entrenched aristocratic elites, “capitalism” was always a term of derision with nasty antisemitic undertones: the God-killing “money power” and the machines the money power (the industrial bourgeoisie) had invented to extend its global reach were the cause of all disasters from mass death in the 20th century wars (themselves alleged to be masked conflicts over imperialist booty), the degradation of the environment, and a popular culture that encouraged decadence through hyper-sexualization, unleashed aggression, materialism, and the susceptibility to “totalitarian”* demagoguery.

No current political party is willing to confront the dominant misguided narrative. Yet this hoity-toity “agrarian” assault on modernity will hover over all argumentation in the coming period, reducing the debates to statism vs. anti-statism, echoing the objections of the Antifederalists and the South during and after the Civil War: States Rights forever!

It is my own position that we are in a period where realignment is possible if we give up the sykewar talk of compromise where no compromise is possible. The moderate men (like FDR) were not “moderates” at all, but were amoralists who sought to preserve their wealth through the manipulation of the masses. They were countered by Rightists who sought to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again through a religious revival and an interpretation of the Constitution that made it divinely inspired. Much of the country agrees with that interpretation, and the Tenth Amendment makes it possible for persons who hold to the pro-life position, for instance, to live in states that legislate their versions of rectitude and holiness.

But the genie is out of the bottle. Most women will never go back to the period of domination wherein they may not control the timing of their reproduction—the most important economic decision of their lives. It is the view of many that the election of 2012 was lost by the Republicans because of the women’s vote, and not because of freeloading minorities and the poor, as some conservative commentators aver.

Free markets (derisively referred to as either laissez-faire capitalism/the Gilded Age) are what make a better life possible for the majority; to me that is a highly moral position. We either defend market society, or decline and die. The guiding principles of our economy are on the line, and not for the first time.

*Many use the word “totalitarianism” to equate Communism and Nazism/Fascism. It is true that historically existing Communism and Fascism have used terror to control resistance from below, but their historical trajectories are entirely different. The first type is an extension of the Enlightenment (though a bastard child), the second is a counter-revolution to the Enlightenment and its anti-racist spawn, and resorts to the cult of the Leader, while the former resorts to bureaucratic centralism in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

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