Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tradition and the Individual Father

Here's an interesting reflection for Fathers Day:

On the Demise of Fatherhood



Peach writes not only about fathers, but also about the tension between tradition and individualism--a key theme of Cherlin's book (see above post) too.

Odd how we claim to value tradition in indigenous cultures, seeing in it a systemic wisdom and indispensable resource for the flourishing of individuals and communities. And yet we have such an impoverished understanding of the central and universal tradition of marriage as the institution that created fatherhood as a social role in all cultures. Instead we prettify the social misery caused (and reflected and exacerbated) by the collapse of fatherhood, marriage, and the family in poor and working class communities by celebrating diversity of family types, pretending that family structure is unimportant to nearly all the social problems we address and that a single-parent family structure or a co-habiting blended family is no less to be preferred than a married, intact two-parent family. We separate legal parenthood from biology (most bizarrely in Canadian law) and marriage from sex and children. We talk of culture and tradition but apotheosize a rugged individualism that liberates itself from all tradition and subordinates the needs of children to the freedoms of adults. According to this "unconstrained vision" (Sowell) of the human condition, as Peach (2009, linked) puts it:

Every undertaking of the human race should flow from the rationally articulated plans of the individual. As Justice Anthony Kennedy infamously summarized in the passage dubbed the mystery clause of Casey v. Planned Parenthood, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Liberated from the constraints of custom and, increasingly, nature herself, the true powers of reason can be harnessed and applied to the unique circumstances of this unique individual’s unique situation. Faith in any other kind of guidance—for instance, forms of systemic or less directly rational knowledge, such as tradition—is mere superstition, a form of tyranny by other people, usually the dead. Standing firm against the oppressive tides of history, biology, and community pressure, the rugged individualist charts his own course for his own existence; indeed, he not only charts his course but also makes his map, his boat, and maybe even his own body of water.

An irony of this hypertrophy of the autonomous, self-determining rational individual is that, in the process of loosing the bonds of tradition, culture, and community, it feeds the Leviathan state, which in the name of social welfare substitutes for (cuckolds, as Gilder used to say) fathers and reduces mothers to a loveless, powerless, and disempowered dependence on bureaucracy.

O brave new world!

No comments:

Post a Comment