Embattled Paradise: The American Family In An Age Of Uncertainty
a book by Arlene S. Skolnick
(our site's book review)
She starts out by debunking the sentimentalized Ozzie and Harriet families shown on TV in the 50s, pointing out that they were so far from reality that one of the actors eventually expressed shame for ever having been in the show, since it was all a lie. She says that the conservative nostalgics may as well forget their dreams of a return to the golden age of family happiness, because the actual facts about that period, and all other periods in the history of this and European countries, contradict the notion that such an age ever existed. Interestingly, even though people were holding up the ideal of the homemaker mother as the ultimate ideal in the 50s, 90 percent of the women back then hoped that their daughters would get a better education and would lead better lives than they had led. In 1973, a Redbook magazine poll showed that less than 2 percent of women believed that women could fulfill their potential through marriage and motherhood alone. Without a doubt, women were way ahead of men in the area of cultural awareness.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet—was this portrayal ever real?
She praises David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd for its insight, and, happily, gets it right when she paraphrases his concepts. He held up autonomous as the ideal, and inner direction and other direction as forms of conformity, but many readers misinterpreted him to mean that inner direction was the ideal as opposed to other direction, which was conformist. They apparently saw what they wished to see, not what was there, because the book is absolutely unambiguous about what the ideal type is.
Putting all of one's eggs in one single basket is the main cause of relationship dysfunction
What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped
Her book shows that the loose-knit ties of most communities are inadequate to provide the social support network needed by families and marriages, so there is emotional overinvestment in one another and too many people are trying to get either one spouse and one kid or one sibling and one parent to fill all their needs. And it cannot work, of course. What develops from all this, of course, is steep-gradient parenting and “all-your-eggs-in-one-basket” marriages where each spouse is to fill all needs of the other. (See Gail and Snell Putney's The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society and Philip Slater's Earthwalk.) Reductionism and a misreading of the functioning of traditional families led to this unfortunate family experiment, and today’s scary dysfunctionality statistics are the deviant result—the isolated nuclear family is an historical aberration, a psychological misstep and a social miscalculation of very large proportions. (See Stephanie Coontz's The Way We Never Were.)
Skolnick thinks to solve social problems we should throw money at them—social engineering will fix everything. Which is ludicrously wrong!
Unfortunately, however, she falls into the same old liberal trap of the need for social engineering to provide for families’ and children’s needs. She makes it out to be the government’s responsibility to provide high-quality lives for our offspring. But it is not. It is ours. She sees a problem in all the Have-nots who cannot figure out how to become Haves. And she sees a solution in taxing the Haves and giving it to the Have-nots. Even if our country could afford such a burst of heroic liberal socialism, which it cannot, Congress—wisely—would never pass it.
She hasn’t realized it, but it’s obvious that the only real long-term solution is to look at why the Have-nots have not, in the face of all the wonderful high-paid employment opportunities that go begging in this country all the time—eventually having to get filled by people from India, Russia, Japan or China (some of which move here, thankful for the wonderful opportunity). Why didn’t the Have-nots take full advantage of the Robert Reichian symbolic analyst opportunities that are there for anyone who truly believes in social mobility, hard work, the American entrepreneurial spirit, and themselves? In truth, the defective upbringing and education of our young fails to prepare them to exploit the American opportunity. It is every person’s and every child’s and every parent’s responsibility to do everything possible to take advantage of the incredible Information Age, Third Wave opportunities that abound in this country. And yet we produce young people unqualified for our country's jobs, as well as slackers unwilling to do them.
The U.S. produces young people unqualified for our country's jobs, as well as slackers unwilling to do them
But don’t expect a sudden insight to be enough to turn all this around. Knowing what is wrong isn’t the same as knowing what to do to fix it and then doing it. In truth, it’s hard to see how the situation could even begin to turn around unless the MC movement inspires the genius and creativity in each of us as a secondary effect of its creation of the most fulfilling lifestyle ever envisioned.
Come on, people, taxes are NOT always the answer—we are 20 trillion bucks in debt!
The doomsday clock is currently set at 3 minutes to midnight
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo
Higher taxes on the rich to “even things out” is negative socialism in disguise. The MCs' higher lifestyle standards to “even things out” is not a kind of policy or politics, nor is it a government affair in any way, shape or form. It is simply the lifewish of individuals who experience an amazing MC opportunity in the MC media blitz (see Good News and Bad News), respond to it, revamp their lives so that they actually work, and then experience not just an end to most childcare and elder care hassles and psychological symptomatology, but also, as secondary effect, a relative evening out of materialistic and economic situations because the society is full of winners, win-win go-getters, and people whose genius and creativity not only have not been repressed or destroyed in their upbringings, but have been encouraged, trained to have productive focus, inspired and even enhanced.
This doesn’t mean we can’t have parental leave policies, childcare centers at work, carpooling help, Head Start, child tax credits, good health care and vaccination policies and the like. But it does mean that we need (and Skolnick needs) to lose the liberal obsession with big government and social engineering. Even if it works somewhat in Europe (but at what cost to their economic health?), it will never work right in America, the birthplace of the individualistic entrepreneurial spirit that made opportunity and social mobility words to live by and act on. The track record of liberal big government social engineering in this country so far is about as bad as it could get—the more money we threw at things, the worse they got.
The following is our idea about what we need from our government if they are to do their part, and notice that social engineering is not included. Or needed. Or wanted. Skolnick is a smart woman with SOME good ideas and some real turkeys. Why didn't she come up with the plan below? Because without MCs as a factor to consider, one hasn't the needed resources to make such a plan.
What we need is for government to empower various education experts such as Alfie Kohn, futurists like the Tofflers, and the wise people responsible for the rare educational systems across the country that are getting great results, to get together and design the perfect education system for the 21st century, including all the computer interfacing for students that they deem necessary for relevant learning, etc. And they should consult with American business: what do they need in applicants that they’re not finding? The country’s best minds need to figure it out. Then the government should fund the creation of the ten best schools that humanity can devise, and then get the heck out of the way. Then local communities should try these schools with the local kids—parents merely have to give their okay and their kid can, if s/he wants, get educated there. Evaluations need to occur periodically, and whatever is working best should be a model for the others to emulate if feasible. After ten years, an in-depth evaluation should be done where we find out, once and for all, what works best.
The NEA has a choke-hold on American education that only the MC movement could alter
At this point, the government and the NEA change whatever rules and policies stand in the way of all the school systems in the country going in the direction of what will be called The Optimal Educational System. (We're all sick of the NEA lying to us about if we pay teachers more, that will fix things. It couldn't, wouldn't, never has, never will.) And entrepreneurs need to create OES schools everywhere the existing schools do not or will not naturally evolve into such schools, and the government again needs to wipe out all barriers for the actualization of this part of the plan. These schools will sell their education program to the locals in hopes of putting the old dinosaur schools out of business by their great effectiveness. Let free-market capitalism select the winner.
Talk to experts about the 21st century. Read the words of experts about the 21st century, including the Tofflers, Naisbitt, Thurow and various other futurists. CAN WE AFFORD NOT TO TAKE THESE STEPS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE? Are we trying to create a future where our young are burger flippers and the good jobs are only filled by imported workers?!
Are we trying to create a future where our young are burger flippers and the good jobs are only filled by imported workers?!
Back to her book: Skolnick assumes that the incapable, the lazy, the lacking in self-esteem, the people unable to think and problem-solve will stay that way and that they will continue to reproduce and bring up kids to have the same problems they do. If she is right, then such people had better get ready for a much lower standard of living than they’d hoped for. (If she is wrong, it will be because of the MC movement releasing the latent positive power of the people for good, productivity, creativity, entrepreneurship, caring and effective relationships. See Why Register for an MC?.)
She looks at the positive attitudes people have about their families and is happy that they express such good family values, but she rightly questions if people are really as happy with their family life as they say. The statistics regarding dysfunctionality, people with substance abuse problems, psychological problems, violence, spouse abuse, unhappiness and depression belie their attitudes. The statistics prove that these attitudes are a function of coping with unsatisfactory situations, not a reflection of underlying truths.
U.S. depression 2011
But Skolnick seems to misread the statistics on people contacting relatives. She somehow infers from this that the isolated nuclear family is just a fantasy and that people are experiencing the extended family life which most people believe is relegated to times past! Occasional visits or phone calls to or from relatives do not create the close-knit extended family ties that once were much more prevalent, nor are they enough to cancel out significant amounts of the isolation most families experienced during the last half of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century. She’s trying to point out that if the government takes more responsibility for families, then the amount of isolation and kin disconnectedness will not be problematic. But this is all wrong. She’s trying to achieve a great goal (family functionality) with this little sleight of hand, but she’s misrepresenting reality and using the wrong hero in her drama, which should be us—you and I—not the government.
Skolnick’s using the wrong hero in her family functionality drama, which should be us—you and I—not the government
In the Second Wave, the government (and schools and other bureaucracies) tried to create the convenience of lockstep conformity and standardization, in a one-size-fits-all, mass-man approach to social control. It flopped—with the exception of the G.I. Bill. And it undermined community. In the Third Wave, the ever-diversifying populace—as you are seeing/will see—will use Knowledge Age resources to take back the reins of control from the bureaucrats and create enhanced social reality for themselves and their loved ones. How could benevolent social evolution possibly unfold in any other way? We don’t need someone doing it for us, doing it instead of us, telling us what to do, tricking us yet again, lying to us one more time, or pretending nothing needs doing. We may vote for Joe Blow to get a Medicare bill passed, but when it gets down to our lives, relationships, families and social styles, we’ll all be singing the same song to the government and the bureaucrats, in unison:
THANKS BUT NO THANKS.
In the Third Wave, the ever-diversifying populace—as you are seeing/will see—will use Knowledge Age resources to take back the reins of control from bureaucrats, such as this guy
Skolnick’s absolutely right that we shouldn’t waste time pining for an illusory perfect family from our past, nor should we try to make our families somehow take the place of the social life we need outside of them. She advocates that we “encourage a broader sociability.” Right again. Too much pressure on families only stresses them—it doesn’t transform them. (That’s why the MCs are the answer. Instead of trying to force the existing family structures to fill all of everyone’s needs, MCs set up the situation so that pressure to do more than they can do is taken off the families and parents, while at the same time the resources for need filling, caregiving, communication, relationship, socializing, pursuing the best friendships people have ever known, and general “encouraged broader sociability” are multiplied amazingly, which allows the environment not only to need no government “help” or support, but to be more empowering and inspiring and nurturing than any that have ever existed on this planet. See Why Register for an MC?.)
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