Friday, November 05, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: The Unfair Advantage of a Loving Family

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Yes, Leftism is just plain goofy.

Philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse are deeply concerned about the nuclear family.

What happens, worries Swift, when loving your child makes for an uneven playing field for those without equally devoted parents?

The difference between the solution you or I might propose and the one the political Left proposes is that Adam and Harry would prefer to bring us all down to the lowest common denominator rather than aspire to anything inherently more desirable.

Toward a Level Playing Field

Swift lays out his solution to unfairness:

“One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

Tom: Immanuel Can, can you think of anything that might be preferable to reducing us all to a state worse than the natural conditions of animals? Like, say, suggesting to bad parents that they adopt the methods of good ones?

Immanuel Can: Well, with only a few exceptions, animals don’t normally take care of any offspring that is not biologically their own. But their own they will care for. That already puts them one step ahead of us … we abort and desert our offspring with increasing abandon. But to respond to your question, the solution to a disease is not the abolition of the healthy.

Tom: Well, what we’re looking at is a very different definition of “healthy” on the Left. To Mr. Swift, it seems, “healthy” means “equitable”, which to him requires a very contrived social arrangement; one where the conditions in which all children are raised must be precisely identical. He says:

“Functional family interactions — from going to the cricket to reading bedtime stories — form a largely unseen but palpable fault line between families. The consequence is a gap in social mobility and equality that can last for generations.”

In other words, inequalities in opportunity for children result from some parents doing a good job.

“What We Wanted to Allow ...”

IC: Yes. The point is not to create equality, which would mean raising everyone to the same high standard — or giving everyone fair opportunity at least — but rather enforced equivalency through the denial of standards and opportunity. As you say, their goal is not to raise the lowly, but to pull down the lofty at all costs. And this is important to note: for it illustrates yet again that progressives are motivated not by actual goodwill, but by envy.

Tom: I like the notion that parents should voluntarily sabotage the quality of care they give to their own children in order to avoid “privileging” them above their peers. This is the exquisite sort of self-immolation that only the truly bent could recommend with good conscience. Swift and Brighouse candidly admit their totalitarianism:

“What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children.”

The idea that there are people actually discussing “what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children” is mind-boggling.

To Whom Do Children Belong?

IC: Did you notice, Tom, that they speak contemptuously of the whole idea that children “belong” to parents at all — as if “belonging” to parents was equivalent to being owned like a slave or being disposable as property?

Tom: Oh, absolutely. And yet our children “belonging” to government seems perfectly sensible to them. This is the sort of world only a Leftist intellectual could conceive: one that is a product of pure ideology with no connection whatsoever to reality. But just try to make this sort of fantasy work in real life.

If you have ever been privy to any actual dealings with Children’s Aid-type organizations, you find very quickly that government wants nothing whatsoever to do with the raising of your children. They’re very quick to insert themselves into the child-rearing process and very happy to give orders, visit your home and check boxes on forms. But if you have a rebellious, intractable child, good luck packing him a bag and handing him to your government. They’ll do just about anything to avoid that. They don’t have the resources to deal with raising a generation.

When the Obvious is not Obvious

IC: No, but they won’t pass up a chance to try. I have my theories, Tom, but why do you think it’s so easy for Leftists to look away from natural and healthy social arrangements and opt for artificial, unhealthy, government-controlled ones? And why is it not obvious to them that normal families are better?

Tom: Well, the biblical reason is a sort of mass insanity, or at least sub-sanity. Having rejected a truth that they feel condemns their lifestyle choices, they are stuck with its opposite, even if that opposite is both unworkable and undesirable. If you refuse goodness, what have you got left? Or, in the language of the book of Romans, “God gave them up to a debased mind.” Not to be unkind, but when you debase your intellect you don’t just occupy it with unhealthy things, you actually make it work less effectively.

The Left has no solutions because outside of God there ARE no solutions. But even if there were, progressives are poorly equipped to suss them out because their worldview and most of the data points from which they are operating are not reflective of reality.

IC: Yes, but since they reject the idea that God can either instruct them or can be expected to intervene to produce justice, they have only one mechanism to which they can look — human government. So human government — perpetuating it, increasing it, manipulating it, refocusing it and employing its powers — becomes the only hope they know. And predictably, anyone who denies that “hope” becomes an instant “enemy of the state”, “enemy of progress” or even “enemy of fairness and justice” in their eyes. For such people, who, as they see it, stand in the way of everyone’s progress, they have no pity or concern. They just want them gone, by any means necessary.

Defining “Normal”

Tom: I should come back to one of your earlier thoughts that I blithely ignored. You asked “Why is it not obvious to them that normal families are better?” One answer to that is that they don’t define “normal” as you and I do: every bizarre, aberrant behavior qualifies as “normal”.

The other part of that is this: sometimes it IS obvious when they actually look. I’ve seen situations (Andrew Klavan’s was one) where the product of a Leftist upbringing is won over by the fact that living out Christian principles actually produces a better outcome. I think one reason more progressives are not won over by the testimony of believers is that a lot of them only talk amongst themselves. They don’t know a lot of Christians.

IC: Ooh. Good point! I agree. We Christians do not realize how strong our worldview is, or how needy people in this world really are. We really need to get bold about putting ourselves out there. People need to see who we are, what we believe, and how we live. It would also do us a world of good, I’m sure. Real family love is something that this world is dying for. We’ve got it, and we don’t share it … at least, I think most of us don’t, or not nearly as much as we need to do.

Tom: I was carping on about the importance of hospitality a couple of weeks back, but I think it’s tremendously important for the world to see us the way we actually are, and that may require seeing us in our homes, warts and all. The world sees us in the workplace or over the backyard fence, but that’s no substitute. The inside of our homes gives a lot more away about who we really are. If what really matters to us is Christ, there will be differences people will notice that we might not even be aware of.

Legislating Fairness

But I wanted to touch on this concept of “fairness”. The original piece I referenced was entitled “Is Having a Loving Family an Unfair Advantage?” IC, is it even possible to legislate fairness?

IC: No, you can’t. But honestly, I don’t really think they’re really after fairness. They’re using the word, it’s true; but they’re using it in the same bratty, unfocused way a child does when he sees his brother or sister get some special attention and he screams, “No fair!” They have nothing in mind except that someone seems to have an advantage; and in petty jealousy, then want to tear that advantage down. They find it insufferable for anybody to be enjoying life more than anybody else.

Tom: It’s an excuse for government intrusion more than anything else. “Unfair” translates into “legislate now”.

IC: Of course the mature attitude (for these writers as for children) would be to celebrate the advantages others get by congratulating them and wishing them well. That’s what good parents would teach their kids, and it’s how good adults should view the advantages being enjoyed by their friends and neighbours. So if someone’s family is better than mine, I should be glad for them. And while I might wish mine were better, I should not be filled with spite and seek to drag others down to my level so that I don’t feel bad. Maybe, in fact, I should do something constructive like improving my own family situation.

Crabs in the Bucket

Tom: The thing no progressive grasps is this: good parents promoting Christian values and raising godly children have done more for society than just about anything else. Remove the salt and the light and what have you got?

IC: As for the Leftist pleaders who want to destroy the family, they’re just being the proverbial “crabs in the bucket”. You know the story, how that you never have to put a lid on a bucket of crabs, because if one tries to crawl out the others always pull it back in? Well, that’s progressivism: nobody gets to be ahead of me, even if that means nobody ever gets ahead at all.

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