Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Conservative? No, Thank You.

I have a shock for you this morning, in the "things you don't know about me" department. I'm not into tradition.

Are you OK? Didn't see that one coming, did you?

No, but seriously folks.

People get split into conservatives and whatever they call those who are trying to change things. Conservatives, at least in theory, represent the older, established way of doing things. The older way of doing things often sucks, and the reason we move forward is because we find a better way of doing things. We progress. Which is why one word used for non-conservatives is progressives.

It's a direction thing. Not an inertia thing. Progress is inevitable, hence the "conserving" concept. Which often means going backwards, or at least LOOKING in that direction for ideas.

That was why, when the Canadian political entity called itself the Progressive Conservatives, we all did a head tilt. Right and left at the same time? Won't that involve spinning in a circle?

I'm not quite sure what they DID mean by it, a bit less conservative than a non-progressive conservative? Anyway, moot now. The new blood fighting over the PC leadership are quoted in the media as saying "times have changed". No shit Sherlock.

But outside of political parties, regular humans do relate to one of many scales, including a conservatism scale. We can number it from 0 to 100 and see where people find themselves.

That's far from being accurate you understand, just a vague idea that it's rare to find people at the extremes, and that humans in general are slightly more progressive than not, which is why we do, actually change and move forward, while the other animals don't. The peak of that lump actually includes most people you know today. That's PEOPLE, not governments. Governments tend to be further down the scale than people. They tend to be the elite, and the elite have a vested interest in the status quo.

Individuals can be fairly easily convinced to change. The larger the group, the less likely change will occur, because the one warning against it tends to influence the others. We are funny beings.

In my family I am the second most progressive. I am the one saying "we don't have to have turkey for dinner at Christmas you know" and Tom (the most progressive) is even willing to have a curry. But the group opinion is that there MUST be turkey, so there shall be turkey, because I cave.

When  you find people not doing the whole turkey thing they are usually either just a small family, with nobody else to worry about, or they have a whole OTHER family tradition that trumps turkey.

That said, despite being a large family, we are more progressive than a number of other families, on many issues, due to having a progressive matriarch, no doubt. Maybe also because we are "foreign", but that can go either way.

Families are a sort of micro version of society as a whole, as anyone who has ever studied any sociology knows. You have the individual as the starter unit, then the family, then the tribe (oh yes we still do, it's just different), then the larger community and so on, all the way to the human race. And if you watch how a person is on the family level you can tell a lot about how he is on the larger level, even to party politics, and I think it's important that we understand the overlap between personal and political conservatism. They are not the same thing, but the correlation is close enough to use as a guide.

Tradition as a concept is neutral. It's neither a good nor a bad thing. But your feelings towards it are not neutral. So it's just like a colour. It would be absurd to say that purple is good or bad, but some people like it, and some don't. Some like it an awful lot, and some hate it. Some have nothing against it, but think it can be "too much" sometimes, while others like it in some places (the garden, maybe) but not others (clothing).

If you have no tradition, more decisions have to be made, and people are lazy. If you have too much tradition people feel stifled by not getting to make any decisions. Hence the need for balance.

And we manage pretty well. We have to. Change is all around us, and we cope or die, frankly. Remember, adapting to change is the basis behind evolution. Even the most die-hard traditionalists adapt a bit. But on the other hand, it doesn't take a crazy person to get hung up on certain aspects of tradition. And as I said, tradition and family go together.


As it happens, I have seen both sides of this, and not in the usual order. NOW I have the big happy family thing. Now. And I like it. It's good. There are all sorts of benefits.

It's also not essential. It's not even necessarily the best. Is it normal?

I grew up in a one parent household, or a 3 parent household, depending on how you look at it. My father had died when I was a baby, and we lived with my maternal grandparents. I constantly heard that that situation was weird, but when you look back on human history it was incredibly common. People die. They used to die younger more often, and there have always been kids raised by one parent, or none. Plenty were raised by other relatives. An older sister even. The reason we have the word "orphan" in our language is that we needed a word to describe this common occurrence.

These days the absence of one parent in the child's home is far more likely to be from a relationship break-up, but again, it's far from rare. In the latest Canadian census, the two-parent family makes up 67% of families. In Britain it's 76%, and in the US it's actually only 46%, so statistically it's not "the norm". And you can go wah wah wah, if you like, but unless we examine every family and find out who's happy and who isn't, it doesn't tell us much.

I know I was happy in my weird family, I had all the attention I needed (didn't need much), and I didn't go short of basic needs at all.

A family is a group of people who live together, two or more. They may or may not be related. They may not even like each other, some of the time at least, they most certainly don't all of the time. But they manage for the most part not to kill each other, to share food and shelter and services. Some families are more functional than others. There is no such thing as a normal family. Any definition attempted is going to be unkind to anyone whose family didn't fit that definition. And it's not political correctness, that makes that so, it's reality. Any definition has to be fairly loose.

But still, there are those who talk about the traditional family, meaning their tradition, obviously. They tend to mean also, two parents, one male, one female, who were married prior to having children, and perhaps even, that this is a first marriage for both of them. This is seen by those of a more conservative mindset as ideal.

Is it? It might be if it's a good marriage, by good people. But as a matter of fact, some of the nastiest people I've ever known, the most messed up, the most amoral, have come from a family like that.

As picture perfect as it might be, it is no guarantee of anything, while families of all other types can work really well.

The traditional family sounds good. Mine IS good. But not all of them are. In my experience the chances of a family being good or not do not rest on the numbers, age, gender, or relationship status, they rest on the individuals concerned being people who want that family to be a good family.

Which brings us to family values. A delightful subject. Just what IS a family value?

I think a reasonable suggestion is that members of the family support one another. This may be by sharing resources, or it may be by listening to them. If somebody has a problem, a good family is sympathetic and helpful. In a good family you have people who care about you, even if you argue.

Hate is not a family value. Violence is not a family value.

We gained a family member because his original family treated him like shit. He is not related to me in any way, but he became my son. He behaves like a son. He does son things. This includes picking his adoptive brother up in the middle of the night after telling him on the previous occasion "that's the last time I do that for you, come on, get your plans together" because he really doesn't want him walking home 5km in the rain. That's the sort of thing family do.

His original family beat him, starved him, stole from him, locked him out in the cold in winter, and treated him like an indentured servant. He still visits his father and helps him with things, because that's the kind of man he is.

So, I may have a slightly different view of family values, one way and another.

You see, the reason that, for so long, the sought after family was one man, one woman, married, and with children, is that there are many benefits there. The man gets a "helpmeet", the woman gets a "protector", and together they get people to look after them in their old age. Sounds alright?

It does until you get into the whole chattel, domestic slavery, "do my bidding, woman" thing. There has always been this dark side to marriage.

Don't be afraid to click on this, it's short and in simple language:


That's some very helpful data, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't tell individual stories. They seem to have more impact on people who may otherwise move on to the next blog, so here's a story selected at random from my collection:


Like so many of these situations, it's her word against his. Without witnesses, what do you do? Unfortunately these stories are not rare. Are they are all lying? When a suspect changes his story (part of the pattern in domestic violence, incidentally) you would think that would be an immediate red flag.

But of course, that's extreme. Men don't usually murder their wives, even if they threaten to. They just say things in anger.......

Are death threats family values? Is that a good marriage? That is not a marriage at all. That is not a family. That is not right.

"Well, most men don't threaten to kill their wives. I've never threatened to kill my wife, not even in jest!"

Oh dear, we're back to #notallmen.

Not all dogs bite, but if you are in the street and 200lbs of barking teeth starts running towards you, is it any help to know that?

When I had small children I employed two girls in the village as babysitters, they were sisters. They also had a brother. They came from a respectable two-parent family.

One day the older one asked me if Martin was violent towards me and I told her no, never. I learned that her father had been beating her mother. She had a feeling this wasn't right, but she wasn't quite sure. She wasn't completely convinced that I was telling the truth.

A lot of girls grow up like that. They think it's normal. Well, it used to be. It was legal to beat a wife. Still is in some parts of the world. Doesn't mean all men took or take advantage of that, but there's something wrong when it's allowed or encouraged. That's wrong. No ifs or buts. It's wrong. It's just another example of women being treated as second-class citizens.

If anyone wishes to "inform" me that men get beaten up by wives, you're too late. I have that data. You just gave away that you didn't read the link I included, further up. You ask for data, but you ignore it. That tells me you came to this discussion ready to argue, not listen. This is why I keep harping on about it.

If we are ever going to get anywhere with this massive, international problem, we first have to acknowledge it exists. We then have to admit that it truly is a problem for women. Not a small thing, or a rare thing, or something that will just go away by itself. Then we have to stop this rubbish about traditional families and family values. It's holding us back.

Domestic violence is traditional. It's a tradition that needs to end, and it won't do so in a vacuum. We have to look at what is enabling it. Change is sometimes not optional, but critical. We need to look forwards, not backwards. If we are too keen on defending the old ways, we end up retaining the worst bits of it. If we are too quick to say #notmyfamily then we dismiss those for whom this is a daily reality. If we offer simplistic Duggar-like solutions to family problem, they continue and multiply.

The only way we will ever fix this is the end of patriarchy as a system. The conservative mindset wishes to preseve the patriarchy, as well as several other long-established flawed systems. This is why I reject the conservative mindset

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely...it's been in my family, and stops with me. If any of us look to having one duty in life, it would be to stop domestic violence wherever it is found or suspected. There has been too much pain swept under the rug for many generations, and it is more than time to end it. Great presentation ~ Blessings! <3