Thursday, April 28, 2005

family values

Sir Thomas Lucy and his Family - Cornelius Johnson (1593 - 1661)

I don't know what 'family values' means, any more than I know what 'hard-working families' means, except in the toadying political sense. this thing - the family (the developed nations Christian nuclear model) - the supposed bedrock of society, is really just one mythical construct overlaid on top of another - the myth that romantic love evolves into family responsibility by a process of a sort of effortless osmosis.
sure, it happens - we're hardwired to make it happen, willy nilly, but the development of those quintessentially familial parenting skills is predicated on the ruthless laws of biology, not myth, and the instinctual process is both accretive and merciless: any flaws in the bond between the parents will be urgently exposed, sooner rather than later, as if highlighted in neon red in the ongoing code - for either debugging or deletion. and - the silence on the universality of this experience is deafening - it's only the depth and potential for damage of those flaws that's variable. their existence is absolutely inevitable as long as we continue to believe in Hallmark love as the precondition of reproduction, and the received response of going into denial - cocooning the flaws in a cage of parentheses in the vain hope that it'll shield the syntax sufficiently to allow it to function - is to enter a hopeless cul de sac, the only comfort being that it's one that's populated, at least, with the familiar.
we all begin by believing that there must be a family out there somewhere that works, where, after the programmed process of social reproduction has been achieved, there is an equal division of care, trust, mutual respect, fairness and tolerance, as well as love; where, whichever individual member's point of view you choose to interrogate - mum's, dad's, or any of the kids, you'll find an honest agreement that, for all the negotiations, the compromises, the mistakes, their value as a member of the family was equal to everyone else's. there must, surely? but what are the chances, really, of applying this particular definition of family values - ie of each member of the family being of equal value within the family unit - when the concept of equality in the larger social sense is so compromised by the Realpolitik of the world we're obliged to inhabit?
very, very few people believe that all men and women are either born equal or are entitled to an equal share of the world's common wealth. we might be moved by an Irish millionaire pop singer's impassioned commitment to winning a Nobel prize the eradication of world poverty, but no further than would limit the perceived depreciation of our personal freedoms that would be incurred by giving up, what, half a percent of our net disposable income? and no-one who has acquired wealth - by whatever means - could possibly be persuaded (unless they lived in Scandinavia) that they had a moral and social responsibility to share the better part of it with those less fortunate.
the social contract is a flexible entity, by definition - a continuing trade-off between individual rights and responsibilities. as in families, so in society: more rights entail more responsibilities, and fewer responsibilities always entail fewer rights. the corollary of this, however - that more responsibilities deserves more rights, is infrequently, if ever observed, nor can it be, as long as the fundamentally hypocritical adherence to a notional 'equality' that has no real basis either in law or belief remains unchallenged.

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