Here’s a thought I had:
I should first point out that this article involves parenting and that I am not a parent. I certainly would not describe myself as all that knowledgeable about parenting. But this puts me in a unique position . . . I am looking at things from the outside as an indifferent observer. As a result, I see things from a different angle. In many ways, this article is a result of an observation taken from that angle.
Much of this observation began because I have been utterly appalled by how my generation has treated their kids. I believe that what I was seeing was this failure of parenting by my generation. This began an inquiry of what happened. This article reflects some aspects of that inquiry.
THE “PARENTING PROBLEM”
It seems, to me, that there is a “parenting problem” in the U.S. I see a number of problems:
- There is a tendency to rely on something else to do their parenting
- There is a tendency to rely on something else to display parental authority
In this way parents aren’t really parents at all. More than once have I said, “A parent is just an older person the kids live with”.
I have always thought there was something wrong with “parenthood” in this country though I could never quite put my finger on it. I always saw the family, and its “parenthood”, as an institution. I often wondered if I had a wrong view of it. I know that, after WWII, and the “baby boomer” generation, there was a worship of the family. This created something like an idealized image of the family. Is that what I’m talking about?
I don’t believe so. I think that what I’m talking about predates that time, where the family was a social unit based in survival and living. I should point out that I was brought up here in the western part of the U.S. and descended from pioneers (for example, I have a number of grandparents who came over here on wagon trains and some even used handcarts!). In these conditions the family was more than an idealized image. It was a social unit that was a necessity. “Parenthood”, of course, was a big part of that family social unit. The family, in some sense, was like a “little country” within the country. This made the family a very important institution. It also means that there is a seriousness about it, that it is nothing to look at lightly. To me, there is no other way to see the family. This means that I tend to view the family, and parenting, from a specific viewpoint and stance. No doubt, it influences how I view things.
The need for “pressure”
One thing that is evident is that I am looking at things from the point of view of the family as a unifying element in the harsh conditions or, rather, “pressure” caused by the pioneer west. That is very significant and very revealing. In many ways, this seems to reveal an important point. Basically, it shows that the bond of a family is made necessary, and needed, by the “pressure” of life. If that “pressure” is removed the bond of the family is undermined.
I tend to believe that “pressure” is what makes many things needed, relevant, and necessary in life (for example, see my article Thoughts on the association between belief and pressure). When we try to get rid of the “pressure”, as modern society tries to do, it actually ends up undermining things. In many ways, we should not try to make things “easier”. Because of this, I tend to believe that the loss of “pressure” is the cause for many problems, nowadays, and why many things are falling. This means that many institutions in society, and in human life, is actually rooted in “pressure” and depends on it to be meaningful.
The effect of consumer society . . . loss of “pressure”
The “high consumerism” and the consumer society, that originated after WWII, seems to of played a big part in the removing of this “pressure”. This new consumer society, based in being satisfied and thereby removing “pressure”, basically undermined the “pressure” that made the family bond so needed and necessary. To put it simply: consumer society removed the need for the family. There is really nothing that holds the family together now.
Idealism, patriotism and social ideals . . . a “pseudo-bond”
Because consumer society destroyed the “pressure” that made the family bond so necessary, and this primarily happened after WWII, the bond of the family changed. It seems, to me, that the patriotism caused by WWII created a new type of “bond”. This is a bond based in patriotism and social ideals (primarily in the form of morality and politics, as we’ll see below). The problem with this type of bond is that it is rather weak. This is because it is primarily based in an idealism. It “sounds good” but is not based in a real active “pressure” that creates a strong bond. This shows an interesting fact: idealism, patriotism, and social ideals do not offset the undermining of the family bond caused by the loss of “pressure”. In fact, it probably aggravated it as idealism, patriotism, and social ideals became more like a “pseudo-bond” more than anything else. As a result, they have been very deceiving and illusionary. I think many people in the U.S. believe that idealism, patriotism, and social ideals are strong and durable.
THE “SOCIAL PARENT”
Along with the undermining of the family bond was the undermining of the parent and, of course, parenting. What this did is create what I would describe as a “failure at parenting causing the need to find other ways to parent”. Basically, they began to use the social conditions to be the “parent” and to do the parenting. In this way, something like a “social parent” was created. In this form of parenting they use society to do their parenting. In this way, they are freed from being a parent. This, remember, is because there is no longer a need for a family bond.
Some of the effects of this include:
- People don’t know how to be a parents
- People don’t want to be a parent
- People are too busy doing other things
- Their interests are elsewhere
- People are not responsible
- The fall of social institutions
In many ways, this shows a number of things about “high consumer” society:
- It has undermined the need for a family bond
- It has brought in many diversions to adults that lead them away from being a parent
- It has created problems of growth and maturity
- It has created problems of roles
- Its upset social institutions
This reveals the fact that “high consumerism” has been very disruptive to society, which I believe is true. One thing that has suffered a disruption has been parenting.
It seems that the use of society as a parent may of originated from a number of sources:
- The mood created during and after WWII, of a united country and people working together. This may of created a greater tendency to follow society and social ideals, as an authority. This reflects the post WWII social mood.
- The idealization of the family after WWII with the “baby boomer” generation.
- The growth of public education which made parents grow to rely on the “system” to do their parenting.
- Consumer products which “took care of the kids” making parents less likely to parent. My own grandma said that the TV was the “perfect baby sitter”, and this was in the 1950’s!
PHASES OF THE “SOCIAL PARENT”
I seem to see two main phases in the “high consumer” era, each with their own versions of the “social parent”:
- Post WWII – use morality as “social parent” . . . the “moral parent”
- Post cold war – use politics as “social parent” . . . the “political parent”
These reflect the dominant way in which people used society to be a parent.
1-The “moral parent”
After WWII the parents “moralized” a lot, making everything out as a moral issue. This is how I was brought up. By “moral” I mean Christian-derived “lessons” but without the religion. That is to say, “moralizing” generally meant a form of a lesson that a person has to learn. The “moral parent” has this quality of people using the moral authority of Christianity as a substitute for parental authority. As a result, they gain authority by being “moral” or reflecting moral beliefs. This was also supported by the idealized image of the family that followed WWII.
Some examples of these lessons include:
- Various Christian-derived ideals
- Various forms of right and wrong
- The importance of having things come from the heart
- Being fair
- The importance of work . . . work ethic
Being lessons you were usually taught them initially or it was emphasized after you did something wrong which would sometimes be accompanied by some form of punishment.
Typically, these lessons involved a great breadth and aspect of life. In this way, they were often beneficial and helpful. I would say that the “moral parent” does try to create good people and human beings.
The “moral parent” tends to create characters in the kids such as:
- A “do-right” person
- A person that is “proper”
- A person with contempt
- A rebelliousness
In other words, it tends to create a spectrum of people with these extremes:
- The people who “do whats right”
- The people who “go against the right” (that is, rebel)
2-The “political parent”
After the cold war ended the parents began to use politics to do their parenting. The quality of this parenting appears more like an “indoctrination”. This form of parent seems to be a result of the more political orientation of the society that became particularly strong after the 1970’s. As a result, it tends to emphasize political theory and doctrine as well as nationalistic points of view. This gives the “political parent” a quality of “glory of America” in it as a motive . . . equality, freedom, opportunity, and so on. In this way, the “political parent” is often trying to turn the kids into symbols of the greatness of America.
Some forms of these indoctrination’s include:
- Nationalistic ideas
- American ideals
- A particularly strong theme is the emphasis on the idea of success and achievement which causes an excessive and obsessive concern over schooling, education, jobs, sports, and so on
This form of parent is more limited in scope than the “moral parent”. It usually only deals with a small aspect of life and tends to be specific for specific themes, namely political and nationalistic. As a result, it tends to develop a one-sided mentality. It also tends to create a more narrow minded perspective. Overall, the “political parent” does not seek to create good people but, rather, machines for the economy and minions of the national ideals.
The “political parent” tends to create characters in the kids such as:
- A preoccupation with success and achievement
- A self-righteous person
- A minion type of person who does everything they are supposed to do
- A person who is bothered, and even devastated, by failure
- A person who has “issues” because they can’t live up to the ideals
What it does is create a spectrum of people with these extremes:
- The people who are minions and do what they are told and expected
- The people who develop problems because they are being forced to be minions and can’t live up to expectations
AN USURPED PARENTHOOD???
Each form of “social parent” has good points but it still isn’t parenting and creates a very inadequate parent, or so it seems to me. Some aspects of this include:
- The family, as a group, is undermined
- It makes it OK for parents to not be parents
- The parents do less parenting
- The parents become increasingly dependent on society to do their parenting
- The parents expect their kids to behave the way they want them to, much like a show pony
- The children are treated indifferently like cattle
- The children become like robots or minions
- The children lose a humanity
- The children become “children of the system” and not of human parents
- The children do not learn to be parents
- There develops a narrow world view
In the later phase, of the “political parent” (which I think is the worst), it seems that it is creating generations of what I would describe as “indoctrinated minions”, all displaying the political and national ideals almost robotically. Many kids of this generation do not even know what a mother or father is because the parent has been so undermined. What this suggests is that the “social parent” has practically usurped the real parent nowadays.
PUBLIC SCHOOLING – A NEW PARENT
It seems, to me, that public schooling is being looked to to be a parent and to do the parenting. Initially, public schooling was meant to teach the “basics”. Now, its practically telling kids about everything: values, beliefs, morals, etc. For many kids, its the only source of these things.
A common statement I hear goes like this: “I can’t believe what they teach kids at school today”. This shows that a lot of what they teach at school is not reflective of many parents and adults in general. I’ve often been disgusted with what and how they teach at school.
I’ve heard parents say, and have observed this to be true, that “once a kid goes to public school you loose control of them”. This fact shows the power of public school, that it actually makes the parent useless, in many ways. It can be like a pied piper, leading kids away to the “truth” preached only at the public school.
I tend to see two main “pied pipers” of public school:
- The “truth” preached by the school
- The enticement and influence of social relations, friends, trends, peer pressure, etc.
Both of these, in a way, have become a “parent substitute” for many kids. They will determine what they think, the values they believe, their morality, etc. more than the parents do. For many kids, it will dominate everything. Even recently, I’ve looked at little kids, and saw how natural they are, and then couldn’t help but say, ” . . . then they will go to public school and all that will be destroyed”.
THE SYSTEM AS PARENT – A GROWING ASPECT OF SYSTEMISM
From where I am standing the parent appears to be dying before my eyes. I’ve always joked that, one day, the system (that is, society) will be parenting the kids and there will no longer be any parents. In many ways, we are moving in that direction. Society is increasingly being turned to in order to become the parent. I’ve even seen people that are literally trying to make the parent redundant. Its almost like some people are deliberately trying to destroy the parent, to make the mother and father useless, to destroy their use and value. I can’t believe it.
Maybe one day they can raise kids in state-run facilities? They can then indoctrinate them in the proper beliefs and points of view and turn them into good work machines for the economy (that is, go to college and get a job). This is the basic motive of the “political parent” right now and it almost seems as if that is what they are doing.
To me, this is a sign of what I call “systemism”, which is an ultra-organized society that turns people into its minions . . . basically . . . and who are all the same. Human society is slowly being turned into a systemism. The destruction of the parent, the system as parent, and the turning to children into minions of the system seems part of this movement, or so it appears to me.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen