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An Insane Way to Live
04 May 2007


I was listening on the radio a couple of days ago to an interview with Marilyn French, author of the feminist classic The Women's Room, first published 30 years ago. After giving the book (recently re-published) a great build-up, saying that it was one of the books that had changed people's lives and comparing it to The Communist Party Manifesto the interviewer asked Marilyn what she thought of the book 30 years later.

'I thought it would change the world,' she replied, 'but unfortunately it has not done that and the world has gone on just the way it was.' She went on to explain that humans were part of the animal world, and that nature's purpose for us was to reproduce and ensure the survival of the next generation. This meant that 'the raising of children should be the most important task... but in fact we treat it as the least important thing we do... and the centre of our attention is making weapons to kill people. By any standards this is an insane way to live.'

I was struck by the simplicity and starkness of these comments. She was speaking, of course, from a Western perspective (she lives in the USA), and in other cultures the raising of children is given greater prominence. But it is hard to disagree with her analysis. Economic pressures force more and more young children into long hours of group childcare away from their parents even though recent research has shown that children who spend long hours at nursery or kindergarten are more prone to antisocial behaviour in later years. Meanwhile the world is spending a trillion dollars a year on weapons.

And if we really want to think about future generations then we have to radically curb our environment-destroying behaviours and habits, otherwise our grandchildren might be the last generation on the planet.




COMMENTS

I am an Egyptian architect and I used to work in city planning in the ministry of reconstruction. I used to like my work very much but when I had to choose between raising up my children and my career I have chosen my kids. I have never regreted doing that and looking back at the results of my choice, I feel very grateful. I know that not many people would think that way now, but I think nothing should be more prominent than our kids!
hoda amin, 05 May 2007

Thanks Hoda, I couldn't agree more. I think that most parents really want to do the best for their kids. It is a pity that the way life is organised often makes this difficult and forces parents to make difficult decisions.
Mike Lowe, 07 May 2007

While there is a bit of fallacy in Marilyn French's argument - somehow I hope that mankind has raised a bit above animals and thus has other ambitions than to procreate , I agree that there is some primary goal to bear and to raise children. I'd even go so far as to say that it is a genetical goal of women ( even if that's not in line whith the Feminist party).
And I don't agree as to the center of attention being to produce killing implements - to me the center of attention is to produce money. Since the efficiency of money generating has been more and more refined, jobs in today's world are classified ( regarded by social standards) and paid not according to the benefit for society ( nursing, caring ,education and the like) but according to their capacity to generate money and with it recognition of society. ( as long as they stay in tune with the law)
Whereas in the last century raising a cizilized child and keeping a status household was recognized as qualified work and girls were trained at learning how to do this, in today's world these tasks are considered to be manageable by anybody ( preferably female).
With this comes a lowering in social status of women who stay at home to care for household and their kids: they are asked by their husbands what they do the whole day long and in dinner conversations they don't have an important voice of opinion since they don't 'participate' in the 'important' part of human activities. It is no wonder, then , that women aren't ready to sacrifice their life for child education( with the divorce rates going it can be a sacrifice for life, since lost careers can rarely be redone) .
Each society is a mirror of its values.
Daniele de Lutzel, 06 June 2007

You say "it is hard to disagree with her analysis. Economic pressures force more and more young children into long hours of group childcare away from their parents even though recent research has shown that children who spend long hours at nursery or kindergarten are more prone to antisocial behaviour in later years."

It is not solely a matter of economic pressures, but the interplay between those pressures and culture. The Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities of Britain are among the poorest in that society, yet they also have by far the highest birth rates (and lowest divorce rates). In such societies children are considered a blessing, not a burden and expense. Such cultures may be poor financially, but money isn't everything.
Laban Tall, 30 June 2007


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