Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Consumerism and the Family

I am a BuzzFeed fanatic. When I’m not doing homework (which I do do occasionally, mom) you can usually find me scrolling endlessly down the feed, looking at quizzes and pictures and lists. This is why, when blog overlord Damian sent me this post containing pictures of dads in Sweden with their kids, I clicked instantly.

Looking at the pictures, those fathers look so happy to be with their kids. Their kids look secure and happy to be with their dads. Sweden has mandatory sixty-day paternal leave and 480 days of total leave time for both parents. (In contrast, the U.S. has a suggested 12 weeks' maternity leave and neither suggested nor mandatory paternal leave!) The Swedish government is actively trying to promote the family, perhaps to combat the fact that Sweden has the second-highest divorce rate in Europe. But the dissolution of families, who are the very foundation of society and civilization, is a worldwide problem, especially in our own backyard. And no, I don’t mean Canada.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution swept through America, bringing with it the poisonous ideologies of consumerism and materialism. Those pretty much mean that the acquisition and use of objects for personal gain are more important than actually being a good person. People began to see each other as objects to use for gain and acted accordingly. This led to major human rights abuses in the world of business, but also the beginning of the downfall of the American family. Now that making money and getting possessions was the ultimate end of a person’s life, everyone started working more. The family-centered agrarian existence that had dominated the American psyche since the Pilgrims first landed become obsolete as people decided that they’d all be much happier if they just had a few more dollars in their pockets and moved to the cities to find better-paying work. That mindset stuck and refused to leave and sticks around to this day, where mom and dad work eight to ten hour days to afford the three cars and the big house for their cookie-cutter two children and the pills that ensure there won’t be a number three.

And of course, consumerism caused that, too. A few decades after the Industrial Revolution started, contraception came roaring into the public square. Church after church, seeing how popular the idea of not having children was, capitulated and allowed it among their members. Except, of course, the Catholics, who rightly saw contraception as the next step in human consumerism. Sure, at the time, Protestant leaders said that contraception was only to be used by married folks, but it was increasingly used by the unmarried ones to prevent the natural consequences of messing around. Pope Paul VI saw what the effects of contraception would be on society, and wrote about them in his famed encyclical Humanae Vitae. If you can excuse the rather long quote:
“Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective?”
While the Pope was laughed at at the time for his seeming paranoia, I think we can all agree that every one of these predictions came true. Fornication and adultery are commonplace and shown on television now like they’re normal and desirable things. The same goes for teens having sex. All of our Internet anger about catcalling and workplace sexism definitely shows us that men are treating women like sexual objects now, more than they ever did, even and especially in the middle and upper classes. And the government is definitely pushing their preferred methods of contraception when they give money and public adulations to Planned Parenthood.

And all of this happened because we decided to start treating people like objects to be used for pleasure, instead of people to be loved. Marriage and family slipped into obsoletism even more. In 1969, no-fault divorce was introduced. Weakened by materialism, shrunk and put on shaky ground by contraception, no-fault divorce knocked the legs out from the idea of the strong family that we’ve built all human civilization on. First marriages crumbled, and then, the children who saw the brokenness and pain of their shattered families decided not to marry at all while still enjoying the sexual benefits that should have been available only to married folks. Out-of-wedlock birth rates have been soaring ever since, as have abortion rates.

And the funny thing is, us using each other hasn’t made any of us more successful. As my dad said this morning, fornication drives poverty harder than globalism, technology, offshoring, or loss of jobs. It destroyed the middle class because it shot their families all to hell. Single parents, especially women, have to do all the child rearing and bring in all the money to run the home. They often don’t work the best-paying jobs, or, if they do, they give their kids to daycare centers to raise for them so that they can work. They bring in less money, and their own social status, and by extension that of their children, falls. The children have less chances for good education and good jobs themselves and are more likely to have a child out of wedlock themselves. It’s a vicious cycle of poor into poorer. Or, as Maggie Gallagher said in her book, The Abolition of Marriage, “When divorce and illegitimacy become normal, when single parenthood begins at first to compete with and then to displace marriage, when not just a few, but many or most parents begin to adopt a risky pattern of child rearing (Writer’s Note: Risky here refers to the instability of families, with parents coming and going), the result is not just a bit more suffering for a few more children, but the impoverishment of society and the none-too-slow erosion of American civilization.”

(Picture c/o: Sword of Peter)
But nobody sees any problems with that. No, the real threat to marriage is the gays, say the people who come home from their jobs after eight hours, to their large, almost empty houses, to plug themselves into their fancy electronics for the rest of the evening and morning, avoiding their own families because the shiny status symbol is so much less annoying. The rallying cry of the gay marriage advocates is true. They aren’t hurting the sanctity of marriage at all. 

We’ve already killed it ourselves. 


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