Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Age of Entitlement

Sitting in family court yesterday for four hours, and having a deliciously small attention span, I starting jotting down thoughts on the disintegration of family at hour 2.5. Here they are. Almost every person I've met at this firm has baggage in a density I have never before encountered, with divorces, cheating, child custody battles- and these are the attorneys and their staff, let alone the clients... I have yet to meet someone with a stable family.

Every child has a right to be born into a family consisting of a father and a mother and to be conceived in an act of self-gift.

Professor Charles E. Rice taught us this during his class [Morality and the Law] which I thought obvious. Now, sitting in court, I understand how painful the effects are, since society stopped supporting this crucial right.

The grandmother, of children removed, believes that all their mother needs is another adult (in this case, herself) to provide support. If only the mother had a stable marriage, she would not need to work and could provide all her children's needs without any conflict of interest. Welcome to the real world, Kelly.

One hundred, two hundred years ago, women managed huge households, children in the double digits, servants, and various additional family members. They had support from aging parents living with them, and a spouse, with whom they had no cause to fear separation. De Tocqueville wrote about an independent, and fortified femininity which he observed, particular to the American woman, a strength they drew from their own upbringing. They had different evils to deal with, especially sickness, infant mortality, etc, but perhaps that was better than the pervasive sickness of heart, manifest in destroyed families today?

Better yet, as St. Therese demanded, can we too state, "I choose all!"? Is it possible, now, to retain value for the true rights of the human person, like those at the top?

I've read philosophers' and theologians' discussions on the distortion, the root of the decline of Western Civilization and the family unit. Of three bold and obvious culprits, contraception, the disrespect of the feminine genius and the rise of the Age of Enlightenment, which is the lynch-pin, and then how do we right our attitude?
Did disdain for women's particular gift, nurturing life, lead to acceptance of contraception, or was the latter instrumental in fanning flames of feminism?

Removal of Reason and Objective Truth during the Enlightenment imparted a paradigm (fyi, that word is the result of Thomas Kuhn's book Structures of Scientific Revolutions - once applied to shifts in the way scientists viewed the world, it was adopted into general situations) through which contraception and distortion of gender roles could be accepted readily. Once culture assimilated "I cannot know through my senses or through rational processes that which is true, or even if there is a Truth," objective accountability, standards of inalienable rights, and duties disappeared.

This set up acceptance of contraception, remarriage, the dissolution of the family unit, situations where women could, or would not nurture their children at the expense of a career, men not held accountable to provide security for one wife and their children- all of which lead to revolting situations like the one explored in court today - overwhelmed single mothers - children ripped from parents - a perpetuating cycle of people brought up without stability or supervision at home- children in daycare from 8-6 - that's 10 hours away from the people who are the most influential to their happiness and future success.

In an ideal world, every parent could have attended Harvard or Penn, or at least college, have the emotional stability and reservoir of affection to enable their progeny to grow up confident, intelligent and loved - We are trying to achieve this through No Child Left Behind, Title9, etc, but this energy should be channeled into having their critical rights protected. Fair sports teams do not balance against family stability. Focus not on symptoms.

Is there a way to promote societal encouragement for women to nurture their children? (Disclaimer- I'm all for women working, but there is not enough support from the workplace for child rearing during critical times. We are not happier people since women started working, so we need a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too solution) Women need support for this gift; the lack thereof has increased in tandem with the growing lack of respect for true masculinity.

I heard an analogy of a locked gate to illustrate the misconstrued perception of masculinity: The guy who swaggers up with his -insert fascinating weapon here- and blasts the lock wide open is hailed as the hombre du jour. He is destructive. Another guy walks up confidently, but without affectation, examines the machine's intricacies, using his intellect to work with his surroundings opens the lock with a tool he creates. He is working in the tradition of his maker and completing his nature. This is the work JPII expounded as fulfilling in Laborem Exercens. He has masculine dignity.

Society must hold as normative the young man who 'ties himself down', who commits to one woman, who intends fidelity and labours to provide for his children. This man is not destroying, he is creating order and happiness.

Self-gift is undervalued. A woman putting on lipstick when her husband pulls up is not quashing herself under the fat foot of chauvinism, submitting to objectification or regressing into inferior times- she chooses to give him delight.

The man choosing a family, instead of sowing his wild oats (that expression is ridiculous) and marrying his career until he secures the luxuries to which he feels entitled, is not tied down. He freely serves and labours for souls depending on his life for their own. His creations sustain more than himself, fulfilling his purpose.

We recognize heroes, men and women who give self-sacrificially - now, marital fidelity is elite, and publicly rewarded (Martin Sheen, anyone? The best justification for his Laetare Medal was 40 years of marriage in Hollywood).

We desire to be Love and Beloved; while education distorts this, the inclination pervades.

Christopher West states that in any frat, you observe a desire for Marriage and the Eucharist- sex and booze, baby. Passionate pursuit for happiness is strong, but therein is distorted so virulently.

Statically, individuals confidently accepting only true forms, not distortions, of the fulfillment of these desires are happier. Through their security, they can pass on this overflow of other-centered love to their children.

Divorce, contraception and this recent particular unhappiness of women (Have you ever met a feminist who exudes joy?) all stem from the vulnerability of enlightenment, society no longer feeling accountable to a higher judge. This bequeathed dissolution of the child's rights.

While perhaps obvious to an Intellectual Catholic, the ramifications hit hard in the real world. I hear distressing and repulsive stories every day; I'm realizing connections I take for granted are illustrated with horrendous clarity when I hear about babies who began life in a lab, the product of a sperm bank and a mother desperate for a child years after a divorce, husbands cheating, mothers committing suicide... so much pain.

* Disclaimer- My job is actually quite lovely, the people are friendly and funny, and this is only a tiny part of my observations on life at a law firm - the underlying sadness just surprised me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

since all the lawyers come from broken families, it sort of makes one wonder if they're properly equipped to handle others