Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Raising Children is an Act of Philosophy

Most parenting books tell you how to get your kid to do this or that but never question why you should get your kid to do those things. Most parenting books focus on how you can raise a child who studies hard and obeys you. They teach you that to be a good parent, you must sacrifice your life to being a taxi and tutor for the never ending list of "musts" that will maximize your child's potential. You'll know it was all worth it when you get that second mortgage so your child can attend a top university where, hopefully, your brilliant (good at memorizing), athletic (ready to sacrifice his body for the team), well-mannered (obeys unquestioned social norms) child will become a doctor or a lawyer where he will use his talents to make and spend lots of money and be so busy, distracted and important that he never questions the current establishment.

If he ends up pursuing an intellectual life at a university, the chances that he encounters any rational thought are slim to none. Most of today's intellectual elite mirror the intellectual mystics written about in Atlas Shrugged--they mumble a lot of intelligent-sounding meaningless garbage that does wonders to keep the masses believing that they live in the land of the free and should just enjoy themselves and leave the thinking to the experts. To really horrify yourself, watch the famous intro to political science course taught at Harvard ("Justice with Michael Sandel" downloadable for free at iTunes University). A non-Libertarian who listens to the entire lecture series will leave with great confidence that his government is "doing the best it can" with the "very difficult and complicated problem" of "governing" large numbers of people. A Libertarian will think something more along the lines of, "Wow, finding a way to justify government is a pretty difficult and complicated problem." 

If you don't raise an achiever, if instead you give your child a "normal" childhood, by default he will be raised by the television and the public school system: from Sesame Street's socialist propaganda to the Disney Channel's idea of a good life as pizza and burgers, shopping and aspiring to remain as childlike as possible, your child will most likely turn into an Epsilon. Epsilons are the Most Desired Citizen Type. They describe themselves as fat and lazy--as if it were a good thing, as if being fat and lazy were cool and fun. Epsilons are the government's dream--they never think about why they do what they do or why they like what they like. The main thing they learn in school is that they don't know and their teacher does. They usually follow that up with some church where they get the same message: they don't  know and God/Moses/Jesus/Their Priest/Their Pastor/Their Rabbi/Santa Claus does. If they ever have the nerve to start a business or try to build on their own land, they would accept easily what they were taught all along--they never grew up; they have to get permission--after all, they don't know what's best for them, the government does.

The way a society raises its children serves to prepare those children for life in that society. What kind of life are your children being prepared for? What kind of life do you want to prepare them for? 

Consider this: a child who is raised with violence is more likely to be violent himself as an adult. It's easy to say, "Hitting children is wrong! Never hit your child!" but a child who is never hit will be at a disadvantage if the society in which he lives is one where physical violence is commonplace--a violent childhood would have served to desensitize him and prepare him for real life. Similarly, a child who is hit and believes a fist fight is an appropriate way to deal with conflict will be at a disadvantage were he to move to my house, also called Galt's Gulch, where nonaggression is taken very seriously. 

Or consider the current fad in our society of "attachment parenting" in which parents carry their child with them everywhere they go. lists endless examples of baby-wearing that take place in third world countries today and in countries like our own in the past, "During the 19th Century in Europe, poor and uneducated people carried their children and were physically close with them, whereas the upper classes created a distance between adult and child, with the widespread view of not spoiling them." 

I would guess that the poor carried their children around not as a conscious effort to be closer to them but as a matter of necessity--there was work to be done and no one to look after the baby and living conditions were largely unsanitary and it was unsafe to put the baby down. 

But regardless of why they were carried or not carried, the rich and poor children of 19th Century Europe were raised in appropriate ways to prepare them for the life they would lead. The poor children never spent a moment alone--and they probably wouldn't spend much time alone during their entire lives so getting used to no personal space as "normal" from infancy was perfect. The upper class children, on the other hand, lived in homes with plenty of space, would likely have their own rooms for most of their adult lives and would spend plenty of time alone. Being introduced to that "normal" from infancy was also perfect.

Fast forward to our society today: baby-wearing is philosophically silly. It is not a necessity and it is normal for us (and wonderful) to spend time alone. The chances of our children having their own rooms in childhood is high and the chances of them having their own apartments as adults is also high. Babies who are not smotherd, who are given alone-time from day one, are very comfortable, happy and secure when alone.

What possible justification could there be--philosophically--for baby-wearing in America today? Do baby-wearing advocates think being alone sucks and want to raise kids who never leave them alone? Are they trying to change the culture? What kind of culture would be encouraged by babies (and then children and then adults) who consider togetherness normal and separateness something to be feared--perhaps a culture that values dependence over independence? Perhaps a culture in which someone's loving eye is always on you?

Most likely, baby-wearing advocates have never really thought about it. Neither have the parents who hit their children.

Parenting is an act of philosophy but very few parents are aware of the philosophy they practice, they don't sit down and analyze why they are raising their children the way they are or the kind of society those children will foster. Most will describe the experience of having children as exhausting, boring, hard, lonely, marriage killing, self-sacrificing and bank-breaking and they will never have time to reflect on what their goals are since they will be flying by the seat of their pants in permanent "emergency management" mode.

Hence the purpose of this blog:  I live in a society full of controls, manipulations and "norms" that are not philosophically sound, a society that breeds slave-thinking and slave-citizens. I intend to question everything I am told/encouraged by experts/legally required to do so that I can 1) raise my son in a rational (Libertarian) way with philosophical intention and 2) experience parenthood as meaningful and fun.

Good places to start developing your parenting philosophy:

Brave New World: Aldus Huxley, on his deathbed, said the fictional society written about in this book was exactly what the power elite were trying to create

The Romantic Manifesto: explains why we like the things we like and how everything we do shows our philosophy

The Three Martini Playdate: a fun book that asks an important question--shouldn't parenting be fun? Very wrong on most parenting issues though so I recommend stopping by a bookstore and just reading the first chapter or two.

Hilarious and Chewed Up, stand up comedy by Louis CK: funny with a dash of good philosophy

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