Monday, January 19, 2009

Discovering Dalrymple

"When we avoid the mistakes our parents used to make, we end up making the mistakes our parents avoided." (anon)

I have become increasingly worried about certain trends in society.

Most of these trends were originally a reaction to something worth reacting against. But in throwing out the stinking bathwater of outdated attitudes we have thrown out some precious babies worth keeping.

More blogs on various aspects of this topic in the future. Many of these points may become moot anyway as the economic meltdown steamrollers over the welfare state.

I am reading "Life at the Bottom", a collection of essays by a British psychiatrist who has devoted his working life to the so-called underclass.
The life patterns of his clients are sharply observed as they are, not as well-meaning do-gooders think they ought to be. The writing is clear, precise, and bitingly witty. I can't put it down. I find myself nodding with approval and cheering loudly at his comments.

The good doctor is exasperated with the excesses of the welfare state and of the mentality of political correctness. He describes horrid lives devoid of meaning, hope, and any sense of personal responsibility.

I have harboured deep suspicions about the psychology industry and the social worker establishment for a while, and find myself applauding.

The doctor considers himself a conservative. I agree with much of his thought. Question: am I still a liberal? Labels, schmabels. As Michel de Montaigne said, "Je prend mon bien où je le trouve." I take my good where I find it.

I am all in favor of both the welfare state and PC when it means Plain Civility, but anything can be overdone.
Achieving a more or less harmonious society is a dynamic process, not a steady state to be achieved once and for all. We zig and we zag.

No, I do not want to go back to the fifties when Father knew best and women were relegated to the home whether they liked it or not.

But is it so bad to give some priority to the raising of children?

I do not want to go back to a time when divorce was a horrible stigma. But is romance really a sufficient basis for a social order? I knew a couple whose wedding vows included the words "As long as love shall last." Is it any surprise they are divorced? 

I do not want to return to the days when a pregnancy out of wedlock would ruin a life and bring unbearable shame on a family. But have we not gone too far in the other direction? 

A friend was talking about a teenage Mom in her extended family. She still lives with her parents and has been supported to stay in school. Good. The welfare state is supporting her to go to college. Great. BUT! Here is her older sister who did not get into trouble, drowning in student loans. Isn't something wrong with this picture? By the way, I have always sympathized with the stay-at-home older brother of the prodigal son.

Would it really be so bad to return some stigma or pity to both divorce and fatherless families? I say SOME. I don't say teach kids abstinence till they're married, and force women to stay in abusive marriages. That would be the pendulum swinging like crazy in the opposite direction.

Excessive pendulum swings are one of my beefs. But we'll make it the topic another time.


Catfish Tales said...

I've not yet read the book, though I've found your varying comments provoked by its reading interesting here. It's true that we can't pigeon-hole people who've been down-and-out, still need help, and/or are making good out of the welfare state. Though I personally main-streamed from a non-main-stream life that almost killed me in my youth I too did not qualify for the welfare perks. Neither did I begrudge those who did. However, like the older sister of the unwed mother, I too had to pay my own way through school, having gone back and got my degrees after marriage and during the raising of children. It was no easy task, and I ended up paying off all my student loans. I did manage a few merit based scholarships and academic grants and awards along the way that helped tremendously. However, I can't forget my anger and jealousy over the quota system when I was contemplating getting my PhD. When all was said and done, I simply couldn't afford it. My jealousy was over those I knew who got theirs and sometimes rubbed my nose in it with me knowing they only did so because of their special needs status. That too I didn't begrudge them. Though there were those who rode the system and truly wouldn't have made it otherwise. I even taught a few students who used the trump card of minority-based or special needs status to demand an undeserving grade. Many is the time I had to go before a department board and justify my grading because of it. I just got tired of that attitude. Then again, it wasn't everybody who played such a hand. It just depends on personal integrity when it all boils down to it. But there is such a thing as reverse discrimination, oh yes there is.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Dear Shers, I forgot to subscribe to comments and did not see this till a year later, :). Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, efforts at righting historical wrongs usually seem to result in fresh wrongs.