If you understand,
The world is as it is.
If you don't understand,
The world is as it is.
Family Breakdown, and Walmart
March 22, 2006
The high divorce rates,
burgeoning numbers of single parent families, increases
of wed-lock (AKA - unwanted) pregnancies, and people
living with “significant others” wholly
outside of holy matrimony - This has been the ride
of the social roller coaster for several generations.
There have been periodic ups and downs, but the rates
have held steadily high. For some, these changes have
set off an earthshaking alarm - a call for action.
For others, it is tantamount to a car alarm going off
in a distant parking lot – it doesn’t
even warrant a look.
Religious leaders point their fingers at some sort
of loss of faith – a wayward trek toward a sinful
society that was predicted eons ago in cryptic messages
predicting the end times. The end grew near with the
introduction of the birth control pill of the 60’s,
and the point of no return was reached with Roe v.
Wade in 1973.
Right wing hacks point to some sort of communist conspiracy;
the growth of an evil doing government to replace the
family. By destroying the family, old people, and kids
would have to depend on the big government to provide
the necessary aid, comfort, and education. Holy Creeping
Both of these groups heap blame on the women’s
rights movement – which wouldn’t have happened
if the civil rights movement could have been stopped!
Damn … if those blacks still rode in the back
of the bus, none of this would be happening.
The solution to the problem is obvious to both these
groups. But, we’ll get to that later.
In medieval times, when the end wasn’t quite so
near, they had chastity belts. People married soon after
they reached puberty. The infant mortality rate was high
enough that such things as birth control and factory
efficient abortion weren’t really necessary. The
upper crust arranged their marriages way in advance,
and romance was limited to extra-marital affairs. Romeo,
Romeo, didn’t go without then. Neither did Juliet.
Zipping forward, we see the family farm. What ever
it was, it is billed today as the classic husband,
and children scenario. I wasn’t there, so I don’t
know if the “stability” was one of dedication
to “family values,” or if these values – along
with the family stability - grew from the economic realities
necessary for survival. One can easily suspect it worked
both ways. Each family member had a role to play – a
very important role. Second marriages were hardly unheard
of … but they were more often done after a period
of widowhood, rather than divorce.
Then, we were whisked off to the city factories of
the industrial revolution. Husband, wife, and children
still all working to ensure survival. However, rather
than till the soil and pray for rain, they now worked
in factories – 16 hours a day, six days a week – and
prayed that on the 7th day they could recover. There
was hardly the space of the farm. People were crammed
into small city quarters – home was often a rented
room to sleep in between shifts. A mythos of security
and success drew them from the farm and probably worked
for a while. But poverty wages and poverty conditions
soon gave rise to the ultimate evil ….. Unions.
An imported demonic idea - Unions. They were deemed
by some as an evil replacement for the family. I can
the Robber Baron financed preachers of the day exposing
their sinfulness now.
Moving forward, powered by the immorality of Unions
and living wages, we crossed the Great Depression Bridge,
turned at the corner of FDR & New Deal, and then
parked in Suburbia. The family was back on the farm – a
mini farm. It was a miniature castle built on a grassy
green yard. The family reconstructed. Dad went to work,
usually Nine to Five, five days a week. Mom stayed home,
and was there when sonny came home from school. Divorce
was relatively rare. Extended family get-togethers were
commonplace, and leisure time was equated with family
time. Obviously, not everyone had a Beaver Cleaver experience – that’s
not the point. Nearly everyone aspired to it. That was
a new family value – even if it was only a dream.
Factories roared, things were produced, and a man might
spend his entire working life with the same company,
or working his own small business. He would probably
spend his whole married life with the same wife. Time,
and its use, was focused on the family. One’s life
was centered around it. Cousins were family. You knew
their names, and stayed in contact through out life – even
if it was relatively sporadic.
So, how did we get here from there? This question often
sets off a blame game, stereotyping, and name-calling.
Christian Fundamentalists finger the blame on liberals – the
acceptance of abortion, homosexuality, women’s
liberation, unrestricted media, and even freedom of
Right Wing conservatives may include the Fundamentalist’s
reasons – but never leave out the element of big
government. Government, by providing services to people,
destroys the need for individual accountability. People
forego their “Responsibilities.” Not accepting
responsibility leads to the breakdown of the family.
Thus, liberalism leads to divorce – and that’s
unpatriotic – against family values. If we can
just dispense with things like social security and
Medicare, then grandma and grandpa would get to move
in with their
sons and daughters in order to survive. This would
be an indication of the strengthening of the family.
The solution for these groups is simple. They have much
to learn from the Taliban.
Having women be silent, wear Burkas, and cover their
whole bodies in clothing would certainly be a step
forward in decreasing divorce and strengthening the
we could add death by stoning for adultery. While it
may take a while to adjust to not letting women drive – it
can be done.
As for the men, they need to pledge allegiance to some
Grand Ayatolla CEO. Granted, this may be a bit different
from pledging allegiance to a local warlord, but the
effect should have the same solidifying effect on the
Back to reality: What has changed? Why the high divorce
rate and the break down of the family?
Often, we look around and try to identify (or blame)
changes or conditions on something specific. This is
tantamount to viewing reality through a straw. A bigger
picture gets missed as we zero in on our selected target.
If we broaden our perspective, we find the following
element as one of many that contribute to the changes
we have observed in the family. Assigning blame is no
longer the purpose of analysis. Cause and effect are
not always orchestrated with a contrived intent by someone,
or a group, hiding behind a curtain.
It has long been noted that certain career fields have
higher rates of divorce than others. The careers most
often identified in this category include police, firefighters,
waitresses, nurses, soldiers, and fishermen, to name
a few. It has also been found that the odds of divorce
are highest when husbands and wives contribute about
equally to family income.
When we look at the careers most prone to divorce,
we see people who have jobs that are not usually of
nine-to-five type. Some often have rotating schedules
that frequently change not only the hours they work,
but the days of the week they work. The other jobs
require terms of absence – soldiers go off to
war, and fishermen sail for months.
In both cases, what is experienced is a decrease in
interaction between family members. The term “grow apart” is
often heard when people reminisce about what went wrong
with their relationships. (However, keep in mind, people
can grow apart while still sitting in the same room.
Turn on the television, and what happens to communication.)
I think it would be safe to assume that, as we have
evolved into what is fancily called the “Post-Industrial
Era,” or into a “Service Economy” – more
jobs, careers, and professions are like those identified
as not being nine-to-five, Monday through Friday. Many
require working the holidays as well.
Good paying factory jobs are fleeing the country. These
were the jobs that allowed for a one income family.
Economic realities of the working class now require
both the husband
and wife to work – just to make ends meet. Part
of that is the result of wanting to buy “Things.” The
other part is that real wages have lowered.
Not too many women can, or want, to stay home. If both
are employed in a service
industry, the time when both
are at home at the same time has decreased significantly.
For many, it is as if they take turns staying at home
to watch over the children. They wave as they pass
each other going through the doors. Cell phones become
main means of communicating.
Many of these jobs are in retail – selling foreign
goods. During Beaver Cleaver’s time, most stores
were closed on Sunday. Therefore, even if you worked
as a clerk, you, like most others, had Sunday off – and
what you sold was made in the USA at the factory where
your neighbor worked. Now, we seem to be racing toward
a retail world that has 24/7 in sight.
Big Box stores hire part time employees to save on
costs such as health care. Many people have (need)
one job in the service sector – both of which pay
a bare living wage – if that. They work a cash
register here, stock a shelf there, and serve up some
fries when time allows. Some people even do all that
while going into debt getting an education with the hope
of overcoming the treadmill. When complete, most will
continue running faster on that very same treadmill to
pay off their student loan – they find that they
have been educated for a job that has been outsourced.
Time may be money. However, time is also a major cohesive
element in family relationships. Time, for the worker
bee, is in short supply. Time is expensive – most
can’t afford it. The single income family is disappearing – part
out of economic necessity, part out of choice. Many
today need both parents to be working - not to buy
a car, but
to pay medical expenses or medical insurance. Being
a single income family is not an option for most.
Therefore, may I submit for you contemplation, a major
reason for the breakdown of the family is the transition
into a service based economy that, in turn, has resulted
in a decrease in financial income. Banter about and
scream about loose morals, homosexuals, big government,
even abortion. But the fact of the matter is that you
cannot overlook the economic context in which all this
transpires. To do so, is to look at the world through
a straw. And don’t lie about a growing, prosperous
economy. Most worker bees know better; single, married,
divorced or homosexual.
One last comment:
Old academic myths often become treated like fact – just
as religious books. There is an old argument that has
been used to dispel the idea that economic hardship causes
divorce. It is based on some magically acquired statistic
that indicates divorce rates increase with improving
economies. This is a two edged sword. If one doesn’t
view relationships in some sort of stagnant perspective,
it would seem more likely that effects of the economic
hardships may cause stress resulting in irreparable
damage to relationships. Then, when financial times
an out is provided for both parties.
In search of
The Holy Vent