We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, January 22. 2013
As I have mentioned here before, I don't know how it is possible to run a complex household effectively without two or more adults in it. We know that marriage has seen a marked decline in the lower socioeconomic strata, thus contributing to a vicious circle of poverty, malfunction and dependency. From what I have read, marriage is still going strong in the middle and upper-middle strata. I suspect that is because middle class people desire a coherent, orderly, busy life which is enriching to everybody in the family - and one reason why divorce is so traumatic: it's not just about money, it's about structure.
From Exodus from Marriage:
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Divorce was fairly common in the later years of Rome. Probably not a comforting comparison.
Well, the Roman comparison is tricky. First of all, we don't know what average, working class Romans were doing or saying. Their voices come to us largely through satire written by and for much more educated Romans. The Romans we know the most about are the educated elites at the top of the social structure.
And while the elite marriage patterns were very chaotic compared to American middle class marriages, Romans didn't always marry for love. Especially in the upper class, Romans were expected to marry to make their families more powerful and wealthy. In fact, most Romans arranged marriages for their children who had little say in the matter.
I haven't taught Western Civ I for a while now, but I remember that Romans had at least 3 different types of marriage. Only one of them was the "to have and hold from this day forward, forsaking all others" type that most of us have pledged to do. The most common Roman marriage for elites was a marriage that was much more like a business deal and could be ended by the husband with a lot less fuss than the more permanent type. It is also worth noting that most Roman marriages were based on the concept that the men had all the power in the relationship, to the extent that he could cheat and expect to stay married, but if the wife did, then he could divorce her in a hurry and keep most (if not all) of the property and children.
I would never argue that Roman morality was sterling or that it didn't decline. I doubt, though, that marriage was the reason for the Roman empire crumbling.
I would certainly argue that the decline in American morality is linked to the decline of marriage in the last 50-60 years. I know that marriages are all different and don't want to fault any particular individual for a divorce. But the biggest reason why we live in a moral cesspool today is that so many Americans don't clean up their own messes. Personal responsibility to take care of our own problems is the biggest reason so many people and lives are broken.
"I would certainly argue that the decline in American morality is linked to the decline of marriage in the last 50-60 years"
I hate that term "decline of morality". Just because people are less inclined to dress their women in the western equivalent of burqahs and keep them locked up at home until they're married off to a "suitable gentleman" doesn't mean people aren't moral creatures.
Yes, there's the increase in gangs and crap like that, but I think that's always been there, it's just far more visible now because of media exposure.
There has indeed been a shift in attitude in that criminals and lazy people eating at the public trough when they're quite capable of holding a job are ever more portrayed as the good guys, and the entrepreneur and worker as the villains, but that's not morality, it's politics.
yes there has always been lawlessness. Yes, there has always been irresponsibility. My issue is that there seems to be less of a moral compass for most Americans now than there was in the recent past (1950s, for instance). And yes, I know that not many people lived Father Knows Best lives.
But for all that, I still believe that for most of American history the community imposed peer pressure on others to live responsibly (if you are going to get a girl pregnant, you better marry her and take care of your new family or your father in law will visit with you shotgun). Today there seems to be very little peer pressure on us to do the right thing (unless you are a Republican and/or Christian)... then you are roundly mocked if you aren't perfect.
The idea that 60 years ago women wore "the western equivalent of the burqha" and were 'married off to "suitable gentlemen" is leftist feminist propaganda that trivializes the truly horrific lives of women under Islam who are forced into portable prisons and abusive marriages as soon as they're old enough to be sold.
I'm 60+. My Mother and Aunts and Grandmothers had university degrees, happy marriages to honorable men who loved them and the children they bore. Some worked outside the home some did not. Their lives were happy and fulfilled, not without sorrow or frustration but generally free of the chaos and stress that characterizes the lives of most women today.
Betty Friedan was not speaking for all the women of her generation. She may have been speaking for the envious and discontented and there will those regardless.
you're the happy exception then. In many places women up until the 1960s were frowned upon if they had more than primary school education ("you won't need it" and they were right), were expected to marry, breed a few children, keep the house clean and neat so her husband could receive there, and that's pretty much it.
At least that was the way in many places, admittedly maybe not everywhere.
And "conservatives" quite often seem to long back to those days, consider everything else "immoral".
Hence the outcries over "short skirts", girls wearing t-shirts and jeans, etc. etc. etc.
You're missing the point. What "decline of morality" refers to is increasing hedonism, self-indulgence, and lack of self-control. The social results of "if it feels good, do it" are disastrous, but you still have millions of people who have discarded [or were never taught in the first place] standards for their behavior other than "it pleases me." Read Theodore Dalrymple's excellent work around the idea that the common denominator in the dysfunctional classes is an inability to control physical and emotional appetites and a profound lack of interest in striving to meet personal higher standards than animal drives. That is the problem with "decline of morality."
For much of recorded history, formal marriage was something practiced by the elites. The vast majority of people lived in some kind of common law arrangement. The Church got in on the act when there began to be property involved (for the lower as well as the upper classes). Legitimacy is important for inheritance and orderly transitions of power in businesses, farms, etc.
Furthermore, to have and to hold did not mean the same thing in years when large numbers of women died in childbirth, plague and infection cut many lives short.
The fairy tales about evil stepmothers were based on the horrible experiences of some children growing up in blended families hundreds of years ago. Death rather than divorce tended to part people.
So, we should not apply our own ideas of American frontier companionate marriage (however romantic and supportive we may feel such relationships to be). I know that my own parents were ready to go anywhere because they were everything to each other. They were married 52 years and died months apart. But this Wd have horrified many previous generations who relied on extended family and neighbors, and modern types who each have separate circles of friends.
I think that life has always been so difficult for the lower working classes and the unemployed that it is difficult to sustain a marriage, even if one wants to. No sensible woman hoping to start a family wd marry an unemployed man, but many people are overtaken not so much by lust as by the longing for kids. The fact that kids are better off with two married parents isn't a satisfactory deterrent to a woman who meets no acceptable future lifetime mates. Parenting is so consuming that many women have children out of wedlock, then retire from the social scene to be moms. Many do a heroic and loving job.
I am grateful to have done things the traditional way. But not everyone is so fortunate.
I think that a growing economy with lots of jobs for uneducated young men and liberal arts graduates wd do more to promote marriage than any moral hogwash. Give a man a job he can support a family on and he will marry. Or a woman will choose to marry him and not face being an exhausted working mom while an unemployed spouse surfs the net all day.
Whether the woman works or not(And I think she shd stay home during the prescho years at least) she needs a working husband.
All I can say is don't tell this or the studies done to back it up to ANY of the single moms in America. The butt hurt begins from there...And yeah, when two or more people work as a team, more definitely gets done, and makes everyone's life in the group that much easier...
My recollection from Roman Law was that the normal Roman household was completely the property of the Pater Familias (the most senior father in the extended family).
Normal property transfer required Manus (with hand or taking in hand). When a woman married a man with Manus she became subject to his Pater Familias, all her property became the property of her husband's PF and she took a similar subservient place in her husbands family as everyone else.
Later women started holding property, etc and some upper classes avoided marriage with manus. Romans had a sort of common law joining with manus if they lived together for a year - so some women would make sure to spend one day of the year away from their husband to avoid merging their affairs into the husbands family. Then husband and wife had a sort of equal rights marriage.
Late empire is definitely the analogy to marriage in the West today.