The Ecosystem of Society

My husband listened to a Freakonomics podcast today and was talking to me about it.  In it, there was a woman who had taught at Princeton and then went to work for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.  But then her teenaged son, who was with her family back in Princeton, really started having disciplinary problems.  She evaluated her options–do I stick with this promising career with many opportunities for even greater advancement, or do I quit here, and go back to Princeton to take care of my family and maybe go back to being a professor?  She chose to go home, which eventually really helped her son, but she noticed something: everyone she talked to became really uncomfortable if she explained why she quit her job in D.C.  In fact, ‘choosing to take care of my family’ is a euphemism there for being fired.

And I thought, what kind of crazy world do we live in?

There is a phenomena that some of you have probably seen that I like to call ‘backlash parenting.’  It’s what happens when I child (justified or not) feels that their parents were too extreme in one way or another, so when they are a parent, they are going to do everything the exact opposite of their parents.  Not logically, not with research or anything like that.  Just the exact, polar opposite of their parents.

And have you ever noticed that this NEVER works?  Parents who felt their parents were too strict, decide to never discipline their children.  Parents who felt their parents expected too much, expect nothing from their kids.  Parents who felt their parents would never help them or be there for them, sacrifice EVERYTHING (including important and necessary things like jobs and whatnot) to make sure their child has help with everything, all the time, until that kid doesn’t know how to do things on their own.

This doesn’t work because the opposite of something bad isn’t necessarily good.  Every choice in our life needs to be based on truth, logic, goodness, and what is right.  Not a backlash against something we didn’t like.

This is, I believe, one of the things that has happened with many aspects of the feminist movement.  For centuries, millennia even, women have often been mistreated by men (and even other women who believed what some men told them about women).  Over the past two centuries or so, our society has made a lot of changes to how people treat and see women.  But some of that has been backlash.  Instead of valuing what women can and already do, we have been told that they must do what men do to be valuable.  Instead of simply building up women, many have felt the need to devalue and even belittle and discount the importance of men in society and families.  And instead of respecting a woman’s choice to value and take care of her family, we now belittle and undervalue that kind of contribution, mocking ‘stay at home moms’ as stupid, lazy, or brainwashed by old white men.

Do you have any idea what you’re doing?

In biology, an ecosystem is a delicately balanced system of interconnected elements and organisms that work with each other and the environment to keep things in balance and surviving.  We know all too well that if you introduce an invasive species into an ecosystem, or take out a component of an ecosystem (even something as small and simple as an insect, fungus, or bacterium), it can and generally will wreak havoc on that ecosystem, possibly even making the whole thing collapse.

One of the remarkable things about humans is that we have a far faster and greater capability to adapt to changes in our environment and can live in just about any ecosystem on earth.  BUT!  That doesn’t mean that change is always easy or immediate, or that it doesn’t cause serious changes.  And since humans, by nature, seek out and interact in societies, relying more on each other than almost anything else, we need to recognize that our societies are very important parts of our human ecosystems.

Now, as we become glutted and obsessed with entertainment, frivolity, selfishness, consumerism, power and prettiness, we often forget or discount how important the various small parts of our ecosystem are.  And in our search for women’s ‘equality’ we have started a cascading series of events that are having an incredibly deleterious effect on society even now, and will only get worse unless we stop them.  If you want a list, here’s a start.

  1. We started treating the ‘fun’ of sex as a right and a need, demanding that any negative consequences that might result from uninhibited sex be taken away (such as STDs or unwanted pregnancies).  Dude, it’s FUN.  It’s leisure.  It’s entertainment.  At least, that’s all you want out of it.  And I’m sorry, fun is not a right or a need when it comes from something with such long-lasting and powerful effects on yourself, your family, and society.
  2. We started telling people that children didn’t need two-parent households and they would be fine.  “But we didn’t say that,” some might claim.  Hello, are you stupid?  What kind of message do you think you are giving people when you tell them that it is better for an unwed, teenaged mother to keep her child than to let it be adopted by a couple that has undergone an extensive vetting and qualification process?
  3. We started saying that pregnancy was just an inconvenience/burden for the mother, rather than a consequence for a choice she made to have fun (and I am NOT referring to women who were victims of race or incest.  That’s very different and is a small percentage of unwanted pregnancies) and a life.  And because we keep pounding into people’s heads that it is just a choice, a choice, a choice, and ignoring the choices that were already made and the rights of that child, we have not only convinced many people that abortion is a ‘right’ and is perfectly moral, but we have devalued the lives of ALL children from being marvelous little miracles and the future of our society to an inconvenient and unjust byproduct of my ‘right’ to have fun.  They are only valuable if they are planned and prepared for in every way, held up as trophy children.
  4. We have degraded the value of men so much that they are becoming less productive members of society.  When you tell men that not only should women be treated equally in the workplace, but that we need MORE women in the workplace, you are, by definition, saying that we either need FEWER men in the workplace, or that we should have fewer parents taking care of children (and that’s another can of worms I will get to later).  At the same time, much of our entertainment treats men as buffoons: socially inept, clueless in matters of running a household, dealing with people, or raising children, and completely unnecessary (see point #2).  Is it any wonder, then, that more and more men are not contributing as much to households financially, in work, or in child-rearing?  Dude, if someone told you that you were stupid and unnecessary, would YOU want to stick around?  Now, more women than men go to college.  And more women have to support single-parent households.  And many women, who are underpaid in ‘pink collar’ jobs, still have to put forth the vast majority of household and child rearing time when there is a man in the house, because we have taught both of them that she is better and he is not needed.  So why should he fight the natural instinct to sit around watching TV and eating cheez puffs all day?
  5. We have taught people that divorce is an easy, acceptable way to get out of something that is inconvenient, hard, or not as ‘fun’ as it used to be.  Not just relationships, but the families formed from relationships, are disposable and not as important as you having fun all of the time.
  6. We have taught people that ‘love’ –defined as the lusty, titillating feeling you get when you are first in a relationship with someone you like–is more important than anything, but that it should be easy and fun all of the time.  Your fun level (including sex) is the ultimate, defining measurement of the value of the relationship.  Plus, you can’t control it.  It either is ‘meant to be’ or it ‘just didn’t work out.’  I hate to break it to you, but this is a huge lie.  HUGE.  Love is not about having a great time always.  It’s about caring for each other no matter what–and that is a CHOICE, based not just on initial feelings, but on acts and choices (both big and small, but mostly small) that you make every single day, as well as a determination to make it work.  And it’s for something more than yourself.  It’s for your spouse, it’s for your children, and it’s for society.  And if you work hard and do it right, it’s actually even nicer for you, too.
  7. We have degraded and dismissed the value of parents and caregivers.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard–in entertainment, in personal conversations, and in news segments–people (especially other women) deride women who choose to stay home with their kids.  They either consider them stupid (‘couldn’t cut it in a work environment’) or lazy (like, you taking care of household matters, child rearing, AND a job somehow makes you better, instead of either being a patsy because you are now doing far more than your husband, or just not as good at any or all of those things because your time and attention has to be so divided).  Just because people used to say that household management and child rearing were all a woman COULD do or was CAPABLE of doing, does NOT make child rearing or household management bad!  They not only need to be done, but honestly, CHILD REARING IS MOST LIKELY MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR JOB.  Tell me, in thirty years, do you think it will be more important that you sold that contract or closed that deal, or that your child/children are honest, good, productive members of society?  Which will have a further reaching effect?  Which will you look back on with more happiness?
  8. We are actually telling people that science doesn’t matter.
    Yes, I said it.
    By telling people that being an unwed mother is fine, we are ignoring the overwhelming statistics that show that it has massive negative consequences in almost every aspect of the mother’s AND the children’s lives.  When we tell people that divorce is better than sticking around and being unhappy, we ignore the statistics that say that really isn’t true.  When we tell people that they should live together first ‘to test it out,’ we ignore study after study that show that people who live together first actually have a much higher divorce rate.  When we show unrealistic romantic entanglements that END with the marriage (if we’re lucky enough to have gotten that far), we fail to teach how to deal with the hard but inevitable parts, and that the vast majority of successful relationships are all about how we treat each other after the twitterpation wears off (and that the twitterpation, which we focus on in those romantic entanglements, actually means little to nothing at all).  When we constantly bombard people with nothing but the feel-good exceptions to these rules, we give them a skewed perspective that rules are stupid and they will be just fine without keeping them (which, unfortunately, they probably won’t).

So, back to ecosystems: ecosystems require balance.  Every organism and environmental factor in an ecosystem has an important role in maintaining balance.  The wolves cull the herds of the weak, sick, and injured.  The bacteria, insects, and fungi, help break down dead things and sloughed-off organic matter to clean up the area, limit some diseases, and make nutrients available to plant life.  Plants help prevent erosion, provide food sources by turning light into consumable forms of energy, provide shelter, and other things.  Everything has roles, and if even one thing gets out of balance–too many wolves introduced, or a fire that destroys the trees–it can have catastrophic effects.
We have, relatively rapidly, introduced some serious vacuums and imbalances into our societal ecosystem.  Families are the fundamental building blocks, because they provide the emotional structure for healthy people, the moral teaching for societal members to have integrity and respect for the rights of others, the basis of education that will help them to become productive members of society, the physical protection to allow the young to grow up and help our society to continue and thrive.  In haphazardly deciding to throw out the rules that helped make families stronger, because they were ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘dictated by old white men’ or ‘repressive because I couldn’t have as much fun, and fun is my right otherwise you’ll hurt my feelings,’ we have put our ecosystem out of balance.  The roles women played before, which are now derided, are still necessary, but are now not filled as well or at all.  The roles which men played in the family, now dismissed as unnecessary or bumbling, are actually VERY important and are not being filled as well or at all.  And each subsequent generation raised like this has a harder time behaving in a way that helps our society thrive and treat others with civility and decency.

So before you make life-altering decisions, or at least before you belittle someone’s choice as ‘less,’ do some research and some serious soul-searching as to what is truly important and the best ways to get there.  And maybe do a little growing up.

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