Great post from the Collegiate Mind blog on how the “nuclear” family unit has been deteriorating in modern American life.
The family is the most basic unit in a community. It provides the necessary support for children to grow into productive members of society. According to a recent study, the archetypical American family is changing from the nuclear family to single-parent households. This is cause for concern because of the effects of single-parenthood on children seen especially in the criminal Justice System.
Progressing and Falling Behind
Unfortunately, as societies and cultures “progress” this is a natural phenomenon as less emphasis is put on the initial stages of a community and more is placed on the larger whole. As mentioned in the article the “nuclear” family is the initial building block. From there as communities started growing larger for the greater good the next is the clan or extended family and friends. These were the tribes that traveled together and then finally settled down into agrarian communities that were the initial base for towns and the rise of city-states. As advancements in technology grew the city-states gave way to the nations and countries that we all know today. We still have the remnants of the past as nations, states, cities, clans and families, but the most emphasis is placed on the nation. With today’s technology and advances in communication even the idea of nations are growing passe as international communities such as the EU are gaining more and more traction. Progressing often means that we need to leave behind something.
As our civilizations grow, we are told more and more to sacrifice the lower levels for the greater good of the whole. The United States initially started at the clan level as small groups such as the Pilgrims who came over with their own beliefs and unique culture. Pre-revolution the idea of States began to be established which again were fairly unique at the time. Each state or colony at the time had its own government, laws and in a sense its own culture even though it was part of the larger British Empire. As the American Revolution began and finished the idea of a nation came to being with individual colonies losing much of their unique powers for the good of the nation. This came to a final conclusion during the Civil War where it was finally decided that the best interests of the nation came before the interests of the individual states.
During these times the idea of personal sacrifice has grown as well. Even in prehistory the idea of someone sacrificing themselves for a child or mate exists, but that again started to extend to the point where individuals now join the military to sacrifice themselves for the nation. The term “brother against brother” was a common slogan during the Civil War where the sanctity of the family unit became less important than one’s loyalty to State or country. It really was a turning point in US history in deciding where the greatest loyalties should like. General Robert E. Lee of the Confederates wanted to have an intact country and was against secession, but still kept his loyalties to his home state of Virginia, fighting and eventually losing a war based on that loyalty.
As the Civil War came to a close the identity of being American has become much greater than the identity of being from Virginia, New York or anywhere else. For our clans and families that identity no longer exists either. We don’t consider ourselves a Smith, Lee, Jones or any other surname anymore we simply consider ourselves American. As our ideals have gotten loftier we have really forgotten about the basic unit of family as we replace it with government. The family structure has broken down mainly because many individuals no longer feel the need to sacrifice for family. Again this idea has been evolving and growing over time as civilizations have grown and more and more personal sacrifices need to be made towards the whole.
It is clear that the deterioration of the archetypical family unit is toxic to the American society. In order to continue being that shiny city on a hill the American family must be revitalized.
The Culture of Me
One of the biggest pushes towards us as individuals taking on less responsibility for those around us is because we have become a community of one, the individual. Especially in Western culture we are taught to do what we want, be who we want to be and not to worry about what others think. This is a grand idea, but it fails to accept the reality that we are not completely alone. Follow your dreams we are told, chase after them, never give up on yourself. Again great ideas, but in the bigger picture sometimes when we go our own direction not everyone can follow.
Every Christmas I sit down and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I’m very similar to George Bailey in feeling that I stuck around trying to save my family and their business, never having a chance to “follow my dreams” and travel the world. The idea of taking over a family business because of duty, is an old idea and to many people of this generation a foreign concept. The movie has a happy ending as most movies do, but it’s not because George followed his dreams and cared only about himself it’s because he fulfilled his duty to his family.
As culture has moved us more towards caring for ourselves first, society and government has eased our worries about those we leave behind. Modern government tells us we don’t need to worry as they will take care of everyone. George Bailey worried about his parents, don’t worry we have Social Security and Medicare for them. Worried about his wife and kids? Don’t worry government will be there with assistance programs if they need it. Worried about your neighbors not being able to afford a home? Don’t worry Fanny Mae has them covered. Follow your dreams George, we’ll take care of them.
From more and more government programs to help single parent households and families in need the less the individual feels a responsibility. They pay their taxes so they think that that is all that they need to do. The same applies to the clan or neighborhood. Instead of taking an active interest in keeping things orderly and helping one another it is not expected to be taken care of by the upper levels of management. As long as we pay our taxes we feel the need for obligation disappear as the sense of burden and responsibility are removed from the individuals. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a classic and something that probably won’t resonate with many people on the same level that it did when it was released. The movie is about how the duty and love of a family even when strained is worth it, it shows a community a clan grouping together to save one of their own. In today’s version chances are George’s neighbors probably wouldn’t even know his name.
So families stop caring because they no longer need to. Extended families stop caring and local communities stop caring again because they no longer feel a need to.
Unfortunately, as things get bigger the actual act of caring disappears. I think my father and mother cared more about my well being than a bureaucrat in Washington DC.
Left-wing politicians take away your liberty in the name of children and of fighting poverty, while right-wing politicians do it in the name of family values and fighting drugs. Either way, government gets bigger and you become less free.
I think with the recent elections and the disconnect that people seem to be feeling more and more they are starting to realize that bigger isn’t better. We saw it with the Occupy movements and even the BLM movement and the rise of Bernie Sanders. On the Right we saw it with the rise and election of Donald Trump. In Europe Brexit has shown that people want to care for smaller things. While the Brexit vote has been categorized as anti-immigrant in a sense from the opposite viewpoint it is pro-British. While I personally disagree with the Brexit vote, I can’t blame people for wanting to take care of themselves and make decisions for themselves first. The people have really started to realize that government doesn’t care for them as individuals, but unfortunately there has been decades of erosion in the personal relationships that actually contained people who cared.
Originally posted 2017-01-09 19:51:48.