So, I was reading this article the other day (Salon.com, 11/25/12). It was re-posted from the website The New Inquiry that seems to suggest certain anarchist leanings although there’s no philosophical coherence I can see. Whatever the case, the article is about a day of general strikes in Spain protesting austerity measures dictated to that country’s financial managers largely by German central bankers. Spain currently suffers an unemployment rate of something like 25%, i.e. as high as it ever was in this country during the Great Depression. Many people believe that cutting governmental expenditures in order to service bond debt will throw even more people out of work. That’s of course exactly what will happen and, understandably, a lot of Spaniards aren’t very happy about the prospect. Hence the strike.
You’d think that the Spanish government wouldn’t be very pleased about that level of unemployment, much less even higher levels. After all, there can come a time, “in the course of human events” when the governed no longer consent to be governed by those who govern them as all governors know and many fear. That time has not yet come in Spain or Greece or Portugal or Italy, but it’s worth remembering that the New Deal in this country was enacted in part because of that very fear. Among other things, New Deal programs helped convert a potentially revolutionary labor movement into one of the pillars supporting industrial capitalism.
That’s the context in which the author of The New Inquiry piece, Dan Rather-like, reported on the events in the streets of Madrid – demonstrators, police, tear gas, rubber bullets, “confused alarms of struggle and flight,” etc. Eventually he got around to interviewing someone named Maripaz who delivered herself of one idea I found interesting, not least because it’s so widely held in Spain.
With the moment of resistance passed, the sceptics stretched out again. Over afternoon beers and tapas in a bar in the north of Madrid, Maripaz informed me coquettishly “You will not like my opinions of the strike, I think.” Tell me, tell me, I said. She concurred with some of the same non-partisan explanations of Spain in la crisis I’ve heard before – that the Spanish family is indirectly propping up the government, and preventing outright rebellion; married couples moving back in with their parents, grandparents providing childcare and even sharing their pension. “While you have a place to stay and something to eat,” she said, “it will slow you down from rebelling – maybe they will take a year or so before they take to the streets?” Everyone from King Juan Carlos I to full-time housing activists I have spoken to have mentioned this. So what’s the opinion I won’t like?Read that again; “the Spanish family is…preventing outright rebellion.”
It’s a sensible idea which is probably why so many people from so many different backgrounds agree on it. In the time-honored tradition of families everywhere, when times are hard, you can always count on your family. Lost your job? Become disabled? Contracted a serious illness? Your first and best safety net is your family. They’re the ones who let you sleep on the couch, put on a little more pasta so you can eat, let you do odd jobs for Uncle Bernie so you can take in a little income. How many times have you heard the saying “the family is the backbone of society?” That’s part of what it means. ’Twas ever thus.
We Need a New Deal for the FamilyThat’s why the anti-family policies we’ve developed over the past 4o years are so utterly incomprehensible. They’re destructive of the fabric of the very society on which government depends for the derivation of its legitimate powers. To be blunt, the government’s war on the family is a war on itself. This makes sense?
Imagine a Spanish father who’s thrown out of work. It’s a big problem for him and his family because it looks like there’s no end in sight. But he and his wife and kids hunker down; they cut their spending and try to ride out the storm.
Now imagine an American father in the same situation. It’s hard to because he’s not in the same situation. His wife divorced him several years ago. He’s already a bit behind on child support payments, but now, without a job, he gets ever further behind. He can’t afford to hire a lawyer to try to get his payments reduced, so the arrears just keep building up and up. Then interest kicks in and there’s no way he can ever catch up.
Of course there’s not a chance under the sun that he can rely on her for shelter or any relief from the financial cataclysm. His family’s been destroyed; he’s on his own. Face it, if this country were running 25% unemployment, the prisons would be overflowing with fathers who couldn’t make their payments. The streets would be lined with men, not just out of work, but out of their homes, freezing and starving. It is of that type of men that rebellions are made. FDR knew that which is one reason the New Deal came into being.
The United States government and those of the 50 states have long promoted anti-family policies. Looking back on these times from decades hence, people will shake their heads at our astonishing ignorance and self-destructive tendencies. No-fault divorce obviously encourages divorce. Support, both governmental and cultural, for non-marital childbearing has resulted in ever-more distant relations between fathers and children. Adoption policies are designed explicitly to cut fathers out of the lives of their children despite the fact that a wealth of data show the biological connection between parents and children to be by far the strongest. Alimony strongly encourages divorce and discourages re-marriage. Draconian child support laws do the same. The failure to enforce visitation orders drives children and fathers apart and renders fathers largely irrelevant in their children’s lives. Restraining orders, as easy to get as signing your name, are a direct assault on fathers’ relationships with their children.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that our elected officials have for many years been doing all they can to break up families. Even if you care not a whit about the human suffering that entails, and it’s increasingly apparent that governments don’t care much about that, you’d think they’d care about social stability and the legitimacy of their own authority. But apparently they don’t. How else to explain the decades-long assault by government on the institution of the family?
New Deal, anyone?