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How to Destroy the Constitution

October 25th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, AND INDEPENDENTS don’t agree on much, but most of them do believe in the excellence and effectiveness of the U.S. Constitution.

A group this diverse will, of course, have some disagreements on the details, but it is amazing how nearly all involved Americans support the document.

All agree that the Constitution catalyzed America’s growth to freedom, prosperity and world hegemony.

Freedom works, it turns out; the Constitution codified and structured freedom at a level unparalleled in world history (affiliate link).

For at least fifty years, however, two major groups have disagreed about the fundamental direction of the nation as it relates to the Constitution.

Conservatives have seen the Constitution as an ideal to live up to, and operated on the premise that the country must be careful not to stray too far from the original intent of the founders.

They resonate with such things as strong national defense, separations of power, and protections of property.

Liberals, in contrast, have in general felt that this great document guaranteed basic rights and due process, but that it was meant as a starting point from which to continually amend and improve our society.

They tend to focus on individual rights, equalities, and the democratic attitudes of the document.

As a third, newer group, independents, tend to want the United States to value original intent, yet also make improvements where they are wise and practical.

Vital Foundations of Freedom

In view of all this, there are a few things that are fundamentally vital to the success and maintenance of the U.S. Constitution.

If these vital things are lost or ignored, or even changed in any way, the system will break down and our freedoms will decrease. These vital foundations include:

  • Separations of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches
  • The independence of each branch
  • Checks and balances
  • Guarantees of freedom like “no ex post facto laws,” “no bills of attainder,” and the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights
  • Separations of power between the federal and state governments

Over the years, some have argued that we are in danger of losing some of these vital foundations of constitutional freedom. Certainly there has been some weakening over time.

But for the most part, the vital facets of the Constitution have held strong.

Weakening the Constitution

Unfortunately, in just the past few years we have seen major affronts to these vital constitutional guarantees. And more amazingly, there has been little concern voiced in the media or among the American citizenry.

When we let our freedoms slip away without a fight or even without concern, we take freedom, prosperity and happiness away from our posterity.

What kind of people do that? Are we such people? These are questions each of us must face.

Moreover, the loss of these vital constitutional foundations are not issues of parties­­­­—most liberals, conservatives, greens, radicals, extremists, moderates, hawks, doves, independents and nearly everyone else is generally opposed to losing our freedoms.

So why do we sit by and let it just happen?

The answer is simple, although the reality is quite complex:

We tend to let our freedoms slip away because they are tucked away in documents and policies that we don’t ever deal with directly.

We either ignore current bills before Congress or, if we do get involved, we focus on the publicized issues instead of the many layers of complexity.

In short, we don’t read the fine print.

The Power of Fine Print

Many Americans ignore the fine print in job contracts and mortgage papers, blithely signing our signatures and trusting others to handle the details.

Consider how lax we are with proposed bills in Washington DC: They are written by someone we don’t know and voted on by people few of us will ever even meet.

What few people realize is that these things have direct and major impact on our lives!

The problem in modern America is not that an individual can’t make a difference, but that nearly all of us are too distracted to even consider trying.

It seems ridiculous, maybe, to think that regular people should read the fine print of proposed legislation and existing laws and try to improve them. It sounds extreme and even crazy to suggest that without such close scrutiny from the citizens our freedoms will be lost.

But it is still true. This is one of the things which makes the American founding generations so truly amazing! Yes, they sacrificed greatly in the Revolution.

But many nations have sacrificed mightily and still failed to be free. Yes, the founders wanted to protect themselves from the usurpation of Britain. But so has every other colony and group of people facing a dominating government.

Yes, the founders loved freedom and wanted to pass it on to their children and posterity. But who doesn’t?

Almost every human society has yearned deeply and sacrificed much to be free. However, the founding American generations did something that almost no others have ever done.

They read the fine print!

They taught their children to read bills, laws, court cases, legislative debates, executive decrees, and bureaucratic policies. They read them in schoolrooms and at home. They read them at picnics and by candlelight after a long day’s hard labor.

They said they would consider their children uneducated if they didn’t read such things.

Consider just one example, from a textbook read by all Vermont school children in 1794:

“All the children are trained up to this kind of knowledge: they are accustomed from their earliest years to read the Holy Scriptures, the periodical publications, newspapers, and political pamphlets…the laws of their country, the proceedings of the courts of justice, of the general assembly of the state, and of the Congress, etc.

“Such a kind of education is common and universal in every part of the state: and nothing would be more dishonorable to the parents, or to the children, than to be without it.”

Now, in fairness to most human societies who wanted to be free, the regular people through much of history couldn’t read at all.

The founders understood this, so the first federal law passed under the newly ratified U.S. Constitution required any territory seeking statehood to show that it had an effective educational offering for all children.

They considered it a great blessing of providence that they could read and had the opportunity to pass on education to nearly all Americans. They saw this as a fundamental requirement for freedom.

They mourned for the many generations of humans throughout history who had no chance at freedom because education was denied them or simply unavailable.

But what would the founders think of three generations of today’s Americans who can read, who live in relative affluence, have ample leisure time, but who choose to ignore government documents?

I think they would be shocked, and then angry.

After the painful price they paid to establish a free nation; the many sacrifices of their families and lives, imagine their frustration that today’s Americans won’t even read what the government is doing.

Eventually, after their anger wore off, I think they would resign themselves to this reality: Unless Americans start reading government documents again, we will lose our freedom—again.

In case this sounds extreme, let me reiterate that the founding generations read government documents, in detail, from all three branches, including all levels from federal, to state, to local.

Then they raised their children to do the same. It was second nature to them because they wanted to remain free.

Free people read the fine print. Then they act on it. To put it simply: those who don’t, do not remain free.

This is the reality of history, from Ancient Israel to the Greeks, Saracens, Franks, Anglo-Saxons and every other free society in history.

I can find no exceptions.

In fact, in mixed societies with classes or castes of both freemen and subservients (like in Athens or the Roman Republic), only the upper classes read government documents; and only the upper classes were free citizens.

Three Tragedies

In just the past two years we have seen three of the major vital foundations of constitutional freedom ignored.

People who don’t read government documents, or at the very least printed media reports about government documents, aren’t even aware of these structural implosions in our constitutional system.

They have no idea of the tragedy ahead unless these things are reversed.

Moreover, people who don’t read government documents are often swayed by the anger of politicians or mass media so that they think violating the Constitution is okay if the nation is mad enough.

For example, the vital constitutional foundation of “no bills of attainder” was broken in the wake of national anger at Wall Street after the economic meltdown of 2008-2009. Even those who knew it was broken felt it was justified given Wall Street’s mistakes.

But when we let the government break the Constitution because we are really mad, we will soon watch it break the Constitution when somebody else is mad.

This reminds me of the old story of the so-called unaffected groups who ignored Hitler’s men while they took the Jews, then the foreigners, the gypsies, the handicap, and the white collar professionals, only to wonder why no one was there to help when Hitler’s men finally came to their house.

The moral of the story? Stand up for the Jews, or any other group unjustly attacked. That is the character of people who will remain free.

Because we were so angry at Wall Street after the economic crisis, we also ignored or just accepted the “ex post facto” laws unconstitutionally passed and applied in 2009.

That’s two strikes against the Constitution, and in less than a year!

The third strike came in the health care law.

Now, before I say more, let me be clear that I did not side with either the Democratic law as it was passed or with the argument from the Republicans that health care need not be reformed. Reform was necessary, but the way it was done is a major problem.

Some Democrats, some Republicans, and a lot of independents agreed with this. There is a lot more that could be said on this, point-by-point on every facet of the law. But that isn’t my purpose here.

My deepest concern is with the fact that public sentiment regarding such policies and issues as immigration, marriage, detainment/torture, health care, finance reform, foreign military campaigns, etc., is governed by the tidal forces of activism and apathy—neither of which is delving into the fine print details in the laws that strike a major blow to the most vital foundations of the Constitution.

Using the Health Care Reform law as a case in point: The Constitution separated the powers of the federal government from others that would be left to the states or lower levels, or the people.

This is as fundamental to our freedoms as separating the executive, judicial, and legislative branches, or outlining specific checks and balances.

Take away the provision of separating state and federal powers, and the whole Constitution is in danger of failing.

The founding generation felt so strongly about this that they insisted on adding the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to protect this separation and maintain states’ rights.

Later, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could take some actions within states under the commerce clause, but only the states had the right to require individual citizens to buy a good or service.

The Court also ruled in Gonzales v. Oregon that the federal government does not have the authority to “define general standards of medical practice in every locality.” It also “has recognized a right to medical self-determination, notably finding it within the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.”

The health care law is the first federal law to break these, and it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

In short, if this stands, future U.S Presidents and Congress can add one or two sentences in any bill at any time that requires Americans to do or buy anything—and pretty much nobody is likely to know until the law is passed.

Each new generation is acclimatized to the level of government overreach that they find themselves in, and it rarely occurs to them to object.

The Overseers of Freedom

Some might argue that our elected representatives should keep an eye on such things and take care of them for us.

True enough; except for one thing: Despite of all their good intentions and willingness to step up and lead, most of these representatives are ultimately just like “us”; they are not much more inclined than the general population to read the fine print!

Contributing to this brand of governance is the status quo climate that slaps an “extremist” label on those who do try to raise concerns about the process or consequence of our legislative and regulatory trends.

The bottom line is that our elected officials often fail to do anything about these fine-print additions to legislation.

Sometimes, even when such things are taken out of bills, the agencies which implement these laws simply write them back into their operating policies and enforce them anyway—even though they are not technically law.

With a system like this, the people are the only true overseers of freedom. If we don’t do it, freedom will be lost.

The founding generations read resolutions, bills, laws, policies, executive orders, ordinances, court cases and judicial commentaries on cases.

They wanted to be free, so they did what free people always do: They read the documents of government. They studied the fine print.

Where they saw dangers to freedom, they took action.

Unfortunately, too often any criticism of a political party’s policy is interpreted by people as an attack on that party. In this case, it is not my purpose to criticize President Obama’s push for health care reform.

I am simply concerned with the way this law treats the U.S. Constitution.

Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush also promoted policies that could have threatened constitutional principles.

It is the role of politicians to promote policies and changes they feel are needed, and at times these push the envelope of the Constitution.

Congress and the Court must do their constitutional role of analyzing and responding to such proposals, but ultimately it is up to the people to be the Overseers—to protect freedom.

Societies where the regular people aren’t allowed to read or comment on the laws are Totalitarian, Authoritarian, Dictatorial or Communistic.

Societies where the regular people are allowed to read and comment on the government and law, but instead decide to leave it to others, most often adopt aristocracy or socialism.

In contrast, if we want to be free, we must read the fine print.

Freedom only lasts in societies where regular citizens:

  • read government documents, think about and discuss them
  • do something to change them when needed
  • teach their children to do the same.

If we become such people, the future of freedom is bright. If not…

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Education &Government &Independents &Leadership &Politics

Language is Destiny

October 21st, 2010 // 4:00 am @

How a New Generation is Taking the Reins of American Leadership

In the twentieth century Richard Weaver famously taught that “ideas have consequences.”

He turned this thought into a book and eventually a philosophy, one which entered the general culture as the idea that “words mean things.”

Together these two concepts informed a society dominated and run by the Baby Boomers–those born between 1946 and 1964.

As we transition to a society run by the Latch-key or X Generation, born between 1964 and 1984, a new dominating viewpoint is gaining control.

As usual, most of media, academia and government have not yet fully caught on or understood the influence of the coming shift.

A powerful way to understand the rise of a new thought-generation is the OSA, or Over-Stated Acquiescent. This occurs where a person communicates agreement with what is being said by overstating the point.

Today’s OSAs include, “I know, right?” “Oh yeah, good point,” and “uber- ” [fill-in-the-blank].

These OSAs are sarcastic and manage to communicate irony and skepticism even as they convey assent.

This is a major shift from the past two generations, whose OSAs were nearly all positive, optimistic, guileless, and straightforward: “Groovy,” “Cool,” “Far Out,” “Rad,” “Awesome,” and so on.

Note that these older-generation OSA’s expressed a positive view of the future, a general sense that the world is good and getting better, and a naïve and infectious happiness of youth.

In contrast, the rising generation’s post-9/11 OSA’s are edgy–waiting for the other shoe to drop on our society, and just trying to get by until it does.

The older OSA’s come from a generation raised by parents, a cohesive high-school community and mostly homogenous values, while the new OSA’s express a society raised by television, factionalized and competing cliques, and conflicting diversity.

The old OSA’s were popularized by older youth (16-19) who wanted to hang on to carefree adolescence into their twenties and even thirties, where the new OSA’s reflect a younger group (10-13) who grew up too fast and were sophisticated before puberty and involved in adult issues and relationships by ages 14-16.

Destiny Lost

If you doubt how much OSA’s can teach us about generational psyches and therefore the future, consider their counterpart: the Under-Stated Denial (USDs).

The new USDs are once again ironic, skeptical, grown-up-too-fast, cosmopolitan, and sarcastic: “Not so much,” “A Little Bit,” “Shut Up!” and “-ish.”

Each is nuanced, meaning that none of these actually mean what they say. In the new language, words still mean things–but not exactly.

“Shut up,” here doesn’t mean to stop talking, but rather “totally!” Likewise, “A little bit” actually means, “Yes, a lot!” The older generation would have said, “duh!” instead of “A little bit.”

And “Not so much” would be translated by older generations as, “Of course not, stupid. How ridiculous! Isn’t this obvious? Come on, use your brain. For heaven’s sakes!”

The old generation of USDs was predictable, straightforward and obvious. “No way!” “No,” “Never,” “Negative,” “Not very much,” and other USD’s left little room for doubt as to their meaning.

In fact, they were more “stated” than “understated.” In contrast, the new USD’s are ripe with non-verbal meanings. The old way was to say what you mean, and even say it more strongly than you mean it.

The new way is to say what you don’t mean in a way that means what you mean–kind of.

If this is confusing, welcome to the future.

A: “So, do you like him?”
“He’s dreamy!”

B: “So, do you like him?”
“A little bit.”

These actually mean the same thing: the responder is smitten! But only “A” says so. In fact, “B” actually seems to say the opposite.

C: “Did you have fun on your date?”
“It was cool.”

D: “Did you have fun on your date?”
“ish.”

Again, C and D mean basically the same thing: “The date was okay, nothing great, but not terrible.”

But “cool” leans positive, just like the Boomer generation as a whole, while “ish” tends negative, glass-half-empty, like Generation X.

“Cool” means “I’m glad I went and I’d go out with him again,” while “ish” communicates the opposite.

Note that it is the expressions a generation uses in its adult years, not its youth, that carry the most weight, since language mirrors (and even, to some extent, defines) internal thoughts.

It is adult generations that wield real — as opposed to symbolic — power in businesses, governments and other major societal institutions.

So, while Gen X may have used older-style OSA’s and USD’s in its youth (“cool,” “awesome,” etc.), in adulthood it is now firmly planted in the new language used by its children (“I know, right?” “not so much,” “a little bit,” etc.). Its future will most likely follow the new model.

Interesting sidebar: it is not an anomaly that some of these phrases come from the growing Latino culture.

Business, Government, & Societal Applications

The ramifications for business, relationships, career and government are numerous.

For one, a society run by Boomers is willing to keep trying the old ways while Generation Xers won’t persist on a path they don’t trust or consider faulty.

Once Xers think something won’t work, they switch to something new. And where Boomers believe in the principles of the past and hesitate to try unproven policies, Xers are quick to try new things even when the risks are high.

The old model valued clarity, optimism and idealism, and supported progress toward the ideal–whether your ideal was Woodstock or Reagan.

In contrast, the new values are multi-layered, complex, nuanced.

They resonate with a cosmopolitan mix of pragmatic and symbolic, like American Idol or Obama. Things must be real and extremely symbolic at the same time.

In this new model, Republicans and Democrats are fake and lacking in symbolic sway, while Tea Parties and Obama are reality television and big-time icons combined.

Rush Limbaugh and Joe Biden are the old–straightforward, pushy, dogmatic, proletarian–while Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow are the new: complex, many-layered, broadly-read, cosmo, iconic. It’s George Strait and The Rolling Stones versus Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga.

The old says what it means, the new sparks the imagination.

At first blush, it may appear that the old model is fundamentally conservative–preserving values, honoring the past–while the new is wildly liberal–risking new options, and open to untried possibilities.

But that’s the view from the “words mean things” side of the fence.

On a deeper level, where things (all things, not just words mean things, the new OSA’s and USD’s signal a breath of life into the stagnant and unproductive war of words between the two major political parties and, more importantly, the two warring economic classes in our society.

We are increasingly a class society, split between uber-haves and the rest of us.

While the new “say what you don’t mean” generation may not appear to accept any of the wisdom of past generations, the opposite is actually true.

The older generations emphasized saying what you mean, and in doing so split into two rigid camps roughly understood as conservative and liberal.

These two camps then set out to beat each other in every walk of life, from the pulpit to the campus and from the big screen to the White House.

One major casualty in this battle was many of the best principles and ideas from the past. Indeed, both sides promoted their own version of what the greatest thinkers of history said, so that by the 2000’s both Democrats and Republicans could claim to be promoting Jeffersonian principles of American freedom.

Ultra-conservatives and liberal extremists carry around quotes from Plato, Jefferson, the Federalist, Tocqueville, Lincoln, Churchill and others–many taken largely out of context, each supporting some current pet viewpoint.

Both sides de-emphasized the need to go read Plato, Jefferson, the Federalist or others in depth and in total.

As a result, the great freedom principles and ideals of the past were forgotten, touted by all, and followed by none. This is the actual legacy of much that calls itself conservatism or progressivism.

Do our modern traditions preserve the best principles of the past? Not so much. (Translation for Boomers: “Not at all. And that really stinks!”)

Do they simultaneously claim the authority of the great ideas and patently fail to understand them? A little bit. (Translation for Boomers: “Totally. How ridiculous!”)

Is conservatism even conservative any more, and is progressivism even progressive? -ish. (Translation for Boomers: “A little, but not really. What’s wrong with these people, anyway?”)

Destiny Reconsidered

That said, there is much to be learned from the new destiny of language caused by the rise of Gen X.

While the obvious change is an openness to the new, even if it is untried and risky, there is a simultaneous return to the wisdom of the past.

More and more people, whatever their political or religious views, are returning to the old classics. And they are reading them in full, in depth. They are talking about them, blogging about them, and thinking about them.

As a result, they are getting a dose of quality thinking in a modern setting.

Something very interesting is coming out of this return to the great books and ideas. Conservatives are learning real conservatism and progressives are understanding real liberalism.

The potential of this renaissance is staggering. It turns out the problem of the great ideological divide was less conservatism vs. liberalism and more a reliance on superficiality.

Conservative and also progressive societies can both be greatly free, but shallow-thinking and poorly-educated societies cannot. They always deteriorate into less-than-free countries.

Indeed, when one actually reads Washington or Adams or Jefferson or the Federalist, it becomes clear that the American founders and framers were truly uber-conservative and uber-progressive.

They didn’t pick either side, but rather pulled the best conservative and also the best progressive principles and applied them all.

For example, when I first attended major home school conventions in the early 1990s there was a generally accepted viewpoint–shared by liberal hippies and right-wing evangelicals and seemingly everyone in between–that the American founders were against government-funded public schools and for privatized, parent-run schools.

In my youth, I had been taught a different view: That the founders established government-run public schools as the bastion of American strength.

When I read the collected writings of Jefferson, all twenty volumes, for the first time, I was shocked to read what he actually said about schools.

The first time I read the collected works of Washington and Adams, my surprise deepened and my views changed.

It turns out that both modern perspectives were shallow.

What the founders actually wanted was a flourishing educational environment with numerous public and private options all offering the deepest quality of education.

The founders described mentoring, the vital role of the greatest books and other works of mankind, and numerous educational ideals.

Their grasp of principles was broad, and their suggested innovations numerous. They believed in promoting the best conservative successes of the past and initiating progressive innovations to continually improve learning.

I had a similar experience as I read the original writings of the greats on numerous topics, from the Constitution to international relations to economics, and so on.

Depth always trumps shallow, and indeed many current debates between shallow conservatism and shallow liberalism are simply a problem caused by shallow understanding–when depth is added, many of these debates disappear altogether, and the rest have some actual chance of productive discourse that leads to improvement and change.

Shallow isn’t Education

The job-training focus of schooling since 1941 has, despite its admitted positives, had the negative effect of promoting shallow leadership and citizenship education.

The internet age has continued this downward trend to the extent that people have turned from books to e-surfing as a replacement for deep, quality education.

This applies to both formal youth schooling and informal, on-going adult learning.

A nation of free citizens is always a nation of adults continually learning at a deep level and thinking about new ideas in a continual national debate about the truly important things.

When only a small percentage of the adult population is engaged in this debate, freedom quickly declines, as the views and desires of the dependent masses are at odds with the principles of freedom.

In our day, the spread of the internet has significantly increased the number and percentage of the population that is actively involved in the national dialogue.

What is less obvious, but even more profound, is that we are also witnessing a growth in the number of people reading, studying and thinking about the great classics–not just limited quotes in textbooks, but in the original and complete form.

While the internet age has caused the death of the newspaper and, currently, the looming demise of many book publishers, it has coincided with a resurrection in reading the great classics.

This is a huge victory for freedom, though the consequences won’t likely be fully understood for many decades.

E: “Did Generation X get trained for jobs?
“A little bit.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Absolutely! If anything, it got more than enough. And, at the same time, other types of quality education suffered greatly.”)

F: “Did Generation X get a truly quality education for life and leadership?”
“Not so much.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Not at all. What a tragedy!”)

G: “Is Generation X prepared for the mantle of leadership now falling on its shoulders?”
“-ish.”

(Translation for Boomers: “Not really. But it’s coming anyway, so we’ll do our best. But it sucks that we weren’t educated for leadership in the first place!”)

H: “Look, Gen X isn’t any better than the Boomers and will have just as many problems.”
“I know, right?”

(Translation for Boomers: “Of course it will. In the meantime, let’s smile and make the best of it. In fact, let’s be happy about it. We might as well. Life stinks sometimes, but there is a lot of good too. Stop taking everything so seriously or you’ll die of ulcers.”)

I: “If Gen X doesn’t grow up and get serious, things will get a lot worse.”
“Oh yeah, good point.”

(Translation for Boomers: “No they won’t! Relax. I mean, yes, technically you are right. Real problems require real solutions. But stop over-stating it. Of course we’ll have to get serious. Of course we have to grow up. But in all your serious, grown-up leadership, you still managed to mess up the world a lot. Yes, you did some good things too. Thank you for those. Really, thank you. But our biggest problem with you is that you did everything with a frown on your face. We’ll deal with the real world in serious and grown-up ways, but don’t expect us to scowl our way through life. We prefer to smile, to laugh, to enjoy the journey–however difficult it may be.”)

A Boomer/Gen X Dialogue

I recently had a talk with a Boomer-age mentor who helped me a lot in my youth.

He commented on my latest book, and while he agreed with the conclusions two things baffled him.

First, why did I say, “God, or the Universe, whichever is most comfortable for you…” instead of just “God”?

Second, why did I say, “Whatever your politics, conservative or liberal or moderate or whatever, if you support freedom then we are on the same side…”?

I found myself as baffled as he was. Why wouldn’t I be inclusive instead of divisive?

I asked if my words made it sound like I don’t believe in God.

“Not at all,” he said. “But, it’s…squishy.”

“Squishy?” I asked. “I believe in God. I made that clear in the book, right?”

“Yes.”

“So, do you want me to go a step further and say that everyone who doesn’t believe in God is wrong and shouldn’t work with me on promoting freedom? Do you actually believe that?”

“Well, no,” he said. “But you should just say it like it is.”

“Okay,” I said, “here is how it is. If those who believe in God and freedom keep fighting against those who believe in freedom but not God, then will freedom win or lose?”

He just looked at me

“Or if conservatives, liberals, libertarians, environmentalists, moderates and independents who believe in freedom keep fighting against each other, does freedom gain or lose?”

He was shaking his head, so I tried a different tact.

“Is freedom losing so much ground because we’ve failed to show the evils of the other side or because we’ve failed to get more people to stand up for freedom? Which is more important?”

“Getting more to stand for freedom. That’s the whole point,” he said.

“Does freedom need more allies or less?” I asked.

“More. A lot more.”

“Do your allies have to agree with you on everything, or just on supporting freedom?”

“Well, I guess just on supporting freedom.”

“So why do you want me to argue with them on everything else? I mean, if freedom wins, we can all argue for the rest of our lives about everything from religion to politics to the Lakers. But if freedom loses, none of us will be able to stand for what we believe. I am proud of my friends who stand up for their beliefs that are different than mine. I want my grandchildren to live in a nation where all religions and political views and ideas can still believe what they want and express it openly and argue with each other. Don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, “But it is possible to be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

“True. It is also possible to be so closed that you make enemies of real friends.”

He pondered that, and began nodding his head.

“I can see that,” he agreed.

“Let me ask you a question,” I paused. “Is the need to attack different views actually part of your religion? Or part of your political ideals?”

“Actually,” he said after a few seconds, “my religion teaches just the opposite. For that matter, so do my political principles.”

He thought for a minute and I remained quiet. “It’s just that politics has been this way for so long, so much argument, cutting down the other side, getting them before they get you.”

I responded, “I know, right? But I have so many friends, really close friends, people I love and deeply respect, who disagree with me on religion or politics. But I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t really care about freedom. I just want all those who stand for freedom to at least try to work together.”

I later had an almost identical conversation (though the labels were different) with a woman who, by her account, had been raised a socialist in Brooklyn in the 1950s.

She spoke fondly of socialist summer camps as a youth and of being called a “pinko” when she went to college.

In the end, as I listened to her for over an hour, she was no socialist at all. She believed in the principles of freedom, despised government over-reach, and saw Washington D.C.’s excesses, regulations, high taxes and interventions in the economy as the great evil.

Her name for all this big-government domination was “capitalism.”

While many may disagree about the labels, she believed in freedom and deeply yearned to see the end of big-government growth.

I’m so glad I really listened to her instead of jumping to conclusions when she first called herself a “socialist.”

Once I understood what really mattered to her, I really enjoyed sharing what I thought about the current battle for freedom.

After she listened to me for a long time, she agreed that her labels were faulty and that we had a lot more in common than in disagreement.

Destiny Reborn

In the end, part of the Boomer generation’s way of doing things was to divide, label and battle. This system picked a side, gave positive names to its own side and negative labels to the other side, and went to war.

In this model, few people ever crossed the aisle or admitted good in the other side (or bad from its own side).

It put people in one camp or the other. “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us” was the operating motto.

There were many positives in this system, and perhaps coming as it did after the Hitler era it was necessary.

But this generation still runs Washington and much of the media and academia.

A new model is rising, however, with a different language and a different destiny. As the Xers increase their influence, the debate will likely be more sarcastic, ironic and complex.

This may turn off those who want politics and societal debates to be loving and kindly.

Others may be frustrated by the impact of Reality TV-style politics, and its ironic blend of reality with symbolism.

Put simply, presidential politics will likely be more and more like high school elections–too often all about appearance and popularity.

But the dialogues of the future will inject more humor and a relaxed attitude. They won’t take the political parties or candidates so seriously.

Freedom will be the serious issue, and policy, but not so much the candidates and parties.

They’ll elect Presidents like High School Prom Queens, but they’ll watch everyday government policy like Madison or Franklin.

They’ll care less about who is in the office and a lot more about what the officeholders actually do.

In a significant way, that’s a step in the right direction. And more importantly, Gen X politics is increasingly more participative–meaning that more citizens are closely involved in elections and also in everyday governance.

This is a huge step forward. Above all, the citizenry itself is slowly and consistently increasing its depth.

More regular people are reading the old classics in detail, thinking about the greatest ideas of mankind and comparing them to our modern institutions and leaders.

The old model was run by fewer, straightforwardly-involved but shallowly-engaged citizens. The future model appears to be developing toward more citizens involved and also more who are deeply engaged in the classics and great ideas.

The biggest criticism of the Xers–their skepticism–turns to a positive when applied to citizenship. Because they are skeptical they keep a closer eye on politics, stay more involved, and are less swayed by the next politician promising a grand program.

They are still second-in-command to the “Big Program” Boomers, but their day is coming.

If you want a citizenry that simply votes and then leaves everything else to Washington, you will be disappointed. The generation of “Awesome!” is being slowly replaced by a generation of uber-citizens.

If the trend continues, future Americans will be more like the American founding generation than any citizenry in nearly two centuries.

If this continues, the future of freedom is significantly brighter.

Or, to put it succinctly: “America’s future?”

“I know, right?”

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Generations &Government &Liberty &Politics

Reclaiming Adult Society: The 4 Cultures Corrupting America & What Must Replace Them

October 19th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

Every child looks forward to the freedoms and responsibilities of being an adult.

Liberty is a blessing of maturity, and a free society is only maintained by a culture of adults.

This may be obvious, but it has become a challenge in our day.

The term “adult” has come to be commonly defined as anyone above a certain age–and has largely lost its qualitative nuance; but of course not all people older than twenty-one are free.

True adulthood requires more than maintaining a heartbeat for two or more decades.

To achieve and perpetuate freedom, societies need a culture which accepts and exhibits the responsibilities and leadership of adulthood.

This is more difficult to achieve than first meets the eye.

When the general culture isn’t up to freedom standards, it is easy for people to go along with the norm.

Indeed, one reason freedom is historically so rare is the difficulty of changing cultural norms.

Let’s consider four cultures that have widespread influence today.

Elementary Culture

The culture of grade schools has huge impact beyond the schoolyard.

Elementary Culture values the following:

  • Staying in the good graces of those above you, especially the authorities
  • Reliance on experts
  • Dependence on basic needs and remedies being provided
  • Playing
  • Having good toys
  • Learning and following the rules
  • Getting rewards from the authorities by meeting their expectations

As good as these things may be for classroom and playground management, they are less enchanting as cultural underpinnings for adult neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations.

Free citizens are not exactly marked by their desire to please government authorities or being dependent on state programs.

Nor is liberty positively promoted when the citizens focus mostly on play, getting the best toys (from cars to computers to vacations) in life, or seeking rewards from upper classes or government officers.

Obviously, order and cooperation are desirable shared values in a society.

But there is a huge difference between free citizens who have a significant say in establishing the rules and dependent citizens who are hardly involved in governance.

One of the great heroic roles in our modern culture is found in elementary teachers who work, serve and sacrifice to help to raise the next generation.

For example, 63% of public grade-school teachers spend their own money buying food for at least one hungry student each month.

This amazing statistic shows much of what is right, and wrong, with modern America.

The individual voluntarism and selfless service by such teachers is a foundation of freedom.

When parents don’t own their responsibility to care for their children (which is the case in at least some, perhaps many, of these cases), our moral imperatives demand that we must.

And when adults act like children, the state steps forward to feed and care for them.

Think of the great freedom cultures of history–from the Hebrew and Greek golden ages to the free Saracens, Swiss, English and early Americans, among others.

These citizens were not dependents and not particularly interested in pleasing the authorities.

In fact, they held the government dependent on the people and required government officials to please the citizens.

They made family and work the center of adult life, as opposed to the “bread and circuses” of Elementary Cultures in Rome and other less-than-free societies.

High School Culture

Some adults live more in a High School Culture which, like Elementary Culture, does not promote free society.

High School Culture generally values the following:

  • Fitting in
  • Popularity
  • Sports
  • Cliques
  • Class systems
  • Disconnection from adult society

Sometimes even teachers side or identify with certain cliques and basically join this culture. The currently popular television series “Glee” typifies this sort of class system.

When applied to adult society, this creates a culture that hardly deserves and never maintains freedom.

In many towns, for example, high school glory days represent all that is right and good, and success in sports is seen as success in life.

There are three major types of life success in High School Culture:

  1. Doing well in school and sports
  2. Raising children who do well in school and sports
  3. Having grandchildren who are succeeding in school and sports.

This is High School Culture indeed. In fact, in many places the activities of the local high school are the actual center and high point of culture and activity.

This happens in many traditionally conservative cultures such as many small and mid-size towns, much of the American West, Texas and the plains states, and also in traditionally liberal populations like in the South, the Appalachians and the Midwest.

Whatever they call themselves politically, the dominant culture in such places often centers on the high school and reflects high school values.

Adults living High School Culture focus on their local and private issues and hope to ignore political society until it forces itself into their lives.

At such times, the typical response is anger and rebellion.

Unfortunately for freedom, seeking to fit in, be popular, join the best clique and thereby win the caste battle, and stay as disconnected from politics as possible, do not tend to promote free society.

Whether or not these things are good for youth is arguable; but they are certainly not foundations of liberty or the ideal goals of free adults.

College-Corporate Culture

Nor is College-Corporate Culture naturally supportive of freedom.

Just as high school usually has more freedoms than elementary, college and work culture sometimes feels free in comparison to high school society.

College-Corporate Culture is usually more dominant in bigger cities than in small towns, though of course there are people from all cultures living almost everywhere.

College-Corporate Culture values the following:

  • Personal success
  • Career preparation and advancement
  • Non-committal relationships
  • Entertainment
  • Status
  • Pursuing individual interests
  • Spending on lifestyle

People and places which adopt College-Corporate values experience more personal freedom than citizens living elementary or high school lifestyles.

But they are unable to establish or maintain freedom on the large scale over time, and they are usually not interested in trying.

“Me” and “I” dominate the perspectives of Elementary, High School and College-Corporate Cultures.\

Official Culture

In elementary and high schools there are principals, administrators, teachers and other officials who take care of the little people.

In the adult lives that mirror grade and high schools, regular citizens see themselves as being taken care of by officials and the officers see themselves as taking care of the people.

Since they value class systems and popularity, the people tend to regularly give in to those they consider in charge.

Many even feel resentment towards those who seem to rebel against the (“adult”) officials.

Woodstockers, John Birchers, the “-ism” extremists and other “rebels” are seen like druggies, gangsters and other unsavory high school cliques.

The “good” kids don’t fight the system.

College, university and corporate officials are often seen as distant, professionally rather than personally interested, upper class, and probably self-serving.

“They ignore us, and we ignore them,” is the operating principle of the regular people.

“We’re too busy pursuing our own success and fun to worry about them anyway–except to impress them.”

The officers, in contrast, see the regular people as functionaries to help them achieve big goals and successes.

Official Culture values the following:

  • Respect of those in authority
  • People following the rules
  • The infallibility of the rules
  • The need to lead significant, bold change
  • Overcoming the roadblocks which the regular people naively call “freedom”
  • Keeping the system strong
  • Promoting support and respect for the system
  • Really helping the people
  • Giving the people what they really need, even if they “think” they don’t want it or understand how much they need it

These have little likelihood of promoting long-term freedom.

Note that the official value of really helping the people is nearly always truly sincere. They really mean it.

While some may consider this patronizing, like the noblesse oblige of upper classes, we can still admire those who genuinely seek to serve and help people.

For freedom to succeed, however, the majority of the people must move beyond being cared for by experts and instead adopt and live in Adult Culture.

Freedom is lost in cultures dominated by Official Culture.

For that matter, freedom cannot survive in a society run by Elementary, High School, College-Corporate and/or Official values and systems.

Adult Culture

As mentioned above, freedom is incredibly rare in history.

It occurs only with an extremely high cost in resources, blood, sacrifice and wisdom, and it is maintained only when the citizenry does its job of truly leading the nation.

Regular people must understand what is going on at the same or a higher level than government leaders, or the leaders become an upper class and the people are relegated to following child-like as submissives and dependents.

To elect and become the right leaders and support the right direction in government, the people must study, watch, analyze and deeply think.

They must study and understand the principles of freedom, and they must get involved to ensure that these principles are applied.

Adult Culture values those things which keep societies free, prosperous and happy. Such values include the following:

  • Being your genuine self and therefore not easily swayed by peers, experts or anyone else
  • Actively and voluntarily contributing to society’s needs
  • Accepting responsibility for society and its future
  • Appropriately and maturely making a positive difference in the world
  • Accepting others for who they are and respecting their contributions
  • Spending wisely and balancing it with proper savings and investment
  • Consistently saving and effectively investing for the future
  • Dedicating yourself to committed relationships
  • Helping the young learn and progress
  • Providing principled and effective assistance to those in need
  • Influencing the rules, policies and laws to be what they should be, changing bad ones, and following the good ones
  • Sacrificing yourself for more important things
  • Taking risks when they are right
  • Respecting those in authority, earning and expecting their respect in return, and holding them accountable to their proper roles and duties
  • Balancing relationships and work with appropriate leisure, entertainments, sports, toys, hobbies and/or relaxation
  • Openly discouraging and, if needed, fighting class systems and unprincipled/unjust inequalities
  • Helping influence positive change while keeping the things which are positively working
  • Never allowing “progress” to trample freedoms
  • Promoting support for and respect of the system as long as it is positive and improving
  • Really, sincerely helping the people while respecting them as adults, individuals and citizens worthy of admiration and esteem

Any move away from these adult values is a step toward less freedom.

And let’s be clear: Most people naturally want to be treated like adults.

For example, there are now more independents than Republicans or Democrats in part because the political parties so often seem to exhibit elementary and high school values.

Populist movements nearly always arise when governments seem to adopt Official Culture.

The anti-Washington populism which swept President Obama into office was largely a response to perceived officiousness by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, just as Tea Party populism arose when many felt that the Obama Administration was treating regular Americans like inferiors.

Any sense of arrogance, superiority, smugness or overwhelming and unresponsive mandate by political leaders quite predictably spurs frustrated reactions.

Both parties routinely fall short in this arena, however, as do many in non-public sectors.

All of us would do well to guard ourselves against pride, which is perhaps the most negative High School value.

When combined with the harmful College-Corporate values of pushy ambition and myopic self-centeredness, pride wreaks havoc on societal leadership, prosperity and freedom.

In contrast, adult societies value relaxed confidence, poise, genuine humility, and authentic strength.

Adult Culture benefits from such values as elementary sharing and playing, high school enthusiasm and idealism, college self-improvement and dedicated learning, corporate hard work and excellence, and official emphasis on the rule of law and authentic caring for others.

However, each of these is optimized and put in context in an adult society–the only culture which can build and retain lasting freedom.

The Hidden War

Sadly, High School and College Culture have created a war brewing between the generations.

This is not a generation gap or a simple matter of the old not understanding the young.

It is an actual financial war between today’s children and their parents and grandparents.

But the youth aren’t engaged–they are simply the victims.

For example, as The Economist wrote of Britain:

“Half the population are under 40 years old but they hold only about 15% of all financial assets. People under 44 own, again, just 15% of owner-occupied housing….If pensions are counted, the situation is even more skewed.”

In the same article, entitled “Clash of Generations,” The Economist cites Member of Parliament David Willetts in his concern about the growing financial abuse of the young by older generations.

After noting the wealth of the baby-boomer generation, the article says:

“Young people have little chance of building up similar wealth. They are struggling to get on the housing ladder, though close to a fifth of the people between 49 and 59 years old own a second home…

“On top of this, older baby-boomers have dodged two speeding bullets, leaving their descendants squarely in the line of fire.

“The first is the bill for bailing out the financial sector; the second, the effect of climate change on the cost of energy, water, flood-prevention and the like.”

Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

“And there are the moral implications of the debt, which have so roused the tea party movement: The old vote themselves benefits that their children will have to pay for. What kind of people do that?”

Certainly not those with adult values. As The Economist put it:

“There is an unvoiced contract that binds the generations. Parents look after their children, with a view to helping them do at least as well as they themselves have done, and grown-up children look after their parents, in the hope that their children will do the same for them one day.

“But there is now a ‘breakdown in the balance between the generations…’ Mr. Willetts cites, approvingly, the way some American Indian tribal councils used to take decisions in the light of how they would affect the next several generations.In Britain, alas, it is painfully hard to see beyond the next election.”

The same problems are widespread in the United States.

The tribal approach mentioned clearly comes from a society with adult values, unlike the philosophy guiding much of Anglo-American financial policy.

No Chewing Gum!

Besides self-centeredness, another high school value is that the “good” people always follow the officials.

John Dewey taught that the most lasting lessons learned in schools are the non-academic cultural values taught.

While it has been famously said that all one ever needs to know he learns in kindergarten, one lesson which seems to have most taken hold is that the teacher (or president, expert or agent) is always right.

This falsehood has always been the end of freedom.

Consider how recessionary times impacted the current generation of youth (ages 15-29) raised with jobs as the central goals of their life.

They know how to stay in line, not chew gum in class, stick to their social clique, and leave decision-making to the officials.

But not only have innovation and leadership not been highly rewarded in their young lives, they are alien to most of them.

Speaking of the current generation of college graduates, the experts have written:

“You’d think if people are more individualistic, they’d be more independent. But it’s not really true. There’s an element of entitlement–they expect people to figure things out for them.”

[Source: Jean Twenge, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

In the workplace, they

“need almost constant direction….Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.”

[Source: Ron Aslop, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.}

“This is a group that’s done resume building since middle school. They’ve been told they’ve been preparing to go out and do great things after college. And now they’ve been dealt a 180 [by high unemployment rates].”

[Source: Larry Druckenbrod, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

“Trained through childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong, and inclined to believe that bad situations will…be sorted out by parents or other helpers.

“All of these characteristics are worrisome, given a harsh economic environment that requires perseverance, adaptability, humility, and entrepreneurialism.”

[Source: Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

A generation of assembly-line education has failed to prepare today’s youth for the real world.

The simple solution for the generation now between ages 15 and 29, and for a lot of other people, is more jobs.

This requires more entrepreneurial action. As Don Peck wrote in The Atlantic:

“Ultimately, innovation is what allows an economy to grow quickly and create new jobs as old ones obsolesce and disappear.”

Entrepreneurship requires adult values, not people full of high-school risk aversion and dependence.

Calling All Adults

Today we need a drastic return to the adult values in our society.

Insecurely seeking to fit in, searching for popularity, sports and toys as measures of success, dependency on government and officials, class systems, pleasing those in charge, waiting for others to structure your success, feeling entitled, thinking your resume should create success, expecting a lottery or reality TV show to bail you out, and blaming others when things go wrong–these are not things free people cherish.

The question for our generation is: Can we regain our freedoms without putting aside childish things and becoming a society of adults?

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Citizenship &Culture &Economics &Featured &Generations &Government &Liberty

The Renaissance of Family

October 18th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Click Here to Download a PDF of this Article

Whatever happens in Washington, Wall Street, Main Street, Hollywood or Silicon Valley in the next ten years, it will all be irrelevant if our families don’t come together at a much higher level.

Without a renaissance of family, no new candidate can rise to save us. No new legislation, policy or program will heal our land.

On the other hand, the buttressing and revitalization of our society at the most basic level of family, though it be quiet and virtually ignored, is the most powerful catalyst to the revitalization of our freedom and prosperity.

Rising Pressures on the Family

In crisis periods of history like the one we are now experiencing, virtually everything changes –in major and surprising ways.

Since few people realize that historical cycles are driving things, most are frustrated and feel vulnerable and even victimized by widespread changes.

Many turn to government to solve our most pressing problems, hoping it can work miracles. Others turn to different institutions. Still others rely on their own individual efforts.

Few, however, realize the power of families in such times. Indeed, increased financial challenges and frightening world events often amplify the pressure on marriage and family relationships.

Divorce rates increase, family dysfunction grows, and people look outside the family for more and more help–at the very time family members need each other and can help each other the most.

Buckle Up; The Crisis is Just Getting Started

“But the crisis is over,” some say.

Gross Domestic Product is a preferred indicator by economists to determine growth or recession. GDP is calculated by combining several factors including private profits, capital values and government spending.

GDP has been in recession for the past year, but it showed small growth in the third quarter of 2009, causing some to that we are in a recovery.

The fact is that this “recovery” was actually one more quarter of decreased profits and capital values–no change in the trend of economic slowing there–masked by the other factor: government spending in the form of Cash for Clunkers and other bailouts.

And since government gets its money either by taxing the private sector or printing money, it can’t keep spending like this and maintaining a “recovery” for long without drastically raising taxes or causing inflation.

In short, reports that a recovery is here to stay are, let us say, premature. A lasting recovery will only happen if profits and values also increase. Also, one of the better indicators of where we are is the unemployment rate, which continues to worsen.

As the Family Goes, So Goes the Nation

This means that pressure on families is almost certain to increase for the months and probably years ahead.

Crisis Periods in history are preceded by Good-Times Periods, then followed by Rebuilding Periods.

If the cycles of history hold true and we face major military conflict and even the draft in the decade ahead, or even if unemployment continues to worsen, families will face even more challenges.

I am an optimist, and I’m convinced that great things are ahead for America and the world.

But let’s be clear about one thing: Our nation and our world will rise no higher than our families. If the family continues to decline, so will peace, prosperity, freedom and happiness.

The experts have studies and graphs outlining the details, but history is absolutely clear on this point:The future of the family is the future of our world. Higher numbers of single-adult, single-parent and other non-traditional families are included in this great opportunity.

A Disturbing Divergence From the Past

In past Crisis Periods, layoffs and failed businesses have resulted in the family pulling together–planting gardens, starting businesses, chopping wood to save on fuel, and otherwise facing upheavals and trials and working to overcome them together.

In our current world, with its urbanized and technologically advanced lifestyle, we aren’t following this pattern of family retrenchment. We aren’t relying less on paychecks and more on the family farm, or even leaving the family farm to find opportunity in places like the New World (1780s), the West (1860s), or California (1930s).

In our times, no geographical Promised Land has arisen to deliver us.

At the same time, the modern world keeps us busy and separated from each other–kids at school, youth with groups of friends, mom and dad holding down multiple jobs or seeking employment, etc.

Even where both adults in some homes are unemployed, they don’t necessarily spend more time together, but rather cope with their stresses and seek solutions independently.

Diminished finances for vacations, no time off at a new job, productivity-related compensation and workplace competitiveness all bring pressure to emphasize less family time and more work time.

And the technologies that used to be tools to help connect us have turned on their masters. No longer luxuries, they have gone from being pervasive to invasive to divisive; each family member has his own unique and virtual social life, and family life suffers as a result.

The average American couple in 2009 spends only 16 minutes a day talking with each other, according to a report in Men’s Health. Half of that time is spent discussing things like household chores and finances, leaving very little time to build relationships.

The same article reported that “lack of quality time” is the number one cause of tension in couples’ relationships in 2009–more than finances, work issues or other challenges.

Unlike past Crisis Periods, we are spending less time together just talking and having fun as couples and families than we did even in the past two decades. Rather than refocusing on our marriage and family relationships during Crisis, we are pulling even further apart.

The Potential Tragedy of Lost Opportunities

The simplistic reason that Good-Time Periods turn into Crisis Periods is that families turn away from each other to serve the agendas of corporations, marketing firms, schools and others.

Crisis Periods are all about recapturing the most important things–especially happy and successful families. If families don’t come together, strengthen communities, build new entrepreneurial enterprises and begin to rebuild society, we won’t see the benefits of a great Rebuilding Period ahead.

This is a potential tragedy of Dark Ages proportions. Just consider Rome in the first century, France in the late Seventeenth Century, the South after the Civil War, or modern Cambodia, Bosnia or Rwanda.

A society has no destiny that is not tied to the strength of its families. Without a family renaissance, no society rebounds from crisis.

The Good News

The good news in all this is that the bad news is good news: If the biggest challenge in our families is lack of quality time and taking the time to really talk, then the solutions are simple.

What if you spent a lot more time with your spouse talking about less urgent, more important, more fun things and enjoying each other? What if you did the same with each of your children, siblings and/or parents?

Not everyone has all these options, but clearly not enough of those who do have families are giving them enough attention and effort.

What if families spent two or three evenings a week and half a day each weekend doing fun things, entrepreneurial ventures and/or service projects together?

Together is the key word here. This is truly the way that Crisis Periods in history are solved at the grassroots level.

Usually economic or political realities force family unity and mutual cooperation in surviving and making a living. In our day it is still as vital to ending the attitudes, behaviors and habits that brought on Crisis; these same elements will keep the Cultural Renaissance progressing until things change.

Of course, this only works where families both bond within and connect without–not isolating themselves but strengthening their relationships with each other and the rest of the community.

And it works most effectively where families reject the temptation to draw factional, us/them lines, and instead reach out and build new relationships.

The Little Things That Make a Huge Difference

Here is the pattern: improve marriages, strengthen family relationships, make new friends, and build stronger connections with friends and community.

This naturally overcomes Crisis, and without it Crisis Periods persist and worsen.

Ironically, it is the little things that will most likely win (or lose) this battle. In the next decade, improving your marriage one hour a day (at least) may be the most important thing you can do for society. Same with many hours a week spent actively talking with and doing activities together with children and grandchildren.

Seldom has so much depended on such little things!

Will we follow the course of societies past that have lost their way and crumbled under the devastating forces of economic upheaval, war and other crises? Or we pull together as families and communities to create a brighter future?

If we get it right, we’ll also see a renaissance of America and, hopefully, watch it spread to the world. No matter what experts may say or what historians may someday write about our times, it will certainly be defined by either the Demise or the Renaissance of the Family.

Recommended Reading:

Click Here to Download a PDF of this Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Economics &Family &Featured &History &Liberty

The Marriage Plot, New Feminism, & the End of Men

October 13th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

AT THE CENTER OF ALL SOCIETIES sits the family, and when family culture drastically and irreversibly changes, the whole civilization is impacted.

Our politics, economy, relationships and character are going to be different based on the major family shift now occurring.

What could cause such an all-encompassing change? What exactly is happening right now that is altering our societal future?

The answer is: The shift to a matriarchal society.

And whether this actually happens in full or we are simply witnessing a slight move in this direction, the consequences are momentous.

In short, this boils down to four major trends that are remaking our society:

  1. The rise of matriarchal society
  2. The decreasing popularity of marriage
  3. The growing confusion about manhood
  4. The opportunity for masculine nurture

The Rise of Matriarchal Society

The Great Recession is touted by many as having brought the end of male dominance in our culture, and of ushering in a new era of matriarchal supremacy.

As Don Peck writes in The Atlantic:

“The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults….It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities….Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture and the character of our society for years come…

“[J]oblessness corrodes marriages, and makes divorce much more likely down the road. According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the gender imbalance of the job losses in this recession is particularly noteworthy, and—combined with the depth and duration of the job crisis—poses ‘a profound challenge to marriage’…

“‘We could be headed in a direction where, among elites, marriage and family are conventional, but for substantial portions of society, life is more matriarchal,’ says Wilcox. The marginalization of working-class men in family life has far-reaching consequences.

“Marriage plays an important role in civilizing men. They work harder, longer, more strategically. They spend less time in bars and more time in church, less with friends and more with kin. And they’re happier and healthier.”

Women are now the majority of the paid workforce for the first time in history, the majority of managers are now women, and significantly more women than men now get degrees.

“For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”

As Hanna Rosin outlined in a an article on “the unprecedented role reversal now under way—and its vast cultural consequences,” couples at fertility clinics are now requesting more girls than boys, three quarters of the jobs lost in the Great Recession were lost by men, many college women now assume that they will earn the paycheck while their husbands stay home and mind the kids, and women now earn 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Ask Rosin:

“What if the economics of the new era are better suited to women? Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you….Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.

“The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominately male….

“The economic and cultural power shift from men to women would be hugely significant even if it never extended beyond working-class America. But women are also starting to dominate middle management, and a surprising number of professional careers as well.”

Of the top 15 careers projected to grow in the decade ahead, says Rosin, only two—janitor and computer engineer—are filled by a male majority. And the trend is not limited to the United States: both China and India boast similar indicators.

College statistics show “with absolute clarity that in the coming decades the middle class will be dominated by women.”

The Decreasing Popularity of Marriage

At the same time, and certainly not unrelated, many women are finding marriage less attractive.

Sandra Tsing Loh writes that:

“for women, obsession with real estate is replacing obsession with love and marriage….Whatever the emotional need, we women can engineer the solution. But such continual resculpting may be irksome if the vessel of our current and future happiness is an actual male….

“So what if, in comparison with Jane Austen’s time, when the heroine’s journey was necessarily Girl Meets Boy, Girl Marries Boy, Girl Gets Pemberley, 200 years later our plots are Woman Buys Pemberley, Pemberley Needs Remodeling, Woman Hires Handsome, Soulful, Single Architect to Find Perfect Farmhouse Sink but After Whirlwind Affair Boots Him Out Anyway Because She Hates His Choice of Carpeting…?

“Whether you wish to chant ‘Our houses, our selves’ or ‘We have houses, hear us roar,’ for us women, home is where the heart is.”

Loh suggests that “middle-aged female readers’ tastes,” at least, “are shifting away from the marriage plot.”

She cites such current female classics as Committed by woman’s icon Elizabeth Gilbert, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House by Meghan Daum, and Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.

About The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (which the New York Times Book Review called “an update of Sense and Sensibility”), Loh said that it is

“less about who ends up with the men than who ends up with the real estate….

“As the years grind on, Sheldon [‘bald and in bow ties’] will only continue to physically collapse, as opposed to a house, whose luster just improves with age. A 100-year-old farm house? Make it 200! Even 300! Original hardware! Wide-plank floors! And what’s more fun than falling madly in love with a piece of real estate?”

Quoting Meghan Daum:

“Moving, like chocolate and sunshine, stirs up many of the same chemicals you ostensibly produce when you’re in love. At least it does for me. Like a new lover, a new house opens a floodgate of anticipation and trepidation and terrifying expectations fused with dreamy distractions. It’s all encompassing and crazy making. You can’t concentrate at work…”

And about Hayes’s book:

“I am raptly studying the New York Times piece on lefty stay-at-home mothers in Berkeley who raise their own chickens. In a house with no cable…the only entertainment we have is reading….Evenings go by so slowly, I’m already halfway through my every-four-years read of Anna Karenina…

“I’m intrigued by the stay-at-home-mom chicken-slaughtering because on my rickety nightstand (flea market—$8!) is my new bible, Shanon Hayes’s Radical Homemakers. Sure, it has some of the usual tropes one would expect from a crunchy-granola rebel seeking to live off the land: Hayes’s daughters have lyrically daunting names like Saoirse and Ula; there is copious homeschooling; there are hushed-voice, enigmatic, and unironic biographical descriptions like ‘She raises and forages most of her food in the heart of the city’ (Chicago). More timid souls might balk at maybe limiting their diet to venison, figs, and prickly pear cactus; melting beef tallow for soap….And yet, I find myself dog-earing page after page, exclaiming ‘Aha!’ and circling passages….

“What a heady brand of feminism—self reliance in the home is a path to more authentic macro-freedom; freedom from government, freedom from corporations, freedom from a soul-diminishing economy! Like early American rebels who freed themselves from dependence on the British by pairing turkey not with imported jam but with locally grown cranberry sauce, we, too, can start a revolution in the kitchen!”

A much more direct new feminism, according to Rosin, comes from leaders like Iceland’s female Prime Minister who campaigned by promising to put an end to “the age of testosterone.”

And many women are simply foregoing marriage. Says Rosin:

“In 1970, 84 percent of women ages 33 to 44 were married; now 60 percent are….[T]he most compelling theory is that marriage has disappeared because women are setting the terms—and setting them too high for the men around them to reach.”

In all of this, men are often seen as dull, stulted, unimaginative and unable to cope with change, while women are seen as naturally innovative, able, creative, adaptive and ready to deal with and overcome anything.

When challenges come, men are expected to mope, but the women assess the situation, develop solutions, and then muster resources and support to turn challenges into triumphs.

In this new worldview, the stereotypes are significant: men are naturally needy and dependent while women are bright, engaged and full of initiative.

Why would women even want to marry in such an environment? Many college women, according to Rosin, see men as “the new ball and chain.”

Growing Confusion about Manhood

President Obama said in his 2008 Father’s Day Speech that fathers are critical to the foundations of the family:

“They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and men who constantly push us toward it.”

Kids who are raised without fathers are five times more likely to commit crime or live in poverty and nine times as likely to drop out of school. But these statistics are all in debate, and no clear conclusions are accepted by the researchers.

In fact, as the author of Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul, put it,

“The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution. The good news is, we’ve gotten used to him.”

Such tepid support for the role of fathers is becoming the norm. As Don Peck wrote:

“In Identity Economics, the economists George Akerloff and Rachel Kranton find that among married couples, men who aren’t working at all, despite their free time, do only 37 percent of the housework, on average. And some men, apparently in an effort to guard their masculinity, actually do less housework after becoming unemployed.

“Many working women struggle with the idea of partners who aren’t breadwinners. ‘We’ve got this image of Archie Bunker sitting at home, grumbling and acting out,’ says Kathryn Edin, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and an expert on family life….It may sound harsh, but in general, [Wilcox] says, ‘if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.’

“Two-thirds of all divorces are legally initiated by women. Wilcox believes that over the next few years, we may see a long wave of divorces, washing no small number of discarded and dispirited men back into single adulthood.

“Among couples without college degrees, says Edin, marriage has become an ‘increasingly fragile’ institution. In many low-income communities, she fears it is being supplanted as a social norm by single motherhood and revolving-door relationships. As a rule, fewer people marry during recession, and this one has been no exception.”

More people are putting off marriage and just deciding not to marry.

One result of all this is that more communities are filled with unmarried, unemployed, underemployed, increasingly less educated, frustrated and unproductive males.

Even among educated men who are married and employed, there is increasing confusion about the ideal and proper role of men.

Few men are willing to voice a strong opinion about the roles of men and women any more, though it is a frequent topic among women.

Even those men who do share an opinion most often begin or end, or both, with a disclaimer along the lines of, “but what do I know? I’m just a man, after all.”

We are at an interesting place in gender relations in America. Hanna Rosin wrote:

“Throughout the ‘90s, various authors and researchers agonized over why boys seemed to be failing at every level of education, from elementary school on up, and identified various culprits: a misguided feminism that treated normal boys as incipient harassers (Christina Hoff Sommers); different brain chemistry (Michael Gurian); a demanding, verbally focused curriculum that ignored boy’s interests (Richard Whitmire).

“But again, it’s not all that clear that boys have become more dysfunctional—or have changed in any way. What’s clear is that schools, like the economy, now value the self-control, focus, and verbal aptitude that seem to come more easily to young girls.”

I have suggested for many years that girls are a couple of years ahead of boys and that we do much harm by pushing boys into academics too early.

In fact, until they have a love of learning (which comes early) and then a love of studying (which usually comes to boys shortly after puberty), requiring them to do a lot of typical school work is often very destructive to their long-term education.

By establishing grade levels by age, rather than as phases that come to different children at their own pace, society often labels boys as “dumb,” “not smart,” “less gifted,” and “behind,” when in fact they just aren’t yet ready to meet some arbitrary standard called a grade level.

Some boys, and some girls, may develop more slowly than the “established norm,” but they are still fully capable of superb performance when they are allowed to move at their own pace.

Unfortunately, this flies in the face of the “expert” wisdom and is largely discounted by most.

One suggested solution by those currently dealing with this trend of “underperforming” boys is to create gender-oriented tests instead of standard exams. This strikes me as sad and frustrating, since I have been promoting personalized, oral exams instead of standardized tests for years.

Another proposal is to allow boys to walk around during class in order to get out their nervous attention and allow them to concentrate like girls or older students.

Again, I have taught for nearly two decades that younger children aren’t quite ready for the academic environment we have forced them to endure.

Some experts want to establish all-boys classrooms and even all-boys school, and to focus on the needs of boys instead of requiring them to fit into standard classrooms.

I agree with Rosin:

“It is fabulous to see girls and young women poised for success in the years ahead. But allowing generations of boys to grow up feeling rootless and obsolete is not a recipe for a peaceful future.”

Unfortunately, the pro-men and pro-boy movements that are now happening are either discounted by many as too religious, too extreme, or too angry and anti-women.

In short, the only thing which really seems to work in raising boys toward ideal manhood, regardless of what the experts are saying, is the intimate and ongoing example of fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other key male role models.

Solutions

This reality, in fact, is one of those amazing coincidences that can only be called either inspiration or serendipity.

The current crisis is offering an opportunity for men to develop their nurturing side.

Before you discount this, consider that men are as naturally prone to nurture as they are to provide.

Thousands of years of the Nomadic, Agrarian and Industrial Ages have conditioned hundreds of generations of men to find success through work.

And the long era of comparative peace and prosperity since 1945 have tended to make them feel entitled to plentiful jobs, extra cash, vacations, and leisure time, and numerous other opportunities—often with minimal effort.

The Great Recession has challenged these assumptions, requiring a new type of individual with two sets of character traits and skills:

  1. First, extremely high levels of initiative, resiliency, ingenuity, and tenacity.
  2. Second, much higher than traditional levels of cooperation, communication, unselfishness about who gets rewards and credit, and teamwork.

Today’s generation of men and women are capable of the first list of needed traits and changes, but many men struggle to compete with women on the second list.

Indeed, for much of history it was man’s lack of these very “weaknesses” that made him independent, self-assured, bold, assertive, ambitious, and what has been called simply, “manly,” “Roman,” and “tough.”

When boys are taught, “be a man,” “don’t cry like a sissy,” and men are told to “cowboy up,” it often means precisely not to be the cooperative, communicative, depend-on-others types.

“Stop talking and just do it.” “Who cares what others say or do, just do what you want.”

Men still laugh at Tim Allen’s grunts as the essence of male communication, and even in team athletics boys are taught to stand out and rise above the crowd.

What used to be the unwritten rules of “male dominance” are now actually seen as inability to excel in the vital second list of characteristics (communication, cooperation, unselfishness).

While of course this generalization is overcome by a number of individuals, it remains a reality for many.

Wise fathers, grandfathers and role models will help teach boys and men that there is much more to manhood than the wartime and gang-related values.

Indeed, the lessons taught from fathers to sons by generations of hunters, farmers and entrepreneurs differ greatly from those idealized by warriors, politicians and corporate raiders.

The first group idealizes cooperation, communication, and progress whereas the second prefers competition, dominance and victory.

In the Industrial Age, the “Organization Man” became the ideal for males—detached, admired, cash-carrying, benefitting from a lot of leisure time, and considered in charge of his family and its members.

The Industrial Man was the provider and the boss. At work he was an employee, a servant, but at home he was the center of the universe. He too often tended to treat his wife and children like employees and act like the boss he resented at work.

With a life experience built on succeeding as an employee, he didn’t know another way of acting.

His wife was either an employee, the boss, or perhaps a fellow worker in competition for advancement, attention and rewards.

His marriage was most often seen as a contract, where both sides were expected to perform their agreed upon roles, rather than a covenant where he would give his all in sacrifice and longsuffering regardless of what the other side did.

His relationships with neighbors and his nation took on this same contractual perspective.

He voted like an employee, for what he wanted—rather than for what the nation truly needed like a farmer or owner protecting the land or the organization he raised from scratch.

Today some men are lamenting (often quietly) the loss of this concept, while at the same time the need for a new male ideal is vital.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the masculine ideal was often the best nurturer. It takes nurturing, not detached management, to grow a farm, build a business from the ground up, and raise children into adults.

The necessary attention to detail is legendary. Indeed, in the Agrarian Age the iconic man’s occupation and business was Husbandry.

Providing was part of their role, but it was a secondary natural outgrowth of nurturing children like a small business in its infancy, encouraging and husbanding plants and coaxing them to grow and flourish into a farm in full bloom.

As Wendell Berry put it:

“…a man who is in the traditional sense a good farmer is husbandman and husband, the begetter and conserver of the earth’s bounty, but he is also midwife and motherer. He is a nurturer of life. His work is domestic. He is bound to the household.

“But let ‘progress’ take such a man and transform him…sever him from the household, make…‘uneconomical’ his impulse to conserve and to nurture…’ and not only will much of his incentive to be a good husband end, but his attachment to the land, to his nation, and to his wife and children, who are, after all, not particularly economical.

“Then, send his children away to school during the day, thus severing the wife from both husband and children, and she will naturally follow him to work looking for connection and meaning.

“Our homes are left abandoned and barren across the nation—father, mother and children are all elsewhere, seeking love and acceptance and nurturing.”

New Opportunities

Then the economy tanks, the era of the male provider-warrior ends, and man stands wondering if he has any importance.

As women take more than half of the new jobs in the market, they too begin to wonder if man is needed.

Here comes the miracle.

Like a wildfire burning a forest and opening the seeds for the growth of new trees and vast swaths of new woodlands, men look around, try to see any value in their lives, and find, hopefully, inevitably, their inner nurturer.

If this sounds effeminate, you still don’t realize how much the world has changed.

This transition is not simple, and we fight it with the zeal of the government battling the most threatening forest fires.

The experts and activists may call it “A New Era of Matriarchy,” “The End of Men,” “The Failed Marriage Plot,” “The Victory of Feminism,” or “a Matriarchal Society,” but all of these miss the most central point.

After generations of an economy driving men further and further away from their nurturing selves, of making them more and more the provider-manager-disconnected-careerist or confused-noncommittal-freewheeler-playboy, something drastic is required to reawaken a generation of husbandmen.

A generation of husbandmen could improve the world like perhaps nothing else. Indeed this is the highest ideal of manhood promoted by feminism and its opponents alike.

And if unemployment and economic struggles are what it takes to bring about this change, it is certainly worth it.

Of course, making this change will be neither immediate, easy nor sure. There will be ups and downs, and individuals may reject the whole thing.

But the change is here, women and men are empowered, and our society is poised to take a great step toward an ideal world.

Speaking as a man, I am both overwhelmed and intrigued by the prospects.

This is about much more than just seeing the proverbial silver lining in economic struggles. We literally have the chance to become better as men, women, and people.

The debate about gender that has raged my entire life can finally be answered. We don’t need to worry so much about what men or women should be or who is ahead.

We have reached a point where all the incentive is simply for men to be better men. If each of us, male and female, see things this way and simply set out to be better, just imagine the potential.

I am so glad my daughters live in a world of such opportunity—both in and out of the home. And I am equally thrilled that my sons will build their lives in a world where the whole man—nurturer as well as provider—is emerging as the ideal.

I am more enthused than ever about the potential for all our children to be equally yoked and fully happy in their marriages.

I don’t believe that the era of marriage, family happiness, or the high point for men or women is over. In contrast, I have never been more optimistic about the future of family.

If we are entering an era where both women and men more broadly improve themselves, the future of the home is indeed bright—and the impact on the rest of the world is inevitable.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Culture &Current Events &Economics &Family &Featured &History &Mini-Factories

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