Exploring the implications of the Baby Scoop Era

Yes, your parents were lying to you about everything, your life was a big fake production, and this happened with the extensive support of dozens of people you knew in your local town.  The conspiracy was real and focused entirely on keeping you from knowing who you really were.

It is very popular these days to pick on Boomers and younger Silents as the vanguard of all that is wrong in America today, but the Baby Scoop Era not only happened, it formed a substantial subtext in the lives of many Boomers and their parents.  It’s not even possible to know how exactly many babies were scooped precisely, because destroying or falsifying birth records was part of the process.

And their parents were the Greatest Generation mostly.  “Great” white mothers having babies or conceiving out of wedlock at rates that supposedly didn’t exist before The Great Society, at rates that supposedly were only ever the bane of the black community.  Due to the length of time, some of the oldest Boomers were themselves relinquishing mothers on top of things, so there are layers upon layers here.

This is just a little piece of the context for “the Narrative” and the idea that lying is fine if it’s for a bigger social justice good.  This was not driven exclusively nor primarily by leftists, even if there is a heavy technocratic element involved in much of the Baby Scoop reasoning pushing mothers to relinquish infants.

There really are historical periods, some extremely recent and within living memory, where socially conservative people played fast and loose with the truth, abused and coerced people and were not very honorable people.  And the results weren’t so great either.  This is also part of the subtext behind wanting women to have more economic power and be able to be “strong independent single mothers”.  That didn’t come out of nowhere.

This has interesting implications as well for those who skew heavily towards nature over nurture.

 

When having children in wedlock is antisocial, antisocial people are married parents.

It’s counterintuitive, it sounds a little mad, but it’s true.  Children born in the last 25 years or so have been and are raised to a large degree by people who don’t care for and/or understand social norms, because otherwise they wouldn’t have violated them by having kids.  These people are mostly married parents, but some are unmarried parents (except that a big chunk of them eventually marry, which is why we haven’t really budged from the single-parent percentages we rose to as a society in the wake of the Pill).

It’s antisocial to have kids after you get married.  It’s antisocial to have more than one kid.  Yes, that includes twins.  It’s not completely antisocial to be a single mother, but it’s kind of antisocial to be a single father.

Now this is the part where married parents point out that since they live in a bubble consisting almost entirely of other married parents that they aren’t antisocial and that since having kids is biologically natural, how are they antisocial doing the natural biological thing?

Welcome to modern, technology-driven life.  Or as some wags put it, Clown World.  The unnatural is more socially accepted than the natural-biological.  That’s where we really are.  Pretending otherwise is deepening the divide and worsening the difficulty of transitioning back to an environment where having children, plural after marriage is socially harmonious and accepted.

But wait, it gets worse.  “The unnatural is more socially accepted” doesn’t mean people actually approve of or like the unnatural.  It just means they know that they’d better say it’s tolerable if they want to have any social contact with other people beyond the immediate family at all.  Including the work-for-a-paycheck kind.  Anti-natal society isn’t very socially harmonious or cohesive.  And this leads to viewing natural-biological socialization (marrying and then having kids together) as a problem because you can’t escape the inherent minimal level of socialization and cohesion a nuclear family provides by default.  Taking individualism up to the level of the nuclear family is destructive to said families in the longer term, but each individual family can still get something otherwise denied them in an anti-natal society– social contact that is not dependent on the external society that hates their irreducible cohesion.

And because marriage is a wealth extraction and maintenance program, nuclear families can circle each other’s orbits and carve out a rocky, inferior, but still present kind of socialization mostly separate from regular society.

Because we live in Clown World, a 28 year old urban journalist has higher social status and social approval than a same-aged married couple with twins who make 4x that journalist’s income.  How do we know?  The extraordinary explosion in 21+ only environments, including social events like weddings and birthday parties and company picnics.  That’s not something you do if the group “married parents” is one you want the social approval of.

But, of course, that married couple, being antisocial, is perfectly happy to be cut off from much of their urban city environment and may well have a third child a few years later.  Part of the lack of support for raising kids is that antisocial people, by definition, are prone to really like the miserable environment we have and prefer not having to deal with icky socially normal levels of interaction.

Private retreat is the default right wing political activism.

That people doing it don’t feel that way doesn’t matter, the practical effects are nearly the same as if they did (and plenty do feel there’s a political aspect.)

The problem with this being the way right wing people respond to mass social changes that are detrimental is that it’s expensive on a collective level and a personal level.  The costs are so high that right wing people engaging in this type of activism are almost entirely cut off from any other kind of activism.

In contrast, the left wing just sprinkles political dust on their lifestyle and keeps on moving.  The left doesn’t promote marriage as the optimal vehicle for private retreat.  It doesn’t promote private retreat at all.  The right overwhelmingly does.  It’s not that the right does no explicit activism, it’s that the default setting is to hide away privately and replicate lost social goods within the nuclear family regardless of whether it’s desirable, feasible or possible within the limitations of a nuclear family.

This breaks women.  Women are yelled at for not being able to replicate the social goods of an entire city, town or village, and also yelled at for desiring those goods and also yelled at for not taking on additional community-wide functions as more and more of society breaks down into atomization and isolated individuality.

It also breaks men, but in a more subtle way in which they are told there’s no serious obstacles to their masculine expression or nature except their own will, which is an immensely damaging falsehood.  This is as true of the mainstream right wing media as it is of numerous far right blogs.

I’d expand on this more, like perhaps delving into the trades myth that many in the right cling to but make sure to never put their kids into, or how the conservative stack for women doesn’t (that is, the pieces don’t work with each other and reinforce each other; homeschooling comes at the expense of a clean house, as a very typical example).  But our private retreat means I don’t have another woman or young girl around to keep my youngest from melting down about getting a small spot of soup on one sleeve. So I have to go deal with that.

Almost all American married parents are Amazon Prime customers.

Amazon revealed in 2018 they have 90 million or so Prime users in America, and that in the income ranges that mark the married classes they have 70 to 90% uptake, with the 100k+ being close to 90% as far as they can tell.  By nearly any guess or estimate or account list, the majority of American households period are not just buying from Amazon, but subscribed to its Prime division.  Nothing Amazon has released in the last couple of years shows any changes.  It’s still the same people.  And the numbers mean exactly what the title says, since we currently have perhaps 22 million married parents and around 32 million families with children total.  The numbers also suggest that most parents in general are Amazon Prime customers.

I see right wing people brag about not buying from Amazon ever, and then I look at the reality on the ground for mothers, especially married mothers, who continue to have most of the children.

Acknowledgement of the extent of SCALE is part of the path towards reducing it.  Bragging on an Amazon Web Services-backed server about how you personally never go near the website to buy books or whatever, not so much. Sorry for the abrasive tone, but during the year of COVID, the underlying problem of right wing individualism being dependent (or believing itself to be) on megacorps is more painfully obvious than ever.

“We have to destroy the married family to save the married family”

That is my take on this post from Audacious Epigone.  The post is a discussion of a “comment of the week” from one of his commenters.  It mostly talks about the au courant notion of a coming asset crash, almost with a sort of glee.  The same commenter makes the following remark in the comment thread for the post:

The plutocrats and the upper middle class and the government workers will be wiped out when the currency collapse wipes out the debt.

Problem for the commenter and perhaps even Mr. Epigone is that the three groups mentioned constitute the bulk of married parents of children under 18, married couples in general and a substantial minority of cohabiting/single parents of children under 18.  That is to say, such a crash will wipe out the very people having the children right now.  One can argue about whether they’re doing a good job with the kids or having a sufficiency of them (after all, I certainly spend plenty of time on such topics, lol), but at some point, the right (whether its more dissident side or its more mainstream sides who frankly share similar views about asset bubbles and crashes) needs to grasp that the “rich” or “affluent” or “upper income households” or “the government types” make up the mothers and fathers of most of our children.

The right has to stop hoping for the dissolution of 10-15 million married parent families, of a million solo/cohabiting families and of 20-30 million married couple families with no under-18s at home.  That is what would happen if these dreams of a big asset crash or currency collapse come true in the next few years.  It won’t punish your political enemies, unless now everyone who got married before having kids or at least made 75k+/yr first (cohabiting high earners and increasingly some of the high earning solo parents) is your “political enemy”.

Even many lower-earning family households are reliant on profit shares, bonuses based on company performance, and market returns on endowed funds for the nonprofits or educational institutions they are employed with.

I’m not saying no crash or collapse will happen.  It could, for all we know.  But I am saying that the right should be promoting how to cramdown debt for such households, and how to claw back bigger shares of equity and company profits for the class of people producing our future taxpayers and future at all, and who have been converted by the actual elites into a dependent wage-earning class.

In other words, the right should be acting like it understands the changes in the demographic makeup of married families, that they are mostly college educated, mostly 1 to 1.5-earner households and that the “top of the bottom” for married parents is essentially the median household income.  That is, making the median household income (63k in 2019) for married parents is around the 25-26th percentile (as of 2018) for their 22-23 million strong pool of households.

Also, as I already alluded to, many of these households do NOT have mom working full-time outside the home, and in fact much of the increase in double-income parent households has happened in the 25th-50th percentiles, while higher income households in the top half of married parents are continuing to see women exit full-time and frequently any paid employment during elementary and secondary school years.  So maybe it’s time for some new narratives.

“A deer won’t fix it”: A few words against struggle love and romanticizing low income life.

Ripped from someone’s childhood:

It was getting towards the end of class time in Algebra I and Susanna, who’d read Little House on the Prairie to pieces, was talking to another student about how much she loved country music and how cool it was to hunt for your food even if you were poor and such.

The teacher, unusually for the free time at the end of class, cut in.  “You haven’t been poor, it’s not ‘cool’.”

“But couldn’t pa just, like, hunt deer for you all?”

“You have no idea what it’s like to really be poor. A deer won’t fix it!” The teacher didn’t have to go on.  Susanna never mentioned country music or deer hunting ever again.

The teacher was a wise woman.  A deer won’t fix the leaky roof, or serve as a winter coat.  A deer won’t fix the blisters when your shoes are worn bare and there aren’t going to be any more because your older brother ran away and you almost feel bad that your first thought was hoping he’d left his Sunday pair behind, because they weren’t too worn and only a little big on you.  A deer won’t fix it.

In one of those interesting confluences that transcends race, both the wider black community and the wider right-wing community have a tendency to romanticize poverty and “struggle love”.  That the kids coming out of many of those unions aren’t so enamored about the idea of being married and incredibly poor is waved away as them being too spoiled, somehow.

The discussion here is a good example of right-wing folks romanticizing the struggle and presenting extended periods of poverty as unalloyed good.

They were discussing, dismissively (but somewhat justifiably), this person’s wicker basket of issues around “emotional labor” that strictly speaking she doesn’t have to do and mostly isn’t labor.

Yet the problem with the emotional labor complainer lady isn’t gender, or even money.  A lot of the time, the obstacles to normal life aren’t financial, but from the vantage of those with no financial resources anyway, it can seem like “proof” that money doesn’t fix anything, so why worry about whether you have any?

A deer won’t fix the toothache.  Or the gap between your kid’s college scholarship and your empty pockets.

Poverty isn’t inherently unworthy, but there’s a difference between preparing a child for the possibility and spinning up a tale that it always works out and will in fact basically be “broke-college-student” level temporary.   It’s an ideal of struggle-life where you’re not actually lacking the roof, or the full belly, or the warm coat, or the well-fitting decent shoes.  You just have low income but all basic needs completely met.  This is pretty bitter aloes for anyone who jumps into low-income marriage on purpose without any prep and finds out it’s not very romantic or easy and that married poverty without a strong local community or regionally suitable skills to “make do” can be devastating and corrode a marriage bond to a brittle snapping point.

A deer won’t fix it.  Only frankness and realistic discussion about the tools needed to “survive and thrive” as a low income household with children could.   Not romanticism and rosy glosses on what some couple did decades or generations ago.  That leads to people seeing marriages blow up over the poverty or how bad it is for the family and mistakenly thinking that the solution is more dakka money.  But we could all make less money as married households if the sheer value of close relationships and getting along with other people were taken seriously society-wide.

 

Rousseau vs. the Puritans

My beautiful children are making a lot of noise, so this will have to be blunt and unlinked.

American motherhood has been defined since the dawn of America as a nation by what we would now call a PUA (pick-up artist).  That’s right, if you’re an American woman promoting mother-only care as historical, the most natural and the best possible care for children, you’re promoting the views of a man who abandoned his own illegitimate children to be reared in orphanages without the least thought.

Rousseau’s view on motherhood was that women needed to be constrained in the domestic sphere by sole (not primary, but SOLO) care of their children so that they wouldn’t go out into the marketplace and rule over men.  Yes, that was what the man feared.  He claimed women were sooooo powerful that if they weren’t trapped at home constantly pregnant raising kids by themselves (only to be handed off to men at apprentice-age of 12-13 if boys and married off at 15-16 if girls) that they would TAKE OVER THE WORLD.  And yes, he comes close in his writings about motherhood to using phrases like trapped or constrained.

The entire point of Rousseau-style motherhood is to limit female power and influence and constrain women’s roles, even in the domestic sphere.  One must remember that in the 18th century, household production by wives and mothers was still economically important and a Rousseau-style program of childrearing would make it much harder to maintain that economic role.  This was intentional.

Rousseau’s framework of solitary childrearing by mothers has, astonishingly, continued down nearly unaltered in 200+ years in American society.  American society really is just that weird and started out with wacky theories about mothering propagated by a man who didn’t do any proper family formation of his own.

In contrast, the colonial Puritans had a view of motherhood as a primary role for women and marriage as the highest state for men and women (presaging the Mormons, who replicated some aspects of their views on family and community), but they didn’t believe women were supposed to rear children alone.  Women were expected to be part of a large, bustling household composed of husband, wife, servants and relatives, with the husband sometimes gone for months earning the giant wheelbarrows full of money needed to keep what was essentially the original home-based business going.  So Puritan women were expected to stand in their husband’s stead and have authority in both the home and the marketplace.  In this respect they diverged wildly from Rousseau while still holding to the idea that women were best suited to marriage and motherhood.

And while there were many young-married Puritans, there were plenty of older-married ones who started families later in life when they could get the cash together to set up the proper household structure.  So all the current fretting about people delaying marriage “too long” is just a lot of Rousseau-inflected hokum.

Rousseau is the source of the obsessive pressure for teen marriage no matter what in various eras in America, especially of barely-pubescent girls.  Rousseau is the real source of what many think is just from attachment parenting, the idea that mom is the only possible proper caregiver for children (and yeah, it’s always plural).  Because of Rousseau’s influence, women braved the frontier life and tried to rear children that way and enough continued encouraging it that, well, here we are today.

So if you are a mother struggling with small children in isolation, and you see people saying that this is what women really want and really feel fulfilled by, they are telling you a PUA fish story.

I remain a neo-Puritan on this subject and ever will.

The paper bag bargirls of the 1950s, or there were One Night Stands back then too.

This is just about the girls in the 1950s who went to bars with paper bags containing toiletries, looking for a guy to go home with.  This was a regular enough occurrence that one can find it described in popular literature of the era. The 1950s was not really a time of sexual continence, as conservatives frequently like to pretend (the major liberal lie of the 1950s is ignoring the massive amount of tax avoidance behavior that resulted from sky-high tax rates). There is in fact a grain of truth to the idea that the 1950s was about a facade of cleanliness hiding rot.

The 1950s was a strange time, as it was when atomicity started to become widespread and community ties started to openly degrade.  It’s also a time that due ironically to being the first mass media decade has managed to ensconce itself in conservative and liberal memetic memory as the perfect decade, for essentially similar reasons (that people were more willing to sacrifice temporal pleasure for the common good).  For liberals, this sacrifice is financial, while it is sexual and social for the conservatives.  It’s also totally imaginary in both cases, except by pure accident.

After all, it’s the children who were raised by people who were adults (and sometimes paper bag girls and men amenable to taking them home) during the 50s who are running most of our institutions into the ground right now.  If the adults were so much more moral, why are their children so venal?

The fundamentalist 1970s back to the land movement was funded with food stamps and welfare

This was also true of the more left-wing hippies.  There was an interesting confluence during this time of far left and far right starting “self-sufficiency” communal living experiments with the help of welfare.  I didn’t read a book for this one, although you can find little allusions in memoirs about some of this, and the very occasional one-off reference.  Mostly you can find out what happened by looking up the history of the food stamp/SNAP/WIC nutrition support programs on wikipedia.  During the 1970s, some changes were made to what was then still called “food stamps” to permit seeds, gardening equipment and some other tools to be purchased with the stamps instead of money.  A fascinating side effect was that a number of fundamentalist groups/cults/etc. decided to leave the cities and go try to live out in the country off the land.

What I find really interesting about this is that the right wing appears to have no history for this.  The entire Crunchy Con, fundie-hippie, prepper/survivalist, homesteading subset of conservatives finds its Ur-model in the Back to the Land movement.  And this movement that was all about surviving off the grid self-sufficiently away from The (Liberal) Man was jumpstarted by food stamps and cash welfare.  Yet as far as I can tell, it might as well be knowledge hidden under a rock to the modern conservative equivalents.