False freedom is why we are miserable.

Recently, DF asked my opinion on the following exchange in which DF wrote:

Also on the topic of housework, I think you may come from a different perspective here, not being Christian, but for us, housework is just another way to show those that we love how much we care about them. We’re keepers of the home, and take pride in taking care of our homes well. I know that might make no sense to someone who doesn’t value homemaking and child-rearing as a profession, but for me, this is my job right now.

And Violet Wisp responded (highlighting mine):

“There seems to be some confusion in Christian circles about what ‘traditional Christian values’ are when it comes to the organisation of a family unit. All too often there is an unhealthy pressure for women in a marriage to abandon any paid work they might have doing, in order to exclusively take care of the home and children. This is unhealthy.

Think about how women would have lived in the majority of human societies. Family groupings in close communities; smaller generation gaps and intergenerational living; a mix of community and home based daily tasks e.g. food gathering and preparation, maintenance of common and home areas. People spent a lot of time outside, tasks were very physical and shared with others, children were exploring the world together, under the supervision of a network of adult relatives and friends when young. This is natural, this is what any traditional Christian community would have looked like.

Now think about women today in this artificial ‘housewife’ role. One lone female adult for most the day inside a block of wood and concrete doing physically simple tasks and caring for one to several young children often indoors […]

Human society is not likely to return to the natural community model any time soon. There are too many disadvantages in terms of privacy, wasted time and general comfort. The most sensible way to deal with the changed living conditions of modern society is to consider how to balance life for everyone in a nuclear family.

I take “balancing life” to mean the modern concept of the egalitarian marriage in which both spouses work full-time and split child care and housework 50/50.  The first thing to note is that Violet’s conclusion is wrong.  There may be many reasons why a housewife might feel lonely or unhappy, but since women en masse have entered the paid workforce full-time and sought to make “career” their identity, researchers Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers have found that women have become significantly less happy.  So the solution for women isn’t just to get a job, make your husband scrub more toilet bowls, and all will be well.

But even though her conclusion is wrong, her analysis of the problem is correct.  In a post here awhile back, The decline of the gens and familia: we want to live together but we just can’t get along, I wrote:

“We’ve gotten in the habit of thinking of the word “family” as meaning a husband, a wife, and several children, but this is a very narrow view of what family means and certainly isn’t what’s meant by the term “patriarchy”. A patriarchy has generally been a kin-based clan that is headed up by a senior male relative, with each man under him taking on successively smaller leadership roles. For example:

In Roman times, all citizens were divided by gens (clan) and familia(sept), determined on a purely patrilineal basis, in the same way as the modern inheritance of surnames…[t]he gens was the larger unit, and was divided into several familiae…

The idea of the nuclear family being an autonomous unit not embedded in a wider kin network seems to be fairly recent…

Are we happier this way? Maybe in the short-term we are, but I am not convinced we are in the long run.  The decline in the size of our family units has nicely mirrored the decline in our mental health:

Studies show that rates of depression for Americans have risen dramatically in the past 50 years. Research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that major depression rates for American adults increased from 3.33 percent to 7.06 percent from 1991 through 2002.”

So two things seem to be at the root of women’s declining happiness: leaving the home to pursue careerism and extended families breaking apart into nuclear families.  And the major cause of extended family/community breakdown is transplantism, which refers to a person or couple moving away to a different region of the country from the rest of their family, as the author of the blog Face to Face has explained in a number of very interesting posts on the subject.

For instance, transplants are significantly less likely to be in contact with both blood relatives and in-laws, and the result is a decline in happiness:

“A simple comparison between natives and transplants shows that their happiness levels are indistinguishable: 35% of natives and 36% of transplants are “very happy,” while 10% of both natives and transplants are “not too happy” (the rest being “pretty happy”).

That is despite the transplants being more educated (33% hold a college degree, vs. 20% of natives), and earning a higher average income ($58K in current dollars, vs. $47K for natives). Any boost to happiness from being upwardly mobile is apparently cancelled out by not belonging to the broader culture of the place where you live.

[…] here we see a vivid reminder of how simple it is to sever the ties to your extended family — just move away, or perhaps they will. As long as the split is not acrimonious — you’re just leaving to better yourself — no one will be bitter about the diluted and fragmented family web. It’ll be one of those things that just happen, mysteriously and uncontrollably.

I don’t see things changing course due to a change in attitudes toward family ties. There’s too strong of an impulse toward self-enhancement, rather than maintenance and enhancement of everything else that made you.”

It is really quite a paradox.  Born of a selfish impulse for self-enhancement, transplantism and the decline of the gens has actually led to reduced happiness  Truly, we do not know what is good for us.

And what is good for us?

Submission.

And not only for women, but for men too.  Because in the traditional family structure, wives submitted to their husbands but their husbands submitted to the leader of the larger family group.  Transplantism, like feminism, like no-fault divorce, like atheism, like democracy itself —like all of liberalism’s twisted offspring—is born of the desire to rebel against submission to proper authority (you can do what you want!) and a futile search for happiness in total freedom.

Paradoxically, true emotional fulfillment is only found in dying to self, and true freedom from misery is only found in submission to proper authority: children submitting to parents, wives submitting to husbands, husbands submitting to the family patriarch, family patriarchs submitting to the rightful king, and everyone submitting to Jehovah God.

Edited to added: I should clarify that I do not think it is unhealthy for mothers to be at home caring for their children.  I wasn’t clear about that.  What I do think is unhealthy is the atomization of the extended family into progressively smaller units via transplantism, divorce, and the like.

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“You can do what you want”: transplantism instead of tradition and friends instead of family.

The author of the blog Face to Face sometimes writes about the social trend he calls transplantism, which refers to people who migrate in adulthood to a different state from where they were born and grew up.  It seems to mean not just moving, but moving in order to satisfy some aspect of status-striving. He outlines three types of status-striving: career, lifestyle, and persona.

He has a number of very interesting posts on this subject, but one caught my eye on Thanksgiving evening, as I was relaxing with a cup of coffee just before we left to go out of town overnight, Transplant-ism Breaking Down Large Family Reunions on Thanksgiving.
Read the whole post (it’s brief), but I’ve picked out a quote that I found interesting:

“My memories of Thanksgiving in the ’80s still included most of the extended family, aside from an uncle and his wife who moved Out West awhile ago (my cousins through them were absent, too). For those of my mother’s siblings who stayed in the general region, it was common to see all the aunts and uncles, as well as the cousins, and of course the grandparents on that side. But those get-togethers involved one-way travel times of at most three hours by car for all involved, and usually under two hours. You could travel there and back in the same day, so nobody needed to put you up.

Contrast with today, where transplants spend seven or eight hours door-to-door, one-way, and will have to be put up for one or more nights.

There’s another way in which the lifestyle strivers seem to be making things worse. Since they’re foodies, meals are a fashion contest, and fashion corrodes tradition. So why would a foodie want to trek all the way back to family, just to have the same old things for Thanksgiving? They would rather spend Thanksgiving alone and pick up a pre-made dinner from Whole Foods, as long as they put sriracha in the stuffing. That’s something you could post to Facebook for status points — not whatever your non-foodie parents would have prepared.”

I found it interesting because this is a subject I’ve written about a bit myself*.  But I didn’t realize how bad the whole “foodie” and “friends instead of family” thing had gotten, especially among Gen Y and millennials. I even wondered if maybe he was exaggerating a little bit.

We got into the car and when we hit the highway, I settled back and decided to read the news on NPR on my phone.  This was literally the headline article:

How to Put Real Giving into the Friendsgiving Feast:

“Culturally, we’ve seen the rise of Friendsgiving, as young professionals take the opportunity to create the Thanksgiving they want with their friends,” says Clay Dunn, chief communications officer for Share Our Strength, a hunger nonprofit. “You can avoid your Aunt Ina’s terrible cranberry sauce. You can do what you want.”

And as long as you’re reinventing traditions, he says, why not put more emphasis on the “giving” in your feast? That’s the idea that Share Our Strength is pushing this year. It’s asking people to leverage their holiday goodwill by turning their friendly gatherings into fundraising opportunities to fight childhood hunger.

[…] So if the Friendsgiving fundraiser piques your interest, there are plenty of places to look for tips on planning the feast, like here and here. Share Our Strength has resources, including templates for table name cards and a Pinterest board for cooking and decorating inspiration, too.

[…] And if the do-good feeling isn’t enough to motivate you, Dunn says there are prizes. The top fundraiser will get to tour the official Food Network kitchens in New York.

I just had to laugh at how well the guy from Face to Face had described this.  Hey, don’t like the boring cranberry sauce that’s going to be served at your family’s?  Then don’t even bother with that multi-state drive home to see them.  Do what you want, but whatever you do, make sure to earn status points by creating fancy table name cards and signaling how charitable you are by making it a fundraiser for some charity no one’s ever heard.  Of course, there might be a little somethin’ in it for you, you Foodie, you!  How many of your friends have gotten to tour the Food Network kitchens, I ask you!

The sad thing is that these young people are chasing after the lie of modernity that blood is no thicker than water.  It’s not really about with whom you ate Thanksgiving dinner this year so much as it is about the whole ethos of the age, the disconnectedness, rootlessness, and emptiness of individualism (“You can do what you want!”) in place of family, faith, and tradition.

*Here are a few of my posts that are related to this subject: