Sigh ... Miriam was doing so well. Even throughout our trip she was sleeping almost the whole way through the night in her own little basket. But when she got this stuffy nose, the game was up. For a week she's been waking up right about when we go to bed and it isn't possible to get her back into her crib. It might be uncrunchy, but I don't actually like sleeping with a baby. I put up with it because it's a way to actually get some sleep, but sometimes I can't fall asleep and the rest of the time I'm sore.
Now the stuffy nose is almost gone and she's still doing it. Also very distractible when she nurses during the day. In short, exactly what Marko did at this age -- he transferred the bulk of his nursing to nighttime and wasn't interested in nursing in the day. So the cure may be difficult -- first trying to get her to nurse more in the day, even though she doesn't want to, so that then she won't be hungry at night, and after that I can work on getting her to change her sleep pattern.
Or, you know, I can just put up with it. Because she's a third child and the answer to everything with the third child is "put up with it." Who's got the time and energy to force a change?
Anyway perhaps all this night nursing is actually good, from a child spacing perspective?
So I've been reading, thinking, and talking (mostly virtually) a lot about politics and culture lately. Perhaps the right word is sociology? I've been considering questions like, "What role does culture play in human well-being, and what sort of actions are appropriate to preserve an existing culture?" and "What do liberal and conservative mean, and which one is more right?" and "If I give a fair trial to ideas I disagree with, what will I learn?"
The first really enlightening article was this one: A Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum. The author's theory is that "conservative" values are the ones which, in general, are the ones which would be helpful in a zombie apocalypse. When resources are few and danger is high, it makes sense to uphold tradition, have a strong defense, and in general to adopt many of the viewpoints conservatives of any time period have held. "Liberal" values, on the other hand, are those which are about optimizing happiness, after safety and survival are taken care of. I more or less agreed with this, with some caveats -- for instance, I think marriage and family would still be of value even in a perfect utopia. But it pushes back the question to, "What sort of environment do we have now?" Conservatives are more likely to see danger at every side, while liberals say, "We're perfectly safe as a society, now it's time to consider equality and individualism and all kinds of other values that will make us happy." In some sense, both are true -- we are in some danger, but much less than we used to be.
Whether or not you agree with this assessment, it got me thinking about the possibility that cultural tendencies and memes aren't always "good" or "bad" -- they exist along with a certain outward situation, for which they are more or less well-suited. For instance, I think that violence is bad, but in a case of extreme danger, violence is necessary. I raise my kids to be as non-violent as possible, because the odds of them ever running into a situation where throwing punches is a good idea is very slim. But I can imagine the ancient Celts didn't really fuss too much if the kids were whamming each other upside the head -- aggressiveness was likely to be useful in life, so why discourage it in kids?
Now one of the circumstances we're working with is human nature itself. Human nature is highly adaptable, but not infinitely so. I don't see us moving away from wanting family relationships, because I think our brains really are hard-wired for that. But humans certainly have adapted to a wide variety of circumstances and built cultures appropriate to them, and they are likely to continue to do so.
That post led me to this post, Reactionary philosophy in an enormous, planet-sized nutshell, in which he describes a series of ideas which seem to be taking conservatism to its logical conclusion and attempting to "turn back the clock" to the Middle Ages or whenever. Time was when I would have been totally on board with this -- there's a lot I love about the Middle Ages! In fact his arguments in favor of these ideas are so strong that I went looking for his refutation of the same and found it here: The Anti-Reactionary FAQ. If you're going to read the first one (in which he argues in favor of his opponents' ideas) please read this one too, which is the rebuttal.
Neither argument was entirely convincing to me, but I do think this: trying to reconstruct medieval Europe (or any time in the past 2000 years) without Christianity sounds like the premise of a horror story to me. You can't be reactionary about culture and not about religion, because the religion is part of the culture -- perhaps the most essential part. In my poking around on reactionary blogs, I ran into a guy complaining that virginal women are just not to be found anymore . . . except, of course, in hyper-religious circles.
Well, YEAH. That's kind of the nice thing about religious subcultures! You can meet people who share your values and participate in all the handy cultural things that help support those values. But if you invented your reactionary values, then you're probably the only one who holds them. Good luck finding someone who shares them! Culture can't be invented by individuals. If what you want are the benefits of a traditional culture, you have to adopt one wholesale. Pulling out the parts you like and trying to adopt those is, well, a progressive thing to do. Tradition requires humility and a sacrifice of personal freedom. Trying to make up a traditional culture that goes the way you want destroys the entire point.
In short, "let's create a fake traditional society based on utilitarian values" is more likely to wind up like Nazi Germany than like anyplace in medieval Europe.
Recently I've been really dwelling on the moral message of Christianity, which is the one part of my religion I haven't the slightest atom of a problem with. Stuff like "do good to those who curse you" and "love your enemies." It's amazing and so utterly new. Everyone got the concept of "love your tribe and hate outsiders" -- that's easy, and evolutionarily correct. But treat outsiders the way you treat your tribe? Madness. And yet, it is arguable that this concept is what allowed the level of cooperation that makes modern society tick ... which is why Western civilization hasn't abandoned it, even when people are abandoning Christianity.
Likewise, forgiving wrongs instead of avenging them is very counterintuitive. I know it's counterintuitive because it sometimes seems utterly impossible to teach it to my kids. Eye for an eye seems to be "natural," and yet it's utterly destructive. Violence begets more violence, and some of the most effective social changes in history have been nonviolent.
Take, for instance, the whole cops-vs.-black-people story. (As a libertarian, I could point out that it isn't always black people and perhaps the problem is that there are too dang many laws and the cops have too much power, but it's all beside the point in this discussion.) The "cop" side says: the ghettos are all full of thugs. We have to be armed and be able to use lethal force, because some of them might kill us. Then a very violent person on the other side said: You killed some of ours, now we will kill some of yours. And they did. Naturally the response of cops to this was, SEE! How can you blame us if we shoot first and ask questions later, considering that we might get killed?
The only cure to escalating violence is for some people to take the wrongs upon themselves, to let themselves be hurt and not respond with violence. And this is very, very hard to do.
But it occurs to me that maybe the reason we are drawn to avenge wrongs is because we are afraid. (See pt. 2 above.) Maybe having harm done to us convinces us that we are in danger, and thus violence is necessary. That helps explain why Marko usually avenges wrongs before they happen. He's not being a bully -- he genuinely thinks Michael is going to hurt him, so he figures the best defense is a good offense. I originally let him play with a toy gun because it seemed to let him cope with his crippling anxiety. Now I'm beginning to think fear is the only reason anyone carries a gun. Why else would they?
But as we all know, that's the way of the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.
Which sort of explains why Marko stops being so aggressive when I lavish affection on him. It helps him feel safe, and counteracts that feeling he has that there won't be enough for Michael and for him, too. At the moment he's having a kind of rough time . . . I call it the downward spiral, when he stops sleeping and eating and becomes increasingly crabby and difficult. Love is the best way to melt his defensiveness.
The only trouble is, we are in a real scarcity situation . . . in one day, with nothing else to do, I could pull Marko out of his spiral, but of course there is always another kid needing me. Marko gets the short end of the stick all too often, because he can do so many things himself.
Speaking of Marko, his speech is getting me a little worried. He stammers a lot. To the point that he can flounder around for five minutes and still not finish his sentence.
But the most frustrating part of it is that even when he does finish his sentence, it still makes no sense. He speaks in riddles.
Example: "I -- I -- I don't li -- I don't like -- I don't liiii.... I ALWAYS don't like the ... I always don't .... I always don't like things that, that, I always don't like things that go under beds, and, and NEVER come out!"
It kind of takes being his mother for me to be able to tell you that what he wanted in this case was for me to go into his room and get a lego out from under the bed. Why won't he say that?
Or if he wants a certain toy at bedtime, he will NOT say the name of the toy. It's, "I want something that's small .... and blue ... and squishy ... and it's holding a heart ...." and you have to keep guessing till you figure out it's his bear. I don't know if he can't think of the name, or if he's just messing with us.
The stammer probably shouldn't worry me. I do it under stress and even my mom does sometimes. As a toddler apparently I drove everyone crazy with it. It's not a motor problem -- it's not on a single letter or anything. It's that we get distracted midsentence and have to start over or just get stuck.
But OH BOY is it frustrating to listen to! I've got a baby crying in one ear, a toddler whining in the other, and there's Marko getting in my face and saying, "I want ... I want a ... I want ... I want something .... I want something that, that, that is red ....."
SHOOT ME NOW.
Of course it is very terrible and the worst thing you could possibly do to yell at a kid for not being able to finish his sentence, but let me tell you, I sweat bullets trying not to scream at him. And yeah, I finish a lot of his sentences for him and that's probably hindering him from ever getting over this, but I just don't always have the time to wait.
Anyone know what the appropriate treatment for this is? Speech therapy? Growing out of it? Homeopathics? Witchcraft? I'm pretty desperate.
Have you heard that Cardinal Burke said the trouble with the Church nowadays is that it is too effeminate? You can kind of imagine my response. In general I agree with Simcha Fisher -- I'm tired of hearing that everything crappy is feminized. In what way is the liturgy "feminine"? If it's "effeminate," that means it's supposed to be masculine and isn't -- who says the liturgy is supposed to be masculine? It's not human; it has no gender. If you think it's insipid, banal, or modernized, say so. Why use a gendered metaphor?
But if what you mean is that women's involvement is to blame for the banality of the liturgy -- and I think Cardinal Burke absolutely does mean that -- well, that has yet to be proven.
For instance, the statement that altar girls are destroying priestly vocations. Altar girls were allowed in 1994. From 1995 to 2013, the number of seminarians increased 16% in America and 86% worldwide. So far the data doesn't seem to support that conclusion. Likewise, I heard that women are to blame for crummy liturgical music like Marty Haugen's stuff. Last I checked, Marty Haugen was male! How can you blame women for his music?
This is a really good response to the interview.
I agree, male Mass attendance lags behind that of women. However, women are consistently more religious than men across different religions and denominations, so that comes as no real surprise. Christianity in particular was called a religion for women and slaves by the ancient Romans. So if the Church is too feminine for some of the men out there, I think that's a feature that's been there from the beginning and isn't likely to change.
That said, it's possible that some of Burke's ideas -- men-only groups where they talk a lot about St. Joseph, for instance -- might be good. Who knows. Meanwhile we need to worry about women too -- their church involvement is dropping now as well, at least among millennial and Gen-X women.
It's been a rather intellectual week for me, hasn't it? How's yours been?