resonating, downsizing, temping, outsorcing & families

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Sat, 4 May 1996 00:51:43 CDT

/* WARNING: At least 90-95% Wrong. It's intended for starters. "Let us */
/* begin!" - JFK. Who sez, "Let us continue," but STOP THE BONBINGS, */
/* please. */
With all due respect to Karl H. Schwerin's point that the normative-
idealized "nuclear family" of the Good Old Days when "till death do us
part" and "for richer for poorer" were far more operative than today
still "resonates," well, I've just finished a 200-line post, set off
by a volume, Black Athena Revisited, put together by scholars hoping
to put the kibosh on Michael Bernal's notions, whether grossly distorted
or wrong, once and for all. Which is highly unlikely. I said, briefly,
that there's lots of Thingies which *resonate*, yet *aint there*.
As we know that, to vulgarize myself to save space, culture embodies
the generation of the sense of spurious time-immemoriality as well as
continuity-bias assumptions and discontinuity-disguises or obliteration
devices, the innovation of a qualitatively new family form under our noses
is routine for social changes we're motivated to overlook. Why? We ourselves
live in the Observed on a taken-for-granted everyday basis. Discontinuities
in our own lives, the sense that The Future may not Lie Ahead after all,
are detrimental to getting through the day (which becomes senseless) as
well as getting a life (suppose one can't make the payments; suppose an
unforeseen New Regime outlaws our hitherto-respectable occupation or, what
amounts to the same thing, Privatizes the University of New Mexico or
whatever). Life Must Go On; yet sometimes it doesn't but we're motivationally
hamstrung for continutity if we've prepared for discontinuity.
When the end of the world happens, try not to notice:
"I never figured, before the Visigoths sacked Rome, that they'd sack the
place like such perfect gentlemen!"

Serial marriage was formerly a conspicous, scandalous vice of the very
rich and celebrities, notably Hollywood stars. Now, more than ever, we find
serial "relationships" a permanent condition of all social strata, becoming
more prevalent among upper-middles, most prevalent in the lower class, and
spreading in the lower middles and blue collars notwithstanding reliance upon
Christianity as a deviance-prophylactic. Serial sexual selection and mate-
selection blurs in the young; there is lessened market activity with age.
The operative language remains "go with" or "go out with," indicative of
being paired with one's equivalent in a market transaction such that *one
may be seen with that party in public*. Evaluation of appropriate transactions
shifts from parents to peers. The latter render negative decisions in market
lingo: "You're selling yourself short," "You're lowering yourself," "You're
throwing yourself away." Favorable transactions may get called "trading up."
Amazingly, all these tranactions, failing which one continues "shopping
around," must be couched in the Experience of passionate love (or whatever
variant of Love is now normative. Love is the currency of the market; deals
made correspond to some entrenched rules such as hypergamy (where the male
party is two years older, two inches taller, has two years more formal
education) while others are discarded. Selection is performed by females,
given both serialism and hypergamy, for instance. One source says that, in
60% of broken-off "relationships" among college students, females make the
decision. (Hypergamy implies that he is required to be "better" than she is
in order to be "good enough" for her.)

Back in 1944, at an early stage of this process, the refugees Max Horkheimer
and Theodor Adorno were lying on the beach in Santa Monica discussing the
Nature and Fate of Western Civilization. Horkheimer said (this may be in the
Dialectics of Enlightenment, I'm not sure), "The more the market disappears
from the economy as a whole, the more does it invade the private sphere."
This was the inception of the heyday of those huge oligopolistic heavy-
industrial and consumer-goods manufacturing corporations, with their
hundreds of thousands of blue-collar employees, smaller numbers of white-
collar employees, and hierarchical layer upon layer of bureaucratic managers
which dominated the US economy for most of the century, until the 1970s.

The de-industrializations (or "plant-closings") of the early Reagan
administration amounted to the en-masse firings of the industrial working
class, whose disappearance qua industrial workers has unhinged the political
system - increasingly - till this day, depriving it of its raison d'etre
since the Heroic Age of industrialization after the Civil War, ie, the
modulation of the class struggle (eg by couching it in ethnic appearances).
The result was accelerated marital breakups, along with Social Problem
behaviour such as increased rates of alcoholism and mental illness, in the
afflicted former-industrial population. Thus crumbled the bedrock of cultural
conservatism; not altogether or all at once, of course. Only fairly recently
had factory-workers' wives lost their Housewife's Exemption from the Labour
Force and been Forcibly Conscripted, given the stagnation of real median
incomes after 1973. In other words, it now required two incomes to sustain
the standard of living that the husband alone provided from factory work in
the 1960s. The statistically "typical" 1970s married couple was a male factory
worker married to a female clerical worker.

Observe that nothing's been said about the "sexual revolution," the 1960s
"freak culture," the feminists who spun off from the latter, the lesbian-gay
movement who spun off from feminism or emulated it, the "singles scene" of
the 1970s, and the illegitimacy rates of minorities in urban poverty areas.
These "usual suspects" are inadequate to explain the increasingly dangerously
violent transition from the days of the innocuous "The family that prays
together stays together" to the present, infested by armed subversive militias,
the Christian Coalition, Pat Buchanan, and Aryan Nation.

The very general assumption among males is, "You lose your job, you lose
your wife, your child, finally your mind." One early representation of this
in fiction was written by a cashiered academic, Robert Prisig, in Zen and
the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974. (Evidence for the proposition that
one's possession of a "mind" is not essential, but is contingent on social
validation, is the same Pirsig's second novel, Lila, 1993, where the author
represents himself, eighteen years away from academia, as a complete idiot;
so the book says nothing; it's unreadable.) As job layoffs, without increasing
total unemployment, increasingly struck at all social strata below top manage-
ment, even among upper-middle males formerly earning a secure $100,000 or
more, the earnings of the wife were now more important than ever in carrying
the husband between jobs, or - his worst nightmare - carrying the wife herself
between husbands! Anti-feminist propaganda, from Rush Limbaugh and that ilk,
reached new heights of hysteria, appearing *respectable* to upper-middle men;
where feminism had for decades been solidly upper-middle, pretty much taking
care of its own.

Stimulating women into more active trading in the mate-selection marketplace
was a very curious 1990s cultural Thingie, the spread of "emotional co-depen-
dency" self-help literature, support groups, and Therapy. Books entitled Love
Addiction, Women Who Love Too Much, and More Women Who Love Too Much were sold
at better Long Island Railroad stations everyhere. The Shrinks were bemoaning
the reluctance of women who had traded below market value in the mate-selection
market, Else had made a reasonable deal at first, howbeit the husband wasn't
living up to the initial speculation in the Futures Market "back when we were
young," or whatever, to maximize market-rationality. These may have been women
whose heads had been stuck in the Nuclear Family, ie, had Gotten Married; but
were now being told, You Actually Got Married *For The First Time*! Everyone
Makes Mistakes!

The "family," like the megacorporation, has "downsized." An ever-growing
percentage of dwelling-units are occupied by single adults. These may be
sexually wild youth with multiple sex partners; young adults in stable
"relationships"; lesbians or gays; old people; and just-plain-lonely-and-
miserable creatures. Any of these may indulge in "outsourcing," relationships
not "meaningful," without "commitment," or "affairs." Brief flings are
"temp-ing"; more complicated combinations of organisms are "outsourcing."
What in bygone days was clandestine may be "out front" or actually hanging
around the living room. One suspects that "Menageries with only trois glasses
shouldn't get stoned."
This may not be restricted to upper-middles, either.
What with the cost of good schools today, this may be what Hillary Rodham
Clinton means when she uses for the title of her book the overquoted soi-
disant African proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child."

If the Right is Serious about suppressing Sin, and they come to power, what
would Steve Forbes say? Even more interesting, what would his father, Malcolm
Forbes, say? Malcolm Forbes died of AIDS. (Put his capitalist tool where he

Daniel A. Foss