Hawking Up Hairballs

Thursday, November 26, 2009


So, here it is, Thanksgiving, the official beginning of the holiday season. It makes me want to crawl under a rock somewhere and stay until it's all over. Not only are we continually bombarded with commercial messages, but during this season they kick into overdrive. It's enough to make one want to become a terrorist or recluse. Given that I'm an old man, I choose the latter.

But, it isn't the commercialism that most drives me crazy. It's all the bullshit about the family. What is it about the nuclear family that is so sacred? Anyone who is the least bit familiar with history understands that families can be horror shows. Cain killed Abel, but he had nothing on some of the monarchic dynasties down through history. Take the Byzantine emperors, for instance. When the emperor died and his son ascended to the thrown, he executed his brothers so that there wouldn't be any dynastic competitors. Nice, huh? There were a few who were merciful. They just blinded their brothers and banished them to the monasteries that were built into the cliffs that were across the straits from Constantinople. That's just the stuff that makes the history books. There are millions of ghastly stories that few have even ever heard about.

When I hear someone, usually some bozo athlete or other of dubious accomplishment, say that he's done something thanks to the support of his family, I'm truly confused. What does he mean by that? To be quite honest, my family was just a bunch of people that I grew up with in the same house. It really wasn't much more than that. I've become close to one of my brothers, but that didn't happen until we were adults.

Now, I know why the right-wing makes such a big deal of the nuclear family, in spite of the fact that a disproportionate number of them seem to do some fooling around on the side. Family responsibility is one of the chief ways in which the masters keep us in thrall. When you have to worry about feeding, clothing, and housing the kids at home, you're going to take a lot more crap from your boss without protest. It's also a lot easier to instill fear in those with family responsibilities so that they will support repressive laws and practices.

The fact is that the more natural form of human association is the extended family. It gives the individual more space to breathe. The anthropologist Margaret Mead reported that there was little teenaged rebellion among the South Sea Islanders that she studied. She attributed that to the fact that teenagers who got into conflicts with their parents could find mentors in the form of their aunts and uncles of the same sex. I'm not saying that the extended family is any kind of utopia but it's a hell of a lot better than the claustrophobic households lauded by the powers that be here in the States.

So, anyway, enjoy your turkey, and say hello to Santa Claus for me, though I suspect his bag of toys will be kind of light this year, given the economic situation. As for me, I'll be under a rock somewhere, reading and writing and grumbling like a bear. Hell, I might even watch a few Lady Gaga videos.


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