Thursday, September 15, 2016

Factors Responsible for the Erosion of the Institution of Family

Benazir Bhutto, Hillary Clinton and their children.
In the light of my limited online experience with the Western culture I have come to realize that a fully functional family is hard to find in the Western societies; they are more of an exception than norm. Most Western women with whom I have interacted are generally divorced, single moms who are raising their kids all by themselves; while the men folks either don’t get married at all, or even if they do get married under some momentary impulse or infatuation, they tend to leave their wives and kids behind them and either run away with their newfound girlfriends or they are otherwise non-committal in their relationships.

Unlike the Eastern societies which are family-centric, the Western societies are mostly individual-centric. Reductive individualism and runaway hedonism is all fine but this unnatural state of affairs cannot last for long; the birth rates all over the Western world are dwindling and in some countries the population growth rate is negative. Only thing sustaining their population growth rate is not their natural birth rates but the immigration of skilled work force from the East to the West.

The institution of a fully functional family is the cornerstone of a healthy society and if the social environment is not conducive for the development of such a pivotal institution then there is something seriously wrong with our social axioms. Although I reckon myself as a social scientist but the specialty of family and relationships is certainly not my cup of tea, therefore, I will leave this issue as an open question that needs to be mulled over. Denying the climate change and global warming, however, will lead us nowhere.

Regarding the civil unions and domestic partnerships whether or not they are arranged under the title of “marriage,” that’s just the difference of semantics, not the substance. My contention relates to the longevity of such relationships and the reciprocal duties of the partners. A marriage is a civil contract meant for the purpose of raising children and family; if one of the partners leaves the other midstream, it creates an unmanageable burden on the other partner to raise the children single-handedly. Sweeping such serious issues under the rug that affects every individual and family on a personal level by taking an evasive approach of “see no evil, hear no evil” will further exacerbate the problem.

Notwithstanding, individualists generally believe that an individual holds a central position in the society; the way I see it, however, being “human” is inextricably interlinked with the institution of family. Only things that separates humans from rest of the animals is their innate potential to acquire knowledge, but knowledge alone is not sufficient for our collective survival due to excessive and manifest intra-special violence; unless we have social cohesion which comes through love, compassion and empathy, we are likely to self-destruct as a specie.

That empathy and altruism, however, is imparted by the institution of family; within which spouses love each other and their children and in return children love their parents and siblings. That familial love then transcends the immediate environs of the family and encompasses the entire humanity, thus, without the institution of family there is going to be no humanity or individual in the long run.

Although the family life in the Eastern societies isn’t as perfect as some of us would like to believe, but those are traditional societies based on agriculture era value systems; industrialization and consequent urbanization is the order of the day, those rural societies will eventually evolve into their urban counterparts. My primary concern is that the utopian paradigm that we have conjured up is far from perfect in which the divorce rates are very high and generally mothers are left alone to fend for themselves and raise their children single-handedly, and consequently giving birth to a dysfunctional familial and social arrangement.

Moreover, some social scientists draw our attention to the supposed “unnaturalness” of the institution of family and polyamory et al in the primitive societies but if we take a cursory look at the history of mankind, there are two distinct phases: the pre-Renaissance social evolution and the post-Renaissance cultural evolution. Most of our cultural, scientific and technological accomplishments are attributed to the latter phase that has only lasted for a few centuries, and the institution of family has played a pivotal role in the social advancement of this era. Empirically speaking, we must base our scientific assumptions on the proven and visible evidence and not some cock and bull Amazonian stories.

Regarding the erosion of the institution of family, I am of the opinion that it is primarily the fault of mass entertainment media (like Hollywood) that has caused an unnatural obsession with glamor and the consequent sexualization of the modern societies. However, I have not studied the anthropological and sociological evolution of the institution of family in any detail; my area of interest has been in the role played by the institution of family on the nurture of the individuals, and in that regard techno-scientific progress alone cannot ensure the survival and well-being of individuals in the long run; unless we are able to rear individuals who, along with intelligence and knowledge, also possess love, compassion and empathy; and such sentiments cannot be taught in schools and colleges, which makes family an indispensable social institution necessary for our collective survival and progress.

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