Radical Liberal Group: Corona Panic Perfect Time To Abolish The Family
By Jonathon Van Maren/Bridgehead.caMarch 30, 2020
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I've always been close to my family, but the coronavirus pandemic and the requisite social distancing have reminded me not to take them for granted.
Never again will I "just drop by" my parents' place without being reminded that it is a blessing to be able to do so. My toddler daughter is so fed up with not seeing her extended family that she frequently demands that we video-call her grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Like everyone else, I worry about my elderly grandparents. In the midst of the panic, many of us are feeling profoundly grateful for the families we have been blessed with.
But if you are a certain type of progressive, this global upheaval presents an opportunity. Open Democracy, for example, published an essay this week with this headline: "The coronavirus crisis shows it's time to abolish the family."
Open Democracy's motto is "free thinking for the world," and I certainly hope nobody is paying for that garbage. But the group's essay is a good reminder that many progressives see this crisis as an opportunity to further their political agenda, especially as large swathes of the population are at this point willing to accept massive government oversight of their lives in order to flatten the curve and protect the elderly and the vulnerable.
This crisis has taught us that our families are essential and that our elderly are valuable, and I hope we remember these lessons when this is all over.
But if you're one of the clowns over at Open Democracy, the crisis is leading you to entirely different conclusions -- conclusions such as the fact that we must get over "the mystification of the couple-form; the romanticisation of kinship; and the sanitization of the fundamentally unsafe space that is private property."
And why do we have to "get over" the idea of marriage and cease "romanticizing kinship," whatever that means? Because of "the power asymmetries of housework (reproductive labor being so gendered) ... of patriarchal parenting and (often) the institution of marriage." One genuinely wonders what the author of this gibberish had to suffer in order to produce such twisted nonsense.
Homes, Open Democracy informs us, are fundamentally unsafe: "queer and feminized people, especially very old and very young ones, are definitionally not safe there: their flourishing in the capitalist home is the exception, not the rule. It follows that, upon closer inspection, both terms -- 'social distancing' and 'sheltering in place' -- appear remarkable as much for what they don't say (that is, what they presume and naturalize) as what they do. Sheltering in what place...and in whose? Distance from whom...or everyone but whom?"
Obviously, domestic abuse is an enormous issue, and the sad fact is that some people will feel trapped in their homes. But I would argue that family breakdown has contributed to abuse rather than lessened it, and that the idea of getting rid of the family to eliminate domestic abuse would exacerbate the problem rather than mitigate it. But according to Open Democracy, "the pandemic is no time to forget about family abolition."
In fact, even when homes are safe, the author theorizes, they are still awful and should still be abolished:
Even when the private nuclear household poses no direct physical or mental threat to one's person -- no spouse-battering, no child rape, and no queer-bashing -- the private family qua mode of social reproduction still, frankly, sucks. It genders, nationalizes and races us.
It norms us for productive work. It makes us believe we are 'individuals.' It minimizes costs for capital while maximizing human beings' life-making labor (across billions of tiny boxes, each kitted out -- absurdly -- with its own kitchen, micro-crèche and laundry). It blackmails us into mistaking the only sources of love and care we have for the extent of what is possible. We deserve better than the family. And the time of corona is an excellent time to practice abolishing it.
I suspect that there is as much of Freud as Marx in all of that, as the logic of attempting to contain a pandemic by collectivizing and moving us into large group homes escapes me.
Perhaps it escapes the author, as well, as I see that this essay is long on abolishing things and short on what, exactly, those things will be replaced with. (Smart Marxists always remain fuzzy on the details.) But I think this crisis, whatever else it brings, will be doing precisely the opposite of what the progressives over at Open Democracy hope.
Yes, there are genuinely tragic situations occurring. But for most of us, our families are the silver lining in all of this. Trying to figure out where all of this is headed and to plan for the future is stressful, but all of that can vanish the minute your two-year-old tugs on your sleeve and says: "Hey, Daddy. Wanna snuggle for a minute?"