February 28, 2021

Chicken or Egg or Cradle?

Timothy Birdnow

I've got an argument going on Facebook. In a post about a psychological study on how Westerners raise their children differently than in other countries, I state:

But what is more successful? The West has advanced science and engineering and produced enough food to feed the world. We have been doing something right, it seems to me. I notice the article brags about parenting in India and Indonesia and such places. Given that the Third World is poor and unhealthy I do not think they are the model to emulate. (I rather suspect much of the parenting strategies employed there - like bed sharing - come from that very same poverty.)

Don't get me wrong Kenneth; I liked the post fine and found it quite interesting. I am just picking at it. I know most psychology is done with a political goal in mind and I suspect this was done as a subtle effort to make Western culture appear backward. It is to me a great analysis of how many in our society these days think.

John Brady retorted:

Perhaps as the "west" through "guns, germs, and steel, (slavery) to use Diamond's thesis title, made it possible for Europe's development by enriching a class and providing it with the time to devote toward advancement ie, education, invention, culture, etc. This, exploitation of those peoples without the power inherently developed by wealth . . made it possible for technologies ie food production further exploitation etc. It's clear that the "west "advanced the world into warp speed in a few centuries, but how? if we are comparing. along the way did the west also develop traditions different, which have not been "advanced"?

I reply:

John Brady you say:

"Perhaps as the "west" through "guns, germs, and steel, (slavery) to use Diamond's thesis title, made it possible for Europe's development by enriching a class and providing it with the time to devote toward advancement ie, education, invention, culture, etc."

Except everybody else had much of that too. Do you think slavery was an uniquely European institution? It was ubiquitous on every continent. The Native Americans all held slaves. So did the expansionistic Asians like the Mongols. And it was common in Africa.

The Chinese invented gun powder but did not invent the gun. Why?

The Chinese also had an age of exploration that went nowhere and was canceled by the Emperor. Again, why?

In point of fact Medieval Europe was rather backward compared to other places, but something clicked and it had nothing to do with slavery or guns. In fact, the Arab world had inherited the best educated and most creative part of the old Roman Empire, but it was in the West Science flourished and that led to the invention of the University, and eventually the Industrial Revolution. Again, why?

I do not agree that it had anything to do with a wealthy class having the time and money to pursue such things. Medieval Europe was far from wealthy or leisurely and yet we saw the rise of modern Science during that period. Yes, the Renaissance saw an increase in trade and exploration, but it was rooted in something in the Western culture that was unique; it didn't happen in China, or India, or Japan, or in Africa, or even in the civilizations in the Americas. Japan became a power only after eschewing their traditional culture in favor of Western values and techniques. And in Asian today much of what they do is derivative of Western ideas.

It had nothing to do with "exploitation". The peoples in those other areas were happily exploiting their own people. The rise of the West was based on a culture that fostered independence, original thought, and an orderly society not restrained by law but by the Judeo-Christian religious tradition.

John K. says:

Does it need to be all one way or another ? It’s beyond dispute that progress across the board in the west has improved many conditions for people world round. Does that mean though, that nothing can be learned from other cultures ? Does it have to be zero sum ?

I reply:

Joe Kearney we certainly CAN learn from other cultures if there is benefit. What I am doing here is questioning the benefit. I suspect there is more a political and societal goal in mind with studies like these to advance collectivism in the West, not to make life better. As I pointed out earlier, much of what was done in this regard was done out of necessity. Poor people share beds, and bedrooms, because they don't have the resources to NOT do so. Does that make them better? It makes them different. And yes, first generation immigrants and perhaps some second generation may carry on the tradition but it will end just as it ended in the West long ago thanks to greater ability to provide. Now, that doesn't mean it's somehow wrong to do it either way. But it does make me ask the question of which societies are more successful and wonder if there isn't a causal relationship. Having been teetering on the brink financially and growing up in a very modest middle class background I can assure you poverty is no great honor. That said, you may be right in that it doesn't need to be a zero sum gain necessarily, but what are we using as the criterion for deciding which is better? I do know that how a child is raised has a lot to do with how the adult will think, and if a child is not raised to independent thinking and self-reliance he will wind up being a collectivist and seek the protection of the herd. It seems to me this is sort of thing will lead to people who feel dependent, be it on the State or on some other person. I may be wrong, but as I say history tends to argue in my favor.

Kenneth Walsh states:

Timothy Birdnowthanks for the concise mini-essay. You are correct, I think, that aspects of our civilizational line going back to the ancient mediterranian have become an important part of universal culture: scientific method, industry, enlightenment values, relentless technological progress etc. This process has gone so far that othr geopolitical actors are trying to beat us at what was originally our game. but enough of idle commentary from me. I am off to the beach.
Diane Warne Anderson takes umbrage:

Timothy Birdnowno, bed sharing comes from millions of year of experience and common sense! Babies need attachment, physically, for well being. When the privileged started handing off babies to wet nurses, the babies slept with the nurse. That’s the origin of the modern "nursery.” It was never intended to be a place for babies to be alone.

I reply:

And yet we still have the current situation Diane Warne Anderson. Again I point out that poverty and lack of means made it where children had to be in bed with parents or other caregivers, but how does that argue that it was better? There is no actual evidence that it was or is. This is primarily anecdotal. The fact is we've had the current practice in the West in place for some time now and we've been doing just fine with it. I would point out that in those "good old days" we had high infant mortality. To claim it is better without any real evidence is just a personal opinion. As I said above, I don't mind looking different ways of doing things, but I also know how politicized psychology has become and suspect this is more a case of trying to make children grow up needy and dependent. I was raised in the American fashion and so was everyone else I know and we did just fine. Why is it now some terrible wrong that must be righted? There is not a shred of evidence bed sharing is better for children than the way it is done in the West.

Should we also go back to wood fires for heating and cooking, or tallow candles for lights, or wood stump water and toad warts for medicine? We've progressed beyond those things and it we are much the better for it Diane Warne Anderson. Yes, the West does suffer from alientation, but that ties in largely with broken homes (thanks to the sexual revolution and rejection of the traditional paradigms of family and parents) and the creation of a society that is obsessed with material goods and entertainment and rejects moral and spiritual law. That is, rejects God. OF COURSE we are going to see ennui and alienation. But because kids don't sleep in bed with their parents until they are middle aged? That is exactly part of the problem in modern society; kids aren't growing up, aren't cutting the strings with their parents until they are far older than they should be. We AREN'T encouraging independence, but rather extending adolescence. Going in this direction is, in my opinion, the exact wrong way.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 10:32 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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