For The Children

Put down the shot gun.  Take a deep breath.  Consider the importance of those words and of their being used ritualistically to pass legislation.

Then consider something William Patterson used in Heinlein’s bio (first book.)  I will not quote him exactly.  I have the book on my shelves, but my shelves are a salad because of the boy-who-doesn’t-know-his-alphabet and who most assuredly does not read my non fiction books (rolls eyes.) so to find it might take me the rest of the morning and I have an appointment.  However, the phrase said something about “the broken children of mid-century” finding an ethical guiding hand in Heinlein.

I’ll confess I did find a guiding hand in Heinlein, even if I couldn’t be considered in any way to come from a broken family, not in the sense he meant.  My parents were married.  My brother lived with us until he got married at 26, and my entire extended family lived around us, all over the village.  (In fact, the amiable habit of the village was to call any adult over the age of having children “ti” short for tio or tia i.e. uncle or aunt.  We did this I suspect as a throw back to a time when everyone in an area was related, whether or nor you could trace it back.  We did it even to people we knew were new arrivals, I’m going to guess on the principle that eventually their genes would enter the pool and we therefore adopted them, retroactively.  Keep this in mind.  The assumption was wrong, and it’s been fifty years and this is important.)

On the other hand, in many ways, I was a broken child.  Well, I suspect mostly through being an Odd, but there were other things.  Mostly I rejected the simple morality of the tales told to me in childhood and I couldn’t find guidance that fit me, until I fell into that first Heinlein – Have Spacesuit will Travel.  What spoke of me out of it?  We’ll go into that.

I was “broken” in the sense that the instruction given me wouldn’t take.  It wouldn’t take partly because I was surrounded by skeptical voices all over: my brother, his friends, my cousins; and partly because the circumstances around me no longer fit the instructions I was being given; and partly because I was thrust into a world that didn’t figure into any of those tales, not even grandma’s inventive stories.  Which was part of the reason I liked science fiction.  It also wasn’t the world I lived in, but it was a world in constant change and it made more sense, internally.  (BTW this is why the idea that  kids today don’t read science fiction because the world has changed too much and “they’re living in science fiction” should be met with derision and contempt.  They don’t read science fiction because it has nothing to say.  It’s either vapid, human hating, or a continuation of the preaching they get in school, which they know is wrong.  [There are exceptions of course.  More fantasy than SF but I highly recommend Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell trilogy for instance.])

I don’t mean to imply that the stories I was told were Bowdlerized.  A lot of them were, of course, but certainly not grandma’s.  (If grandma had spoken English and had access to a typewriter and a publisher, she’d be a more imaginative Stephen King.)  It was just that I couldn’t make those stories fit the world that had gone upside down and sideways forty years or so before I was born.

Most of the stories that were told to me assumed I would grow up, get married, have kids all within the relatively narrow confines of the village (or other villages.  Even the upper class “ton” of Regency England was about the same number of families as a largish village.)  It had to do with keeping relations with people you’d see every day for the rest of your life.  It had to do with raising the children to fit in in the same narrow environment.

By the time I was five, I knew they were wrong.  There was that gut feeling – even in an environment that was superficially static – of “this is wrong” kids get when they’re told fables (and why I think insisting that girls of ninety pounds can beat men of 200 will only create idiots and cynics.  Idiots are the girls who think they HAVE to believe it or be gender traitors.  Cynics are everyone else.  Even the all-pervasive propaganda of communist countries can’t do better than that.)

Anyway, if I – who was raised in a relative stable environment, in a religious family, in a traditional village – felt adrift in the world, how about all those other “broken children of the mid century”?  Those whose parents uprooted and left the ancestral village, or even the vicinity of family; those whose parents engaged in Marital Blanket Bingo; those whose parents lived for career or other considerations?  I.e., most of them?  And what about those even more broken kids who came after?  Those who are farmed out to total strangers because mom and dad MUST work?  (And I truly don’t want to argue this with people who think that mom and dad can choose not to work to stay home with the kids.  Some can.  Some purely can’t, not in their circumstances, which include taxes to pay and DEFINITELY include the social disapproval few people – even Odds – fully want to incur.) And whose parents, themselves, wouldn’t do a much better job of raising them because they have no clue WHY they should sacrifice that way – not unless they’ve arrived at some sort of morally coherent internal sense before having kids.

Because, the truth is, the reason our society screams so much about “It’s for the children” is that nothing is.  No, seriously.  We live in the least child-oriented society ever to exist.

And before you jump me and point out all the things that are forbidden to adults so as to keep them from the children; all the things that exist for children or people with children (like certain restaurants, or movies for kids, or…) and tell me that our predecessors had none of that, I’ll tell you “precisely.”

We are like the very wealthy of times past, shoving toys and gifts at the kiddies which we ignore the rest of the time, because we’re busy pursuing what we want to pursue.

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend who is single, childless and gay.  I would consider him a very moral person (in his dealings with others) though he’s by no means “moral” by what the left thinks the right’s morals are – if that makes sense.  He was outraged as I’ve seldom seen him.  You see, he rarely projects his morals onto other people and rarely condemns other people as doing wrong.  (Unless they’re celebrities, and that’s just fun.)  BUT he was rather incensed at an acquaintance of his who had “realized his true orientation” after he was married and had a three year old child.  Upon which he’d left wife and child to pursue love in all the wrong places (though my friend put it rather more graphically.)

My friend thought this was horrible, because what would the child think when he grew up.  My first reaction to his outrage shocked me, too.  I thought “yes, but would you want the poor man to live a lie all his life?”  I don’t think I said it, but I might have.  I sometimes have the self preservation instincts of a mouse teetering on the edge of a whiskey barrel.  I must have said something because what I got was the double barrel of “if you have assumed an obligation for a young and helpless life, particularly one you’ve brought to the world, one who depends on you for guidance, instruction and security, you LEARN to derive your happiness from fulfilling your obligation and doing your duty.”

I’d never heard it put that way, and most people would say it was an arid life.  But that’s what most of our ancestors would have done, and done unflinchingly.

It’s useless to project into the past the sort of uniform morality of a fairytale.  It wasn’t like that.  Every era had right and wrong.  Every era had reprobates who put themselves ahead of their obligations and those who depended on them.

However the idea that you owed others something was there stronger — as in the time of Romeo and Juliet, where you owed your family EVERYTHING — or weaker but it was there.  Those who didn’t were at the margins of society and justly reviled.

But now… now even I who was properly brought up, thought (at least until I was glared at, which is weird since we were talking over the net, but the man has a glare that can cross the miles) first “but you can’t expect the man to sacrifice his every hope of happiness because he made a mistake.”

Part of it is the definition of happiness.  I know people are going to come and pile on and say we lost that sense of obligation because we lost religion (my friend is an atheist, btw) but I don’t think that’s it.  I grew up in a place where it was noticed if and when and where you went to church and where most of the conversations ended in pious shibboleths of consolation or condemnation.  And yet even there, it had crept in, this feeling that “you can’t expect people to throw their lives away just because they made a mistake.”  (The concept of gayness was very odd indeed there – at least openly – but people still made mistakes aplenty, from babies conceived out of wedlock to “I thought he was nicer when I married him” to “She ain’t no fun anymore.)

There was this idea that it was right and just – the only right and just thing to do – to “pursue your happiness” regardless of whom it affected, whom it hurt, and whom it shocked.  Phrases like “you only pass this way once” and “you have to be yourself” had penetrated into the culture, particularly among the younger people.

I don’t think it was the breakdown of religious faith except insofar as it resulted from the same thing.  I think it was the end result of two wars, back to back, and so many men who died young, without in fact getting to be themselves and, more importantly, the women who stayed behind and regretted the fun they hadn’t had.  Though Portugal hadn’t really been part of the wars (technically of the first world war, but in miniscule numbers) the zeitgeist had percolated there and the idea was “don’t give your life to something not of your own choosing at that moment” and the idea that “life is short, eat dessert FIRST.”

The other part of it was, of course, mobility.  Starting after WWI but really after WWII people moved away from parents.  They moved to other places, they fragmented.  I know that this sounds like I’m hankering for the ancestral village.  I’m not.  Villages are terrible places.  If you’re an Odd, it takes a village to drive you totally insane.

But they do exert surveillance and enforce laws.  (Though by the time I came along, as is obvious from above they were a little uncertain about what laws and rules to enforce.  Was it “never be alone with a man you’re not married to?” or was it “To thine own self be true, even if thine own self has a tendency to fall on her back?”)

Humans are social animals.  We try to fit in – even outliers like us – and therefore not having a well defined community and clear rules that enforce the raising of the next generation will lead to… broken children.  Who don’t know what the rules are, and what to do.

Our mass media jumped on this too.  You may attribute bad intent to it, but I think they were mostly reflecting “life is short, eat dessert first” back at people.  The rules they proclaimed were the sort of anodyne rules of “love yourself” (There is only one you! Seemed to be a refrain on TV when I came here in 1980) and “be nice to people” (which is not the same as living up to your obligations to them.  Heck sometimes it’s the opposite.  And nice isn’t the same as good.  Not by a mile.) and “be polite and outwardly accepting of everyone” not to mention “if someone does wrong he’s a victim and society made him do it!” or the reverse “If someone is a victim, they’re automatically good.”

The broken children of mid century had my generation, who in turn had severely broken children, because by then things were completely upside down.

Understand, I’m not complaining of people being immoral or of people having odd sexual preferences (in the science fiction community these are often very odd) or even of people living a life of what they consider “fun and excitement” – I’m not the mother or father of other people, and they are what they are (or to quote grandma, we don’t “each make ourselves”.)  What I’m complaining about is where the focus is for society and where it remains, even after people have made choices that mean what they’ve done will affect people who depend on them.  What I’m complaining about is people shirking obligations – particularly an obligation to the next generation – for the sake of some undefined “don’t worry, be happy.”

I’m complaining of the fact that not  only do we not shun people who offload their responsibilities brought on by their own actions, but we enshrine them as a sort of heroes because they’re living the imperative of “pursuing their happiness” or in the words of the sixties “finding themselves.”  This ensures they’re free of “hangups” or “complexes” or “frustrations” or whatever the heck we’re calling it today, and makes them a sort of secular saint.

Yes, everyone makes mistakes – but it’s how you deal with the mistakes that makes the difference.

They don’t stay in that oh-hum marriage for the sake of the children (Yes, I do recognize reasons for divorce.  Among them are “he hit me” and “she was hurting the children” – morally or physically.  There are others.  We all know marriages where a partner and the kids would be far better off without the other but “it wasn’t fun anymore” is not one of them.)  They don’t pretend to be something they’re not for the sake of the children.  They don’t volunteer to fight for the sake of the children.  They never even consider doing something “for the children.”

They do instead insist that society be as a whole brought down to child level: that everyone be insulated from their choices and given everything they need as though we were all toddlers; and that everyone obey the rulers as though they were mommy and daddy.  And every time they want to force this on us they scream “do it for the children.”

This is because – and this is what Heinlein taught me and what my friend’s glare (it is a very nice glare, truly!) brought to mind – what makes us adults is not stomping our little feet and “expressing” ourselves.  Any kid can do that with finger paint and a free hour.  It is assuming our place in civilization and in the march of generations through time: it’s shouldering the burden and moving on and doing our best for the next ones in line; it’s assuming responsibility for those weaker or in peril and doing our best for them too.  Your obligation might be to a child of your blood, or to a sick friend.  It might be to the person you love with all your heart, or to some old relative wished on you because no one else would take him/her.

It is still your obligation.  Being human means having obligations to those around you.  We are social apes.

Government or impersonal bureaucrats ARE NOT the means to help our brothers and sisters.  We are.  In recognition of our common humanity; in recognition that there might be a life after in another world, but there will surely be one here, after we’re gone, we pay our dues to those who came before and build for those who come after.

Sometimes the best choice for others is not what you want to do.  Sometimes it’s not even close to nice.  Sometimes there is no good choice — but the way forward leads through a life of duty, not happiness.  And sometimes you find a sort of happiness in that.  (To quote the epitaph of a Heinlein character “He ate what was put before him.”)

We can shirk it.  We can pretend that there is nothing in the world bigger than ourselves – “There is only one YOU!” – and that we are all that matters – “I’m gonna live forever; I’m gonna learn how to fly!” – but in the end, the only one you’re lying to is YOU!  In the end there will be centuries and millennia after you, and the broken children of the broken children of the broken children will either die with their civilization or relearn.

Would you rather shoulder your responsibilities and make sure they relearn from our ancestors and those who made our civilization the most successful and comfortable and, yes, just, on Earth?  Or from the barbarians at the gate?

One or the other will teach those children and give them guidance.

Who’s it gonna be?

312 thoughts on “For The Children

  1. Any time a politician brings up children, know immediately that whatever he says or does is going to hurt YOU: either your pocketbook, or your liberty.

    Sarah, I know what you mean about villages. I grew up with relatives all around me in one huge extended family. That’s one of the BIG reasons I joined the Air Force. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in that kind of suffocating ‘oneness’. Of course, that made me the “black sheep” of the family, but it saved my sanity.

    1. I remember the story of two politicians, one of whom explained to the other that his bill on education was based on the fact that he cared about his children more than the other legislator. The other legislator objected. The first one retorted:
      “Okay, what are their names?”

  2. Learning to be happy by fulfilling your obligations to those you have assumed responisbility is a sort of unyeiliding way of living your life, but it is rewarding, and essential to your kids. I am not comfortable talking about this subject, but I feel there is virtue inherent in fulfilling you duties and discharging your obligations.
    Doing your duties in raising your kids the best you can in the best home you can provide them is to try and make sure they are able to make it on their own, if you abandon them or leave the raising to other people you are depending on whether the other people doing the raising for you are competent, or even care how the kids turn out. And we’ve seen what happens when other people raise your kids.
    I think we have made it too easy to walk away from obligations and have tried to eliminate obligations as “old fashioned” and “constraining” to free minds, but unless you fulfill you obligations you are noone that can be trusted, you cannot accomplish anything lasting, and you cannot be a force for anything good, and the only one who can truly hold you to your duty is yourself.

    1. Yup. And it’s not only the children. When we’re all old and feeble, we’ll be wanting someone with some sense of duty to care for us in our dotage, assuming the death panels let us get that far. So far, as a society, we’re still skating on the residual virtue of our parents’ or grandparents’ cultures. I’ve done my darndest to raise my kids well, instill in them the old-fashioned virtues, and model a virtuous life, including subordinating wants to duties … and I’ve been very open about telling my teens that personally I would rather do X, but I took a vow before God and everybody those 30 years ago, so I choose to do Y … but who knows …

    2. “… we not shun people who offload their responsibilities…”

      Exactly. We enshrine them. Our fellow Americans are enthralled with actors, singers, royalty, and pro athletes. These idolized folks have higher-than-average rates of divorce, affairs, single parenting, mind-altering substance abuse, accidents, etc. Many people (mis)reason that there’s nothing wrong with emulating their “heroes,” and two generations of this nonsense have wreaked havoc with child-rearing.

      1. Exactly. Those celebrities can engage in that kind of behavior and not feel the consequences of it because they have the resources to pay alimony, child support, hire nannies, get the best health care, check into rehab clinics repeatedly. Meanwhile, young people who idolize them or try to follow that kind of lifestyle literally can’t afford to engage in that behavior. But they do it anyway, to shattering consequences.

  3. I have a difficult time with teaching my kids values:

    1. I don’t know the rules they will need. The rules changed drastically between hunter/gatherer and agriculturalist. We are in the middle of a change that is as drastic.

    2. I don’t know how to teach them. My mother is an ardent Zionist, and she tried to teach us to be the same. She failed, out of three children two chose the build their lives in the US.

    1. Ori, Dr. Foster Cline is a personal friend of mine. He’s written several good books on child rearing. Check out his “Love and Logic” series with Jim Fey.

    2. You don’t know what language your kids will need, and yet you teach them to speak. Science changes, but you still teach kids the principles.

      Start with what you’ve got, and let the kids sort the rest out when they’re adults. But as long as they’re kids under your roof, you teach ’em what you’ve got.

    3. 1) Values are how they figure out the rules and whether to obey them or not.

      2) You teach them the same way you teach everything else, by word and by deed.

    4. I don’t have kids, but I think you could do worse than Polonius’ advice to Laertes.

        1. Ah, but what an experiment one could have by alternating advice between Polonius and D’Artagnan’s father for each son as they leave home …

        2. Oh? But it’s so much like the advice my dad gave me! (Actually my dad’s was “don’t fall into debt” and “Don’t shame the family” which when I got married I understood to mean I shouldn’t go off with the first man who brought me single malt and dark chocolate. Of course Dan is the only man who’s ever done that… I do go off– Well, never mind.)

  4. Sarah, thanks for writing (the blog and the SF.)
    “Being human means having obligations to those around you.” Unfortunately, this isn’t a given any more by most of the people around me. We’ve lost the idea of “responsibilities”, and have solely focused on “rights.”
    OBTW, I like lots of your other thoughts in this blog, and am amazed with your encyclopedic knowledge of Heinlein canon. I would not have remembered “He ate what was set before him.” if I hadn’t just finished re-reading Starman Jones. How long ago did you refresh your memory?

    1. I re-read (or re-listen) to my Heinlein every five years or so. I’m about due. BUT Starman Jones is older son’s favorite book, so it comes up in discussion a lot. (BTW you can always tell when I’ve been reading/listening to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress because I start dropping pronouns like rain.)

      1. I wanted to re-read MIAHM last night, but it isn’t available for kindle, and i was too lazy to climb up the stairs and get my paper copy.
        In all your spare time, I think it is an interesting comparison to read Starship Troopers (Heinlein), The Forwevr War (Haldeman), and Enders Game (Card) to see how SF has changed over 40 years. It is apparently somewhat of a pendulum.

        1. Funny story – I was talking to my son, who read some of the Heinlein’s but not all, and was explaining to him what Tanstaafl meant, and he looked at me like I was an idiot (he was a teenager, I got that look a LOT) and said it was a economics term. He learned it in class. Had to get out the internet to show him the genesis.

          1. And what is the genesis? Do today’s youth get the weight of the expression or the economic concept alone? And what does it say about the SNAP program?

            Mr. Heinlein picked up the expression when Dr. Pournelle used TANSTAAFL in casual conversation in Colorado Springs (claimed by Dr. Pournelle and confirmed by Ginny as the way she remembered it too) and Dr. Pournelle grew up hearing it mostly from his own father in a time and place that commonly offered such meals to make the usage meaningful –

            I’ve even seen no extra charge food offered as at least free hors d’ouvres Friday night at bars that cashed paychecks and offered no charge food. But these days the closest I’ve seen is the proverbial senior samples at Costco and Sam’s Club. I’ve never heard why the acronym was used in that part of the south in Jerry’s youth..

            1. Modern regulation has largely stamped out the “Free Lunch” as alcohol license regulations increasingly prohibit such.

            2. Years ago, I’d work graveyard at the canneries. there was a group of us that would go and hit the local tavern after work, at 7.00 am or so. Since there was usually a big crowd of us that drank well, the owner would get out the electric griddle and plastic forks and make us breakfast. Gah.
              Krusteaz and cheap tap beer for sunrise is vile by the way. Almost as bad as decent beer and pizza for breakfast at 5 PM.

        2. I note:
          Starship Troopers was published in 1959(;
          Ender’s Game’s in 1977 (, and
          Forever War in 1974 ( which was not long before Card’s story at all.

          I quibble with your use of “has changed”; is there a more recent thing you’d put into the list to keep the present tense “has” in play?

          Otherwise, you’ve presented a relatively short 18 year arc compared to the elapsed 36 years since. That particular arc catches a specific historical period – the Vietnam War – quite squarely, and arguably invalidates the present tense you’re using. (From wiki, also: 3rd of three applicable definitions – “served on active duty for more than 180 days and served in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.” (

          1. I read Forever War as it was serialized in Analog, and then in paperback later. I have a copy of Starship Troopers that I got from my high school library when they reduced the number of copies they had from five to two. I have a paperback copy of Ender’s Game, also. I re-read the Heinlein book about every three years. I re-read the Haldeman book about once every ten years. I’ve read the Card book once.

            There’s a difference between “Vietnam veterans” and “Vietnam-era veterans”. A Vietnam veteran is someone who actively served in the Republic of Vietnam during the years mentioned. A Vietnam-ERA veteran is “anyone who served on active duty for more than 180 days” during the time period, whether they served in Vietnam or not. Personally, I’d like them to expand the “Vietnam Veteran” category to all those that also served in Thailand and Laos in direct support of the war. They were as much a part of the conflict as the BUFF crews and those aboard ship that ARE considered “Vietnam Veterans”.

            1. When we were reviewing the anti-discrimination policies at my first job, my boss commented that he was a Vietnam era veteran.

              His posting in West Germany was coming to an end.

            2. And there are a few who were Vietnam Vets, did go to Cambodia (although it was denied for the longest time) and spent three years in Thailand. (Yep the hubby)– he has some very interesting stories. Although I know that you were trying to make a point– sorry– but there were a few that got more opportunities than most.

                    1. In this venue one ought never pass up an opportunity to snark at John “Swifty” Kerry, terror of wounded teenage resistance fighters everywhere.

                      Especially now that he has added China to the roster of America’s “special relationships”, alongside Britain and Israel. (Of course, as we all know, some relationships are more “special” than others — and given the way this Administration has treated Britain and Israel, maybe knowing their relationship with us us “special” is less comforting to the Chicoms than might be.)

                    2. I was going to say that he was “spacial.” (IN my nastiest voice) but I am not sure that he even knows anything about space, spacial relationships, or anything to do with space.

                    3. Probably the first time John “Lurch” Kerry has been termed beefsteak, although looking at his face and considering recent news stories I think a DNA check advisable.

              1. AJ Budrys thought Moon is a Harsh Mistress the best of Mr. Heinlein’s books as well. Maybe so but for my taste it is also the most conventional space opera of the adult fiction and so the farthest from being distinctive.

                A fair number of readers aren’t terribly fond of books that I consider more distinctive and more typical of Mr. Heinlein’s body of work. I’d pick Glory Road if pushed but I can pick up and enjoy most any of the books though I can sometimes skip actually reading what’s on the page and run through the lines from memory and sometimes not.

                  1. Ayup – such was my thought, too. At a guess (and I’ve no idea how to prove this) about 50% of SF is response to Heinlein, extending or rebutting. It is his field and most contemporary practitioners are simply tilling soil he broke long ago.

                    OTOH, if you pay attention there is much “Tell” and relatively little “Show” in that book. By customary standards neither Moon nor Starship Troopers is “well-written.”

                    1. “OTOH, if you pay attention there is much “Tell” and relatively little “Show” in that book. By customary standards neither Moon nor Starship Troopers is “well-written.””

                      You just pointed out one of my main complaints with Heinlein, it wasn’t bad in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but it bugged the heck out of me in Starship Troopers, which was a decent book that could have been great.

                    2. The problem was his SCOPE. You can’t tell something of that scope within one book particularly not the size printed in his day. I ran into that with AFGM and the scope was smaller.

        1. I strongly recommend the audiobook, as read by Lloyd James.

          Excellent for enjoyment while commuting, chopping vegetables for the family dinner or while scrubbing bathroom tile.

      2. All I’ve read is Starship Troopers. What else should I read? I also really liked The Last Centurian by John Ringo. S.M Stirlings change series I’ve enjoyed. Based on that anyone feel free to throw stuff at me?

        My dad being military is always quoting someone famous. Generally it’s Wellington: “First you feed the horses, then you feed the men, then you feed yourself” was how he’d quote it. Along with various other speeches etc. I do think overall it’s took. Too long then I would like honestly in hindsight(see other comment re punk rock) I know a fair few people my age who just don’t seem to care about any responsibilities. The ones that do seem to have had A) some sort of sucky childhood they overcame B) prior military C) some combination or other learned person teach them.

        I don’t quite think the breakdown is as neat as that but it’s what I got. I don’t think my generation is any less self absorbed then previous. And the teenagers now or say the little kids its just me me me. Punk rock quote:Black Flag “gimme gimme gimme, gimme some more don’t ask what for”

        1. Side note: little brother is five and the midget may as well be an only child. Already knows how to work the smart phone and iPad. Yet will melt down when he can’t take the crayons in the car or use the aforementioned electronics.

          1. Read Heinlein to the brat. He might be redeemable. Totally know what you mean, though. My brother and I are 10 years apart and we’re both technically only children.

            1. Sister and I are close enough in age. But shes not big on sci fi at all. The midget is oddly the one I now play with the most. Probably since Sister Moved For Work. 😦

              1. My brother read to me a lot. Corrupted me with SF at an early age. Also, the brat might like audio books — my older son became addicted to Kipling at three

                1. When the Daughtorial Unit was wee there was a delightful series of audiobook (and eventually television) productions of classic children’s stories from all ’round the world. Rabbit Ears Productions engaged accomplished actors and actresses to narrate charming and engaging tales, such as Momotaro, the Peach Boy from Japan, The Fool and His Flying Ship from Russia, American legends of Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and Stormalong, The Elephants Child (read by Jack Nicholson, who also did How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin), and many more.

                  When enjoying these stories prepare discussions of cultural memes and lessons embedded in the stories, and address issues such as friendship, responsibility, atonement for wrongs done and various other such folderol. It can be quite entertaining to look at the actual multi of culture.

                2. I gave him an audio of Kipling that got some weird wear to it- he loved Boris Karloff’s voice (I deeply sympathize) but the other half was read by Anthony Quayle, whom he found boring, and he would just rewind it back to Karloff!

            2. I understand completely, Sarah. My children were born in 1) 1967, 2) 1974 (adopted in 1978), 3) 1985 (adopted in 1988), and 2005 (currently in our permanent custody, will be adopted as soon as we can get everything done and the money scraped together). All “only children”. There was only five years between me and my brother, and quite a difference in our upbringing. Case in point: I knew three of my great-grandparents, while he never met any of them.

        2. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; The Door Into Summer; Starman Jones; Between Planets; Citizen of The Galaxy. Then all the rest as you have time. (And may I say I envy you for getting to read Heinlein for the first time?)

          1. That any particular order? Yes you may envy my noob status. I shall envy your published awesome books and chance to interact with awesome creativeness. So um thanks. A lot.

            1. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress — Heinlein did not put his personal politics into his books. The viewpoint characters are -not- RAH, but this book will make you think and then think again, and then think again about revolution, about government, about marriage and family, about citizenship, about the morality of war… Just read it.

              The Door Into Summer — If RAH had written it today, it would be a response to preppers and survivalists, I’ve heard it described as RAH’s response to “Lord of the Flies” which it could be since it was written 3 years later, but I doubt it, still it’s one of RAH’s best works on personal responsibility.

              Starman Jones — This wouldn’t have been in my top four, and I would move it to later in the list. It has several problems in that it’s one of the few pieces where RAH detailed technology, and in 1953, no one had a clue what Moore’s Law was going to do tech. The story, again exposing RAH’s juveniles constant theme of what it is to be an adult, what it is to be human, what is love, what is duty, is well laid out and well played, but I wouldn’t read it this early in the list. I would have substituted “The Rolling Stones” here.

              Between Planets — After making the allowance for the 1951 science that Mars and Venus are human habitable and firmly locking down the suspension of disbelief button on that thought, this is one of the earliest of RAH’s essays on libertarian thought. In a famous review, Jack Williamson said it showed RAH’s ” unhappiness with ‘the historical imperative'” leading to the loss of individual freedom as governmental organizations grew.”

              Citizen of The Galaxy — It will take you only a few pages to realize that this is a re-telling of Kipling’s “Kim” in SF guise, however, since RAH was no royalist, the story diverges on the realization of Kim (Thorby)’s identity. No matter, this book caused me to spend days and days on the memory game. — read early.

              Now, on to my list (in this order)

              ALL the Scriber’s Juveniles… (recalling that they were published in the 50’s and that you will occasionally have to hit that suspension of disbelief button) — I don’t think you can do better than the publication order. You will see an evolution in RAH”s writing and storytelling.

              Rocket Ship Galileo (1947) Space Cadet (1948) Red Planet (1949) Farmer in the Sky (1950) Between Planets (1951) The Rolling Stones (1952) Starman Jones (1953) The Star Beast (1954) Tunnel in the Sky (1955) Time for the Stars (1956) Citizen of the Galaxy (1957) Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)

              The, the semi-independents…

              Beyond This Horizon (1948) The Puppet Masters (1951) Revolt in 2100 (1953) Double Star (1956) The Door into Summer (1957) Methuselah’s Children (1958) Starship Troopers (1959) Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) Podkayne of Mars (1963) Orphans of the Sky (1963)

              Then, fill in the rest… Glory Road in particular is totally unconnected from anything else RAH wrote.

              I would save the Woodrow Wilson Smith story arc for late. It overlaps the early stories, RAH back-filled some of his earlier works into Woody’s life, but still, the arc is good, but it’s LATE Heinlein, and he had changed by the 60’s.

              Revolt in 2100 (1953) Methuselah’s Children (1958) Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) I Will Fear No Evil (1970) Time Enough for Love (1973) The Number of the Beast (1980) The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985) To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)

              And yes, I’m well aware that Woody isn’t in Stranger, nor in I will Fear No Evil, but they still belong in that developmental arc, and I’ll defend that for a LONG time.

              Finally, the stand-alones, the things that aren’t part of another story arc (except as wedged into the Number of the Beast, but that doesn’t count.)

              For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs (1939/2003) Sixth Column (1949) Double Star (1956) Starship Troopers (1959)Glory Road (1963) Farnham’s Freehold (1964) Friday (1982) Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) Variable Star (1955/2006)

              Note that “for us the living” and “variable star” are posthumous publications edited/.extended/finished by Spider Robinson.

              1. The Door Into Summer — If RAH had written it today, it would be a response to preppers and survivalists, I’ve heard it described as RAH’s response to “Lord of the Flies” which it could be since it was written 3 years later, but I doubt it, still it’s one of RAH’s best works on personal responsibility.

                I believe the title you mean is Tunnel In The Sky, but other than that the description is accurate.

                1. OH FREAK… I did it again. Why I cross those two titles I will never know, but I have done it for more than 40 years and am unlikely to stop today. 😦 Door into summer is one of the “Time travel loop” books. Tunnel is the survivalist book. Arrrgh

              2. One other (minor) quibble: Red Planet, Double Star, and Stranger In A Strange Land form a continuum, of sorts. Mostly in way of a background of concepts, different explorations of Heinlein’s Mars rather than a connected narrative.

                1. My grandmother said she told my dad and his brothers she was going to trade them in for a Willis.

              3. No offense intended, but I consider _Variable Star_ a Spider Robinson story not a RAH story. Spider may have taken ideas of RAH but it was still *his* story.

                1. Freely granted. I liked it, but I certainly follow your point. I would, personally, love have had someone publish the source material that Spider was given.

                1. I hope you have many, many used book stores in your area, because Heinlein titles are NOT easy to find. When you see one, you snap it up, because it won’t be there the next day.

                  1. Most of the copies of Heinlein my library had just ten years ago are now gone and haven’t been replaced. Due to the way libraries work (limited shelf space, old falling apart paperbacks and hard-covers removed to make room for new books) and the fact that Heinlein’s books have been around for many years they aren’t “new” enough to get a place and aren’t “classic” enough to be replaced, unless your acquiring librarian is a science fiction fan.

                    1. How likely is it that “critical” attacks on Heinlein as sexist, racist & imperialistic have fostered an environment where libraries don’t stock his works?

                      It should be obvious that an author who has stayed in print continuously for fifty plus years should be available in the library. I expect that their borrowing records would demonstrate continuing interest in his works as well.

                      I would also wager that few libraries use those last two criteria in determining their shelving.

        3. Military Science fiction recommendations:
          Hammer’s Slammers, by David Drake. The Dark Wing, by Walter H. Hunt (That one you might need to get through Baen Ebooks.) The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell is good naval fiction. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi was pretty good, although I don’t recommend the sequels. A Desert Called Peace, by Tom Kratman. A Hymn Before Battle, by John Ringo. March Upcountry, by John Ringo and David Weber

          Rudyard Kipling. Anything by this man.

          1. Note that “A Desert called Peace” is -not- suitable for children. Teens and up. (as is true for the rest of Krautman’s work) and while THOSE Ringos work, keep anyone below puberty away from Ringo’s “Ghost” aka “Kildar” series.

            (Having said that, the DS “Scenes” in the Kildar books cause me to judge the writing in “50 shades” even more harshly.)

            1. I’d also add Ringo’s “The Road to Damascus”, Andre Norton’s “Star Soldiers” two books, and the “Falkenburg’s Legions” books by Jerry Pournelle. There are a few dozen others, but those are a good source of understanding both military sci-fi and the authors’ personal feelings about individual responsibility. Heinlein is still the master. At one time, “Starship Troopers” was required reading at several military academies.

              1. Starship Troopers is still on the Marine Corps’ reading list, as is Ender’s Game. The Army removed Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels from their list (idiots), but that is a must read for historical military fiction. The movie Gettysburg is essentially The Killer Angels on screen, made back in the days Turner still turned out American history miniseries, and is worth watching as well.

                1. Well, I enjoyed The Lost Fleet series, but you know its just Xenophon in Space, right? Stark’s … was weaker IMO. His JAG in space stuff as Hemry is quite good.

                  1. Ah, yes, Stark’s weaker. I was thinking of Paul Sinclair for the John Hemry stuff.

                    (That’s the JAG in space stuff, for the rest of you. 0:)

                    1. That series never felt quite finished. I was hoping he’d start self pulishing it if he couldn’t keep selling it, but I think the Lost fleet series has taken over

              2. When I was playing a DVD of “Black Hawk Down” with the Hoyts there, Dan caught the Rangers calling the Somalis “skinnies,” and guessed it was a “Starship Troopers” reference. Absolutely correct, because the officers had to read it and most of the other troops had read it at one time or another.

              3. I’ll second the Falkenberg books by Pournelle. For a fun space navy book, “On Basilisk Station” by David Weber.

                1. I’m glad I had something to do with starting this tangent. I have the Heinlein, but need to get most of the others discussed. If only I wasn’t laid off last month.

                  1. The good news is you have more time for reading …

                    Try the Baen Free Library and your local public library. Most of these books are in no danger of going out of print and owning them can wait for a period of more disposable income, less free time.

                  1. I like both comments, and the “go to the library” is what my Mother always said, she couldn’t understand why I needed to own them.

          2. Kris Longknife books by Mike Shepherd.
            Dittos on Ringo/Weber’s March series.
            John Grimes novels by A. Bertram Chandler (more space opera)
            Dominic Flandry by Poul Anderson (also more space operaish)
            Hope novels by David Feintuch – a mopier space Hornblower.

            and of course, the Honorverse novels by David Weber & Co.

            1. Ah, the Seafort novels by Feintuch. I read those a lot in the 90s. I’d suggest avoiding the last three; the series lost the plot after the fourth.

        4. “What else should I read?”

          Just about anything by Poul Anderson. L. Sprague De Camp is good too, though his stuff tends more to the humorous end of the spectrum.

          If you want to try some buckle-swashing non-SF, I’d recommend anything by Rafael Sabatini. They’re all the same plot more or less, but good reading nonetheless. _Captain Blood_, _The Sea Hawk_, and _Scaramouch_ are the three that I remember most clearly. Need to re-read them myself one of these days.

            1. Shouldn’t that be *Poul* Anderson – Operation Chaos? [OW! Did you have to hit me so hard?]

              Off topic, I enjoyed my reread of _Operation Chaos_ but wasn’t sure about _Operation Luna_. How does everybody else think _Operation Luna_ compares to _Operation Chaos_?

              1. See, my issue when people ask “What do I read” is “Panic” and “My head is blank” — I used to have this trouble with tests. Once people mention BOOKS I go “oh, yeah, that. And that too. And that.”

          1. Barry Hughart.

            Terry Pratchett’s Guards cycle and Witches cycle and the Tiffany Aching Cycle might be some of the best writing in western literature. Particularly recommended Night Watch, I shall Wear Midnight, Thief of Time.

        5. Everybody else has already answered, but I’ll give you my two cents anyways 😉 I’ll note that I haven’t read a lot of Heinlein’s stuff (currently have most of it in audio, waiting for free time, I can read a LOT faster than I can listen, but I’ll be spending 8-9 hours a day on the road the next month or two, so they will get listened to then, hopefully). What I have read about half I have liked, I highly recommend Farnham’s Freehold (my favorite) and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (sortof mil-sf, and very good) but honestly think Heinlein was at his personal best writing juveniles. I’ll also second the recommendation on any Kratman (start with A Desert Called Peace), Ringo (don’t start with the Council Wars), Weber (start with On Basilisk Station) and will add Michael Williamson (start with Freehold) and Elizabeth Moon (start with either the Vatta Wars series or the Serrano Legacy series, and yes like Scalzi her politics leave something to be desired, but they don’t really show up in her books), and Linda Evans (start with The Road to Damascus, co-written with Ringo). David Drake and Jerry Pournelle are both good, but I preferred the above authors, also if you want some classical SF, try Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series.

        6. What everyone else has said. With extra stars for Ringo’s March Upcountry (and the rest of that series), Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (which I still need to finish recording in audiobook form), Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books (but you have to read the first three in one go because the first two end on cliffhangers).
          And Hughart. Bridge of Birds.
          I’d add the Miles Vorkosigan series, by Lois McMasters Bujold – You can start with Cordelia’s Honor or with Young Miles, both of those were excellent. And while it’s a doorstopper and the first book in a oh-my-heck-how-many-are-you-writing-and-how-slowly-are-they-coming-out fantasy series, Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings was great.
          And while not SF, you should definitely read Gates of Fire, by Stephen Pressfield. Seriously. One of the best books I’ve ever read. And oddly all about personal responsibility and obligations. (So much better than 300. Ugh.)

          1. Second that endorsement of Pressfield’s Gates of Fire. Read it twice.

            The biographies of Genghis Khan, Hannibal, Tamerlane and others by Harold Lamb were published sixty or more years ago but are still without peer in their genre.

          2. For Sanderson, I’d start with Mistborn or Emperor’s Soul first. I’d recommend Alloy of Law, after all, how many Western era guns and magic fantasies are out there. It really depends on knowing the magic systems and events from first Mistborn trilogy. Oh, and to answer that “how-many-are-you-writing” question, 10 for that series, and 36 for the entire Cosmere cycle, of which eight are published. (He got a bit side-tracked writing the last three books of the Wheel of Time.)

            1. So, a good aerobic exercise routine, healthy eating…

              I love the Writing Excuses podcast he does (with Howard Taylor, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowal) and apparently someone put an entire semester of his BYU writing class up on YouTube. (You know… for fans.)

    2. “He ate what was set before him” is one of my favorite lines. It’s weird how something so seemingly trivial sticks with you.

  5. This is a sad but sorry truth. The bottom line is that then enemy is no longer at the gates they are among us. Granted, I’m divorced but there is only so much mental/emotional abuse I could take (try being told that you’re an asshole because your job doesn’t pay enough… then being told that you’re an asshole for looking for a new job because it’ll most likely mean a different shift and putting the kids in daycare… then getting an angry stare and “You’re a jerk” when you ask your spouse how to resolve the two. True story.) and it was making the kids cry.

    The fact remains that many people (including my ex as far as I can tell) just don’t want to make the effort for their spouse or their kids or anyone else for that matter. The reason for this is simple: It’s work.

    What you’re describing is not malice and it’s not even negligence. It’s laziness and entitlement. Making a marraige work is not easy. It requires effort. It may mean not getting to do everything you want to every day. It may require an effort to keep people from outside the marriage from interfering. It may require *GASP* compromise and if there’s one thing that most people in this country refuse to acknowledge it’s that you can’t always have things Your Way Right Away. That is the biggest problem we face. What you’re describing is just a symptom.

    1. My deepest sympathies. I do not fault divorce, when it’s for the right reasons, and I agree with the idea that kids would rather come from a broken home than live in one.

      And, yes, it takes both to make it work. For an extreme example, my parents knew a nice man with a dreadful wife – continually saying her husband wasn’t good enough for her(and saying women didn’t like her because she was too beautiful (the first night they met her, Mom and Dad told me all about it the next day, they were so appalled)). He got rid of her by telling her he’d lost his job (which wasn’t true), but they’d be able to get by if they were very frugal. She was gone in a matter of months. Good for him.

      1. ” I agree with the idea that kids would rather come from a broken home than live in one.”

        I wish I could provide a citation, but I’ve read that that’s actually not the case. Kids fear, more than anything, the loss of their parents. Even parents who fight regularly will, assuming no violence, generally provide a better environment *from the kid’s point of view*, if they stay together than if they divorce.

        Alas, I don’t have any links to back that up, so take it for what it’s worth. Maybe someone else has read articles or studies that touch on it. It’s certainly counter-intuitive from an adult perspective, but kids have their own opinions on these matters.

      2. My parents fought horribly and in many ways had a marriage where most people would have considered divorce justified. However, they decided to stick together through it all (mostly for their daughters, I think). I will be eternally grateful they did so. As a child I didn’t ever, even when they weren’t getting along at all, wish that they would divorce. And miracles do happen– it took more than thirty years of serious effort, but now they have a very happy marriage. (And three daughters who never had to go through the trauma of a broken home.) Granted, the miracle would never have occurred if both of them hadn’t been willing to work for it.

    2. One whiny OWS protestor (is that redundant?) complained that she couldn’t find a good job with her degree and weren’t you supposed to follow your dreams?

      1. Nothing wrong with following your dreams. The problem comes when you expect someone else to foot the bill.

      2. The poor kid was taught this.
        Yes, I chose to follow my dreams — but I paid for them too in a sometimes incredible (looking back) amount of labor. I did everything a stay at home mom does, plus more to compensate for only one salary in a world geared for two (strategic shopping, for instance. Also furniture refinishing. Sewing. Etc.) AND I got up two hours before the kids to get my writing done for the day. And then I read and studied how to write late into the night.
        I understood I had the right to FOLLOW my dream — I did not have a right to CATCH it.

          1. earned every bit of it – that’s another thing I don’t hear enough of. I remember a friend declaring self-righteously about what right a certain person had to a large salary, and I said, “Because he EARNED it. He worked his butt off for it.” She looked at me like I’d just landed from Mars.

            1. This blog format does not enable sound embedding, else you would be hearing nails on a blackboard, expressing how I feel about the “You didn’t build that” rants of the current president and the recently elected Scold from Massachusetts.

        1. In Steven Ozment’s conclusion to “Flesh and Spirit” (about family life in Nuremberg between 1450-1630), he wonders if children would be better served today if we emphasized stability and duty first, dreams second. As in, find a way to support yourself and your family, then chase your dreams. There would be a lot fewer disillusioned college kids, and I bet it would reduce the cries about “its for the children!”

          1. It’s what I tried to tell my kids. Yeah, yeah, write or draw or feed your heart IN YOUR OWN TIME.

            If my teaching degree had been accepted here, I’d probably have a day job. But I’d have stayed home till two years ago or so, to raise the kids.

            1. “Kid – if Einstein could decipher the secrets of the cosmos while on his lunch hour, you can pursue your bliss after work.”

    3. ” if there’s one thing that most people in this country refuse to acknowledge it’s that you can’t always have things Your Way Right Away.”

      You hit the nail on the head, a lot our problems in this country boil down to selfishness. I distinctly remember complaining about having to do something for someone (what I don’t remember, just that I had said I would do it, was expected to do it, and didn’t want to) and having a friend ‘advice and explain’ that I needed to look out for myself and do what I wanted to do, not what was expected of me. It made me somewhat uncomfortable, and disappointed in this friend (who was a good friend) because I have always lived by the motto, ‘ your word is your bond.’ If I say I am going to do something, I will do it, I might not want to, and I might grouse about it, but I WILL do what I say I will, and expect others to do the same.

    4. Jean and I have been married 47 years — including 26 of them while I was on active duty in the Air Force (16 moves, several LONG separations, etc. – the norm). Marriage is hard work. A good marriage doesn’t “just happen”, it takes time, effort, and energy from BOTH husband and wife. One of the keys to our success is that we talk to each other (not by each other), and we LISTEN. There’s another lesson today’s kids don’t learn, or few of them learn: if the parents are still together and have a happy marriage, the kids are far more likely to marry and have a happy marriage. Of course, they also have to acknowledge that they CAN’T have everything they want NOW, and that any sacrifices they have to make are SHARED sacrifices. If only one side does the sacrificing, there’s going to be a TON of resentment, no matter what. “Commitment” is a word tossed about freely, but it’s also true that those who are truly committed to making a marriage succeed will likely have a happy marriage. (As an aside, the length of time you “go together” may have some bearing on how well the marriage lasts, but Jean and I knew each other five weeks when I proposed, and less than three months when we got married. YMMV)

      That said, sometimes stuff happens, and the stress is too great, the lack of commitment may not immediately show up, or character traits that weren’t immediately visible come to the fore. Also, people change over time. These things can add up to enough of a problem that a separation is the only viable option.

  6. I often believe that , after the power hungrey, “big govt” appeals most to those desirous of shirking their own obligations and duties.

    As for our society not being focused on children, I anticipate an argument with you about your line there when next we meet. Although most likely you mean different than how it can be read. Because I think we have a society whose entire culture is oriented around the whims of the fourteen year old mentality … albeit oft in a twenty-four year old body.

      1. I suspect that a lot of modern education is about keeping adolescents from growing up. We put them in the highly artificial environments of high school and college, without the economic responsibilities that accompany adult life. Then we expect them to be ready for adulthood.

        1. “Then we expect them to be ready for adulthood.” I don’t think so: I think “we” have elevated childishness (that is, “being child-like”) as a replacement for adulthood. And as we inch into Lord of the Flies territory, anyone pointing it out gets back some form of “they’re being true to themselves.”

          1. Who’s “we” white man? When we work with people, or when we interact with them socially, we expect them to act as adults. Maybe the government doesn’t, but the government is not “us”.

        2. Adolescents are easier to manage. Sure, they are whiny and prone to tantrums, but they rarely are able to organize (as opposed to being organized) into a long-term group advancing their self-interest. They tend to be easily distracted, (emotionally, intellectually and financially) insecure, and responsive to base appeals.

          1. Yes. Give them lots of sex and drugs and rock n roll, allow them to take for-credit classes on the wonderfulness of sex and drugs and rock n roll, dumb down the curriculum, replace serious study with propaganda and appeals to emotion….

        1. Actually as I was writing this, I didn’t even go into that, but we’ve become so upside down that even people who WANT to raise their children suffer considerable social pressure not to. First, there’s the fact that there’s an EXPECTATION of dual income. It’s nice to say “well, you can do without nice things” and that’s true, but it’s the people you’ll be associating with, too, and the circles you run in. We were lucky as when the boys were small we knew a bunch of families where the mom elected to stay home. But living on Dan’s income only we were, by definition, living on “a college graduate’s income” not “two college graduates’ incomes” and yes, there is a difference. I’m not the sort — never was — to associate only in “my social class” so I didn’t care as much as other people would have and frankly thought those who didn’t talk to us because our car was a rust bucket were not worth talking to. And being Odd we had plenty of friends at all levels of education who could hold fascinating conversations. BUT again, most people aren’t that way. Still, even on the purely monetary front, there were extremely tight places, and that was with Dan doing WELL. Then there was the fact that people WOULD berate me for “Flushing your education” — people starting with my mom and moving on to total strangers. The social PRESSURE right now is to let low-education strangers raise your kids because “you’re better than that.” (No, I’m not.)

          1. Agreed– just recently our Governor was going for early-kindergarten (basically child care because the children could be as young as three)– I’ll just say that he is not in the President’s party.

          2. In my parents’ generation, all young couples started out poor, no matter where they wound up in later years. It was expected – your first car was used (and you only had one); your furniture was orange crates. My childhood home had an empty room – we were going to get furniture for it later. You made do, and saved up to get better stuff in the future, when you could afford it. My parents both were very disapproving of the Boomer-and-after practice of getting top notch furniture and new cars, right off, instead of saving.

            1. When I would come in with a new piece of stereo equipment, my Dad would look at me and say “Just can’t stand prosperity.”.

              1. Well, stereo equipment is another thing. We had some pretty decent-for-the-times stereo equipment, as I recall (to be fair, Dad put a lot of it together from Heathkits himself).

                1. When I was 11 I wanted my own radio. Dad was reading Three Men In A Boat (stop me when this sounds familiar) and when I asked him for a radio he said “So? Get one.” Well, I had no money, and my brother wasn’t going to give me his radio. So I went through family discards and built a functioning tube radio out of three old ones. Had it for the next seven years, when mom bought me a stereo for my birthday, because I used the tape player to help me teach English.

              2. Reminds of a small town I used to work in, staying at a motel all week. About a half a mile from the motel was a rundown trailer park, there was a younger guy (older than me at the time) that lived in a rusty singlewide there, at least a couple days a week when driving by after work I would here the stereo playing loud enough to hear with the windows rolled up while driving by (the trailer park was about a hundred yards off the road) and see him outside waxing his new, candy apple red Corvette. Everytime I did I would think to myself, “Yup, he’s a bachelor.” 🙂

            2. Heck, in my generation, too … oh, wait, maybe I could be your mother … but I’m only 27 on the inside. We started out with a Chevy Chevette, one chair in the living room, no TV, a mattress on the floor, and a dining room set given to us by the in-laws who chose to upgrade just then. We felt lucky to have that much. Curtains were those cheap Indian bedspreads thumbtacked over the windows. Now … 30 years later … trying to declutter … sigh …

              1. We got our first kitchen table and our first coffee table from the dumpster when a neighbor moved. I refinished them. 😛

                Yes, thirty years later, trying to get rid of excess so we can downsize the house is interesting. Where did all this cr*p come from?

                1. My sister in graduate school and her friends would go “trashing.” Which is to say, walking around the neighborhood on trash day, and making the trash collectors’ jobs easier.

                  1. Yes, we actually picked up a dresser this way. And the other dresser from the St. Vincent de Paul store. Actually, we rarely bought anything new until the kids came along … then we went hog wild with all the adorable baby equipment …

                  2. Around the university town where I live, at least until this recovery started, the middle of May and end of July had prime dumpster diving opportunities when the students moved out. And at least one seasonal “company” seemed to make its existence from fixing up the best of the furniture they could grab and selling it at move-in times. Now, the students have yard sales and I haven’t seen the cheap-furniture trucks out at the supermarket lot for a couple years.

                    1. The chocolate ration has been increased from 30 grammes to 25 grammes. A true sign that times are getting better.

                    2. Yes, here the local kids all go dumpster diving around the university housing every spring when the students move out, it is amazing what those students whose mommy and daddy pay for everything will throw away. ( I don’t know how much of that has changed in the last couple years, because I no longer work with anybody from the younger generation, to come to work and tell me about all their and their buddies great finds)

                    3. And some don’t even bother to put it in a dumpster. My first landlord at Flat State U made a tidy sum off the electronics gear abandoned by college students. His manager furnished her apartment that way, and had a much better sound system than I dream of having.

                      The architecture grad students fought over cleaning out the lockers of the kids who dropped out (“but this is haaAAArd! I can’t have a life!”). They’d score hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of drawing supplies.

  7. It has occurred to me that this “me, me, me” stuff is the dirty downside to psychology. Most of the counselors I’ve seen tended to encourage “what I did/said/thought was RIGHT for ME.” They were in my court 100%. I only had one (God bless him) who was willing to call me on my b*s when I needed it. Hard to find BTW. But a lot of the current solipsism can be attributed to the wide dissemination and simplification of therapeutic ideas down to sound bytes. Has the added cache of being “scientific” too.

  8. What else can we expect from the “if it feels good, do it” mentality. [Frown]

    1. Yes.

      There is a reason that I have said, or at least wanted to say that Gosnell was a reasonable extrapolation of sexual mores in our society. It didn’t shock me, because I had made predictions that included that in my childhood modeling. I wasn’t appalled more, because I was appalled to begin with.

      Not to say that I think there were any societies that ever existed whose sexual mores don’t squick me to some degree.

  9. I think the reason that phrase gives me such hives is that it’s so often used by people to give Absolute Moral Authority to whatever they are proposing (see Gun Control Legislation) so often by the same people who have done such an awful job of making the society a better place for children. The same people who have given us all the policies that broke the family, the MOST IMPORTANT thing for a child, now lecture me about laws as a moral imperative, while I work each day with the results of all the family breakdown, with no good options. I told my boys that once you are a parent, you have obligations, no rights. But it’s worth every second.

    1. As a child, I developed a child oriented political ideology for children. (As in, solely for the benefit of children, and making no effort to appeal to adults, those during and after puberty.) Even then, I intuited that it was mostly useless, except for shaping my own thinking.

      Adults can be significantly more effective, competent and powerful than children. If the next generation is large enough for society to be viable, there is no way to have an organization capable of ensuring child welfare, unless the convictions of /all/ adults are for that anyway. Law and politics have little to no ability to create deep, overriding convictions in people.

      I had lessons about human evil in daycare/pre-school. I extrapolated adults from there.

      An adult with weak convictions, or convictions the other way, and the right kink, is likely to put more effort into developing their ability at predation than any given child is likely to put into counter-predation. I certainly didn’t get the impression that the other children had spent as much time figuring out what was behind ‘Do not talk to strangers’, and figuring out and living a system of counter-predation strategies.

      As an aside, I’ve just figured out some of why nanny state bugs me at a visceral level. It activates some of the same warning instincts that ‘Hey kid, I have candy and puppies in the back of my van here’ does.

      Yes, there are things a kid can do. But the core driving factor is the adults around them, and whether the convictions of those adults lead them to help or hurt the kids. Politicians and the like who think they can fix things with law or something, are taking shortcuts. Shortcuts undermine conviction, if anything.

      As a kid, I knew I had some influence over my own convictions. I certainly could not control all of the adults in my area. I read, I learned about adults, what they thought about sexual mores, and so forth. I thought about the sort of adult I didn’t want to be. I did not know if my desires would survive puberty, but I had to try.

      1. Glancing at the Washington Times today I saw two headlines supporting this thesis:

        Sen. Harry Reid: ‘Government is inherently good’
        Gloria Steinem compares U.S. ‘reproductive freedom’ limits to Saudi Arabian subjugation of women

        Such gob-smacking stupidity defies rebuttal.

        1. I heard the Reid sound-bite on the radio and as I recall he said, “Government is inherently good, that’s why we have the constitution.” I immediately thought, “No, Harry, if government were inherently good, we WOULDN’T NEED the Constitution.” There’s that line about men not being angels and that angels don’t govern men. Whoever said that, he got it. 😉

  10. I confess that I don’t believe in rights any longer; I can’t know what rights you have against me, but I can know what duties I have to you. It’s a logic thing, and a person having duties at least acknowledges the primary moral agent in a situation where choices have to be made.

    1. Rights cannot be “against” anyone. No one has a “right” to your time, your wealth, or your respect.

      1. Nonsense. Everyone has negative rights against you — rights to demand that you refrain from something. Like, say, murder.

        Positive rights are another matter. However, yes, people can have a right to your time or wealth. If you injure someone, that person has a right against you to compensation, for instance.

        1. Andrew didn’t seem to me to be talking about negative rights. And the right “not to be murdered” is more commonly expressed as the “right to life”.

          And, again, Andrew didn’t seem to be talking about compensation for injury, but much more broadly. The statement that he doesn’t believe in rights seems incredibly broad.

            1. The key to understanding the concept of Rights embedded in the US Constitution lies in the word “inalienable.”

              Certain rights are intrinsic in being a living moral being: the right to life, to liberty, to property and to pursuit of happiness. Your exercise of those rights does not require that others relinquish their own rights (there is no right to not be “offended” — that restricts others’ rights of free expression; your right of free expression requires you accept the consequences of its exercise, whether that be a punch in the nose or shot in the dark.)

              Other rights are not, in fact, rights, any more than calling a dog’s tail a leg makes for a five-legged dog. These are rights such as housing, healthcare, luxury cars and trips to Chechnya. Exercise of such rights requires abrogation of the inalienable rights of others. As government is established for the protection of the inalienable rights, the more any government violates those rights in the name of putative rights, the less legitimate that government becomes.

              1. (there is no right to not be “offended” — that restricts others’ rights of free expression; your right of free expression requires you accept the consequences of its exercise, whether that be a punch in the nose or shot in the dark.)

                I have to respectfully disagree here. You DO have the right to be offended. What you DO NOT have his the right to tell someone that they can’t say/do something because it offends you. The right to speak/write what we believe and worship as we choose is going to lead to people being offended. That’s ok. Those people still need to learn to suck it up and deal with their hurt feelings and accept the fact that the other buy probably finds them just as offensive.

                  1. I think I was either unclear or that you misread what I wrote.

                    I did not deny that you have a right to be offended; indeed, being offended when some twit imagining that poetry is merely putting lots of spaces between your sentences and justifies utterly stupid expressions of compassion is nearly a moral obligation.

                    What I meant is that You do not have a right to suppress the free speech of others merely because you don’t like what you hear. Efforts to suppress “Hate Speech” constitute prior restraint and violate “really truly” rights, the sort of rights whose exercise governments are established to protect.

                1. People have the perfect right to tell someone that they can’t say/do something because it offends them. That, too, is freedom of speech, and that it offends you is a positively silly reason to suppress it, given your stated problem with it.

            2. As a type of arbitrator, I need to say that it is essential not to conflate rights with contractual obligation.
              Rights, by definition, are God-given, and cannot be removed, only violated. They are not provided by a loving government as a compromise. There are no negative rights. Rights are positive, and apply to the individual. The only negative involved is when someone else disregards your rights and attempts to negate them.
              Obligations are a contract. As in, if I do this you agree to do something in return: these are contractual obligations. The cleanest are the ones where we write out an agreement and we sign it, or the obligation has been established through legislation (overtime is one, and even that has exemptions). Murky ones are where we shake on it. Really messy ones are where the obligation is carried not in law or open agreement but carried in expectation, cultural mores, or peer pressure.
              These can be negotiated, compensated or set aside, redefined and arbitrated. Rights, by definition can only be violated, and their rememdy may be financial, bonding, agreements for future behaviour, but what they may never be is set aside or ignored without further violation of the same rights.

              One of the biggest blocks to reaching an agreement on a violation of contractual obligations is for one of the parties to decide that they are rights. this stance is a 100% position and has no wiggle room, and is very hard to negotiate beyond “the other person does what I say”. In truth, negotiations go much easier if you can redefine the agrument from “it is a right like freedom of speech and freedom from slavery and self incrimination” back down to “what agreed compensation we can prove to be left owing.”
              But be wary of conflating rights with obligations; by doing so you cheapen both.

          1. I make it rather broadly. I have a duty not to kill you (meant generically) under most circumstances, just as I have a duty to leave your property alone again under most circumstances. Arguably, I have a duty to protect my neighbors, arguably I have a duty to protect kids/elderly/disabled – people unable to look after themselves. Simply because we’re part of a community.

            And you have a duty to resist if I transgress. If you’re not _willing_ to look after yourself, what’s left to you, really? Vague hopes? Unanswered prayers? If that’s all, then you really had nothing to begin with. Fat lot of good your _right_ to life was if you’re dead on the ground. A duty, though, is an act of will. As I see it, if you argue for a negative right, it can equally be expressed as a positive duty on my part in some form. So “rights” aren’t needed in the discussion, and the word generates confusion and imprecision.

            I’ll grant I believe, somewhat, that in those G-d given rights all Englishmen have. I have seen, however, humans acting for good or ill. And I believe I have a duty to resist “ill”.

            1. I think you are talking about enlightened self interest: it is your duty to yourself and yours to make sure that the rights of others are not violated, in that yours will be protected in turn. A community, a culture, a self organized group _with a rule of law_ will support the law for that reason. Where the rule of law is ignored or bought off, there isn’t any really any reason to support it- but that is even more a reason to defend it now.
              Enlightened self interest is why we support rights, not the rights themselves

              1. I’ll have to think on that, but saying “not the rights themselves” bugs me a bit.

                1. Well. If there is no benefit but a lot of disadvantage to supporting a right, it is hard to drum up support for it. Then of course if rights only benefit some and they take from you to ensure them for others it is hard to be very interested in the whole thing.

                  This brings me to an interesting question. Can rights be imposed from without, and if they are, are they still rights?

                  1. Imposed -that’s a tough word. Besides the G-d given/natural rights do you mean? It seems counter intuitive to me.

                    1. If you had a society, or a species, that did not recognize a right, say to life or property, could such standards be imposed on it, and how should they be done?
                      Would the Frolixians understand the reason for the right to life if they are a hive entity and replaceable as so many ants since they are a race of hyper intellegent mole rats that live in a clan based society of intermixed breeding and non-breeding castes – and why should the human colonists care? What about instilling a sense of property in a human sub-culture that only has things that it either obtained by fraud, theft or fencing stolen goods? Beatings and imprisonment may not work, and rewards are what they are already getting.

                    2. I think you need to go back to the Founding Fathers and read what they read before the used the term “natural rights.” Your questions would be miraculously answered 😉 and I wouldn’t be gritting my teeth– bad for me– the dentist said so. Locke– would be a good start.

    2. I have always that Rights come in pairs with Responsibility. You might say that if you have no responsibilities, then you have no rights either. Rights are earned by responsibilities? In general but not absolutely. You have the right of free speech but not the right to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theater without cause.

          1. Which year?


            (runs even faster, dodging and weaving)

            Actually, I agree with emily61. We all have inalienable rights, derived from our Creator. We have the responsibility to exercise those rights in such a way not to impair the rights of others. One of the biggest problems with today’s society is that most people want to exercise their “rights” (many, if not most of which AREN’T rights) without accepting any responsibility. Society cannot function like that for very long.

            1. “I have the ability to do something, therefore I have the right to do it.” is about how I read a lot of that behavior. And, not functional very long at all. (I shall simply hide momentarily.)

  11. My father once told me this tale of high school acquaintances of his. This fellow knocked up his girlfriend so of course, it being those times, he proposed marriage and she agreed. And, it being those times, when he was killed in a car wreck before the wedding, his best friend stepped up and proposed marriage. Because that’s just what you did back then.

    1. One Danish princess went to Russia to marry a prince there. He died first. His dying request was that she marry his brother. Took a bit, but they did.

      1. GRRM has addressed such sense of “responsibility” in Gamey Thrones.

        I do not agree with his argument, but it is entertainingly made.

        The idea of marriage has historically had little to do with romance and much to do with unification of family interests. Viewed in such light the actions y’all have described are entirely reasonable.

        1. The obligation is actually in the Torah. I don’t know if it is still observed today. When a cousin of mine(first, I think) died at 32 with no insurance and left behind a wife and 4 children, my father supported them until they supported them until they were self-supporting.

          1. If you wouldn’t let a puppy die on the street, why would you let a baby go without a mother and a father? If you love your best friend, why would you want your best friend’s baby to go in want?

            Of course with the royals, it was a matter of diplomatic obligations to each other’s country and to their own countrymen. “Let’s not have a war; let’s have nice family ties instead” was the theory. Didn’t always work, mind you, as Queen Victoria found out, but it was generally worth a try.

          2. It was (before CPS made things difficult) the tradition among the families I write about that if you had more children than you could cope with, for whatever reason, you gave them to close friends and family members as “gift children.” A couple that had no children, and thus no support and no way of passing on an estate, might take in three or four from family members or adopt orphans. I’m sure it was not a perfect system, but it certainly helped everyone involved. I know of one couple that had nine children, three of whom were sent out as gift children. Another very prominent family with no children adopted two, one of whom would have been shunned otherwise (bastardy).

  12. Dear Sarah,

    Please fix the spelling of Heinlein’s name in the first paragraph, it is driving me batty.


  13. Culture critic Michael Medved has divided Hollywood films into two broad categories: “Follow Your Heart” and “Do Your Duty.” It is a useful prism for spreading the elements of cultural messaging.

    To cite just two examples likely appreciable by those here:

    Look at the depiction of events on the Titanic the night it hit the iceberg. Specifically, compare and contrast 1958’s A Night to Remember with James Cameron’s monster (in full sense of the word) hit of 1997.

    The second example coming to mind is found in the themes of Joss Wheadon’s Buffy, where the demands of doing your duty to your society and your friends eventually even trump the afterlife. (Incidentally, this series, and Firefly are part of why I separate the artist from the art: Wheadon is assuredly Left, but his art values Truth above Correctness.)

    1. I suspect Whedon is confused and conforming in his utterations. He may believe what he says, but when he lets his characters speak and act…

    2. This.

      I discovered Buffy in the months following my spouse’s massive stroke, which crushed our entire family and changed our lives forever. We spent a summer watching 2 episodes a day. I *was* Buffy, bearing a burden not of my choice, a burden which meant I was forever separated from normal life, a burden which protected others from unimaginable horrors, and which I could choose to drop at any time … but instead chose to pick up that stake again every night … sole caregiving with a handicapped adult and 2 psycho-teens is a lot like that.

      And in Firefly, one of the earliest episodes where the gang finds out their deal involves stolen medical supplies which they return … the Marshall or whoever the lawman is tells Mal that a man who finds himself in that position has a choice to make and Mal replies “I don’t think he does.” That.

        1. I’ve got a mini button on my backpack that says “May have been on the losing side—still don’t think it was the wrong one.” It’s right next to the Mossad emblem.

          1. You have a Mossad emblem on your backpack? *glares while trying to remember which Commandment he is currently breaking by coveting his neighbors emblem*

          2. In Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, he observed that he thought by leaving Communism, he was leaving the winning side.

            To be sure, when he bought a gun, the gunstore owner surprised him by asking him what he wanted it for — so surprised that he admitted he was afraid of prowlers. The owner said that that was a great gun for his purposes. He left thinking as long as we had that sort on our side, we would not be defeated.

        2. What’s so great about Buffy? I’ve tried to watch several episodes now and just don’t get it?

            1. The first season had a lot of weaknesses that can make it getting into hard as well. Starting with second season works even better for a lot of people.

              1. Babylon 5 was the same way. I wanted to like it but it wasn’t a priority until second season started and Michael O’Hare ended as a regular.

  14. Regarding the post WWII diaspora, the widespread presence of highways and automobiles are a contributing factor, but if you have never looked into the topic of DPs (Displaced Persons) at the end of that debacle it is worth a few hours of study.

    The forced repatriation of untold number of Eastern Europeans into the loving arms of the Soviets is a blot that The West will never clean from its escutcheon.

    1. Sorry, I don’t believe in collective guilt. I didn’t send anyone into the gulags, just as I’ve never owned a slave. That the political body I am part of did in the past is no more stain on me than are the actions of the ancient Scythians.

      1. Not talking about collective guilt here, not even the sort expressed by the idea that “we elected and thus endorsed, or by our acquiescence abetted, the politicians who took those actions.”

        But when pundits talk of “greatest generations” it is prudent to reflect on their errors as well as their achievements, lest those errors repeat on us.

  15. I approve of the Heinlein mentions, of course (my grandmother made sure I had those), but I also grew up loving really old stuff – Victorian and early 20th century – which are loaded with the old virtues. I’ll take Victorian horror and ghost stories over just about anything modern; the Victorians really understood the underlying good vs. evil spirituality that the moderns don’t get. The Oz books, in particular, are still some of the best kids books ever. George MacDonald’s fairy tales are also wonderful – The Light Princess is required reading IMO (short, funny, and free on Gutenberg).

    I do have one counterpoint to all this – a trend I’ve seen. I’m a fan of historical crime, and one chapter in a collection – I knew someone was going to be murdered, because it was that kind of book, but I didn’t know who or how. The situation was a young widow, left with one son. The author spoke of how devoted she was to her son, and how she dedicated her life to his welfare – and with just that, I knew exactly who was victim and murderer. The author spoke of how ungrateful the boy was, how he would get into trouble at school, but his mother would plead for him to be given another chance, to be spared punishment, and how, when he was around 18 or so, he finally snapped and killed her. I wasn’t surprised in the least.

    But that reflects another kind of selfishness –a parent making the child their reason for living. Sadly, I know of more than one divorced woman who has done that (in all cases, with a son – I suppose it could happen with a daughter, but it doesn’t seem as likely), and can’t understand why the child pushes so hard to get away.

    1. The Oz and MacDonald books, certainly. I also recommend the muti-coloured Fairy books and (as close as you can find) the original Brothers Grimm.

      Properly written Historical Mystery, e.g., Brother Cadfael. demands that you recognize the values and standards of their times in order to solve the complex of motivations comprising the mystery. This is a valuable exercise in recognising how much of our own values are temporal anomalies rather than eternal verities.

      Someone — Chesterton or Lewis, I forget which — wrote a marvelous essay on the utility of reading old books because by taking us out of our own times we are able to see our times more clearly. Perhaps somebody here has a link to that essay?

      1. the fairy books are free on Guttenberg. I was an idiot child and hated fairytales as a child, as I had the impression they patronized me. So I read them in my late teens at a time when I had run out of everything else to read.

      2. YES to the Andrew Lang color Fairy Books! The illustrations alone are worth it (I’m a huge fan of the great late Victorian/early 20th century illustrators like Lang and Howard Pyle and Maxfield Parrish).

        I love historical crime because it gets you down into the nitty gritty details of how people lived and what they were like. I lean toward true crime over fictional these days (fictional too often leads to the author imposing their own idea of reality on the story; granted, non-fiction does the same, but to a lesser degree).

      3. It was a common theme of C.S. Lewis. What you’re probably thinking of is “On the Reading of Old Books”. (Page 200 in the essay collection God in the Dock . I’m sorry, I don’t know a link.

        It’s possible that Chesterton talked about it as well, I don’t know.

        1. There’s a lot of stuff Lewis talked about that Chesterton talked about first. Not a dig against Lewis, mind you, but rather a plug for Chesterton’s usefulness to apologetics and thought, and Lewis’ obvious love of Chesterton.

        2. I find it all too easily to confuse the aphorisms of one for the other, where Lewis & Chesterton are concerned. At my ideal dinner party the two of them sit across from each other, with Dietrich Bonhoffer and Sam Adams alongside.

          Sadly, I don’t see myself making the cut to join them.

          BTW: a few decades back Steve Allen had a brilliant concept of a show, called Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds, a round table discussion with figures from History seated on a McLaughlin-like panel. A panel might consist of Ulysses S. Grant, Marie Antoinette, Thomas More and Karl Marx:

          wherever possible what each guest said was taken from quotes of those people consistent within the context of the topic under discussion. When this wasn’t possible, what he or she would have said was inferred from the history of their actions.

          Much depended, of course, on the willingness of the writers and actors to do proper historical research.

          It might be fun to see it adapted for an SF con — say, a panel with Wells, Verne, Campbell & Heinlein — but fistfights would probably break out. If somebody were to create a 1-man RAH performance (a la Holbrook’s Mark Twain) to perform at cons I don’t doubt it would be a tremendous draw, although many heads would explode.

          1. I loved Meeting of Minds – I was able to see the last incarnation of it on PBS, long ago. I remember Genghis Khan taking a seat next to an alarmed Emily Dickenson. ^_^

            1. Cromwell, Disraeli, Catherine the Great, and Daniel O’Connell. I had an audiotape I made of it as a kid, and I listened to it for years and years. (Only ep I ever saw. I think my dad decided I needed to learn about Daniel O’Connell, although possibly it may have been Catherine he wanted me to see. Or Disraeli. Or maybe all of them.)

              1. I think I remember that one – or at least Catherine. Is that where she says “I gave him Poland” on how she got rid of one of her lovers?

      4. That’s also mentioned in my favorite Lewis essay, “Learning in Wartime”. Which I blame for every Internet fight I get into.
        “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” – C. S. Lewis

  16. One of the nicest comments I ever got about my books (specifically, my SF trilogy) — “sci-fi series that I can give to my (early) teenage daughters in the hope that it inspires them the way Heinlein did me back in the late 70’s.”

    Don’t worry, Sarah, I’m not comparing myself to the Master 😉 I look at it as giving myself a standard to work towards. And it is a reminder that people ARE looking for human-wave-type books to give to their children and friends to give that “guiding hand” you mention.

    1. Sabrina– so far I have really enjoyed your novels. I keep checking to see if you have anything more up– write, write, write.
      And Kate if you can hear me, more Con books, write, write, write… 😉

      1. Thanks! You and my mother 😉 At least she nags me about books and not grandchildren. I could have it much worse…

        And yes, I’m writing. Next up is a collection of very silly short stories.

  17. One of the major calamities of Western Civilization was acceptance of the idea that “children must be left to find their own way” and that “parents should be friends with their children.”

    Tommyrot. A child wants and needs a structure, a support to which they can resort while learning about the world. They need to know manners and etiquette in the same way an artist must learn the basics of craft: in order to fly above such strictures when necessary, and to know how to tell when it is necessary. It is more harmful to deny a child these structures than it is to use them to imprison the child’s spirit.

    As for being friends … you can only be friends with peers, with your equals. As a child cannot, by definition be an equal to an adult, to be a child’s friend requires the adult must reduce his (her) capacity to that of a child. Thus being your child’s friend means abandoning the responsibilities of adulthood, of remaining childish yourself. No child needs this, however much they might want it. What our children need and deserve is adults being adults, modelling how to bear the burden of being responsible.

    Used to be our society had multiple organizations for allowing children to grow, providing them with models of adulthood. But the Girl Scouts long ago abandoned all that and the Boy Scouts are apparently in the process of buggering it all up as well.

    Human Wave writing needs to exemplify the importance of being grown-up and explain the satisfactions inherent in doing so. Those pleasures are often too subtle for the coarse times in which we live, so they want more explanation than the “Playboy lifestyle” — but they are ultimately more satisfying, as well.

    1. I’ve always blamed Dr. Spock. He was a huge proponent of that style of child-rearing. I’ve always wanted to write the anti-Dr. Spock book. I had a parent that told me that they didn’t believe in discipline, because it “harmed the child’s spontaneity”. My response was “That’s your job!”

      1. Ah, but now we see the dark side showing up, where a parent is supposed to train tiny babies to do their business on command, run their kids’ lives in a Machiavellian way (and no, not the nice useful bits of Machiavelli either), and browbeat any outsider who resists the parental totalitarianism. Argh argh argh.

      2. I forget where I read about the new fad of trendy parenting: going diaper free. Apparently the parents simply leave little bowls about for the wonderful unfettered geniuses bowel deposits.

        I did NOT go further in for fear I would glean details I did not wish to know.

        One minor matter of curiosity, regarding your line reading:

        That’s your job!”


        “That’s your job!”


        “That’s your job!”

        ??? Whichever way you delivered it, kudos.

        1. PLEASE tell me you made up that fad. Bowls of poop. YUCK. And I thought litter boxes were bad.

          One of my colleagues, btw, had a daughter same age as older son. When older son was tiny and I met colleague, we talked about child raising. Or rather, he talked and I shut up and wondered if I was doing it wrong, because Robert… well… You know those books “raising the willful child?” They were talking about Robert and until he could understand “we take the computer away” the only thing that worked was smacks on butt, without which neither he, nor the cats, nor us would have survived. My colleague, meanwhile was raising his daughter “frustration free” which he said made a little hard to take her out in public, but she was so free, and joyous at home and all that.
          I worried, because of course, Robert is not particular joyous and when you’re two it’s hard to tell if the rearing will make you creative or not.
          … Six years later, same colleague was complaining that his daughter had become a burden and was impossible to live with and played no small part in his divorce.
          I wonder how that young lady, now legally an adult, is faring.

          1. Do not, repeat, NOT, put the phrase “diaper free babies” into your search engine.

            ALL intelligent parents worry about “doing it wrong” — because virtually nobody does it right. Think of it as “limiting damage” because that’s about the best you can hope to attain.

            The parents who (and whose kids) scare me are those who are sure they aren’t doing it wrong.

          2. Jean and I are friends with a man that has written dozens of books on child-rearing. One thing he stresses is that children both need and WANT limits. They want to know what they can do, and what they can’t do. If you don’t set limits, they push them, sometimes to the point of serious injury. The other thing is, they will TEST those limits, so you need to be consistent. You’re also supposed to provide fewer limits as they grow older and can assume more responsibility. Doesn’t always work, and he admits that. It DOES work most of the time.

            1. Well, there are limits forever out of reach — you will not hit us. You will not kill people. you will not steal things. BUT we started easing year by year.
              My mom was very shocked when she visited. Robert was 6 and he could make scrambled eggs in the morning and he made sandwiches for himself and his brother, if I didn’t get around to it. The shock was partly because in Portugal even grown guys don’t do that if mom is around. But it was also “they’re too young. Why do you let them do that?” “Because they can.”

              1. Good for you– I have seen so many boys/men who should be able to take care of themselves, but are learning very late– (in their 20s). I like to see competent young men. 😉

              2. My great-grandmother never let her kids in the kitchen. When the Spanish Flu hit, and my grandmother was the only one ambulatory, she knew how to cook oatmeal and nothing else. They all survived, but they were very sick of oatmeal by the end.

                1. When the family got sick, and my dad was the only one standing and had to cook. He knew how to cook two things: chicken rice and tea. Yep.
                  Mind you, it was awesome chicken rice.

          1. I think what I read was a reaction to that article. I try to avoid NYT articles (except about Baseball) because stupidity is contagious.

            1. A lot of cultures do go diaper-free (like today’s Chinese, even), but that’s because they either have a nice dirt/clay floor, or because they really don’t mind cleaning the floor constantly. Or possibly having the servants do it.

              (Yeah, I read about this once in an expatriate’s blog, whose Chinese neighbors thought she was kinda weird to use diapers. Their peer pressure didn’t bother her. I think the Japanese used to do it, but now they have carpet.)

              1. Yes. Exactly. I was thinking of what cats do to floor boards and ick…
                The early potty training thing doesn’t bother me. Portugal potty trains much earlier (Lack of pampers until recently. If you have to wash every diaper by hand summer or winter, you get it in early. One of our neighbors trained her son at 8 months so it can be done. But they did it the way we potty train. Diapers, then sit baby on potty, etc. None of this “Go in public, at a party.” Ick. Only the very rich could come up with this.)

  18. I have actually seen, with my own eyes, a blog in which a discussion about men who leave their wives and children because of their sexual orientation actually harped on how horrible it was that only half of them actually left. It was deplored as evidence of how much the “white picket fence” myth of America had a hold on their imaginations.

    1. If you are interested in the subject, there is a book out called _The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce_, by Wallerstein, et al.

      It is a 25 year follow up to a study on children of divorced families, and balanced against non-divorced families. All things being equal (and absent of actual abuse) children of non-divorced families tend to do better. The study draws conclusions as to why.

  19. One notes that the people are not in fact pursuing happiness, but pleasure. Pleasure as a means to happiness is greatly inferior to meaning. For one thing, meaning allows you to handle the curve balls life throws at you better. And meaning can only be found in self-control.

    Theodore Dalrymple gives the ugly results of what happens when you ignore this here.

  20. And neither of them probably cared one whit about originality, since sound dogma is, by its very nature, not original.

    1. I deduce that this was meant as a response to one of the comments about C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton

      ’cause I’m clever.

  21. 1. I’m late to this discussion and will almost certainly revisit ground already covered :oops:, but hopefully not only revisit ground already covered. Also, I haven’t had kids and at my age it’s highly unlikely that I will.

    2. Tsk tsk. So many judgmental people here. Don’t you know you gotta follow your bliss? It’s part of the…wait for it…hero’s journey. 🙄

    3. The notion that childhood is preparation for adulthood is apparently obsolete, as is the notion of a rite of passage. For reasons discussed in the post, such obsolescence amounts to making a virtue out of necessity convenience.

            1. Elizabeth Warren graduated from high school at 16. She didn’t get to where she is by being honest—nor by being stupid.

              Nor by being lazy. Her posture (the way her head tilts forward) suggests someone who has spent years of long days hunched over a desk.

              She’s likely not done. When her backers gave her all that campaign money, IMO they had more than a Senate seat in mind.

              1. “Elizabeth Warren graduated from high school at 16. ”

                And hasn’t learned a thing since.

          1. I had no such notion, but I’m impressed by how you imply that I did. Perhaps, indeed, a glamorous life of power, distinction and wealth beckons to you from Washington DC.

            Y’know, I wouldn’t call your post Shermanesque…


            1. We’re online. I can tell you I hid under the nearest table, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as my actually screaming and diving for cover at the suggestion.

              1. But who else can speak for those who are given no voice?

                I ask you to reconsider. Your future constituents beg you to reconsider. The nation insists that you reconsider…for the children.

                Pssst, this is the kind of stuff you wanted, right, boss?

      1. Recovery from (a toxic distortion of) bliss? Do you mean recovery as in Twelve Step programs and the like?

        1. My family? Substance abuse. But we appear to have genetics and environment on our side.
          You may have different results.

  22. Sarah, I’ve always considered my early life as a ODD as a role reversal. Reading so much Heinlein in my youth, I saw the world as a marvelous, magical place. Then I’d put the book down and look around. And I could understand why some children are autistic.
    It’s like I was stolen FROM the fairies: I knew one world, magical, etheral, nebulous, but was forced to dwell in another; harshly lit, rimmed in cold iron and concrete. It’s not my world, and I can’t go back ….
    Anyone else have that feeling of homesickness? Of being lost in another world?
    No wonder I like SF&S. I’m looking for a map to go back.

    1. They say everyone feels that way. (And Chesterton and Lewis tend to use it as a lesser pointer toward the existence of God, the Fall, etc.) But yes, you’re in the right place.

    2. I think that feeling is somewhat common. Just off the top of my head, I remember in C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy, Lewis describing getting unexpected moments of joy that made him feel homesick.

      In L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon, Emily describes such moments as “The Flash”.

      And in The Muppet Movie, Gonzo’s song, “I’m going to go back there some day” is just full of similar images.

      (And I think that the fact that only one of those is real, and the other two are fictional is entirely beside the point.)

  23. Apparently the husband and I are stranger than we thought (and we thought we were pretty strange). For starters we’re both of the opinion that if you bring it into the world or make it dependent on you, it’s your responsibility for the rest of its life or yours or until it can live independently, whichever comes first.

    Of course, we don’t have kids for several reasons (including the many genetic timebombs we know we’re carrying and because we’re both certain we’d be terrible parents). We’ve also both noticed that everything in how the modern world works is geared against children. From a tax system that pretty much requires two incomes (and the people who do without that are a damn sight braver than I am) to the nannies having fits of the vapors because kids are actually playing! Outside! Without adult supervision! It must be child endangerment!

    It’s beyond insane.

    1. …nannies having fits of the vapors because kids are actually playing! Outside! Without adult supervision! It must be child endangerment!

      And the whole helicopter parents thing.

      While I don’t disagree with anything in it, I’m increasingly feeling that the post is only part of the picture.

  24. One of the few times I wanted to hit a fellow grad-student with a clue-bat was one night when an immature 23-yo girl borrowed the next week’s assigned reading books for a class. She hadn’t done that night’s reading, either. “I’m taking a ‘me-semester’.” She’d actually had her mother take time off work and drive several hundred miles to dog-sit because Grad Student “had other things to do” besides deal with a sick pet. I wanted to take the book (hardback) and knock sense into her skull with it. No, I didn’t yield to temptation, nor did I loan her the book.

      1. It’s not a new thing. Back in college (40+ years ago) we had a classmate whose parents had literally done everything for her as she grew up.

        Housework. Cooking. Homework (at least up through high school). Everything you can imagine.

        My (eventually, after I wore her down) wife was then a student supervisor for the women’s dorm housecleaning department, and got this precious petal as one of her workers. She could not tell said petal to do any task at all and expect the work to be done; even the simplest tasks had to be outlined in excruciating detail. Repeatedly.

        She wasn’t actually stupid, I don’t think, just completely lacking in experience and unbelievably passive in nature. Her parents couldn’t bear to see her fail at anything, and “saved” her from any risk of it.

        DW did not go quite mad, if only because she caught an opening in the college bookstore, saved by the cash register bell.

        The precious petal in question these days probably would have managed to get classified as disabled, And lived evermore off our taxes.

  25. Reminded by your mouse comment: “Your uncle Patrick drowned last week in a vat of Irish whiskey at the Dublin Brewery. A few of his workmates tried to save him, but he fought them off bravely. They cremated him and it took three days to put the fire out.”

    1. ROFL. Well, my son just finished a story of a cat fighting off rats in a brewery. Yep, it’s a prequel to Cat’s Paw and it’s called Rat’s killer. The plotting discussions led me to think of that image.

    2. “At least it was a quick death.”

      “No, he got out three times to go to the bathroom.”

  26. My wife and I raised three children. Somehow they all grew up sensible and mature, in spit of my efforts. Somehow they learned to deal with their children much better than I did. They must have learned from my mistakes.

  27. “but you can’t expect the man to sacrifice his every hope of happiness because he made a mistake.”

    But there are many routes to happiness, no circumstances block them all. See Solzhenitsyn for example.

  28. One of my working principles for voting is that any ballot proposition that is named for a victim, especially a child victim, is a bad law and should be voted against. Not that it does much good.

    1. There was a law floating about a few years back named after a child. It allowed the child to refuse to visit one parent in prison if the reason for imprisonment was murdering the other parent. . . which is perhaps reasonable in itself, but I looked at the case and thought — “What if the victim had been her brother or sister, or aunt or uncle, or grandparent? What if it had been the babysitter — which is relevant because the mother had been killed in the child’s presence, spattering her with blood in the process? What if the mother had survived? What if the father had not even intended to kill her and was doing time for assault and battery?”

      Letting a child refuse to see any parent in prison for a violent crime committed against a family member, or in the child’s presence, would make more sense, but they were so fixated on this case. . . .

  29. Sarah, it’s a good thing you’ve chased off the Progressives already. If too many of them read this, they’d get together and do an OWS in your front yard.

    I was going to say, get the tar and feathers, but, you know, evil hydrocarbons and animal exploitation . . .

    If they show up, record this post and play it out your windows. Or maybe some Heinlein. A few of them might learn something.

    1. Check with Fish and Wildlife, as that might be considered hunting a baited field….

  30. In recognition of the distaff participants here with USN on their CV, this story ought not go unremarked:

    BELLICOSE WOMEN UPDATE: US sailor thwarts Dubai bus driver rapist after putting him in strangehold with her thighs and then beating him into submission. “An off-duty US navy sailor wrestled a bus driver to the ground and beat him into submission after he attempted to rape her at knife point, a court heard yesterday. Prosecutors said that she knocked the knife from his hand, broke it in two, bit him in the hand, forced him to the ground and locked him between her thighs. The woman, 28, was on 24-hour shore leave in Dubai and was attacked as she returned to the port where she was based after a day shopping.”

    Posted at 2:13 am by Glenn Reynolds

  31. “Rights” without responsibilities. . . aren’t. What one has when asserting one’s “rights” without accepting responsibility for one’s actions is libertinism. People who assert their “right” to be irresponsible are selfish to the point of sociopathy. Oops. Are we creating a society of sociopaths? *sigh* Yeh, we are. All for me and who gives a rat’s patootie about anyone else (unless, of course, they can serve my ends)? Me, me, me, me, me, me, me.

    Rights are THE “coin” of humanity, and that “coin” has two sides: benefit and responsibility. One aspect of that responsibility, as my grandfather put it, is “Your rights end where the other guy’s nose begins.” One ALWAYS has to, at the very least, consider one’s rights in the context of the rights of others. In any case, anyone who rejects responsibility for the effects (real, reasonable effects, though, not simply “effects” imagined in someone else’s mind*) of their actions on others is at least working on becoming a complete jerk who deserves whatever hell the universe has in store.

    But. . . [rights, freedom, liberty]-[responsibility] is the cornerstone of the Hivemind’s (and its co-conspirators, fellow travelers, cronies and the like) narrative that’s designed to destroy society. Upon that cornerstone, any lie can be placed to assign privilege or approbation, to levy blame and false shame, to sack the “outs” to pay the “ins” etc.

    1. Consider Tolkein’s point about Elves > Orcs, Ents > Trolls and Sauron’s inability to create, merely to contort.

  32. Science Fiction authors are supposed to be good at anticipating cultural trends, but Sarah … this is ridiculous:

    Is Twenty-five the New Fifteen?
    April 26th, 2013 – 11:46 am
    by Helen Smith
    That’s the question asked in the 1st chapter of a book I am reading called Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old. From the book description:

    Do you sometimes wonder how your teen is ever going to survive on his or her own as an adult? Does your high school junior seem oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead? Does your academically successful nineteen-year-old still expect you to “just take care of” even the most basic life tasks?

    Welcome to the stunted world of the Endless Adolescence. Recent studies show that today’s teenagers are more anxious and stressed and less independent and motivated to grow up than ever before. Twenty-five is rapidly becoming the new fifteen for a generation suffering from a debilitating “failure to launch.” Now two preeminent clinical psychologists tell us why and chart a groundbreaking escape route for teens and parents.

    Drawing on their extensive research and practice, Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen show that most teen problems are not hardwired into teens’ brains and hormones but grow instead out of a “Nurture Paradox” in which our efforts to support our teens by shielding them from the growth-spurring rigors and rewards of the adult world have backfired badly. With compelling examples and practical and profound suggestions, the authors outline a novel approach for producing dramatic leaps forward in teen maturity, including:

    [MORE: ]

    1. I remember an article solemnly declaring that their brains keep maturing so actually putting stuff off until 25 or so is wise. . . .

      I couldn’t help wondering whether it’s lack of chances to mature that drives that.

      1. I suspect that you’re correct Mary. There have been periods of time in the past where even a boy of 13-14 was given adult tasks and expected to act as an adult. In one of the Brother Cadfael novels, two Squires around 14 years of age were given the job of carrying a treasure safely out of enemy hands. If they hadn’t been betrayed, it was obvious that they would have carried out that task just as if they were full adults. IIRC the author of the Brother Cadfeal novels knew the times of her novels quite well.

        1. Look in our past, a hundred and fifty years ago on the frontier a boy was considered a man not at a particular age, but when he could do a mans job. There was many a fourteen year old man out there doing a mans work for a mans pay. Even twenty to thirty years ago in rural areas it was not uncommon for a boy that age to be holding down a regular job with all the responsibilities of one ( I wouldn’t call them ‘grown up’ because they were seldom living on their own or supporting themselves). Now we have legislatures trying to pass laws to allow no one under 18 to drive a tractor.

  33. This is a great post. One of the purposes of human society is to convince the adults to produce more than they need for themselves so that there is enough for raising children and other activities. But “work hard so that the state will have enough tax revenue to do what it likes.” Is just not very motivating. People need to have personal obligations with human connections to them to keep a climate of industriousness in the culture

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