The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do the Work


More children are abandoned by fathers than created by thoughtless mothers. By far. I expressed my open, clear contempt for men who do this. I don't feel contempt for women who make this mistake. I consider it emotional damage more than laziness and irresponsibility. Are such women "bad"? The ones I know worked their asses off to try to be good mothers. I think that they made incredibly poor decisions, though, and that their children paid for it.


How does a boy with a bad father/absent father find male energy to push against? Coaches, martial arts instructors, teachers, bosses with a heart...priests and ministers, neighborhood Real Men who you can ingratiate yourself to by offering services or trade...there are many ways. And how are they supposed to know to even try to do this?

Because people like me say things like this, openly and publicly, and take the heat for it. And the more people who say it, the easier it will be to rail against the images in popular culture.


What are things like outside the U.S.? I've traveled a fair amount, and I think some things are pretty universal. The more a child's survival is influenced by memes rather than genes, when those memes must be (or are optimally) passed from both mother and father, the more likely that child is to survive if the father sticks around. Further, if the child is relatively helpless for a long period, then either the father sticks around to provide, or the mother must have strong family support, or the child's probability of survival diminishes.

So, even in the animal kingdom, IF a child's survival is enhanced by the presence of the father, the genetic or memetic propensity to raise one's children enhances chances of successful reproduction.


Now, then, what do you say about the fact that, rather clearly, one sterling reproductive strategy is to simply have all the kids you can, and with as many different mothers as possible? I think this works in the short term. What I see in American communities where this has happened is that the communities are no longer self-sustaining. They do not produce goods and services that can be healthfully exchanged to provide the food, water, power, education etc., and become pus-pockets that drive out the most responsible and hardest-working and capable members of the community. They collapse within a few generations. Short-term gain, long term pain.


Do I hold women more responsible for the welfare of the children? Yes, because they are uniquely biologically suited for that position. Do I hold men more responsible for the physical security of the community? Yes, because they are uniquely biologically suited for that position. Yes, this is men judging women. What of it? Women judge men whenever they want. In fact, human beings judge human beings. It's what we do. If I had a baby-machine in my tummy, I would have been MUCH more careful about who I had sex with, I promise you. It wasn't until I was in my late thirties that it even occurred to me that women might have a different set of imperatives about sex, and that led to my realization that I'd been an irresponsible ass.

The truth is that if the problem is in our back-yards, we all pay more attention to it. Trying to pretend that men and women have equivilent priorities with non-equivilent biologies seems self-defeating. You can make it work on paper, but you can't make it work in the real world.

I've never known a single person who was MORE strict with their sons, sexually speaking, than with their daughters. Not one. Many who tried to make the rules the same for both, but frankly, the majority, men and women, in any culture in the world I've ever studied, are far stricter with their girls than with their boys. Pure practicality, and we can rail against that, and call it bullshit, or whatever you want, but you can't get past the fact that boys don't get pregnant, and if your son gets a girl pregnant, it simply doesn't impact you the same way it does if your own daughter gets pregnant.

Maybe we SHOULD react that way. We'd be better, more spiritual people if we did. But we're not. We're just people. And as tragic as it may be if your neighbor's house burns down, we breathe a secret sigh of relief that it wasn't ours.

So, yes, I give women more responsibility, because nature did. But I will do my level best to make my son live by the same rules his sister did.


No, fat doesn't equal sick. Obesity is a medical problem, however, fat is fat?


In an agrarian society, having lots of kids can make you wealthy. But in our society, the way to life yourself from poverty is most certainly NOT to have lots of kids. So poor people who waited ten years to have kids, using that time to complete their educations, get a trade, learn how to manage their money and so forth...will build a better foundation for their future generations, if they can postpone the "fun" of 3am feedings. Remember: your hind brain wants to make babies. Boy, does it ever. You have to learn to say "not this time" and roll on a freakin' rubber, o.k?


Yes, it is genetic suicide not to reproduce. But I know too many people without children who live happy, healthy lives to think it's the end of the world. I'm sure they feel regrets at times, but so do parents.


I stick with the position that healthy people can find and maintain healthy relationships. I'm sure exceptions to this rule exist, but I haven't seen them yet. People say "I know a man who is apparently healthy, who keeps getting his heart broken..."

And the first thing that comes to me is that he has poor judgement in women. And that means, to me, that he doesn't know himself, or his own feminine side, very well at all. That doesn't sound like health to me.


Am I saying women who deliberately get pregnant out of wedlock are man-haters? No. I think they are confused, damaged, and overestimate their own state of health/balance. In my mind, you can't hate the outside world without hating yourself. This is one of the reasons that you have to start with self-love, the ability to look in the mirror and see the little boy or girl you once were, and love that child without reservation. To realize that every choice you've made your entire life was an attempt to feel loved, safe, and closer to the Divine. To forgive yourself, and others.

That is a path of healing. And as long as you would be attracted to yourself, really, should be able to find a partner. The only problem I've ever seen is that people don't want to do the work necessary to heal.

Again, (by the way) I don't mean this is true in 100% of cases. But I'd be willing to bet on better than 95% of cases, and considering that most of the people I know who are alone either

1) say there are no good men or women or

2) Beat themselves up unmercifully and consider themselves worthless

I'll maintain my point of view. Love yourself. Take responsibility for your results. Do the work.


Christian M. Howell said...

I really think you should leave this topic alone.
I had two parents who didn't really like me and I came out fine. Why, because I believe in the natural order and use of things.
Beautiful women - the majority of single mothers - have more pressures than you could ever imagine.
On the one hand, men want this Madonna and on the other hand we keep the whores around with glass ceilings.
On the one hand we demand that they be there for our needs but we will quickly say that's how it is when they question our behavior.

We expect them to ultimately respect us but they don't get that.
Do you realize where porn is right now? We have RUINED the women with our bullshit.

All the "it's wasn't me, I didn't do that" crap just makes them hate us more. Sure you can say you have a woman, I can say I have too many, but things are so bad that I can't even promote sex anymore, much less relationships with Biffy and Rufus.

We wander around like nothing has happened to change people's behavior. That's foolishness. I see America really as a third world country with nukes. People don't excel anymore. They just wander. We have an IMMENSE shortage of scientists and engineers as every "man" - yes I use the term loosely - seems to just want trickle down in their bedroom regardless of their perversions or lack of effort.

That needs to be fixed and the women will be fine, single or not.

Anonymous said...

There is a great post on Scott Sonnons blog today about personal accountability. Making the hard choices and EARNING the reward. I think you are dead on Steve. People sell themselves short with stupid choices. It is a fact that woman have a lot more to lose in terms of pregnancy. A real man would never walk away but he CAN. She can't. In an era of corporate bailouts and welfare supporting families I think it is about time someone start pointing to individuals to take responsibility for what they can control and stop expecting others to do it for them.

Josh Jasper said...

Genetic suicide not to reproduce? Genes don't have a conscious minds. I do. Me choosing not to reproduce doesn't make me in any way suicidal. The ideas that my genetic code is important enough to have to be passed along is nothing more than egotism.

I get just as many people staring at me when I say "I don't intend to ever have kids" as I do when I tell them I don't own a TV.

Anonymous said...

Even someone who is basically healthy and sound can make mistakes and bad choices. The moral ones pay the piper and take responsibility. I think this is especially true with relationships.. Hard to see the truth sometimes when what you want seems so close... Been there done that. Thankfully the wife and i were friends before we went out. Its helped our marriage stay strong through some rough patches..I cant agree with Dan, i think it is squarely 50/50. ive seen too many women many of them related.. get warned about a guy, hell in one case told that the guy was a scumbag looking to get a woman pregnant so he wouldnt have to work..She steps in the fire and gets burned.. I cant even understand a guy who walks out on his children. unfortunately responsibility, morality, and consequences are not popular themes in our society. langdon

locksmith mesa said...

Great post! love your writing style.. =)

Steven Barnes said...

Can't leave this topic alone, Christian. I appreciate your position, but disagree with it. Men and women have the responsibility to comment not only on their own gender, but on the opposite one. And women are not going to be "just fine" unless men are...and vice versa. There are too many people out there saying there is nothing to be done. There is a HUGE amount to be done: and it starts with individual human beings behaving in a responsible adult fashion, and then speaking their truth. Out of that cultural discussion will come whatever direction we should attempt as a species. Not to speak on this would be the worst kind of cowardice. Notice that about 75% of posters agree with what I'm saying, and are happy I'm saying it. I'm speaking to them.

Steven Barnes said...

I'm operating under the theory that there is a connection between the actions you take, the emotions you feel, the thoughts you think, and the results you get. Not a 100% correlation, but enough that the concept of education is universally accepted. All right. I've got the result of a happy, healthy relationship and a happy, healthy family. To SOME degree, this result is based upon my actions. I don't know what it is, but I have to put my thoughts out there so that others can experiment and comment. The scientific method, right? And frankly, ONLY someone who has actually performed the experiment can comment on whether I'm right or wrong. I will bow to the opinions of those who are MORE successful than me at raising children or sustaining healthy relationships. And respectfully decline to modify my attitudes and behaviors for the pleasure of those who have not. They have interesting theories. But only those who are actually in the game know what the game actually is. Having been a child is NOT the same as being a parent. Every child has theories about how they'd be a better mommy or daddy. Every boxer practicing in the mirror knows how they'd beat Tyson or Ali. All those battle plans dissolve the instant the first punch lands. If you want to survive the war, listen to the veterans.

Steven Barnes said...

Or to respectfully put it another way: getting laid is easy. Making babies is easy. Sustaining relationships and being a parent is HARD...but the most worthwhile thing I've ever known.

Lester Spence said...

When you dealt with the American case you were very quick to associate single motherhood with a variety of social ills. I asked you if these relationships held in other industrialized nations to the degree they hold true in the US.

In talking about your travels you didn't fully answer the question. You aren't dodging here...I'm not sure that you'd have access to the data. But that's the point right? You're making assumptions about what is and is not universal based on a limited (arguably tainted) case of one.

And you're also missing some important history.

I asked earlier if blacks living in both the north and the south during Jim Crow followed your wisdom, where would they be? Would black women sire children when there was no way they or their male partners could fully protect them? When state sponsored racial terrorism was rampant?

Anonymous said...

"Or to respectfully put it another way: getting laid is easy."

I always feel despair when someone says that getting laid is easy. I think I have been a successful parent, and it is indeed hard in the sense that it requires constant awareness and attention and, yes, wisdom.

Getting laid, on the other hand seems "impossible" since in my case it seems only to happen when I least expect it; no effort on my part has ever brought it about. Even when I am in a relationship, the default seems to be "no sex." Any effort on my part to change this is normally met with refusal. The idea that anyone can find it easy to "get laid" is incomprehensible to me. Not to mention depressing.

Steve Perry said...

I think the notion that getting laid is easy comes from the idea that you can do so if you don't have particularly high standards. Drive down Martin Luther King Blvd. in most big cities, you can find somebody who will have sex with you. Of course, they usually want money for it, but still.

You can find people with low enough self-esteem that convincing them to lie down with you should be easy. Lot of that going around.

Getting laid is easy if you aren't choosy. Getting laid by somebody you can respect, talk to, and have more in common with than just sex? Maybe not so easy ...