I love the topic of family roles for my blog because the family unit is such a fundamental element of society. Outside of public institutions, the family is primarily where good neighbors, voters, and future parents are formed. What came through in a conversation with Margarita after she posted “Family Roles” is that the clash between traditional and modern is really a clash over who knows best. Modern culture suggests that we know what is best for ourselves as individuals. Traditional culture suggests that what is best for everyone is revealed in the patterns of common experience. So whereas Margarita’s experience is real and concrete, I just want to offer a couple of thoughts, viewing the issue somewhat more abstractly.
First of all, there should be no denying that older people are more experienced, that they have learned lessons we have yet to learn, and that the knowledge that age brings with it is invaluable. Yet we often do deny it, and the main reason why is because we younger, more modern, generations believe that their knowledge is unimportant for several reasons. We think much of their knowledge is circumstantial, and that what worked in the 1970s is not necessarily going to work in the 2010s, yet they push it on us anyways. Their views are seen as prejudicial, rooted in an older worldview that is insufficiently appreciative of diversity, tolerance, and authenticity. And they understand life itself incorrectly when they mock the necessary explorations and experimentations individuals must all personally engage in if they are to discover what truly makes them happy.
On the other hand, while these critiques certainly matter, it all comes back to the value of experience. Yes, experience has to be properly interpreted, and there are quite enough of “old fools” out there to prove that age does not automatically bestow a crown of wisdom and virtue. But the present also has to be properly interpreted, and there should be little argument that it is the here and now that is harder to understand correctly than is the past, if only because we have had less time to think about it.
The other overwhelmingly important consideration is that in the here and now, our passions rule. Before the expression “love is love” became so popular, I used to hear “love is blind” far more often. And there is a tension between the two sayings. If love is blind, then sometimes love is headed in the right direction, and sometimes it is not. If love is love, then the implication is either the neutral claim that love has no “right and wrong” to it, or the more optimistic view that love always moves us in the right direction. Both of these seem off to me.
What our traditional culture is trying to do when it pushes its wisdom regarding love and relationships on us is to impart sight into a largely blind force. It is to reject the often misleading thought that “love is love.” It is to save us from our near-sighted, impassioned selves. And, even if sometimes misguided, it makes sense why it is trying to do so. It is itself an act of love, an expression of the hopes and sympathies felt by the older for the younger, and especially the good will, concern and protective instincts of parents for their children both young and old.