Humans are a social species. Our greatest achievements, for good and for ill, have all come from the collective effort of thousands of people, often spread out over multiple generations. Mainstream discourse in the United States holds that the “Nuclear Family” is the foundation of all of that, and more conservative people will often go farther to claim that that structure – a cis man, a cis woman, and their children – has been central to all “greatness” in human history.
As with many such assertions, this quickly falls apart as we look at what’s known about human societies around the globe, but there’s a persistent effort to erase, denigrate, or dismiss any alternative ways of structuring our communities, past and present. Abigail Thorn’s video about witchcraft, gender, and Marxism explores the ways in which modern gender roles began to be enforced in Europe, and the role the witch hunts played in creating the world we all live in today. Where she focused on economic theory, concepts of magic, and historical eras, Saint Andrew’s video Rethinking Family focuses on family structures, and the roles they have played in making us what we are, in limiting our understanding of ourselves, and in limiting our power to resist oppression.
U.S. culture is obsessed with “the individual”, while also discouraging more than the most token expressions of individual identity. We are told to think and act as individuals (outside the workplace) and to define ourselves by work plus whatever we can do in our spare time – usually some form of consumer activity. In my view, understanding who we are as individuals requires some understanding of what we are as Homo sapiens, and in forcing everyone to conform to a particular vision of “the family unit”, we have been lied to about what we are. Not only does this make it difficult to truly understand who we, but that lack of understanding also greatly impedes our ability to shape ourselves, and determine the course of our own lives.
The Nuclear Family is an artificial construct, and one that has never been real in the idealized form we were taught to strive for. It’s past time to re-learn who and what we are, and allow humans to be humans.