Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nuking the Nuclear Family

The concept of the nuclear family became popularized during the post-WWII period. In this familial structure, an adult woman and an adult man are married and procreate in order to produce ~2.5 offspring. The role of the husband/father is to go to work in order to earn enough money to pay for a car or two, the mortgage on his 3 bedroom house and the day-to-day needs of his family. The wife/mother does not work for a salary and instead performs household chores such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children. This arrangement is highly problematic due to the rigidly defined gender roles, the financial dependency of the wife on her husband and the glorification of consumption by conflating it with human worth and success.

In contemporary western societies this half-century old formulation of what it means to be an adult still persists, albeit with some slight variations. Women are no longer necessarily confined to the home and often have careers of their own. Men and women make attempts to share house-hold chores equally. It is more common and acceptable for gay couples to live their lives in nuclear bliss. All things considered, I think we've taken two steps forward and two steps back. Both parents are now working in order to amass more wealth so they can buy more things. This is done to demonstrate status to their neighbours and replace the attention that their children are no longer receiving. Eternal togetherness is still enshrined in the sacrament of marriage and allowing a marriage to dissolve is still deemed immoral; or at least not as good. Finally, you still have reproduction taking place. Billions of vaginas expelling billions of cogs for the corporate machinery and billions of dull-eyed consumers to spend their hard-earned money on whatever the corporate machinery tells them to spend it on. There's got to be a better way!

Well my friends, there is. It's called The Plan. Let me tell you how it works. This scheme can function with two or more persons of any gender and with any level of intimacy between them. However, it would probably be ideal if the conspirators had compatible sexual orientations and were sexually involved with each other (because “sex is fun and pleasure is good for you!”). In a two partner Plan situation, one is devoted mostly to earning a salary through gainful employment (preferably, in a job that is as close to ethically clean as possible and one they love to do) and the other does not work for pay. Sounds familiar right? The difference is that instead of wasting time raising children, the non-salaried member works exclusively in the realms of self-education, social justice, volunteerism, ethical consumption and activism. This way, neither partner gets distracted by trying to both change the world and earn a living at the same time. It also allows one partner to be publicly politically radical in such a way that may get them terminated from most jobs. By having only one member of the team be a wage slave, this allows the couple to earn less and spend less (participate to a lesser degree in capitalism) while still earning enough to live. Also, by living in or near poverty the Planners maintain a similar perspective to the most marginalized members of society. My hope is that this blog will serve as a blueprint for other people to live a lifestyle similar to The Plan; not only for the sake of working towards a better world, but also in order to provide a pool of like-minded individuals for partners to trade off with once members of a couple tire of one another.

In summation, The Plan is part radical relationship redesign and part model for ethical living. It isn't so much a complete explosion of traditional family living, but more of a drastic mutation (by way of nuclear radiation?) where the end result is so warped and shocking that it is hard for most people to even recognize the conventional underpinnings (I came up with the title of this post before I really thought it through but it's too clever to not use, despite its less than complete accuracy).

1 comment:

  1. 1- Do you know whether this has ever been thought of and practiced before, via an intentional plan?

    2 - The one potential flaw that stands out to me is that one partner gets to do rewarding work while the other has to sacrifice by doing a job they may really not enjoy (or may even hate). It reminds me of the way some partners will work to put the other through school or some such training. But the difference is that what you're proposing sounds like an indefinite arrangement, not a temporary one. It might be more equitable for both partners to work part-time and both to engage in volunteer/social-justice-type work of their choosing. Otherwise, their relationship might be jeopardized by the working partner and the socially-active partner growing apart in terms of interests. Or, the partner making all of the sacrifices -- while initially willing -- might, after years of this situation, come to feel resentment for being the sacrificial victim for the sake of a Greater Good.