Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

The Garbage Generation
Chapter V
The Mutilated Beggar Argument

In Cairo there exists a cottage industry which mutilates children to be used as beggars. The more gruesome and pitiable the mutilations, the more the beggars will earn. The disfigured children are placed on mats on street corners with a begging bowl and they ask for alms for the love of Allah.

The almsgiver is doing a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is paying for the child's next meal. The bad thing is ensuring that more children will be mutilated.

The Mutilated Beggar technique is employed extensively in the contemporary war over the family. Ex-wives drag their children into poverty and then point to their sufferings as proving the need for ex-husbands or the welfare system to bail them out. The father (or taxpayer) who bails out Mom and the kids is doing a good thing--providing rent and food money--and a bad thing--subsidizing the destruction of this family and encouraging the mass divorce which is wrecking millions of others--in effect, undermining the patriarchy and restoring matriliny.

Here's a nineteenth century example. Ella May Wiggins, a factory worker with nine fatherless children, wrote "The Mill Mother's Lament" to exhibit her suffering and that of her children:

We leave our homes in the morning,
We kiss our children good bye,
While we slave for the bosses
Our children scream and cry....

How it grieves the heart of a mother,
You everyone must know,
But we can't buy for our children
Our wages are too low.

It is for our little children,
That seem to us so dear,
But for us nor them, dear workers,
The bosses do not care.

But understand, all workers,
Our union they do fear;
Let's stand together, workers,
And have a union here.

Wiggins's problem is the fatherlessness of her nine children. The best social arrangement would be for her to have a husband to love, honor and protect her and those kids. Maybe she had a husband and he died and there exists no realistic prospect of a replacement for him. In that case Wiggins is a proper object of charity. Wiggins doesn't want charity. She wants a union which will compel "the bosses" to subsidize her with an income suitable for the support of herself and nine children. She and the kids need the money. The bosses are wealthier than she is. Ergo they should be forced to share. Is she worth a larger salary than other employees who do the same work? Probably not. Probably her nine children decrease her efficiency and increase her absenteeism. If she were paid not the wage she is worth but the wage she needs, other employees who are worth the same amount would have to be given less and would probably seek employment elsewhere, where they were paid what they were worth. The bosses would find themselves losing their best workers and having to operate their mill with needy and desperate workers like Wiggins. If they have competition to meet, they would find themselves disadvantaged, possibly driven out of business, with the consequence that Wiggins and other needy people like herself would be out of jobs. Everyone would suffer and the results would be worse than if there had been no union and no wage increase for Wiggins.

Suppose Wiggins's problem were dealt with at the highest level. Suppose that (as in communist countries) there were a law against unemployment. Nobody would ever be destitute. Wiggins might think this would be a desirable reordering of society. So would a lot of feminists. It would greatly weaken, perhaps eventually destroy, the patriarchal system, making husbands unessential as family providers, making female chastity superfluous, since it would no longer be essential to reassure fathers and husbands concerning the integrity of their families. Sexually responsible behavior would be unnecessary. A reordering of society which would make mothers of nine fatherless children economically independent would pretty well shatter social arrangements, including the family. Incentives for divorce, for male abandonment of families, for the creation of female-headed families would be multiplied. There would be far more cases like Wiggins's and far fewer resources for bailing them out. Children would be at greater risk of delinquency and the other ills mentioned in Chapter I.

The fact is that in the general case (even if not in Wiggins's case) mothers and children are better served by the patriarchal system than by any other. The reason was well explained a century ago by Herbert Spencer, who showed how two very different principles operate within and outside of the family--"the law that during immature life benefit received must be great in proportion as worth is small, while during mature life benefit and worth must vary together." Wiggins would abolish the distinction and have "the bosses" run their competitive business as though it were a family in which the bosses functioned as parents--much as New York's Governor Cuomo believes government should be a "family" for its citizens. The resulting social structure would come to resemble the Stone Age matriclan described in Chapter II. The matriclan creates little wealth and expends that little in keeping everyone marginally afloat. In it, the intense motivation created by the nuclear family is lost. Wiggins's hope is that the wealth will continue to be generated somehow and that she can corner her share of it by employing the Mutilated Beggar Argument to lay a guilt-trip on "the bosses." The system works poorly to generate wealth.

It will be useful to give one or two additional illustrations of the Mutilated Beggar Principle.

Feminist Marilyn French, while rejoicing over women's new- found liberation, complains of some of the economic problems accompanying it:

Old codes of marriage, divorce, sexuality, and child rearing have broken down, but the consequences of this breakdown have been mixed.

Here are the good things resulting from the breakdown of the "old codes," meaning the patriarchal sexual constitution:

People can escape from unhappy marriages, they can use their sexuality as they choose on the whole.

And here are the bad things:

At the same time, men are displaying an irresponsibility about their children that is equivalent in self-hatred to terrorist murder--for are not our children expressions of ourselves? Women and children are the new poor, and a growing class.

It is "good" that women can escape from their marriages and be promiscuous ("use their sexuality as they choose"); but this wrecking of the marriage contract, which deprives the man of legitimate children, takes away his motivation for supporting Mom and her kids--for "our" children means Mom's children, taken away from Dad. Strange reasoning, this, which ignores the obvious causal connection between the breakdown of the sexual constitution, women's escape from marriage and their using their sexuality as they choose ("good" things) and the male rolelessness resulting from this female de-regulation. Why should a man be condemned and compared to a terrorist murderer for no longer performing a role of which he has been deprived? Why is it not rather the irresponsibility of the woman or the divorce court judge which is to be condemned for exiling the children's provider? This is like disbanding the fire and police departments and blaming them for not putting out fires and preventing robberies, like refusing to pay the rent and blaming the landlord for expelling his tenants, like placing children in the father's custody and blaming Mom for not coming to his home to do his laundry, mop his floors and prepare his meals.

Another example. America is giving Madagascar a subsidy in a "debt-for-nature" swap, to encourage them to stop massacring their forests. Environmentalists are said to be enthusiastic "because it helps raise awareness in developing countries of environmental issues." The awareness which will be raised is that ecological irresponsibility pays: Madagascar wouldn't have gotten the money if it had behaved responsibly, would it?

Another. The Irish Law Reform Commission has proposed that the concept of "illegitimacy" should be abolished, since it is unjust to deny rights to innocent illegitimate children in order to benefit legitimate ones. It is the institution of marriage which protects "innocent" children from the disadvantages imposed upon them by the irresponsibility of unchaste parents; and if there are no "illegitimate" children, there can be no "legitimate" ones-- since either term is meaningless except in reference to the other-- and fathers will no longer provide their offspring with the benefits formerly conferred by two-parent families. What is intended to benefit the child-victims creates more of them and maximizes their miseries, since fatherless children really are disadvantaged as the evidence given in the Annex to Chapter I shows.

Here's a different application of the Mutilated Beggar idea, attempting to employ it to gain for women the benefits men earn by work and achievement. Janice Mall, writing a column titled "About Women" in the Los Angeles Times, quotes a feminist to this effect:

One woman, in describing her own feelings about being a minority in her field, provided an image that could help men understand the difficulties: "Imagine that your lawyer, your doctor, your priest, rabbi or minister, your senator and representative, your mayor, the president of your institution, most of its trustees, almost all of the deans and most of your colleagues were all women. How would you feel?"

A man would feel awful--like one of the millions of black youths standing around street corners in the ghettos, or like drifters on Skid Row, or prisoners in jail who see themselves excluded from all high status occupations. The complaining lady implies that there should be affirmative action to place her and her sisters in 51 percent of high status positions--but not in 51 percent of the far more numerous low status positions. The price a man pays for being one of the high status winners is accepting the chance of being one of the losers--a chance which is no part of any feminist program for helping women. Women already have "equal opportunity" to compete for the high status positions; what they now want is an affirmative action program to confer 51 percent of the high status positions on women without them risking the fall into the low-status positions, where real competition would place many of them.

Today there are millions of women caught in the Custody Trap (to be discussed in the following chapter), deprived of the economic security formerly given them by the patriarchal system. These millions of losers are an embarrassment to the feminist movement which is chiefly responsible for their predicament, but which would like them to believe they are victimized by having been compelled to make the "choice" of which feminists write so much: women, they say, were pressured by the sexist patriarchy into being "just a housewife," which was the reason so few of them ever became senators or corporation executives--but also, not incidentally, why so few of them ever became jailbirds or Skid Row bums. The solution, Ms. Friedan told them, was for them to repudiate the "choice," to liberate themselves to become elitists like Mr. Friedan herself, a magnum cum laude from Smith, who writes best- selling books. Trouble was most of the women thus liberated were not magnum cum laude or magnum cum talent or magnum cum chutzpah or magnum cum luck and they were unwanted on the talk shows. They ended up as waitresses or salesgirls or on welfare and discovered that their role in the feminist system was not to be Joan-of-Arc's like Ms. Friedan, but to be humble Mutilated Beggars whose afflictions could be pointed to as proving the need for more feminism and larger subventions from ex-husbands and from the Backup System--so that they could "stand on their own feet."

Charlotte Bunch complains about divorced women not getting as much of their ex-husbands' paychecks as they did during marriage: "No-fault divorce laws sounds like equality, but since male and female incomes are not equal and many women have worked for husbands for years, these laws cut off some women's badly needed and justified right to alimony."

The wives have been working for the husbands, as she says. But the husbands have also been working for the wives. The wife's withdrawal of her services by divorce ends the husband's reciprocal obligations; and if the husband's income is greater, that proves the desirability of having a husband, not the justice of reducing an ex-husband to bondage. If being in need (Mutilated Beggar argument) were enough to ensure the subsidization of ex-wives by ex-husbands, marriage would become superfluous except as a preliminary to divorce. Female economic need is one of the chief props of marriage. Meeting this need by divorce arrangements means subsidizing ex- wives simply because they are female--a reductio ad absurdum of Betty Friedan's insistence that American wives should stop being parasites, stand on their own feet "and compete without sexual privilege or excuse." If a wife is a parasite for taking a virtually free ride on the back of her husband, an ex-wife who takes a free ride on the back of an ex-husband, for whom she performs no reciprocal services whatever, is trebly parasitic. The female-headed families which seek to exploit the Mutilated Beggar argument are the source of most social pathology. Feminists aver that this pathology results from the poverty of these families, the cure for which is more of somebody else's money. But better subsidization of female-headed families would mean more female-headed families, more crime, more illegitimacy and the rest of the ills cited in Chapter I. The alternative to the female-headed family is not a better- funded female-headed family but the patriarchal family, which produces not only more money but less crime, more stability and higher achieving offspring. The props needed to make the patriarchal family once again normative could be easily restored-- the father's control over his paycheck and society's guarantee of father custody in the event of divorce. Father custody would mean few husbands would divorce their wives, knowing that without them they would be overburdened with a double role of breadwinning and child care. It would mean few wives would divorce their husbands, knowing that divorce would cost them their children and their standard of living. It would place economic and psychological motivations on the side of marriage instead of pitting them against marriage.

Father-custody was formerly the accepted arrangement. The first feminists, meeting at Seneca Falls in 1848, made it one of their chief complaints that in cases of divorce fathers automatically got custody of their children. The family stability created by this presumption of father custody was a major reason for the progress and achievement of the Victorian era.

Would women accept it? Yes, as they did in the 19th century, because it would stabilize marriage. Mary Ann Mason, writing in her recent book The Equality Trap says, "Something has gone very wrong with the lives of women. Women are working much harder than they have worked in recent history, they are growing steadily poorer, and they are suffering the brutality of divorce at an unprecedented rate....I fear that the present trajectory of women's lives is aiming toward a bleak future. I see my daughter...and her generation living alone most of their adult lives in small efficiency apartments. There are few children in this dreary vision. Women have given up on having children, not because they have committed themselves to career, but because they have learned too well from my generation that women cannot depend upon marriage to last the duration of child-raising. They have learned that mothers get stuck with an exhausting burden of work at home and in the marketplace."

But whether women would accept the patriarchal system or not, men must insist upon it--insist that the implementation of the marriage contract shall be on the basis of the wording of the contract itself. They must get back to fundamentals, must insist that they enter into the marriage contract primarily to procreate legitimate and inalienable children. They must reject the socially destructive idea, now accepted as a matter of course by women, lawmakers and judges, that the purpose of marriage is to provide women with ex-husbands.

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Annex to chapter I
Additional note

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