Saturday, October 06, 2007

A civilisational mind

Ann Peacock writes what is effectively a woman's page for the Herald Sun. Some weeks ago she wrote an article on grandparents (Grand Tradition Failing, 26/08/07), in which she proved able to think her way out of modernist liberalism. How did she do it?

She did several things which modernists are usually reluctant to do:

a) She recognised an important good in her own experience (the relationship between grandchild and grandparent).

b) She recognised that this is not just an individual, subjective good but something real and objectively true, and therefore likely to be enjoyed by others too.

c) She recognised that this good has been harmed by an exaggerated emphasis on individual autonomy and that therefore autonomy shouldn't rule as the sole, overriding, organising principle of society.

Ann Peacock didn't draw out these points as I've done, but you can see them at work in her article:

I wrote a few weeks ago about a sensational fundraising night - Nanna's night ... I wrote about how beautiful my Grandma and Nanny's memories are to me - sometimes, I think, even more so than ever, especially as I reflect on how our society has changed.

How, due to the trend toward delaying motherhood until we are in our late 30s or even early 40s, we are, by default, playing with fire and eradicating the whole grandparent phenomenon.

I mean, as we were striving to fit and balance our wonderfully successful single lifestyle with a career, and deeming pregnancy as something to be explored later, what we seem to have also been doing is denying our children the experience of grandparents.

Seeing this in so many people I know devastates me, particularly as I believe that love and wisdom of grandparents, along with the unconditional care from immediate families, are responsible for the nurturing of your soul.

Like so many others my age or older, many of my favourite memories of growing up are my grandparent memories ...

Some children in future generations will never know the complexities of that relationship between old and young and I do wonder what the ramifications of that gap will be.

This is very different to the usual liberal way of treating such matters, which is to assume that we are dealing with subjective preferences, each of which must be treated as being equally valid in order to avoid charges of discrimination, inequality, power domination or exclusion.

What if Ann Peacock is right? What if there does exist, as a particular objective good, a close and natural bond between grandchild and grandparent, which is important in nurturing the individual?

I do believe that such a bond exists, having witnessed the love of my own young son for his nan.

In this case, one social arrangement is not as good as another. To prefer one social arrangement, in which we maximise the opportunity for a particular good, is not an act of domination or exclusion, nor is it to be condemned as an infringement of equality.

You cannot have a functioning civilisation without recognising a set of distinct goods and what is required to preserve those goods. Ann Peacock does this, which makes her writing, in this case at least, seem unusually clear and mature.

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