Parents' Liberation and Capitalism

The oppression of parents is intensifying in most countries I know of. As capitalism encroaches on all the cultures of the world, work that creates profit is made to seem far more important than work we do to create closeness and caring as human beings. Nurturing children, caring for the infirm and the elderly, fostering close relationships, and creating community -- all are threatened by the forces that draw men and women into paid work over long hours.

It is in the interest of profit-makers to involve as many people as possible in paid work. Workers make the profits that increase wealth. It is in the interests of profit-makers to see that wages earned by one person are not enough to support a family. This insures that other individuals in the family will work for pay and produce wealth. It is in the interests of the profit-makers to pull as many hours as is humanly possible from each individual worker. This cuts down on overhead.(*)

It is also in the interests of profit-makers to create poverty of time in workers' lives. People who are time-poor are forced to buy more commodities to shore up(**) their existence. Convenience foods, ready-made clothing, child care, child transportation, cleaning services, and devices to occupy children while parents do their tasks at home -- all are opportunities for profit-making that arise from the poverty of time so common now in the lives of working people. Since there is no way of making profit directly from the at-home nurture of children, our work as parents has no economic underpinnings -- no preparation, no pay, no protection from overwork or overwhelming circumstances.

The consolidation of capital into multinational corporations results in the erosion of community in all corners of our world today. Where such corporations wield influence, the work week gets ever longer, the gap between the lowest-paid and the highest-paid workers grows quickly, and we lose access to the essential vehicles of human caring. We lose the time to talk, the time to play, the time to enjoy one another, the time to solve problems in our families, and the time to share meals together. We lose time to direct toward being neighbors, friends, and community activists. We lose the time to learn new things. We lose the time to care well for ourselves and for our loved ones. The time we lose is turned toward making profit that does not, in the end, serve the common good.

Patterns of greed have overtaken, or are in the process of overtaking, the societal institutions that have been built to serve the common good. These institutions have always carried patterns of oppression, surely, but their stated mission has been one of public service. Where capitalism is advanced, public services that have anchored a community, such as school systems, libraries, public hospitals, public safety organizations, and public transportation systems tend to deteriorate. Eventually, these systems are declared "broken," and private corporations are invited to take them over and make profits for them. The family is one such institution that has been overtaken. Many, if not most, families must pay to have their children cared for by others, for what is on average a very small but essential gain in income. There is no support for creating the economic stability that would enable parents to choose to devote enough time to the nurture of their own young children because profit-making comes before the interests of parents and children.

Parents' liberation is the struggle for recognition of the importance of the work of nurturing children. Parents' liberation is the struggle to win the time to love and play and learn. Parents' liberation is the struggle for freedom from the patterns of racism, classism, and greed, which separate, exhaust, and discourage us so that we have little energy for work toward the common good. Parents' liberation is a struggle for justice and good lives for ourselves and our children.

Our work as parents is seeing that people reach adulthood well-loved and powerfully intelligent. It's revolutionary to the core. In places where capitalism is advanced and unchecked, parenting is a counterculture activity -- the values promoted in the culture all draw attention toward consumption and away from the warm, direct, inherent human caring done by parents, friends, neighbors, and community groups. We work toward the common good as we play with our children, as we sort the laundry, as we listen to our children cry because their favorite toy broke, and as we sit with them doing homework. We parents do the caring that knits people together. We make it possible for our children to think and love and learn -- now, and long into the future. We are important!

Patty Wipfler
International Liberation Reference Person for Parents
Palo Alto, California, USA
Excerpted from her letter to parent leaders in RC


(*) Overhead means business expenses, like employee's health insurance.
(**) Shore up means support.

 


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07