there is one great lack in modern city life, it is the fact that, the
larger the city is, the more likely it is that the residents of the
city will lack any sense of "community" with their fellow residents.95
Another way of stating this same thought is that big city life is so
complex and impersonal that the individual no longer feels that they
are really a part of it, and thus the individual no longer feels any
automatic relationship to other individuals in the city. In a way, this
results in a sort of a personal isolationism: you withdraw empathy from
other people and turn inwards towards your own internal concerns.
old Roman patriarchy seems a fitting starting point for specifying how
to do the things which I have previously suggested. The Roman patriarch
was the guardian of his sons until his own death. If his sons married,
they would bring their wives to live with the patriarch in his house,
and if they had children while living there, the extended family would
increase in that manner.
We make parents and children responsible for each other,96 but we have no formal policy which recognizes a similar concept that grandparents and grandchildren have some rights and duties towards one another.97 And there is certainly no need to limit this concept to grandparents and grandchildren, although it is still fairly rare for there to be more than three generations of any given family alive at any one time. The general rule should be that each person has some rights with respect to, and some duties toward, every other living person who is either an ancestor or a descendant of that person.
We should make these ties neither too strong, meaning that the descendants should not be forced to live in slavery to the wishes of their ancestors, nor too weak, meaning that we would have virtually the same situation which exists today. Both are wrong. The principal dividing line on the strength of this responsibility, however, would seem to naturally be a question as to whether these individuals are living in the same household or not, combined with a question as to whether the oldest person(s) in the household have reached a state of dependence or not. But, since some rights and responsibilities should be recognized "until death do us part," the dividing line is not between responsibility and no responsibility, but between greater and lesser degrees of responsibility.
In cases where there is no question as to elder dependence, and where a common household is being maintained, then the eldest generation in that household will be assigned the primary responsibility for all individuals in that household. So, in a situation where a young girl in the household gets pregnant and has a baby, it is the grandparents which are assigned primary responsibility for seeing that their grandchild is raised in accordance with the standards that society requires for all children. While much of that responsibility is quite naturally delegated to the immediate parents, the grandparents must maintain a role of supervision, correction, and instruction which amounts to a graduate course in parenting for those particular immediate parents.
However, unlike the old Roman patriarchy, the younger generations are not slaves of their elders in any sense of that word. If the time comes when the intermediate parents feel that the grandparents are not contributing to the raising of the children, but are actually inhibiting that process, their remedy is simple: move out. The act of establishing a separate household dissolves the greater level of duties and responsibilities towards one another, but it of course never dissolves the lesser level which is permanent in nature.
95 I have known this for a long time. However, the night before I wrote the beginnings of this part of this book, Dateline NBC ran a piece about a study performed by the University of Fresno which came to this exact conclusion: the sense of community that you feel with your fellow residents is most directly predicted by the inverse of the population density. The most visible manifestation of this sense of community is the willingness of the residents to unquestioningly give aid to strangers. Thus, if you need help from strangers, you had best hope you are in a more rural environment. There are lots of correlating factors, including the documented reactions of the citizens of Oklahoma City (a more rural environment) to the bombing in that city. The bottom line is that, in a more rural environment, you are much more likely to identify a stranger as being "one of us," while in a more densely populated area, you are much more likely to identify strangers as being "the enemy," and ignore them.
96 For example, with certain exceptions, parents and children can be forced by the courts to provide financial support for one another, regardless of age, if the need to do so is obvious.
97 This is most obvious in situations where the grandparents are deprived of virtually all contact with their grandchildren due to the divorce of the parents, or similar situations.
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