The Thinking 

On Being a Cultural Dissident

April 10, 2012


SARAH S. writes:

I have been so encouraged to discover your blog. I was home-schooled as a teen (although my mother had one foot out the door working part-time), and find great fulfillment being a housewife and full-time mother today. We look forward to educating our children at home.

Undoubtedly you are a wonderful spokeswoman for the traditional way of life, and yet I confess to being afraid of “sharing” your posts. Not only were my mother and mother-in-law working women, but my sister-in-laws and aunts now follow that model. I am torn between challenging the mindset of my friends and family, in hopes that some (like my younger sister) would see the benefits of staying at home, and trying not to offend the women close to me who have made such obviously different decisions in their lives. I have been told that this or that woman in my family “just isn’t cut out” to have more than one child, do without a career, etc. I must sound like a wimp, but I don’t want to be the cause of discord in relations that have fortunately been very harmonious. Would you suggest boldness or some kind of gentler persuasion? I would take your advice very seriously.

Laura writes:

Thank you for writing and for your kind words.

Your fear of being open about your views is a sign of a loving and kind nature. Something would be wrong with you if you were not afraid of being rejected and ostracized. You are a social being and that is good.

But, you also have responsibilities. If the people you love are doing wrong or are influenced by falsehoods, and if you sense that they are ready at least to listen to contrary views, it is your obligation to draw them to the truth. This is especially true with regard to the example others are setting for your younger sister. Of course, you won’t draw them to the truth by being belligerent or uncivil. I am sure that’s not what you propose. Showing them writings by me or by another traditionalist writer when you are in a one-on-one conversation is an inoffensive way to challenge them. But I don’t suggest doing this at a group gathering or a family event.

Talk to individual friends or relatives privately. Remind them that the majority of their ancestors recognized distinct spheres for the sexes. Why do they think they are different from those in the past? How do they think marriage and children have changed since then?

They will probably point to financial concerns and tell you that you are naive about how expensive life is today. Remind them that people adhered to traditional sex roles when they had much lower standards of living than we do today. Regardless, how much money we have cannot determine our attitudes toward what is good. A disease cannot make us like disease. Poor health cannot make us dislike health. Similarly, economic hardship cannot make us like an empty, feminist lifestyle. So challenge them to identify what is good first before arriving at answers as to how to achieve it. If they truly believe something is good, they will never entirely settle for its opposite.

The most likely view you will encounter is that there is no truth. “Well, that may be good for you, but it is not good for me.” This relativism seems so harmful and tolerant, but it is extremely evil. It abolishes the notion of duty and obligations.

Feminism is enforced by government, which actively imposes discrimination against men. Those who point to the importance of individual preferences need to be reminded that major institutions do not have the same respect for liberty.

Also, remember that what you are defending can never be fully put into words. If someone drags you into endless rationalization, step away. You have stated your case and that is enough. You cannot persuade with reason alone.

“Everything that is truly creative, that is truly the start of something great or the foundation of a grand work, has to carry the weight of suffering in its nature,” said Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. God bids you to love the truth and defend it. You are upholding a world of decency and goodness against a world of ugliness and materialism. It’s worth getting bruised and hurt feelings from those who reject you for what you defend. It’s worth suffering for the cause.

                                       — Comments —

Jane S. writes:

Sarah: if it’s any comfort to you, every time I’ve had an important life decision to make, I found myself surrounded by people shrieking, “Oh, no! You can’t do that! That’s a terrible idea!”

There were times when I wanted be popular–go along to get along. Every single time I caved in to the desire to be a people-pleaser, I was unhappy with the result. As for the people I was trying to please, by the time the consequences of my decision unfolded, either they were no longer around, or they had either forgotten that I did what they wanted me to do in the first place.

Every time I decided to go ahead and do what I thought was right, whether or not anyone else liked it, in the long run, I was glad I did it that way, even if the outcome was less than perfect. As for the naysayers, they got over it. People do. If you teach them that you’re going to stick to your guns, they’ll come to expect it.

I used to hanker for validation and wonder why it’s so hard to come by. I finally learned that it is hard to come by, so I don’t take it for granted. It’s priceless when someone says, “You did the right thing.” I wish it happened more often. But I’ve learned to get along without it, too.

Laura writes:

Jane’s point is important but it is entirely different from the question raised by Sarah, which is whether she should try to help other people come to different decisions about their own lives. She appears to have resolved the issue of whether she should conform or not.

Joe writes:

While reading Jane S.’ comments, suddenly I heard Ricky Nelson, “You see, you can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.”

Fred Owens writes:

This was a most excellent post — your response to the question was very good — it applies to many people and many different situations.

I especially loved “don’t bring it up at the dinner table” or words to that effect — being sensitive to times and places where disagreement might be heard among family and friends.

Laura writes:


Unfortunately, Sarah will almost certainly face situations in which other people bring up these issues at family events. She will have to accept her minority status graciously in those moments, but also limit these occasions and build a separate life.

Jane S. writes:

Thanks for pointing that out. I was on my way out the door and in a rush when I typed that out and hit “send.”

And thanks again for being a life raft in a sea of liberal insanity.

Laura writes:

You’re welcome!

Paul writes:

Sarah should just avoid private or political discussions with family members that upset her. Just nod and say “uh-uh.” Be noncommittal. Brush them off nicely. Change the subject. Don’t argue. Discuss problems with sympathetic family members. Sarah’s focus is God and her nuclear family. If worse comes to worse, tell them to go play in the street.

She should follow her instincts, as my mother did with my older disturbed brother. She knew my brother was disturbed despite every single family member telling her he was just a boy or needed more discipline. What a nightmare for her. Essentially, I did not have a brother. He is a person that acts regardless of consequences. Of course I care for him and help him.

Moreover, whenever I detect a significant dissenting opinion from a family member or anyone, besides a jovial debate, I resort to noncommittal uh-uhs.

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