Above All Else, Family
Nepotism isn't a dirty word
Society hates its children.1
A provocative statement, but not inaccurate. I am sure you can think of a thousand examples of people who love their children, dote on them, and provide for their well-being at all stages of their life. I can too. I don’t deny that most individual parents do indeed love their children. But I am looking at things in the aggregate, and what I’m seeing indicates otherwise.
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Love takes many different forms, and seems to fade as the child grows older. Too few are interested in planting trees under whose shade they will never sit, and the broader society, which you are a part of despite your protestations otherwise, encourages this selfish nearsightedness. I’ve got mine, kid. You’re on your own.
I never understood the instinctive reaction against nepotism, or in general giving your children an advantage. “When you’re 18, it’s out of the house and you’re on your own!” sounds great and all, let your kids “bootstrap” and “figure it out on their own,” but there are two giant problems with this attitude:
It’s not the same world it was 100, 50, or even 20 years ago, and
Your kid will be competing against kids whose parents do help them.
Why would you unilaterally disarm the future of your bloodline? So they don’t get “soft” or “spoiled”? For them prove how “tough” they are? For you to prove to others how good a parent you are? You can inculcate the values that breed resiliency and determination without impoverishing your kids, you know.
I don’t begrudge anybody family connections. So some Hollywood actress has a dad who is a bigshot producer? Good for her. A musician has a mother who is a well-connected entertainment lawyer? Awesome. A NBA star has a dad who was an NBA star? The family legacy continues. That dentist you go to took over his mom’s lucrative office? Good for her!
It is very simple: If I’m in a position to set my children up as they enter into adulthood in difficult world stacked against them, why wouldn’t I? Why would I want to die a rich miser with kids and grandkids who will never achieve what I have? What’s wrong with you people?
I understand the problem in the context of a family business: if your children are inept or uninterested, do you still give them your business just because they’re your children?
Maybe not! But even if they don’t get the business itself, you can still, you know, provide for them in other ways. Set up a trust or something. It doesn’t take much to ensure that your children will get what they are due.
“Hey, who says that? I worked for this! What right do my kids have to it?” If this is your attitude as a parent towards your own children, you’re not gonna make it, fam . . .
The idea of alienating valuable property for short-term gain makes me sick. In a crisis situation, you may have no choice, but otherwise maybe it’s best to keep the land instead of pawning it off to some foreign real-estate conglomerate so you can by an RV.
Lack of future orientation is likely not a uniquely American problem, but as with everything, we do it bigger over here. Eating your seed corn to own the snowflakes. For a people who pride themselves on all of our supposedly traditional values,4 screwing over the younger generation—and blaming them for a mess they didn’t cause—is a disease for which time might be the only cure.
A part of it must be a bitter pessimism for the future. How many times have you heard one of your elders lament some current-day problem and then heave a sigh of relief before saying some permutation of, “I’ll be dead long before that’s a problem!”5 You know who won’t be dead before that’s a problem? Your grandchildren!
Nepotism is your sacred duty as a parent . . . literally:
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timothy 5:86
You owe it to your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to give them every possible advantage you can. Coming from a stable and loving two-parent household is a privilege you should be proud of, so your children can reap its benefits, and create the next generation of stable and loving two-parent households. To not do so, to not at least try, is to fail.
Not looking out for your own isn’t “principled” or “noble.” It’s “stupid.” Looking out for your own doesn’t have to come at the expense of other people, and looking out for your own doesn’t make you a bad person. There is nothing noble about taking care of others at the expense of your own. Quite the opposite.
Life goes on after you’re gone.7
History is replete with examples of nepotism gone wrong. But it’s also replete with examples of nepotism gone right.8 By all means, if a child isn’t up to snuff, don’t give them the keys to the kingdom. Look at the sad tale of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary legacy. His son Christopher did such a good job tending to his father’s work, but alas, even the long-lived Tolkien the Younger is not possessed of Elvish immortality.
The dutiful son was barely warm when his own children started selling off pieces of the great man’s works to those who not only didn’t respect them, but actively hated them.9 Civilization would have been better off had Christopher released his father’s work into the public domain. At least The Legend Chuck Dixon could’ve written a few novels set in Middle Earth.10
But with all of those caveats, those exceptions, there remains an anti-familial short-sightedness plaguing people who should know better. Nothing continues in perpetuity just because; current generations owe it to the future to teach them how to keep the whole thing going, and why. A part of that includes helping them get established to maybe even acquire the power and influence11 to maintain and build upon what has come before, the way all of our ancestors did. How do I know this? Because we’re here, aren’t we?12
It doesn’t take too many generations to wreck a civilization. Just look around you.
I have young children, and I live on Planet America, so I’m sure you can understand my anxiety about what is facing them in the future. I think about these things a lot, which was the impetus for this, admittedly, rather angry post.
Like that’s a bad thing.
Like that’s somehow better.
“Classical liberalism” and the pursuit of individual pleasure as the ultimate good isn’t a “traditional value,” in case you were wondering.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve lost count.
I understand the basic reality of being, which can be colloquially put that “We are all the stars of our own movie.” But that goes for everyone, and there is a bigger movie within which we are all but bit players.
Back in the days of emperors and kings, succession was always in the current ruler’s mind, unless they were a moron, and as such children, other family members in line, or adopted sons as was the case with many Roman emperors, were bred for duty. You had stability. The people knew who was likely going to rule over them when the current guy was in the dirt. Hell, they at least knew the name(s) of the current guy(s) who actually exercised power over them, which isn’t something we can truthfully say here in 21st-century America.
Anytime someone says they are updating a work for a modern audience, it means they want to piss all over it. Don’t be fooled.
Chuck Dixon and David Wenzel’s comic book adaptation of The Hobbit remains one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century:
Ever notice how the children of presidents, business moguls, ambassadors, judges, legislators, athletes, celebrities, musicians, writers, studio heads, tech oligarchs, university administrators, etc., do really well and their families are always the ones at the forefront of influencing culture? I wonder why?
And we have indoor plumbing.