Of Principalities and powers – Big government, big church, big business, big education, big military, big sports, big science, big medicine and big egos:

Robin Fox points out in his classic book Kinship and Marriage that there has always been war between the kindreds on one hand and the state and the church united on the other.   By kindred of course I mean a group of people who by and large maintain their loyalty including marriage ties to the local group.  He points out that the kindreds are remarkably tenacious and resilient.

I believe he rather understates his case.  Certainly what he says is true.  The state wishes to have the loyalty of its citizens, which is fair enough.  It wants to have that loyalty be the most important one in our lives.  That is not fair.  The marines have, so I am told, a saying about loyalty.  There is a hierarchy.  Your first loyalty as a marine is to your buddy.  Then in decreasing order of precedence: the Corps, God and the country.  I don’t know where spouse fits in there.  But the country’s demand is actually more extreme.  It demands loyalty almost to the exclusion of all else.  So loyalty to kindred is simply not something a country will tolerate if it has the choice.  It does not have to be that way.  The old fashioned town hall meeting, back in the day when towns were very small, was a form of government. 

In the book The Creek, J. T. Glisson describes life in the tiny, prosperous little town of Cross Creek in Florida.  The book The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is set there.  The town’s prosperity consisted of fresh water fishing.  Orange Lake, which was connected to the creek, was a sort of a magical place.  The islands there actually floated.  I have seen it as a child.  The family had rented a small boat to paddle around the lake, and started down a small canal.  At the end of the canal it was blocked by land.  We stopped perplexed, but then heard a hearty voice call, “Wait a minute.  I’ll get it out of the way.”  That was followed by the roar of an outboard motor.  And then the land began to move.  In a few moments we could see out onto the lake and could see our helpful man pushing the island along with the snout of his little boat.

The locals had a way of taking fish from Orange Lake in a way that encouraged the fish to continue producing good fish.  The lake was divided among families, each with its own area to harvest.  If a family failed to work the area, within a couple of years the number of fish would collapse, but if properly worked the lake was bountiful.  There was a virtually endless market for the fish in Georgia, so the people were doing very well for a small rustic community.  Eventually the state of Florida passed a law forbidding the kind of fishing they depended on, and vigorously enforced that law.  As the locals had predicted, within two or three years the fishing simply collapsed.  The floating islands ceased to float as well.  They were kept up by methane that bubbled up under them.  I remember last having seen some of them lined up near the shore, permanently aground.  I don’t know whether the change in the ecology killed the islands as well. 

There was a bridge across the creek, and it was there that the townfolk met regularly to discuss their affairs.  There was no building large enough for all of them and the bridge was the one place you could stand around at night without wondering what was about to crawl up your ankle or bite it.  So government is not intrinsically inconsistent with kindred loyalty.  It is big government that is the danger.  So Tallahassee passed a law against fishing as only these people did.  Obviously it was not out of concern for the fish.  It must have been a reflex concern with small government.

One of my favorite hymns was “Church in the Wildwood,” about a little church.  Check it out on Wikipedia.  It seemed to me that somebody had a sense of a small religious community.  My father, passionate and mysterious man that he was, despised it, I know not why.  Maybe it just hurt to think about it.  Well that is small church, natural ally to the kindred.  But we have always had big church.  They demand that things be seen on a larger scale.  Both the government and the church survive by taking money from you.  The government assures you will contribute by having available young men with guns should you by chance attempt to drop out.  The church is more tactful.  They depend on you volunteering.  Of course they invoke, by and large, the concept of an immortal soul, the well being of which they attempt to nurture. 

Not all religions do so.  My Asian friends tell me that in Japan there is a religion called Shinto, which informs you how to comport yourself in this life.  Many adherents however also practice Buddhism, which prepares you for the hereafter.  Of course big church did not really hit its stride until television.  And big church attempts to lift your concerns to larger issues than family ties.

It’s a good term, family tie.  It implies restraint, sacrifice of independence.  Many find it annoying.  And it isn’t always cheap either.  It’s just indispensable if you want your community to survive. 

Big business wants your loyalty.  Administrators are expected to be ready to move as their jobs demand.  Big business is capable of finding a small community, setting up factories there to exploit cheap and capable labor, paying good wages for a time and then abandoning that community for the next, leaving behind a disrupted set of kindreds.  To make money easily, it is simplest to treat humans as fungible, interchangeable.  That is something no kindred can do.

Big education is all about drawing you away from your kindred.  The old one room schoolhouse was perfect for a viable community.  The great universities draw from a wide range.  I myself was admitted to what was then the most academically challenging school in the world partly because I was a southern boy and the school was in New England.  They have continued to widen their catchment area. 

There was a time when an army consisted of units that had each been drawn from a particular town or village.  In the civil war the men of Nantucket had their own unit.  They were famous for their courage; Nantucket then was a whaling community, and risk tolerance was expected.  Alas, Lee’s meat grinder proved more dangerous than any pod of whales.  By WW II there were still groups that were designated for different “races.”  All that is gone now, of course.  But the serious change had already been made when men were no longer assigned by community.  For the marines I am sure that kindred ranks rather below spouse for loyalty.

In New England in early colonial times there were two sports.  The “town game” and I believe the “Boston game.”  One was a sort of proto baseball and the other sort of proto football.  I do not remember which was which.  Look it up in Albion’s Seed if you want a good read.  As the book points out it is rather pleasant to think of a small puritan town, amazingly strict in its rules, with everybody out kicking a ball, girls who would never show an ankle ordinarily charging with hiked skirts through ranks of panting boys.  These were village games.  Everybody played.  The big sports of the present invite you to take an interest in an enormous community.  Very few actually play. 

Of course where education and sports meet, they really take the gloves off.  Sorry.  That’s a bad expression.  A fist striking the face of a man of equal strength will break before the major bones of the face do.  I have seen the result.  The gloves of a boxer protect his hands, not the anatomy of his opponent.  They also diminish bleeding.  That makes the fight look less horrible than bare knuckles, but it is actually more horrible.  College sports are big business.  I was a varsity wrestler.  Not a very glorious one, but I was in very good physical condition.  My college, for all it’s being the summit of academic demands, still encouraged physical vitality.  That’s certainly fair.  Dick Slater, probably the greatest athlete alive and one of the great performers and writers (Did I mention his book?  Some day it will become available, I do affirm it.), Dick went to high school in a part of Tampa called Port of Tampa on the map but Port Tampa by the Port Tampans.  He and others from the same school went to the University of Tampa, a small college, too big for a village but still with the same flavor.  Dick was on the football team, and the local boys played well.  They defeated the team of the University of Miami in 1970-71, itself rated number two in the entire Southeastern Conference.  The Gators of the University of Florida would not play the boys from Port Tampa.  The next year the athletic program at the University of ‘Tampa was shut down, this being explained as a desire for the college to pursue academic excellence.  Try getting the mighty Gators disbanded on that pretext.  I could be wrong, but to me it looks like a case of an educational institution going out of its way to squelch what had been a village spirit – sort of like Goliath hiring thugs to mug David. 

The amount of money spent on science by the United States is vast.  Look it up on Google if you want numbers.  Seems a pity I can’t get them to spend a little on the issue of kinship and fertility.  But big science, claiming as religion does to be on the trail of Truth, is after a quarry that transcends any kinship.  And the big labs – space launches, super atom smashers, genome projects and what have you – draw their talent from a global community just as they purport to address issues of global interest. 

I have already mentioned medicine under the heading of ACO’s.  Presently 79% of medicine in the US is practiced by doctors in groups of one, two or three.  They are all now in violation of the law.  They have no choice.  The regulations have not been decided upon.  Capriciously, the government has elected not to enforce the law.  Eventually they will all have to be part of larger groups. 

And of course the obvious combatant is those who think they are battling against prejudice.  And many a loathsome prejudice they do battle against.  They believe they are serving as our conscience.  But they steadfastly ignore the most poisonous prejudice of all, that against marrying within the kindred. 

Kindreds would have a chance against government.  They might even be able to compete against the combination of government and church.  But against such an array of foes, they have no chance, not until people see what is going on, see what is becoming of us absent kindred loyalties, and raise cry.  It is a war that the kindreds may lose, may already have lost.  But it is one that the great powers raised against them cannot win, for without people, without babies, they are nothing. 

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