This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Children as accessories

For a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will add to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect…He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation…People who prefer the mechanical pleasures to such a miracle are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the last, cooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilization, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilization. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.

~ G.K. Chesterton

We’ve got to build a life-affirming civilization, and any life-affirming movement must begin by being a child-affirming movement. If your society can’t welcome new life, then it can’t possibly be friendly to the life that is already in it. Life-friendly is child-friendly. You can’t pretend to have the former if you don’t have the latter.

Today children are universally acknowledged as an inconvenience. No one even has to argue about it. Children are a burden and to have a child is to make a grand sacrifice. Those who decide to have children and those who don’t will only differ on whether or not they decide that the reward is worth the cost.

“Should we? or should we not? Is the time right?” All the positives and negatives are weighed. Each couple must decide for themselves if they are “ready.” And they are right, of course. It is a big decision and a grand sacrifice. That’s the point. That’s the heart of it—we have transmogrified the child from a blessing into curse.

That is in itself the most anti-child aspect of our civilization—more than abortion and birth control and all those raging, passionate debates. Once you make children a burden, everything else just sort of falls into place.

So far has this trend progressed that we can’t imagine any other arrangement or attitude. Yet we know that things weren’t always this way. We know that children were once adamantly desired by fathers. To be childless was to live in shame. For a woman the greatest disgrace was to remain barren. Even long after the days of Abraham and Sarah, children were rushed into the world not by accident or for lack of condoms, but because they were an honor and an asset. They were not only prized but they were actually useful.

Children in our world aren’t useful. You and I were not brought into this world so that we could contribute. (That was the beginning of our spiritual undermining: we were purposeless from the start.) We weren’t brought here for some great responsibility or so that we could take hold of an inheritance or to learn our father’s trade. We were brought here as a sacrifice and a yoke.

We are most of us thankful for our existence, but we also can’t help but resent the fact that we came here devoid of any real use to our parents beyond “emotional fulfillment.” The emotional, you see, is only real for the feeler. It does nothing for the child. No one wants to be born for “emotional fulfillment.” But that is the purpose of children and the deciding factor as to whether or not they enter the modern world.

Children are to be had or not depending on whether they will “fulfill” the parents. In this sense they are something like a dog or a cat, only more expensive. Religious factors may also come into play, but that often amounts to the same thing.

There’s also something new and degrading in the attitude toward children as entirely optional, and therefore unnatural. Children are a “marriage accessory”—they don’t come in the standard package but you can add one if you want. Just remember: it costs!

In large part, this is the fallout of artificial sterility. Such an attitude could not have come into being if it were not so incredibly easy to avoid what used to be the inevitable outcome of sex. In this way the child becomes something separate from marriage. Again, as before, we see a move from the real to the abstract. Now marriage is one decision, and the child is something else entirely. This shakes civilization to its foundations, because civilization was built on the assumption that the two things were inseparable.

Pregnancy, removed from its typical context and its normal place in a chain of events, becomes something to be manipulated. It becomes something we can adjust to fancy and whim, and its product, the child, inevitably shares this fate. Remember that now the child has become its own abstract decision, separate from the marriage decision. Once this point is reached in the process of abstraction, abortion naturally follows. The child was the result of a “choice,” was it not? It is just a possibility, and we can prevent possibilities through technology and surgery.

Remember our shame? Do not think that this generalized child-hate has nothing to do with your condition. You were brought into this world useless, born a hardship. In fact you were lucky to have entered the world at all. Even if you were loved dearly by your parents—I know that I was—you were nonetheless also an affliction.

If we wish to eradicate our shame we will have to find a way to reconstitute a child-friendly civilization. The point can’t be ignored. I’m not sure how we’d start, exactly, but I’ll leave you with one observation which suggests a possibility.

The factory worker, the man on shift-work, the man in the office, and the man taking orders at the burger joint, cannot have any use for children. Even if he could bring a child into such a place, the child could not comprehend the work being done there. It would seem monstrous to him. Work has become something that a child can neither understand nor observe nor respect. This has deprived the child of very much, considering it was once the father from whom children once learned almost everything.

A child could have once watched in awe as the father worked his trade; and the child, step by step, could have participated and someday become a fellow artist. This sort of active and developmental bond between father and child was a living breathing thing. It not only made children useful, but made a relationship between father and child possible. Today this is only possible outside working hours, in the evening. And even if the child could go to a modern office, he would only be bored and confused watching the father talk on a phone or stare at a computer for eight hours straight. The child would not be in awe of the work he saw—he would be appalled. He would not want to grow to be like his father, he would want to avoid that at all costs.

I only dwell here, on the modern interplay between work, child, and father, to illustrate that our social structure has separated children from fathers and helped to render the former useless. I need you to see that any remedy must be multifaceted. If we want to reintegrate the child with the family and the world, then we might have to reintegrate the father with the family. If we want to do that, we might have to change our assumptions about work itself.

It would obviously be a great evil to allow the child into the “workforce” as it is now. We tried sending children to factories once, and we know how that turned out. No, sending children to work, as work is currently arranged, will not benefit or fulfill the child. It doesn’t even fulfill the father. We have to go a different direction entirely.

I would never move the child toward the modern economy—but I would move the modern economy toward the child. Everything runs together. All of our problems touch one another, and so our solutions will have to be far-reaching and intertwined. We can’t make things better for the child without also making them better for men and women. The child, the family, work, art, education, and a better world will all have to come hand-in-hand, or they will not come at all.

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