Exploring the sociology of fatherhood

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Ross Andrews

Various Veins


The day is almost here when people are urged to honour fathers. Why? It depends on who is doing the exhorting.

Ministers look to the ten commandments, honour thy father and thy mother. The payoff for obedience is long life in the land your God has given you.

This promise was made to the Hebrews. You wonder if the sons and daughters of Job who were killed off in a contest between God and Satan were mere pawns in the game. Was honour a consideration at all. Should Christians count on the reward promised to a chosen people?

Merchants remind us to remember fathers on the third Sunday in June with both eyes on the bottom line. It's just like Christmas, a good time to suggest gifts.

Merchants in this sense are any who have something to sell, media market managers, travel agents, purveyors of strong drink...

The truth is some fathers don't deserve to be honored. When I was an eager young teacher, fresh out of Normal School and still carrying the values promoted by Sunday school teachers, in fact being one of those at the time, I told my pupils with all sincerity that honesty is the best policy. One young lad told me he knew that was wrong. "If I told my old man the truth he'd beat the crap out of me."

Being acquainted with his old man, I had to admit he was fully justified in his rebuttal.

There's an old song, a conversation between Reuben and Rachel, in which Rachel expresses the belief that the world would be a greater place if all the men were transported far beyond the northern sea. Rachel's geography was naive, as we know. All the men would be in Russia or Siberia if shipped from this hemisphere, or in Canada if from Asia. Her sentiments, though, were pretty well on the money. Men around the globe tended to stop at the pub, the bar, the blind pig on their way home from work. It wasn't only the common laborers who behaved so. Read the memoirs and diaries of any famous man, except chaps like Bernard Montgomery whose personality might have been improved with a wee draught.

The men who lived in one area of Britain were noted for their behaviour in this mode. They came home roaring drunk, beat their wives and children, too, if they could catch them. My ancestry along some lines hailed from this population which probably accounts for a genetic tendency to hot temper. Luckily for me and my family I have moderated considerably over the years, which results in my being showered with cards and good will and additions to my cellar at this season.

I wonder if any sociologist has made a study of the incidence of the sort of behaviour now used as an excuse for all manner of antisocial behaviour, even for murder, in those communities? It would be hard to test for conditions in places long since vanished in the mists of time, but it could cut the legs from under soft-hearted counsellors and judges if  it could be shown that a normal, whatever that means, personality could survive such a childhood.

The role of fatherhood is in turmoil these days. Who, except maybe politicians like Justin Trudeau, gets to learn how to be a father by watching one at work?

Perhaps children of military and law enforcement parents do.

This, too, is in flux, as we saw on last week's news. A veteran disobeyed orders and described the despicable treatment he and others are getting from the Canadian establishment. His father, like Moses, promised him that his service would be rewarded, and like the family of Job he has been made a pawn.

There are deserving fathers out there, despite my reservations. I'm fortunate to be able to watch four from the comfort of my home.

Bless them all!



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