…is motherhood. For them to achieve what they seek, motherhood must be defamed, made ever less socially acceptable and ever more difficult, and ultimately – dare I say it? – divorced from procreation and childrearing. Such procreation and childrearing as they intend to allow, at any rate.
The campaign to part children from their parents has a long history. The emphasis has always been on getting Junior away from Mom – on breaking the mother / child bond that’s critical to holding the traditional family together, and which perpetuates its loyalties lifelong. Remember this passage from an insufficiently appreciated dystopian novel?
“Try to imagine what ‘living with one’s family’ meant.”
They tried; but obviously without the smallest success.
“And do you know what a ‘home’ was?”
They shook their heads.
Home, home–a few small rooms, stiflingly over-inhabited by a man, by a periodically teeming woman, by a rabble of boys and girls of all ages. No air, no space; an understerilized prison; darkness, disease, and smells.
(The Controller’s evocation was so vivid that one of the boys, more sensitive than the rest, turned pale at the mere description and was on the point of being sick.)
And home was as squalid psychically as physically. Psychically, it was a rabbit hole, a midden, hot with the frictions of tightly packed life, reeking with emotion. What suffocating intimacies, what dangerous, insane, obscene relationships between the members of the family group! Maniacally, the mother brooded over her children (her children) … brooded over them like a cat over its kittens; but a cat that could talk, a cat that could say, “My baby, my baby,” over and over again. “My baby, and oh, oh, at my breast, the little hands, the hunger, and that unspeakable agonizing pleasure! Till at last my baby sleeps, my baby sleeps with a bubble of white milk at the corner of his mouth. My little baby sleeps …”
“Yes,” said Mustapha Mond, nodding his head, “you may well shudder.”
Most who’ve read Brave New World remember its most lurid features: the drugs, the carefree profligacy, the absence of emotion from sex. But the truly horrifying feature – for me, at least – is its emphasis on the abolition of the family and the emotions that bind family members to one another. That was one of the Communists’ chief targets, as well.
There is no kind of love that’s functionally distinct from family love – from a mother’s love for her children. In a crack he intended to be humorous, Robert A. Heinlein wrote:
Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.
But mothers throughout history have loved and nurtured their children despite a complete lack of such delusions. Rare is the mother who sincerely thinks her newborn to be blessed above all or even most others. Mothers have cherished even those children they knew to be doomed from the moment they exited the womb. Some have willingly given their lives so that their babies could draw even one free breath.
If Huxley’s dystopia were to be realized, its planners and controllers might tell themselves that they had “the greater good” as their one and only aim. But power over others – a kind and degree of power that could never be overthrown – is the true object. Not long after Brave New World burst upon the public, a man who coincidentally died on the same day as Huxley wrote this:
[I]f any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. And if, as is almost certain, the age which had thus attained maximum power over posterity were also the age most emancipated from tradition, it would be engaged in reducing the power of its predecessors almost as drastically as that of its successors. And we must also remember that, quite apart from this, the later a generation comes — the nearer it lives to that date at which the species becomes extinct—the less power it will have in the forward direction, because its subjects will be so few. There is therefore no question of a power vested in the race as a whole steadily growing as long as the race survives. The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future.
The real picture is that of one dominant age—let us suppose the hundredth century A.D.—which resists all previous ages most successfully and dominates all subsequent ages most irresistibly, and thus is the real master of the human species. But then within this master generation (itself an infinitesimal minority of the species) the power will be exercised by a minority smaller still. Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car.
[Clive Staples Lewis, The Abolition of Man]
On this Mothers’ Day, it’s appropriate to reflect upon the critical functions a willing mother performs, not merely in the perpetuation of our species, but in the formation of our souls – the process, quite as vital as nourishment, that makes us more than beasts who merely eat, copulate, sleep, and rise to do it all again.
Happy Mothers’ Day to my maternally gifted Gentle Readers. And to all: May God bless and keep you all.