Log in

No account? Create an account
09 February 2014 @ 05:59 am
My mother made me a libertarian  
We now know that Ayn Rand's excesses can be blamed on her childhood. Her mother made her give her toys to the needy, and she grew up to blame all our problems on mandatory altruism.

I have now learned that Ma in Little House on the Prairie is portrayed as the same sort of mother. Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, whose contribution to Little House was somewhere between editorial assistance and writing the whole thing, was one of the leading libertarian thinkers of the 1930s.

My mother made me feel bad ("you should be grateful"*) about having toys but never actually took them away from me, so I was able to get over libertarianism.

* When I read in Stranger in a Strange Land that gratitude always includes resentment, I believed it, but I've learned that such feelings are nowhere near universal, and I figured out how not to feel that way about those I love.

Thanx to Making Light.
Sarcasticia Nitpickersontisiphone on February 9th, 2014 02:50 pm (UTC)
Enh. I'm not a libertarian and I always thought both her parents were awful. Her father was a feckless itinerant who probably shouldn't have had kids in the first place, and her mother... yeah, all that.
Carol Kennedycakmpls on February 9th, 2014 02:58 pm (UTC)
I've never felt resentment in my gratitude. I think this is related to my never feeling "Why me?" about bad things, but rather "Why not me?" I'll have to think about this--over the years you have given me many things to think about, and I am grateful, without resentment!

(Another possible connection is my spouse's observation years ago--and I have always agreed with it--that generally, the most intelligent people we know like to meet others who are "smarter" than they are, who know things they don't.)
El Coyote Gordo: fractal brainsupergee on February 9th, 2014 03:44 pm (UTC)
I don't think in ordered terms. I love meeting people who know things I don't, and they tend to be of comparable intelligence. I've met a few people whom I am willing to concede are smarter than I am, and I guess I do like it more because I'm liable to learn more new things, but I haven't really thought of it that way.

Also, learning new things doesn't kick in the gratitude/resentment thing; that tends to come with physical needs.
sturgeonslawyer: Defaultsturgeonslawyer on February 9th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
The thing about gratitude being resentment goes back to Nietzsche, who claimed that gratitude was a form of revenge.

houseboatonstyx: smaller-healing-buddhahouseboatonstyx on February 9th, 2014 07:17 pm (UTC)
I wonder if Lord and Lady Peter Wimsey read Nietzsche. He* went to a lot of trouble for months to save a stranger from the gallows. She spent half an hour deciphering a code message from her husband in a code they were familiar with -- and called it even.

* Peter, not Nietzsche
El Coyote Gordo: sirwolfsupergee on February 9th, 2014 07:36 pm (UTC)
That juxtaposition reminds me: I am informed that Jeeves told Bertie, "You would not like Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound."
El Coyote Gordo: fat catsupergee on February 9th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
Jubal Harshaw's cat is named Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, or at least that's what the humans call him. (Mike finds out his real name but can't pronounce it with his human vocal cords.)
houseboatonstyx: smaller-healing-buddhahouseboatonstyx on February 9th, 2014 07:29 pm (UTC)
Rand grew up seeing early Communism first hand, unless we suppose she made up all the details in We The Living. The Wilder girls, and Harriet in A City of Bells didn't become politically active about altruism on a national scale, sfaik.

On a personal/social level, when Rand was writing, there really was a lot of 'self-sacrifice as altruism' assumption fashionable -- which she blasted away. There really was a large profitable radio commentator niche for people like Toohey; cf the one in To Love and Be Wise and the murderer in a Charlotte Armstrong thriller.
Mari Nessmariness on February 9th, 2014 10:35 pm (UTC)
I read a lot of stuff about nostalgia masking childhood anger, and in rereading the Little House books as an adult, aware that they are taking place during the Industrial Revolution, not colonial times, when all of that "make everything by hand" was increasingly unnecessary, have become increasingly convinced that the nostalgia that drips from those books comes from massive anger at Charles Ingalls combined with an inability to voice or possibly even recognize that anger.

I wrote about it mildly incoherently here years back:

El Coyote Gordo: thumbsupergee on February 9th, 2014 11:07 pm (UTC)
That was extremely interesting. Thank you.
she just wants to be kissed all the timeanne_jumps on February 10th, 2014 02:12 am (UTC)
Looking forward to reading this. I recently read an academic paper looking at the Little House books from a feminist perspective, and realized -- sadly, I'd never grasped this when I read the books as a child -- that the family, that is the women in the family, really just did have to put up with the problems Pa caused, things that were often entirely preventable.
Mari Nessmariness on February 10th, 2014 02:30 am (UTC)
I didn't realize just how bad things were in the Little House books until I realized they were set in a period AFTER Little Women. For all of the time Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy spend squawking about how poor they are, and I think they really were meant to be poor, what with having to work, having to wear burned dresses, and so on, they aren't living in a hole, or eating off the supplies left by surveyors, and they aren't making their own furniture or forcing the 11 year old to go to work full time.

And then I realized that the Little House books are set in Minnesota only twenty years before the Betsy-Tacy books. I realize those books are about middle class kids, but still, twenty years after Laura is describing living in a hole, not having enough money for shoes or school supplies, having only one rag doll....Betsy and Tacy have iceboxes, stoves, an excellent library, paper, pens, several specialty stores, kiddy tea sets, an opera...all suggesting that Minnesota was nowhere NEAR as primitive as Laura was trying to say it was. Sure, HER life was primitive, but that was because of her father's decisions.

And yet, in the books, he's presented as this wise and wonderful man.

Sorry. I can rant for hours on this.
she just wants to be kissed all the timeanne_jumps on February 10th, 2014 02:57 am (UTC)
I was thinking about this after I posted my comment, and the fact that they really did sort of warp my understanding of the economics of that time period. I was also totally taken by the whole isn't Pa adorable thing. The paper (I might look up a link tomorrow on the other computer I use, which probably has the link on it, if you haven't already read it) really opened my eyes. Pa needs to up and move (I read today in Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life that once Pa had to skip out on the rent)? Then we're moving even though Ma would probably prefer to live near civilization and put down roots. Ma seems like an uptight controlling bitch who's no fun? Maybe that's because she has to suffer gladly what Pa decides to do as well as make sure her daughters grow up as best they can.
Mari Nessmariness on February 10th, 2014 03:22 am (UTC)
Please forward the link; I find this fascinating!

The books like to say that the family kept moving because Pa wanted freedom and to go west and in one case because the mean old government in Washington made them leave. The same mean old government that gave them their land in South Dakota for free, but I digress. When you actually look, that's not what's going on at all. I got this bit slightly wrong in my post, but the biographers checked, and the Ingalls weren't actually in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) - they were on Kansas, squatting on someone else's land. That's why they had to leave.

Later, they moved because Pa couldn't keep a job or his land. People could make it in Minnesota -- Betsy's father seems to have done fine with the shoe store in Minnesota - Pa doesn't seem to have been one of them, for all that Laura kept insisting that he was respected and beloved everywhere.

Also, in real life, Laura started working for pay when she was only 11 because the family was so broke. In Little Women there's a huge AUUGH THE TEENAGE GIRLS ARE WORKING HOW AWFUL. The next Alcott book, An Old Fashioned Girl, has a lot of women who are working outside the house, but they all started working in their late teens and early twenties - and even then, almost all of the wealthy people are gasping "what, young women with JOBS? HOW AWFUL." Alcott presents that attitude as snobbery, but she also makes it clear that adult work, whatever the gender, is ok; child labor, not at all ok. I have no idea if Laura Ingalls ever read Alcott's books or not, but she must have encountered the attitude. To send Laura out to work at 11, or 13 as it's presented in the books, says something about the family poverty.
(Anonymous) on February 10th, 2014 01:15 pm (UTC)
This is anne_jumps, not logging in at work:

Here's the article from The Toast that led me to it: http://the-toast.net/2013/09/09/hating-ma/
And here's the paper: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/frontiers/v029/29.1.blackford.html
Mari Nessmariness on February 10th, 2014 02:48 pm (UTC)
Johnjohnpalmer on February 10th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
Well, I don't think gratitude includes resentment, but I'll grant that Heinlein wasn't just talking about "Oh, I feel so happy that you did X for me!" He was explicitly calling out "I owe you because you did X for me". (Assuming I remember the book, and I do have a memory that's dodgy.)