Monday, September 11, 2017

Italian versus Anglo mothering

Below is an extreme but accurate portrait of a culture clash.  It should remind us that what is "correct" in one culture can be incorrect in another culture.  I grew up with a lot of Italians around so I am aware of the generality of what the author describes.

I am myself a reserved, undemonstrative and independent Anglo -- which has large implications for family ties. French sociologists such as LePlay and Emmanuel Todd find the English family incomprehensible.  They see it as chaotic.  Where people in  Latin cultures keep up close family ties, the English can easily go for years without seeing close relatives.  The English family seems impossibly non-existent to Latins.  It is as if family is everything to Latins, but nothing to those of us of English descent. Germans too are much like Anglos in that respect.  It does seem to be a racial thing.

And I am a pretty typical Anglo.  Up until recently, I had gone for a couple of decades without seeing my quite gorgeous and vivacious kid sister -- even though she lives only a half-day train-ride away.  I can't help being what I am but I do nonetheless admire the Italian approach to life and am rather resolved to try to be more like them.

I do rather agree with Nonna Gemma below

My mother is the doyenne of Australian etiquette, June Dally-Watkins. My mother-in-law is an almost illiterate farmer from the mountains of eastern Tuscany. Both are formidable, wise women.

But their mothering styles are biting opposites. One is a successful Australian businesswoman whose life's work has been her career, the other a humble Italian woman who has dedicated her life to her family. Trying to glean child-raising tips from both has pretty much done my head in.

It might even be time to give up trying to be a good mum – or as my kids would say, mom. Or maybe mamma. Now 18 and 16, my children are half-Australian and half-Italian. They speak English with American accents and Italian with Florentine accents, and they flow easily between one and the other depending on their company.

With such inherent cultural diversity, they don't seem to suffer too much identity confusion. Whereas my maternal compass – born and raised in Australia, with one culture and one language – is frazzled. For 20 years I've been travelling between Sydney and my home in Florence, trying to work out which culture has the best parenting principles for my polyglots.

Striving to be a good mum, mom and mamma by reconciling my birth culture with my new culture, I've naturally looked to my mother as a role model. But while navigating the choppy waters of my children's teenage years, I observed my mother-in-law, too.

Nonna Gemma on daily life:  "Never let your husband see you idle. When the working males return home, the women must not be seen relaxing. Men must believe their women are constantly on the move, cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, keeping house with rigour and determination. You are a signora. Ideally, you won't have to work outside the home."

My mother: "Work. Get a job. He might leave you so you must have a career to fall back on. Look fabulous at all times. When at home, wear casual clothes and look even more fabulous."

Nonna Gemma on cooking: "Always make something the grandchildren love, something they've eaten many times so that your food will not fail to disappoint, a reliable, heart-warming dish using a well-worn recipe of lasagne, or roast chicken with roast potatoes. Pasta should be home-made, chicken hand-reared and potatoes home-grown."

My mother: "Cook something no one has ever tasted or heard of. Use a new recipe adapted to what's in the fridge."

Nonna Gemma on raising children: "Never let the children do sleep-overs. One never knows what other families do when they're in their own homes."

My mother: "Let your children go. Trust them to make their own decisions, and the right decisions."

Nonna Gemma on raising teenagers: "Give them lots of cash. Buy them clothes because they are the family's mascot, our representatives when out and about. Repair their clothes with a fully kitted-out sewing box."

My mother: "Make children get a job to learn the value of hard work and money. Clothes are birthday and Christmas presents. There might be a hotel sewing kit in my cabin luggage bag."

Nonna Gemma on school lunches: "Nothing beats a container of pasta with a tomato sauce made from scratch with garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. In a second container add chargrilled chicken with salad."

My mother: "A sandwich made with white sliced bread and last night's chicken and lettuce should do it."

Nonna Gemma on university education for their grandchildren: "Why should they leave home for university? Why have babies if you're only going to send them away? At 18, they're still children."

My mother: "The world is their oyster. Make them international people. Let them stand on their own two feet. Send them away."

Nonna Gemma on table manners: "There are none."

My mother: "Put your knife and fork together to show you've finished. No. Not like that, the blade must be facing inwards towards the fork. No. The plate is like a clock and the handles must be at six o'clock."

The only way to tackle such opposing child-rearing advice is to try to mix and match their guidelines until the balance between Italian "smother love" and Australian "tough love" is just right, like one of my mother-in-law's recipes.

Anglo-Saxons show their children they love them by teaching them how to do everything for themselves. Italians show they love their children by doing everything for them. Trying to be a good mum, for me, is about harmonising that while focusing on how I feel. Most people in bicultural families live in the present, look to our children's future and try to honour the past. Finding the best child-rearing process in the middle of all that cultural identity can be hard, especially with such wildly different matriarchs.

Both women are contradictory in every way, but hearing their opinions opens up different worlds for me as a mother. Neither way is right, just as neither way is wrong. There are two lifetimes of insight in their approaches, and there is value in learning from both. If only I could fathom how.

Maybe it's time to stop trying so hard, to stop judging, comparing, choosing and balancing. Perhaps if I keep my kids close, while trusting them to make the right decisions, I'll succeed in being a good mum as well as bringing their grandmothers' attitudes into alignment. There is only one thing I know for sure about motherhood, and it applies regardless of where you come from: children thrive on love, no matter what the language.


Popular British psychiatrist says it's wrong to call Trump mentally ill because you don't like him

By Dr Max Pemberton

Does Donald Trump have a mental illness? It’s a question that has been gaining more and more traction since he was elected President.

Lately it’s reached fever pitch on social media, with many people convincing themselves — and others — that he must have some sort of mental health problem: that he’s a narcissist, a psychopath, or psychotic, or that he has dementia.

Last week, Dr Allen Frances, a psychiatrist of world renown who oversaw the editorial team that wrote the manual on how to diagnose mental illness, finally spoke out on this. While he’s been scathing about the President, Dr Frances has criticised the ‘armchair diagnoses’ that Trump has been given and has categorically ruled them out.

I’m pleased that someone with his gravitas has said this. While I don’t like Trump or much of his politics, the debate around his mental health is not only unhelpful but downright offensive.

Firstly, what has prompted many people to question his mental health is that they find his views unpalatable. They simply cannot understand why someone would think those things.

But having offensive views is not a mental illness. You can disagree with people and not like them, without them having to have a serious psychological problem.
Evoking mental illness as a reason is profoundly lazy, as it avoids having to engage in debate. It allows the person’s views to be dismissed out of hand, explained away by an aberration of their mind rather than a view that should be debated and beaten.

But the suggestion that if Donald Trump can be shown to have a mental illness, then he isn’t fit to be President, is also grossly offensive to those with mental illness.

Having a mental illness does not — and should not — preclude you from holding public office. The world is full of people with a mental illness doing brilliant work.

The natural conclusion to ‘Trump is mentally ill’ is that those with mental illness shouldn’t be leaders. This is utter tosh. And it’s repellent because it perpetuates the stigma of mental illness.

What has been particularly shocking is that it’s not just lay members of the public who have been wading in on Trump’s mental health, it’s professionals. They should be ashamed.

As they’ve not actually assessed him professionally, everything they say is just guesswork. And it does mental health professionals and their patients a great disservice to suggest this is all there is to reaching a diagnosis. The profound damage that can occur when professionals stray into making diagnoses from afar is considered a gross violation of professional ethics under what is known as the Goldwater rule, which emerged out of a situation not dissimilar to now.

The rule, which has been in place since 1973, prohibits U.S. psychiatrists from offering opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.

It came about following the 1964 presidential campaign when a self-aggrandising, anti-establishment figure, who mobilised disenfranchised, right-wing voters, ran for president. His name was Barry Goldwater. Liberals loathed him and did all they could do discredit him, while one magazine, Fact, approached 12,000 psychiatrists, asking if they thought him psychologically fit to be president.

The vast majority didn’t respond but over 1,000 did, saying they didn’t think he was fit to be president. Some suggested a diagnosis.

Goldwater lost the election, sued the magazine for libel and won substantial damages.

The parallels between Trump and Goldwater are obvious, except that Trump became President.

There is nothing new in this: throughout the history of psychiatry, this technique for discrediting people has been used by unscrupulous people to silence, remove, eradicate or weaken opponents.

In the Communist bloc countries it was commonplace, for example, to brand critics as ‘insane’. As well as discrediting them, this provided an excuse to forcibly institutionalise them.

Mental illness was used to crush democratic processes — and it should make all of us profoundly uncomfortable that we have so easily strayed back into similar territory.


Who is Behind the Rise of “Antifa”?

Just what is the Antifa movement? Who are these people, who funds them and what are their goals? The name is short for Antifascist. In other words, those young, white and black kids marching in hordes with masks covering their faces, wearing black uniforms, carrying baseball bats, knives, chains and home-made flame throwers claim they are against fascism.

They insist they are on the scene to combat the hate emanating from President Trump, white nationalists, neo Nazis and anyone else for whom they have contempt. Any idea, philosophy or data that conflicts with their world view is heresy.  Throw the concept of "Israel as Occupier"  into this Dumpster of ideology.

Their simplistic beliefs center on the perspective that all people, no matter their race, gender and religion are the same. And they consider every foreign culture as inherently nobler than the one they grew up in.  So the 20 year old white kid from the Upper East Side, driving his Dad's BMW, who went to Horace Mann and Yale, desires to live in a thatched cottage somewhere in Africa drawing water from a well. With no credit card and cell phone!

In short, they are anarchists whose goal is to bring this nation to its knees, weaken it to the point of being non-governable and then they assume some sort of people-power will bring it to the level of utopianism. Sounds like the Bolshevik revolution that resulted in Stalinism and over 70 million deaths. All of course as a means to liberate the common man.

Recent riots in Berkeley and D.C. were initiated by Antifa. They have beaten Trump supporters, set cars afire, utilized pepper spray and hair spray canister flame throwers, smashed store windows, robbed ATM's and prevented speakers at colleges whom they deem to be Fascists from addressing student groups. Are these signs of anti-fascism?

Although appearing ragtag they are well organized and their members seem to assemble at a moment's notice So, who has organized and financed them? Let's focus in on former President Obama and his puppet master George Soros as possible villains.

Virtually unknown to the public Obama formed the group, Organizing for Action (OFA) in 2013 in preparation for him leaving office. This gang has trained more than 10,000 Leftist organizers, who in turn, are training more than 2 million youths in Saul Alinsky tactics. In 2014 they raised over 40 million dollars which will be used, according to  Michelle Obama,  to "change our country and to bridge the divide between the world as it is and the world as it should be." Sounds like revolutionary talk to us.


The "anti-racists" of today are very much like the "racists" they scorn

Something has gone horribly wrong with the once noble, optimistic, humanist goal of anti-racism. When I got involved in anti-racist activism in the early 1990s, it was about defending the ideals of universalism against the divisive logic of the state and establishment; against those who would have us believe that blacks and whites were fundamentally different and should therefore distrust each other. It was also about defending the equality of autonomy. It was an argument for the ability and right of ethnic minorities to navigate public life and work life, built on a conviction that they were as capable as any white person of doing so.

Now, perversely, and depressingly, ‘anti-racism’ – those scare quotes really are necessary – means almost entirely the opposite. The new creed of anti-racism explicitly grates against the universal, and in fact encourages racial thinking. So-called progressives’ casual use of the dehumanising term ‘white people’ – as if they are an indistinguishable racial blob, with no class or political differences – speaks to their embrace of racial fatalism. Their adoption of the depressing ‘stay in your lane’ ideology, where any white who gets too into anti-racism can expect to be accused of ‘whitesplaining’ how to tackle privilege, reveals their instinct for segregation, of the moral if not physical variety.

And their treatment of black people as history’s victims, as the wounded produce of past crimes, as requiring the policing of language and censorship of certain ideas to guard their sensitivities, confirms their abandonment of the goal of autonomy. Through their surrender to the racial imagination, the logic of segregation and the cult of black victimhood, they reveal not only that they have jettisoned the old ideals of anti-racism, but that they have accepted the ideas that underpinned racism – the foul ideas of racial difference, social separation, and black moral weakness.

All the new racialists disguised as anti-racists are engaged in the game of class and social erasure. So Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, likewise says all white people enjoy privilege, even the poor ones struggling for jobs. Because, she says, a white-sounding name on an interview form for a naff job is more likely to get a positive response than a black-sounding name.

How lovely of a celebrated journalist to lecture poor whites about their privilege. Of course she doesn’t account for differences among whites. What about a Polish-sounding name? What are his chances? Or an Irish-sounding name? Having been brought up in an Irish part of London in the 1970s and 80s, I know very well that all whites are not equally privileged. But these migrant and class differences are obliterated by the new racialists. They do the very thing that they view as an unspeakable thoughtcrime when it’s done by others: they void entire peoples, entire historic experiences. Irish, Polish, Jew, Greek, whoever: you don’t matter, your specific experiences do not matter, because you are white. You are racial animals and your stories do not count.

Whatever. To those of us who have no interest in cultivating a victim identity, and who prefer to struggle against, rather than wallow in, certain historical or past difficulties, it doesn’t really matter that the new racialists erase certain migrant and class experiences; it’s water under the bridge that they write their PhDs in buildings constructed by white men like my dad and take a shit in toilets fixed by white men from Poland.

But what is important is why they do this. Why the politics of identity is so hostile to discussions of class and so quick to neuter the experiences of those who don’t fit into identitarians’ narrow, divisive narrative. It’s because their aim is not actually to understand the true social relations and power relations of 21st-century capitalist society, far less do anything serious to challenge them. Rather, it is to secure their position on the pedestal of victimhood, to sanctify their own experiences, necessarily at the expense of other people’s experiences, in order to strengthen their moral claim to victimhood and thus improve their standing in a society that prizes suffering more highly than struggle and autonomy.

This, fundamentally, fuels their instinct for erasure. This is why middle-class Ms Bergdorf must bizarrely describe the homeless as privileged. This is why identitarians and, for shame, Corbynista-style leftists must lump all white people together with no overarching consideration of the true dividing line of the modern era: class.

Because they are chasing victimhood, not progress; theirs is a pursuit for the moral currency of suffering, not for the political goal of equality or autonomy; this is competitive victimhood, not radical idealism, and therefore its constant and foul instinct is division and distinction. The new identitarians must continually distinguish their experience against others – even against the homeless, even against the working class – because their aim is the narcissistic one of self-victimisation rather than the social one of an end to class and social division. In fact, they intensify division, including racial division: it’s inevitable, they must, in order to differentiate their suffering from yours, or mine, and everyone else’s.

The end result is a politics that is more misanthropic than hopeful, more reactionary than radical. A politics which writes off entire swathes of people as innately prejudiced; which sidelines class; which erases the poor if they have the wrong skin colour; which encourages us to advertise our weaknesses rather than cultivate our strengths – and our demands. No wonder the mainstream political and cultural elites are so in love with the politics of identity: it is the most pacifying, divisive ideology of our time. It is the new divide and rule. It does what racism once did. Anti-racists – no scare quotes this time – should declare war against it.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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