Family, the basic unit of civilisation, is under multi-pronged assault. History bears testimony that the nations that wielded power, conquered neighbours and raised empires could not survive the decay stemming from the disintegration of the family. It tore them from below, deprived them of young blood, sapped their creative energy, enervated their economy and finally led to their decimation. Sodom, Gomorrah, Iram, Greece, Rome, Babylon all vanished from the face of the Earth when family system degenerated. Family is the bedrock of a healthy society. It is the fountainhead of love, affection, kinship, and respect between people that constitute a community, or in more modern sense, nation. It supplies the social glue to the human relationships. Neglect or decay of family results in social disorder and chaos.
The West is already reaping the odious harvest of a weakened family system. Today the women and the children of the US are suffering the consequences of ruin of the family. Single-parent families have registered a 200 per cent rise since 1970; 36 per cent children admit that they make their own meals; an estimated 70 per cent juvenile criminals say they come from single-parents’ homes; an average child would have watched 8000 televised murders and one lakh acts of violence before finishing elementary school; and , 26 per cent girls aged 15 reported being sexually active. The liberalisation being promoted by the IMF and the World Bank is likely to ensure the spread of these Western values to the east and tradition-loving countries like India. It is time to question if our beloved nation would prefer to choose the ruinous track or we will raise barriers against the flow of the Western culture.
Marriage, the basic bond between two souls, and the most elementary relationship is the first target of attack. It is already out of fashion in the West. Sex out of wedlock is the in thing. Children are unwelcome, even within marriage, for they are more seen as spoilers of the marital bliss and an albatross for couples who got together for mere satisfaction of biological needs. Chastity is not the virtue expected of bachelors or spinsters. Nor are single adults barred from adopting children which are aplenty. Marriage, children, parenthood, are therefore, unrelated phenomena.
Family has taken a major drubbing. Marriages are being replaced by ‘live-in’ relationships. No wives, only boy or girlfriends. Birth-control devices first made their entry under the garb of economic needs of nations too compressed with humanity. Later they came in handy for illegitimate sex. But hedonistic pursuits of the West soon removed even the thinnest and the skinniest of interruptions in realisation of pleasure. As conceptions loomed as a reality, abortions were legitimised. A West that felt outraged at the female circumcision of the African nations and dubbed it illegitimate intrusion into female anatomy, impressed upon the women to demand right to abortion. Feminists took to championing even this as a cause.
Meanwhile, the media and the feminists glamorised the ideas of dual working-parents household. Expanding markets had necessitated larger number of working hands. Women were brought out of homes and introduced into the glowing furnaces of factories. But they were assigned only inferior positions. Simultaneous focus was kept on reinforcing their feminity. Lotions; potions, garments, cosmetics siphoned away all that she supplemented to the family income. Her absence from kitchen meant more implements, processed and frozen foods, instant mixes, baby-sitters, washing machines, nannies, ayahs, and quick fixes, altogether a hike in domestic budgets enough to offset the raise in family income.
As housewife became outdated, kids, if ever produced, inherited lonely homes. Absent parental care invited drugs, drinks, pornography, movies and even early dawn of sex awakening. Free sex victimised women even more. More teenage pregnancies, AIDS scare, abortions ravaged Western homes. Brunt of free sex was borne by Western women. More teenager girls dropped out of schools and raised single-parent families, fathers having walked out of their lives scot free.
Today the Washington metro station bears the picture of teenage mothers tugging the babies in prams and streets, have more youth engaged in crime and drug. With decrease in the birth rate and rise in life expectancy (with better health services), the Western societies run the risk of soon losing out working hands but having more mouths that need to be fed.
More ominously, vast number of more aged and sick are likely to constitute a votebank that no political party can ignore. This votebank is likely to demand more geriatric drugs, wheelchairs, and robust social security system instead of unemployment providing factories.
Whether intended or not, the pattern of Western development will push a similar social agenda in India. Indian family is under assault from the media with distinct western influence; consumer lobby inspired by the Western hard-sell techniques; films drenched deep in western values and legislation that draws on western legal sources are complementing that role. There are already straws in the wind. The Rajasthan rape incidents could be one. The gang-rape of a student of Rajasthan University is index enough that free sex victimises the women. A Madras High Court judgement recognised the right of unmarried girl to deliver the baby without going into the question of marriage being prohibited for a girl less than 18. Barred from contesting Panchayat election for having fathered more than two children, a victorious Haryana father resorted to proving his third offspring an outcome of illicit liaison of his wife with another male. Quo vadis!