Kinship Relations in a Parecon

So I get this call — oh wait, I forgot the disclaimer. What you are about to read is completely hypothetical. Any resemblance to anything is completely coincidental.

So I get this call from this temp agency I’ve been working for, and this person tells me I need to be sure to go down to this company I interviewed with earlier in the week to do my “background” (read: drug screen) check. Now, I did this already yesterday, after someone from the temp agency called me the day before about it.

Keep in mind, this temp agency’s office isn’t that big. It’s three people: two people who do the placements, and one secretary. It’s not the left hand has no way of knowing what the right hand is doing in an office of three people.

Now, what I want to say to this particularly overbearing recruiter who’s just called me is, “Look, I’m not 12.” Y’all already called me. Jesus god, let it drop already. If I don’t go, that should tell you something.

But I keep my mouth shut. Am I just a big puss? Or am I correctly thinking, y’know, this person who determines whether or not I get future work might not the best person in the world to piss off?

I can be a pretty obnoxious person, as all my ex-girlfriends will gladly tell you. But really, being aggressive and in-your-face isn’t really my style. I’d rather stew about it and then write internet articles behind your back.

This person at the temp agency is pretty overbearing, I’ve noticed. This person must be tough to work for. I recall the first day I went to my first assignment for this temp agency. The directions they give you pretty much suck, so I’ve learned to love Mapquest even more than I already do. But for this first gig, I figured, oh heck, their directions must be pretty good, right?

Wrong. They told me two traffic lights. Two? By the time I got to where I was supposed to be, I counted at least seven. I’m serious. I called twice to make sure I wasn’t completely lost. I commented — innocently, not in an accusative tone (and trust me, I know how to do accusations really well — just ask any of my ex-girlfriends) that perhaps those directions needed to be updated.

The secretary to whom I was speaking informed me that she didn’t write the directions. Well, okay. I didn’t say you wrote them. I don’t actually care who wrote them. I just think they need to be changed. The pastures and cattle the original direction-writer remembers from this area have been replaced by strip malls and — Hey look, there’s Sam’s Club!

But later (much later), as I thought about it, I realized it must be tough being a secretary in an office with this particular recruiter, who is basically the boss of the office. (Note to any socialists who happen to be reading: It’s called “the coordinator class.” I recommend y’all do some reading on it.)

That kind of stuff makes you walk on eggshells. It makes you think people are accusing you of things even when they’re really not. Honestly, that secretary’s job must suck. I get one phone call, and I’m annoyed. That secretary is there, what, 40 hours a week? Ick.

And what about that recruiter’s kids? I am assuming said recruiter has kids, though I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles that this is the case. But if someone, anyone, treats their professional underlings in this manner, how do you suppose such people treat their children? If workers have difficulty defending themselves against coordinators, how much more difficult is it for children to defend themselves against parents? (Not to digress too much here, but in a good society, it’s simply not possible for children to be considered private property. They must be considered a precious public resource. And entirely new non-nuclear modes of child-rearing must be developed.)

But of course, chances are good that that’s how this recruiter got that way in the first place. Apples don’t fall far from trees. If we were to examine this recruiter’s childhood experiences at home, what would we find?

And how about me? What makes me think I can perceive any of this? You know what they say. It takes one to know one.

People that know me (both of them) know that I’m a fanatical pareconist. But society is more than economics. Society is, among other things, kinship too. And nothing in kinship relations — arguably nothing at all in any society — is as important as how children are raised. (I have no kids — a fact for which my unborn progeny should be extremely grateful.)

Children are not private property. I mean, in our currently-existing society, they are. But they shouldn’t be. In a society whose economic relations are determined by participatory economics, whatever that society’s kinship relations look like, they can’t include the slotting of children into private property roles. Children are a public resource.

I hate Hillary Clinton more than I possibly tell you, but the title of that book she wrote way back when (It Takes a Village To Raise a Child — and no, I did not read it) is actually accurate. Children would do much better to have a plethora of adult role models to choose from, than to be restricted to two … or one.

I don’t know what kinship relations in a pareconish society should look like, but they can’t be nuclear. Some way has to be found for children to be raised by lots of people. I’m sorry, but, other than when it comes to medical records, genetics is for the birds. Biology no more determines parenthood than … well, if I were smarter, I could come up with some real witty analogy. But I’m not that clever.

But I smart enough to know that our society’s fetish with equating parenthood with biology is not only ridiculous, it’s damaging. I don’t know for certain if this is true or not, but during my fundamentalist Christian years (a very long time ago), I remember one a preacher saying once that it was the Greeks who read “son of God” as a genetic statement. This preacher said that, in Jewish culture of the time, anyone could be anyone else’s son if he were loyal (or some such) to that person (and yes, I did notice, even at that time, that there was no mention of daughters here).

Now, I have no idea what the preacher’s overall point was, but I remembered what struck me as the important part. Perhaps he made it up entirely (I’ve never researched it to try to find out). But I hope it’s true. I hope that, somewhere out there, even if only in the past, there are or were people smart enough to realize that — again, medical histories excepted — genetics mean (or should mean) absolutely zero when it comes to parenting. Children don’t need to know who their “real daddy” (or whatever) is. They need emotionally healthy adult role models to look after them and care for them. Nuclear child-rearing arrangements don’t make that utterly impossible, but they certainly mitigate heavily against it.

So, why we’re throwing out capitalism and replacing it with parecon, let’s also throw out the nuclear family and find some more communal (and just for the record: I hate socialism) way to raise children. It would be better for all of us. Especially the kids.

And I hope that drug screen missed the fact that I drank three pots of coffee and an entire two-liter of pop yesterday.

Eric Patton lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached via e-mail at: Read other articles by Eric, or visit Eric's website.