Monday, September 21, 2020

Babbling Botkin: "What if My Husband Dies?" - Part Six

Hello, dear readers!

The atmospheric haze of smoke and soot carried from the Western wildfires has reached Michigan over the last week   The first three days reminded me of how the sky looks in very humid summer weather where sky is bright blue overhead and fades to a white-gray along the horizon.  The sun was also haloed when it was overhead.  It felt odd because the humidity is fairly low right now and highs are in the mid-70's so the sky would normally be crisply blue.  

The haze has increased markedly over the last 24 hours.  The light is red-shifted though the day so that direct sunlight between 10am-4pm looks yellow instead of white and the rest of the day has red-orange light instead of yellow light.   Sunrise and sunset has vivid colors - but not the usual set of colors we see.  For a few minutes last night, the western sky was a rose-pink with a red sun.  As the sun rose this morning, it was red until 7:30 in the morning, shifted to orange around 8:30am and finally shifted to yellow-white around 9:30.  The intensity of the sun feels decreased as well.   

We are nearly six minutes into Geoffrey Botkin's discussion of "What If My Husband Dies?".  In the last post, Botkin let a woman with four children know that sharing stories about hallowed ancestors is going to be a critical component of supporting a family if her husband dies.   Needless to say, I'm skeptical of that advice.  

Today, the video dives into the importance of a family-based business led by the father.   Now, every time Botkin talks about business, I immediately replay the scene in "The Muppets' Christmas Carol" where Samuel Eagle lectures a young Scrooge about entering "Business!".     This next quote makes me wonder the exact ages of the letter writer's children:
[00:05:50] Maybe your husband has had some highly developed dreams for the future and you know does your husband leave these to be fulfilled by the boys.  If so, I mean this could be a legacy more valuable than most families realize.  You know, a business plan. A business strategy for things that could be done with the family.  If the dad is taking into account and you are taking into account all the different uh gifts and abilities and talents that each of the young boys have. You know . How can those be kind of woven together to build some kind of a business structure or business idea that works for your family.  
In case anyone was wondering, Geoffrey Botkin has highly developed dreams for his kids.  Botkin himself wasn't able to fulfill those dreams - see the absence of any sons-in-law for more info - but his kids can totally fulfill those dreams over the next two hundred years or so.

Because of that fascinating quirk, Botkin assumes that everyone has sat down and planned out their kids' lives in great detail.  The obvious problem is that 1) not everyone thinks parents should plan  their kids' lives and 2) the plans often fall apart miserably.  

Based on that, I find a detailed plan of a future family business laid out by the dad - but not executed by the dad - to be highly suspect.  That is, in fact, the form of hell that Dorothea Casaubon rejects after her husband dies prior to starting his epic - and massively flawed - "Key to All Mythologies" opus.   

The age of the kids involved matters a whole heap, too - and Botkin is strangely silent on that.  This is a family that could have four kids under the age of 4 or quadruplet 16-year old young men.   My son is three going on four.   Based on his interests, we need to start a company that designs and manufactures combination heavy equipment cleaning machines.  He's specifically fascinated by his wrecking-ball-crane-mop, but I'm sure this will be followed by the equally thrilling firetruck-dusterdigger-dishwasher, and the perennial favorite chopper-broom.   I have to question, however, if anyone would be as enthusiastic about those expensive and strangely designed machines as we are.

Some 16-year olds have more formed interests; others not so much.   I've known plenty of high schoolers who genuinely believe they will be music stars, pro athletes, or fiction writers who are very far away from the skill set needed to fulfill those dreams.    I have known several teens who got fairly successful small businesses off the ground - one kid was an ace at small electronic repairs; another was a talented drummer - but the level of success each of them reached wasn't enough to support four people.   

I also knew teenagers who were supporting themselves and either dependent children or members of their family of origin.   They did that by working multiple part-time jobs while going to school and were always stressed and exhausted.|

This next section pretty much undermines Botkin's entire rhetoric about a small business being the salvation of a widow with small children:
[00:06:28] And I mean that could be an extraordinarily powerful thing which which starts off small  and grows small.  It's not a get rich quick scheme.  It's it's a get rich slow scheme. I mean, you know and if your husband is helping to craft one of those things into place and you're able to start little now with what you have with the boys being young.   This is one thing that we did in our family and and it built the kind of character and that's what we'll get to in a second and into the boys that they were  then able to take on more responsibility and then more and then more and more.  
Come on, man.     All of that requires the dad to be alive and capable of helping to build the business. 

  The title of the video is "What If My Husband Dies?" with the implication that he'd die soon - not "What If My Husband Dies in Fifteen Years After Successfully Launching A Small Family Business?"

At least Botkin is being honest-adjacent.  Building a small business from scratch takes time.  It takes investment. Botkin has already admitted that the family is not likely to have life insurance and may have crippling bills from the father's COPD treatment, and that getting COVID would be really bad for the dad - so how exactly is this family going to launch a business?    That's ignoring the obvious as well; the middle of a pandemic is not a great time for most small business launches.   

More broadly - what small business is Geoffrey talking about his family building?  In the 1990's, he was involved in a fundamentalist Christian politics think tank in DC.  At some point, he hooked up with Vision Forum and failed to launch a conservative newspaper in Christchurch, NZ in the very early 2000's.   My understanding was that funded his family based on VF events until he decided to launch the Western Conservatory of Arts and Science around 2012-2013.  That was good timing since VF imploded in 2015 when Doug Phillips molestation of a live-in nanny become public knowledge.    For the last five years, he's been fairly silent online.  Now, at some point, the decently successful business T. Rex Arms was launched by one of the Botkin sons - but Botkin himself was never mentioned in even the earliest versions of their site.   

Building a small business is hard.  Doing so while a respiratory pandemic disease is circulating that could easily kill or maim the main breadwinner of the family is both dangerous and irresponsible.  

Good luck - and as always - don't write to Botkin for advice.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Battle of Peer Dependency: Chapter Four - Part Six

Welcome, dear readers!

We've gone from summery weather to mid-October weather overnight.  We've had three days of rain, wind, and temperatures in the 50's.  I'd enjoy the weather a bit more if I had already unpacked everyone's winter clothes.  Instead, I'm wondering how my son can have a million jackets in the house when the weather is 80 - and they are all missing in action when the weather is chilly.   

After a break, I'm slogging back into "The Battle Of Peer Dependency" by Marina Sears.  We ended the last section of Chapter Four with Mrs. Sears complaining about how other homeschooled families didn't raise their kids exactly like she raised hers - so they needed to cut off the other families because Jesus.

The remainder of the chapter is a weird, semi-coherent slog through 1) why Jonathan and David's friendship was different from standard friendships and 2) how King Saul's disobedience to God's Commands to not take spoils in a war means that kids are required to obey their parents unquestioningly.    For anyone who has not read the book, my paraphrase is much more coherent than the actual chapter. 

  First, Mrs. Sears decides that it is time to take on the fact that the Bible has a perfectly good example of peer-to-peer friendship between Jonathan and David.  Now, there are other examples of plenty of people who hang out with non-immediate family members all the time - Ruth and Naomi, Mary and Elizabeth, Jesus and ALL of the disciples - but we ignore all of those.   Apparently, David and Jonathan made a covenant - which Mrs. Sears argues we are unable to understand or emulate today - so kids can't have friends. 

 Personally, I think that's crap.  Plenty of people have long-term friendships that involve sacrifices for the good of the relationship.  My best friend Jessica and I were best friends from 1st grade through when she was killed in a car accident at age 28.  Knowing that I could maintain a friendship for years through long-distance moves and major life changes made me felt much more comfortable about getting married - the only covenant Mrs. Sears views as valid now - because I knew I could work to keep a relationship going in difficult and easy times.

Mrs. Sears seems to be aware how shaky her argument is - so she dives right into explaining that Jonathan can make covenants because his relationship with his father.  She explains that Saul disobeyed the prophet Samuel's dictates of when to offer a sacrifice - and God was very, very angry.   

Duly noted.  Not sure what this has to do with Jonathan and David - but whatever.

Mrs. Sears then argues that Saul's disobedience to a prophet - in circumstances that actually made a lot of sense - is the same behavior as everyone who disagrees with her ever:

One aspect of peer dependency is the developmental behavior of having what I want, when I want it. This takes on many forms in Christian circles today. It is very common to see individuals define holiness or worship from their perspective, rather than coming to God by His standards. Rationalizing truth is a deadly trap, and to avoid it one needs discernment. Children have a great capacity to rationalize truth in order to get what they want, when they want it. It is a parent's responsibility to train their sons and daughters to obey. ( Ephesians 6: 1- 3) Remember that partial obedience is total disobedience, and good motives do not make disobedience right. (pgs. 49-50)
Does expecting your newly bought house to sell immediately when you place it on the market after your husband's tragic death count as "what I want when I want it"?  

How about moving from near family in Montana to Texas as a widow for no known reason? 

How about controlling your kids' lives to fit a predetermined mold so that people will 'see' that God takes care of widows and orphans exactly like Mrs. Sears wants people to see?

Guess that behavior isn't limited to wordly folks after all.  

If Mrs. Sears is a stickler on Biblical worship, she'd better be instructing her kids in playing flutes, harps, tambourines and drums so they can dance in front of the Ark of the Covenant.   The kids should be in 4H; raising animals correctly for sacrifices takes practice.     

That's not true worship?  The Bible says otherwise.

Children are solid at rationalizing the truth - but adults are better.  Why did Mrs. Sears pick Ephesians 6:1-3 instead of Deuteronomy 5:16?   Ephesians 6:1-3 enjoins children to obey their parents because the commandment to honor thy father and mother is the first commandment with a promise - but that comes as a Pauline pro-family addition.   Compare that with some choice views about family life from Jesus himself like Matthew 8:21-22 where Jesus tells a disciple to follow Jesus and leave the burial of his father to someone else.  Mark 3:31-34 has Jesus denying the power of his biological family to stop him preaching and claiming his followers as his real family.   Really, that's a section of the Gospels that catches short shrift from CP/QF followers since it undermines their entire rationale for child raising.

While we're talking about Jesus - he spent most of his ministry running around breaking the Sabbath.  Like all the time.   Oh, we dress it up by explaining that Jesus just couldn't let the person with a paralyzed arm suffer one more day - but does that make sense at all?  Most of the people who Jesus healed were not in immediate danger of dying.   They were suffering - but they had been suffering for YEARS at this point.  Twenty four hours more of paralysis or a damaged limb or a missing sense - that's child's play for these souls - and healing them on Sunday morning would have avoided the entire shit-fit the Pharisees threw afterwards!  Hell, the blind from birth guy got to listening to the disciples discuss whose sins caused his blindness prior to being healed on a Sabbath.  Super-awkward - but not nearly as awkward as the grilling of the guy and his parents about the entire episode that happened because - you guessed it! - Jesus decided to heal him on the Sabbath.   

Jesus's motive was to infuriate the Pharisees by thumbing his nose at their beliefs.  Is pissing off your enemies a good enough reason to disobey God's Laws?   After all, the Bible says "Yes!"

After that train of thought petered out, Mrs. Sears explains that Saul made a rash vow that none of Israel would eat during one day under pain of death - but forgot to tell Jonathan.  Jonathan eats some honey.   Families cast lots and Jonathan was picked by lot.  Jonathan 'fesses up.  Saul refuses to admit he was wrong - but Israel was so angry that they saved Jonathan!   

At the end of a pretty solid buildup, Mrs. Sears gives us this quote which causes me to laugh every time:
Oh, that fathers would understand the great position they have in the lives of their children. For Saul to commit himself to kill Jonathan for a prideful, selfish order must have greatly the damaged the relationship between father and son. (pg. 50)
*Snorts and wipes eyes again*

No, no.  Being offered up to God as a sacrifice for wrongdoing enhances relationships!  Just ask Abraham and Isaac!  They get along great - and their families are completely functional!  Multiple generations of completely mentally healthy non-psychopaths from that line, yup, yup.   

But seriously - Mrs. Sears had to do a number on 1 Samuel 14 to make Saul's stopped execution of Jonathan seem like a life-changing event for Jonathan.   

First, Jonathan didn't hear about Saul's vow - but he was extremely dismissive of Saul's vow for being stupid when he was told of it in 1 Samuel 14:28-30.   Dare I say that Jonathan was not honoring his father?   

Second, divination by lots was a big, important group activity of the Old Testament - and God Himself was pointing at Jonathan as the person who had incurred divine wrath by breaking a vow made by Israel.   Jonathan knew this - he's quite ready to die as a sacrifice for breaking the vow.   Mrs. Sears makes a song and dance about how Saul could have backed down by telling everyone that Saul made a stupid vow - but that's not how divine vows work in the Old Testament at all.   No, the only way out was by a sacrifice of some kind - and the people intervened to ransom Jonathan because the Lord clearly favored Jonathan because of a crazy incursion raid Jonathan made earlier in the day which caused a mass Phillistinian self-annihilation. 

Third - and last - the Israelites objected to Jonathan's death because of his victory earlier in the day.  How would they have responded if he had lost?  I doubt that Saul's vow would have been looked at as rash if the battle had been a rout - and Jonathan would have been sacrificed for being a father-hating vow breaker.

In any other book, this would be the place where the author explains how Jonathan's dysfunctional relationship with his father makes his relationship with David different.    Too bad Mrs. Sears skipped the wrap-up all together - because I have no bloody clue why being Saul's son makes Jonathan's friendship with David different.   

Next up: confusing King Saul's descent in to blasphemy with child rearing advice.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Babbling Botkin: "What If My Husband Dies?" - Part 5

 Hello, dear readers!

Fall is creeping into West Michigan.   Days are still warm, but the nights are getting a little chilly.  

I was unexpectedly busy this week because the paint department at the hardware retail store I work at decided to run the first paint sale since COVID-19 started.   The customers have been pretty good - but we are still getting slammed.  The staffing hours seem like our schedules were made when the store was assuming that the sale was canceled - but since the sale is on - we are just short on labor most of the time. 

Add in the fact that a simple majority of our staff is new to paint and that's lead to more work for the experienced members of the team like me.   I'm one of three people in the department who is licenced to run an electric ladder - think of a really small scissor lift - so I've been moving 100 or more gallons of paint from the overhead storage down to floor level each evening then stocking the shelves.   The nice bit is once I've put up gates I can work without wearing a mask.   The downside is that gallons of paint are shipped in four packs that weight around 40 pounds so I'm in anaerobic burn most of the time even without a mask.

On an unrelated note, my shoulders and upper arms are getting toned and I have no idea why.  :-P

We are 4.5 minutes into Geoffrey Botkin's YouTube video "What If My Husband Dies?" ,  So far, he was waxed poetic about the good old days when tons of people died young while being chary on sharing any practical advice for the mother of four boys whose husband has COPD in the middle of a respiratory virus pandemic.   At the end of the last post, he promised that if she writes after her husband dies, he'll give some targeted advice - but until then - he'll stick with broad musings.   Broad, marginally effective ramblings like these:
[00:04:28]   And here's what these are: number one is inheritance; number two is character; and number three is business.  And this I've talked about this with my boys.  I've got five sons, have two daughters, and we've talked about these things.  I'm relatively healthy and so is my wife. We're still around.  Our children are now grown, but it's been really good to talk about these things.  
 Pssst!  Pssst!  Earth to Botkin! Psst!

What you talk about with your male offspring right now is of no importance to this conversation.  Why?  Your sons are fully grown men.  The oldest son is around 40 and the youngest son is in his mid-twenties.  The oldest three sons are married fathers.   One son has managed to raise his family while working as a freelance composer - which means he has utilized his skills, hard work and connections to make a career in a very tight field.   The older unmarried son started a CNC weapon accessory business that seems to be keeping the other four brothers financially stable.   What you talk about with them today is moot; they are living the lives of financially independent adults.

I might be more interested in listening to what you told the boys when they were the same age or younger than the LW's sons - but we'll never know if that advice alone would have launched all of your sons' careers.   

No, the only bit that's marginally more useful would be a discussion of how Victoria along with Anna Sofia and Elizabeth will be able to support themselves if Geoffrey Botkin died today.   Victoria has at least 20 years of life ahead of her based on her age - and the two daughters have five decades of life to have financial plans for.  How will inheritance, character and business help them?  After all, their lives far more closely mimic the wife with four dependent children than the grown brothers's lives do.

[00:04:57] So, what inheritance?  You know when you think of the first one - inheritance - are your boys getting from their dad.  You know.  Maybe you are totally broke because of medical bills, right.  So it's a non-material inheritance but that is totally ok.  Wisdom from the past can be worth a whole lot more than currency and money and houses and lands etc.  Stories and lessons from a grandfather and a great-grandfather can be a vast form of wealth.  I mean, I hope you've been hanging on to some of these things these stories and this.  It's part of the inheritance, part of the legacy that you have.  And if you have a library, which you know makes use of it, talks about the great wisdom from the past stored in books, conversations with so many great men and written down; you can have it when you are in your house and that can be part of the legacy. 
Only someone who is completely divorced from financial want can blithely declare that stories about Great-great Grandpa have the same value as money, houses or lands.   You can use assets to provide food, shelter, clothing, heat, medical care and schooling for four sons.   Stories about their ancestors can certainly provide moral support during times of want - but most mothers would honestly prefer a healthy insurance payout or a house to sell when their children need support than a good story.

On a more philosophical level - why wait to share those stories until after the father dies?  Women tend to be given the job of keeping family stories alive - but the father presumably knows more about his ancestors than his wife has memorized during their time together.  

On a more practical level - the United States has a world-class library system.  Residents can sign up for a library card for free in the municipality in which they live and receive a treasure trove of supplies.  Libraries run free classes for babies through elders on every topic imaginable.  Patrons can borrow books from all over the state and country to read - or audiobooks to listen to.  Librarians become experts at knowing how to access a wide range of support systems within their local area.  The closest library to us provides free high(ish) speed internet access and computers to use in an area where many families lack internet access.  They also help people fill out various forms to access social services.   My previous library specialized in helping people find jobs and providing access to English language learning materials for adults.   

My two-cents to the LW is to start visiting her local library alone or with her kids in tow.  Libraries have been a cornerstone of lifelong learning for three generations in my family - actually, four if you count my son and niece - and giving your sons familiarity with public libraries is a useful long-term gift.  While there, tell the librarian that you are concerned that you might have to re-enter the workforce and could use some help with writing resumes.  Read the resources the librarian suggests and write a practice resume.  Your first draft will suck - but that's ok; everyone's first draft sucks.    Ask the librarian if they would be willing to read your resume and give you some pointers.  You might feel self-conscious about that - but librarians enjoy being able to help out patrons.   

Good luck - and as always - don't ask Geoffrey Botkin for advice.