In light of Stefan Molyneux’s recent announcement of his cancer diagnosis I thought it would be fair to offer a bit of defense of his views of DEFOOing (De- Family Of Origin). It is one of the most frequent objections I come across against him which basically entails leaving your family if you deem them abusive. On its face there seems to be nothing objectionable about this at all. It seems that the objections out there are from parents who have done nothing wrong to their children and are heartbroken that they have been ostracized. I haven’t done a vast amount of research into these matters but from what I’ve heard from Molyneux is that he is not so very hard-lined to propose that if one’s parents do not immediately adopt libertarian, non-aggression ethics they should be outright abandoned, and it would certainly be unreasonable to make such claims. The problem is that this seems to be the criticism most voraciously leveled against him. I’ve listened to quite a few of his podcasts, and though I don’t subscribe to his own philosophy of Universally Preferable Behavior, he does offer what I believe are quite valuable insights on parenting. Further listening to some of his call in Sunday shows and the personal accounts of some his younger listeners in regards to their home life is really enlightening in just how intolerable situations can be for young people.
My position in regards to this comes from that of experience. Not so much personal, thankfully, my parents have done what I consider their “fair share” of raising me, though I certainly wouldn’t say it was to the best of their ability nor that I should have left them at an even earlier age. I think it’s fair to have an honest acknowledgement of the parenting I’ve witnessed of others throughout my life, which at times was exponentially worse than what I went through. I think of the ways my parents lost their temper with me on nearly a daily basis and am just astonished at the idea of treating a child this way. Though I’m not a parent myself, I have had room-mates in the past whose children would visit on weekends and I have watched them from time to time when the parent had to run to the store etc. Even when the children get out of control (which is very rare, they were extremely well-mannered) my methods in addressing their behavior are based on just that; addressing their behavior and explaining why I don’t want them to act in such a way, explaining how the results of such behavior affects others around them etc. The notion of yelling at them, threatening them, or god forbid striking them is so fundamentally alien to me it turns my stomach when I look back at my rearing, and even worse the upbringing that some of my friends have had to go through. I don’t like to forgive my parents for the vicious things they did, I tend to get rather complacent to it, but it is interesting looking back.
I recall one time when I was around 15 I had a friend over who had a more affluent upbringing than I. Living with my father who was earning very little at the time, I often collected spare change and counted it on the kitchen table. That day my dad came home in a considerably foul mood and being the neat freak he was took the pile of change I had counted out and swept it onto the floor, yelling at me about the mess I had made (merely trying to scrape coins together to get some food etc.). Being as these sorts of things were rather norm for me at this point, I sheepishly cleaned up the coins from the floor; shoulders slumped at the work I had to do-over. I use this as an example of the rare times a friend or other person witnessed my parents behaving this way and is rather tame in contrast to some other occurrences, but having that rare outside perspective at the time can be quite eye-opening when one is so immersed in that type of relationship. My friend who was visiting at the time was just shocked, and for good reason.
After my dad left the house my friend asked, “He got mad because you were counting change on the kitchen table?”
“Yeah, he’s kinda a neat freak, that’s just how he gets sometimes.”
I look back at my then complacency towards the situation and think of this as a rather petty scenario contrasted with what some of my other friends have (quite literally) suffered at the hands of their parents, though I will respect their privacy and allow any personal accounts for commentary, if any readers wish to do so. It’s fair to assume that many of us have to some degree witnessed appalling or at best careless acts parents have committed when rearing children. Maybe if these people condemning Molyneux for recommending young people cut off all family ties with abusive members had listened to the personal experiences of some of the callers on his show they might have a better understanding of just how barbaric and unapologetic many, many parents can be (as well, Molyneux describes his own upbringing as particularity brutish, emotionally abusive and impoverished – I recall him once stating that his mother had so little money raising him as to not afford getting him a haircut and proceeded to cut his hair with pinking shears to save on the expense, and his utter embarrassment when attending school the next day). For someone who finds the idea of yelling at a child repulsive, I tend to think there is a fair amount of willful ignorance on the part of those who fail to even remotely conceptualize why a child or young adult would want to abandon their family, as examples of these sorts of poor parenting are rather prevalent if one cares to look.