Like all good Americans, I was raised primarily by television. It was a component of my well-rounded education which also included Discoveries in My Brother’s Room and Outcomes of Interpersonal Manipulation. However, television was the primary caregiver, invaluably telling me what to consume and how to frame my opinions. That’s the kind of esoteric teaching you don’t get outside of a brainwashing cult. There was one point that television stressed in my youth that I’ve never been able to wholeheartedly adopt: the idea that blood is thicker than water.
I mean, blood is thicker than water. I know this, I have handled both liquids. But the concept that the bonds of family trump all is not something intrinsic to me. Sure, I love my parents, there are members of my family that I genuinely love. But I love them for the same reasons I might love anyone, because of our shared experience and some degree of respect and admiration. Most of my family I feel somewhat indifferent about. I am interested to know things about my ancestors, but detailing my genealogy isn’t necessarily going to make me like you. The whole idea of tracing a bloodline kind of creeps me out, actually. You’re just absorbing the history of some stranger because he fucked your great-grandmother or something. Why should I revel in this person’s accomplishments and regret his crimes? Who the hell was this person to me except for the hapless donor of some biological material?
When you really think about nepotism and what it implies, you begin to see the world in a whole new light. Exploiting family connections professionally or otherwise implies that we should value an arbitrary, random thing like shared DNA over acquired skills and technical knowledge. Nepotism happens all the time and it’s essentially the foundation upon which monarchies are built. So how often is someone who is less than fully qualified working in a position due to sharing an ancestor with the CEO? Could your friend have set you up with a better date that was not with her cousin? Being family becomes an unearned pass into whatever shit they’re all mixed up in–good or bad–and somehow there should be an automatic pride attached to it.
Makes me think of that Bill Hicks bit: “Am I proud to be American? I dunno, I didn’t have a lot to do with it. My parents fucked there, that’s all.” Existence itself is so improbable and the pattern is so complex, I guess there’s something soothing in the created, more manageable pattern of one’s lineage. Me, I don’t feel that ancestral heartbeat pumping the blood of my fathers through my hardened arteries. An old friend of mine points out, “Friends are the best kind of family, because they’re the ones you choose.” That about sums it up.