Saturn devours his children, Francisco Goya

FATHERS.Human families come in many varieties, not only in the here & now, but over the millennia too. The idea of a ‘Father’ has not always been with us, & what it is and does when it is around was and is various.Some anthropologists think – & it makes sense to me – that for much of our species’ so-called pre-history, men did not know they had anything to do with pregnancy.

For millions of years the connection between sex and reproduction remained to be made. There were no Fathers! Among such hunter-gatherers men sometimes lived seperately from women & children & tended to contribute to children’s upbringing after infancy had passed, & did so not as individual fathers but as part of a group contribution – AllFathers.Perhaps this is some of what we recall when we say that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.


I think we will all agree, no matter how lucky we might have been with our own fathers, that much of the anger and disappointment & trauma in the world is to do with Fathers & their failures(to put it mildly).

There are still too many who cry when their father has left the house, not because he has left the house, but because of what he might do when he comes back.

Then there are the legions of absent fathers who simply & inexcusably desert their children.

The amount of deserting or partially deserting fathers is many multiples of those fathers who are unfairly denied access to children they want to see, but of course this does happen and is always tragic.

Many children are of course better off – emotionally & in terms of personal development – raised by their mothers alone. Yet this does not seem to always cancel out the emotional damage of fatherly absence, of the Nil-Father.

**** The accelerating climate catastrophe & human habitat crises will transform all aspects of how we live together. Institutions we take for granted & which support our current way of life (e.g cheap food, welfare state) will collapse. While there will be ups as well as downs, the overall picture of the coming decades is one in which life will get harder and harder for most of us.

As I wrote back in 2010:‘Your grandchildren’s lives will be worse than your nightmares could dream of’.

I wonder, in these darkening times what is the future of fathers, of family, of childrearing?


I am a Father. Recently after watching an episode of Black Mirror, my child said ‘I don’t want the world to futurise’.

I take this seriously, and though I can’t stop the future, which is bleak, I can at least emphasise the greatness of the past and what we can learn from it about how to live even in these darkening times.

What we had more of in the past, and not enough of now is, everyone knows, community. Community must be built & maintained – it doesnt happen by itself.

So, with my child, I emphasise human relations, especially friendship & the mutual support & affirmation provided by friendship (which takes work).

I also emphasise the importance of being true to yourself. But we only discover/negotiate who we are through our developing interactions with others.

So, no matter how terrifying the contemporary world and its future prospects might be – and if you are not terrified you are not paying attention – you have got to throw yourself into it anyway, to find out, for good or for ill, what it is to be human.