Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on Multatuli

Branshea's comment to my last post piqued my interest in Multatuli even more.

I found this site devoted to him:

To read it in Dutch, take the /en/ off the end of the URL. And then of course there's always the Wikipedia entry.

I found the duck eggs quote here:,M1
in a "limited preview" online of "The Oyster and the Eagle: Selected Aphorisms and Parables of Multatuli" by E.M. Beekman, 1974.

It can be found on page 102, listed as No. 852.

Presumably Beekman selected the quote from some other Multatuli source material, but I can't identify it from the online preview.

Reading through the pages available for preview on the Google Books site, I was instantly fascinated and drawn to this figure. He's irreverent, forthright, dry, darkly humorous. A writer who belongs in the company of Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, H.L. Mencken.

Right away I found another comment about parenting, although the aphorisms are mostly about all sorts of other things. This is on Page 49.

A mother who does not have nourishing milk is to be pitied.

A mother who does have nourishing milk and forces it back into her disappointed glands, robbing her child, is criminal.

Wow. That sure beats the heck out of the modern pussyfooting so common around this issue. I get angry every time I hear or read the suggestion that "this decision is a very personal one," cast as an answer to the question of whether or not to breastfeed.

I hate that "personal decision" garbage. Well, of course it's personal. Very personal. No duh. What do I need anyone to tell me that for? It's as if the writer, or organization, putting forth the statement imagines they're bequeathing on me the right to think through and ultimately make that decision for myself. I have that right already; I already know about that right; to suggest otherwise is downright insulting.

Beyond that, the statement is devoid of useful content. It's really just a cop-out, a way for parenting-related books and articles to sound wise and encompassing, while backing away from taking a stand.

In effect, "it's a very personal decision" translates to, "It doesn't matter either way." But it does matter. It's a huge deal, for nutrition, for normal human development: emotional, social, psychological. Sure, many babies can grow up happy and healthy enough without mother's milk and the comfort of mother's breast. But why should they have to?

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