To belong is not to love!

We often hear things like “I love my country” or “love your enemies.” People talk a lot about love, but it’s more than that. Rhetoric about supporting things (support the troops, support your race) is also part of this. In general, we can say that when admiration or support or favourable feelings are expressed, they are used to designate two very different phenomena, which I will call “love” and “belonging.”

When I say love, I mean the feeling we all commonly know. When I say belonging, I mean a feeling of identification to a collectivist whole. Love and belonging are a bit hard for me to define or explain in and of themselves, but I hope that the following examination of their properties will help to show what I mean.

* When you love something, it is based on the best in you, the most noble traits. When you belong, it is based on the worst in you- racism, nationalism, hatred of strangers, exclusivism. You feel belonging to “your country” based on a contrast with “other countries,” you feel belonging to “your race” in contrast to all others, you feel belonging to “your religion” in contrast to all others, etc. In love, on the other hand, other things or people are irrelevant, as love is focused solely on the object of love.

* Love is based on recognizing your values in whatever it is you love: it stems from who you are. Belonging is based on aligning your values with those of the collective, whether you already agree with them or not. Love is moral, belonging is counter-moral. Love strengthens the self, because it is based on one’s values, on one’s ego. Belonging seeks the integration of the ego into group values and morals, and encourages people to be “altruistic” and “selfless”- i.e. to stop thinking about their own values and to slavishly follow those of the group.

* Love does not make enemies, but only seeks to befriend and attract. Making enemies goes counter to what love is about. The process of creating a sense of belonging, on the other hand, is based on fear and hatred, and cannot exist without enemies. You love “your country” right or wrong because you fear being “taken over” or perhaps an ungoverned state, because you hate “your country’s enemies” (which are mostrly imaginary), and the very notion of “loving one’s country” could not be generated without constant fear of those enemies: nationalism is never more popular than in times of war, by a long shot.

* Despite what some may think, love is not unconditional. If a beaten wife stayed with her husband out of feelings, we would call that unhealthy, not love. Violence crowds out love. Belonging, on the other hand, is not only present where violence is, but is reinforced by violence- both by the threat of violence against those who don’t belong, and by the use of violence against one’s enemies. Love is helped by freedom, because it is expressed in a multitude of ways which may or may not be suppressed by coercive agents. Belonging, on the other hand, is helped by coercion, because it is reinforced by violence.

(note that it is possible to love and belong to the same thing, in different ways)

I got some of these points from Society Without State. Unfortunately, they got many of them completely wrong, probably out of a misguided idealism that glorifies total and unconditional surrender of the self. In fact, such a surrender is immoral, because it nullifies one’s moral faculties. But this is a general flaw of Eastern schools of thought in general, not just the Society Without State blog.

We can cut to the essence of the issue by saying that love is like markets, and belonging is like statism. Like markets, love is based on free exchange of values, without violence, threats or control. Like the State, belonging is based on hierarchies, us v them mentality, and the desire to control others.

I have been writing about bad Starbucks quotes, and here is another one that relates to this issue, by showing us that the word “love” can be easily confused with “belonging”:

You can’t lead the people, if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people, if you don’t serve the people.

Cornel West

Love is not compatible with “leadership,” at least in the statist sense. Certainly the idea of “saving the people,” which is extremely patronizing, indicates that the statist sense was intended here. But how can you use force and intimidation to control people, which is what statist leadership is about, and love them at the same time? We can see this is quite impossible. But it is possible to lead and feel a sense of belonging with one’s subjects: indeed, it would be quite incongruous not to.

When you love someone, you don’t lead them, you help them. You don’t try to control them, you try to lead by example. You don’t threaten them, you show your support to them. Isn’t it obvious that statism is the opposite of love?

A society based on love is a society where no one tries to “lead” or control anyone else, where no one threatens violence, or uses violence, against anyone else, where people treat each other with respect: in short, an Anarchist society. The State is the opposite of that, and love and statism are polar opposites. Statism is based on fear, cowing and hatred.

6 thoughts on “To belong is not to love!

  1. Anarcho-pragmatiste June 25, 2008 at 15:16

    Very interesting post François. Maybe I misunderstand something but do you agree with this quote, from Society Without State?

    “The first test is that you do not want exclusive possession of the object of your love.”

    I ask you about this particular quote only, not the rest of the paragraph where this quote is.

  2. Francois Tremblay June 25, 2008 at 20:38

    I don’t think possession is really an issue, in terms of the difference between love and belonging. I don’t think that either of them are really compatible with “you… wanting exclusive possession of the object.” In belonging, you want the “right people” to be part of your favoured group. And in love, you want as many people as possible to, as they say in their entry, know about it and share it.

  3. Francois Tremblay June 25, 2008 at 20:46

    BTW, since I write entries long in advance, I can tell you that there are more entries coming on this topic (at least five).

  4. […] 2008 People talk a great deal about love, but fail to understand its nature or consequences. I have already discussed the former, and in this entry I want to talk more on the […]

  5. […] To belong is not to love! A society based on love. The true self, seat of love. (part 1/2) (part 2/2) The radical nature of love. (Part 1/2) (Part 2/2) Love your enemies as yourself. The control mentality and the love mentality. […]

  6. […] right and against what’s wrong. Collectivism, on the other hand, is founded on the principle of belonging. This is not to say that collectivism is always wrong or that individualism is always right, but […]

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