Defining love. [part 1/2]

My other entries about love as a major defining Anarchist concept:

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.

This should be my final entry on the topic, at least for the moment: after this I am moving on to the next major Anarchist concept, which you will see soon.

I’ve written all this about the concept of love, but I haven’t yet actually defined the term as I use it. Better late than never, I suppose. Here is my definition of love as an Anarchist concept:

Love is a constellation of (personal, relational and social) values and moral principles which align our actions (behaviour, relations and social ethics) with the things and people that attract our true self.

In short, to love is to recognize authentic attraction (to something in our true self) and to put that recognition into practice (aligning our actions). I love someone because their personality (for instance) attracts something that is authentic in me and this makes me want to care for them. I love an ideology because it resonates with my own beliefs and feelings about the world and this makes me want to defend it or write about it.

There are a couple of things that deserve further examination in this definition. For one thing, love is not a value in itself but rather a constellation of values, all related by their tendency to make us want to align ourselves with things for which we have authentic attraction. This may seem unduly complex, but you have to remember (as the redpsy site, my reference guide for psychological concepts, points out) that even the feeling of love is not a single emotion, but rather a constellation of emotions such as joy, lust, tenderness, attachment, esteem, vulnerability, and so on.

The concept of the “true self” is another that might puzzle some. In fact, I have already written about it on many entries, such as The True Self, Seat of Love part 1, where I explain what it is and how we can identify it. Simply, the true self is that part of us which does not come from exterior indoctrination or self-censorship: in short, that part of us that is authentically ours.

The true self does not only mean the absence of indoctrination, but also the presence of personal evolution. As for most Anarchist concepts or ideas, it’s both destructive and constructive. Once one realizes that a lot of what he perceives as being his beliefs or values do not come from himself, he must then come to realize what he actually does believe or value.

One may question why I include the concept of the true self in the definition of what I consider to be a central Anarchist concept. Are the true self and Anarchy linked? I believe they are. In a way, this proposition is uncontroversial, since I define the true self as being something outside of the systemic indoctrination we’re subjected to, and so is Anarchy. I think it’s also probably uncontroversial that someone who is stuck to identities will have little reason to become an Anarchist, since Anarchy presumes the desire to question the very hierarchies which sustain identities. Also, the proposition that man is innately evil, which is a central principle of these hierarchies, is incompatible with the concept of love.

Sadly, the word “love” nowadays is very much associated with either sex or with a namby-pamby “can’t we all get along” attitude. Sexual liberation has made sex an essential component of modern relationships, while putting emotions on the back burner, and in many cases emotional repression is still highly valued. So sexual liberation is actually more of a hindrance than a support for the expression of love. The role of sex is not that of a substitute for a meaningful relationship, but that of a finality which can only have meaning within an emotional context. The people in “free love” movement could not stay in that relational mode because their feelings towards relationships were still aberrated. For free “love” (sex) to persist as a relational mode, we must first have actual free love.

The capital-democratic system also offers us alternative ways of seeing love. One is to consider love as a mere tool to keep married couples together, to protect the “sanctity of marriage.” Another is to consider love as the gifting of capitalist products (the expectation of the couple as providing material support, especially the male, as well as endless waves of cards, diamond rings, chocolate, flowers, and teddy bears). These views must be rejected, if only because they make love contingent on other relational modes, while love is in fact the source of all worthwhile relational modes.

Continue to part 2.

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