“Love should be mandatory!”

I am no longer surprised or outraged by anything the statists say in their lunacy, but I am still surprised and outraged by some of the stupid things Anarchists say. Being an Anarchist does not exclude one from being naive, deluded or blinded to certain sides of reality (and many people accuse me of having these same flaws). It is very much important to criticize each other when such flaws are identified.

Having written a great deal about love, you can imagine how disappointed I was when I read this on a famous Anarchist site: “love should be mandatory!” How deluded does a person have to be to make such a statement? What sort of horrible misinformation are Anarchists being taught?

The worse about this statement is that anyone can realize very rapidly that it is absolute nonsense: this requires no knowledge or education, but merely a pretty basic ability in introspection which everyone should have. Once you look in yourself, it is easy to recognize that love cannot be enforced. If someone pointed a gun at you and demanded that you love someone else, you would feel a lot of things, most probably fear to begin with, but how could you really love?

An emotion cannot be created from thin air, but rather must be cultivated with the proper stimuli. Making something mandatory is a good way to create resentment and anger, but not love. If love already exists, then there is no need to make it mandatory; if it doesn’t, then making it mandatory will not create it. No matter how much they try, bad parents can’t make their children love them, although they do create plenty of resentment and anger.

Maybe the statement referred to the effects of love being mandatory, not love itself. I did not ask any questions to the writer, so I don’t know whether that’s the case or not. But it doesn’t make any more sense. Making mutual aid mandatory is a pretty blatant contradiction, since mutual aid is defined by the willingness to help each other as equals, and coercion by definition implies inequality. Making charity mandatory… well, we already have that: and it’s no help at all, because (apart from charity being an unstable solution to a stable problem) the charity will always be directed to fulfill the interests of those who direct it.

Let me be clear on this. I am not saying that I disagree that love should be enforced: I am saying that it is logically impossible for love to be enforced. To do so defeats its own point immediately. And examining the truth of what I am saying does not require a great deal of education, or even agreement with me. All it requires is the capacity to introspect. So how can anyone get it wrong? Isn’t everyone able to at least do basic introspection?

It may seem like I am unfairly harping on that one sentence, but I do want to make a larger point about introspection here. This is a topic that I have never, ever seen addressed in anarchist writings, but which seems to me vital to understand anarchism.

After all, if we posit that morality/ethics/sociability (whatever you want to call it) is innate, to be found only within ourselves, and that man, freed from law, rules and regulations, standing on his own two feet, is at his most noble, then it greatly behooves us to understand the capacity to introspect, as well as how it becomes impaired. Such a capacity would make the difference between the success and failure of any anarchist or even remotely freedom-oriented endeavour. A group of people cut off from the bedrock of desires, fears and obligations which structure our society and unable to feel for themselves would be no more able to achieve anarchy than an unshackled human body could continue to exist indefinitely without nutrients.

One area where I’ve found major insights on the subject is the area of childhood and early schooling, which are extremely aberrated and form the foundation on which entire populations are successfully indoctrinated and even brainwashed (Nazi Germany presents a good example of this). The work of Alice Miller provides tremendous insight into this process. I’ve been an assiduous reader of her work and I think that she’s provided a lot of insights for anarchists to consider when looking at the topic of indoctrination.

Alice Miller’s main thread of thought is that, when babies or little children are verbally or physically abused, degraded, lied to, frustrated, and so on, and are unable to express their frustration because they are either too young to do so or their parents forbid them to do so, they will be condemned as adults to compulsively act on their repressed feelings (“repetition compulsion”) unless those feelings become consciously understood and expressed. As parents systematically forbid the expression of feelings to babies and young children, especially negative feelings against themselves, this is bound to happen to most people.

Schooling, of course, never helps, even if you go to private schools. The main function of compulsory education is not to educate: you don’t need a regimented system based on force for that, and it should be obvious that such a system would be very inefficient for that purpose. The main function of compulsory education is to produce obedient citizens. Read for instance John Gatto’s work on the origins of compulsory education in the Western world for a detailed analysis of this. I don’t agree at all with his outlook of where the future lies (he is a staunch pro-family supporter), but he’s done a lot of work deconstructing what has and is still going on.

The net result is that we can understand better why introspection seems to be so difficult for most people. So much of their personalities are hidden away that there’s not much left to be able to consider from all angles. All sorts of violent thoughts can emerge from that without being examined. It’s not hard to understand why people fervently believe in police brutality when they were raised to believe in parental brutality. That area of their life is closed off, and so all the emotional impulses that spring from it remain unexamined.

Love must be especially difficult to look at. After all, our parents professed love to us and demanded that we love them, so perhaps it is not hard for people to believe that love can be enforced. Many children are still being raised believing that physical abuse is a sign of love (“I’m doing this because I love you”/”This hurts me more than it hurts you”). Until they bring up their own issues to the surface, people do feel like they love their parents and see no wrong in them. And if a parent can do it, then why couldn’t the State or God, which are basically parental substitutes?

So that seems to explain the problem posed by the quote I gave you at the beginning. To a person who believes that their parents justifiably (because parents can do no wrong) forced him to love them, it is not a stretch to believe that love can be enforced in a society as well, based on the principle that guilt can make people do anything. If we can just inflict enough guilt, like our parents inflicted guilt on us for not loving them enough, we can make them do what they “should.” But of course, this cannot work, any more than it actually works with children. This manufactured feeling of love is an illusion, and turns into hatred when the illusion is exposed.

If you’d like to read more intelligent analysis derived from Alice Miller’s work, check out Arthur Silber’s brillant collection of essays at The Sacred Moment.

One thought on ““Love should be mandatory!”

  1. alleee May 9, 2010 at 09:48

    You have to love “Bob,” or else He’ll kill you!

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