I have previously written about the humbug of “maternal love.” However, I did not examine the larger problem of the belief that love can co-exist with authority.
My basic premise is that love and control are opposites, that in order to control someone one cannot love them or vice-versa. So the issue then becomes, how can one claim to love a person which is under their total control?
Obviously we can lie to ourselves. We can pretend to love that person, or we can be indoctrinated so much that we think we love that person. There’s also plenty of reasons why people would simply lie. It is in the interest of any politician to claim that they care about their constituents, for example.
But the most fundamental form of this disconnect lies in the relation between parent and child. When we are children, we are told again and again that our parents love us the most in the entire world, that we should love our parents and that there is no more glorious form of love than that between a parent and a child. On the other hand, our parents constantly tell us what to do and order our lives around their needs and wishes.
I think this is a fundamental problem. We were all raised to believe that our parents are the epitome of love, and therefore we associate pure love with obedience and control. The effect is magnified when one has abusive parents, but even when parents are not abusive, they are still “in control.”
The child is learning that these methods of control, domination and manipulation are expressions of love. Just as the child cannot doubt his parents’ “good intentions,” it is intolerable to think that his parents might not love him since he depends on them for survival. That is, and despite most parents’ inability to appreciate the cruelty involved, the child is learning that cruelty is love. In those cases where parents inflict physical violence on a child (spanking, slapping and all other forms of physical abuse are never “okay”), and such violence remains distressingly common, the child is learning that violence is love. (Please note: one adult version of these beliefs is that bombing will bring the victims “freedom.”)
I’ve culled the quotes in this entry from an entry on Arthur Silber’s blog (Once Upon a Time). If you don’t already read his blog, I highly recommend it. There is probably not a better writer on the blogosphere today, and yet he is almost completely unknown. It’s absolutely unbelievable.
Anyway, I have been talking a lot about the deleterious effect of the parenting hierarchy on children growing up, but this has to be by far the worse mechanism operating here. It is profoundly insidious because none can live without love and one’s parents are its necessary source, at least during early childhood. Therefore the child has no choice but to accept the equation of love with control. This is an extremely strong mold which stays with us for the rest of our lives.
Given this, there’s no reason to wonder why hierarchies have such a strong hold on people’s lives, especially in restimulation, and why people will cling so easily to authoritarian figures, including God. We’re all programmed to equate love with control, and in many cases verbal or physical abuse.
I mentioned God for a reason. Fundamentalist Christians hold on to clearly immoral doctrines despite their blatant immorality. For example, it’s very hard to convince them that slavery is wrong, because God supports slavery in the Bible. And yet they can turn around and profess that God is the source of all love (as stated in 1 John 4:7-8).
Of course, the theory that God is a substitute father is a very old one, and I don’t claim any novelty there. The concept of the substitute father figure and mother figure has become part of our popular culture. But people have been very reluctant, and for good reason, to discuss the reason why such things exist, or if they do they dismiss it with rationalizations like “well, if you have an absent father, you need a father-figure in your life.”
But the people who cling the most to authority typically have abusive parents, not absent parents. I don’t claim to have a scientific study to back this up, but from what I’ve read about the most extreme examples, such as top Nazi officials, cult followers, the most extreme fundamentalist Christians, and so on, leads me to think in that direction. Part of that is an unconscious desire to reenact the unresolved abuse onto convenient “enemies.”
God, the dictator or the cult leader are obvious father substitutes, but any form of authority can serve as a father substitute. The State can be a father substitute, with the law code as its moral authority. So can a corporation, an ideology, or any other group which has official or unofficial authorities and some system of moral authority (i.e. some way by which good and evil are established for the group).
Even though we are indoctrinated to believe both of its components, the paradox is too obvious to be simply ignored, especially in cases where it is clear that the authority concerned does not love you or care for you in any way.
Extremely abusive parents are the most obvious example. We observe that in those cases, children are told that they must still love their parents by virtue of them being your parents, and that the parents cannot be blamed. In fact we have an entire industry (Freudian psychotherapy) devoted to whitewashing parents’ crimes and blaming children for their own sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse, and so on. In general, people who don’t love their parents are seen as abnormal and hating one’s parents is considered intrinsically wrong.
So there is this concept that love is incompatible with harm, but never obedience. Obedience cannot in any way be wrong, unless of course it is obedience to “bad people,” but that’s not a result of obedience itself being wrong.
Now take a completely different example, statism. Most people are very well aware that the government does not have their best interests in mind, in fact that governments do not function on the basis of general interest, and that politicians are corrupt. And yet most people also support the government in its concrete actions and shout down anyone who speaks consistently with the premises I’ve just listed.
Again, we see similar responses to the ones uses against children: we are told that it’s really the victim’s fault and that anyone who was insulted, abused, violated or killed by the government in the exercise of its functions must have deserved it. We are told that one must obey the laws even if those laws are wrong, simply because they are the law (as we must love and obey our parents simply because they are our parents). I have already discussed the response specifically as regards to war.
If cornered, the statist may start using might makes right rhetoric, which is merely another way of admitting defeat (since “might” has nothing to do with ethics). But it “proves” that control is ultimately “good” (right). This of course is always the desired conclusion.
Those people who are committed to the right wing of the political spectrum, which includes both liberals and conservatives, are on board with the belief that control over others is caring for others. They just fight over what kind of control is best, just like parents may disagree on whether beating a child with a rod, spanking, or constant guilt is the best way to raise a child (hint: none of these are things adult human beings should do to children human beings).
Another way to stop people from thinking further about the paradox is to distract them with a game. Democracy is a particularly elegant example of this strategy: fool people into thinking they may have some chance of choosing the kind of control which will be used in the future, and you’ve basically destroyed any kind of resistance. Resistance will from that point forward only arise if the system fails to fool people or if enough people are dispossessed by the system, which in a well-functioning democracy should not happen.
A successful democracy suppresses dissent while giving people no more power than they had previously. This has always been the purpose of democracy and it has for the most part been very successful. The same general sort of strategy is used in corporate capitalism and even parenting (the rationale that “once you have children, then you can raise them however you want,” that is to say, you can abuse them as we’ve abused you, which is not power but rather psychological compulsion).
One category of people who are used to rationalizing and twisting the union of control and love are BDSM practitioners. The main rationalization they give to the paradox is that the sub is the one who’s “really in control.” Again this is the same “you’re really in control” rhetoric, so no surprises there. In essence, the BDSM “contract” and other “safety” measures are time-wasting distractions from the naked fact of control (dominance and submission).
There is no more reason to believe BDSM practitioners on this subject than we should believe politicians who tell us democracy means “the people” have all the power. But not only is the argument factually false, but it is also a red herring; even if power was actually in the hands of some other people, that would not make their form of domination any better than the one we have now. Because in the case of politics, a true monopoloid “rule of the people” would merely be a more direct war of all against all (instead of the class war we have today).
Unlike adults, children have the disadvantage of being utterly depending on their parents, therefore children have to learn to anticipate their parents’ feelings and to put them ahead of their own. The child learns to internalize parental manipulation, a blueprint for school and the workplace, where rules and mores must be internalized so the person can conform and be “successful.” The child’s, and the adult’s, feelings are “childish” and “individualistic.”
[The mother] tells the young boy that he did a “bad thing,” and that he did so knowing that it was a “bad thing.” The mother also tells the boy that she “was very disappointed,” and that she “really didn’t like what he did.” In this way, the mother demands that the child behave in a certain way because of the parent’s own needs and feelings. Those needs and feelings have nothing to do with the reality of the child’s experience, just as they have nothing to do with the facts concerning the dangers of a very wet bathroom. In effect, the mother is demanding that the young child behave “properly” so that the mother herself will not be made unhappy. And the source of the unhappiness will be the child himself.
Because most adults have internalized these methods of control and manipulation — and, which is far worse, because they view such methods as right — the reality of the effects of such parental domination are largely inaccessible to them. For the child, the threat of the withdrawal of the parent’s love is profoundly threatening. Although he may not be able to explain it explicitly (in the case of a very young child), the child is fully aware that he depends on the parent for survival and for life itself. If he makes his mother too unhappy, and if his mother therefore no longer loves him, what will happen to him? Like most children, he will do anything to make his mother happy. He will obey. Because the child senses that his life depends on his parents, he must believe something more. It would be intolerable to the child to believe that his parents intend to harm him and, in fact, most parents have rendered themselves unable to appreciate the harm they are inflicting. So the child must believe in his parents’ goodness, and in their “good intentions.”
A lot more can be said about the insanity of parenting. But I also wanted to broach another paradox. It is said that one should be proud of one’s culture, one’s country or one’s religion. But this is a bizarre statement because it implies that one must both be proud and be obedient. How can one be proud and at the same time be subservient to someone else?
Perhaps I am odd in thinking this, but it seems to me that pride is something you get from doing something yourself. I suppose one could be proud of something one gets others to do, as well (although I would argue that such pride is misguided). But how can one be proud of something one did for someone else? No one’s proud of the fact that they work for someone else’s benefit.
On gender specifically, how can masculinity be reconciled with obedience? I ask this because masculinity is often associated with independence and individuality. I personally do not think these qualities should be associated with any gender. But our current concept of masculinity is associated both with independence and with obedience, and I can’t see how these two can be logically reconciled.
To obey and surrender one’s moral compass to an authority is a fundamental betrayal of the self. It should not just be incompatible with being a man, it should be incompatible with being human. Know that when you play the Conspiracy games and become a cheerleader for an army, a country, a religion, or any other in-group, you are making yourself less human.