November 21, 2010

Learning to Love Evil: Setting the Pattern of Contempt and Destruction

In the preceding post, I offered some general thoughts related to upcoming essays. My immediate focus here is on my observation that almost all of us are taught to love evil in varying degrees. Especially for those readers who aren't familiar with my numerous articles based on Alice Miller's work, this may sound very strange indeed.

For a listing and description of my Miller articles, I refer you to "Meaningful Connections." In this post, which is still in the nature of an introduction to future articles, I will provide a number of links and, as in the case of "Meaningful Connections," the linked posts offer still more links. I well understand that most readers don't have the time (and often not the inclination) to follow more than one or two of them, if that. You all have busy lives, and I hardly expect readers to spend several days reading dozens of essays. I only want to state that there is a great deal of background material, including detailed explanations of certain ongoing themes in my writing, available in the archives. It's there if you want to consult it. Once I get to the major new articles I've planned, I'll offer fuller arguments, but now I only want to indicate some relevant subjects, with links to lengthier earlier discussions where those provide more detail.

For almost all of us, the first relationships we have are with our immediate family. Because parents are the ultimate authority figures, the pattern of our relationship with our parents becomes the template for much of our future lives. (To be precise, I should say "parents or primary caregiver(s)," but I will use parents for the sake of convenience.)

In the first part of my tribalism series, I wrote:
This series will examine some of the many ways that love goes wrong, the ways in which love destroys the genuine vitality of another soul. All too often, which is to say in the case of almost every person, the pattern of this destruction is set in early childhood. Once the pattern has been embedded deeply enough, it will be dislodged later in life only in the rarest of circumstances. For the great majority of people, the destruction is carried from generation to generation.

The same pattern also becomes the basis of the political systems we establish, and of the specific manner in which those systems function. (See "When the Demons Come" for examples of how and why this happens.) Political systems are not devised or operated by individuals who supposedly manage, always by some unspecified means, to set aside or rise above those motives and concerns that dominate the lives of those they rule. In terms of certain underlying human dynamics, rulers and ruled are fundamentally alike, for better or worse. Throughout most of human history, it is almost always for worse; consult any one of numerous history books for the frequently terrifying evidence, and consider how rare the exceptions are and how briefly they lasted. (I should note that certain critical differences between the ruling class and those they rule can be identified; you will find some of those differences analyzed here.)

This is one of the great problems with political commentary: politics is only a symptom of a more fundamental condition. Unless we address these more fundamental concerns, the symptom will never be altered in a lasting way. Yet we (and I) spend so much time on political matters because politics affects our lives so dramatically and with such immediacy. Because politics has the power to alter our lives so profoundly and, far too frequently, even to end them, some of us fiercely resist the especially destructive aspects of its operations. Yet this will never be enough by itself, as history, including our recent history and ongoing events, prove repeatedly.
Much of my writing is concerned with going beneath the level of political analysis, since history demonstrates over and over that alleged political "solutions" are woefully inadequate, even when they are not deeply destructive (which they most frequently are). The problem, and possible means of correction, will be found in a very different direction.

The second and third of the tribalism articles (here and here) discuss in detail an ordinary, everyday example of parental manipulation and control. As I observed several times about that example, I chose it because it is so utterly ordinary. Many people will think the story is a trivial one, not even worthy of comment; indeed, the mother who happily told the story herself considers the story an instance of notably successful parenting. My view is radically different, for the reasons I explained. As I also said:
I repeat -- and consult my Alice Miller essays for very lengthy discussions of these questions -- the problem is not that this mother doesn't love her children. The problem is what she believes that love should properly consist of -- and the problem is that she is almost certainly reenacting what happened in her own childhood, with her own parents.


It is because this kind of incident is so utterly common and ordinary that it is of such immense significance. As I am trying to demonstrate, it is by such means that certain patterns of thought, feeling and behavior are instilled in young children -- and it is these same patterns that lead to enormous suffering as those children grow up, suffering which very often continues after they have become adults. These same patterns also underlie many of the horrors that we see in our world today, just as similar horrors have engulfed the world in the past more times than bears remembering.
After I had set out many reasons for my judgment (although far from all of them; upcoming essays will spell out yet more reasons), I characterized the mother's treatment of her young child as emotional manipulation and abuse, among other elements.

The fourth tribalism article offers some Miller excerpts to demonstrate how a parent will relate to a child when she views the child as a genuinely independent, autonomous human being, fully deserving of respect. A caution is immediately in order: don't fall into the trap of thinking this means the parent must allow the child to do whatever he wishes, or that the parent cannot provide guidance and even control, when necessary. Those issues are addressed in the earlier articles, and I'll have more to say on that subject. But guidance and control must never, ever mean physical violence (even by the "occasional" spanking, see here and here), just as they should never mean manipulation and emotional abuse. To the extent we fall into this trap -- as I did for much of my adult life (except for the element of physical violence, which I always rejected as barbaric, which it is) -- we have internalized the lessons we learned from our parents.

Now consider how these dynamics are revealed in political terms:
Last night Vice President Biden sat down for an interview with Larry King – his 49th appearance on the CNN host’s program.

The always-loquacious vice president had a colorful message for the Afghans regarding the timeline for transferring security by 2014, a plan that will be outlined here at the NATO summit in Lisbon.

“Daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October -- I mean in next July, so you'd better practice riding,” he said.
This is deeply sickening in multiple ways. Given the criminal U.S. occupation of Afghanistan -- and particularly in view of the U.S.'s monstrous actions in that profoundly unfortunate country at present -- to speak in such terms is worthy of a place in Hell.

But this is the way our leaders speak of "those" people all the time. They did it in the deliberately instigated war with Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century; they did it in the Philippines; they did it (and continue to do it) about the brutalized people of Iraq (see here and here, too).

Our leaders treat all those whom they seek to control, all those whom they want to force to obey, with absolute contempt -- and if their victims still refuse to obey, they visit destruction on them.

And if you read my analysis of the mother's story, you will see that there is another way to describe what I referred to as emotional manipulation and abuse. And that is simply to say that, in fact, the mother is treating her child with profound contempt -- not as an independent, autonomous human being who should be respected, but as an insensate object to be manipulated.

When we keep these connections in mind, we can also see the significance of Biden's manner of expression: “Daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October..." You might be tempted to regard Biden's use of "Daddy" as a coincidence and think I am attributing far too much significance to it. I emphatically disagree, in very large part because the identical contempt and the identical threat and actualization of destruction are embraced by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and virtually all members of our national political class. If you doubt that, follow some of the links provided above.

Biden might provide a strikingly unambiguous example of this pattern, but the same pattern is revealed in the words and actions of most American politicians, and of many "ordinary" Americans as well. And Biden loves this exercise of power; he revels in his contempt for those the United States subjugates, just as he revels in his ability to visit destruction on those who refuse to act as he demands. And where do you think he and all the others learned this behavior in the first instance? Where do you think he learned to love evil, believing that manipulation, control, abuse and even destruction are expressions of love?

I hope you begin to see what I mean when I say that almost all of us are taught to love evil. But I've barely begun...