Friday, 3 June 2016

38. Left and right mixing up and moving towards post-patriarchal times

In my previous entries, I argued that the right tends to support the principles of the patriarchy: hierarchical structures, supported by the claim of some sort of moral superiority whilst promoting effort (and justifying social position) with the vague idea of meritocracy: those who struggle bear the full fault of their struggle, those who succeed is on the account of their own merits alone, disregarding any enabling factor (their parents, the country they were born in, the education that someone planned for them, the system, the network of people they dealt with, etc, etc).

The patriarchal drive is about taking people out of their maternal fusion/paradise: even if they feel content and comfortable, this fusion is a state of dependency or even worse they don't realise they are being subjugated. The left has historically played on the matriarchal utopia (which includes the concentrated power of the state, central planning, over control, etc, etc) and has struggled to move on from it (I would argue that it was a patriarchal-mother model, though). In front of injustice, growing inequality and social disempowerment, whenever the left adopts "matriarchal" codes, speaking about protection and disadvantage, the right (following their patriarchal drive) responds with even more resolve: for them the enemy is the matriarchal left and/or the matriarchal state, this "feminine" voice is either dictatorial, irrational, incompetent and/or deeply and utterly corrupt (all the patriarchal tricks to demonize and invisibilise the "maternal"), but hiding behind this criticism, it offers no answers to the inherent problems of conservatism and/or neoliberalism. At this stage of the patriarchy, the maternal is so taboo that EU and the US feel more comfortable with extreme right parties and quasi fascist rhetoric than with non-extreme centre-left ones trying to reignite the forgotten principles behind social justice.

At the same time, traditional "people's parties" have whole heartily adopted right wing economical policies co-opting in the dismantlement of the solidarity-based post War World II welfare state, whilst the right wing parties make big efforts to present themselves as the true representatives of the hard working people. The Brexit debate was probably particularly confusing in the traditional left-right positioning, having the two extremes together voting for Brexit and the normally opposing "modern" conservatives and so-called progressives joint together voted for remain.

So, how do we move to a post-patriarchal society?  

Here we are: seeing the right with not many answers to the growing inequality and disequilibrium happening in the world with civil wars fed by environmental crisis, with little action against the causes of the 2008 economic crisis, the new cold wars being wedged, and with hesitant standing in front of the re-emergence of extreme right views and power. They tend to put their faith on the "invisible hand of the market" re-establishing the lost equilibrium, explanation that sometimes even takes divine overtones (not few reports speak about measures to calm the markets, which sounds reminiscent of tribes offering sacrifices to calm the gods) and even disregarding the fact that in the invisible hand of the market, the state was also a player in the game. On the other hand, the left is fractured (or fractures itself easily) and cannot find its cause, its voice or even the right words (hesitating if using the word socialism, or democratic socialism or making reference to a class struggle), plays as the outsider and still can't offer a vision of progress that does not trigger the old patriarchal alarms. 
We know that something is not right.

I don't think there is a simple answer to this question. What we do have are the experiences we are individually going through and that are building what would be a modern version of a family, its structure, its roles, its hierarchy; our own experience in "becoming an adult", and stories (including religious) that seem to have been essaying different approaches or different aspects of this transformation. One of the arguments I explore in this blog, is that we -somehow- follow our own biological and psychological development at a social level too, and that these processes have been described by legends, fairy tales, religion and literary works, from classics like Don Quixote and Hamlet to modern pop tales. Here, I'll continue to mix up religion and popular books and films, not in disrespect of religion but mostly to touch the narratives that we (at least in the West) are surrounded with and to use them as a resource because we were able to imagine and understand this stories. 

3 stages of love: Blind love, hate and true love.

Blind love: During the pregnancy of our mothers and our first infancy, we are fused to our mothers psyche, we receive "free" food, attention, a roof, etc, etc. Our psyche is structured according to our mothers words: what she names and does not name. We love our mothers, but this love is blind: we don't and can't see our mothers imperfections, her "dark side". This type of love is working to build and sustain this dependency bond. This stage is the matriarchy, in the bible described as Eden, in Lord of the rings, for example, as The Shire. Here, I have to make a distinction: the love of the baby is blind but the one from the mother should not necessarily be. Patriarchal mothers are the ones that are hungrier and might connect with their baby with blind love, where she becomes also dependant of her children (she needs them looking at her, giving her meaning, being the objects of her control, etc). A mother that can truly see the individuality of her child, and her own individuality will behave differently. In any case, loving without knowing the shadow of the baby (that will be discovered during teenage years) is what makes this love blind.

Of course, blind love is also felt in the "falling in love" stage, when we see our lover as perfect and feel some sort of addiction, and believe that our survival depends on our loved one, that makes us understand Mariah Carey when she sings "I can't live, if living is without you".

Hate: Hate is a type of love that is working out its way to cut its own dependency. In fact, it is an alarm bell to signal a dependency (economic, of external recognition, etc) but it is frequently misplaced towards people that just remind us we are dependent: minorities, immigrants and women. Anger and hate are the crust hiding our weak dependent self. 
The patriarchy comes and demonises the mother showing only her dark side: the mother is shown as a witch, as a step mother, as an evil/narcissistic queen, as a prostitute (or corrupted), as a monstrous spider, etc or makes them invisible altogether. At the same time it demonises our own weak self dependent on her. With all its issues, it has a purpose: we would not be able to separate from the "good mother", we cannot separate if we remain blind, so we are forced into a world of high polarisation. This vision is still not real but it shows something we did not see before. So the figure of the matriarchal maternal should be hated, dependency should be hated and the weak and vulnerable should be hated. Here we are also dependent, but dependent of our father's approval and his law. Even if it is a freedom rhetoric, we are not free. The patriarchy is a castrating stage.

Of course, here comes the point I discussed in "Emancipatory anger" that argues that anger or rage are forces that need self-contention to become a fire that lights change instead of a destructive force that expresses an emotion explosively, without purpose. 

We've read about the patriarchy zillions of times: The old Testament is full of stories of this patriarchal god, the Empire wins over the republic in Star wars, the Two Towers start a war in Lord of the rings, the orphan princesses "see" how unjust their step mothers can be, or how controlling and dangerous witches are, Pink Floyd The Wall sees the humiliation that the patriarchal order, including the one the patriarchal mother imposes, etc. But also, when men are polarised into moral beings and cruel dictators.

So the patriarchy uses hate as the sword, the scissors that would cut the umbilical cord, the dependency to the mother, to stop the drive to go back instead of forward, but it is also used to castrate under the law of the father.

True love: after the process of blind love, hate, comes true love: the one that loves and even admires imperfect people, the one that is not dependent, the one that sees both sides. The one were we find ourselves not longing to go back to the lost matriarchal Eden. Here, "I can live even if living is without you". Most importantly, that it is not dependent nor disconnected. It comes with freedom, agency and recognition of the other (which I think it is probably a better stand point that respect).

From patriarchy to post-patriarchy

The end of the matriarchy has been shown in many many many ways:
-Princesses marrying a prince or receiving a sword (integrating her masculine side), normally following a disobedience to the mother.
-In Lord of the Rings: Sam killing the spider (the shadow of the mother), destroying his dependent bond (the ring) and the inner drive to succumb to the temptation of going back to his mother womb (the eye of mordor) to fall into eternal dependency (the vision of Sauron winning is slavery) or die as a way of going back (death drive).
-Hansel and Gretel killing the witch.
-A prince killing a dragon.
-Probably by Jesus first public appearance and miracle at a wedding, when even if he claims it is not his hour, his mother insists and he turns water (amniotic fluid) into wine, followed by his rebirth in his baptism.
-In more modern versions, like Brave, the patriarchal mother is not killed but "enlightened", as the child is already clear that this stage is over: the mother removes her crown and reconnects to her wild side (the bear), which she needs to learn to dominate.

The end of hate does not come however with the end of the matriarchy only, but the patriarchy needs to end too: hate is there until we cut the dependency with the external structure the father role offers (reminder: it is a role not a person of a specific gender)  when the sword is turned to a pen. And here there are also different versions, or parts of the process:

-A challenge from the son after the patriarchy had successfully castrated or killed the son.
Jesus is killed by the (passive or active) decision of the Roman Empire (the Emperor). 
Darth Vader is castrated by his symbolic father and subjected to its power (Obi Wan Kenobi and the Emperor as the polarised sides of the same symbolic father figure). 
Both followed by a later challenge to the law of the father, even the laws of life and death. In the case of Christianity, it is completed by the command of writing the experiences (with a pen), becoming authors and spread the word.

Here is where we could draw parallels to what is happening today with the rage palpable in US general elections or Brexit referendum, mainly coming from middle-age white men, who, through economic castration, feel emasculated, humiliated and left behind and some feeling attracted to speeches that feed this rage with an old fashioned and fake male uber-power as a challenge, portrayed either as aggressive internal politics against immigrants or external aggressive policy against old or new enemies and weak economies. This "challenge" spirit is seen in any debate about political correctness. Even if some politicians feel the need to confront this rage speaking occasionally about love, knowingly or not they remain in a high polarisation stage. 

This stage of rage is very confusing, and full of fear. Even if some have the intention to challenge the "authorities" in many cases, they end up voting for very repressive regimes and the ones promising to go back to the idealised past (probably, due to an unconscious fear of their own anger and their own freedom).

-The integration of the shadow: the son assuming responsibility
One of Christianity main messages is about "don't expect the father to come to save you", conveyed in many ways: by claiming the last saviour has already come, by demonstrating it with the death of Christ where there was no God who came to save him and by suggesting that each should carry our their cross, and give testimony.
In Lord of the Rings we see, a shy Sam that did not want to listen to his shadow (Gollum), progressively assumes responsibility (killing the spider, carrying Frodo), getting married, becoming a father and becoming the next writer of the story.

-The connection to paternal love: assuming paternal responsibility - Fathers restraining themselves from castrating their sons in the moment of rage/rebellion
-Darth Vader (even if he castrated his son, cutting his hand) finally "awakens", kills the Emperor and removes his mask when he sees his son's life in danger for refusing to follow him to the dark side.

-In Billy Elliot, the father accepts the challenge of his son's rebellious dance, he finally respects and supports his choice.

-Hans Solo by allowing his son to kill him: versus the old Darth Vader model who represented a father that did not want to die.

(note: in this video, when we see Padme becoming a mother in a very sterile room, with a robot as a midwife, Padme crying and Obi Wan Kenobi as a company, we are also seeing a very patriarchal setting of birth. Particularly when compared to Christian and Buddhist birth myths that portrayed women being warmed and sustained by nature -animals, trees). 

-The re-emergence of narratives portraying women, not saints, no witches: good and bad at the same time (that I touched upon in different entries). 
This even affects the view of Europe, who tends to take on female characterisation when opposed to the US. Both good and bad at the same time: utterly imperfect as you would expect in a real world.

These later two points are probably where Christianity falls short. As Jesus did not become a father (and never tells the story of his childhood -at least officially-), it does not offer a template of what post-patriarchal fathers and mothers are or should be.

Should there be an acknowledgement of progress?

I'll bring again the point of births and examples of discussions happening at the heart of some feminist groups. There is a re-emergence of the natural motherhood discussion, natural births, breast-feeding until much later than previously (culturally) accepted, etc. Whenever I see a text blaming the medical science of depraving women of the sacred and even sexual moment of childbirth, I wonder why do we need to antagonise with the medical science, responsible of lowering both mothers and infant deaths so drastically. I deeply agree with the concept of respected childbirth, the idea of recovering the wisdom of the female body, rediscover motherhood and look back and wonder what we've lost in the way of the introduction of science in childbirth, but with the reassurance that should anything go wrong there are a lot medical resources to rely on. Progress should not be denied but used even with rediscovered old wisdom. 

Should there be an acknowledgement of loss?

This print was done by Grayson Perry, in a documentary about masculinity for Channel 4 UK where he explored the subject in different masculine environments. This print is called Animal Spirit and was done after exploring the city of London and its (self-denied) version of masculinity. 

About it, he explains:
"I've been interested in animal spirits as a euphemism for emotional over-exuberance in the market,” he said. "I started of course with the two most common animals associated with the financial markets which are the bull and the bear... this is half bull, half bear but all male. "The masculinity you see in the City is cloaked long ago under gentlemanliness and rationality and 'good business practice'. "The beast still lurks, but he's very well-behaved."
From the perspective of what I write in this blog, I cannot help but thinking that this is a portray of the patriarchal mother: a highly polarised world (black and white) where a natural mother archetype (the bear) is taken over by masculinity (the bull), to the extent that she is feeding the patriarchal narrative to a baby with a penis instead of a breast, which creates individuals that under the appearance of self-control are being driven by out of control hunger (the baby is hungry for milk and motherly attention), and end up creating a very narrow view of the world where our individual issues seems so big that occupy all the space of the frame, preventing us from connecting to or even seeing the sterile and dying surrounding reality. (After reading this, I do acknowledge that I need to lighten up a bit. :) smiley face!).

Basically, motherhood (and politically, the left) is a taboo but it is not about "going back" to nature and have women and babies dying at births, but to move forward.

Not the end of history

In western society, one of the symbols to integrate and transcend is the cross in its multiple meanings: a symbol of torture, punishment, suffering, abuse and castration, a symbol of our personal struggle, but also a symbol of the need to integrate left and right, above and below (in terms of worldly hierarchies and spiritual ones) including as a channel of food and where food and energy comes from (from earth: agriculture, petroleum, above: spiritual, solar, wind energy, from the sides: interpersonal connections, giving and receiving). 
The acknowledgement of progress and loss does not signal the end of the left and right political positions nor class struggles. I don't think there is an end game where liberal democracy wins as Fukuyama suggested in light of the fall of the Soviet Union or a sort of communist government will be established as Karl Marx anticipated due to the intrinsic pitfalls of capitalism. In this moment very radical things appear in the horizon that are more radical than any of these visions: environmental radical changes (which will affect agriculture, water supply, generate migration, etc), shortage of natural resources, technological radical changes (the current topic of robots and automation replacing more that half the jobs for the next generation), huge demographical changes and geopolitical changes: at this moment it is not even clear that the project of nation states in the current form will be everlasting.

So I don't think that there is anything more radical than connecting to the current radically-changing reality, acknowledging the limits of the prevailing high polarised, self-centred ideology (that can only be sustained with violence as the ordering principle) and using all the tools at hand (knowledge, science, technology) to collaboratively find new solutions to these new problems.

I also think that the matriarchy and patriarchy are stages in a process that, when not allowed to be followed, creates and extends dependency. Each role needs to be allowed to do its job, the matriarchy to feed us when we are vulnerable and dependant, recognise our existence, our rights and our potential; the patriarchy is needed to help us develop self-discipline, use the resources available and follow a purpose, and finally to cut all dependency even the one we sustain with the law of the father, and to be whole enough to understand that rest might be in different stages of this process.


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