Friday, 16 December 2016

Deep Politics: the Nation as Family Metaphor

The Nation as Family Metaphor: the Reg-Left wants mommy, the alt-right wants daddy, and the libertarian just wants you to get off his back, man!  Where does that leave the alt-left?



To gain a deep understanding of politics, there are few writers I'd recommend more than George Lakoff.  During his lengthy tenure at University of California Berkeley, he was involved in groundbreaking work in the field of cognitive linguistics - the study of the relationship between thought and language.  Don't worry, we won't discuss anything near so dry here.  This is about Lakoff's opus, a 1996 tome called Moral Politics that claims to get inside the minds of conservatives and liberals respectively.

Lakoff's work is relevant and worth a study by anyone serious about understanding the construction of ideology for two reasons.  The first, which I won't get into as much here, is his emphasis on the use of wording and metaphors to craft narratives that invoke specific moral frameworks when communicating political ideas. He warns against using the conceptual framework of one's ideological opponents when debating contested ideas, as this gives the natural advantage to your opponent, who's framed the issue in a way that's advantageous to their world view.

The second reason is that the moral frameworks used by both the right and the left in America are metaphors for family structure.  This is rooted in what he refers to as the "nation as family" metaphor, which has plenty of historical precedent; the reference to one's country as the "motherland" or "fatherland" being exemplary.  For Lakoff, the metaphors are the "Strict Father" family for the right wing and the "Nurturant Parent" for the left.  They're exactly what they say on the tin - use your own imagination, or perhaps more appropriately, let the words he uses invoke a conceptual framework in your own mind.  These models for family functioning serve as metaphors for the vision that conservatives and progressives have for the moral structure of the nation.

Remarkable about both the nurturant parent and the strict father metaphors is that both conceive of the citizenry in child-like terms.  They differ in terms of how they're going to bring out the best behavior in their pupils.  Again, let the labels Lakoff gives the metaphoric family models tell you how they work.

In this, I'm reminded of another remarkable sociological work, psychiatrist Arthur Deikman's 1990 study of cults and cult behavior, The Wrong Way Home.  It has since been republished as Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat.  Deikman describes the allure of "totalist" institutions lying in their appeal to two deep seated human drives: to be on the side of good, and a concept he labels the dependency dream:
The regressive(!) wish for security that uses the family as a model, creating an authoritarian leadership structure (the parent) and a close knit exclusive group (the children.)
The cult member - or member of any other closed social system or maybe even an extremist believer in a political ideology, seeks to regress back to a child-like state wherein an omnipotent parental figure is in complete control.  Maintenance of this illusion requires epistemic closure: an insulation of the belief system and its adherents from external influences that threaten to undermine it.  Thus, outsiders and dissidents are demonized and ideological conformity and groupthink is made paramount.

These conceptual models can be useful for understanding both reactionary right and regressive (there's that word again) left modes of thinking and politics.  They differ from one another over which parental figure is to be cast in the authoritative role.

I think it is obvious that the regressive left is all about maternalism.  Indeed, I think feminism today can be best described as universalizing the mother/child relationship model - making it the basis of all social interaction.  That femininity equates with morality in the regressive leftist mind is, I think, self evident, and doubtlessly derived from their own upbringings.  One displays nothing but ingratitude and disrespect by arguing with mommy feminist.  She gave you life, after all?  Is anything short of total empathy any way to thank her for that?  Mommy feminist will slap your hand and make you share your toys with your younger siblings and other children.  Mommy feminist won't let you hear dirty words or see dirty images.  Mommy Feminist will not allow the screening of films that convey dangerous ideas to the rest of the polity, which she seems compelled to think of in child like terms.

Any form of adult relationship is out, since it is the role of the maternal leftist to both care for and indoctrinate the children, and the duty of the children to learn and model this behavior.  While it is a relationship of caring and nurturance, it is not a relationship of equals, whatever they may claim.  Regressive leftism speaks to either a deep seated yearning for a maternal influence, or a rebellion against firm and disciplinarian masculine influence.  Mommy feminist is great; she gives me stuff!  Dad can go to hell!

That the right wing is paternalistic should require little in depth elaboration.  The religious right is the most glaring and obvious example.  Hell, Christianity is pretty much all about this.  Paternal archetypes and metaphors abound.  God the Father, and in the largest Christian denomination, the clergy are addressed as "father" additionally.  Religious conservatism is all about the projection of paternal archetypes onto abstract belief systems so full of magic and make belief that they'd be called fairy tales if they didn't have so many real world adherents even among the "adult" population.

But it's not just in religion - Donald Trump was not uncommonly referred to as "daddy" in alt-right circles during his presidential bid.  Daddy nationalist is a disciplinarian, who will keep the dirty and the unworthy out.  He is the militaristic protector and the capitalist provider.  But there is no place for the effeminate "cucks" and the weak "degenerates" - discipline and strength is required if America is to be made great again.  The right wing conversely speaks to either a deep seated yearning for paternal influence, or a rebellion against soft and nurturant feminine influence.  Daddy nationalist is the best!  He's the strongest man EVER!  Mom can get lost!

Both of these models are regressive: they speak to and enable child-like thinking and behaviors on part of their followers.  One look at them in action makes that perfectly clear.  Both have issues with the opposite sex: any feminist or alt right blog pretty much screams, "Ew! Boy germs" or "girls have cooties", when stripped of what passes for intellectual pretense.  Debates with either side quickly devolve into exchanges of school yard insults.  There's often a theatrical, make believe, playing dress-up aspect to demonstrations staged by both sides (though the lefties are the worse of the two these days, the rightists aren't innocent, especially among alt-right LARPers.)

An expression I've heard before is that conservatives want to be your daddy, liberals want to be your mommy while libertarians want you to be treated like an adult.  Is this true?  Or would it be more accurate to say that libertarians want to be treated like adults, but eschew the adult responsibilities that come with it.  Because, like, just leave me alone, man!  Don't touch my weed and my porn and, like, you can't make me go to school, dude!  Because, like, the non-aggression principal, okay bro?

Libertarians are a step up from the regressives of the right and left.  They'll at least try to reason with you, even if said reason ends up being more self serving sophistry than real understanding.  Underneath those spotty beards and pimples is a real desire to test the boundaries and see what's out there.  But when you tell them to clean their rooms or pay their taxes ... oh, the drama!

The place of the alt-left in all of this now becomes obvious.  That economy, unemployment or even a job guarantee is a central alt-left issue does say it all.  After all, what age category of person are you telling someone to act like when you sternly instruct them to get a job?

Thus, as a conceptual framework, the alt-left should reject family-as-nation metaphors that cast the political class in parental roles and the citizens in child roles.  The alt-left should view the nation as an association of free adults, whose adult decision making and autonomy is respected and from whom adult responsibilities are expected.  We've made peace with mom and dad, and relate to both as equals, in adult terms.

The alt-left disdains the regressive left and right, but for different reasons than they sneer at one another for.  The grandstanding SJW is contemptible not because she's fat or because she's covered in tattoos and piercings or because she insists on her own gender pronouns.  She's contemptible for her immature attention seeking and the myriad psychological insecurities that drive her behaviors.  The alt-left doesn't need to be told what sexual consent is or the difference between being against racism and being against white people.  We shake our heads at those on both sides who don't seem to know, or feel compelled to voxsplain the difference to rational people as if they've never heard the difference before.

We see the immaturity and sexual repression underlying both the reddit manosphere and tumblr social justice world views; the internet equivalent to the grade two schoolyard where the girls and boys line up on opposite ends and throw snowballs at each other.  Feminists and "redpills" exchange insults that remind one of jump-rope chants, and always boil down to "you're ugly and you can't get laid."  Perhaps neither tumblr feminists nor manosphere types should be getting laid.  After all, one must be an adult in order to give consent.

Adults don't need a mommy or daddy telling them whether they can smoke weed or use porn, though they'll be intelligent and rational in their use of such things.  We don't need to be told who we can and can't hook up with or marry - provided they're consenting adults themselves, of course.  There is no dichotomy between desire and respect in the adult mind, for it does not project parental archetypes onto members of the opposite sex (if that's what you're into).  Adults don't need protection from dirty or harmful words, but they do think before they speak and refrain from being assholes. There's nothing to be gained by being pricks to fat people, for example.  But there's plenty to be gained through a healthy lifestyle.  The patriarchy isn't going to be sorry when your rebellion against "beauty standards" ends up with you developing diabetes or heart disease.

Above all, adults want adult politics.  The economy.  Foreign affairs.  Environmental degradation.  Issues of substance.  We care about identity issues in as far as we care about honest and fair treatment of all, but have no time for attention seeking grandstanders who insist that the world revolves around their feelings.

It is in adult terms that the Alt-Left must frame and advance its world view.

3 comments:

  1. Most red pill stuff is bro-ish and infantile. But all the economic left stuff is out the window when you're being divorce raped. Who cares about foreign affairs when it can't satisfy the most basic of needs to find some value with the opposite sex. This is the only reason anyone is here on earth. We are violent apes that want mates. When feminism distorts the sexual market and the manosphete convinces morons that they can compete with supermodel bartenders it becomes pressing. The corporate structure has made feminism a useful ally in it's attempt to break the family structure to create an extra decades worth of a hyper individualized consumer class. I think this is an underrated part of daily existence that is an entry point for some. Did you ever read Rollo Tomassi at therationalmale? Best stuff hands down and very grown up stuff not that middle school redditt horseshit. Whether we like it or not, This stuff is real and affects our lives in a huge way. Class and economy are the unifier, but we do have very different gender imperatives. Good stuff as always!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Most red pill stuff is bro-ish and infantile. But all the economic left stuff is out the window when you're being divorce raped. Who cares about foreign affairs when it can't satisfy the most basic of needs to find some value with the opposite sex. This is the only reason anyone is here on earth. We are violent apes that want mates. When feminism distorts the sexual market and the manosphete convinces morons that they can compete with supermodel bartenders it becomes pressing. The corporate structure has made feminism a useful ally in it's attempt to break the family structure to create an extra decades worth of a hyper individualized consumer class. I think this is an underrated part of daily existence that is an entry point for some. Did you ever read Rollo Tomassi at therationalmale? Best stuff hands down and very grown up stuff not that middle school redditt horseshit. Whether we like it or not, This stuff is real and affects our lives in a huge way. Class and economy are the unifier, but we do have very different gender imperatives. Good stuff as always!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting stuff, watchingitburn. I might look into that.

    ReplyDelete

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