Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Alice Miller, and Conservatism

Arthur Silber has another post up that quotes Alice Miller, one of the most important psychologists of our time. I have read all of her books that I can find, repeatedly, because for me, nobody else even comes close to explaining human dynamics as well as she does. She states that parents' behavior greatly affects their children, a statement so obvious that I can't believe it's under debate. Children raised with kindness, respect and tolerance will grow to be kind, respectful and tolerant. Children raised to be blindly obedient will grow to be thwarted, cold, obedient adults. It's not rocket science, yet their implications are so important that Miller's theories terrify people.

The most conservative people are often, by definition, the most obedient and authoritative. The theory is little more than authoritarianism wrapped in a flag. Obedience to family, God and country are utterly central, and disobedience to one is seen as disobedience to all. The child is told to obey without question, with the implicit or even overt threat of withholding love from the child as punishment. And of course the the threat of corporal punishment hangs over all disagreements with the parents. Worse of all, the child is expected to feel grateful and loving towards the parents who have no regard for and often belittle his opinions, wants and needs.

The result is depressingly predictable, and disastrous. The child squashes his feelings of resentment and anger, and soon all feelings, since they cannot be turned on and off. This makes him cold and indifferent to others' needs and suffering. He is always needy, since he has never received the love and respect from his parents that everyone craves. He is also dangerously, mindlessly obedient, to whomever orders him around, makes him feel safe, and strokes and praises him. He can mask the neediness with arrogance, but it's there under the surface. And because his reactions are so ingrained and so predictable, he is easy to sway and manipulate. You might say it's child's play.

I suspect that the gender roles that are maintained so rigorously by conservative people are merely the codifying of abuse into sex as well. The qualities that are held up to such high esteem by conservatives are those of abused children and their parents, their perpetrators. Boys are to be strong and endure pain silently, especially emotional pain. They are violent, eager to kill and ready to be sacrificed on another's order. They demand obedience from those in their power, and give obedience to those who have power over them.

Girl victims are to be silent sufferers also, obedient also, never active and always passive. It is especially disturbing to think about what is required of child sex victims--always be sexually available to a man, always dressed in accessible clothing, her decisions regarding her own body made by a man. Any conservative woman worth her salt has written endless columns on how women should dress--in skirts, with make-up--and act--subservient and obedient to men.

Conservatism is a sickness of the mind. It needs to eradicated, because it is a symptom of the lack of moral compass in America.


M. Bouffant said...

"Spare the rod & spoil the child."

It's amazing how so much of the "cure the homos" movement in the RW church has to do w/ external, surface gender roles/images, like the ones you mention.

Careful w/ that "eradication" talk though. You'll be labeled a hate-filled leftist.

M. Bouffant said...

P. S.: Just noted the Bond Dad on your roll, do you know him? (Being from TX & all.) I hear him each Sat. a. m. on my acquaintance Johnny Wendel's radio show here in L. A.


Susan of Texas said...

No, I don't know him. I found him through some other economics blog. We do live in the same city, though.

Heh, I think I've said more than enough to be pegged as hate-filled. I am filled with hate, for pain and suffering and willful stupidity. I don't admire sacrifice and forgiveness and faith; I think they're harmful. So most people will think I'm nuts and full of hate.

I can live with that. It beats self-delusion.

zeppo said...

Not that I disagree with your conclusions, but I have a bit different label. I still think of Conservatism as a political label, those people who believe government should be small, taxes should be little or none, fiscal responsibility, etc. Sure, of course, NO ONE seems to really believe that anymore. There are probably some, but they are being drowned out by the "high lunatic" side.

And yes, political conservatism really seems to be attached at the hip, like some sort of ugly Siamese twin, with the mindset you are discussing. But I wouldn't call that "Conservatism". That seems to be mixing labels, which can be a dangerous thing, I think. I would prefer to call what you are talking about, and you referred to this yourself, as Authoritarians, or something like that. Control freaks. Tribalism, conformity to "the rules" and shallowness of thinking, all taken to the nth degree.

I do know the type you are talking about. I spent about 10 years in Alabama and Mississippi, some of it in VERY rural Alabama. I know exactly the type of people you are talking about, my drunken redneck abusive father in law being one of them.

It's these types that have driven me to conclude that I don't care for the human species that much. In total, we really haven't advanced that much since history started to be written down. We are still stupid, mean, intolerant and cruel. The only difference I see is that our technology is much, much better. But it doesn't appear to me that we have advanced much. Our primitive lizard brains are still driving a great deal of what goes in on today's society. Oh, sure. We have our saints, our geniuses, our philosophers, and we have a large percentage of our everyday, run of the mill “nice people”. Maybe I am being too harsh on our species, judging us all on those who inhabit the bottom tier. But I can’t read some of today’s news without getting really depressed. I can’t see how supposedly rational and civilized people can actually think and act they way they do.

Susan of Texas said...

The more I read about conservatism, from Burke to Buckley, the more I understand it's about preserving the caste system. Everything else they say they are for is ditched every time it becomes inconvenient, like small government, public debt, and nationalim and militarism. That's authoritarianism, certainly, but I think it's necessary to point out both are wrong.

When you accept that most people don't act rationally--they just come up with rational-sounding explanations for what they want/need to do--it's easier to tolerate irrationality. They're doing what they need to do to survive and often don't realize they're lying to themselves.

So I can feel pity for them but at the same time they're trying to ruin everyone else's lives, so they have to be firmly and thoroughly stopped. A huge amount of human suffering is totally unnecessary and I think in time people can be taught to recover from their past and stop repeating bad patterns. That might never happen, but it's possible.

We don't have to suffer like this.

zeppo said...

I can feel pity for these type of people only in the most abstract sense of the word. Otherwise, I am just really pissed off.

Yeah, isn't it amazing (for the lack of a better word) about how much human suffering, pain and anguish throughout history has been caused by the need for some person or group of people to stroke their own egos, to be "in control", to force their will on the less powerful/completely powerless. That goes all the way from individual family units and domineering parents to the Hitlers and Pol Pots of the world.

Yeah, we SHOULDN'T have to suffer like this, but until human beings change, it will continue on like this. And I don't see anything really changing for the better. Maybe it's just because all these lunatics from the right wing now have a national megaphone, but all I have to do is listen to the ravings of Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter or Michael Savage and I begin thinking that these are the people who will be in control when national society starts breaking apart. It's their side with the authoritarian streak, not to mention being armed to the gills with firearms. You can debate their virtues as movies, but I don't think films like Road Warrior or Waterworld are that far off, as it relates to the human pysche that will emerge when the nominal contraints of civilization are removed.

That's what I find so damn scary about the future.

Susan of Texas said...

Oh, yeah, I think there are some real hard times ahead. Shortages and disruptions due to war, resource shortages, and corruption will make us collapse under own own weight, just like Soviet Russia. And the American character is (1)denial (2)anger and (3) revenge.