A Little Bit of Theory
If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am for myself alone, who am I?
We make meaning from the inside out and also from the outside in.
From the inside out, we make meaning from our desires, our impulses, our preferences, and, above all, our feelings. As these are all our own, indeed they are part of us, the meaning we make is inevitably self-centered. Making meaning is a matter of understanding how something articulates with our lives.
From the outside in, the meaning we make is based on the general beliefs, the presumptions and common understandings, ultimately the language, that characterizes our culture. Far from being centered around us, these do not refer to us at all, or at least no more than they refer to anyone else; they have no center. But this is necessary because we live in a world with others with whom we need to work and with whom we need to communicate. Within limits, words must mean the same for all of us if they are to mean anything for any of us.
One should not make too much of the categorical difference between these. In practice, they are dependent on one another. The concepts and terms we use to define our individuality come from outside. On the other hand, we choose the elements of the external world that we interact with on the basis of our interests and desires. Nonetheless, there is, at any given time, a distinction to be made between the two.
But while we need both of them, it is equally clear that there is going to be a tension between them. In order to be meaningful to us, everything we do must make sense to us in terms of our own desires; it must preserve, or at least offer the promise of regaining, our sense of uniqueness and self-importance. At the same time, it must take place in a world structured by a common frame of reference that does not recognize our uniqueness or our quintessential self-importance. Even to contemplate doing anything in the world is to make use of the common frame of reference.
But in acknowledging that there must be a tension, we may also see that this is a fertile tension. It has given rise to everything that humans have ever done.
And so, while we need to make meaning from the inside out and the outside in, we must also learn to work within the tension between them. But how do we do it?
This is not a task only of childhood, but of a whole life; yet it begins in childhood. There it is not the province of either mother or father, but of the relationship between them. The relationship between mother and father, and in this I include mother’s relationship with a father who may absent, is the crucible within which we learn how, and what it means, to get by in the world while remaining ourselves. It is therefore the template for a society’s culture, the basic premise that underlies the meaning of behavior. The point I want to make is that, in Western society, this fundamental premise has shifted in disturbing and very dangerous ways.
I have discussed this shift at great length elsewhere, and will not do so again here, but it is important to lay out the rudiments.
Culture, as we have known it in the West, has been based on the premise of resolving the tension between inside and outside in a way that energizes the fulfillment of its basic requirements.
When we begin our life a loving mother is the world to us, and we experience ourselves as the center of a loving world. Meaning, then, is based on our impulses, which mother loves, as part of who we are, and validates. In a word, we make meaning from the inside out.
But, over time, the outside world, quite unmaternal and strikingly indifferent to our desires and the meaning we try to make through them makes its presence known to us. We will have to understand it on its own terms. Within the family, this outside world is represented by the father, who has a relationship with mother that does not revolve around us, but is structured in a way that could apply to anybody. Understanding the world is accomplished by internalizing the way he engages with it. This is the leverage the father has in the crucial task of socialization.
But if making sense of the world in the terms of the world is necessary for learning to get by in it, that leaves us with the question of why bother. These terms have nothing to do with us, as individuals. How can we use them to fashion a life that will be our own?
The traditional answer is to take father’s relationship with mother as the basis of a promise. Become like him by learning about and dealing with the world on its own terms, which we first lean from his teaching and his example. and we can regain something like mother’s love, again as the center of a loving world.
In this way, one learns to do the things required by the indifferent world in a way that melds them with one’s own sense of one’s individual significance. In terms of work, for example, a job is seen as part of a career. One envisions and pursues success, which means that inward desire comes together with external necessity. At the unconscious level, the object here, for the father as much as for anyone else, is to become again the center of mother’s love. The premise is that he gains that love through his accomplishments within the indifferent world.
But notice how, in all this, the fulcrum is mother’s love for father. If she does not, there is no sense in becoming like father. What especially makes this a problem is that the promise of becoming like father was what energized us to do what the indifferent world requires done. Get rid of one, the other disappears in train. Inward meaning and outward meaning having come together in a certain way, the loss of one leads to the loss of the other.
What characterizes our time is that the mother has contempt and hatred for the father, who now goes by the name of the white, heterosexual male. This began with the certain elements of the feminist movement and is the emotional engine of political correctness.
On this basis, the entire substrate of cultural life has been transformed. For the children, the way to become again the center of mother’s love is by joining her in her hatred of the father. He has not earned mother’s love, but stolen it. His claims of accomplishment have been all subterfuge and lies. The victims of the theft have been all of us children, but especially the marginalized; in fact that is the meaning of marginalization. He is to be hated for this theft and the marginalized loved in compensation. Take away the disciplines of mathematics and the physical sciences and that gives you the whole politically correct university curriculum.
For our purposes, what it is particularly important in this is that the father’s domain, the indifferent external world, the idea that meaning has to be made from the outside in, is seen as a fraud. The father, the white, heterosexual male, makes claims about this world, but they are only instruments of his oppression. His attempts to legitimize his claims are racist: white supremacy. We may reject the demands that this bogus world makes and take back what is due to us, of which we have been deprived, which is mother’s love and the place this gives us as the center of a loving world. Meaning need only be made from the inside out.
Our task, then, is to destroy the father’s oppression, and the racist idea of an indifferent external world. In doing this, we must support our allies in this struggle, the marginalized, who are seen as most grievously oppressed.
This turns the world upside down.
For reasons that I do not wish to elaborate here, I will refer to the traditional psychology, based on identification with father, as Oedipal psychology. The contrary psychology, based on hatred and repudiation of father, the white heterosexual male, I will call antioedipal psychology. These two forms of psychology give rise to two quite different, and indeed opposite, experiences of the world.
In Oedipal psychology, we begin with nothing real, but only a fantasy of an edenic state in which life was perfect; and we know this to be a fantasy. Our idea is that to gain something we must do something within the world of indifference. We learn, as we come to understand this world in which others are indifferent to us, that if we are to get something from them, we will have to do something for them that they want done. In a word we learn that the indifferent world is structured by exchange. Our place in this exchange process defines our work.
Antioedipal psychology turns this upside down. Our idea here is that we began with everything and if we don’t have something it is because it was taken away from us. Since we began with everything, whatever others have they must have stolen from us. Property, as Proudhon put it, is theft. We can see who stole it from us: obviously it was those who have it.
Remembering that it was mother’s love that is ultimately at issue we see that it was the father who was the thief.
As the father served as the template in Oedipal psychology, so he does here. But the template, which now generalizes into those who are like the father, the white, heterosexual males, is the opposite of what it was there. There is no way of understanding exchange in this way of seeing things. The idea that others may have gotten what they have by earning it, by doing something for others that those others wanted to have done is undefined here. Work is not defined by exchange then, but is something forced upon us. It is always oppression.
The father did not earn mother’s affection, he stole it. They did not have mutually loving consensual sex; it was rape, though mother, in his thrall, did not necessarily understand that.
We will help her out by leading her to understand the reason for her failure of understanding. it was the culture that clouded her mind. Rape culture, get it?
She gets it now.