Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wafrika: The Cult of Having Versus The City of Being

The Cult of Having Versus The City of Being


Put differently, democratic equality will never be achieved as long as we are alienated from human values, from nature, and from social and political reality. Nor can this problem be resolved as long as we choose the having mode over the being mode of existence. We live in a soulless culture that promotes and glorifies the former at the expense of the latter.

Since authentic love has been a rare phenomenon in the modern period particularly, it is no surprise that the ideological quest for money is a defining cultural trait throughout much of the world, since it is not just a reflection of, but an overcompensation for, lack of authentic love:

Our seemingly insatiable quest for money and material consumption is in fact a quest to fill a void in our lives created by a lack of love. It is a consequence of dysfunctional societies in which money has displaced our sense of spiritual connection as the foundation of our cultural values and relationships. The result is a world of material scarcity, massive inequality, overtaxed environmental systems, and social disintegration. As long as we embrace money-making as our collective purpose and structure our institutions to give this goal precedence over all others, the void in our lives will grow and the human crisis will deepen. (David Korten)

The solution, according to same source, is to “create societies that give a higher value to nurturing love than to making money.” And by love, it must be understood that we are talking about non-hegemonic love, as opposed to sadomasochistic attachment, which is the prevailing form of love today, between parents and children, husbands and wives, teachers and students, etc. (in the second instance, the roles are not fixed but switch according to caprice).

Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving, shows compellingly that “love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him. …all his attempts for love are bound to fail, unless he tries most actively to develop his total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith [in reason and the potential for good in humanity] and [self-]discipline.” And he correctly concludes that “In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare phenomenon.”

Fromm’s postulation that love for one’s flesh and blood is no achievement, since even animals are capable of loving and caring for their offspring, is a damning implicit indictment of the nuclear family, in my view, since the family is a miniature state in which submissive and hegemonic values are reproduced in the young pursuant to their preparation for societal life. The more the child is exposed to arbitrary authority during its upbringing, the more smoothly (as opposed to naturally) it will execute its function later in life by submitting to state, church and corporate authority (all of which are coercive hence illegitimate), while also dominating those he can dominate insofar as his social position allows domination (to the detriment of psychosocial health in himself and others, of course). If he doesn’t, then he always has the possibility of procreating, since children are always fair game, towards whom society (even Western society) shows nothing but the most callous indifference, even in cases involving extreme—physical, psychological, and sexual—abuse (indeed, loving parents are the exception rather than the rule, since toxic parenting is a very pervasive problem throughout the world, as many studies have shown). The point is simply this: there is a strong connection between the having mode and the authoritarian structure. Fromm elaborates this point thusly: “…in the having mode, and thus the authoritarian structure, sin is disobedience and is overcome by repentance ? punishment ? renewed submission. In the being mode, the non-authoritarian structure, sin is unresolved estrangement, and it is overcome by the full unfolding of reason and love, by at-onement.”


Choosing positive freedom over wage slavery; free, creative labor over dead, predatory capital; non-exclusive, non-hegemonic love over pathological love of money and sadomasochistic attachment; life over death—these are all moral imperatives, rooted both in our biological instinct for survival and in our human nature in a cultural sense (just because these are repressed doesn’t mean that they don’t exist). Those who have lost this basic biological and moral instinct due to decades of overwhelming toxic indoctrination and propaganda need to be assisted in the art of de-programming and humanization, so that they may come to life and bring to life everyone in their orbit.


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