Love as violence
R.D. Laing was an unconventional psychologist. One of the thing’s he talked about was ‘love as violence’.
That is what we do to our children. Because we want what’s best for them, we go beyond simply loving them. We equip them to survive in the world. To us it looks like love.
Looked at from another side, it’s actually damage. One instance he gave concerned Indian beggars. India was a very poor country. Millions were starving to death.
So, when a beggar had a child, she had to consider how it would survive. Because nearly everyone in India lived in poverty, no one gave money to beggars. Not unless they had a seriously good reason to beg.
An obvious, and major, disability that prevented them working. Otherwise, they’d definitely starve. That was the world of the beggar.
So, if a child was born without a deformity, it was a serious problem. If you really loved your child, you gave them what they needed to survive. A withered arm or leg, a crushed foot, or blindness. That way they should be able to make a living as a beggar.
This is love as violence. How the world appears depends on where we see it from. Because that’s the only world we know. R.D.Laing said that, in the West, we do the same thing to our children. But we do it mentally.
We couldn’t see a healthy, fully-formed mind as a possibility. No more than the Indian beggars could recognise a healthy, full-formed body.
In their world, they see a deformed body as suited to survival. In our world, we see a deformed mind as suited to survival. So we train and shape our children from the moment they’re born.
We send them to schools to learn to do everything exactly as we did. Exactly as everyone else does. We break and shape that fully-formed, healthy mind until it fits our preconception.
Until it’s suited to survive. We commit love as violence just as the beggar does.
This is R.D.laing’s view of what we do to our children. And yet what choice do we have? We can’t know any world outside what we know.
So what do we do? I don’t have the answer.
But I do have the question. And that’s a good start point. To do what we think is right, while being able to hold the possibility that it may be wrong.
Not to go on auto-pilot. Not to knee-jerk into the fastest possible answer. But to constantly be in the enquiry.
Aristotle said: “It is the mark of the educated mind that it can entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Now for most people that’s a big jump. To be confident enough to say, “I haven’t made my mind up yet.” We are taught that uncertainty is weakness. We have to have an instant answer at all times. One side is right, the other is wrong. But doesn’t this just show an inability to think?
Alfred North Whitehead said, “The problem with the world is that the ignorant are arrogant and cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Instant certainty is often just football-supporter mentality. “Our team’s great. Your team’s shit.” Ignoring any evidence to the contrary is a matter of pride.
Unthinking allegiance proves you’re a true supporter. Why is that something to aspire to?
Where an ability to entertain more than one thought is seen as weakness?
Jeremy Sinclair’s favourite quote is from Socrates. “The more I know, the more I know I know nothing.”
Personally, my favourite quote is from Lao Tzu.
“The wise man knows he doesn’t know. The fool doesn’t know he doesn’t know.”
Having immediate certainty on any problem doesn’t prove someone has an open mind. In fact it proves the opposite. It proves they approach every problem with an open mouth.