Familes are Insane
The family’s function is to repress Eros; to induce a false consciousness of security; to deny death by avoiding life; to cut off transcendence; to believe in God, not to experience the Void; to create, in short, one-dimensional man; to promote respect, conformity, obedience; to con children out of play; to induce a fear of failure; to promote a respect for work, to promote a respect for ‘respectability.’
R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience
What should we think of an institution that takes love and caring and intimate connection and transforms them into a claustrophobic cesspool of nagging, jealousy, betrayal, disappointment, pressure, expectations, exasperation and boredom? Families come together only to tear each other apart. This is not only because of social expectations (reinforced by extensive legal and financial privileges) but also by fear. It is desperate clinging against the perceived threats of the outside world, a terror that everything will become even worse and more lonely without family.
In agricultural societies, family was openly about property, patriarchy, social networking and the protection of wealth. In a post-agricultural world of personal property, meritocracy, wages and anonymous relationships, we try to believe family is about love and companionship and shared ambition. But it so often results in the destruction of love and companionship. The families that endure a long time without significant emotional pain are usually the ones that don’t set the bar so high.
Unfortunately, in agricultural and post-agricultural societies, families are probably the only institution that has been able to provide some protection and nurture for children (although even that is only a 50-50 proposition). But the costs are enormous—both for the children and the parents. How many mothers have you met who were not exhausted and obsessed with petty details? How many people have you met who did not think that their parents were at least partially at the root of their problems? There must be a better way. Maybe there isn’t.