Monday, December 26, 2016

Ond Hundred and Six

I’m still (re)reading Brown's book, still on the chapter about the anal-sadistic stage in which Freud said the infant’s love for its mother turns to hate (I read more slowly now because I think more slowly). It brings to my mind the failure of our attempt to recreate the family on the macrocosmic level, the level we used to call society before Baroness Thatcher told us there’s no such thing. Most people’s love for society has now turned to hate, as has their love for their families, because neither gives them what they need.  

Freud’s origin theory of the family and society seemed to me mistaken when I was a child, and knew more about childhood than Freud remembered; but his mistake was useful to me, as other people’s mistakes often are, because it made me think about why it was wrong.

Freud always referred to the infant as ‘he’, which is wrong because not every infant is male; and even when it is, it doesn’t think of itself as male. It hasn’t yet developed what psychiatrists call gender identity, a sense of being male or female.

Freud said the infant sees itself and its mother as one, so he should have realized it’s wrong to characterize it as male. If mother and child are one, there’s no difference between them, sexual or otherwise. Only when the infant becomes aware that they’re not one does it seek to discover the reason why they differ. And it's not sex. It’s property ownership. The infant asks whether it belongs to its mother, or does its mother belongs to it.

Freud thought he had the answer. He regarded the infant as male because he regarded 19th century Western European capitalism as the most highly evolved society, and the male property owner as its most highly evolved member. Men own property, and women are property.

What Freud called The Omnipotent Infant is male by definition because he owns his mother as the capitalist paterfamilias owns his wife. A mother caters to her infant son as a servant caters to her master.

But men don’t own only women. They own other men as well; men without property who are therefore other men’s property, their employees. 

Freud wasn't interested in the psychology of the poor, but presumably he would have said men without property endure being owned and used by other men because they’re masochists who see themselves as castrated men, just as women do (Or so Freud claimed).

The Omnipotent Infant’s reign ends when he discovers his mother is actually his father’s property.

At first the infant wants to kill his father so that he can retain possession of his mother. When he realizes his father is too powerful to kill, the infant gives his mother up. But he does so reluctantly, and only under the threat of punishment (specifically castration, which Freud should have known was inappropriate because he said the infant was polymorphous perverse; specifically genital sexuality defined adulthood).

When he comes to understand that giving up his mother was the right thing to do (because in taking her mother from his father, her rightful owner, he'd violated the law of property ownership, the fundamental law of society), the son submits willingly to his father and learns to love him (being careful not to love him too much, as much as he loved his mother; no father wants a homosexual son). He then becomes a property-owning paterfamilias himself, like the father he now loves. 

Freud called this maturity, which confirmed for me that society is founded by violence and perpetuated by hypocrisy. Coerced love can’t be sincere.

I knew it didn’t have to be like this.

I was young enough to remember how I felt lying in my crib, and it was not omnipotent or murderous. But I was soon enough made aware that not every infant is filled with love for its mother, this wonderful being who anticipates its needs before it becomes aware of them itself. 

Not every infant is lucky enough to have a loving mother, as I did. A happy childhood, like a happy adulthood, is the exception, not even but especially among the prosperous bourgeoisie who were Freud’s patients.

Not only is a happy infancy the exception, but the supposedly perfect union of mother and infant is seldom ended by the infant’s discovery that it has a powerful rival in its father, as Freud claimed. Most people live in poverty; therefore when the infant discovers its father, it doesn’t see him as a powerful and threatening rival. It sees him as weak, little more than a child himself, infantilized and emasculated by his submission to more powerful men.

I discovered soon enough that I was surrounded by murderous adults: omnipotent Infants grown older but no wiser, still enraged that the world didn’t love them as they deserved to be loved.

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