Monday, January 2, 2017

One Hundred and Eight

Long before the infant becomes aware of sex, it becomes aware of power. Whether it perceives itself as belonging to its mother, or its mother as belonging to it, the infant knows they differ in power long before it becomes aware they differ in sex (if the infant is male, as it always was for Freud).

Eventually the infant realizes it is powerless and dependent on its mother. The first society is the family, and it’s a matriarchy. If the infant is well cared for, it's content to be dependent on its mother. Namque pauci libertatum pars magna iustos dominos volunt. But even the best mother eventually fails to satisfy her infant’s every need, whereupon it seeks to become independent of her.

It fails. The human infant remains helpless for a longer time than the young of any other species; an unnaturally long time, during which it grows increasingly restive. Eventually it rebels.

The son’s rebellion against his mother is the first revolution (Daughters don’t rebel against their mothers; they succeed their mothers as matriarchs). Even if his revolution is successful, for the rest of his life he’ll seek to dominate women in order to avoid being dominated by them, as he was by his mother. But his success doesn’t last. Every revolution is followed by a counter-revolution.

Society is a macrocosm of the family, founded and ruled as a patriarchy by the sons who successfully rebelled against their mothers and became men, fathers. Just as every rebel take the place of the ruler he overthrew, so does every mother's son become a father.

Every father, precisely because he successfully rebelled against his mother, fears his son will rebel against him. Laius feared his son would kill him and take his throne even while Œdipus was still an infant. By trying, and failing, to kill the infant before he became a man, Laius ensured that Œdipus would kill him when he did become a man. Œdipus, who Freud thought naturally violent, merely responded to his father's violence with violence.

Freud’s solution to the Œdipus Complex was for the son to surrender to his father instead of challenging him, and wait to become a patriarch like his father just as daughters wait to become matriarchs like their mothers. But being a patriarch himself, Freud couldn’t conceive of women as matriarchs, women with power. He saw women as childish, or castrated, powerless men. Even less could he imagine a society without powerful men, patriarchs who rule women and powerless men as adults rule children.     

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