Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Speaking of parents: What *about* the Lakoff model, anyway?

I still haven't got much past the opening chapters of "Moral Politics," so for all I know Lakoff does address this very issue later in the book. But here's an angle on his basic premise (thus far) that I haven't seen talked about in public discourse much, at least.

Say he's right and the Republicans are the "stern father" party while the Dems are the "nurturing mother" party. Okay. Well, the thing is, even assuming you tend to favor one parental model over the other (as normal Republicans/Democrats are assumed to do), there are still functional and dysfunctional versions of each, aren't there.

Right now, what we've got running the joint isn't Father Knows Best sternly but efficiently laying down the law, prudently managing household funds, doling out "tough love" so that the kids can stand on their own two feet, and so on. What we've got is a raging junkie who already blew through the kids' college funds and Grandma's nest egg in order to support his numerous substance abuse habits, bail money, and the horses, and is now selling off the furniture. He lies like a rug and is slipperier 'n' a greased weasel when you try to pin him down. And if the lies and evasions don't work, he's screaming abuse and threats, which he backs up with his fists and whatever else is handy. (Sometimes he does that anyway, just to keep you on your toes, as it were). Alternating with phases of charm and extravagant promises of how the good times are just around the corner, if you'll just give him another chance. Poor guy. No one believes in him, is the problem. He just don't get no respect. Pay the man the respect that's due him!

And the Democrats? They're the "enabling" mom who's so beaten down and mindfucked by now that it takes all her energy just to get through the day, let alone summon up the resources to figure out how the hell to get rid of the monster without getting killed in the process. She provides neither protection nor nurturing, not really, even if she patches up the cuts and gives some hugs after the worst of the damage is done. She is not an effective role model. She just walks on eggshells and tries to make believe that it's not so bad, really; if you just wouldn't do xyz, he wouldn't get so mad.

Now here's the punchline. In individual, non-metaphorical versions of this scenario, the kids tend to blame Mom more than Dad. Partly because it's too fucking scary to confront Dad, even internally, and at least Mom (the real deal as well as the one in your head) won't kill you if you get angry at her. And partly, this happens because Mom is perceived to be the sane one, and therefore, the reasoning goes, she could do her job, but won't. She fell down; she did not protect. In effect, she's asking the kids to take care of her.

On Dad's side of the equation, there are phenomena such as "traumatic bonding" and "identifiation with the aggressor," (which is as good an explanation for the freepers as I can think of). Some people will look at the false dilemma of these two inadequate role models, and reckon that if the only apparent choices are being strong and abusive and being weak and abused, they'll go with the strong guy. Anyway, he certainly sounds more convincing when he says he's right; and by now you've learned that trusting your own intuition gets you nowhere, so naturally you're gonna go with the guy who trumpets the loudest that he'll keep you safe. Even if he's the one who's been beating the crap out of you.

Is this fair, then, this focusing of the blame on the "lesser of two evils?" Is this rational? Probably not, not entirely anyway. But, it's there.

So yeah, I get the frustration. I don't want to send the Dems another check, even if they are all we've got. Especially if they're all we've got. I don't feel like sticking up for them because they're "doing the best they can," even if it's true. Not as long as their best isn't doing the job. Where the hell is Auntie Mame when you need her?


Dwayne Monroe said...

Exactly so.

The idea that Republicans, as represented by the Bush admin, are fulfilling the "stern dad" wishes of that segment of the population longing for such a thing (and this is a shaky premise, at best) is laughable for all the reasons you crisply point out.

Over the past few years I've been querying my Repub associates, asking them to explain their enthusiasm for these miscreants.

Once upon a time, the answers centered around the "honor" and "integrity" the Bushanistas were allegedly bringing to Washington and the muscular "defense" of "our way of life" they were demonstrating by attacking Iraq.

Time passed, the bloom left the rose, and for all but the most blinkered or stupid (which are often pretty much the same thing) the list of positives has dwindled to even greater abstractions such as Bush not being a "far left liberal" like John Kerry.

So, some psychological analysis of the loyalty of a not insignificant segment of the population to BushWorld is needed.

But I don't think the daddy dearest hypothesis takes us all the way there.

CrackerLilo said...

This...is...fantastic! I think the Democrats are being a sorry bunch myself.

Personally, I don't want or need another "parent". And that is why I'm Libertarian, even though that party has its own problems.

(I came via Ex-Gay Watch, incidentally.)

belledame222 said...

Good to know, hey crackerlilo.

See, I think that it's entirely plausible that a lot of these guys *are* searching for a "strong daddy." It's just that a lot of peoples' notions of what "strong daddy" acts like are completely fucked. Ever read Alice Miller?

Tuffy said...

Hey, Alice Miller! I have a book of hers here in the queue. It's "The Untouched Key: Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness."

belledame222 said...

Oh, lemme know what you think.

Her best-known and arguably best-done is "Drama of the Gifted Child."

RJ said...

I always associate Alice Miller with "For Your Own Good."

Anyway, I remember when Michael Moore, right after the 2004 election, said that the Republicans were acting like an abusing spouse, and the Democrats needed to admit that they were acting like victims and start behaving in ways that would break the cycle instead of perpetuate it.

People screamed bloody murder that he would accuse the Republicans of such a thing, but 18 months later, at least some folks are starting to come around. "What did we do to deserve this?" "Maybe if we behave ourselves, they'll stop," and "What can we do to make them treat us better?" just aren't winning strategies. They're victim strategies, and I pray that the Democrates realize this before 2008. As evidenced by their sacking of Hackett for calling a bully a bully, they haven't figured it out so far.