Cognitive Dissonance & Parental Evil
The only thing that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing…..
If one looks at the history of human social advancement, it’s the story of people standing up and fighting for that which they deemed to be right and true, be it encouraging emancipation of slaves by Mohammad to a civil war to eliminate its scourge – from elevation of women from property to actual citizens to suffrage to the on-going struggle for equality. As such I believe it to be all of our duty to stand up and fight for what we believe to be right, to push the boundaries of what is permissible , to rail against injustices around us and move the world forward. Not doing so would be an abdication of our responsibility to not only our fellow man but to the generations that follow.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead
Growing up, the most important formative influences we have are primarily those of our siblings and parents. What they tell us and how they interact is regarded as gospel. As with most relationships being open to others while leading to deep, long-lasting connections also conversely leaves one open to abuse and manipulation. Being able to view those closest to us objectively is inevitably a struggle.
There is a fundamental disconnect , a cognitive dissonance prevalent among many non-western societies wherein parents are regarded as beyond reproach. Just as priests invoke their divine mandate parents invoke their right for respect and obedience without any factual basis. Like religion this conditioning usually begins at a young age often with the aid of religion itself (Hadith: Heaven lies at the feet of ones mother). Contrast that with other relationships we enter into voluntarily, be it friendships, romantic relationships , marriage or whatever else – the bar set is closer to mutual respect and caring not respect by virtue of the relationship itself. If a friend or husband or wife forced one to follow their will, be it via emotional blackmail, force or other means of coercion it would generally be regarded as an abusive relationship nothing more. Extend the same to the parent-child relationship and more often then not it’s justified with ‘they do it out of love’ or ‘they seek to protect us’. Somehow when a parent abuses the trust and respect we place in them we’re forced to justify and rationalize their behavior instead of calling it out for what it is.
Paraphrasing Sam Harris simply because someone claims to be or even actually is acting out of love does not by fiat make their actions moral or any less repugnant then other motives. A father may choose to murder their homosexual child out of love – logical from the point of view of someone viewing homosexuality as a path to eternal suffering (hellfire). Even though they experienced love and acted out of it, does not take away from the crime they committed, the barbarians they are or the punishment they deserve.
How exactly are grown people controlled by others.. if one were to actually examine the phenomena dispassionately it invariably involves the same themes – themes that are often echoed in emotional abuse scenarios.
Growing up as a child one is taught how sacrosanct ones relationship with their parents is. Obedience to their opinions is invariably expected and required. As one enters adolescence the natural transition involves establishing self-control over our own lives. If you’re even remotely familiar with the methods employed to control others the most crucial aspect is preventing the victim from believing that they can exercise control over their own destiny.. thus the appearance of control must be delayed and sabotaged. In an abusive situation often the abuser controls financial power, dictates permissible social interactions (people one can befriend) , so on and so forth. The missive is usually of love (I do so because I love you) but the end-goal of control is anything but.
A significant portion of the associated culture is setup to reinforce this control. The idea of keeping ones children close – most live with their parents, the stigma that is culturally enforced particularly on women striking out on their own. By conditioning a child to accept their parents word as gospel and reinforcing that societally, where trying to establish ones own identity is associated with immorality; the open prison they inhabit is further entrenched. The damage this does to ones psyche is evident wherein the raison d’etre of life by many young women is considered to be landing a mate… What percentage of these parents have you seen encouraging their children to move out to make a life of their own on their own terms? Consider the growing experiences one has , the sense of confidence one gains by knowing ones capabilities and exercising them instead of being treating as chattel traded from father to husband?
For those that actually choose to stand up for themselves besides the social stigmas hinted at above a deep campaign of emotional blackmail and abuse invariably follows. As shocking as it may seem, having to consider ones own parents as abusive, please lets call a spade a spade. What is evil is evil regardless of how much we care about those displaying the behavior. Unlike celluloid life usually involves villains that do not believe they are in the wrong, that they in fact are standing up for what is good and true, despite their convictions the definition of evil does not change.
Evil is unspectacular and always human, And shares our bed and eats at our own table. – W. H. Auden
Beyond recognizing bad behavior among those that attempt to control us we also must be aware that we are not responsible for their happiness (repeat after me … I am not responsible for the happiness of others….), for their life-choices which led to their health problems , for the stigma’s they and the culture propagates. We’ve often seen the formulaic soap where-in a parent at their death bed, as a dying wish, asks their child to ‘obey’… we’ve also all laughed it off as being idiotic and unreal. On the other hand threats such as these are common place and aren’t decried as being nothing more then a perverted and sick attempt at using ones owns life to gain control over another. The level of perversion apparently has no limits. Contrast the behavior of a loving parent with that of a controlling one, if your child was in distress was being forced against their will and you were on your death bed would your instinct be to emotionally beat down the child into submission or to use your dying breath to liberate them and free them of the pain they were undergoing. The definition of love does not involve the words ‘obey my wishes’ but rather involves a deep empathy where one is literally willing to walk over a river of fire to assuage the pain of a loved one. Consider the situation where you do have that feeling for your significant other but their reaction is how do I manipulate your affection to achieve my goals. Most of us will instinctively revile the cynical and manipulative person involved and be repulsed by them but when a parent exhibits the exact same behavior…
Another aspect of the same is manipulating someone the victim loves to achieve their goals , you can’t leave (a bad marriage) because… think of the children? or I will deprive you of the children or I will make them suffer like no other so on and so forth. Identifying the evil inherent in these patterns of behavior is also casual but extending it to a parental situation where they threaten to deprive you of your own family (siblings, mother, father whatever), where a father beats down a mother (physically, emotionally or mentally) to force compliance among a child is given a pass. Instead of recognizing those being used to promote coercion as willing participants or victims that have long since given up on being able to stand up and fight, we accept the situation. Consider a younger sibling of yours being treated this way by their significant other, would you not raze down hell and heaven itself to set them free? Why is a father not treated with the same passionate defiance when he seeks to force his own agenda; at the expense of his own family?
One of the primary reasons it is hard to break free is the life-long shackles that have been chained upon us since birth. When most realistic possibilities are cordoned off as being immoral, unconscionable and unthinkable when actually standing up and fighting is deemed immoral we enter an Orwellian realm where war is peace… evil is good and control is love.
For those of us in such situations, not only is there a dire need to recognize reality for what it is but to understand that there are no actual limits imposed upon us. Those perceived limits are simply an illusion designed to enslave and control us.
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.
For those wishing to pursue an unorthodox career ranging from Hollywood to Archeology to modeling to whatever else – it is your life to live and not of your society. To those wishing to marry someone that would horrify their families delicate sensibilities again – it is your life not theirs. To those that aren’t of the mainstream heterosexual proclivities it is your right to live your life free happy and in the open, those that love you will celebrate you, those that don’t never will. To those that despise the belief-set of their parents again, your own life, your own beliefs… To those that need to get away from regressive families but feel that would be an act of abandonment, you live but once and as a happy, complete and healthy individual can do far more.
In conclusion, by following patterns of control and abuse parents condemn their children to stunted emotional growth, to being in future abusive situations (where one grows up expecting to be controlled, where power resides with another the corruption of that power by and large is inevitable), to living an unfulfilled and bitter life. The moral imperative when viewing injustice, when viewing someone in a position of power, abuse others is to stand up and fight for the weak, for the oppressed – not doing so is nothing short of moral cowardice. Too often, those of us that view or experience behaviors that are downright criminal condone it simply because of the supposed sacredness of the parent-child relationship. There is a cost associated with this acquiescence to evil , in human terms as well as in societal terms, as we all have far too often seen.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~Bishop Desmond Tutu