Dec 29, 2012

Who's your daddy? No, really

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my work, ye mighty, and despair!"

There's a popular idea amongst the conspiracy crowd that one of the characteristics of the Illuminati (or other villain-du-jour) is that they "never let a crisis go to waste." It doesn't take very long, though, to find good ole projection acting out again - the debate is never more intense than after a terrible tragedy, such as the recent shooting in Sandy Hook. The victims' bodies were still warm when the extremists (many in the mainstream media, even) took the opportunity to spout the usual nonsense, usually revolving around gun control.

It doesn't need to be said that there is a complete lack of respect for the victims and their families (the worst are those who say "well, I don't want to politicize the issue, but..."), but they don't even use these unfortunate events to talk about the real issues. Of course, gun control isn't a real issue - morality is. There is an underlying celebration of these events, almost, because it helps to steer everyone away from self-reflection. Perhaps, then, once again, we should dampen the white noise of the media and see where the semiotic crumbs lead us...

While a look at the meaning behind the name Alexander (Sandy <- Sandra <- Alexandra) is not uninteresting, the story of a certain conqueror is probably more worth taking a look at, so that we can widen the scope a little bit. The story of Alexander the Great is a great reminder of the narcissism that is all too frequent in our brief history. But first, a bit of background.

"How do I look, dad?"

It's pretty clear that, although we do live in an excessively authoritative society, it's wrong to call it patriarchal. That is to say, it is patriarchal in the sense that the biological father rules, but not in the sense that the archetypal father rules (i.e. pseudopatriarchal). In order to understand this, we need to take a look at what motherhood and fatherhood are really about.

The matriarchate/patriarchate dichotomy can be seen in the Zodiac (as anything else, really), in this case as the left side of the wheel for the former and the right side for the latter. I will go into more detail on this later on, for now suffice it to consider that the Capricorn-to-Gemini sweep is about the archetypal mother (hence the 10th House representing the mother figure) and the Cancer-to-Sagittarius sweep about the father*.

The point is: 85-95% of Westerners gets stuck at the Cancer level; that is to say, there is an absence of a father figure for most of us. Rather than progress through that stage of development, most will regress back to one of the stages of the matriarchal sweep (i.e. rationalization, greed/gluttony, violence, drugs, ideologies, authorities). The (not necessarily biological) mother's role is to feed the baby, nurture it, make it feel loved and cared for. This is necessary because it's how the baby will gain self-confidence and become assertive. However, there comes a point when the umbilical cord (literal or otherwise) needs to be cut, and this is where the father comes in.

If no one is there to separate the child from the mother, s/he begins to feel entitled to warmth, food and protection. Soon, s/he starts believing s/he 'more' special (or equal) than the others, and then naturally becomes more and more fearful, because it cannot conceive of being separated from all it 'deserves.' The father's 'job' is not only to show the child that the world is not going to bend to his/her whims, but also to assure him/her that everything is going to be alright in the end. After all, daddy still gets mommy's love after spending most of the day away, and without crying or making a fuss.

So back to Alexander. It's not news that the nobility tends to be exceptionally spoiled, but Alexander's case is borderline stereotypical. Here are a few short passages from the Wiki entry:
  • "Philip [Alexander's father], overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son tearfully, declaring: 'My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you.'" This is a reference to the famous episode of the taming of Bucephalas.
  • "Some of Alexander's strongest personality traits formed in response to his parents. His mother had huge ambitions, and encouraged him to believe it was his destiny to conquer the Persian Empire."
  • "According to Plutarch, among Alexander's traits were a violent temper and rash, impulsive nature, which undoubtedly contributed to some of his decisions."
  • "During his final years, and especially after the death of Hephaestion, Alexander began to exhibit signs of megalomania and paranoia."
  • "He appears to have believed himself a deity, or at least sought to deify himself. Olympias [his mother] always insisted to him that he was the son of Zeus."
What's clear here is that the matriarchal side of Alexander's development was taken too far, given that his father, who clearly felt entitled himself**, was simply yet another mother to him. Alexander's self-confidence was taken to very high levels, but the difference with him is that he happened to be a military genius, allowing his narcissism to reach epic proportions. The fear that he would not get, well, everything, certainly made him aggressive, and no doubt had its effects on his sexuality as well, though the specifics are up to speculation.

Needless to say, conquering the whole planet wouldn't have made Alexander into Zeus. As a matter of fact, Zeus himself was very aware of the father's role: whenever humans committed hubris, he was quick to act. He may have been a bit excessive at times, but he had the right idea.

Jeff immediately regretted giving Zeus the finger

However, egomaniacal despots are far from the only way the father's absence can manifest, and this brings us back to Newtown. I suggest you take a look at this post over at the Secret Sun to get the details, but it seems that Adam Lanza's father's absence was more than just physical. This absence left the mother to fill the hole, and boy was she the wrong stuff for that. By all appearances, the massacre was a result of Lanza's belief in the Maya apocalypse, a belief fed to him via his paranoid mother.

After all, contemporary Connecticut isn't exactly Prohibition-era Chicago. The Lanzas lived in a very peaceful neighborhood, so it's clear their paranoia was completely out of proportion - which suggests the issues were more in their heads than in the real world. The same is true, of course, for most gun-rights activists and doom-sayers, but the consequences in this case were particularly tragic.

Another manifestation is the entitlement culture that has been booming lately, and not just in the US (here in Brazil we have our own such programs, such as the "Bolsa FamĂ­lia"). Unfortunately, the debate is always quickly hijacked by extremists, and it always comes down to "those bums are feeding off my taxes" versus "they can't do anything about it" - which means that if you favor cuts to 'entitlement programs' while at the same time wanting to help the unfortunate...well, there's not much room for you.

In the end, then, all everyone ends up talking about is what others are doing wrong. Never mind that what is right or wrong has more to do with the culture and historical period than with absolute laws, i.e., ethics is not the same as morality. This is where the lack of father figure comes in: the father forces you to figure out what's right or wrong based on experience, both your own and others', rather than on some abstract ideology or on an "authority."

What nobody talks about regarding gun control is that 'banning all the guns' or 'semi-automatics for everyone' are attempts at change from the outside, that is to say, not the responsibility of an actual person. Banning guns frees you from the responsibility of considering the ethics of gun ownership, doesn't require you to think about how the issue is reflected in your own life. Likewise, in clinging tightly to your rifle and defending yourself from the control of the government, you don't take time to consider whether it's reasonable for you to own that rifle in the first place.

What can you do to prevent another such massacre? Frankly, nothing. All the extreme, reactionary measures are simply putting a band-aid on a cancer, because they're just another case of attacking the symptoms rather than the cause. What you CAN do, however, is to raise your children properly (i.e. making sure there are both mother and father figures, regardless of the actual people involved), work on improving yourself, think about what it means to be a moral person, help out your community without the expectation of something in return. You may not be able to stop another Adam Lanza from shooting up a school, but it certainly is within your power not to raise an Adam Lanza yourself.

UPDATE: next on the blame list, DNA

* Cancer is a sign that is usually associated with the mother, and this is not wrong per se. However, there's more to motherhood than breastfeeding...

** In fact, Philip probably began to live through his son after a certain age; realizing that he had not conquered the world, he would make sure that his son (i.e. "it was thanks to me he became so smart") did such a thing, living it by proxy

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