This article was originally only supposed to be my journal. I have decided to post it here, for the arguments herein presented constitute an important part of my ideology (in the broader sense of the term), and I believe it is among “the least unworthy of being offered to the public”.
The journal was written as an answer to a topic question, which I now reiterate for the sake of contextualisation:
According to social critic Barbara Ehrenreich, “At best, the family teaches the finest things human beings can learn from one another—generosity and love. But it is also, all too often, where we learn nasty things like hate and rage and shame.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?
I have no knowledge about Barbara Ehrenreich, nor have I done any research regarding her opinion. Therefore, I took the liberty of answering according to the literal meaning of her statement.
My answer is as follows.
The Family is Also Where We Learn Hate, Rage, and Shame?
The family is the cradle of humanity. In Rousseau’s words, it is the first society, where parents selflessly provide for the living of their children, receiving only love in return. Indeed, the family nurtures the development of fine qualities such as generosity and love, which are what make this world a beautiful place to live in. It is quite apparent to see how the family could become the source of generosity and love: parents are individuals of liberty, bonded together by nothing but their own will; and it is love that makes them willing to become united. Parents share their belongings, their affections, even their lives with each other. What could be more generous than giving everything one has to the other half? Similarly, as soon as they have a child, the child naturally receives the same kind of devotion for being the embodiment of their love to each other. The upbringing of the child also requires the parents to share what they have with him/her, at least until the child can provide for his/her own preservation and become independent, wherefrom they and the child remain united “no longer naturally, but voluntarily.”
It all seems clear how the family can be related to the cream of humanity. But what does humanity mean, exactly? Are feelings such as hatred, anger, and shame not part of being human? We are not divine beings, not designed for perfection, nor shall we attempt to be. In fact, it is the imperfection of human character that best characterises the characteristics of humanity. Selfishness and hatred are at least as natural as generosity and love, if not more so; and it is not unreasonable to assume that the family—however amenable it is in the consolidation of generosity and love—is also the incubator of hatred and anger.
Love and hate, kind and mean, selfish and generous, concepts of this kind are inherently contrary, and cannot be defined without implying, or connoting the opposite. The value of love is best elucidated in moments of hatred, and generosity can never be clearly portrayed without a “background” of selfishness as a frame of reference. Indeed, one cannot gauge the height of a mountain if everything in its surroundings is just as high—in that case, even the shape of the mountain is dissolved along with the in-difference of altitude. Therefore, notions such as hate and rage are not only necessary, but more importantly, essential constituents of human society. Since the family is the first society, it would then be no wonder that one comes to acquire them in the family as well.
No society can be exempted from anger and hatred, as well as the accompanying conflicts whereby invoked. If a society appears to be flawlessly harmonious, it could only be in two possible states: it has either reached the ultimate stage of social development—a perfected world, possibly even more so than the reign of Eidos imagined by Plato—in which case, there would be no ground for any negative emotions or conflicts. However, as attractive as such a society might sound, it is equally impossible to have a realistic representation. Or, if the society is not perfected, but seemingly harmonious in every aspect, it then must have been covered in veils—veils that conceal the inharmonious, unpleasant conflicts typical of normal social development. Such a society, unfortunately, is rotten inside, in delusive but nonetheless artificial disguise. Moreover, larger the difference between its appearance and actuality, greater the potential that one day it will suddenly erupt like a volcano, releasing the long-constrained pressure under its surface in a devastating outbreak.
The same holds true for the family. Family members love each other unconditionally, but this does not prevent occasional conflicts and disharmony. Anger and hate are normal manifestations of our unpleasant feelings, and the best way to cope with them is to vent naturally, not to restrain, which only leads to accumulation in the subconscious. It could very well be argued, then, that learning hate, rage, and shame from the family is also an indispensable part of growing up, of becoming mature and truly human. The importance of negative emotions should never be overlooked, nor are we justified to prevent or avoid the acquisition of any of them.
Written on 1 Dec. 2015