One of my childhood memories is of my father pulling the family car up to a ‘Strictly No Parking’ sign and dinging it with the bumper. We were the only car in the lot.
In time he bought me my first car, 50 bucks worth of ageing deathtrap. No MOT, no insurance, no licence. Every breach of the rules lost in his bestowing gift.
I abandoned it on the road side within a month ‘cos it wasn’t running right and bought a motorbike. No licence, no experience, no insurance, no helmet. Got to the first junction, crossed it on one wheel and very nearly killed a pedestrian on the far side.
I was Priviledged. I didn’t have to play by the rules. But the almost-accident bought me up short and made me begin to question my entitlement.
Entitlement was what held my parents together, and the racially segregated community of which we were a part. It was their legacy to me and so I soaked it up like you do…
…being all there was on offer.
I began to realise, not only that it was all a con, but that I was actually a deprived child. All the specialness and priviledge and being exempt from the rules was compensation for lack of love. I was given a pile of ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ cards in lieu of affection.
It had a lot to do with the intensely patriarchal world in which I was raised. Colonial Rhodesia was an Edwardian garden party of Priviledge. Pimms, boaters and side arms. A man’s world in which women were pegged just a tad above non-white folk and Nature was just cover for gooks.
No surprise that the sons of Empire mostly turned out pretty narcissistic. Tin pot princelings who’d sell each other out, and their grandmothers, for any extension of rights and status. The motif at the local monument read, ‘ That Might have Right, and Have it More Abundantly.’
Thing is, such a compensation culture is only pitched a notch or two above what the rest of polite society is still up to. The feminine is collectively devalued. Nature is there simply for the plundering, or perhaps to lie down in on your favourite monogrammed beach towel and conventional religion is an old boy’s club that has been resting on its laurels for so long they’ve mashed it into the upholstery.
What all these sons of empire never got was that if the feminine is devalued then so is mothering. Their mothers. Their Ground of Being.
The problem for children in the West is that mother is invariably a dissatisfied woman. S. de Bouvoir.
If mother is devalued but her face remains the primary mirror for a nascent sense of identity what is the child to experience of itself?
What a baby sees in its mother’s eyes is what baby takes itself to be. If the mirror is broken or distorted then baby is also broken/distorted.
Baby cannot move forward. Its not safe enough. There isn’t enough containment. If baby is not in his rightful place, in arms, because Mum is drowning her sorrows, or back at work trying to prove her worth, or off at bingo trying to top up on some girl time, or holding baby but gingerly because she’s had her own instincts and self confidence eroded to the point that she’s lost faith in her own abilities, then the need to be in his rightful place, a place to which Nature has promised him entitlement as though it were the Promised Land since he was still in utero, is frustrated and denied…
Moreover, if baby is having to shoulder not only mother’s sense of inferiority, incalcated in her since she herself was a baby, but, in addition, projections of the Self which mother must also export given that society has afforded her no schooling or experience of owning this within her own psyche, then baby is landed with a heady cocktail of not being good enough on the one hand (which requires extremes of compensation) and Mother’s divine image on the other which is going to blow his own sense of self out of all proportion.
This ‘priviledged child’ is finally given the existential coup de grace by being allowed to behave pretty much as he pleases by Mum, desperate to make up for the very real deprivation she senses she’s an unwitting party to – and there you have a recipe for all the petty despotism you can conceive, all getting gently baked on an oven setting marked ‘self importance’, and served up with a penchant for co-dependence and a side order of addictive tendencies.
The heady realms of the godlike must, after all, be regularly fuelled.