10 April 2007

Family is Everything

Family is an institution. And every institution has its own discourse. You know, a mode of language that serves to perpetuate myths, order and hierarchy. Some of those myths serve to ensure that the institution, no matter how corrupt or disfunctional, will live on. The institutional myths are never challenged, as a result of the power of hegemony - that voice that tells you that "everyone else thinks like this" and warns you that dissidence will be swiftly oppressed. No one would dare challenge the order of the family. And so you too, must remain quiet.

Family is everything. Oh so I've heard. So much is it everything that even a murderer or a rapist can reside safely within his family. One would gladly live in denial to maintain the status quo.

That institution which often (not always) reeks of authority, bullying, manipulation, that powerhouse of inbred insecurities, resentments, lies, misunderstandings exists only because it provides opportunities for depraved individuals to engage in power roles that society can not otherwise offer them.

Family is everything you say? Six year old Nandini has been sold by her parents to a brothel in the filthy backalleys of Calcutta. During her miserable existence, she'll regularly send her earnings back to help her family. No matter if she dies of Aids in the process. Family is everything.

I laugh everytime a person, in an attempt to reassure himself that he is a good hearted person, devoid of selfish motives, a person of integrity, will proudly proclaim his devotion to his family. Family comes first! Somehow they equate caring, love and friendship with family. Seriously, I don't know how. The two are mutually exclusive. Sometimes they happen to cohabit.

Blood is thicker than water you say. Who is the idiot who said that? That would be what I would call an 'us against them' mentality brought upon by senseless identification with a group, all for the sake of sustaining one's own fragile ego.
And it's absolute bullshit. Some of the most supportive people that I know and who I count on are not part of my family. Conversely, some of the family members I know are the most destructive, petty individuals I have ever met. No. Blood is not thicker than water. But I admit, it is a very convenient thing to say. And can be useful when one wants something.

I would so much like to choose who exactly constitutes my family. Sometimes though, I succumb to base hypocrisy and I let myself befriend those that are related to me by blood, without as much as considering their relative virtues. Instead, I drop my standards and allow rogues, ignorant braggarts and absolute dickheads to speak to me on familiar terms because they share similar genes. Some of my family's members are lovely. Most are not.

You know what else I think? (Leave now if you can't take it. It's only going to get worse.)

Family is that thing you fall back on when you don't have a career or a passion in life. It's that thing that you fall back on when you are a hopeless failure in every other way.

Got made redundant? No matter. Family is everything. Now you will be able to actually get to know the people you say that you love. Spend time with them, find out what makes them tick. And if you get bored, you could use their weaknesses against them once in a while.

If you are dying of envy for someone else's success, if you despair ever attaining the same drive they have to make it through their goals in life, if you crave their wealth, don't despair! Family is everything. You can pat yourself on the back and knock these successful people down. They are, after all, missing out on the most important thing in life: family. What do they know of the real pleasures of life.

Louis Pasteur was too busy making vaccines to save the world from disease. He should have known better than waste his energies. After all, family is everything. Lay down all your vile passions, I say. Do nothing. Give up your talents, who needs them? You'll only make your family jealous and it would be downright silly. No, no, be a family doormat instead. Let them use you and make rightful demands upon you. Let them bring you down to a level that they can feel comfortable with and measure you against the worthy cause of the family which they only, can define.

What's that? I'm a murderer you say? I've just murdered the family. How dare I speak this way. I have no shame.

I can see the religious minded people rolling their eyes up to the ceiling. Another institution, Christianity, is very proud of the family. For them, what I'm doing here is disgusting. I am lost. (Shake of the head). Truly, I have erred and I am lost.

But wait.

Christians read the Bible right? And they are familiar with the New Testament. So they would know the following passages from Luke's gospel:

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

You like that one? Ok, how about this:

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Of course I wouldn't take that literaly. No one is asking you to hate your parents (although sometimes that does happen). But even for non-religious people this passage is clear. Let us suppose that Jesus and his teachings represent a truth, an ideal which his disciples must put before each and everything. In that case, this truth is universal. It does not only imply religious truth, whatever this may be. This passage is about putting truth before everything.

How does all this translate to this fabulous post about family?
Truth, not denial.
Truth, not hypocrisy.
Truth, not avoidance of conflict to avoid being crucified by the institution.

There you have it.
Truth is everything.

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