You’ll have to forgive me, I have no idea how to make this link all embedded and sexy and turn you on and make you come. Instead, self-deprecating editorializing! – LET’S GO.
Watching Question Time* recently, with Germaine Greer terrifying audiences with a post-Freudian Freudianism and Peter Hitchens admirably sticking to a party-line of reductive (yet profitable) nonsense, I suddenly found myself asking the same sort of questions as must be asked in a debate like they were having: are children overly sexualised? Is the media to blame? Or is it the corporations? Or is it the parents? And speaking of the parents, where are we to draw the line between a goodnight kiss and an act of subtle incest?
(And believe me, I’m not joking – there are lines to be drawn.)
There’s a line Slavoj Zizek likes to repeat, and I think he makes a very good point with it: A while ago, with the more authoritarian familial makeup, your father would say to you: “You are going to visit your Grandma. I don’t care if you don’t want to, or if you don’t like it – it’s happening.” Nowadays, Zizek says, the line goes more like: “You know your Grandma loves you. Now, you don’t have to visit her if you don’t want to. But just remember that she loves you, and she’d be delighted to see you.”
He emphasizes that the message is the same: “I want you to see your Grandma.” But only in the second example, (an example, he claims, of postmodern liberal parenting), is the message: “Now only do you have to see your Grandma, but you have to ENJOY it.”
I think this is very pertinent: when we deal with any social issue, be it sexualisation or crime, dogging, what-have-you, (and I’d love to hear Germaine Greer sound off on dogging,)** – we are torn between these two competing tendencies. The first, an authoritarian tendency to command, and the second, a passive-aggressive tendency to manipulate and influence.And while the word “authoriatian” has, quite reasonably, acquired a derogatory tone, on a par with “fascist” or “Moseley” (Max or Oswald, depending on your age), I suggest that the second, passive-aggressive tendency, is much more dangerous.
If there is one thing that is truly terrifying, it is a power which is not willing to admit to being powerful. A tyrant on a throne is an awe-inspiring and intimidating figure, but he gives you something to aim at; a tyrant who hides behind the throne, or in the mob, is a much trickier one to deal with.
And I think it is this tyrant who rears his head when you hear the sort of generic comments that are often made on Question Time and met invariably with raucous applause. Things like (and here, I am unashamedly making things up) “I think that the important thing is to make sure that everyone gets a fair deal,” or “I think it’s the duty of the government to look after its people, and to provide them with the best service it can, and in this vein…” – and so on. I value the comments of Peter Hitchens far more highly than these catch-all, quasi-aphoristic nonsenses. Peter Hitchens, while clearly a very arrogant and opinionated man, has clearly thought over his point and it willing
to make it despite the kind of booing that would drive an actor to suicide. These people with their “I reckon”s and “It’s important that we”, and “Speaking as a father”s, – they are what truly terrifies me. Because it’s easy to kick Peter Hitchens in the bollocks, but it’s not so easy with a softly-spoken father of two.
I would suggest, rather, that consensus politics must be counterbalanced. I am not suggesting a headlong rush into prescriptive draconianism – rather, I’m simply suggesting that the authoritarian approach is more honest and less manipulative than the passive-aggressive approach. If we don’t want our children to be oversexualised, it’s our duty to act on that – the idea that we should “leave it up to” the children themselves is preposterous. It’s like saying that helping someone who’s being repeatedly kicked in the jaw by a grinning, sociopathic businessman wouldn’t be empowering, and that we should leave them to it and let them make their own decisions about being
held down and kicked in the jaw.
It’s this desire to be liked that causes problems. And I’m not accusing the whole government, or all of Question Time’s speakers, or the whole of anything – merely something that’s shown up in culture. Being liked is good, but not when you’re actively trying. That’s manipulation. If you want people to like you, then it behoves you to show yourself for the horrible bastard you are. Respect is the only honest form of being liked.
Finally: if we are to go about being authoritarian, prescribing, combating the sexualisation of children by all these forces – in effect, protecting our children in the biased and naive way that only people with no interest in being liked by their children can (rather, an interest in protecting the children, even if they hate us for it) – if we are to do this, then it is necessary for us to understand that we are tyrants.
And, like all great and terrible tyrants, we will eventually become figures of hatred for our children, and this is how they develop and grow. If you want your child to like you, and value nothing more highly, then you have completely failed them. Completely. It all comes back to the Master-Slave dialectic, which I assure you is everywhere, and built into human nature. There’s a Master, and a Slave.
And the Slave waits for the Master to die, or kills him. And this is the process of developing, of becoming-yourself, or developing what is called self-mastery – of becoming the master for yourself. But if you refuse to be the Master, if you are so intent and fixated on your child that you want too to become a Slave, so that it will empathise with you – if you are a slave to your child (hitting it, getting angry with it, is a kind of slavery) – then someone else will step in to be the Master, be it big business or Jay-Z or porn***. And I assure you, this new Master, he will not be a pleasant one.
* Question Time is a pitiful limey TV show in which we gather together some politicians and some downtrodden public figures to sit in front of an audience of people aged either from 17 to 21 or 58 to 109 and pretend that they’re doing things.
**Dogging is a pitiful limey pursuit in which ugly, fat people meet in car parks to have sex and speak in a range of awkward-sounding, sexless Northern accents.
***English porn is fantastic, you’d love it. We sound exactly like you imagine we sound. For those of you who haven’t imagined, think about what it would sound like if two people who spend most of their time staring glumly out of a window into the pouring rain suddenly found themselves having sex.
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