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Family and Security as left values

by t-------------- Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 12:47:41 PM EST

One of the problems of the current left-wing discourse is the scorn of all that is "family" and "security" oriented. Only conservatives and authoritarians talk about those issues, so they say...

The "ignorant" people care about these "reactionary" issues.

Can I propose a different view of the world: Family and Security are fundamental values in a sane society. It has been a failure of the left to ignore them.

Security brings about the image of fascistic/stalinistic/authoritarian states. But the bottom line is, the right to access both public and private space without being harassed is a fundamental right: like education or health. Actually it is quite difficult to even exercise the other fundamental rights if streets are not safe. Violence and insecurity also breed in mistrust for "others". And of course, if streets are insecure, more affluent people will be able to buy out security (by self segregating in secure places), making a basic human right only available to a select few. This is not an endorsement of police brutality or anything like that, it is just a simple statement that a more secure and non-violent society should be a "left" priority and we should not be afraid to embrace it. How? That is another (much more complex) topic, I am just making a philosophical stance here: The "left" should embrace the idea that all people should be entitled to a non-violent environment (and "non-violent" could and should, of course, also encompass the right to health/housing without which existence is a violent experience).


Yes, yes, family used to mean a close group of macho controlled, female submissive, heterosexual based relationships, which, after started could not be abandoned and had to be endured "until death separates us apart". But we can go past that can't we? We are now in a position to redefine family as a voluntary association based on various types love and equality. I am fully aware that things are not perfect but, instead of fighting the notion of family, the discourse could shift in both protecting families and continuously redefining family (and community) in a more democratic way. Family and local community are the most direct places to practice solidarity and community involvement. I would say, that when the left abandoned the concepts of family (for good/comprehensible reasons) towards a more "cosmopolitan" view of human relationships is also helped to shape a cultural environment which favours atomization/mobility and ultimately disconnection from strong, long lasting human relationships which are the fabric of a more emphatic society...

Yep, just Sunday rumblings...

And spot on.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 04:23:48 PM EST
The difficulty for security is that the response to public insecurity is invariably an attack-the-symptom authoritarianism.

Politicians tend to fall into the trap of saying they have a duty to "keep us safe", an impossible promise but which allows any restriction that might support the goal.

Real security would be to genuinely approach issues in terms of justice rather than security. If the law is just in the treatment of all citizens, if the provision of services (education etc) is just to all citizens, then maybe we can learn to treat other people's justly and understand that some "allies" are less just their neighbours than we'd like, and that our support for their injustice harms us eventually.

As for the family, this is tied up in so many cultural expectations that you simply cannot legislate easily. Quite frankly, we do not share the same ideas so how can you make betterthan generalised rules based on disputable cultural norms.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 at 09:05:48 AM EST

The difficulty for security is that the response to public insecurity is invariably an attack-the-symptom authoritarianism.

That would be the standard left response, yes. I have a few quirks with that...

Depending on the level of existing violence, a state authoritarian approach (note that I am not directly defending it, that would be another debate altogether) might actually decrease the level of informal authoritarianism. Imagine that you live in a place where people are routinely subject to physical violence (like ending up in the hospital in bad condition). If you put mounted police circulating around then, although the state is being stronger (and maybe committing some excesses), the average person will feel less constrained (much less criminal violence).

I have actually lived in a place where people were afraid (with proper reason) to circulate and the police couldn't do nothing because of being afraid of getting bad publicity. Every month or so you could find patches of blood in the street. Somebody would have ended up in the hospital. Everybody knew who did it, even the police. The police were afraid of doing anything.

Living the experience can be quite "interesting".

Anyway, deprived people might have live in problematic areas (middle/upper class can self segregate themselves if needed). The argument of a long term social friendly solution to a perceived criminal will not create many friends with mothers that see their children beaten (to put it bluntly and in a "populist" way). A short term solution is needed.

In a world of increasing resource scarcity, with poverty increasing, these problems are bound to increase. If we don't have a credible answer to them, somebody else will.

Although I would agree that the typical right-wing answer is bad, the left-wing answer is insufficient.

As for the family, this is tied up in so many cultural expectations that you simply cannot legislate easily. Quite frankly, we do not share the same ideas so how can you make betterthan generalised rules based on disputable cultural norms.

I am not talking about legislation per se, but bringing family to the left political discourse.

Instead of disdain for family I thing progressives should encourage solidarity among individuals bound by voluntary love. Notice the expression "voluntary love"... we should redefine family along those terms (I don't think that that is hard in western Europe nowadays), using the typically right wing "linguistic" tactics... redefining the various cultural norms towards this one.

Love and empathy are the cornerstones (or should be) of a progressive agenda. The family can be one of the best vehicles for that, not the old patriarchal family but a new redefinition of it.

We have been supporting an agenda that is actually too much compatible with excessive atomization. Fertile ground for the breakage of fundamental bounds that are needed to purse a better future.

I am suggesting using the word family to describe a gay couple. I am suggesting saying that domestic violence is an attack to core family values. Lack of access to good universal education and health is also, in my book, an attack to the family.

by t-------------- on Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 at 11:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My issue is not with proper protective policing, but with a knee-jerk authoritarianism that is intended to give the appearance of control whilst doing nothing genuinely effective.

As much as anything, they're expensive, uselss and intrusive. It's not enough to say you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. The chilling effect is enough. That's fine with genuinely illegal behaviour, my concern is that the US & UK have demonstrated time after time that measures introduced for the intrusive control of terrorists and violent offenders are also very effective at controlling legal but inconvenient behaviours.

An example we all know are tazers. Initially intended as non-lethal weapons on criminally violent and aggressive behaviour they are now routinely used to create compliance irrespective of intent.

So, whilst I have no problem with the concept of security and policing, that covers a multitude of sins and requires an executive with a firm grasp of civil liberties, something in short supply right now.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 at 01:32:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here my difficulty is that bringing the family into left discourse brings with it a whole lot of assumptions that are generally invalid across populations.

I like the idea of "voluntary love", but I still fear that, whatever the intent, rightist conservative voices will hijack or usurp the discourse. Starting of course with the definition of a family. This is less contentious in Europe, but in the US right now a whole cultural battleground has been staked out by the Talivangelical over this subject.

It's no good saying that the left can talk about this without the right intruding. Their emotive language, being more culturally conservative, always has more resonance, however much ours is more inclusive.

Therefore it is easier to talk in meaningless generalities and legislate for the particular.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 at 01:39:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with you that security is a progressive issue, when it is an issue at all. The problem with the "security" discourse in much of Europe is that it's a phony issue. You have a greater risk of being put in the hospital (or the graveyard) by a car accident than by mugging. By orders of magnitude.

So what the right is doing when it puts more police on the streets is securityness. It's phony. And it's counterproductive to duplicate it, because you cannot cure a perception of insecurity with more cameras and more police walking the beat. In many cases you simply enhance the feeling by making people go "wow, there's a lot more police on the streets these days - it must be getting more dangerous." Which, of course, is the entire point of the exercise.

And then you have the people who - not without some justification, I'm afraid - view the police as a negative influence when it comes to personal safety.

As for family, I would dearly love to take the "family values" issue back from the right. But I don't think that it's an issue where the political gains justify the bother of doing so.

Additionally, the left cannot go the whole nine yards on "family values." When a right-winger says something like "the family is the fundamental unit of society" then I have to disagree. The family as the fundamental social unit implies that the family is where responsibility for social and economic security (and in some cultures even personal safety) begins. And all too often ends.

By supporting it citizens irrespective of their standing within their family and irrespective of their family's standing within society, the progressive state thus breaks down the strongest power structure holding the family together. In effect, it destroys the family as a political unit and renders it "merely" another circle of social associates.

In many cases the emotional bounds that hold a family together will be stronger than those between friends, colleagues or political comrades-in-arms. But in other cases they will not, and supporting the family as a privileged social unit in the cases where they are not can hardly be ranked as progressive.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jun 4th, 2008 at 10:44:13 AM EST
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