Saturday, February 11, 2006

No Nukes

by Skald

"In our own post-Spectacular Society of Simulation many forces are working--largely invisibly--to phase out the nuclear family and bring back the band. Breakdowns in the structure of Work resonate in the shattered "stability" of the unit-home and unit-family. One's "band" nowadays includes friends, ex-spouses and lovers, people met at different jobs and pow-wows, affinity groups, special interest networks, mail networks, etc. The nuclear family becomes more and more obviously a trap, a cultural sinkhole, a neurotic secret implosion of split atoms--and the obvious counter-strategy emerges spontaneously in the almost unconscious rediscovery of the more archaic and yet more post-industrial possibility of the band."

--Hakim Bey

The nuclear family is a depressing, isolating, force of conformity. I grew up in just such a family. My father, mother, sister, and I lived in a sealed environment. Though we had a "neighborhood" we knew none of the neighbors. In fact, I don't recall my parents having any friends at all. They never had guests at our house, except the rare visit from a relative. Other than Sunday golf, my father seemed to have no meaningful relationships other than our tiny family. My mom was the same.

We were not unique. The 1950s nuclear family is a death-trap. Its a one way ticket to boredom and stagnation. Its a recipe for loneliness and disaster. The sky-high divorce rate comes as no surprise to me. Youve got to be half dead to stomach that kind of life till you die.

Our ancestors wisely had much larger social networks. Anthropologists and sociologists typically put the "ideal" social network between 50-200 people. Most humans seem to thrive in such an environment... when they have a close core of about 20 family/friends and an extended network of another 30+. Below these numbers, depression, isolation, boredom, and alienation typically ensue.

The nuclear family is a device... a destructive meme-idea that keeps us weak and disconnected. Spouses are encouraged to abandon their friends and eliminate their social networks and rely solely on the nuclear family. Ive seen this advice in countless mainstream magazines (especially women's magazines). These articles decry men who continue to "go out with the boys". With a condescending tone, they imply that a man who keeps his friends after marriage is somehow immature. The woman is encouraged to break him of this habit.

Likewise, many women lose their social network after marriage. They too buy the lie. What's worse, many insecure/controlling men work actively to isolate their wives. They are threatened by her friends. This reaches its extreme with abusive men... whose first step (before the physical abuse begins) is to drive away the woman's social support network.

Its a sick sick sick dynamic.

But other options are fast becoming popular... as Hakim Bey notes. As conservatives love to moan, the nuclear family is falling apart... and thank god! The divorce rate has had one very beneficial side effect... men and woman increasingly realize that they need more than one person in their lives. They are building their own tribes, their own bands.. .their own extended families. Women have made great strides in this area... few women today buy the lie that they can depend on a man for life. They realize theyve got to take care of themselves... economically, socially, emotionally. And thats great!

Ive followed this new path and have found it very satisfying. It took time, but Im now part of a tribe.. an extended family. The core of this group consists of like-minded nomadic hobopoets. We've traveled from South Carolina, to Georgia, to Thailand, and now to San Francisco together.

In the past, moving to a new city was a very lonely experience. Not so now.

In addition to this core nomadic group, Ive also got many good friends all over the world.... and with the internet/email, its easy to stay in touch. Should I want to relocate to Kyoto or Osaka, Ive got a ready made social group already waiting. The same is true of Bangkok, Thailand.... or Georgia, USA.

How have I done this? In truth, Im a fairly standoffish guy in person. While outwardly friendly, it takes a while for me to warm to people. So if I can do it, anyone can.

One thing Ive done is to remain friends with most of my ex-girlfriends. This is rarely easy, but has been very rewarding. Ive never understood the idea that you can be intimate with someone one day... then hate their guts the next. It strikes me as an incredibly immature (and insecure) attitude. I also make a point of keeping contact with those rare and glorious hobopoets I befriend during my life.

Capitalist culture seeks to isolate us. Companies want us to be isolated, insecure, needy consumers. They love lonely and depressed people because they are more vulnerable to marketing. Lonely people can easily be convinced to shop in order to feel better. Depressed people will gorge themselves on food and products to fill the void.

People who are happy, who have a vibrant network of friends, family, lovers, etc... are less easily manipulated. They find happiness in their everyday social connections... and have less need to buy buy buy to fill the lonely hours.

A band/tribe is imperative. Dont buy into the bitter addiction to loneliness.... and dont buy the nuclear family lie.

Create your own band. Build your own tribe.


Plark said...

Here here AJ.

Much agreed.

Anonymous said...

As I have to agree with you Skald on the point of the Nuclear family can become a Nuclear Explosion to a social life but, it does not have to be that way. I am also part of a band/tribe. I understand that if this people (my tribes’ man & women) were to have a traditional family we would not lay down to the printed word in the mindless articles in magazines. In essence this is what brings us together.

As I see it, it is up to the individual to recognize there needs and stick to them no matter what. If we all grew into the whole person that we are meant to be we would not get ourselves into the position of losing are selves to our partners. We would be strong enough to wait for a partner that has the same values as we do.

Fear is the driving force that controls use in becoming what we are not. With that said, it is up to the individual to make the choices that will ultimately make them happy. To create a family (no matter how it is defined or brought together) that creates a stimulating environment so that we do not die before our time.