Mom and Dad are getting divorced: A family dynamics analogy

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Imagine a family, with a mother, a father and children. Mom and Dad have been married for many years, but the marriage has been increasing strained. Dad's gotten more and more distant, less kind to Mom and the kids. Recently, he's started to get downright abusive, trying to control Mom's every move and belittling her in front of the kids. It's gotten past the point where counseling will help. The parents are separating.

How do the children respond? Their whole world is falling apart. They can't imagine a life where Mom and Dad don't love each other and aren't together, where they will have to live with one parent or the other. How will they react? There are several possibilities:

1. A child may identify with the abusive father, internalizing his denigration of the mother, and choose the father's side.
2. A child desperately hold on to some hope of reconciliation, denying that the divorce is happening, going to all efforts to somehow bring about the parents' reconciliation.
3. A child may choose the side of the mother, recognizing both the father's abusiveness and the reality of the divorce.
4. A child may conclude that everything about their family's life was false, and reject all authority and belief in a family at all. They may run away from home, or turn to drugs or gangs.

So, you may ask, what does this analogy illustrate?

I base this little parable on the statement, made by philosopher Slavoj Zizek, which I have made my sigline, that "The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over." He said this back in 2011, during the Occupy protests. If it was hard to see the truth of it then, I find no way of denying it now.

So, in my analogy, Dad is capitalism, Mom is democracy, and the children are various political movements and factions. This illustrates two things that are going on now in American political life: Why are Republicans gaining politically at the expense of Democrats, and the struggle to define the fundamental stance of the Democratic party. People whose actions are based in reality will be more successful in reaching their goals than people who are living in a fantasy. The Republicans by and large are the child who has taken Dad's side. They are very clear-eyed about the divorce, they side with capitalism and they don't care about democracy. A small minority of Republicans are nihilists, but I think there is no real struggle in the party.

The Democratic leadership, on the other hand, is dominated by the fantasy that Mom and Dad aren't really splitting up. They are not effective because they are not living in reality. Voters prefer reality to fantasy and Democrats keep losing in state and national government because of it. In an ideological progression from Occupy through Elizabeth Warren through Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, another realist vision has been articulated: recognizing that capitalism and democracy have become incompatible, and choosing democracy.

The only way for Democrats to end their losing streak is to recognize reality. Stop imagining we can find some marriage counseling for Wall Street our democratic institutions. Dad won't acknowledge there is any problem and he won't go. Get it, kids: Dad's abusive, it's hurting everyone, Mom can't live with him, and there's no going back.

Progressives need to be pragmatic. Capitalism has become toxic to the fabric of democracy. A progressive vision that will engage people will say so unequivocally. That's why Bernie's campaign excited so many of us.

Sadly, the Democratic Party appears to remain dominated by the "Parent Trap" dreamers. It may be that reality will have to assert itself either through a third party or outside the political process altogether.

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thanatokephaloides's picture

4. A child may conclude that everything about their family's life was false, and reject all authority and belief in a family at all.

Wink

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"US govt/military = bad. Russian govt/military = bad. Any politician wanting power = bad. Anyone wielding power = bad." --Shahryar

"All power corrupts absolutely!" -- thanatokephaloides

maggid's picture

@thanatokephaloides So you have lost your faith in both democracy and capitalism, or you don't subscribe to either the D's or the R's-- or the idea of any political party? I'm not clear what you mean.

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The marriage between capitalism and democracy is over. –Slavoj Zizek

thanatokephaloides's picture

@maggid

So you have lost your faith in both democracy and capitalism,

I've lost my faith in capitalism, and there's little or no question that American democracy is in ultima extremis if not outright dead (and for which I am NOT grateful!).

or you don't subscribe to either the D's or the R's

Almost there. Just change the logical operator from or to and!

Wink

In the immortal poesy of the great U. Utah Phillips:

I have led a good life full of peace and quiet
Now I shall have an old age full of rum and riot
Yes, I have been a good lad, careful and artistic
Now I shall have an old age coarse and anarchistic

Once I paid my taxes and followed every rule
Banker, boss and bureaucrat thought me a willing tool
I voted Democratic and paid the Church its due
Now all those swine will have to find some other chump to screw

Of interest, banks and credit, insurance, tax and rent
Of lawyers, agents, generals and clerics I repent
With this [mono digital expletive] for corporations and scorn for those elected
I shall be an old bum, loved but unrespected

-- "Stupid's Song"

source

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"US govt/military = bad. Russian govt/military = bad. Any politician wanting power = bad. Anyone wielding power = bad." --Shahryar

"All power corrupts absolutely!" -- thanatokephaloides

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@thanatokephaloides Me too. Anything we don't invent ourselves is likely to be either a falsehood or a trap.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

that after this past election, people will start realizing that the same two parties that got us to this new low point in history have neither the will nor any incentive to get us back out.

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Fighting for democratic principles,... well, since forever

@fight2bfree

That's because they're the 2 halves of the Two-Faced Corporate Party and both Puppet Parties consistently drain and sacrifice the people and environment to further enrich profiteering and destructive self-interests.

Trump got in because he wasn't Hillary and the people were not allowed any but Corporate Party choices, so they picked Anything-But-Clinton.

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Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

@Ellen North
We're worse because you can't be better than me, so i'll try to make sure we'll both suffer. Some awful Kafkaesque joke. Exit price is frighteningly essy for some few, but not for everyone. This dance goes for as long as the music. When we change partners, the spice is has spilled.

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Fighting for democratic principles,... well, since forever

Big Al's picture

it will take democracy to decide whether we continue with capitalism or not. We're not going to be able to push socialism onto the rest of the country. That's going to have to be a decision the people make. That's why we need democracy first, then the people can decide what economic system to implement.

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Mark from Queens's picture

there as an activist lawyer and former clerk of the SCOTUS pushing for it too. They quite correctly have said over and over that Money In Politics is the only issue that really matters. If you really want to talk about democracy there's only one truth: there will never be democracy as long as our government is an auction house to the highest bidder. Bernie did a great service by hammering that point home. Many more people get it now.

Justice Brandeis is one of many in a long line who have framed it simply, "you can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, or you can have democracy. But you can't have both."

Which gets back to socialism. Until and only if we dismantle the monopoly of all the resources we rely upon, government, healthcare and higher education, which is directly tied to a system of unbridled capitalism, we will never have a real, functional democracy that is the voice of, by and for the People. All of these sectors have to be owned and run by the People, not private business under the ruse of the "free market."

Capitalism always manifests in one result and one result only: concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. That makes democracy impossible.

I like your piece maggid, and the analogy is right on. We've been abused and the foundation of our world has been shaken. Soul-searching would reveal that we've been propagandized from very early ages, through our public school system, to have fealty toward American Exceptionalism, which then gets us on the treadmill for the false and purposely elusive American Dream, which is made possible only through worship of the deity of Capitalism. We've been brainwashed relentlessly all our lives, in the media, sports and pop culture, advertising. It's going to be difficult to get folks to awaken from the nightmare of lies.

I also really like the idea of a Democratic Socialist party. The time is right, notwithstanding coming to terms with Bernie's acquiescence to the Dem Party after they stole the primary election.

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"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

@Mark from Queens But I think a new party must arise from the demands of a new constituency. The label "socialism" is too easy to demonize by the oligarchs and their minions, so a new label should arise out of a non-party-centric activist politics. Perhaps something like the Justice Party could arise: economic and social justice for all.

I think this is an interesting analogy in the essay as well. It would be well to keep in mind that the Democratic Party is not really democratic: it's on dad's side as well, though it lies to the kids that it's sympathetic with mom. In fact, mom seems to have abandoned dad and the kids for the most part, as true democratic practices are getting a lot harder to find.

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Please help support caucus99percent!

@Dallasdoc name is used.

I hope that the name, 'justice democrats' is not adopted. To me, the name is mushy and reeks of identity politics or people who are always whining about things not being 'fair,' whatever that means to them.

At least people know what socialism is. They need to be educated about what capitalism is.

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dfarrah

maggid's picture

@Mark from Queens that assumes that our problems are unique or worse than anyone else's. Zizek is Slovenian. His observations were based as least as much on events in Europe as in the United States. And indeed, in Brexit and the rise of far-right parties in europe, we see the same dynamics at play there. The divorce between democracy and capitalism is not American, it is historic and worldwide.

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The marriage between capitalism and democracy is over. –Slavoj Zizek

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Mark from Queens Afraid I'm standing with Debbie the Sane Progressive on this one.

And man, has she gotten hammered for it. Hope she can stand up to the slings and arrows.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

maggid's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal Could you please summarize where Debbie the Sane Progressive is coming from, for those of us who aren't yet familiar with her work and don't have 25 minutes to look at the video?

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The marriage between capitalism and democracy is over. –Slavoj Zizek

Alligator Ed's picture

@maggid 1. Democratic party cannot be reformed from inside

2. Election fraud precludes change

3. Things are going to get a lot messier

4. Bold NEW independent leadership is needed

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@maggid Sorry. Her point: you can't have an electoral strategy unless you have an answer for election fraud (and voter suppression, of course).

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Cassiodorus's picture

So it's beginning to look like, here at C99%, we're divorcing capitalism too. Perhaps we no longer assume that more capitalism is going to solve our problems. That would be a big, big step forward.

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

Steven D's picture

@Cassiodorus @Cassiodorus that we can grow the economy forever, without regards to the limits imposed by our planet's resources.

That assumption has been proved wrong, even if not everyone accepts it. We need to accept that we have limits on growth and transform to a model that provides for renewable and sustainable society that does not depend on using up or poisoning all the resources needed for life, or we will likely destroy the planet and face extinction as a species.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cassiodorus Yeah. But we're acting like we can just choose democracy because we like it, like choosing to go with Mom rather than Dad when they split up. It's not that simple. Election fraud, media corruption, military force, and a completely compromised legal system are standing between us and Mom.

Reminds me of when my actual Mom worked at the spouse abuse shelter. Stories would trickle home, even from out of state--like the woman who took her child into hiding because she knew the judge was about to give her husband custody of the daughter he had sexually abused.

Unfortunately, she had an aneurism, so her attempt to protect her daughter was not successful.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

maggid's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal The divorce will be ugly whether we go with capitalism or democracy. If we do nothing, or fail at our attempts, we will see democracy exiled from our country and we will be completely in capitalism's custody. The process of unwinding the stranglehold capitalism has on our lives will be messy, complicated, scary and take a long time. We will need to formulate a clear vision of what a democracy without capitalism would look like. I think both Sanders and Warren, while taking a stand against the excesses of capitalism, haven't gone far enough. They are both still saying the solution is to regulate capitalism better.

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The marriage between capitalism and democracy is over. –Slavoj Zizek

Alligator Ed's picture

@maggid Power, like money, is a self-aggrandizing entity. They are both insatiable. Checks and balances yield the only solution (a solution for which I do not have the formula).

The fiduciary rule is a voracious octopus. Bureaucracies run by other bureaucracies is a pyramid, atop which is an "exalted leader". Neither path (capitalism nor socialism) provides for the dispersal of power or finance to the many. Some way must be found to make the "fiduciary rule" subservient to the general good. Who decides? How is it done? This is where the debate should be.

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