Hens Do Not Eat Foxes

I have seen a book of cartoons called Lies To Tell Small Kids. If I remember correctly, this was actually a collection of wry observations for adults rather than what it said on the tin. There would definitely be a case, however, for a systematic and deadly serious charting of the terrible lies parents tell their children. Sometimes because they actually believe the nonsense themselves, sometimes because they believe it in a particular special sense of the word believe (that is, doublethinking it), and sometimes just because they can. The true motto of much parenting appears to be, “If you cannot achieve virtue then preach it to your captive audience, and give yourself credit for your empty rhetoric rather than your actions.”

Somewhere in this territory is the worldly wisdom about conflicts that parents serve up to their children, or at any rate used to in my time and place. The Big Lie here is that “it always takes two”. Parents consumed with unacknowledged aggression towards their own children may use this as an excuse to withhold sympathy; in effect they are saying, “but you must have done something to deserve what so-and-so did to you, we just don’t know what it was.”

Well, no. Unless you define “fight” in gladiatorial terms, making the proposition tautologous and so uninteresting, that it takes two to start a fight it is simply not true. If the party of the first part has set out to take something away from the party of the second part, in what way is this a fight that has taken two to start? The obvious answer is “if the victim has resisted”. The conqueror is a man of peace, said Napoleon, he wishes to enter the enemy capital unopposed! And so too for all aggressors, from dictators through domestic tyrants down to the playground bully: they all prefer not to be resisted. The victim has therefore to be prepared to resist the abuse and will accordingly be accused by his middle-class, appearances-obsessed parents and their servant the headmaster, of this thing called “fighting”.

One might ask what lesson he will learn for adult life. The aggressor certainly stands to learn how, if he plays his cards right, Authority will condemn his victim. Already we have accounted for the great bulk of the elite’s social narrative and how it whips up the neutrals against people who do not want to be despoiled. Presumably, therefore, the victim will learn fatalism. Out in adult society, some victims do fight back, sometimes even romanticising their own violence and inventing “systems” for it to overthrow. But if some employ these methods too soon and too widely, others employ them too late and take enormous pains to avoid the stigma of “fighting” that so upset their mothers. The best way to lose a civil war is not to notice that the other side has started one.

I take my title from a truth that is, as Chesterton liked to put it, too enormous to be seen. Not everything is symmetrical: foxes eat hens but hens do not eat foxes. Or are we really going to contemplate the feather-strewn coop and unthinkingly intone, “It always takes two”?

Posted on September 18, 2010 at 15:09 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

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  1. Written by The Ghost in the Machine
    on March 1, 2018 at 14:25

    A Few Thoughts on Lies and Consensus Reality

    Some of these lies are told in the service Consensus Reality, i.e. the overarching agreed-upon understanding of “the way things are”. This Consensus Reality varies somewhat from culture to culture, and shifts somewhat over time.

    Key to making a child a functional member of society is initiating them into this Consensus Reality. This initiation takes time, and not all of the process is nefarious…

    There is, for instance, a moment when a certain perceptual cluster becomes a “table” and another a “chair”. Generally we do no recall such moments of “insight”, for the simple reason that only perception that is structured forms a memory – at least this is true for accessible memories. Which is why our memories stretch only so far back into our childhood. Before that things were, objectively speaking, chaos, i.e. an unstructured stream.

    Built into the very foundation of this Consensus Reality are all sorts of assumptions and contradictions and lies, of which it is extraordinarily difficult to become aware.

    It is worth noting that our initiators – first and foremost our parents – are by and large “stuck” in that Consensus Reality. It is all they know! Is something a “lie” if you cannot for the life of you imagine and alternative, if you cannot see the hidden assumptions and contradictions?

    Perhaps we need another word.

    Any serious process of individuation or self-realization (and I don’t mean in the cheapened and marketable New Age sense) must uncover these assumptions and contradictions.

    In fact, that is the only way to become whole.

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