Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dysfunctional Family and Original Sin

I am commonly amused by people who glibly talk about their own dysfunctional family but would balk at the term "original sin". The beauty of 'dysfunctional' family is that it 'explains' present day failure in an individual to be whatever it is they think they should be or someone else thinks they should be. It 'blames' the parents. Yet our forefathers, a tad deeper thinkers than the present day shallow pseudoscientific pop psychology crowd realized if their family was dysfunctional it was probably because their parents came from dysfunctional families and so on back to creation. Hence, "original sin". And frankly, the Bible tells us that Adam wasn't too bright and Eve was a saucy bitch and Cain a bully and Abel a dipstick. So the world isn't "functional", it's flawed. Get it! Duh! Wake up! Reality knocks. Original sin. In contrast alot of psychology isn't very 'original'.

Yet are there 'functional familes'? Not really. It's one of those terms that may have been useful once but the research just doesn't back it up. Show me a 'functional family' and then peel the onion skin. Oops, uncle Harry was an alcoholic. Dad hid porn. Mom was frigid. Whatever problems kids have can be traced back. That's the nature of genetics. Good and evil run in families. So if you're alive your family was functional. Wasn't the first function of a family 'survival' so how can a family be 'dysfunctional" if you're alive.

It functioned well enough at adaptation to get you here in one piece. The more successful people are the more likely they're going to question the finer as opposed to broad strokes of their upbringing. So the term 'dysfunctional family' is as broad a brush as original sin. A person who is rich may be poor in heart. A person who is artistic may be poor in business sense. No one is 'functional' in all 'functions'. And the people who came up with this buzzword catch all term didn't really define "functional" because they left it as kind of a pass/fail reality. At least Anna Freud described "lines of development" and noted that "different strokes served different folk."

When I looked at the geneology of my family I found rogues, pirates, world leaders, colonels, artists, teachers, philosophers, earls, businessmen, musicians and many doctors. I have an alcoholic cousin who spent time in jail and another cousin world reknowned as a near saint to many. My own family by the values of the day were highly successful. But it produced a psychiatrist so by equally valid values of the day, it was highly dysfunctional. Certainly my parents were disappointed when I left surgery and general practice and went to work with the lepers of the mind, in their eyes. The stigma of mental illness was and still is profoundly deeply ingrained.

Even my colleagues often don't know what to do with a psychiatrist and the pressure is forever on psychiatrists to act like administrative doctors who are desperate to act like their beaurocratic superiors, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

The bigger 'family' we came from was our 'nation state'. In the workbook "Drop the Rock" on Lust, I read "If we came from a family that denied, kept secrets, shamed, repressed and suppressed, physically, emotionally, or sexually abused us, or took part in any number of other ways of creating distortion in emotional, physical and sexual responses, odds are our sex life is goofy and has been for a long time."

Frankly that doesn't describe my family so much as it describes Canada, my school, my church and the other major institutions of my childhood, the courts, and police and clubs I belonged to.

I'm a big fan of history and believe that if we forget history we're doomed to repeat it. This latest history book I've been reading, the History of Vietnam by Stanley Karnow shows the British, French and Americans like a bunch of kids in Lord of the Flies. I met Stalin, Mao, Dulles and Eisenhower, Ho, and all the French guys with foreign names I didn't know, on the playground. I avoided most of these characters most of my life.

After the French had been bullies with the Vietnam and the Vietnamese and Chinese had been bullies to their own people while Stalin was making Hitler look like a saint in his orgy of killing, Canada was making toys and America was selling bombs to both sides, the Americans went into Vietnam and did the same thing that the French had done but worse. The Viet Cong and the Pol Pot out did the Americans and tried to imitate Stalin who maybe was impressed with Ghengis Khan who probably liked the Roman Emperors who would have liked King Henry. Face it, the history of the world is a history of "dysfunctional families". These are the mommas and papas of nations. The Cleopatras aren't any better either. When they weren't being bad themselves they loved the bad boys. That's the Eva Braun Syndrome big time. Gas me another Jew or Pole or mentally ill or homo, Adolf Baby!

I didn't know when I was marching in peace rallies inadvertently supporting the enemy because if you 'aint for us you're agin us', trying to take a third stand, that the whole Vietnam war had been debated in France for 2 decades before Americans got themselves all fired up. With the advantage of time and looking back through history books we can see who was getting pay offs and who was breaking promises and who was lying and who was telling secrets. Having lived through the lies and deceit of the government Military Management of the War on Drugs I'm finding myself in the War on Terrorism and frankly would rather treat all this as sickness and consider immunological principles as well as surgical strikes.

My brother and I with my elder parents pieced together bits of their past in the last few years. My brother found out my father met my mother at a dance. That's so sweet. He learned that Dad was out of work after the war for a brief time shoveling coal for a bakery because the Ontarians gave priority to their returning soldiers over solders from Manitoba and it was a year so before Dad got back to work as an millwright and later engineer. We just learned that Dad applied to the Air Force to be a pilot but was made a bombardier instead. That explains those flights we had as kids with Mom worried on the ground and angry that Dad was taking her babies up in planes. The house had the flavor of a Vietnam Geneva War debate on those days. Very functional in it's own way. As kids we were witness to it all.

So today I know "sex sells" and that when I went to a church where the membership was collectively over 75 the preacher was talking about "lust". He clearly had a dwindling congregation and in a lame attempt to fill the pews had a racey sermon. At 50 I was the youngest there and the person next to me was demented. The one beside them was thinking about their catheter. The television is all about sex.

The first female Prime Minister of Canada tried to sell herself with lust , the infamous Campbell with her delicious judge robe draped provocatively across her shoulder. Then all those short little Napoleon leaders standing on blocks of wood for their pictures trying to be sexy tall when they're really short. The guys with socks in their shorts and the girls with push up bras being attorneys in the courts while the doctors use the latest beauty products and the men are in the tanning booths. Lust is everywhere. Viagra sales are through the roof and pornography's only competition is guns and ammunition. Freud was right that 'sex and aggression' is the food of the young. Jung 's work was about integration. So where isn't there "dysfunctional families."

The trouble with so much pop psychology these days is that it assumes what is "functional". If you look at history, the principle job of the family was to produce mean sons of bitches who kicked the shit out of the neighbours. As for Canada we've kept the meanest sons of bitches, the world Winners, the Americans, the new Emperors from invading us with tanks and missiles. The one time they tried to fight us we kicked their asses. In all peace keeping missions we come off tough and impressive and the Americans, forever putting everyone else down, are forever asking us to help them in their diplomacy and to be their mercensaries. So if 'functional' means creating a group of people that can kick ass then to date we've been doing it. Now the Chinese and Indian women got together and said lets create the maximum babies and let a whole lot die but in the end we'll 'locust' the world like the Catholics tried to get their south American women to do. And recently the South Americans spent billions on guns and arms and Canada send food and resources to everyone else. Kind of like feeding the drug addicts so they can spend their welfare cheques on drugs. It's all 'well intentioned' but it's 'outcome' has the same qualities that the theologians gave to 'sin'. It's not what was 'supposed' to happen. It's not ideal.

So what is function and what is a family supposed to function at. These are ideals and in a Godless world removing God was removing the best "ideal' that people came up with. The Jewish God kicked ass for them against the Egyptian God and then later there was the weird 'servant king' Jesus, son of the Jewish carpenter.

The Bible is one long dysfunctional family story as is the Greek Gods and Goddesses and the Oriental Texts including the Kama Sutra. Talk about Lust. The Yellow emperor of China makes Long Dong Silver look like a nun.

So the fact is that 'functional' is a funny term. We can compare ourselves against 'perfection' and by that term none of us are 'functional' really but compared against imperfection we're more like A students. Any day above the dirt bed is a good day. On the other hand the good die young so the real question is are you pro life or anti life.

We also have to ask is our religion or value system nihilistic or creative. Consumerism would have me amassing things. I don't like shopping. Really. I simply do not like walking about in malls looking at stuff. I enjoy the boat show but after an hour or two I'm done. I'd rather be shooting my gun than looking at guns. I don't want to be watching travel movies. I'd rather be travelling. To be a good consumer you're just supposed to shop amass and hoard. How stupid and dull!

What's the end point. What's the value system. If 'functional' is to create children with great survival skills in countries which promote sociopaths like Hitler and Stalin to highest office and make the Hoover types the guardians of the country's morality and give inordinate power to ministers of education in eras of Residential schools or Ministers of Defence who are complicit in the torturing and death of prisoners, or heads of RCMP who don't step down when it's recognized that their whole group is following their narcissistic beaurocratic self serving dysfunctionality, what gives?

Well, my country is a dysfunctional family. My Canada is a dysfunctional family . My world is dysfunctional . It's all original sin and my argument isn't with my parents or my prime minister or the RCMP or the CIAG but with God.

It's Original Sin disguised in psychobabble! Some days I'd say God was hugely dysfunctional, too. Other days I ask is it God or me that's missing the point. Those are the days I look in the mirror and see truly my own sinfulness (my dysfunctionality) and my desire to do well (function) struggling with my desire to do evil (dysfunction). Oh ,the latter is more negligence or thoughtlessness. I don't think, oh I'm going to do evil today, like in Halloween horror movies. Low grade sin is just a whole lot more common than high grade dysfunction. Mostly I just think selfishly and egotistically and humanly. I'm my own dysfunctional family.

At least I'm on the path of spiritual progress. Is my country? Is my world? And what does God want of me today and how can I best serve God and my fellows. Is this lust or is this love? If what you have you call love, then I'll take lust any day. But if love is what C.S.Lewis and Fromm and Jesus talked about I'll take Love over Lust anyday. But Love isn't just what's on pop radio thought for most it really seems that love is a video game.

I think there are Functional Families on Mars and that we should all get on a spaceship and go visit them. I talked with my 91 year old Dad about being a dysfunctional hunter only seeing the rumps of deer in the distance as they were running away and we laughed together at that sinful picture. We'd both been there. I shot at two grouse not hitting either as they flew in opposite directions.

Sin was "missing the mark" . Sin was shooting at a target and not hitting the bull's eye every time. I believe our parents, their parents, adam and eve, Prime Minister Harper, Clinton, Bush, maybe even Stalin and Hitler 'meant well'. They probably all started out like good little Margaret Thatchers and Gandhis and the other kids on the play ground. I might not have wanted to play with them. I probably knew them. We all know each other as kids. It's as adults we don't quite recognize each other because we forget we're just big stupid kids in a glorious playground where our toys are real and the world is finite. It's okay. Really!

My God is a Loving God. Believing that is better. Faith is better than faithlessness. We're all functional today. It's just a question of finding out what our function is. Maybe I'm supposed to be a hair dryer. My cat thinks I'm a pillow. The question is important. How can I serve today. What is my function. Not to the war effort or the consumer industry but to God and those I love and those who love me. That's the question today.

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