Watching and reacting to Stefan Molyneux’s “How We Are Broken”

Stefan Molyneux’s video titled “How We Are Broken”:

Let me begin by stating I didn’t realize Stefan was sick until seeing this, and my heart goes out to him and his family. That’s a very troubling state of affairs to have to contend with, yet he still finds time to share his thoughts with all of us. That shows determination. [Edit in 2016: Do note that this guy turns out to be “sick” in more ways than that. I am no longer a fan of Stefan Molyneux and have been turned off on his material for a couple years now. He goes way beyond reason that I can back on so many levels that it has become extremely difficult for me to take him seriously. Just noting that since I’ve decided to let this post remain public. Watch enough of his content and see for yourselves. And look up Tru Shibes on YT while you’re at it for illuminating excerpts, then go to his original videos in question to place it in greater context.]

Pausing at 5:59, a thought that leapt to mind while he was talking relates with the story of Jesus. A few years ago I watched or read something where there was talk of the story of turning the other cheek being misunderstood in modern times. Now, I won’t defend this claim one way or another, but I found it very interesting that it was proposed that by turning the other cheek, rather than this being a purely submissive gesture, it was intended to allow aggressors to defile themselves. The claim was that back in the day there was a taboo over using the left hand while conducting certain activities, and doing so showed oneself to be base and primitive and basically uncivilized by standards of that society.

My immediate question upon hearing that claim was what if the aggressor backhands you with their right hand? Which likely would’ve been the case in a society where using the left hand for that sort of thing would be viewed by others as degrading your own self. According to some sources, it was common to backhand someone deemed to be a lesser, like a slave or child or wife, and that hitting with a closed fist was reserved for fights between equals.

What’s interesting here is the difference in context and how much that shifts the meaning of the message, at least in this one teaching. Also, let me say that I see there is much within the Bible that contradicts other parts or that appears barbaric compared against standards of today; plus, what’s been included and excluded from the Bible and how often it’s been altered over time — all of that undermines the reliability of that text in making sense of the context in which it was written originally. We’d have to learn to read Hebrew and become scholars of the Bible ourselves in order to gain a deeper understanding of the historical and social context during the rise of Judaism and then of Christianity. The inquiry remains quite obscure despite so much talk over it, and most of us base our opinions on what we’ve read in King James or newer versions of the Bible or on the claims of others going off limited information themselves. Common as it is for people to speak as if it’s granted that we know well enough about people 2,000-4,000 years ago, the reality is we do not. To delve deep into these religions and how they’ve transformed over time would literally require scholarly devotion.

So, going with my limited, unscholarly knowledge on the subject, I’ve read that such taboos did exist in first-century Palestine. And when we consider the passage in question, along with similar others, taking into consideration views from people who have investigated older versions of biblical scripture, the message seems quite clearly to not be asking us to submit to violent rule, per se, but rather to respond in a way that is neither passive nor violently retaliatory. Excerpts from a writer who discusses this can be found here (not that I’ve read more from this author than these excerpts, nor do I agree 100% with his position as stated — it’s offered as interesting food for thought).

Just felt like sharing that. Carrying on in listening to Stefan.

Children are born rational? Lost me on that one.

Parents pass their beliefs on to their children. That’s the way parenting tends to operate, though some do a better job of passing on quality principles, whereas others use religion and tales of fire and brimstone to command obedience for its own sake. But to say that parents do not possess the right to raise their young to share in their worldview is false, and this creates a tricky situation. I don’t know where the lines should be drawn, but I do know that outsiders, even the majority, do not reserve the right to dictate to all parents how they must raise their children. When we start talking like that, we forfeit any real notion of freedom. Now, I may agree that we can attempt to impress on one another when we do not agree with teaching and parenting methods, but can a reasonable person assert that children should be protected from enduring religious upbringings? What about healthy spiritual beliefs being handed down to children? Where could the line be drawn here? Are children to ONLY be raised in accordance with what’s scientifically-tested and child psychologist-approved?

See, as much as my own upbringing turned me away from wanting to have kids, it’s talk like that that weirded me out the rest of the way. Rights. How might we go about determining these rights are being violated, and then how might we react? Send in CPS and social workers to remove the children from their homes, even where physical abuse or neglect isn’t present? See, that’s where Stefan’s views really break with my own, and I can see the tyranny behind his message, regardless of what he may be envisioning. I understand his desire to protect children from unnecessary suffering and mistreatment, but it takes a leap of faith to believe public resources stepping in will much improve the situation in many cases. I understand he considers himself an anarchist who takes serious issue with our government, wanting to see it done away with altogether, but then who will then be made responsible for protecting children’s welfare? Will enough law enforcement remain intact to tackle this issue or will corporations step up to the task? And what does it mean to be free if the outside world has the ability to determine for you what is and isn’t taught to your own young children?

It’s a sticky debate, because we obviously do step in when abuse and neglect is reported, and perhaps that’s the right action (though sending kids off to foster care, where they face a higher risk of sexual abuse, comes with a host of problems all unto itself). But when it comes to teachings, words and ideas, religious or otherwise, can we claim it proper for adults to police each others’ “crazy shit”? When it comes to raising children, he argues the answer is yes, but I wonder how that could be enforced within a setup where all use of force is recognized as wrong.

In fact, I don’t comprehend his vision of a completely non-violent, non-forceful society and individuals therein. That strikes me as so non-human at its core, and I presume the means of achieving such a societal goal will require altering people severely in an attempt to fit this idealized mold. Because we’re prone toward violence and irrationality at times, and we do pass along our beliefs, whether right or wrong. How else do you get around this reality? How do we do away with all irrationality while retaining our humanity?

And how might we effectively deal with psychopathy and sociopathy without any use of force? I get that he’s hoping through changing our ways that we will create fewer psychopaths and sociopaths, but this assumes that all such ways of being are due to abuse or neglect, and that isn’t always the case. What about in cases of organic brain damage brought about through an accident? What about the child who’s abandoned during their fragile formative years by a parent who dies? (In that latter case, I actually know someone like that who was very young, maybe 3 or 4, when his mother suffered a brain aneurism while caring for him at home one day and died in his presence. It was hours before his father returned home from work to discover the situation. His father was never abusive, yet this boy grew up to become a pyromaniac and then a kleptomaniac, landing him in Boystown during his teenage years. I met him in his 30s and learned of the carnage he had done to everyone in his family and to his ex-wives and his children. Yet he was never a victim of abuse or neglect and had many opportunities afforded to him that he squandered, preferring instead to live as a predator on others. Just pointing out that even the best intentions don’t always produce a positive outcome, we being unable to control all possible variables. This man is a criminal, through and through, and always will be until someday he is stopped. That will require force. I’m not sure how to get around that.)

There’s a point where idealism loses me. I have trouble seeing as bad all that’s lumped into his categorization — to me there are so many shades of gray to where I’m careful to not paint all aggression or all forms of violence or even all existent forms of government as wrong and bad and needing to be completely done away with. It all depends, though I can see where philosophical guidance here is of the utmost importance. It’s just a matter of what philosophies we adopt and follow.

Personally, I cannot imagine a life free of every single form of coercion or force, and I’m not so sure I’d want to. But at the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter. The future is coming regardless of what I or anyone else happens to think, and it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s enough to say tonight.

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