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.

“What Do Children Owe Abusive Parents?” (plus my Sunday afternoon thoughts on this topic)

This is Stefan Molyneux’s radio program on the topic “What Do Children Owe Abusive Parents?”:

Good topic that doesn’t come up very often. Few care to talk about it, and when they do, it’s frequently framed in terms of the grown child needing to forgive their parents and still provide for their care as they age. Arguments like that have bugged me so much, because truly, as the article Stefan was reading points out, there comes a time when we need to take care of our own selves and not risk being sucked back in to an unhealthy dynamic.

This is how I approach my mother now that she’s interested in sending text messages after nearly two decades of us barely speaking and very rarely seeing one another. And I’ve been given plenty of grief from others who don’t know the situation yet righteously declare that I SHOULD forgive her, I SHOULD work toward making amends despite her showing little interest in doing so over the years, that I should excuse her lies and unwillingness to take responsibility for her actions and just love her regardless.

Several times I did try going back to her, and every time she made me regret it by being rude and selfish like always. Back in 2009 I did sit down and write her an email outlining how I feel about her treatment toward me, and it was met with her typical denials and claims of not remembering this or that. My mother can change her story more than anyone I’ve ever met, and comes across as if she actually believes each contradictory tale, like she’s able to convince herself and rewrite history accordingly. But I was there and I grew up under the nonsense and haven’t forgotten. Each time she blows off my concerns or attempts to rewrite history to forever frame herself as the ultimate victim of everybody else, she makes it clear that no reconciliation is possible or worth pursuing.

Yet people on the outside, most of whom have never met her, still felt the need to tell me that I am now creating the problem by being selfish in keeping myself away from my mother. I am now the culprit who’s no better than her because I harbor resentment and pain that I can’t let go of. Ugh. People have said some downright nasty things to me on this subject, and again, these are relative strangers who may know me a little but who don’t know my mother. They’re operating under the assumption that a mother’s love is unconditional and always well-intending. But that’s not reality — that’s a mere fantasy people feed themselves in order to have something to believe in.

It was only a few weeks ago when I last listened to an older woman talk about how much disdain she has for this world and the people in it, stopping short of criticizing mothers’ love for their young, that being the one exception in this life that she personally appreciated. I did interject to say that even that isn’t perfect, which seemed to annoy her slightly. She serves as yet another example of people who willingly pull the wool over their eyes and tell themselves that a mother’s love is the last refuge in a world gone mad. But what if that mother’s love was absent? What refuge was there then? That question invites hostility from some folks, so I’ve learned to be careful treading there, preferring to not have to hear how out of line I am for suggesting that a mother’s love isn’t always pure and sacrificial and whole-hearted. Frankly, such talk makes me queasy.

Some mothers don’t care much about their young, and that’s a sad fact of life. Some mothers care more about positioning themselves financially than making sure their kids are properly cared for. Some mothers seem willing to forget they even have a child if they see him or her as a hindrance to them getting what they want. Some mothers throw their own kids under the train so as to save themselves. And some mothers choose favorites among their young, putting far more time and energy into those fathered by the new man in their lives, turning over to relatives the kids born out of wedlock from a time back before. Some mothers behave competitively with their young daughters, seeing them as rivals for attention, which can ultimately lead to tossing them out in order to punish them for the sin of making her feel jealous. Some of them laugh gleefully at the sight of their child’s pain and confusion, and rather than aim to protect them, they offer their young up to the wolves to be done with however they like.

My own mother wasn’t the worst of the worst, but she’s certainly an odd duck who formed serious resentment toward me soon after I was born. Of all the memories I have to reflect back on that pertain to her, more often than not I listened to her criticism of me, her laughter at my anguish, her dismissal of my need for her, and her complete ignorance of my own life story unfolding and her central role in it. She encouraged others to see me as “bad” and troubled as well, though always mindful of keeping the heat off herself in terms of responsibility as a parent. I came up understanding that I was a consequence of her frustration with her own upbringing and that I reminded her of a past she’d prefer to forget.

I grew up wondering why she hadn’t opted for an abortion when it appeared so obvious that she resented my existence. Her answer to that was that she wanted someone to love her unconditionally. And she got that, but it turned out to not be enough. I, forever the painful reminder than her life didn’t go as she’d hoped. I, the fatherless child who didn’t get along well with her husband and didn’t fit into the dream she envisioned for herself and her new family going forward. I, the remnant from a past better rejected and forgotten.

Just so happened that I also turned out to be flesh and blood rather than a figment of her imagination that she could turn on and off at will. And I grew into an angry, resentful young person who wound up making a lot of unsavory choices that she’s still in the dark about and doesn’t want to know. The sadness seeped deep into my soul and has never left me, not even as I now embark on my 30s. Melodramatic as it might seem to onlookers, I still can’t help but feel as if my existence is a problem.

I know, people will say that it’s time to get over it, time to move on, time to let it go, time to put on my big girl britches and accept that this is the way life goes sometimes. And I feel that I’ve done a lot of work on this throughout my 20s and am in a much better headspace at this point in life. Soon after turning 21 I moved farther away and created a life for myself without any of my family present to see me struggle. Worked through college and completed a bachelor’s degree, in part to prove to myself that I am capable of accomplishing something. Made my own money so as not to wind up at their mercy begging for a dime. Met a few people who turned out to be good friends over time, and thank God for them — they really saved me more than they will ever know, providing me with much-needed friendship and love that has radically altered my life and outlook. Seven years ago I moved farther away, and 5 years ago I created my own little business to sustain myself, which I continue to work at. Life is better. Even my stepdad and I learned to communicate and to treat one another like family after he and my mom divorced a little over a decade ago.

But still, there’s this feeling of being a waste, a problem, of living on borrowed time, and I can’t seem to ever shake it. People make it sound like you grow up and everything changes, as if a little age is all that’s necessary to set things right, but that’s delusional thinking. Pain can stick with you inside your heart, and I’m not sure how one removes it once it’s become fused in there from such a young age. One upside to this is it forces me to think deeply on how I’m perpetuating problems myself, even without meaning to, and what role I have in breaking cycles such as the one I grew up experiencing. This life has taught me the value of love and honest friendship, just as it’s also taught me about how wickedness beckons those who are hurting inside and wishing for a release or for someone to take it out on.

The past can’t be changed, and not all relationships can be salvaged, not even those between parents and their children. They say we grow to a point where we must pick up the reins to our own lives and direct this ship in moving forward, and this is true. But does it involve forgiveness? I can’t stand what Oprah and her ilk have done to the meaning of that word. Try as I have over the years, I am unable to forgive or forget. But at least the rage died down and I no longer feel something must be done to right past wrongs. Because there’s nothing that can be done, not at this stage in the game.

A couple years ago I took my boyfriend two hours away to visit my mother without giving her prior notice, fearing she wouldn’t see me if she knew I was coming. That was the first time she and I sat down in the same room together in … probably a decade or more. She behaved decently, and we agreed to communicate by text message afterward, and that’s all the contact we’ve had since. She’s never in all the years I’ve been away attempted to come visit me anywhere I’ve lived. She hasn’t picked up the phone and called me since the year 2001, and even then it was only to berate me because her marriage was failing once again. She doesn’t ask me what I’ve been up to or if I’m happy or how life has treated me. Nothing. Normally she just rambles a bit about her own day-to-day living and that’s about it. Might occasionally mention something my brother is up to. And that’s the extent of our relationship.

In the past I’ve told my brother that I won’t be helping out in caring for our mother as she ages. He didn’t seem to like that idea, but then again, he and I couldn’t have been raised more separately. He was afforded a life very different than my own, so it is up to him if he feels the need to someday provide for her. As I’ve explained to him, my (maternal) grandparents were the ones who made the sacrifices on my behalf and they were the ones who took me in when I had nowhere else to go and was being threatened with being warded to the state. I’ve committed to them, now having experienced my Papa passing away, with a part of my heart remaining standing at his bedside, and I’ll continue to do my best for my Grandma. Because they loved me, imperfect as they might’ve been — they sincerely loved me. What goes around comes around. It takes love to generate more love. Those who’ve loved me I am indebted to. Those who did not and who instead made life harder than was necessary because they wanted someone to blame or to make fun of — those people can remain going their own way. I may miss them, but that’s just the childish instinct within us all that calls out for our mothers — it can’t be helped.

What can be helped are the choices I make in my own life, in terms of whom I surround myself with and where I focus my energy. That’s my power, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to listen to anymore from people aiming to shame those of us who came up experiencing upbringings that don’t fit with their ideals. Didn’t fit with my ideal either, but such is life. What more can be done? At this point we try to pick up the pieces and do what we can to create a new life with value and meaning, one in which we do matter and where relationships are reciprocal and where we remind one another often, through actions and words, that we love each other.

Come a long way and still have a lot farther to go, but at least now there’s some sunshine and a greater sense of belonging. Everyone needs to feel they belong somewhere. I’ve created a new family of my choosing over time which includes my friends and select family members, and this is much better. I won’t pretend everything is rosy and that I’ve fully arrived, because it isn’t true. I continue to struggle with accepting real intimate bonds, and I’m having to relearn ways of coping since what I relied on for many years there turned out to be self-destructive. I continue battling impulsive behaviors and aggressive tendencies. But at least there appears now to be some light at the end of the tunnel. All is not lost.

Dr. Faye Snyder speaks with Stefan Molyneux

What an excellent interview and discussion between Stefan Molyneux and Dr. Faye Snyder. So glad I was turned on to looking her up today. All this talk about childhood and development has me tripping down memory lane a bit, reflecting and thinking…

[TMI story-sharing since removed.]