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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

Socialized to Function in a Dysfunctional Society: DAY 75

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.Khalil Gibran

Education is the process through which values; behavioral patterns and world-views are passed on from one generation to the next. In this context education is supposed to be a process where we learn the ‘best practices’ from our elders to effectively become integrated into society and thus maintain the growth, evolution and prosperity given to us by those who came before us. However we are facing an unprecedented era where the generations being born now are facing a world that is worse on all accounts than the one their parents were born into. As such it is evident that the process of passing on best practices has failed and what is now being transferred from one generation to the next is dysfunctional at best and destructive at worst. In this blog-post we are looking at the concept of socialization in relation to transference of dysfunctional values, behavioral patterns and world-views and how and why it is we have come to take these for granted in the context of the family system.

In this blog-post we will look at how the construct of the family system and the role it plays in the world. However this discussion is not so much about the concept of family in itself, as it is about the way the family system and construct is used (and misused) to promote and refabricate certain aspects of human nature, whether tacitly or strategically that in no way are to the best interest of all.

In 1966 Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann wrote a book called The Social Construction of Reality. This book has become a staple and classic in the field of sociology for its exploration of how we create the reality we perceive, experience and exist in, through social construction, Berger and Luckmann emphasize the process of socialization and they explore how a child through processes of socialization becomes ‘a person’ that is integrated into the culture and society it is a part of. This reveals not only the construct behind family-structures but also behind school systems, knowledge systems, cultures and the entity of society as a whole.

Berger and Luckmann describes with exact precision the social constructs that influence how a child is integrated into the family, culture and society and how it comes to accept itself as an integrated part of its world. They thus define socialization as follows: “The individual… is not born a member of society. He… becomes a member of society. In the life of every individual… there is a temporal sequence, in the course of which he is inducted into participation in the social dialectic” (p. 129) “By ‘successful socialization’ we mean the establishment of a high degree of symmetry between objective and subjective reality” (p. 163)

Berger and Luckmann describe how the child is integrated and will integrate itself into society and develop an identity based on socialization processes. They describe how the child is born into environment, where the world is represented by ‘significant others’, who most often will be immediate family members who’re in charge of introducing the child to the world. So the child has no choice – it’s total existence is dependent on these people and it is upon this basis that the premises of socialization is founded. The primary others decide who the child is going be and how the child is going see the world around it, what it will prefer, what it will desire and fear and they do so simply according to their own programming explicitly as well as implicitly. I am sure that many parents for example can relate to having said that one would never do onto one’s child as one’s parents have done onto oneself and yet find oneself doing exactly this as a parent with little sense of control or direct intention.

The construct of family exists as a specifically influential source of input, because the child is by its family not only is introduced into a specific culture, but also into a specific interpretation of that culture. Two of the most important aspects of this process, is according to Berger and Luckmann the programming of language and the emotional relationship between caretaker and child.

“The child identifies with the significant others in a variety of emotional ways. Whatever they may be, internalization occurs only as identification occurs. The child takes on the significant others roles and attitudes, that is, internalizes them and makes them his own. And by this identification with significant others the child becomes capable of identifying himself, of acquiring a subjectively coherent and plausible identity. In other words, the self is a reflected entity, reflecting the attitudes first taken on by significant others towards it, the individual becomes what he is addressed as by as his significant others. The child learns that he IS what he is called”. (p. 152)

Considering the implications of the quote above, it is no wonder we keep recreating the same dysfunctional family constructs, where we are born, never being able to escape “the sins of the fathers”, be that genetically or socially through this streamlined and automated process of absolute indoctrination. Because as we’re socialized into existence, our entire life is dependent on us fitting in with these people, of us mimicking them as well as eventually taken on their habits and preferences as our own. The more our name is repeated back to us with an adult pointing a finger directly at our chest, the more we come to identify ourselves as this name given to us by our family. We have no choice, there is no alternative.

Berger and Luckmann also discuss another level of influence, the secondary socialization in which the child is now expanding from the primary influence of its family to now being integrated in the world around it. This happens for example when we enter the school system and thus come face to face with other cultures and start expanding our vocabulary. These two levels of socialization explains according to Berger and Luckmann the, often contradicting, preferences a person can experience where they on one hand for example believe that it is bad to steal based on their family’s moral codex and on the other hand they will also value being accepted by a group of friends that steal. An inner conflict is created in the child and the question becomes which group they gain most from associating themselves with in terms of securing their survival in the world. The difference between the way that primary and secondary socialization affect us however, is that the child within the primary socialization perceives the significant others as ‘THE world’, where they when integrating with school mates and co-workers, are aware of these being but ‘A PART OF’ a greater world. This also explains why many people may go on some form of a ‘Rumspringa’ in their youth only to return to the values taught to them by their families later in life and especially when they have children themselves.

What is created on the basis of this system of transference is a closed system of repetition where we keep re-producing ourselves generation after generation.

And within doing so, we are continuously recreating a dysfunctional world with dysfunctional human beings under the delusion that we have got everything under control. No one can even remember who started these cycles of dysfunction, let alone how to stop, so we try – generation after generation, to redeem the damages and make the perfect seed, the perfect child – but all that happens is that we make more and more of the same mess. And so we suppress, mold, lie, deceive, manipulate, try, compromise – with whatever means possible to get by, as our parents have done before theirs before them.

The family system is, next to the education system, one of the primary engines that drives the reproduction of the systems of inequality that we’ve accepted as the foundation for our existence on this Earth. It is within the families and as the families that we justify who we’ve become as that inequality – when we refuse to share or where we feel forced to steal or why we work until we bleed. It is where everything that is wrong with this world is justified as legitimate, ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ and through which we come to accept it as such.

But we forget that on this earth, as a whole, we all compile into a single nucleus one could call ‘one big family’ – a family that is connected by the blood that is this earth, consisting of the exact same molecules and atoms as the life we see around us – yet we treat this family as an intruder in our house instead of embracing it and each other. And ironically, from this perspective, it is true that we can only rely on family to survive, that family in deed do come first, because without us stepping up to the plate of taking care of our family, the plants, the earth, the animals, each other, who will we be? The word Family originates from the Latin word Familia and literally means ‘the servants of a household’ and was only later giving it’s meaning ‘connected by blood’. Are we thus merely ‘servants’ of the ‘household’ that is this system of dysfunction and inequality or will we re-define what family means into the unconditional support system it was supposed to be, bringing ourselves together and embracing what is here as a whole in mutual support and care?

The solution to the transference of dysfunctional family systems is twofold: on one hand it is imperative that we as adults change values, our behavioral patterns, world-views and thus the foundation of ourselves. Unfortunately most of us have been brought up to believe that parents are by default ‘right’ when it comes to passing values on to their children, so this might take quite a process of many of us, to actually start looking at what we are transferring to our children as opposed to that which we’d like to believe that we’re transferring to them. Here one need to look no further than to the general dysfunctional state of the world as it currently exist to see one’s own responsibility in creating the mess, whether on a tacit, implicit or direct level. On the other hand, what is required is also a systemic change because ‘who’ we are is interdependent with the systems we exist and live in. If we live in a system that promotes competition for survival, a system that promotes war, a system that encourages you to abuse your own body only to offer you a pill to make the consequence go away – that obviously makes it difficult to change on an individual level.

As parents we are expected to automatically know how to care for our child and bring it up to become an effective human being. There is an innate belief and validation of one’s skills as a human being as though simply by being able to reproduce, we are automatically also able to teach another how to live effectively in this world. But how many of us actually live effectively? How many of us actually live based on the directive principle of what is Best for All? How many of us have not transferred our own emotional baggage to our children inadvertently only to see them grow up to make the exact it mistakes we did? Simply because we are a parent, an adult or even a teacher educated to teach children there is no surety that we will be able to raise a child to become an effective human being. If it was so, we would have already done it and the world would be in a completely different state than it is in right now.

Therefore – it is imperative that we realize how we have taken for granted that parents and teachers alike automatically will do what is best, not only for our children but for the world as a whole and that we start deconstructing and changing the paradigms, behavioral patterns and values that aren’t contributing to changing world-system from being dysfunctional and self-destructive to being based on the practices that is best for all on the planet. The family system is not supposed to be a place where parents are left alone to raise their children in isolation based on their own dysfunctional upbringing. It is supposed to be a place from which a child is able learn and grow an develop based on seeing examples of what it means to live effectively in its parents and from there creating itself as an independent and sovereign human being.

Until next time, I implore you to read up on the Proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income system – a real and sustainable alternative to the current political and economic paradigm. And I implore that you watch the following series of documentaries that highlight the level of depravity and delusion currently entrenching our societies and teach us to value Life as anything but Life.

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