|The Fallacy of Need
||[Sep. 15th, 2004|04:25 pm]
searching minds unite
|||||Eddie Izzard - Deffinite Article||]|
A Preface: This essay is not finished. I wrote it several months ago (admittedly, while intoxicated, but I edited it sober). It is not meant to be finished, but I would like imput on the ideas within. I expect that it will not be recived well by some. I welcome critizism, as I think a good debate is the best way to hammer the kinks out of an idea. So, here it is, have at.
Fallacy of Need
There is but one barrier to successful human relationships – The Fallacy of Need. This great fallacy, combated by marriage and free love alike, is that which blocks us in all our relationships.
Parents, children, friends and lovers are equally effected by it.
The fallacy is not that humans need each other. It is clear that meaningful contact on emotional, intellectual and physical levels are a vital part of the existence of all primates. The fallacy is that we need particular others.
Self-consciousness is the result of this fallacy, the fear that we will not be acceptable to particular others. Social masking is another of its results. All moves to fit into a particular mould of being or behavior are the result of a desire for contact with particular others.
Ironically, it is this desire that enables all social structures to exist.
In all types of relationships, there is nothing to foul man’s intentions other than the fallacy of need.
Why, instead of seeking out others who wish his company as he wishes to be, does man stuff and cram himself into something that he hopes a potential partner will enjoy? It is only this fallacy.
Wherever it comes from, its usefulness is at an end. The havoc it has wrought is ever present before my eyes. Human society as it has been known throughout time would be impossible without it. Without the fallacy of need, social conformity and social fear, the greatest tools of world builders, would be wholly foreign to mankind. I can only imagine how much more beautiful this world would be if it were struck out of the human soul.
1. Mommy dearest?
You must say, that surely we need some particular others. Our parents perhaps – a concept less tenuous then, say, a soul-mate. Surely we need our parents. Perhaps you cannot imagine life without your parents’ love and support. Or perhaps you have felt, first hand, the effects on a person whose parents did not provide the relationship that was needed as a child. Or perhaps you simply cannot imagine life without your parents, for good or bad.
But this too is false. This needed affection and support can be found in another. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, even strangers can raise a child whose emotional needs are fulfilled. It is only the fulfillment of these individual emotional needs which is important to the child – not the particular people.
2. Won’t you be my neighbor?
The need for particular types of relationships is also a product of the fallacy of need. The clearest manifestation of this effect is in the area of romantic relationships.
Although there are several views on what exactly a romantic relationship should be – one true love, soul-mate, companion, etc…- there is one thing in common, in all the predominate relationship forms, all of ones romantic-emotional needs are meant to come from one person. Imagine what a feat this is! It is a miracle that it ever works at all (if it works at all). One person who can fulfill ones romantic-sexual desire, ones intellectual needs, ones need for romantic-love and support.
What miracle does it take for two people so perfectly suited to each other to actually find each other? What further miracle for them to remain perfectly suited to each other throughout the rest of their lives? What miracle to keep them from growing and changing in an incompatible, or less compatible, way?
Surely we have seen this One Person method appear to work, but it seems very unlikely. Yet we are surprised that over two thirds of marriages end in divorce. We are surprised that it takes so many attempts to find someone we even think we might be able to marry. We are surprised that so many husbands and wives “cheat.” Some think that, if they had the right person, they would never do the same. They assume that all their needs would be fulfilled. In reality, in order to make this relationship form function, both parties will have to exist with some of their needs unmet.
The question is not, “where is the right person?” The question is, “why should such a person exist?” “How am I fulfilled by believing that such a person exists?” “How am I harmed?”
Does such a person exist? It seems highly unlikely. The closed door affairs of “happily married” couples testify to this.
How am I fulfilled by believing this? Perhaps it is a pleasant fantasy. Perhaps it keeps me going when things look hopeless. Perhaps it allows me to believe that everything is ok, and that the Johnsons next door are really very happy. Perhaps.
How am I harmed by believing this? Do I find that I can’t maintain romantic relationships with people who fulfill me in many ways because they don’t fulfill me in every way they “need” to? Do I find myself “cheating” on my relationship partner? Do I find that no one person I have found fits the ideal of this belief? Have I found that people who I thought could satisfy my every need have come disappointingly short of meeting that goal in the long run? Have I grown apart from a loved one who used to be “perfect” for me? Am I frustrated? Unhappy? Miserable? Self-depreciating because of the lack of love in my life? The harms can be numerous and devastating.
3. Who are you really cheating on?
What is cheating, and why is it so upsetting. The common understanding of the term “cheating” is to be romantically (usually physically) involved with someone when you are committed to being romantically involved with someone else. It is clearly understood to be cheating when you sleep with someone other than your wife, and clearly not cheating to have two different one night stands when you are single. You haven’t cheated on your first one night stand by sleeping with the second.
Monogamy is like a private contract between to people. Both parties agree to be with no one but each other romantically. This is a special sort of relationship, which should be approached with a great deal of care and caution. However, this type of romantic relationship has become the norm, even the default. When two people meet and begin to have romantic feelings for each other, they almost always enter into this type of relationship. It has become so common that it often simply understood with little or no discussion involved.
The vast majority of these relationships end. And, unsurprisingly, they often end badly when the two parties involved are unable to fulfill each other’s needs completely. Frequently, the parties involved don’t speak again, or are only able to maintain an acquaintance relationship – they are civil to each other, but they certainly don’t like each other anymore. It is rare that these relationships end in friendship, and even rarer that the two people experience any type or romance together again.
Clearly, any method of relationship that separates you from others is ineffective. However, the fallacy of need necessitates this separation by presupposing the main premise of the monogamous relationship – There is one person who can fulfill all my needs.
4. Counterculture – Here comes the old boss, same as the new boss.
The phenomenon of counter culture is the result of the restrictive nature of the fallacy of need. Within the fallacy of need, people vie for relationships with particular people whom they believe they need. In order to do this, they must be someone that the particular other would like to have a relationship (usually friendship) with. In the search for friends, people begin to conform to a behavior that they believe that others will like. This creates cultural norms. People are all behaving in a way they believe others would like, which eventually becomes institutionalized.
Some people, however, either cannot or will not conform to this mode of behavior. For whatever reason, it is repugnant to them. These people shun the fallacy of need, and choose seek out others like themselves rather than molding themselves to the desires of particular others. Eventually, a group of people come together who appreciate similar behavior in each other. When enough people come together, they create a counterculture.
A group can be said to have become a counterculture when it is large enough that people will seek them out as people they need. When the fallacy of need has come to apply to a group, they are a counter culture. People begin to mould themselves into someone they believe that these particular others would like.
Eventually, a group like this is always subsumed into the dominant paradigm. The dominant culture tames the new one, assimilating aspects of it that it finds acceptable, and moderating many others until the counterculture simply becomes one part of the dominant culture. When one says, “sure I can wear jeans and a t-shirt on the weekends, but not to work,” or, “I could wear this to the club, but not to a wedding,” we are seeing this principle at work. At one point in time, men wore suits everywhere, even when relaxing at home. Counter cultures have been subsumed into the dominant culture, but have not replaced it. Suits are still more respectable than a t-shirt and jeans. There are appropriate ways and appropriate places to present certain parts of the cultural paradigm. Expression made in the wrong way or in the wrong place would hurt ones chances to relate with particular other people, whether that relationship be as employer/employee, romantic partner, friend, etc.
The engulfing of countercultures simply creates a more complicated set of social rules.
5. Society as we know it
Beginning even from the most primitive human societies we know of, we can see the fallacy of need at work. Even in modern primate societies among various types of apes, we see it at work. Even in other animal societies, we see it at work.
Beginning with man, we can see that a tribal society contains elements created by the fallacy of need. Perhaps the particular other we need to please is the Chief of our tribe, or the Chief and his family. We will conform to modes of behavior that we believe will please these people. Because they are in charge of the whole tribe, the whole tribe behaves this way. We need certain things from our leaders in terms of guidance and approval, and so we seek it by conforming to whomever is leader. Only rarely, it seems, do we decide, when a leader does not fit us, to find a new leader!
Finding one leader who can fit a whole group of people is difficult, and at times, survival necessitates that large groups of people band together. This can make the fallacy of need seem truly necessary and maybe at times it is. The fallacy clearly has been useful enough to survival to be used for many thousands of years.
As we move through time, we can see that the fallacy was continuously used. We please our king, the lord of our manor, our boss, a person whom we admire, a group of people who appear to be very popular. The fallacy of need appears most valid when one particular person seems to hold the key to your survival or happiness. Often, in truth, he does not.
6. Primates and the other animals.
When we look back into animal society, however, we make a most interesting discovery. The most specialized behavior of most animals is its mating behavior. We note that males frequently follow a set pattern of behaviors when vying for the attentions of a female. In many species, this manifests as a ritual form of fighting. In many avian species, it takes the form of a ritual dance for the female. In others, a male must build a nest that he believes will please the female.
Clearly, the animal behaviors are not as conscious or premeditated as similar human behaviors (although human behaviors in this arena seem to become increasingly instinctual as time passes); however, they clearly operate on the same principle. Instead of behaving in any manner of possible ways and hoping that others of its species will want to interact with it, the animal conforms to a particular mode of behavior.
When an animal is taken away from other members of its species, it does not do this. A primate raised by humans behave differently towards humans, and towards members of it’s species than if would if it had been raise by its own kind in its natural habitat. Without a society to conform to, an animal will behave in the way that seems most appropriate according to its circumstances. It has no social rules to learn, so it will not learn them. This is one reason why it is so difficult to mate animals in zoos, especially those who are not kept with others of their own kind – they do not have a common rule of interaction. If the two animals would not normally get along, and they have no social behavioral norm to guide their interaction, then there is little chance that they will interact at all.
In the wild, these behaviors to gain that one particular other serve a very important purpose – survival. Creatures must mate and breed to continue their species. They must band together to hunt, or to avoid predators. The most fascinating thing about mating behaviors, however, is that very few species mate for life. This is at least equal among the “more advance species” such as primates and other mammals as it is in the “lower species” such as birds. Species with larger brains are not more able to mate for life with another animal; in fact, I would propose that they are less so.
Most animals need to mate with as many other members of their species as possible. That is what necessitates the fallacy of need for them more than anything else. They must be able to please a large number of mates. This being true for all the members of the species, they all conform to what they believe will be pleasing to the other animals, and they all gravitate towards one social norm of behavior. This propagates the species. This keeps them alive. This is why man came to use the very same method.
7. So what?
What use is this to us? To man? A species of animal that has populated the planet, which actively worries that it produces too many young, what need has he for this? A species that has little trouble surviving, that produces more benefits than it needs, what need has he for this?
Clearly there is no need. We have developed to the point where this program is no longer useful. It hurts our relationships with others. It makes us unhappy. It helps us to be tricked by others around us and by ourselves into making ourselves unhappy.
Instead, why not throw it away? As creatures who are self-aware, who can actively change, who can change their minds, be self-programmed from day to day to think and feel differently, why not throw it away and find something better?
What would be better? Recognizing that no one person should fulfill all your needs. By recognizing that it is not a crime or disservice to find pleasure in more than one person, and that there is nothing wrong with you if you do not fulfill all of another person’s needs. No one can.
Rejecting the one person method is a wonderful step that will improve many areas of human life, but it must go further. Social norms are only a creation of this fallacy. They are not important, absolute or vital. They too can be thrown away at will. The people who wish to follow them can. They will be “right” for some people. If they are not right for you, there will be other people who feel the same way. You can choose to interact with those people who feel similarly. You can choose to interact with those people who want to interact with you as you want to be. You don’t need to fear growing apart from a loved one. You can love another, and in recognizing that your loved one will not always fulfill the needs they do now, you will increase the chances that that relationship will remain in another form.
The multiple person method used in a romantic setting will most likely increase the success of romantic relationships. Many romantic relationships end because, while some of a person’s needs are fulfilled, not all of them are and they are restricted to only seeking those needs from one person. If it is understood that two people in a relationship can and will need to seek fulfillment from several different places, then a relationship need not end unless it has no value whatsoever. Few relationships are completely without value. Those relationships that lack romantic value can develop into friendships with little or no heartbreak involved.
The multiple person method can also be expanded into the multiple culture method. Many cultures can arise naturally from the process of finding groups of people that you like to interact with. However, there is no need to make one dominant culture, or interact with only one cultural group. Perhaps you like interacting with different people in different ways. Few people would feel fulfilled with only one set of behavior in their life. There is no reason to pick only one. There is no reason not to interact differently with every person you meet, if that pleases you. The multiple culture method is the recognition that your behavior is completely malleable, and that you can do anything at any moment. If it is fulfilling to you, then do it. There is no reason to concern yourself with the approval of others.
Taken to this extreme, culture itself breaks down. If we interact on a completely individual basis, without any surety of commonality, then human reality itself become malleable. The symbolic systems with which people in the same culture communicate become valueless. Clearly, even language itself could change to the point where it must be either truly meaningless, or undeniably clear.
At first, language would probably cease to have meaning. But this would not last for long. Soon, we would find that, out of a necessity to communicate, words would become clearly defined and rarely change. Slang would likely be highly personal, and perhaps only make sense when spoken by a group of two or three individuals.
This may seem like a barrier to communication, hut in fact it would be its grandest achievement. Words would be come less twistable. With definitions clear, lies would become more blatant and less transparent. Wiggling out of a lie would be more difficult, because semantic arguments would become useless. Communication would be finely tuned and infinitely more universal as we realized that we do not need anyone in particular.
Culture seems to be all that holds groups of man together, but in reality, it is what holds them apart, both as groups and as individuals. The separation from culture is the union of mankind.