The Necessary Conflict

Dr Peterson talks in Maps and Meaning about the Patriarch in religious mythology – how he is a necessary part of the tension in the world. He is the rule-giver, who we need because he gives us shape and identity – he gives us order out of chaos, so that we can navigate the world. But he is also something we rebel against, in our desire to find our True Self.  If we let only him rule our lives, then his rules become a straitjacket, but if he’s not around then we never get that instruction on how to survive in the world.

Peterson gets so angry with the Feminists, and he’s right on. They complain about the oppressive patriarchy, to which he responds, in typical Peterson style: “Yeah! Of course it’s oppressive. That’s what the patriarch is but… bloody hell… it’s so much more besides that as well!”

(I won’t attempt to transcribe his Canadian accent, and this is just a paraphrasing.)

He talks about how Feminism is an ideology, and ideologies narrowly focus on one aspect of reality to the exclusion of all else, to achieve some end. Feminists focus on one aspect of The Patriarch (its rule-setting and order creation, and its commands of obedience) to the exclusion of all else. They want to kick The Patriarch out of their worldview, leaving only the recreating-and-reforming aspect of The Feminine/The Mother, with its myriad creative possibilities for expression.

However, a happy life requires us to grow up and experience a tension between the two, to live our lives continually try to resolve these aspects of ourselves in order to find our “True Self”. Throwing either out is folly. It is wrong to suggest that the Good in life lies in simply discovering or nurturing some specific object or aspect, rather than in the process of living, of struggling, of experiencing and attempting to resolve the tension. We try to find harmony, and it’s a constant balancing act – not something we resolve by simply throwing out the balancing scales.

Life is so much more complex and difficult than that, so much more a process of finding oneself in our opposition to and resistance against adversity, including the adversity of “oppressive structures”. So much more dynamic and exciting (and actually more creative) than just being given free reign to flow between 100 different gender constructs, or pursuing any creative endeavour one wishes in a complete safe space with no challenge from anybody, simply farting out whatever you think you want to be and say, to the exclusion of everything else.

And actually, I thought Rob Stone’s observations in the book about Linklater, the one I was looking at yesterday, are quite relevant here:

“Postmodernists posit that there are no clearly superior criteria for recognising or attaining pure objectivity – all criteria are “privileged”.  Postmodernism tends to oppose the cinema of Linklater in the way it derives pleasure from disconnection rather than connection, from what Bryan D. Palmer describes as a ‘hedonistic descent into a plurality of discourses that decenter the world in a chaotic denial of any acknowledgement of tangible structures of power and comprehension of meaning.’

Note the way Postmodernists want free expression, want no constraints. People can approach the world from any direction, so they should just approach it from any direction – all is equally valid and we should just embrace the cacophony of chaos.

Postmodernists might see chaos as a substitute for unknowable history, but Celine in Before Sunset aligns herself with Slavoj Žižek, who claims ‘through fantasy, we learn to desire’. Thus she responds emotionally to Jesse’s expression of a belief in the kind of human evolution that is possible in a person’s lifetime or even a film’s time-frame.

“Maybe what i’m saying is, is the world might be evolving the way a person evolves. Right? Like, I mean, me for example. Am I getting worse? Am I improving? I don’t know.,  When I was younger, I was healthier, but I was, uh, whacked with insecurity, you know? Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them.”

Life is a dynamic progression; life is evolution.

Like Jesse, the Modernist cinema of Linklater is purposeful in its objective search for meaning rather than any subjective reckoning. It simply believes that meaningful connections are possible, even  when seemingly contradictory.

Modernists are at their best in an orchestra, whereas Postmodernists spiral away on interminable solos.”

The meaning that guides us is found in connection, in struggle, in between the parts of ourselves and in between ourselves and others. It emerges from the chaos. Chaos is necessary, but we confront it and emerge again from it, in a continual process. We shouldn’t give in to it.

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