Friday, August 26, 2016

Neoliberalism in Divorce

As I began my studies of corporate libertarianism and neoliberalism, I was inwardly comparing these concepts to narcissistic divorce. You could call the guiding ideologies by many names: colonialism, capitalism, narcissism. I have always believed that the prevailing ideologies of the cultural institutions we are born into, such as corporate libertarianism, informs and is reflected in weak personal relationships. For instance, families which have not strengthened their morality, values, and humanism are susceptible to simply replaying corporate scenarios in their personal relationships, and setting up corporate-like structures in their families.
I speak from the perspective of a woman. I'm not interested in debating the advantaged position of the white  male today. That is well established and anyone who argues against it is arguing for White Male Fragility. Research clearly shows that men fare much better financially than women post-divorce. I am interested in exploring the similarities between the prevailing corporate paradigm and family structure, with a focus on the situation of a man with ample resources and ability to work who refuses to support his children while choosing to support the legal system instead.
This is just a cursory overview of concepts I've learned so far, with the intention of someday exploring and broadening these concepts through personal writing. First, I want to review characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder as listed by the DSM 5:

-Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
 -Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it 
-Exaggerating your achievements and talents
 -Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate 
-Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people 
-Requiring constant admiration 
-Having a sense of entitlement 
-Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations 
-Taking advantage of others to get what you want 
-Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others 
-Being envious of others and believing others envy you 
-Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Corporate libertarianism followed a long rise that ensured the recognition of corporations as "people" with rights. The enmeshment with government was inevitable. It used to be that corporations had to be approved of through a lengthy charter process to ensure they didn't get too big. Through a fascinating history, they did get too big, and globalization and concentration of resources among a few by exploiting the many happened, and is still happening today. This is not new news, but I had never delved deeper into the causes of this structure, nor had I thought about it with a critical mind until education became such a big part of my life . Several things are key to linking this ideology to high-conflict divorce.
First of all, corporate libertarianism rested on a certain notion of property. The shift from communal property to individual ownership was key in setting up corporate libertarianism. Holding to a paradigm that declares "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine" is worlds apart from "we share resources to take care of each other." It's democracy versus capitalism. Capitalism is about money and the acquisition of money. In my readings, I quote, "The drive to acquire is the highest expression of what it means to be human." This pretty much sums up the unquestioned belief system of capitalism. Not everyone agrees with that statement, and I have many high ideals regarding what it means to be human. None of them have to do with the drive to acquire. All too often in family court, notions of property involve children, and children are treated like property instead of human beings.
In a high conflict divorce, one party holds the capitalist paradigm, while the other party is more oriented towards democratic equality. The drive to acquire and hoard resources is a factor, for corporate libertarianism seeks to concentrate resources, benefits, and advantages with one small group to the disadvantage of the many. In high-conflict divorce, it is an individual seeking to take resources from another to destabilize the family and create a power imbalance so that individual can concentrate all the benefits, resources, and advantages in himself. Power, as I learned in class, has many definitions but one definition is that power is the ability to help or hurt. In high-conflict ongoing divorce, one party seeks to hurt the other.
Corporate libertarianism's guiding principle is: maximize profit while minimizing responsibility. It is not much different than individual narcissism. Corporations can raze the earth and pollute the water and just pay politicians so that they don't have to clean it up or worry about how it affects people's lives. It creates private profit, but the ramifications, or costs, are placed on society. Think about how ludicrous it is. The money corporations spend on lobbying and the legal system could be spent on cleaning up their environmental messes or building "clean" factories. Instead, they play a game, a mindless game that gives them the ability to make money without restrictions. It is the same with high-conflict divorce. One party can completely raze another person and their own children and family financially, emotionally, and physically, but either blame the people they abuse, or take no responsibility for their actions. They are their own corporate microcosm, their own mini-dictators. Again, this is an imbalance that is blatantly exploitative in nature.
Corporations who want tax relief are basically asking for a reverse socialism. Capitalism is socialism for the rich. This is also called "corporate welfare". A man of means and ability to earn an ample living for himself and his children, in refusing to work to his potential, in using his resources to bully his co-parent in court, and in asking the court to relieve him of his legal child support obligations is asking the court to put him on welfare. He is also asking his ex-wife and children to relieve him of his family obligations so he does not have to make any sacrifices to support his family, and they have to make sacrifices for HIM. This allows him to improve his home, take multiple vacations, take no measures to promote himself and his work in the world, and basically play a lot, and who cares how this affects his children?
Corporations do a sales job by constantly convincing us that their interests are our interests. Narcissists do this too, through gaslighting. They present a facade and are fake in their morals and standards. People fall for their facade. I know I have fallen for these seemingly perfect scenarios. Corporations, too, have no morals. They really don't care about the people they exploit, they just have business to do. High-conflict blamers, during and after a divorce, will also launch "smear campaigns" to justify their heinous exploits and judgmental, punitive behavior. This lack of humanity characterizes high-conflict divorce. The narcissist and his group lack empathy and truly do not care who they hurt or how. The high-conflict, narcissistic group who scapegoats is not very different in ideology from corporate America.
I also want to say how very odd and infuriating it is that a man can spend more on the legal system in trying to get out of paying child support than he does on his children. This is a simple matter of looking at the numbers. If a man adds it up, it goes like this: "50K to my attorney and court. My own children: meh, whatever I can "afford", which is probably closer to 5K, Investments I've made personally and financially to benefit my relationship with my ex-wife and children and to foster cooperative co-parenting: -40K. That's right, negative. Damages have been done, on purpose. I've deliberately burned my bridges with her in pursuit of my personal power and control."
It is common sense that a man who is financially able to litigate with intent to financially cripple his co-parent is financially able to support his children. These men consistently prove their ability to support the legal system and create a diversion in personal relationships by playing on people's sympathies. In the meantime, the money flowing towards the court is effectively diverted away from his children, who could be enjoying a higher quality of life were their father not wasting time and money on a retaliatory, capitalist mission.This is one aspect of family court that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and in the family court's allowing an imbalance of advantages and disadvantages, they hold to the ideology of corporate libertarianism.
Not one state adequately addresses the problem of a person spending more of their money on family court than on their children. Years of child support can be squandered and funneled away from children into family court in the service of letting a high-income, highly funded person get out of supporting their children. If a person can find the money to continually litigate, a person can find the money to pay for things for their children and not harm their co-parent. It is worse than unfair to exploitatively financially burden a co-parent; it is abusive.
Corporations may legally be "people" now, but people are not "corporations" in family court. There needs to be a paradigm shift, one where families are not tainted by the narcissism of corporate libertarianism's ideology, but have developed a true democracy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Being an Enemy

I was not born to be an enemy, nor am I "wired" to be an enemy. I have lived enough trauma in my life to give me my guarded places, my triggers,my vulnerabilities, and my often stultifying insecurity.
But an enemy? I've lived my life trying to please people. I've wanted to fit in. I've hated feeling so weird, different, and isolated and have gone to opposite extremes to be non-threatening and compliant.
It isn't like I don't make relational mistakes. Some weeks feel like one long attunement desert, and I have to go about figuring out how to reconnect.
But the bottom line is, I care about my relationships. Issues and all, I care deeply for the people I love.
No matter what mistakes I've made, I did not sign up for being an enemy.

It has been one long journey into the heart of grief, and indeed, being faced with that most basic human task: to make meaning of  suffering. In my case, it is a manifestation of monumental projection of a group of people that drives me to seek meaning.

In 1991, when my first baby was a mere 3 months old, I mustered up all the parenting excitement of my 23-year-old self and took her to see Beauty and the Beast. It was a silly thing to take a baby to a movie, but I was new at parenting and it was what I did. In the movie, a group of townspeople, led by a witless brute, sought to prove their capabilities and strength against the Beast. Now, the beast had done nothing to them but symbolize the reflection of their own beastly natures. They were scared of themselves, in essence. They made an enemy out of the beast that did not seek to harm them and had lived in isolation. The townspeople lied about the Beast's true nature and put scary qualities on him. The Beast was human all along, and just needed someone to recognize his humanity and have compassion for that; someone who saw the truth all along and did not imagine some Beast. In fact, he was more "human" than the townspeople who scapegoated him. They made an enemy of him and forced him to fight them out of their fear and hatred. They operated out of their illusions. I understand this dynamic all too well.

Of course, we never saw in the story how the Beast grappled with the fact that he was being made an unwilling enemy, that there were people who wanted him to suffer and enjoyed his suffering, and how his struggle to make meaning with this cruel situation contributed to his transformation. I would point out that his anger created his transformation as well. Without his anger, he would not have achieved the courage and clarity of spirit to touch his humanity.
The enemy-makers in my case are in healing professions. My prayer for them is that someday, someday, they will run into a woman like me, one who has been betrayed and made into an enemy. I hope she asks the same questions of them: why has God forsaken me? why are there people who gloat and revel in the suffering of a human being they once professed to love? why do humans put on the mask of love but carry hatred in their hearts and deeds? why don't they stop this suffering?

They will have to face helping her sort out a situation that makes no sense on a moral, ethical, or spiritual level.  They will have to guide her towards making making meaning of this particular type of suffering, one that is so blatantly senseless and preventable.
They will have to then think of me differently, not as an enemy, but as a human being.
Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk says in his vital, wonderful book, “The Body Keeps The Score”:
“Trauma almost invariably involves not being seen, not being mirrored, and not being taken into account. " Enemy-makers will have to do what they did not do in my case: come to terms with their own illusions of beasts, and how that imagined beast is actually a reflection of their own unresolved darkness. They will have to gather in the fact that they caused trauma in another human being, that they initially drove another person from God while professing their ministries. They will have to muster up the compassion, empathy, and self-awareness they could not find before. They will ultimately have to face themselves, or they could continue to choose not to. 
I find my way to God despite their actions. And I hope they, too, find their way to God. For I am often selfish, and do not consider that when one conjures up an enemy to start a war, there are losses on their side, too. For instance, friends..childhood friends...have been cast aside in favor of carrying the torches of accusation. Relationship with me, peace, stability for the broken family...these have been sacrificed in favor of the spoils of war: moments to gloat, moments of victorious demeaning, all the room in the world to harshly judge and blame without measure, creating destruction without actually having to take responsibility. No one can knowingly cause suffering in another without damaging their own integrity. 
A friend of mine said to me, "Do not pray for what is fair. Pray for what is merciful." I am not a beast, or an enemy. I am a human being, striving and reaching, made clear and courageous through anger, and seeking to make meaning of being portrayed as a "beast" and being made into an unwilling enemy. 

I draw upon the wisdom of William Shakespeare.  From Portia in "Merchant of Venice":

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there."

Friday, August 5, 2016


I want to join revolutions
I want to create revolutions and take all this courage and desire and put it somewhere worthy
Love is not the revolution we need
Love is something people hide behind
No, do not speak to me any more of your "love" because you don't care how it is done
I cannot trust it
Love is not the word
Love is the movement
The revolutions I would join are the revolutions of grace
How about a revolution of healing? Of compassion?
Sign me up for these, show me how to serve
But forget about love, that fleeting affection, that affliction of sentiment
no, the revolution is listening
the movement is to have care
How about revolutions of silliness, of glee?
How about a revolution of cleaning up messes, of making messes?
It is revolutionary to be kind, and genuine.
I want a revolution of dark underbellies...of showing each other what we've murdered in this world, what toes we've stepped on, what hearts we've caused to bleed, what wounds we've slashed through ourselves, through others
It needs to be different
This is not about the world, the world where black people get killed for being black
where children get ripped from mothers who cried out the truth
where hatred finds a gun and uses it
where monsters and politicians are one and the same
But in this world between us, your guns are your words, your misdeeds rooted in standing idly by, of casual indifference to the suffering you cause
You are making people choke on their anger
You keep joining the naysayers, the assholes, the takers, the exploitative warmongers
Stop that and join me in these revolutions
If it happens in this world between us, it makes it easier for it to happen out there
This is the revolution that needs to happen, the revolution of feeling, novelties of passion, of hope for all of us
Of empathetic connection
revolutions of vulnerability, of soft hearts
The real revolution? The extraordinary one? It's the "I'm sorry I hurt you." revolution.
That, THAT will change our world
Let's show each other our wars, where we waged and fought them
Let's bring these wars out and have a revolution of weeping, of sadness, of great pain
I will paint you with the blood on your hands and reach into your darkness and pull out all of that awful blackness
I will show it to you and say yes, there it is, this is why you need revolutions
What is this revolution worth? A phone call? a letter? showing up?
What will it take for you to throw out this ugliness, this war?