I’ve been trying to get away from posting about The Devouring Mother, if for no other reason than to avoid sounding like a broken record. Last week’s Djokovic fiasco, however, was too perfect to avoid, especially as I live in Melbourne. This week has provided another topic that I want to address as it’s one of themes I decided to leave out of my book on the subject. But, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s central to the dynamic with particular reference to the acquiescent children aka The Orphan archetype.
The idea occurred to me on seeing this video which has been doing the rounds on the internet the last few days. It shows a couple of children, perhaps twelve years old, on some television show in Canada encouraging setting the police onto the unvaccinated and, in the words of the young girl, pressuring the unvaccinated until they “submit”. The presenters of the show and the audience appear delighted with the children, one even referring to them as “future politicians”.
The video felt to me like another one of those microcosm-macrocosm symbolic moments that have occurred so much in the last two years. What the children are advocating for in the video is bullying. Of course, the bullying of the unvaccinated is precisely what has been happening for about the last six months and it’s been intensifying recently. These young children picked up on the zeitgeist and knew what the adults in the room wanted to hear. Look at the big smiles as they get rewarded by the adults.
The quip about the children being “future politicians” is kind of fitting. Bullying is part of the job description of a politician. Most of the time, the politicians are bullying each other or some hapless public servant and that’s all part of the game. What has happened in the last six months is that we have had the spectacle of politicians bullying the public, specifically the unvaccinated. That’s problematic because in a democratic society a politician is supposed to be a public servant. We pay their salaries and last time I checked we weren’t paying for the service of being gaslit, scapegoated and pilloried. The unvaccinated are still required to pay full taxes despite being banned from a number of public services. There’s even been talk of banning them from health care. None of that makes sense on a logical level. But, we know that what is going on is not logical but archetypal. Bullying is a core trait of The Devouring Mother. That is why our politicians have been bullying the public and that is what the youngsters of Canadian television intuited. It’s open season on bullying the unvaccinated. Step right up, folks, and take a turn.
The sight of young children joining in the scapegoating would be distasteful enough at the best of times. But what makes it symbolically poignant for corona is the fact that bullying has become a hot button issue in the last decade or so. Like the idea of “hate” and the entire subject of biological gender, bullying is a taboo subject. The Victorian department of education and training has a whole website on bullying where it says that bullying is “never okay”. Really? The Premier of the State of Victoria has been giving us a daily masterclass in bullying for almost two years now. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, in fact, to say that corona has been the greatest display of bullying in history. Certainly it’s the greatest display of bullying of supposedly democratic leaders towards the public. I’m sure none of the people who work in the education bureaucracy have noticed, though, because taboo subjects, of which bullying is now one, inevitably give rise to psychological complexes and that in turn leads to projecting the shadow. A stereotypical case is the raging homophobe who is really a closet homosexual. But it’s the same psychology that leads the people who rail against “hate” to behave the most hatefully and the people who rail against bullying to be the biggest bullies. It’s all just projecting the shadow. In the case our political leaders, they are projecting the shadow which is The Devouring Mother; the societal shadow. That is why they have been behaving as the opposite of public servants.
Bullying is at the heart of The Devouring Mother concept. With all bullying, there is a bully and a victim. Where the mother is the bully, the victim is the acquiescent child aka The Orphan archetype. The rebellious children have learned to deal with the mother’s bullying, almost always by removing themselves from the relationship. Thus, the subject of bullying turns out to be a core dynamic at the heart of the archetype and has something interesting to tell us in particular about the rise of The Orphan archetype.
To return to the Victorian government’s website, they state that bullying is “not a normal part of growing up.” This is, pardon my French, complete bullshit. Practically everybody experiences bullying when going through school. Almost every story or movie in the coming-of-age genre features bullying as a major theme. Let’s take just one example: the movie Back to the Future and its sequels. The hero of the story, Marty McFly, must learn to deal with the school bully, Biff Tannen. The dynamic between the two is literally the core of the story and drove the movie to be one of the most popular of the 80s. The reason it was so popular is because the theme of bullying is as good as a universal of society.
The universality of bullying extends beyond humans to almost every animal species with a dominance hierarchy. That’s why chickens have a pecking order. The pecking is the bullying. Same goes for dogs, gorillas or what have you. Another coincidence here is that it was Jordan Peterson who introduced the dominance hierarchy to our modern discourse. In doing so, he did nothing more than state the obvious but stating the obvious is necessary these days when you have governments proclaiming blatant falsehoods. Of course, Peterson is a leader of the rebellious children and he became the bete noire of the kinds of people who run the Victorian education bureaucracy who want to insist that bullying is “not natural”.
Another way to think about bullying is that it’s part of the process of forming dominance hierarchies. Justin Trudeau, or Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews are at the top of their respective dominance hierarchies. So, they are really good at bullying. Just ask any of their colleagues, although they’ll probably use a less polite word to describe them than “bully”. The movie Back to the Future explores the correspondence between bullying and dominance hierarchies in great detail because it shows alternative timelines. In one timeline, we see what happens when McFly doesn’t learn to deal with the bully. He ends up in a crappy job with low self-esteem. In the other timeline, McFly gets it right and becomes successful, confident and rich. He even has Biff working for him.
In nature, the dominance hierarchy forms mostly around physical superiority but even then there is room for non-physical factors. Ask any chicken owner and they will tell you the top chook is not necessarily the largest. Even with chickens, the concept of “spirit” plays a role. You could say the most spirited chicken is at the top rather than the physically largest. In Back to the Future, Biff is physically bigger than McFly, but that doesn’t stop McFly from rising higher than him in the hierarchy as long as he learns how to deal with the bully.
The reason bullying features in practically all coming-of-age stories is because learning how to deal with the dominance hierarchy is a core feature of becoming an adult. But learning how to deal with bullying also seems to function as a nexus of a number of important psychological lessons too. The age old advice that you should “stand up to a bully” really means that you must not be intimidated by the bully. Because bullying is part of our animal nature, becoming intimidated is natural when we are confronted with somebody who is or appears stronger. By learning to overcome that natural reaction, you are learning to control your emotions through exercising you will power. You learn to control your instincts rather than have them control you. You subordinate your unconscious to your will. That is a powerful lesson to learn.
You also learn something about the appearance of strength versus the underlying reality. This is another trick used by animals. A male duck or chicken, for example, will put on a show of aggression even to a much larger animal like a human but immediately back down when challenged. Their bark is worse than their bite, as the saying goes. Same with bullies. Almost all bullies back down when challenged. By standing up for yourself you learn that lesson too. In doing so, you learn something about bullying as a phenomena; namely, that is almost always a cover for insecurity. It is precisely the people who lack self-esteem who engage in bullying as a way to compensate. (Note: this is also the underlying driver of The Devouring Mother’s bullying behaviour. She is terrified of her children becoming independent).
So, by learning not to be intimidated by a bully you condense a number of important life lessons into one. You learn how to control your emotions, how to exercise your will power, how to navigate a dominance hierarchy and something about the psychology of the bully.
If all this is true, what can we make of the “war on bullying” that is currently taking place in schools in the West? This is where we have to again differentiate between the ostensible concerns and the unconscious drivers. The ostensible concerns are obvious. Bullying can result in violence and can be traumatic for those who fail to learn how to deal with it. We want to avoid those outcomes wherever possible. The change in “philosophy” that has occurred, however, is the move away from tough love. Tough love knows full well the difficulties involved in confronting a bully but allows it to happen anyway on the understanding that it’s better in the long run. Behind this is the understanding that one way to reduce bullying is to let kids learn how to deal with it. Once enough kids learn to stand up to a bully, the bullying goes away because there’s nobody left to prey on. If the goal is to reduce bullying, letting kids deal with it themselves is a viable, in fact the best, strategy.
Note that this process is almost identical to respiratory viral infection. Learning to deal with bullying is like becoming naturally immune to a virus. That doesn’t mean it goes away entirely. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with bullying ever again. Bullying, like cold and flu viruses, is a natural fact of life. Any place where there is a dominance hierarchy of human beings, there is a potential for bullying. By learning to deal with bullying, you learn to recognise it and also recognise your own response to it. Those of us who haven’t completely lost our minds in the last two years have seen as clear as day the bullying behaviour by our leaders and have been better able to formulate a response. We also know that bullying behaviour comes from weakness. The outbreak of bullying reveals the underlying weakness of our society in spiritual-psychological, political and economic terms.
What if we had never learned how to deal with bullying?
This is the outcome that is being pursued at the moment in our education system. The goal is not to expose children to bullying at all on the assumption that is it “not natural” and “never okay”. But the child who has not learned how to deal with bullying has no “natural immunity”. In addition, we can infer that they have missed out on the other lessons to be learned from bullying i.e. how to control their emotions, how to exercise their willpower, how to deal with a dominance hierarchy. This sounds like a very good description of the millennial generation. It’s also a very good description of The Orphan archetype whose primary trait exactly is that they missed out on stages of development; stages of development like learning how to deal with a bully.
Viewed in this way, the desire not to expose children to bullying is the desire to prevent them learning the developmental lessons involved. But stifling development of the child is exactly what The Devouring Mother does. The archetype that results is The Orphan.
None of the bureaucrats in the education department would be conscious of the fact that the system they are running is set up precisely to produce archetypal Orphans. Our modern school system doesn’t consciously produce any type of person and the whole idea that it should is anathema to it. This is very unusual by historical standards and formed one of the critiques of the modern education system by thinkers as far back as G.K. Chesterton. The old British public school system, for example, was deftly configured to produce the type of the English gentleman. The educators in that system were accutely aware that that was what they were doing. The education provided was about producing a type of person. As such, it was as much about learning manners and dress sense as about book learning. You had to learn how to behave as a gentleman. The same idea held for Catholic schools and even the old trade schools although they were producing a different type of person.
Our modern schools aim to produce no specific type of person and yet they clearly are producing a psychological type: The Orphan.
This reminds me of another line from Chesterton who said that the problem with the person who stops believing in God is not that they believe nothing but that they believe anything. I think we can translate this into psychological terms as follows: if you don’t act consciously, you will act unconsciously. It’s not that the you will believe anything, it’s that whatever your profess to believe is irrelevant because your psyche is now being run by the subconscious. That is, of course, what is going on right now in western society and especially in Australia and Canada. It’s for that reason that the behaviour in the last two years has been so incredibly uniform and has coalesced around the archetypes of The Devouring Mother and The Orphan.
If that’s true, then the number one task to redress the problem is to return to consciousness and to ask the question: who are we and what are we doing? There’s going to need to be an awful lot of soul searching in the years ahead.