Sunday, May 11, 2008

the benevolent dictatorship

I decided to title give this blog the title, "The Benevolent Dictatorship" because parenting a child is an unavoidably political activity. Additionally, and to my surprise, I've found that parenting gives an unexpected perspective back into the political world -- perspective into what it must be like to have control over a non-democratic country, or cult, or some other large group of people. Whenever you have power over someone, entirely, unequivocally, you have to get used to the feeling of having entire, unequivocal responsibility for that person. You can try to diminish the feeling by reminding yourself of your charge's otherness, the fact that they are separate people with their own physical integrity and responsibility for their own personhood. You can diminish the feeling by spreading the caretaking out among a larger number of people. But ultimately, the symbiotic power exchange between the primary caregiver and the primary care-receiver is deep deep deep and I suspect, unshakable. The way that Tito is always president in Yugoslavia unshakable. Death does not part you, or diminish your power and responsibility in the mind of the living partner.

There was another small accident today, a kitchen accident, and D was totally fine. Completely and absolutely fine, like not a mark, no pain or anything, just a scare. But for the parents who witnessed it, and the parents who came into the room immediately afterwards, and even the parent who prevented the accident from resulting in harm to D it was a deep stab right to the middle of the stomach. The stab was about the baby's potential pain, but also about the failure of our responsibility, our individual and collective failure. The logic of the failure of responsibility is that we caused him pain. And there is no such precious body to us that we could live without coming back in our heads, at unexpected moments, to the image of his pain and the feeling that we caused it.

1 comment:

rekha6 said...

"parenting a child is an unavoidably political activity." I agree that it is a surprising observation, but the way you describe it makes perfect sense. I imagine that one must recognize that it *is* power, that power can be misused, and like a dictator, one must remember to stay benevolent.

(so glad little D was unscathed!)