Polyamory will eat itself
The utopian ideal of ethical non-monogamy has started to devour itself in the name of narcissistic and authoritarian identity politics. Not that it the concept of ‘poly’ wasn't already driving itself to an early grave amid the other proto utopian ideals that when implemented by humans always gives way to the serrated edge of selfish indulgence as previously discussed in An Observation on Polyamory and Gametheory, but this is something bigger. Something that affects all progressive movements be they political, social, and even sexual.
We have seen the specters of identity politics show themselves quite a bit lately, from the recent uproar about the new pride flag, to the events at Evergreen college, perhaps more prolifically with the Democratic party infighting, and the rise of actual hate speech and crimes in the US and the world. Whatever your opinion on any of these arguments, this post is not about these recent events but what is happening within the polyamory community world-wide.
The modern polyamory movement is happening in a time where the rules of relationships are breaking down against the mechanisms of social support in relation to the redefinition of the idea of family, gender, sexual and racial identities.
With the old rules, monogamy is a throwback to the time when it was widely believed that women were chattel, with no or limited rights, whose place was supposedly in the kitchen or bedroom. In today’s society, especially in more progressive cultures, we strive for equity and equality for all but are working towards balancing that equality. The polyamory movement and community has redefined what relationships are and the individual’s role in the relationship.
…and this is great, except when it is not.
The purpose of this article is to describe two of the reasons why Polyamory is eating itself, why it as a movement will ultimately fail, and be remembered much like the other similar free-love opium-dreams that came before, as a nice idea, but not very practical.
Cost of Entry.
The price of admission is low in polyamory. The ‘poly-community’ prides itself on the intersectionality of its membership, that anyone is welcome, given there is an interest in the practice of ethical non-monogamy. This is good, except when it is not.
The poly-community is made up of people from all walks of life, it in theory is not divided among any lines. Except it is with the inclusion of identity politics within the community and the related use of those politics when they are used to censor and bully those that are more on the fringes as evidenced in This study on class and race privilege within many polyamorous communities and many other studies across the spectrum even within a multitude of articles over at Black and Poly.
With a deliberately low price of admission to the club, one has to accept that there will be difference. Difference includes difference of opinion, difference in ways of working, and difference in communication. These differences require openness and with them the ability to listen. With the recent injection of identity politics into the community I have witnessed and personally experienced a dramatic increase of noise ranging from outright dismissal to hostility from those who were all too willing to argue, but not willing to listen or even accept that individuals outside of their comfort zone might exist within “their” community let alone have opinions different than their own.
Introspection as an Extreme Sport
The poly-community takes introspection to new levels. Having spent half of my life as a practicing polyamorist have I only ever once seen such self-examination by a group, The Quakers. This is great, except when it is not.
The goodness introspection lays within the group’s ability to have open, honest and direct communication with itself about itself. This goes doubly so on an individual basis, but requires the simple and silent act of listening to understand, not reply. Where it turns nasty is when narcissistic tendencies take over and introspection breaks down and the image of self takes over from the true reflection of self.
The True Self is synonymous with the [Freudian] Ego. It is shrivelled, dilapidated, stifled and marginalised by the False Self. The narcissist draws no distinction between his Ego and his Self. He is incapable of doing so. He relegates his Ego functions to the outside world. His False Self is an invention and the reflection of an invention. [Maglignant Self Love: Narcissim Revisited]
This is most seen when identity politics is injected into the community. Where the regulation is driven by the group at the cost of the self and honesty with ones self because honesty with the self is often difficult and sometimes ugly and humiliating, which contradicts the image the false self has of itself. This is self-destructive and intellectually lazy, giving into selfishness instead of aspiring to be better than the sum of our parts.
This intellectual and emotional lazy comes from the fact that the community when confronted with it’s actual true-self often demands that they must control the behavior or emotions of the one confronting them without controlling their own behavior or emotions. I often jokingly refer to this condition as ‘The Poly-Mafia’, as that is exactly what it is.
When the poly-community removes identity politics from its ways of working, then and only then will the community be able to have honest, clear, and loving communication with itself and each other. For the narcissistic tendency to believe the reflected self, reflected back by the community onto itself, is a false reflection, and one that only serves to further itself and ultimately divide and eat itself.