410. Pushing upward (IX)
Periodically, a report will appear in the news that will describe how a kindergarten has banned children from being best friends. People then tut and say, “The looney left has gone too far, they’re even banning friendship.” Yet, actually, to ban friendship is integral to left-wing politics—not an anomaly at all.
Think back to those Marxist slogans about “socialism and brotherhood”, probably these are so commonplace and familiar to you that the slogans glide over you; but think about brotherhood in particular—all men are brothers; one race, the human race. Brotherhood is not a voluntary condition; it is coerced by nature. Now siblings often stand together very closely; when the chips are down healthy families close ranks and protect each other—yet at the same time everybody knows that the most rancorous disagreements are within families, particularly between brothers and sisters. Brotherhood contains both an ineffable closeness and yet it also has a definite ambivalence—brothers literally compete for the same teat; and, metaphorically, they compete for the nourishment that is parental attention.
For the left, there is no difference between men except some arbitrary impositions by mystics and irrational reactionaries—along with the unbrotherly bitter bigots. Yet friendship is so much higher and more beautiful than brotherhood; and it is so because it is not forced. You do not have to be my friend, and we can stop being friends at any time—perhaps that will be a sad thing, perhaps it is necessary. Either way, friendship does not have the dreadful inevitability—for good or ill—that comes with family, it is not onerous. The socialists like to say, “All for one and one for all!” That is a noble phrase, except it was most famously spoken by three friends—the three musketeers; three chevaliers, three knights, who found a fourth friend, d'Artagnan. “All for one and one for all—an injury to one is an injury to all!” These slogans only work for voluntary associations, not compulsory brotherhoods where everyone must join and nobody can leave.
Friendship involves, of course, discrimination; and so it is inherently elitist in a way brotherhood is not—and people are usually told to pick their friends carefully; someone who has no discrimination in their associations, being friendly to all or hostile to all, has no self-respect; no sense that they have value. Accordingly, the left opposes clubs and associations where friends gather together and keep other people out; so the private clubs for men have been strangled because, supposedly, these clubs are unfair to women and ethnic minorities; really these clubs threatened the total state, since the state wants us to be one happy family—especially for the photos we display to the public—and the fact some people opt out from the family reflects badly upon it; the family is jealous, and it is also mediocre. Brotherhood is mediocre, except in the sense that we express a metaphorical warmness to a friend who is like a brother—except we love him more, because we are not obliged to love him.
“If all men are brothers, all wars are civil wars,” observed Eric Hoffer; and so the leftist prescription is to make all conflict the most fratricidal and unpleasant possible—the Somali and Italian are both brothers, so if they disagree it is naughtiness or fratricide; no space is left to say, “We are different kinds, we go different paths—we have no obligation to love each other.” So universal brotherhood is no prescription for peace; it is a prescription for nagging (“He’s your brother, you must be nice to him.”), for bitter wars, and poisonous feuds and resentment.
The ancients knew that friendship was a beautiful thing; it must cultivated, as a plant is cultivated—it is not a brute fact, as birth is a brute fact; it is an art. If we are all the same then we are all brothers; but man is too heterogeneous to be brotherly—and that is good.