Not a new subject for me, but hey, it’s Winter. I’m catastrophically lonely. These things happen.
Today, twitter was once again the venue for a little discussion about love. It began as a discussion of gender and social power structures, but then I waded in and said, cynically, that I think “relationships in their entirety are all about power.” I followed this up a bit later with, “Romantic love is just a system of blackmail wherein you try to make someone love you more than you love them.”
Of course, me being me, I was being reductionist and over-simplistic. But at its heart, I do believe in that definition. I am inclined to agree with Zizek, who says (at the very start of the documentary, ‘Zizek!’) that he believes love is “fundamentally evil”, because love is a manifestation of the completely random, accidental “cosmic imbalance” that created the entire universe. Love is an “extremely violent act”, just like the Big Bang was. If you say, “I love you more than anything else,” based on some (real or perceived) arbitrary attribute, this is inherently violent and even selfish.
“Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less.”
That’s a quote from Chuck Klosterman, another author whose opinions I am drawn to. I like this summation. It’s true. In my experience, relationships are based on a form of blackmail, in which you try to make the other person try harder to earn your love, or even dare them to love you too much, to put themselves in the powerless position. This does not strike me as a healthy arrangement. (Is it any surprise I’m single?)
One reply I had was: “I honestly don’t feel that is how I conduct my own relationships.” I draw, in reply to this, on Marx, who said (of ideology), “They do not know it, but they are doing it.” It’s the same with any unchallenged social structure – we don’t even realise there is an opt-out, we accept that this is “the way things are done”.
I’m not saying love is a completely irrational decision – relationships are symbiotic, even alchemical – love is greater than the sum of its parts, and maybe, just maybe, everyone’s a winner.