Love and Abuse
Connotations and definitions of the positive kind complement each other under the umbrella of love. Acceptance, tolerance, selflessness, unconditionality, eroticism - all seem to form a piece of this undecipherable yet ever-present jigsaw. On the spectrum, love seems to range from neon to pastel brightness and is inherently thought to represent something positive. Abuse, on the other hand, evokes a sense of dread as violent, dark colours lurk beneath its cold yet emotional weight. Do the two converge or are they mutually exclusive? Is the presence of one the absence of another?
Zizek disagrees and victims of abuse agree with Zizek. Sometimes love evokes violence and violence is justified in the name of love. Idealistic expectations are defied by reality and love rots into something lethal- as a tongue that is poisoned, claws that grope, or hands that strike. A cycle of all-consuming passions that demands unconditional acceptance, control, and power is punctuated with occasional treats and kindness in isolation and dependence. Codependency rears its ugly head as the product of these different kinds of love: demanding versus giving, unforgiving versus unconditional, volatile versus patient. As it all comes down to the person expressing the sentiment, one is encouraged to define what love is, how it is to be expressed, and what it is to be loved - so that one indulges in its delights and not its violence.
Love As A Commodity
Lauren Berlant in her work discusses the market of love and its use in the perpetuation of capitalism. The stimulation of desire is a necessary requirement for the thriving of capitalism. Capitalism must create needs to sell its products and sustain itself. It provides what we must want and not what we necessarily need. This in turn makes romantic love the perfect carrier for marketing heterosexuality as the norm and the fantasy one must aim at.
The creation of a commodity has an equal hand in the creation of desire and its normalization. We learn to identify with love in the manner we identify with these commodities. Romance becomes a platform. The ‘heternormative love plot’, as Berlant puts it, is ideological when it makes people believe that their love expresses their own unique identity and construction. The love portrayed must not be generic; people need to feel that their love is unique and one-in-a-million.
Love and Attachment
- Eshaa Wahie
People define love in many different ways. Some people recognise love as closeness, as an infinite intimacy- they talk about love as if it’s a constantly expanding ocean that people cannot help but drown in. Some would describe love as more practical, as a decision that one makes for themselves every day. One says “I cannot live without this”, another says “I can, but I choose not to.” Who is to decide which one is love? Or if they are both love? Can something like love be defined by both, drastically opposite feelings? Is there love in attachment, or is there love in detachment? How are we attached in love?
There are 3 major kinds of attachments in love: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. Basically, Securely Attached individuals are usually known to have had a healthy childhood and are better at approaching intimate interactions. Anxious and Avoidant individuals, however, can have troubles in their relationships due to trauma that may have been caused in their early life. That of neglect, abuse, poor parenting, loss. The way people love reveals the life they have lived, their fears and fantasies. The way people attach themselves shows so much about the way they have been loved. Does attachment, then, mean the bond one is capable of sharing with another? A reflection of all the relationships they have shared throughout their life? Could, then, love exist without attachment?
A lot of philosophies have spoken about how everything is in constant motion, ever-changing. Who we love as who we are today, we may not tomorrow as who we are then. And to attach ourselves in love is to tie ourselves down and throw away the key to our freedom. Is detachment in love a reflection of our fear of attaching ourselves to something that may change? Can one not find freedom in attachment?
Attachment, I believe, is unavoidable in love. It happens effortlessly. Detaching takes work. Love, like everything else, is terrifying, and we are all in the unending quest of figuring out how to make it less so.
Three Types of Love as per the Greeks
The ancient Greeks traditionally described three types of “love” with varying natures, namely Eros, Agape, and Philia. These distinctions have since been deconstructed, reconstructed, and re-imagined, to shape much of what we know about Love. Further, while these distinctions may not necessarily apply to our modern lives they are nevertheless the first step to understanding how the notion of love has developed over centuries.
The word itself stems from the Greek word “Erotoas” which translates to erotic love. Eros, therefore, refers to the type of love that deals with the passionate desire of an object, particularly sexual desire. It arises in response to the beloved’s physical beauty and goodness. However, there are non-sexual interpretations of Eros as well, such as the one given by Soble who describes it as a love that arises in response to merits and is dependant upon reasons.
The concept of Agape is often placed in sharp contrast to that of Eros in the sense that it arises not in response to the beloved’s pre-existing merit but instead creates merit out of love. This type of love is not dependent on reason and simply exists without explanation. To love something/someone in the Agape sense is therefore often considered as one of the basic components of the nature of mankind. This type of love is largely associated with God’s love for humans and vice versa as per the Christian tradition.
Philia refers to the affectionate regard one feels for friends, family members, colleagues, and even their country. As per Aristotle, a person can feel philia towards someone for one of three reasons: their utility, their pleasantness, and their goodness. It does not involve sexual desire and instead focuses on other types of acts of affection such as appreciation, sacrifice, loyalty, etc.
In modern discourse, definitions of human sexuality and sexual orientation rest on an unstable base: the dichotomy of homosexual/heterosexual. According to E. K. Sedgwick, this binary collapses when one considers the absurdity of encompassing all of human sexual experience in “Those who desire X” vs “Those who desire Y”. Whenever a human subject exhibits desire for a particular sexual object, this desire is almost never reducible to a homosexual object-desire or a heterosexual object-desire. Human sexuality operates along various axes, not just the gender of object-choice. Thus, sexual orientation, and sexuality more broadly, must be viewed as a continuum rather than a category.
Politics of Love
-Gauri S. Kumar
To imagine a politics accommodative of love, or one that expresses itself ‘lovingly’, is a challenging intellectual exercise. A salient feature of the last few decades has been the articulation of the violence that underlies political structures. As movements leveraged the information revolution, words like ‘oppression’, ‘systemic violence’ and the like entered political vernacular and became lexical staples of the everyday. It becomes an interesting question to ask- where language is centred on unearthing and unpacking hatred, phobias and violence, how does one make space for love as a genuine, viable political rhetoric? What is the potential for love to coexist with critique and the dismantling of violence?
One perspective on love in politics demands that ideas, values and actions that stem from love ought to be encouraged whereas those grounded in hate ought to be restrained. It claims that tolerance is not a sufficient binding force in politics because it stomachs differences while love accepts and engages with them. However, a politics of love raises pressing questions for the disempowered and marginalised. Does the expectation to extend love to their oppressors rest unfairly on the shoulders of minorities? Bell Hooks claimed that ‘without justice there can be no love’, clarifying that a radical politics of love does not demand unconditional warmth but is conditioned on certain steps being taken to make that love possible. The goal of love is abstract and replete with vagaries. However, it becomes more tangibly achievable when one engages with historical, social and economic contexts to determine who is in need of love and what structures in society are hindrances to love being felt or expressed.
-Srishti Dasgupta Sensarma
Milton Mayeroff’s On Caring was one of the original works of care ethics, but the rise of care ethics as a separate moral theory is most often credited to the works of psychologist Carol Gilligan and philosopher Nel Noddings in the mid-1980s. Both charged male bias with traditional normative approaches, and argued the "voice of care" as a valid alternative to liberal human rights theory's "justice perspective." The ethics of care stands in sharp contrast to ethical philosophies that focus on concepts that emphasize moral behaviour, such as Kantian deontology, utilitarianism, and the theory of justice, and are not intended to be absolute and incontrovertible.
Care ethics is a branch of ethics that says that morality demands that we pay attention to the special relationships we have in our lives. It claims that morality goes wrong when we emphasise impartiality, because it’s our most caring relationships that make our lives worthwhile. It seeks to maintain relationships by promoting a healthy social network of support and care. They often reason that even though we might have a general love for humanity itself, you can’t deny that unconditional love that we only have for the people we know best, the ones with whom we share an intimacy that we simply cannot feel with strangers. However, many ethicists worry that showing preference for the people that you happen to like opens up the door for prejudice, for it is easy to care for those you know and like, but difficult to perform the same duty for those we don’t.