by Sunetra Senior

This Valentine’s Day was distinctive. In addition to the usual encouragement of self-love, and sending of gushing gifs amongst female friends, more people were sending greetings to family members and stressing the importance of acts of love within the community. Ash Sarkar, Senior Editor of Novara Media, said emphatically in a video message: ‘when you stop a charter flight from taking off and deporting asylum seekers, that’s love’. Perhaps an effect of delayed liberal mobilisation, after such angry right-wing resurgence, the concept of growing close to one another is being gradually – literally – redefined to be more liberal.

If you know me, you know I always encourage a certain degree of emotional intimacy within both my female and male friendships, and as stated in prior pieces for The Norwich Radical, such as Normalising CBT, and The Urgency of Sisterhood in 2017, the resolve to foster psychological well-being and bonds over prescribed societal boundaries. Especially now, given the ambiguous socio-political climate. The concepts of treating each other more sentimentally and not being afraid to update our inner lives along with the latest gadgets, were ideas touched upon in these previous pieces, and give useful context here. In Normalising CBT, I asked why we wouldn’t treat our consciousnesses in the same way we do tech? Refine; re-wire them to serve us better in the rapidly moving, mechanised modern day. For example: the default practice being to go for cognitive behavioural therapy, helping more people to organise and process their feelings, not lashing out others and themselves. In The Urgency of Sisterhood, I urged women in particular to refocus themselves on each other as much as their own autonomy, at a time of a terrifying misogyny. And that was before Greer.

I always encourage a certain degree of emotional intimacy within both my female and male friendships

Now, when feelings of loneliness and emptiness are undeniably coinciding with the disenchanted and apathetic politics of the mainstream – in both disaffected working-class communities and the snobby left –  we must acknowledge a specific relationship between all these worlds. Universally, there is an unconscious compulsion towards insular thinking and construction of the traditional family unit. As stated in another article, How Corbyn’s Party Could be the Real Life Red Pill, financial constriction, a civilised way of threatening a person’s life, further drives people to stick impulsively together. But as right as it immediately seems, this is superficial, short-term safety. Historically, this has been a frustrating oversight for the LGBTQIA+ community. When marital and consequent financial legal rights are only afforded to heterosexual couples, society forwards the idea that partnerships are just a conduit for procreation, and that forming individual units are the only mode of functioning.

The imagining of same-sex arrangements, especially between women, have always been an ideological danger to this. In order for the national system to operate and triumph over others, the countries of the West needed obedient, efficient workers who would not interfere with an old order of economic distribution, which excluded females and foreigners and needed enough men and women together to produce children for an eager, young workforce. Working-class families would typically have more children to ensure parental and familial survival. This at once conveniently plumped the pockets of the elites. In retrospect, post-industrial Europe and US has also seen this capitalist system engulfing other cultures, crashing multiple times, and negatively impacting the lives of people across the globe: both physically and emotionally. And, if you too are someone who can’t look Murdoch, even photographically, in the eye, you know the people left at the top are just as psychologically damaged. We live in a social manner that rewards sociopaths and punishes those who show humanity. Thus, as free market capitalism bends to accommodate more people and lifestyles, it finds itself tested to the point of rupture. It can then be very tempting for the majority, creatures of habit that we are, to want to stop, turn a blind-eye and/or reverse communal liberalism. But this is not the smarter or logical solution. It continues to be a primitive response, not far off from caveman cliquing, miring us in the past. The only real way forward is to acknowledge that this rupture must be amended, and that the original model was always defunct.

( Polyamory flag )

Here, the reason I also mention the LGBTQIA+ community, is because it has been sociologically more open to polyamory. Particularly, in the face of political individualism. Affiliated with a more fluid sense of sexuality, the LGBTQIA+ community are naturally positioned to be able to consciously see the freedom in individuality. And sexuality is simply another reflection, albeit viscerally, of the self. If you know yourself to have such an innately alternative way of being to the mainstream, you can feel that there is a plurality of ways to act: to meet and exist with and alongside each other.  However, I am not suggesting an end to the sexual monogamy that couples of all orientations enjoy, but rather an automatic allegiance to an antiquated norm that says that healthy love is only limited to one physical body, both in the collective and biological sense: baby, white, male, female. The discussion goes beyond sexual activity to a deeper expressive place. One that actively promotes inclusion and more benign cultural expansion.

When people remain suspicious of connecting, and by extension allowing their acquaintances to connect with other people, activities and a life outside of them, the defensiveness, not surprisingly, eventually stretches across international boundaries too. The idea of the personal, or rather interpersonal, being political curls itself gently in here.  If we were more connected to a wider base of people, encouraging our friends and partners to be too, we would be moving towards a bureaucratic model that organically fought the cognitive dissonance surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights, and made more people want to help those in emergency states in other countries. All the while pressuring dominant economy to evolve into a friendlier organisation. This would also intimately boost the quality of our romantic lives. Elf Lyons of The Guardian eloquently elaborates, in praise of polyamorous philosophy: “I was entranced by their openness. It seemed symbolic of our changing global world (…) I feel it’s dangerous to think that you’re the only person that can complete someone else’s life, and be their confidant, their friend, their support network and their sexual partner. It’s too much pressure!”

I am not referring specifically to free sexuality but the profound broadmindedness behind it

Again, I am not referring specifically to free sexuality but the profound broadmindedness behind it. As Lyons goes on to say, appreciating the power of connection leads you to constructively ‘drop your ego’ so that instead of stoically enduring hardships alone, unwittingly contributing to a selfish and self-destructive zeitgeist, the default would instead be to reach out to others and drive a wider support system. This mutual familiarity would lay the groundwork for eliminating xenophobia as well as reducing the ‘pressure’ on you partner, and yourself to fill a so-called void. A term for my postmodern paradigm, cursorily but perfectly summed up by a friend, is ‘platonic polyamory’. Interacting more, if not more freely, with others whether or whether or not romantically, would reduce the feeling of isolation experienced by the public as a whole, as well as mending our international relationships and keeping the interaction with our partners emotionally rich, having been informed by varied life sources. If we all gave a bit more to each other, and stopped obsessing over just one other person– really only self-preservation to an extreme and an obsession with ourselves– we would all benefit in a higher sense. No one would feel single on Valentine’s day, and we’d all be a lot happier all year round: no matter how drastically our lives changed. We’d know the person next to us, even on the tube, actually had our backs.

Featured image via Pexels


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