The absence of the father

Interview in "Noi Genitori & Figli" - May 2009

Chiara Mori interviews Marguerite Peeters.

—How could we describe the figure of the father in the gender culture context ?
The drama of today’s western culture is the pervasive absence of the father. How did this happen ? In the course of last century, Western civilization, regressing back to the Greek “Oedipus myth” revived by Sigmund Freud in 1910, killed the father, seen as the source of repression, the enemy of individual “freedom”. This cultural development was the logical consequence of Nietzsche’s proclamation of the “death of God” at the end of the 19th century and reflected the acceleration of the western secularization process. May 68 consummated the “murder of the father” in western culture : authority, parents, rules, norms and laws (civil, moral or religious), dogma, institutions, government, order, civilization, reason, reality itself were discarded as contrary to a new, emerging ethic of the “right to choose”, which quickly and powerfully imposed itself in the West in the 1970s and 80s.

Meanwhile the feminist revolution, in its radical aspects, had deconstructed motherhood, and the sexual revolution had replaced “the spouse” with multiple “partners”. In other words, western culture was moving from the death of God to the death of man. In the 1990s, this cultural evolution took a global normative form. The gender equality concept, endorsed by all UN member states at the Beijing conference in 1995, stipulates that male and female roles are “social constructs” that must be deconstructed when they get in the way of women’s “empowerment”. The global gender culture is about power, possession and lust : equal power between men and women in society ; possession of one’s individual “rights”, including the right to sexual orientation ; and pursuit of pleasure as a politically acceptable and indeed accepted goal. The rebellion against the father was the starting point of this dramatic cultural process, which the West is now exporting and fast imposing to the developing world.

—What are the legal implications of the gender perspective ?
The general trend in Europe for the past fifteen years has been quiet but effective legal alignment with the Beijing “global norms” of the gender culture. But I would say that even more importantly than to legal developments, parents and educators need to pay close attention to cultural developments. The culture we live in educates us all, especially young people, even if often imperceptibly : through music, ads, fashion, movies, the Internet, the media, lifestyles, language, slogans and the reform of school curriculum, from kindergarten to the post-graduate university level. So we must all be fully awake and active in the education of our children’s conscience, reason and heart.

—Which are in your opinion the main tasks of fathers in our society today ?
The dialectic opposition western culture artificially created between authority and love is greatly responsible, I think, for the brutal rejection of authority that happened in 68. Since the 18th century “enlightenment”, both God and the father have been seen are remote, arbitrary sovereign rulers. Love was not part of the picture. The father was not the source of life and of love. He was remote from his children. Drawing lessons from the past, it appears clear that we will not be able to reintroduce the father in today’s culture if fathers are uncommitted and remote. They must be fully engaged in engendering their children to their full maturity, out of disinterested love, each step of the way. Such a commitment draws its strength from the father’s spousal love for the mother. Fathers are primarily called today to be witnesses of fatherhood. Only such a genuine witness can recreate in the hearts of young people a desire to go back to the father.

—Can we speak about a “return of the father figure” ? Are there signs of a greater conviction of the role and responsibility of fathers ?
There is in all human hearts a deep nostalgia for the father, a desire to rediscover and receive anew the love of the father which cannot be eradicated. What the cultural revolution has produced in the West is a society of brothers without a common father. This society is bound to end up in social disorder, incoherence and anarchy. It is not sustainable. Families, societies, the world do need to be governed. They need order and authority. The choice today is between dictatorship and fatherhood : order without love, or the order of love. We are in a cultural combat. There are trends pushing in both directions. Each person must choose.

—What are the activities of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics ?
The Brussels-based Institute was created in 2003 after years of investigation of cultural, ethical and political post-cold war developments at the level of international organizations. The institute keeps on monitoring the evolution of global governance but is increasingly geared towards the production of didactic and training materials, to respond to a growing demand coming from all parts of the world. We are also about to launch a dialoguing activity with young university students on how to get back to what is real, true and good for humanity in this era of globalization. The challenges of the new global culture we live in are complex ; grasping them requires a serious effort. We interact a lot with developing countries, as we believe non-western cultures can help us in the West to get back to the father, the mother, the spouse, if we give them a voice.