It is in the context of that large inquiry into what should be the deeper connection with meaning and value on the part of progressives that I decided to explore some ideas that the noted social thinker, Riane Eisler, has been promoting in her own work. These ideas concern the domain of "family values" --i.e., ideas of what is important and of positive value in how families are constituted and how they function-- and they concern also her perception of how progressives have made a grave error in relinquishing the issue of family values to the right wing or, as she terms them, the "regressives."
I requested of Ms. Eisler that she join me in a written process to discuss these ideas of hers in a public interview, and she has graciously consented. This interview, like the previous interview I conducted of Mr. Bruce Fein --the conservative jurist who has had the clear-sightedness and courage to denounce the Bushite dismantling of the Constitution-- will be published here in regular installments, as each round of our exchange is completed.
Now to introduce Riane Eisler.
Question from Schmookler:
In your recent writing, you have said that it has been "disastrous" for those on the progressive side of the American body politic to relinquish to the conservatives -to the "regressives," as you term them-the work of defining "family values" in our political discourse.
Could you explain, please, what you think is disastrous about leaving this matter of "family values" to the conservatives?
Response from Eisler:
Families are the primary transmitters of values. It is in families that new members of society children receive their primary education about what is normal and moral. This fact lies behind the findings from my cross-cultural and historical research showing that the structure of families has direct implications for politics and public policy.
Even in nations where there are elections, unless exposed to alternatives, people tend to vote in ways that unconsciously replicate their early family experiences. Thus, studies show that men raised in highly punitive families tend to vote for "strong-man" leaders and support punitive rather than caring social policies.
Sadly, progressives have failed to recognize these connections and this failure has been a major factor in the current political regression. Using slogans like "traditional values," U.S. fundamentalists stress the "headship" of the father in a punitive family where women and children are subordinate to the will of the father the kind of family that prepares people to defer to "strong" leaders who brook no dissent and use force to impose their will.