Thursday, February 5, 2009

The theory of religion - Freud's Totems and Taboo

Despite the fact that I suspect a lot of people find my columns boring or difficult (I have to add, I find Michel Foucault difficult, I find the language of philosophers tedious, I understand), nevertheless I need to talk about something, I scribbled fast and furiously just as my lecturer was talking. I could not help at that moment to present my criticisms against Sigmund Freud's Totems and Taboo. To begin with, he's a humanist evolutionist, I have nothing against humanism nor evolutionism per se, but it becomes problematic when you label an Australian Aborigine then during the late 19th century as being a backward peoples. First and foremost is the injunction of labelling aboriginal or pre-literate societies/communities and placing them on the evolutionary scale. What basis do you have of placing communities as part of the evolutionary process then proclaiming that Westernized science is at the end of that scale? This is just the same problem as those idiots who say that they don't live on trees in Borneo, sure no community on this island live on trees, people do squid fish using technology either simple or complex, I have never heard of an 'Orang Ulu' [sic] of ever living on a tree. This is just the comparison of placing man, a homo sapien sapien man with that of an ape or a monkey, not that apes or monkeys do not deserve any respect either. But the problem here alongside this group of Borneans who say they do not live on trees is the fact that there exists this 'looking down' this 'condescending' of other communities and cultures. There is no justification for placing communities within the evolutionary scale, culture cannot be explained through science. Leave culture to trained social anthropologists and sociologists, let not so-called scientists who are not even trained properly with even proper terminology let alone biased ideas of ethnocentrism be giving comments and leaving after their dead, their theories to be 'scientific' and the 'truth'. Haven't you people learned? Science, is changeable, its malleable, everyday new facts are unearthed to replace older ones, they do not stay static. It is continuously challenged and tested.

The other thing you psychologists must explain to me is the idea of the 'Primordial father', one cannot ignore the idea that Freud's original analaysis of the mind is definitely sexist in agenda. Why do I have penis envy? Sure I am hostile to my mother at times but I am also as equally as hostile to my father at times, I do not envy the penis! You think that I envy the penis, but the truth remains hidden, womanhood is a conception created within one's own community and society, there exist other conceptions of womanhood of different societies who treat sexuality differently. If that is so how is it conceivable to place them within that evolutionary scale? Of 'blablabla at the beginning...backward tribes worship the Mother Goddess..', then according to evolutionists..'where then they ascribe anthropomorphic images of the Primordial Father, the Mother Goddess becomes obsolete and only practiced by backward peoples...' then and now, 'religion becomes obsolete as man will no longer aspire to need a God/Goddess/Deity/Whatever, and will come to depend on themselves for spiritual fulfilment..'.

The explanations of why people need God and religion vary, some say because of hard times that need explaining, some say because of the original ancestor worship, others like Freud say it is a necessary tool to keep the chaos within ourselves in an ordered fashion. I do not agree nor disagree with any of these propositions, what becomes disagreeable however, is the sexist agenda that is apparent in Freud's conception of womenhood. It is as if women are but passive players in this world built by men, when in reality this is far from the truth. Religious history such as that by the time of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, are patterned with lives of women and men who help shape religion, religion was not the work by one agent, Muhammad, but rather multiple agents such as Aisyah and the 'Affair of the Necklace', Khadijah, the prophet's first wife played an important role in the conception of Islam, in a conjectural analysis of religion as played out by patriarchal ideas, like the one displayed by Sigmund Freud assumes that women do not play a role at all. We are but passive observers to be passed on from man to man, how does he know this?

What I wish to see in the realm of the trained intelligentsia, instead of feminists bickering with one another, is their powerful deconstruction of all this patriarchal agenda that is oh so apparent and being used as 'normal academia'. Deconstruction was the hallmark of feminism, where is it now? It should pervade not only Women and Gender studies but rather the whole picture of academia.

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