Dependency

Dependency is an undeniable, basic human condition. It is as undeniable as gravity. 

Humans depend on water, air, food, and thus on the earth, on other humans who produce necessary things, and whose care they rely on.

In the existing symbolic order, dependency is seen as a negative condition that has to be overcome. Hence, there is a tendency to delegate it to certain groups: the poor, the ill, children, or, more generally speaking to those „who depend on care.” In so doing, „normal” people, the healthy, strong, and young are at least temporarily being relieved of the task of dealing with their own dependency. However, because all humans are dependent on others due to their natality and could never become strong and healthy without the care of others, this gesture of delegating dependency to others can only be seen as a kind of repression.

Thinking dependency and necessity as contrary to freedom is a habit of thought that stems from ancient Greece—for example from Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Yet, dependency is not contrary to freedom; both conditions exist only in relation to each other.

There are innumerable manifestations of dependency which can be shaped and evaluated. It is possible, for example, to prefer the dependency on a partner over depending on a job or the state—and vice versa. However, it is not possible to totally escape the sphere of necessity and become free in the sense of not being dependent on anyone or anything. 

When we distinguish between different manifestations of dependency rather than between freedom and dependency, the positive aspects of dependency are illuminated too. 

Successful relationships for instance offer an abundance of positive examples for dependencies: Without other people’s care we would not be alive today. We would have died of hunger, of thirst, of deprivation.

Of course, there are still dependencies that seem unbearable, that lead to humiliation and oppression. With regard to a good life, it is an important task to overcome this kind of dependency, and to foster those that have been experienced as fruitful.

To think of dependency as a basic human condition and not as a weakness to be overcome, affords a new look at seemingly well-known phenomena. In politics, the installment of a basic, unconditional non-performance based income could be the first step towards accepting dependency, making it visible instead of covering up the fact that humans are dependent on one another. On a linguistic level, we can stimulate changes: If we say „welfare taker” instead of „welfare recipient” – does it make a difference? In a new symbolic order, dependency has the potential of becoming a new paradigm instead of a personal stigma.

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