Because it is. The resignation of Rebekah Brooks demonstrates that as much as anything, a thousand commentators have affirmed. She goes before James. But why does family trump friendship and other relationships almost every time?
The knee-jerk response is to cite the genome, though blaming that little tyrant doesn’t seem like a very rich explanation to me, as it doesn’t tell you much about the emotional issues at stake, and that’s the level at which the tension is experienced. So I wonder whether the observation made by Donald Winnicott, that there is no such thing as a baby, goes further.
The thought is that mother and child start out as psychosomatic wholes. When the somatic break has been made, the psychological one persists, before it too negotiates one becoming two as the child discovers its own self. Only then, the child reaches out back to the mother – and father and other family – as it grapples with the continuing trauma of growing up. In other words, these bonds are foundational, the first bonds. As the song has it, if I remember right: the first love is the deepest. Plus the first love has the further advantage that it is mostly unconscious, beyond rational scrutiny or modification. Hence, we know exactly what Elizabeth Murdoch meant when she reportedly accused Brooks of fucking them over: Brooks attempted familial sacrilege.
Now, lovers can compete with the first love, as falling in love replicates the original reaching out, with the added allure that it promises to make it new. That’s irresistable, which is why we all do it. And individuals leave their families of origin and their new family quite spontaneously claims precedence.
But friendship hasn’t really hope. It can be very deep love, but it comes second – literally in the order of a life and so also in order of priority.