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Friday, December 09, 2005

Tear apart the fabric of society?

Hell yeah! Bring it on!

Prior to my reading of various views on marriage yesterday I was all "live and let live" about it. Marriage is cool. People should be free to choose. Blah blah bah.

Now I am not at all happy and calm. Now my insides are all irritated. It is funny the power that words have. Now I am all ready to join the feminazis and turn socialist. All because of the absolutely ridiculous-to-me arguments of the conservative that marriage must only be between a man and a woman. Apparently aything else is tearing apart the fabric of society.

This is my understanding of the non-suze side of the argument:
  • Marriage is a time-honoured tradition that is a cornerstone of "family" and therefore a fundamental building block of society.
  • Marriage must only be between a man and a woman.
  • If our idea of "marriage" changes then society will unravel and this is bad.
  • The socialists understand the importance of marriage as the basis of society and this is why they are trying to destroy it by allowing gays to marry.
  • Even though the government should butt out of people's lives when it comes to money and almost everything else, they must uphold the sanctity of marriage and stop anyone who is not a man and a woman getting married because that is bad.
I may not have got this completely right because my head is all fuzzy with annoyance.

What Suze thinks about Marriage
Marriage is a word. A very loaded word. A word with an idea behind it. An "institution." But I think that the idea of what marriage is and should be differs greatly amongst individuals. There are many different ideas about what marriage is. If someone says "marriage" to me, this is what I think...and it looks nothing like the cornerstone of society:

Marriage, like all "institutions" is actually a completely personal/individual thing. I think that people tend to assume that other people have the same idea behind the word as they do, but I think that is very rarely the case. And trying to force people to have the same ideas as you is silly and limiting and never going to happen.

There is an awful lot of assuming going on with "institutions". For example, if you say marriage should only be between a man and a woman for the purposes of child-raising, and that is why it is wrong for gays to marry....well, how do you know that all the other male-female marriages think the same about the institution of marraige as you do? What if they don't? What if a male and female who are married have the "wrong" idea about what marriage is. Should they be allowed to get married then? Wouldn't they be even more undermining to the institution of marriage by living the "wrong" idea of marriage? I think it highly likely that there are some gay couples that regard marriage with more respect than many non-gay couples.

Then there is the argument that children do best under with a mother and a father in a nuclear family- and my goodness, look at all the research to prove it. Well I think that is complete crap - partly because my faith in "research" is not exactly high (and partly form personal experience/observation). My opinion is that almost every conceivable kind of family models can work (although I probably have a different idea about the word "work"). I think that the nuclear family model is not the only successful family model. I think it is the perfect model for many people, but it is also a crap model for many other people. Of course, if you believe that people should be socialised in certain ways, then enforcing the nuclear family is a great way of doing that....just as breaking down the nuclear family is a great way of socialising people.

I guess it IS a war about how we want society to be. Even though socialists are the only ones called "socialists", every other group is trying to do the socialising thing - all as meddlesome as each other. The conservatives want society to go back to the good old days. The socialists want to force in a new order. Of course, neither will really work - going backwards is going against the flow and there are too many people who don't fit into the good old days, and I'm not sure the good old days were all that good anyway. On the other side of things, forcing a new order on people who don't want a new order is just going to get nasty and the new order that is being forced doesn't look very fun at all. Me, I just want to do my own thing and not have either group telling me what is right and wrong and not feel like a complete outcast all the time.

Marriage is frequently a fear-based thing. For example fear of: God, being alone, not passing on your genes, not following the script. I know I have pissed off several friends with this opinion, but they haven't ever managed to convince me otherwise.

Marriage is just a word, which contradicts the popular idea that "marriage is special and other people can't use the same word for their freaky behaviours because that would ruin the specialness of the word for me and other normal people". I really don't get this.

I define my own "special", I thought other people did the same. If I think something is special and important then it is mostly to do with what I think about it, and a little to do with what friends and family think about it. It has absolutely nothing to do with what random strangers think about it. Sure, marriage should be special, but trying to restrict other people's use of a word because it tarnishes your use of the word...I don't get it. Surely, you know that other people are probably going to have a different idea behind the word that you do...and that whatever they do they can't tarnish your idea. And really, why care?

I have had friends who have said they didn't get the fuss about marriage until they got married and then...wow it was just all different...and that marriage is really important and that I didn't understand. It is kind of funny that many of those same friends are now divorced.

Other relationship types have the same legal and property rights. So if the word is so un-important, why are people so adamant about wanting to use it?
Yeha, yeah. I know the rules about commenting twice in sucession. However, this quote seemed like one you might like.

Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.
- Walter Lippmann
TCM, there are rules about commenting twice? Not on my blog :)

As well as not understanding the defense of the marriage word I also don't understand why people are so adamant about using it.

My totally unsubstantiated made-up-out-of-thin-air-theory about it is this:
People who don't fit in to what is considered the "normal" society (eg gays) get sick of feeling like outcasts. They face a lot of discrimination on a regular basis. So when people tell them, no you can't use the marriage word because you aren't like us it feels like even more rejection. I think maybe the stand for the ability to marry is a stand to say yes we are a valid and important part of society and representative of lots of things as well as marriage.

I also think you can't stop people from using a word....and that a society that tries to do that is not a society I want to be part of. I think you are on the "you are free to do what you like but leave the word 'marriage' for a man and a woman" side?

Why? Would it be as offensive if a gay couple told people they were married even thought they weren't actually legally married? What about if the gay couple are not legally married, and dont tell others they are married, but htink of themselves as married? Is that OK?
Ah, commenting twice makes you look fanatical and I don't do long flowing beards and prophetic eyes very well. But yup, I am on the side that wants 'marriage' for a man and a woman but trying to explain why is difficult. It's different being married - things change. Perspectives change, attitudes change. I used to believe in very Liberal viewpoints until I got married, for example.

So why does everybody want to get married? Because of their love for eachother? But they could have that love without being married. Then is it their commitment to eachother? But they could have that commitment without being married as well. (Yeah, maybe fear ... but that doesn't seem like the prime motivator for me) Eventually though that married union creates a child unless through some biological reason the couple cannot have children. And that is ultimately the reason/result of marriage. A family as it has been for thousands and thousands of years. Whilst there are always outliers the majority of families consisting of mother, father and children are the solid building blocks of a community and a healthy society. This is not to say that homosexual couples are inferior. This is not to say that single-parent families are deficient. Nor does it mean that traditional family units are perfect - many cases of them are totally mucked up.

A Russian colleague told me in earlier days bachelors were taxed higher than married couples with children. The reason being that those parents took up the responsibility to raise a child which penalised them financially and socially. At the same time, on a very raw resource level, they were creating something that would be of benefit to the society in tax payments and a variety of other ways. The bachelors had a real easy life, and thus the decision was made to tax them more to put them on equal footing with married with children couples.

I laughed at that, but there is a glimmer of truth in the responsibilities that traditionally married couples take on. Their lives change - you've noticed the selfsame change in your friends. Suddenly life becomes more about another person than about yourself and while it's wonderful you suddenly realise that things like free time to relax, to go watch Narnia or King Kong are simply gone. I can't even remember when the last time was I actually managed to get into a nice restaurant and can't see it happening anytime soon. And that's not even counting the impact financially. It is a sacrifice - one I'm sure all parents would gladly make many times over.

I think most of the people arguing *for* marriage remaining a word for man and woman are arguing for something special for themselves. Maybe a distinguishing feature? (My evil thinking twin says: Mark of the Beast!) But I likened it in this post to the French's use of the word Champagne. Perhaps it is for a a bit of recognition of the work and responsibility going into a marriage / child producing union? I think that is "why". But a more accurate answer would be: "Because it feels right". And that sounds silly, but as you rightly pointed out though, the whole debate is silly because people will think whatever they want to anyway.

Maybe I am just an old, crusty, conservative though, but to me the cornerstone of a society is the family. There is a biological and social balance to it that will generally ensure well adjusted children and thus a future generation for all of us. And I kinda like that idea of white picket fences and happy families.
Oh. I think the whole Champagne thing is silly too :)

The creating a child thing is not a factor of marriage either. Lots of marriages don't produce children and lots of non-marriages do. Lots of "traditional" marriages bring their kids up in less than ideal ways. Lots of non traditional relationships bring kids up in really good ways.

A family as it has been for thousands and thousands of years
For some people, in some societies.

families consisting of mother, father and children are the solid building blocks of a community and a healthy society
I disagree - and I think neither of us will convince the other. A nuclear family is seen as the solid building blocks of the type of community you want to live in. A nuclear family is seen as one of several different types of building blocks in the community I want to live in. Community and family are important, but I don't see that it has to be mostly traditional families. Of course, I am not exactly a conservative and I associate with freaks and geeks :)

I think that it is very unlikely that a community based soley on the traditional nuclear family will survive that far into the future. It will have to change or divide. I think that the increase in diversity and freedom (population, communication, travel, healthcare) means that the basic building blocks of society can't remain the same and cater to the majority of people.

Perhaps it is for a a bit of recognition of the work and responsibility going into a marriage / child producing union? I think that is "why"
Raising children is a sacrifice, but it is also a gift - those bachelors were being taxed in more ways than just financially. Although the raising children aspect has nothing to do with the word marriage. Sometimes children and marriage occur together. Sometimes they do not. Perhaps you are arguing for the word marriage to be reserved from those committed heterosexual male and female couples who conceive and raise children together?

the cornerstone of a society is the family. There is a biological and social balance to it that will generally ensure well adjusted children and thus a future generation for all of us
I agree with this. Perhaps our differences come about from our definition of "family".

"a more accurate answer would be: Because it feels right"
That is a good answer :) I suspect that everyone who wants to get married would give the same answer.

BTW...can people own a word?
I'd be interested to hear of societies where the majority of families consisted of other social groupings. Particularly if they still existed.

Lots of "traditional" marriages bring their kids up in less than ideal ways. this though might be part of the arguments for moral conservatism. Children used to be the province of marriage, perhaps why marriage and family goes hand in hand when viewed with a certain dictionary. The one results in the other to my mind, because if children are not a factor there is no real point to getting married, is there? Then a de-facto relationship would grant you the same legal status and all that marriage adds onto it is the religious/personal promise to one-another. But that you could have without getting married.


I'm pretty sure that's a word, but in some circles you might get your mouth washed out for using it ;)
Disregarding what we think of Microsoft :p I don't think you should be able to own words. Of course, with all the law type stuff you probably can.

Re the other societies thing: I have no idea. I could be totally wrong about it, it just feels like I'm not totally wrong. I have a sort of example...I am part Fijian. Nowadays (post missionary fear of God instilling) marriage is VERY important in Fiji. Despite this, the family structure is different - it does not feel like a nuclear family, it feels more like a community/village. I doubt that feeling has changed much since marriage was introduced. Yes there is a Mother and a Father and kids, but there are also grandmothers and aunties and uncles and cousins and there are a lot of them. Children are often "brought up" more by other family members.

The Fijian side of my family feels bigger and different to the Pakeha traditional nuclear Both the Fijian and Pakeha sides of my family involve "marriage." But "family" nd "marriage" feel differemnt on each side...there are different roles, expectations, responsibilities, definitions of who is family. Without a doubt my Fijian family is both more cohesive, inclusive, extensive and unconditionally supportive than my Pakeha family. There are negative and postive aspects to both, but they both work.
Ok, that makes sense. I've long gotten the impression that in most British colonies the traditional Pakeha 'families' are isolated from the larger family grouping. There's probably no basis for it, but it does seem that way some days.

If I make a word up though, can I own it? Then I might just step out of this debate and call what me and the wif have "zooplefish". Then everybody else can do with marriage what they will...
Zooplefish?! :) A perfect end to this debate because really there is no answet.

Although, I'd run that word past the wif before referring to your marriage as zooplefish...
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