Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gay Marriage: Runnin' Out Of Fucks...

A decade ago, Bob Lutz, former chairman of Chrysler and GM, published his list of rules for ballsy businessmen to follow, and among the rules was this gem: when everyone else is doing it, don't!

That's great advice for entrepreneurs going after untapped markets, but when it comes to blogging on political issues, it can be damn hard to follow, because the topic of the day is constantly in your face and people won't shut up about it. These last few days, the topic has been gay marriage, which I personally care very little about and wouldn't ordinarily address.

But given that my Facebook friends list is now littered with red = signs, gray = signs from the libertarians, a few =/= signs from the more religious types, and one joker using the same red = motif with the phrase "let's all just fuck, ok?"; and given that every newspaper over the last few days has splashed the shit on the front page; and given that I can't check my email without the news feed showing protesters and loving gay couples waiting for "justice", temptation to talk about it becomes overwhelming. So here we go.

The Proponents

The proponents of gay marriage push the notion of freedom (absurdly so), but if you want freedom, the best position would be the libertarian one, where government gets out of marriage altogether. You can have a committed relationship without needing a government certificate saying "yep, yer in love!", so what's the advantage? Logically, it makes no sense for liberals to give a shit about marriage as an institution; the notion of an exclusive, traditional lifetime grouping that imposes limitations, costs, and possible punishments on the individual smacks of inequality and exploitation. Maybe you wonder about child custody, but it would be far simpler these days with only one person having legal guardianship over the child. That's about the only thing that matters, because without children, the institution of marriage is pointless. But liberals love marriage as a romantic gesture, so that's what it's been turning into. Liberals know the value of symbolism, and use it well.

Gay marriage matters to the left for two reasons. The first is that married couples enjoy financial and legal benefits, although if that were the primary purpose of supporting gay marriage, then the civil union idea might have actually been taken seriously. Clearly it wasn't. The second reason is the real reason: because they want to fast-forward the public's acceptance of homosexuality as being absolutely equal to heterosexuality. It's cultural manipulation, and no other purpose makes sense. Bestowing the title of marriage on gay relationships pushes the perception that those relationships are legitimate. Again, they know symbolism.

The timing is excellent, because the moral ecosystem surrounding marriage and child-rearing has changed radically and supporters of gay marriage have used it.

One of those changes is that couples who procreate are no longer required by society to raise their children. Giving up a child for adoption is not seen as shameful or irresponsible, and in fact can now pass as a sign of maturity for a woman. The result of this has been less of what we've called "shotgun marriages" and simply less of a connection between sex and childbirth; adoption was an emergencies-only proposition in the past, but no more. With the decline in the expectation that a child's biological parents raise them, marriage seems to be less focused on providing a child with structure, and is more focused on emotions; if the parents want to raise the child, then it's all well and good, but they aren't required to. The most important part of being a parent today is that you really, really want to have a child.

I have serious doubts as to whether enthusiasm is the most important criterion for good parenting, but the specifics of that question matter less to those who support gay relationships. They have taken the opportunity to retain some semblance of family attitude towards marriage by saying that gays can adopt, and make the claim that therefore, the procreative difference between straight and gay couples is null. All that remains is to push the non-progressives in society into treating the new type of family equally. They don't phrase it that way, because it can start to sound like they are telling people what to do, which they are. But they know people well enough to emotionally engineer a coalition instead of looking pushy, so they are going to win.

The Opposition

The opponents of gay marriage I know are split between two reasons for their opinion. The first is religious, which should be self-explanatory; religious people, believing their rules have greater value than the desires of individuals, don't want their children growing up in a society that insults their once-respected worldview at every turn. Christians have been made very aware that the libertarian notion of every individual living without affecting others doesn't work, and they know that acceptance of gay marriage is another stake in the heart of their perspective.

The second opposing reason has to do with the value and definition of family. I'm of the second school, because I'm simply disgusted with people for considering the structural value of conventional, blood-tied family obsolete.

I hate to be repetitive, but if you would, take a minute to appreciate just how much family has changed over the last century. A sixty percent divorce rate, a viciously large generation gap that sees children disrespecting their elders like never before, and a near-absolute expectation that children will be raised more by schools and step-parents than by biological family... These things take their toll.

Marriage, without the romanticism, would probably be outlawed if we were starting over today; people regularly prove themselves incompetent to make such arrangements that last until death with heavy financial consequences for breaking it, and in other cases, the government has taken it upon themselves to dissuade individuals from signing into agreements that have a high chance of screwing up their lives. But the romantic image of marriage still makes people demand it, so the social response has been to make breaking that contract easier when the urge comes up.

The underlying purpose of committed relationships is that we have always needed to team up to raise families for practical reasons, and with the advent of government support, the economic basis for the institution of marriage is effectively dying. The family as a support and investment organization makes sense when there is no other form of reliable support to fall back on. Family is about dedication, trust and reliability, and it's become very clear that those features of marriage no longer operate as they used to. Gays are not to blame for this. If you want to assign blame, you'd be better off looking to the welfare state and the no-fault divorce. These are changes of the 60's and 70's having made their mark on social attitudes, coming home to roost a generation later.

Given that, you have to ask why marriage continues to exist. For some people, they might realize the lifestyle options have no depth, that living for self-interest sucks after you go through the cycle of bachelor-to-committed-to-disgruntled-to-bachelor over and over again, but long vision is not this generation's strong suit. Really, it's probably just an accident; we have centuries of romanticizing true love and consummating it with marriage, and that's the way the narrative flows for us. We aren't too capable of seeing it differently at this point. I have nothing but admiration for my friends who continue to believe that true love is marriage and actually stick with it tenaciously, but they are definitely a minority. It gets more grating to see those who ecstatically get married, get disillusioned after a little while, go through hell getting divorced, then meet someone new and do exact same thing all over again. Most people I know can lay claim to that story. They lose money, they get angry to the point of violent, they have children who enjoy all the pleasures of split custody, and they refuse to remember it as soon as a new partner appears, like a George Orwell novel where the popular image of the institution overpowers the observed reality. It was never about being happy; I know more unhappy married couples than happy ones, and they would all probably be happier without that damned piece of paper. Commitments do not happen for the sake of happiness. Commitment happens for the sake of stability, which happens because children need it, and parents have always had to sacrifice in order to provide it for their children.

Without the practicals, we're probably just seeing the slow death of marriage, caused by the institution's lack of economic value. The word "marriage" will continue to be thrown about, but it's not what it was and it's losing relevance. It's just this generation's version of "going steady" and the law will continue to adapt to the immaturities of those who sign up for it.

What Matters to Me

First, I'll tell you what doesn't matter to me: Sex.

I don't give a damn whether or not you are having sex with anyone - animal, vegetable, or mineral - so long as your selection isn't screaming "NO" or bleating loudly in the vain hope that the farmer will show up with a shotgun. 

I don't care about love, either, which is the fallback justification for all causes liberal. If for no other reason, I don't see this as relevant because I've never known anyone who has only ever loved one person. If love is the underlying purpose of our relationships, then marriage as a lifelong commitment should be outlawed to keep people from attaching themselves to one person at the cost of others in a way they will later regret. Those who believe that love is somehow dependent on marriage - that legalizing gay marriage is akin to legalizing gay love - understand nothing of marriage, and probably understand nothing of their own motivations.

What matters to me is this shit getting over and done with. I'm tired of thinking about it. It's just culture war, and the winners and losers are decided more by who has support in the press than by anything else.

This is going to happen, people. The other side has the power today. Their desire to be liberators and civil rights heroes is more powerful than the desire to live in a culture that works. You can adapt, or get pissed. I get pissed in my weaker moments, because I do think that the strictures of society are generally what makes society feasible and what gives character to our personal development, while our emotional, Epicurean ways are the worst and most childish part of who we are. But then I remember that I have the option to not care, and I can start the process of distracting myself. It would be really nice if the shit just got passed and then went away, but then we get to see what horrid injustice they will attack next while they're high on victory juice.

In some cities, it's a bad idea to walk around with cash; in America generally, I think it's a bad idea to walk around with fucks to give, because it's gonna hurt if you ever have the urge to give one of these precious fucks and do it. My fucks are reserved for people I trust and understand, and this attitude is required when you live in an individualist society.

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