Friday, 2 December 2011
Hogamus Higamus: Conclusion
Okay, let's wrap this up.
The story so far: Monogamy is not natural. It is something our particular society evolved in order to best keep the peace between men & women & society as a whole. It doesn't work for everyone, & men, being naturally polygamous, struggle under it particularly. Women, too, lose out materially by the attractive minority of wealthy, high-status men being limited to supporting only one wife each. But institutionalized polygamy doesn't work well either, it stirs up jealousy in women & leaves the majority of men without partners.
So it's a compromise, an attempt to appease men's polygamy & women's hypergamy & still keep people from raping, pillaging & rioting in the streets. Monogamy increasingly appears to me like the kind of solution a communist state would dream up to keep the greatest number of workers docile - 'one partner per person'. Like the socialist dream itself, it deserves admiration for its generosity of spirit. But, also like socialism, it breaks down because it fails to address very real human needs that are not acknowledged under its particular ideology.
Having peered recently across the great smörgåsbord of human relationships, I find I've come away feeling a certain kind of admiration for all of them: monogamy, polygamy, polyamory... Like most of the major political movements of the past, they are all attempts by individuals & societies to work out the best way of dealing with how to be in this world together, how to balance our own personal needs with the needs & demands of those around us. All have good things about them, all of them address some part of the puzzle, though clearly not the whole.
The central, fundamental reality underlying all of them is that men & women have to come together, one way or another, every generation, or else the human race dies off. How we do that is really just obsessing over details. What is bigger than any of those choices is that we will find each other, fuck each other silly & make some smaller versions of ourselves. Regardless of whatever pretty lies we fill our heads with, our bodies will still do what they need to do, chauffeuring our conscious minds along like passengers.
Bellita, who wrote the second post here, asked me after the last one what my solution was, & in truth, I have been trying to figure that one out myself. I'm not advocating a move to polygamy, at least not on a societal scale. And the situation we have at the moment, where men (& some women) profess to monogamy but engage secretly in promiscuity seems morally problematic & in the bigger picture just a waste of our time & energy, keeping our true wants & desires perpetually under wraps. As Gandhi famously said, "happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony" & clearly this is not possible if we are having to sneak around practicing something we are led to believe is shameful.
I think an answer of sorts begins to emerge the more we simply accept the previously stated models of basic natural 'hardwired' male & female behaviour. This requires us leaving behind the 'double standard' complaint often levelled at men by women, & particularly by feminists. But then that was based upon a fallacy, the notion that men & women are identical, entirely the same. Obviously, we're not. If we recognize that male & female behaviours are endlessly recurring & universal, then moral judgement upon those natural behaviours becomes unnecessary & foolish: We are what we are. Deal with it.
Perhaps what I've been writing here in these posts is more of an overview of our options than an advert for any one of them. I imagine that the final Answer, the final Truth, will necessarily appear paradoxical to our present way of thinking, as that is the nature of the universe. God, The Universe, The Everything - whatever you want to call it - contains everything; black & white, life & death, sunlight & shadow. Living vegetation grows out of death & waste. Good people can do terrible things. A person you hate can carry out acts of extraordinary kindness. A saint can be born from the belly of a murderer.
Rather than just putting forth another fixed position, another ideological stance, the answer, it seems to me, is much more to do with a paradigm shift in our perception of reality & our place within it.
There is REALITY - whatever this ever-unfolding phenomenon, ultimately beyond our comprehension but of which we are an intrinsic, inseparable part is - & then there are all our many little ways of interpreting & dealing with that reality. Beliefs are temporal, & they change. But the greater reality continues above & beyond whatever laws we pass, bibles we write & stories we make up about it. I guess if I'm putting any suggestion forth at all it is that we try move that underlying reality to the centre stage, make that the focus of our daily attention rather than the barely acknowledged wall we hang our (let's face it, largely delusory) beliefs upon.
This applies in every aspect of life. For example, music is a human constant: all human societies we know of have it, the form it takes is really of much less interest or importance than the fact that it exists at all, is unique to humanity & is universal. Whether it is nose-flutes or sitars, wah-wah guitars or flugelhorns, jungle drums or drum & bass, the bottom line is all the peoples of the world make music, & always have. That is the greater reality: the music is the constant, not the form the music takes. And we can understand & judge the meaning & worth of any music better from that higher vantage point than from any fixed position within it.
Religion too, is a human constant, & like music, is as old as humanity itself - older, in fact (neanderthal graves from 100,000 years ago show evidence of ritual burial & a belief in some sort of survival of the soul into an afterlife). In the widest sense it doesn't matter which one you choose, you are still following a unique & essentially human path by choosing it. Your resistance to that as an idea will be directly in proportion to how much you are invested in a particular brand of that religious experience. If you are deeply Christian, you will find that a hard pill to swallow, as will a Muslim, a Jew, or an Atheist.
Let's try apply this to a subject closer to the matter in hand, like the age of consent, an issue relating to men & women which often provokes heated debate &, more often than not, shaming language directed at men.
At 16, 17, years of age, girls bodies are, biologically speaking, at the height of their fertility, & in the best physical shape they will ever be in to give birth. Their bodies are still supple & elastic enough to spring back quickly after childbirth with the fewest health risks. As we know, men want youth & fertility. Nature wants them to want youth & fertility: most of what we universally regard as sign of female attractiveness are simply indicators of that. All the signals of health, youth, strength & vitality are nature's way of attracting males attention to indicate they are now ripe for childbearing.
So, that's the reality. And if we look at all the thousands of human societies we know of, both now & in the past, we see that it is entirely universal: There is no society in which fortysomething women with a long & varied sexual history are the most highly sought after sexual partners. If we can calmly & dispassionately look at the situation we must accept that this is nature, this is simply how it is.
But, to have a society where all men are only involving themselves with 16-year old girls would be a nightmare, & terribly destructive to the infrastructure of society, of family, of the bonds that hold us all together. For a start, most girls at 16 really don't know poo from clay, & are in no position to make such enormous decisions about the future of themselves, their child or the boy or man they are with. In addition to that, it would leave the rest of the women - & even those same women - in a much worse position than they are now. It would also mean that all the men would be fighting over a tiny proportion of the available women. So we can look at that situation for what it is, & openly accept that reality, yet choose to work towards maintaining the infrastructure of a society where women are cared for & valued for something more than just breeding.
But doing that doesn't change the reality. And it doesn't obscure that reality for ideological reasons. It doesn't require us to lie to ourselves or each other, only to act responsibly in the face of it.
In Spain the age of consent is 13. Does this mean the Spanish people are a race of evil paedophiles? In Albania & Austria the age is 14, Germany too. And Hungary. And Italy. And Portugal. In Greece it's 15. In some parts of America it's as high as 18, though a hundred years or so ago it was as low as 12. In Mexico it's still 12. In Britain it used to be 12, way back in the day but was lowered to 10 in the 16th century...
Which of these is correct? Lined up like that, doesn't it become obvious that none of them are? And that, in fact, none of them could be?
The legality of sex is fluid, malleable. But in our search for truth, our personal morality has to be above the laws of the day. Just because something's against The Law doesn't mean, in the greater scheme of things, that it's wrong. And just because something's legal doesn't make it good & beneficial. Wouldn't it be better to simply accept that different people mature sexually at different speeds? Would it not be the most sensible & humane thing to try have that acknowledged to some degree in the eyes of the law?
A shared morality is essential for any human society to continue, but the details of morality are also changeable, depending on where (& when) you are living. It's hard for people with strong political or religious beliefs to understand this but it needs to be accepted if one is going to progress to any sort of wider understanding of the world & larger truths. After all, a polygamous society is no more or less moral than a monogamous one. And in the larger scheme of things they are barely different at all.
So thought must be given to how we can arrive at a shared view of beneficial acts. We could attempt to work towards the development of a morality which acknowledges universally recurring constants as reality but seeks to choose the best, highest, noblest way of dealing with that reality for the greatest number of people, openly & above board. Then, if some of us fall short of that ideal - when some of us fall short of that ideal - we can hope to be treated with compassion rather than judgement & condemnation, because we know as a society that our 'flaws' are a simply a part of the way we are, & we are not enshrining fantasy into our moral beliefs.
Okay, another one:
Whenever I hear of women complaining 'why doesn't he want to commit? Why doesn't he want to settle down?' I always think the answer is actually blatantly obvious: it's because he's not a woman. A woman is driven to settle down & feather the nest. A man isn't. Again, this can be explained by simple biology, it doesn't require belief in any political ideology or holy book to make it make sense, we can verify it with our own eyes. We don't demonize women for this biological imperative. In fact we make it the basis of our society's sexual morality.
Likewise, a man is driven to briefly be with as many women as he can be. That is his role. It's been estimated that a man in his lifetime could father up to around 50,000 children, without necessarily ever meeting any of them. A woman, on the other hand, could have at the every most, what? Twenty? Thirty? (Ouch). And generally speaking women do know they've given birth.... This huge difference in the amount of investment makes women put far more consideration into their choice of sexual partner. Again, there is no good or bad here, this is simply nature - God, the universe, whatever - working through us.
You can't apply female biological imperatives to men. Because men don't have them. Men have different ones. A problem we have had in our society for a long time (even before feminism) is that men fulfilling their half of the equation & following their natural impulses are judged to be exhibiting not male behaviour, but bad behaviour. However, it must be said that there are more immediately obvious ill-effects accompanying unchecked male promiscuity than the female drive to settle down. Men created civilization, women created society. Women are the glue that holds the tribe together. Men are the architects, the builders of all the concrete things we see. Without either of these contributions we'd have nothing. The men would never have stopped fighting long enough to accomplish anything great, & the women would still be living in mud huts with leaky roofs & no plumbing.
As I said before, the difference between monogamy & polygamy, from a higher vantage point, is actually quite small. Monogamy & polygamy both entail marriage, after all - under both regimes the men do not just fuck & run, but stay around to support the woman through childbirth & beyond, even though there is far less immediate benefit for them than for women. For that, the countless men of the past deserve our respect & gratitude too, along with all the fathers out there still, doing what needs to be done with ever-decreasing reward in a world which punishes & demeans them at every turn.
The choice is not between polygamy & monogamy but between widespread societally responsible behaviour & serving only ones own interests. Women need to practice this just as much as men - 'personal empowerment' & entitled princess behaviours are just as much of a threat to society as men's unchecked promiscuity. And goddamn it, it would be nice to live in a world which points that out just once in awhile.
We're one big tribe, one big family. The banks & the governments & the high-street stores might not want you to remember that, but we are. And we need to look out for one another a little better than we often do.
I hope this has been an interesting journey of sorts. I guess if I had to restate the main point again it would be this: It is better to accept reality & build our moralities - sexual or otherwise - around acting responsibly in the face of it, rather than project ideologically-based fantasies onto the much bigger, messier, ever-changing living world of green vegetation & flesh & blood that we have always lived in & always will.
Here endeth the lesson.