THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 398, December 17, 2006
"The Great Moratorium"
Morals and Morality
Credit The Libertarian Enterprise
As most of you know, I've written several times on various issues touching on morals and morality, including marriage, abortion, alternative lifestyles, and other personal issues that are strictly between an individual and their own conscience and beliefs. I've decided to revisit the topic(s) and go over a few things that concern me.
During the years of the Bush White House, it has been an overwhelming assumption that the state can regulate morality, to conform with some perceived societal norm. The hot button issue for most of that time has been either 'gay marriage' or abortion.
Abortion is a complicated issue, with many and various ramifications. The first and most obvious is the woman's right to decide what to do with her own body. There is also the issue of when exactly human life begins, and at what point it becomes a crime to abort a fetus. Where the problem comes in is that different groups have differing agendas, and all of them are extremely shrill and overly fanatic when it comes to upholding their own viewpoints. To me, it is relatively simple, but then, I'm just a simple old bear. Life begins at birth. Up until that point, the fetus is part of a woman's body.
Organized religion, on the other hand, or at least the most vocal segments of it, hold that life begins at conception. To be honest, there is some truth in this view, as well. Where the problem comes in is that no one is willing to listen to anyone else's point of view.
Like many of us, I am no great fan or organized religion. To me, a person's spiritual views are their own, and no one has the right to impose their own views on anyone else. I have my views, which work for me. Others have their own, and that's fine, as long as they don't try to make me conform to what they believe.
Another area where organized religion has created a huge issue where none really exists is in the area of marriage. Marriage, very simply defined is when consenting adults come together for a specific purpose, usually to live together and/or to produce children. It can also sometimes be for various social or financial reasons. Whatever the reason, however, the basics are the same, consenting adults agreeing to live together for a specific reason.
To organized religion, marriage is one man and one woman, joined together in a religious ceremony, for life. They seem to ignore the huge divorce rate, the issue of adultery and the fact that even though many married people live longer than single ones, there is also the issue of stress related illnesses in many long term marriages. This also ignores the fact that homosexual and lesbian people are left outside the system.
There is another issue that is not addressed by the 'conventional' view of marriage. This is the FACT that the female population is rapidly out-stripping the male population. To further aggravate this problem, females seem to outlive males by a fairly large margin. This creates several major issues. The first, and most obvious, is that there simply aren't enough males for there to be a one man-one woman relationship for every person on the planet. What are the females who don't find that relationship to do? Are they supposed to remain not only celibate but virginal for their entire lives? Another issue, especially in the heavily industrialized countries, is the fact that there is a growing segment of the older population that consists of widowed females. Many of them come together in informal arrangements to 'take care of each other.' This is fine, but unless they go through a lot of legal formalities, the decisions of one member of the group may not be honored, especially in matters of medical care or legal issues involving wills and so forth.
As an example, take a look at this scenario: Two elderly women agree to live together, to share expenses and to take care of each other. They may spend many years together, some for as long as they were actually married to their husbands. One of them has to go to the hospital for some reason. The other, being aware of her companion's wishes, attempts to inform the hospital of these, but is ignored because they 'have no legal standing.' Unless the companions have made prior arrangements, such as assigning a power of attorney or taking other legal steps, the one in the hospital may have her wishes ignored, leaving her companion to possibly lose her home or suffering some other financial burden. Wouldn't a form of marriage address these issues, saving a lot of heartache and suffering in this type of scenario? And who else's business is it anyway?
Another issue is so-called gay marriage. No one knows exactly why someone is homosexual or lesbian or even bi-sexual. If it is a matter of someone being born that way, why should they be punished for something they have no control over? Also, why should someone who does not understand or agree with someone else's lifestyle have any say in how that person lives that life? The most common complaint, other than that it is 'sinful' and 'abhorrent to God' is that so-called gay marriage cheapens and degrades the whole institution of marriage. I don't understand this at all. If your marriage is strong, how can what someone else does, someone you don't even know, cheapen or degrade your marriage? Another problem is that institutions are supposed to serve people, not the other way around.
No, I think that the conventional view of marriage is totally wrong and out of date, ignoring both historical and biological facts. Please note that I do not say that it is totally invalid. The major shortcomings of the conventional view of marriage is that it is not all inclusive, leaving substantial portions of the adult population outside of the purview of the accepted norm. I propose a new paradigm for marriage, a definition that will include every adult who wishes to engage in it.
My definition is simply this: Marriage is a social contract between consenting adults. It is religious only insofar as the contracting parties wish it to be. Neither the number or the gender of the contracting parties has any bearing on the fact of marriage. Nor is it any business of any person outside the contracting parties.
This simple definition would cover almost every possible contingency. Conventional marriage, same-sex marriage, group marriage, even contract marriages or marriages of convenience. The now well-accepted pre-nuptial agreement would govern the terms of the marriage; who is responsible for what, how long the marriage would last, terms of renewal, grounds for ending the marriage, and any other major issues the contracting parties deem important.
Who knows? Perhaps one day it will be an accepted practice for people to enter a trial marriage, or one that is renewable at various intervals. I can see several advantages to this, as well as some disadvantages. I am not saying that every single issue will be covered, or that there will never be a problem with the institution of marriage if this simple definition becomes accepted practice. I am saying that it might be a good starting point, one that might conceivably address many of the current problems, while giving a springboard to addressing future ones.
Ladies and gentlemen, morals cannot be legislated or commanded. They must be an inherit part of the individual. Laws have been passed for centuries, regulating moral conduct, and none of them have worked satisfactorily.
I try to live by my personal moral code. Any actions I take within that code are moral FOR ME. They may not be for someone who doesn't share that same moral code. Grow up, people! Individuals are different, with differing views and opinions. Live by yours, not harming any other person unnecessarily, and I don't give a damn what you do. Just do me the same courtesy!