The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sociology 101

For years, I’ve wondered about the cause(s) for modern society’s breakdown of family values. Why are there so many screwed up kids, who grow up to become screwed up adults, who in turn have their own screwed up kids? This vicious cycle is why society is going down the toilet. But it never occurred to me that the cause might be the failure of our culture to understand the nature of marriage. Hendrix’s theory is intriguing, and after pondering it at length, I tend to agree with it...

In times past, it was love and adultery that went together “like a horse and carriage.” Marriages were arranged; wives were bought or traded. Such marriages were typically passionless, but stable; their primary agenda was the continuity of the family and community, the perpetuation of property rights. Only infrequently, and usually accidentally, was romantic love connected with the marriage partner.

The rights of the individual came to include the right to marry the person of one’s choice, thus radically transforming marriage from a sociopolitical institution to a psychological and spiritual process. For the first time in history the energy of attraction between men and women was directed into and contained within the structure of a marriage. This radical idea precipitated tremendous upheaval in the institution of marriage.

Widespread divorce, following the Second World War, wrought havoc. The structure of the family began breaking down under the crushing number of divorces. With the burgeoning number of second, and third, marriages, themselves misguided answers to the marriage crisis, the step-family emerged. Now single-parent families and “blended” families of every stripe are considered the norm, primarily because we have become disillusioned with the possibility for happy marriages. All are adaptations to the problem of marital failure, an attempt to normalize cultural realities that have come about because of our lack of understanding of the underlying agenda of marriage. We have bought the idea that unhappy people should not have to stay in unhappy marriages. We have given credence to the idea that when trouble comes you should just change partners, when the truth is that the way you are living with that person must be changed. It’s all backward. Rather than getting rid of the partner and keeping the problem, you should get rid of the problem so that you can keep the partner. What has happened is that in trying to make things easier, and more tolerant, we have lost sight of our own real needs and desires.

If we could get this situation under control, if there could be a nationwide recognition of the need to reeducate ourselves about relationships, marriages would survive and prosper, our children would be healthier, and we wouldn’t need 80 percent of the remedial programs now dealing with the end products of unloved children – whether they be drugs, violence, incest, child abuse, high dropout rates, thievery, alcoholism, or teenage pregnancy.

We are learning, too, that no matter how easy we make it, the children of divorce carry lasting scars that go unnoticed. Divorce may allow people to escape from bad marriages, but until we take steps to ensure good marriages, to facilitate individual happiness and fulfillment, until we learn what we’re about, we will continue to have desperate singles, joyless marriages, troubled children, and a society becoming more dysfunctional by the decade.

- Keeping the Love You Find

The breakdown of family values caused by...the breakdown of families. What a novel idea!


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