The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
15.3 (Summer 2015)
The Polis vs. Progress
Gay Marriage: Pivotal Move in the Free Society’s Impending Checkmate
An obnoxious young professor who yawns loudly and plays on his smart-phone at departmental meetings shared with his unfortunate colleagues during one such gathering recently that he teaches “issues like Ferguson” in his Composition classes. A painful truth is revealed here. The riots that erupted late last year in Ferguson, Missouri, could be said to suggest several issues. Three of these could be the ability and willingness of broadcast media to misrepresent a story, the determination of race-baiting politicians to stir up and capitalize on civil unrest, and the impossibility facing urban police forces of protecting communities from violent criminals when they cannot employ force. Needless to say, none of the above was what the professor had in mind. The word “Ferguson” now connotes but a single issue to him and his thoughtless, arrogant ilk—and that issue happens to have nothing whatever to do with anything that actually occurred in Ferguson.
That doesn’t seem to matter. There is a host of other issues, as well, where the disconnect between a celebrated narrative and on-the-ground facts is deemed irrelevant. Nothing about life in the contemporary academy is more discouraging than this knowing and willful cultivation of fantasy. Objecting to the narrative and reciting the facts is often taken as an outrage. It marks one as a proponent of the most vile positions imaginable. To observe that the Emancipation Proclamation, for instance, was deliberately cast so as not to free slaves in non-Confederate states allied with the Union is received as promoting the KKK. Yet this is a simple fact. To observe that there was never any gang rape of an African-American stripper at a rather wild party thrown by the lacrosse team of Duke University is taken as both racist and sexist, as if one were to mandate the random raping of women of color. Yet the original rape never took place: the plaintiff later admitted as much.
Irrational behavior on this scale cries out for some kind of explanation. Sometimes there are too many explanations: sometimes the truth is allowed to escape because it is complex, and investigators are looking only for a unitary phenomenon. If every courtier in the king’s court is a conspirator, and the king is looking only for one conspirator, then he may never find the culprit, because no single suspect has a preponderance of evidence against him.
The method used by progressive ideologues to advance their cause profits handsomely from this kind of obfuscation. Subversion operates on a number of fronts at the same time, and the subversives themselves may not even perceive their role in toppling over the social, political, and cultural edifice. Any one of them is likely to be a “one issue” enthusiast, all caught up in a specific struggle but largely or wholly unaware of any broader struggle. The progressive elite is generally careful not to connect the dots for its minions, and may not even have any exchange with them at all. These latter may not know themselves to be minions. They may be carrying forward their private crusade when it happens to draw the notice of progressive engineers, who then dispense encouragement and funding in such paltry amounts and at such rare intervals that a pattern is very hard to perceive. When the overall objective is massive destabilization, efforts are perhaps best left uncoordinated.
So it is that the push-button response to “Ferguson” on college campuses, imbecilic though it surely is, perpetuates itself in a glow of “radical chic”. Approval for the infantile view of that situation comes from somewhere, everywhere: it is simply “the view” that one must have. Nudges come in the classroom, over social media, through broadcast media, from glamorous Hollywood mouthpieces… one could scarcely say who is nudging and who is being nudged. Someone somewhere decides to run with a story—or to strangle it; to trickle a little money into an organization—or to pour it out in bucketfuls. Like a concealed bidder at an auction who secretly communicates his will to four active participants scattered throughout the room, this someone is playing a very long-term game for the biggest stakes imaginable.
The issue of gay marriage is another of these cases where the movement appears to have a specific constituency, yet behind it is working a vastly more ambitious power unknown to most of the crusade’s fiercest advocates. In fact, the “gay marriage” project may be the preeminent example of the progressive elite’s clandestine style of operation. The rest of this paper will focus exclusively on this case, therefore.
First is the infantile view: “the view”, the opinion that exudes radical chic. Thanks to the sexual revolution, with its resultant wasteland of shattered families, vulgar entertainments, obliterated forms of politeness, scuffed-up logical distinctions, annihilated cultural and religious traditions, and traumatized adolescent egos, a facile argument is a very easy sell on college campuses. It runs something like this, to move from premise to premise:
Marriage is all about committed love.
Two people often want to get married when they fall in love. Marriage symbolizes to them and to their circle of friends the strength of their love. The marriage bond should not be understood as indissoluble, of course; this is no less true for gay couples than for straight couples. People fall out of love with time, occasionally: everybody in the twenty-first century knows that. The proper context for understanding this bond is as a depth of commitment here and now. Casual sex may bring people together for a weekend: marriage brings them together for a year or more, and maybe even for life. It shows that the two participants share a profound friendship as well as enjoyable sexual experiences. In the future, this bond may further evolve to embrace more than two (as it has in the past and still does in many non-Western cultures). There is no reason to restrict it in number any more than in kind.
People are attracted to different varieties of person for different reasons.
We are also not afraid to recognize openly in these days of freedom that there is no single “right” kind of sexual attraction. Some are drawn by the opposite sex, some by the same sex. Some prefer members of their own race, while others prefer members of a different race. Some are attracted to people of ages very different from their own. Some like a husky voice or a hearty sense of humor… and on and on. Homosexual love is only one of a vast array of possible preferences.
The majority always believes its attractions and repulsions to be the “right” ones.
Even in these progressive times, however, the majority continues to view those who do not share its standards as oddball. This is a natural human tendency that we can only surmount by patient labor and educated awareness. Westerners in many countries, for instance, are still very uncomfortable around women who wear the veil. This is true even of people in predominantly Protestant countries who encounter a Catholic nun in traditional garb. The person looks “odd” and draws many stares while spreading silence with every step. The shock of seeing two men hold hands or kiss in public is not of a different order from this. We feel our revulsion at such times to be genuinely anchored in some natural justification because the feeling is so instantaneous and powerful. We would feel the same way if someone spoke to us of eating dogs or cats—and we can’t imagine how anyone would feel that way to hear of our eating cows. It’s all a matter of cultural conditioning.
A free society is one whose members are not ruled by the tyranny of the majority.
Be that as it may, the progressive societies of our new century and millennium should no longer tolerate intolerance. Though ignorance of a sort is natural, it is not acceptable in educated, responsible adults. With our new media binding us closer and closer and the global economy encouraging us to move about more often, we are constantly coming into contact with ways other than those in which we were raised. We must overcome our little shocks at difference if we are to participate in this brave new world. To be appalled ay a union between two men or two women is as uncouth and irresponsible as recoiling at the sight of a black/white or Caucasian/Asian couple. It’s time to get over these squeamish, offenses responses and bestow upon others the same level of freedom and respect that we ourselves enjoy.
The typical eighteen-year-old is not capable of seeing the issue in terms much different from these, and it is seldom presented in any other terms. Yet every claim made could be challenged easily. Marriage has not traditionally been about love between two people: it has been about a complex love which unites two people with their God and with the next generation that they are to usher in under His laws. Though not all marriages produce children, all marriages are (or were) meant to be about children. Having sex for its own sake was subordinated to having sex within the ever-present and accepted possibility of conception. (We shall see how this time-honored notion was turned on its ear by eighteenth-century rationalists satirized by Jonathan Swift.)
In the traditional idea of marriage, therefore, the equation of a homosexual preference to a preference for blondes or brunettes is preposterous. The union was child-centered, so to forge it of parts incapable of producing children would be patent nonsense. The contemporary advocate will fire back that gay couples often wish to adopt—but the absolute necessity of adoption in these cases still shows that creating a family could not have been a primary consideration in the match. At issue here is not the possible scenarios in which children might be successfully reared: a brother and sister have sometimes reared their much younger siblings in the past, yet no sane person would propose that the two should have gotten married. At issue, rather, is the tremendous gap between the traditional and the evasive postmodern concepts of marriage. Anyone who presents the points above as self-evident propositions is speaking in bad faith, for all of them contain elements of the radical and the marginal.
Why the widespread promotion, then, of such questionable syllogisms on today’s campuses? With a little remove from the specific issue so that broader ambitions come into view, we can see how exploiting this argument among masses of readily misled young people advances a much more sinister cause. Below is a completely different chain of propositions. About midway through, the “gay marriage” issue crops up as an expedient for manipulating a vulnerable, uncritical public into a position that facilitates the accomplishing of much more obscure objectives.
A government committed to ongoing change in the direction of progress requires the willing cooperation of its citizens.
This simply means that such a government has to get citizens “on board” in order to prosecute its agenda. “Willing” does not imply absence of duress. A citizen may “will” to abandon his faith or ancestral customs if the one other option offered is incarceration or extermination. The type of government envisaged here, therefore, is not necessarily of the republican form. In fact, it is very arguable that all progressive governments are essentially autocratic, insofar as constant “progress”—in the sense of constant abandonment of cherished customs and adoption of ways repugnant to established taste—opposes basic human nature. The ultimate progressive project is nothing less than “liberating” human beings from their basic nature in favor of another nature designed for them by “specialists” and “visionaries”.
Willingness, then, is somewhat open to interpretation. The cooperation of citizens in the changes as laid out on the autocrat’s drawing board need not be happy or self-motivated. It only needs to be energetic. Energy can be manufactured at the muzzle-end of a gun (to paraphrase Mao); but it can also be tapped by cleverly manipulating the very discontent that arises when traditions are torn away. People may not know that their sense of being adrift and lacking an identity results from the vaporization of their cultural heritage unless they are old enough to have imbibed part of that heritage. Hence the central importance of the following observation.
People acquire their basic values as children.
If the kind of government in question can somehow program young people to be suspicious of their cultural heritage, or can keep that heritage from being transmitted, then resistance to the progressive agenda will be slim to none. Obviously, this means intervening in the education of young “citizens” (a.k.a. children) as early as possible. The progressive has no coherent explanation of where knowledge of right and wrong comes from; for on the one hand, he insists that all such knowledge is conditioning (by culture, by social environment, by basic biology, etc.)—but on the other, his own plan is always supremely good because it is grounded in perfect rationalism (as he declares). He is correct to this extent: children are not born understanding moral principles, and their upbringing plays a major role in reducing the time they require to infer those principles. Control the upbringing, and you control what the young adult will consider to be right and wrong. (Older adults who should begin to figure things out on their own by a different light may always be rendered irrelevant or disposed of.)
Hence progressive regimes are always at war with the mature and the elderly, as representatives both of tradition and of more stable and independent reasoning. The agents of such regimes flatter the young, praising their fresh view of life and their robust vigor and their fearless willingness to experiment and… and so forth. This cynical claptrap is ever and always intended only to turn the young away from the lessons and guidelines of the past. What the ignorant targets fail to understand is that their originality is in fact prized at nothing—that all acceptable expressions of creative vigor are being fed to them by a system intent on molding them into dutiful little tin soldiers of the Movement. Since young people are actually quite sensitive to their appearance before others and have little will to strike out in any radically new direction, the job of molding can proceed with an almost mechanical efficiency.
The nuclear family does not necessarily produce children with values amenable to progressive change.
The nuclear family is the single greatest impediment to the molding project, for it is in this context that young people learn most immediately and forcefully of the values of the past. No one, traditionally, has more authority over their lives or more occasions to exert that authority in the typical day. Teachers come and go, priests and ministers might be heard once a week for an hour… but the parent is always present even when absent, for the echoes and images of his or her constant coddling and fussing since the cradle are almost impossible to eradicate in any sort of debriefing.
The ideal, for the progressive autocrat, would be to have all children raised from the cradle by government-trained-and-licensed caretakers. Effecting such a radical overhaul of human society would be a formidable challenge, however. Among other things, it would almost certainly require killing adult citizens in such number that few would be left to begin the massive project of re-education; and much re-education of the young would be needed, for at any given moment huge numbers of partially conditioned adolescents would have to be handled somehow. A far better proposal for the transitional phase, therefore, would be to undermine the parents by their own consent: that is, to persuade them that parenting is an onerous and unpleasant burden. Once parents cease wanting to parent, they will cheerfully surrender their children to agencies of the state. Indeed, they will cry out that they have the “right” to make such a surrender.
Parents have not traditionally surrendered their right to rear their offspring because they view themselves as owning the product of their bodies.
How to get from the loving parent to the parent that demands relief from parenting? Nature, once again, stands firmly in the way. Perhaps no bond is more powerful than that which a human female feels with a helpless little creature carried in her bowels for almost a year, or that which a human male feels with the little squab who bears the imprint of his own eyes and hands. How to neutralize such feelings?
This view of ownership could be subverted if child-bearing were represented as somehow inhibitive to happy sexual union.
The answer, of course, has also been supplied by nature: sex. Glorify the joys of sex as the greatest thrills life has to offer, and emphasize that conception is merely an accidental consequence of this heavenly amusement. Jonathan Swift had his small-minded Lilliputians embrace the position that parents had no right to the custody of their children for this very reason: i.e., because they had conceived them in a casual moment of chasing after their own pleasure. The Lilliputian state claimed the right to educate these citizens-in-becoming, and the parents scarcely retained a right to visit their children briefly on very rare occasions. We must suppose, of course, that Dean Swift was satirizing the apparent “rationality” of this crude and inhuman system (which is also self-contradictory: for if it is assumed that all children are conceived in moments of hungry concupiscence, then why should any impulse so irresistibly natural be grounds for the parents’ later disgrace and forcible surrender of their “accidents”?). The clever autocrat needn’t replicate this mistake of shaming parents into giving up their children. He need only celebrate in every way possible—publicly, ritually, and institutionally—the “joy of sex” as a refined pleasure best appreciated by cultivated people. The reason for this strategy is as follows.
The celebration of sex as one of life’s unconditioned “goods” diminishes the importance of child-bearing.
People who desire constant renewal of their sexual experiences—who are obsessed with and (as we say nowadays) addicted to sex—are not likely to want children on the scene, in fetal form or even less as demanding little dependants. For the woman, pregnancy is often arduous, bringing morning sickness and other discomforts. Its inconvenience may be so strong as to dissuade her from engaging in sex, simply in her fear of getting “knocked up”. The man finds all the necessary postponements to his urges inconvenient, as well, and also is likely to regard his mate as less and less attractive as she swells and swells. The nuisance of living children waking up and screaming in the night or leaving both parents so tired that they want only to sleep in bed need hardly be mentioned.
The paragraph above expresses several vulgar ideas—but they are the ideas, it must be emphasized, that the autocrat wishes to become current in his decaying culture (as being instrumental to its decay). The more that adults organize their lives around sexual excitement—and do so without any sense of guilt or restraint—the more they will fall out of love with the notion of being “saddled” with children.
Other strategies can concurrently undermine child-bearing as a desirable behavior.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. In the contemporary political environment, almost every issue has a “green” angle—and so it is in this case. Child-bearing can easily be represented (and is frequently represented) as a “sin” against our common parent, Mother Earth, whose generous womb we are straining to the bursting point with out-of-control over-population. The conscientious New Age citizen recognizes a solemn moral obligation not to have children. Adoption of the world’s many unwanted children is a preferable option (and this righteous citizen sees no contradiction between embracing both the view that children are undesirable and the duty to help those children who are now unwanted). Only the ignorant and the selfish have large families, in the progressive era’s heightened global consciousness.
Children are also represented as the ball-and-chain which males leave affixed to the female after they finish exploiting her (often referred to as “raping” her, even in legal and consenting monogamy; more than one feminist has pronounced that all sex between male and female is rape). Natural maternal feelings may thus be contorted into feelings of victimization and vengefulness. The fetus is no longer part of a woman’s own body (or is so only when she wishes to amputate it): it is a dreadful infection spread to her through male contact—a kind of venereal disease. Males get to have their fun and then move on to the next partner: females suffer permanent impairment of their life ambitions through having responsibility for another life suddenly thrust upon them.
Everyone has a right to enjoy sex—but the male manner of enjoyment is irresponsible and even destructive. The issue has now been framed in terms of basic rights versus abused rights.
The promotion of abortion instills the notion that child-bearing should be “on demand”.
For decades now, abortion has been legally accepted as one solution to male abuse of sexual rights. It is the procedure that removes the infection spread by males—the “tumor” that grows after they have injected the female body with their toxin. This is probably a view which has still not achieved widespread endorsement outside of college campuses, for it vilifies the most nuclear of all human interpersonal bonds (the mother/child bond). Nevertheless, its ripples have affected the general populace deeply. Couples who would describe themselves as religious in some way, who are legally married, who own a nice house in the suburbs and a minivan, etc., seem often to concede that having more than two children is a challenge to strained planetary resources (as well as to their two careers and their desired lifestyle). Abortion is not frowned upon in the event of an unwanted “surprise”. Also relatively new to the scene is the “designer family”, where a male child already exists and subsequent pregnancies are terminated until the desired female child shows up on the ultrasound. One even hears of terminations when technology reveals that the child will be short or have black hair instead of blond.
While some of these reports are more urban legend than statistically based research, it is difficult to deny the general proposition that the American public now largely views children as an “on demand” commodity, to be supplied and customized on a whim like a new car on special order. Child-bearing has become thoroughly objectified. As such, it is ever more easy to separate from sexual activity, which can now be focused more explicitly on pleasure. The day may be at hand when reproduction will be an entirely in-the-lab operation (after the Aldous Huxley fashion) while sexual needs will be serviced by ingeniously designed robots. Those shores have not yet been reached, but they are in sight.
Once child-bearing is distanced from the new concept of marriage as maximizing sexual gratification, “unnatural” unions cease to have a stigma.
In the dark light of the new marriage, child-rearing is not irrelevant—but child-bearing may well be so. Sex and conception now have nothing to do with each other, but for the cumbersome fact that Mother Nature had once forced them into a proximity which the Lilliputian mind quickly sees to be inconsistent. As society progresses, technology “corrects” such natural blunders. People have sex because it’s the greatest good life has to offer; people have sex with the same partner when they find really good sex consistently in that company; people want to be around the good partner when tastes in food and movies and politics turn out to align as pleasantly as the all-important moves in bed; people who find a special bond of this sort want to “celebrate” it—which apparently means to tell the partner and the rest of the world how great their personal happiness is; and from this symbolic gesture born of narcissism, we have marriage.
The children, once again, are add-ons. They may be acquired through adoption or a laboratory when and if the happy couple (or threesome, or foursome) senses itself to be “missing something” as neighbors talk about their offspring’s crayon masterpieces or exploits on the soccer field. There is no longer anything unnatural in such a sequence of events—no more than air-conditioning or car-transport is unnatural. Practices change as the human genius imposes its will upon the raw jungle. Now human society has conquered one more relic of savagery (held over from that rainforest for whose preservation we are supposed to achieve below-replacement-rate reproduction). Now it all makes sense. What makes sense, to a human being (to the progressive human being), is that which adapts the environment to his needs as his needs adapt to the environment. The complete absence of objective reference in that formula is not viewed as a shortcoming, for facts are not static on our journey into the future.
The regularization of “unnatural” unions will permanently alienate the culture from the notion that child-bearing is an integral function of marriage.
In his futuristic novel, The Forever War, Joe Haldeman imagines a world where homosexuality has become the norm due to over-population and heterosexuality is severely stigmatized. Whether or not Western society is heading down that particular road, there is unquestionably a growing rift now between the practice of sexual intercourse as its own end and sexual reproduction—a rift which presents opportunities to social engineers. The child increasingly belongs to the state. In American society, certain ethnic and racial minorities have illegitimacy rates rapidly approaching 100%. These segments of the population have not purged child-bearing from their sexual life nearly to the extent that the more educated and affluent majority has done. They have indeed, however, turned their collective back on the nuclear family. Their children are wards of the state from the instant of delivery, and often as long as they live.
This is probably not the sort of dependency ideally desired by the progressive autocrat, to be sure. There is altogether too much dependency here—too much siphoning off of valuable state resources—and too little “quality control” (in the eugenic sense that all true progressives understand without having to enunciate). The ideal would be something more in line with Haldeman’s fiction: barren coupling exclusively for sex, where the production of the next generation can be scientifically monitored and expertly programmed. Universal homosexuality could be one version of that ideal. Another would be habitual (perhaps enforced) promiscuity in tandem with infallible contraceptive measures (a stratagem also imagined by Haldeman in his novel’s earlier days of relatively primitive time-travel).
An era of “scientific” child-bearing and -rearing may now be arranged with broad public support.
From this latter scenario, we are not at all distant. Ironically and significantly, as homosexuals clamor for the right to bless their sexual unions, more conventional heterosexuals are less and less interested in the marriage commitment and more and more willing to rupture its bonds when they have a bad month. The serious social analyst has to read both of these trends as expressions of the same ethos. Certainly one coherent way of doing so is to see the definition of marriage as ever more sexualized (or eroticized) and ever less about child-bearing and -rearing. The gay couple obviously does not come to the altar in a desire primarily to have a family, and the hetero couple does not renounce vows said before the altar primarily for the good of the children (though this is a popular pretext). Money, of course, is often a major factor in divorces; but the desire for and expectation of affluence belongs to the same hedonistic set of ambitions that elevates sex as a fit reason to get married. There is no contradiction here.
The progressive autocrat must be as happy to see conventional marriage melt away as he is to see gay marriage grow more accepted by the year. In either case, the children become a missing factor in the equation. They are now within his reach. He can have them very early, fill their minds with whatever ideological fantasies he wishes to promote, and never worry about their going home to be disinfected by a loving parent. Increasingly, the parent isn’t there.
The intent of this paper has not been to condemn homosexuals as bound for hell. In many cases, especially among the young, these are little more than children whose adolescent experiences of sex have been grossly, cruelly distorted by a culture of hedonism, pornography, commercialism, and divide-and-rule political manipulation. If the terms of this paper’s case against gay marriage were closely examined, it would be discovered that they deplore equally the heterosexual marriage where one or both partners stipulate that no children must be conceived. Such arrangements are actually on the rise. They lie at the root of not a few divorces.
Yet the young advocates of gay marriage may not be interested in how much they are torturing the traditional sense of an essential social relationship. They would probably refuse even the compromise of settling on a different word for the desired bond (such as “conjugancy”). Instead, it is important to them to have just that word, along with all the respect conventionally lavished upon it. What they should question is why they are being spurred on to demand this uncompromising end. They should show a little pride in having intelligence (or a little shame in not having had more up to now), and recognize that their specific cause is being used as a lever to assist in toppling the free society. If this is truly their own objective as well as that of those who have hijacked their movement, then they should “come out of the closet” and bravely declare that they don’t give a fig for the bourgeois respectability of a silly word—that what they’re really about is placing a highly centralized authority in charge of all our children; that they believe that this is the necessary blueprint for progress in the future.
How many of the young crusaders truly identify with this objective, or have even thought about it? If one were to judge by the degree of almost hysterical emotion infused into their passionate plea, one would conclude that very little thought has been bestowed upon such broader issues. Maybe, then—if someone can reach these young minds with the truth—they will drop their assault upon the institution of marriage and seek what they desire down the several avenues that a tolerant society has generously opened to them. There are signs that the black community is beginning to realize how cynically it has been exploited by progressive movements. The Latino community, less clearly defined, is generally less susceptible to such exploitation. Women accept it from radical feminism only among a certain demographic whose members the academy has been able to influence.
The problem with unraveling the progressive plot to exploit the gay community, as with that to exploit “green” concerns, is that the targets of the hidden manipulators are largely adolescent or but lately post-adolescent. These are young people who know little, believe themselves to know a lot, and feel victimized by a world that has increasingly thought of its own short-term interests rather than of the future. The young will soon have to start growing up very fast, and it doesn’t look as though college campuses will be the place where that happens.
“Pancratistes” is the ancient Greek word for an athlete who competes in the decathlon. It is also the pseudonym chosen by this professor of some years’ experience who nevertheless considers that he jeopardizes his career in exercising his right to free speech in our pages.