Today’s post touches on a subject that holds strong significance in my personal life. I encourage you to read this week’s post with an open heart, and if you have an intelligent opinion that differs from what I write here, I encourage you to share it, and open a conversation that we can both learn from :).
The inspiration for this post came out of a book I am currently reading called “Expect Resistance”, which contains a variety of fictional anecdotes based on the demise of industrial society. As you might imagine, much of the content of this book deals with subverting the dominant paradigm and breaking away from the status quo. This post will draw heavily from an excerpt of the book that questions the logic behind the modern practices of monogamy and the nuclear family.
The last few generations of Americans have been raised in an environment dominated by a capitalist economy, which has taught us certain psychological lessons that are difficult to unlearn:
Anything of value is only available in limited supplies. Stake your claim now before you are left with nothing.
Unable to imagine that love and pleasure could be multiplied when shared, we now find ourselves measuring commitment and affection by how much others sacrifice for us. This idea of mutual sacrifice convinces us that the relationship we are joining in is more valuable than the desires and freedoms we are forgoing. But this isn’t always true, and in my opinion, should not be the case in the first place.
We all know that positive relationships take work. Think about that. Wage labor, relationship labor–is there ever a time when we aren’t on the clock? When you have to work at monogamy, you are back in the exchange system: just like the capitalist economy, your intimacy is governed by scarcity, implicit threats, and prohibitions, and it is all protected by the belief that there are no viable alternatives. When relationships are based solely on work, when desire is organized contractually around balanced accounts (tit for tat), when marriage functions as a domestic factory designed to keep wives and husbands chained to the machinery of responsible reproduction, then it should come as no surprise that people find themselves unhappy and listless, looking for a way out.
The fact is, at this point, people get desperate. They take rash action, which often leads to the emotional destruction of their relationship. That is why anything less than complete prostration to the “normal order” is often considered bad ethics. Recognizing and engaging your own desires is often too dangerous for everyone else. But wait just one second: what kind of life do you really want to live? How much freedom and fulfillment do you deserve to feel? How is it that others are hurt by your desire to express and fulfill your own needs?
What would it look like to have relationships in which there was no need for monogamy?
First, it would necessitate that communication be prized above obedience to social norms. The conditions that foster honesty–trust, openness/transperancy, self-awareness–would be safeguarded by extensive support structures. Communities would be interlinked by networks of close relationships in which everyone could count on assistance from and intimacy with others, even if the context of one specific relationship changed. There would be no social or legal rewards for any particular relationship format, and no punishments for any format either. We would have to grapple with our own insecurities and overcome them, rather than attempting to limit another’s autonomy in an attempt to help us feel “safe”. In short, it would demand a strong sense of maturity, and an unbiased sense of responsibility to those people in our inner circle.
It serves the interests of those in power to have everyone separated into couples and nuclear families, with all unions suitably licensed and policed. A divided people is a conquerable people; the fewer ties connecting individuals, and the narrower the range of permissible associations, the better. When you are attached to and responsible for only a handful of people, serving your own self-interest might make sense. On the other hand, when you feel passionately connected with and accountable to an entire community, you are more likely to conceive your interests in collective terms, and better situated to fight for them too.
Like it or not friends, we all have to live on this planet together, and bear the consequences of each other’s actions: isn’t it high time we start thinking and acting accordingly? Imagine being close and comfortable with everyone around you, engaging emotionally, sexually, and intellectually, working hard to fulfill your own desires, and working just as hard to fulfill the desires of the people you love and care for. I think it sounds like a great way to go about changing the world :). What do you think…? Until next time…