“The part about one purpose of marriage being for the ‘procreation of children’ seemed a little out of place.”
Not really. That is what marriage is for, to create a stable family for the raising of children — and grandchildren, too, for that matter, according to anthropology and the latest theories of evolutionary biology.
The transmission of the values of our culture and civilization — including our liberal institutions — could not long continue without the institution of marriage — which is why the idea of homosexual “marriage” is not such a good one, at least in my opinion. It is all about the children and grandchildren and the kind of society they will inherit.
This is bed rock.
Dr. Mead, wonderful, thank your for sharing this event through your capable eyes. You made me wish I had been there.
But as you catalogued the difficulties and problems I began to ask myself, “When was it any easier?”
I read a novelization of the era leading up to the battle of Agincourt and as I read about one group of “soldiers” after another riding into cities and villages bringing rape and ruin it occurred to me that in all those like centuries that there probably wasn’t a woman in Europe who wasn’t gang raped by one group or another and lucky not to be murdered on top of it. Surely not easy.
A book recently to hand complied of letters written by ordinary folk in the south prior to and during the Civil War. Experience had shown them that disease, war and accident was more likely than not to carry away a husband, wife and or children. Their letters depict people who knew life was hard and their job was to endure.
Certainly no photograph of Dorthea Lange during the depression shows easy times, though still they endured, wedded and had parties, perhaps of much less elaboration than we are used to today but enjoying what there was to enjoy. Not easy.
To me the “Two Donut Rule” best depicts our problem today. Empirically you will find that if bringing donuts to a group of any kind you bring several flavors, many donuts will be left over but if you only bring two flavors most or all the donuts will be consumed. The problem then in my usual unhumble opinion is that ‘young people’ have too many choices and for their ‘choice machine’ to process. So many faces on Face Book, a choice of five or seven careers and the reason it seems to me is that they are not grounded. But procrastinating, not making a commitment is in the end making a choice and there you are.
Try spending some weeks asking young people this question, “If you could do anything and were sure you wouldn’t fail, what you would you do?” The answers will be bring tears to your eyes, well, unless you think Rock Star is a good choice. LOL For more tears try asking them what they think is single more important thing about a man or woman partner.
And more. They have grown up in a society of whiners where it is assumed that a law suit can right any perceived wrong. Yesterday I read an article by Diane West about the cave-in at Comedy Central over a Muslim threat about an episode on “South Park”. She indicated that Bill O’Reily thought that it was the prudent thing to do, perhaps but I have to ask, “Laudable?” Certainly these cowardly sneaks have proven themselves dangerous but try to imagine the country in 1942, try to imagine if the Nazis threatened the American movie industry against making any anti Nazi film, any newspapers from showing a cartoon of Hitler (since all totalitarian groups are a caricature they fear humor more than anything), any rallies for War Bonds, etc. Try to imagine a free society enduring without anyone willing to take risk.
Since when do the people who deal in “ideas” think that that is a safe occupation. May I present Ruby Bridges to Comedy Central, six years old, 1960, Louisiana, USA. Escorted by marshals but surrounded by a howling white mob, who in one case presented a black doll in a casket, she never the less began school integration, went to class every day, learned her lessons and graduated. I wonder if any member of her family ever felt threatened at any time? Nah… it was all easy else they would have caved, right? I felt something though, I felt humbled by the courage and character of a six year old girl.
It’s never been easy and it isn’t going to get any easier. I have to think that what used to be known as a classical education would give grounding but see small chance of that occurring.
“Young women suffer most obviously; already struggling with difficult questions about integrating a serious professional commitment with a desire to build families they also have to negotiate the very treacherous emotional terrain of commitments that aren’t quite real and relationships that are open ended and undefined.”
The current culture on campus does great damage to young women and, to a lesser degree, young men. I suggest you start an Anscombe Society chapter (or something similar) at the college or university where you teach.
wonderful post. -je
“ …who retired some time ago from a long and successful government career.”
Out of curiosity, Mr. Mead, how does a Washington insider like yourself define “a long and successful government career?”
Was it a career that helped to expand the size & scope of the federal government?
Was it one that saw personal elevation within the bureaucracy and gratification in terms of money and perks?
Or are you saying that it was a career that somehow advanced the interest of the American people?
Although we hear a lot of rhetoric about loving relationships … to support same sex marriage, for the last 3000 years or so marriage has had to do with family formation. It seems to me that the marriage of Mr. Mead’s uncle, although late in life, is in complete agreement with that tradition. Unfortunately, our own Supreme Court with a series of decisions starting with Griswold v. Connecticut seems unclear on the concept.
I met some people in Colorado who live in a settlement called “co housing” where people deal with problems by consensus and sharing across generations. People help with childcare and elder care in a reciprocal relationship. I think the movement started in Denmark; it may offer a way to deal with American loneliness in our uprooted society.
Boy, I hate to beat a horse, but Norway has a low marriage rate, but still has the highest birth rate in Europe. And talk about pro-family!
Luke, I call BS. Since you’re on anthropology, can you admit that the vast majority of marriages throughout history were common law marriages? “Institutional” marriage, or one with a formalized start date, is a quite recent addition to supposed societal norms. People “shacking up” or “living in sin” transmitted culture just fine for thousands of years, thank you.
Not to mention that culture was also transmitted fine by societies with institutionalized pederasty. [broke this out for the moderators to approve separately]
The culture most people were transmitting “throughout history” was the culture of servitude, sun up til sundown with very little choice in the matter.
Meanwhile the people who had rights (and property) — ie, the ruling classes — were very much into marriage and the transmission of their culture, you better believe it.
Anyway, it is modern liberal democracy I am worried about. As for the Scandinavian countries, they are an interesting counter-example.
BTW, Norwegian and those who are interested, here is an interesting piece on the subject:
Luke, I’ll read the article, but have two points on the first comment.
1. Where is the evidentiary evidence of widespread institutional marriage? For instance, when is the first time that you can find a simple thing like a marriage date (contract start) for a majority of people in the world?
2. How do you decide if the Scandinavian countries are a counter-example or a refutation of your example?
All I will say about this post for now is that I very much WANT my chronological age to one day exceed my golf score. If it does, I should live a very long time.
Luke, the Guardian piece says nothing about institutional marriage.
Pingback: Transitions - Walter Russell Mead's Blog - The American Interest()