“The most effective form of police state is one in which the masses police themselves.”
Wives and children are little policemen. Miniature Stasi agents. Watching your—and more importantly, making you watch your own--every movement.
That, in a nutshell is it. No more no less. The traditional family model’s importance is solely the control of potential political subversion.
They don’t care about Biblical injunctions against sodomy. Hell, they’ve got the Vatican anchoring their side. And last time I heard, Pope Benedict XVI was forced to resign due to pressure from a powerful cabal of high-level sodomists.
Also, check out George Rekers' ‘stache. A real Freddy Mercury type of thing going on there. The Protestants are no better than the Catholics on this one.
I had the poor fortune recently of spending four hours at a local watering hole listening to an old college buddy of mine go on and on (and on and on) about how sh*tty his life was, how the boss was an *sshole, and how all he got at home from the old lady were complaints and insults, whining about how his crappy salary didn’t give them enough to meet the bills, and how the kids were always coming down with some bug or another and needed some type of treatmentment that his worthless insurance policy didn’t cover. The litany seemed endless.
So how do you respond to this type of emotional toxic dump? You may have a different opinion, but it seemed pretty clear to me at the time: don’t respond at all.
I mean, seriously, what could I tell this guy? “Just divorce that f*ckin’ hag and get on with your life, already! Look at me—never married, never been married, never thought about getting’ married. Got no kids—or at least none that I know of. And I’m living the life of Riley. Sure, I’ve got no television set or cable. So if you was to quiz me on the latest episode of Jersey Shore or Duck Dynasty or whatever, chances are I’d fail miserably, but I regard that as an acceptable price to pay. You tell me which of us has the better life?”
No, clearly that would not do. For one thing, it would be just too brutal, even if every word of it is true. You just don’t kick a guy when he’s down, just that simple.
Plus, I know this guy well enough. He wouldn’t have responded with anything remotely like, “Yeah, Liam, you’ve got me on this one. Boy, did I really f*ck up when I married Trudy.” No, he would have said something more along the lines of: “Liam, you’re just not getting the whole picture here. No offense or anything, but you’re as ugly as sin. You’ve got the complexion of an olive loaf and the hairline of something that’s been left in the ‘fridge too long. There was never any chance of you getting married in the first place. You’ll never know the miracle of birth, the wonder of watching your kid’s first steps and whatnot. Not to be cruel about it, but there’s a whole dimension to life that you only begin to discover when you become a father. No offense.”
Such views reveal, unintentionally yet very convincingly, the architecture of the conservative’s plan to control society: control it by sentimentalizing the very means of oppression. If my friend was inhibited from effectively challenging the immorality inherent in contemporary capitalism by his family’s incessant demands upon his time and resources, he was absolutely precluded from even questioning it by the delusion that the bars of his prison cell as wonderful gilded doors.
Throughout history, all the greatest thinkers have been terrible husbands and parents: Karl Marx, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire. And really, when you get down to it, Jesus may have been able to walk on water, but not even he could have achieved anything noteworthy if he’d listened to his Jewish mother and settled down and gotten a law degree like she’d insisted. Family life is the yoke of mediocrity.
It scares the living bejeebers out of conservatives that their most effective means of surveillance and control might be prized from their filthy paws. If legitimization of personal relationships is not monopolized by a centralized hierarchy and enforced by arbitrary violence, what is to prevent people from seeking their own happiness?
For the vast majority of its history, the Church hasn’t given two sh*ts about marriage except as a means of political control.
Oh, occasionally they illegitimated the offspring of some royal union on the grounds of consanguinity during the Middle Ages. But that was only enforced against rulers the Pope didn’t like. Jeez, look at the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs. Theirs was more like a family shrub than a tree. Tons of first cousin marriages and more than one uncle/niece marriage, to the point where the dynasty collapsed upon itself in a fetid soup of incest with Carlos II, “El Hechizado” (i.e., “the Cursed”). All tolerated because of their uncritical endorsement of the papacy.
But the relationship between the spouses themselves wasn’t even considered important enough to merit an official sacrament until the Protestant Reformation gave the Church a reason to claim a monopoly on all marriages. Clear through the early 1500’s we have literally tens of thousands of examples of courts upholding as legitimate and perfectly legal the informal union of individuals who did nothing more than privately declare themselves to be married—without so much as the presence of a third party witness. This type of off-the-books yet fully recognized transaction is at the core of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliette”, and is notably celebrated in the marriage of young Margery Paston and Richard Calle of the “Paston Letters” fame.
Back then, that sort of do-as-you-like behavior could be tolerated for the lower orders of society, when autocracy was the only political endorsed by ‘right thinking people’ everywhere. No point in spending a lot of time actively policing people whose opinions could not, even theoretically, matter.
That all changed with the advent Martin Luther. The inescapable implication was that, in theory, if not in actual practice, that every man and woman had a right to interpret the world as he or she sought fit—despite the zealous efforts of Luther himself to convince peasants that a Protestant peasant was still just a peasant.
Until the late 19th century, peasants had far too much to do to ensure their own mere physical survival, much less develop elaborate ideals about proper social and political relationships. There was still little political need to officially proclaim a monopoly on all human relationships.
But what do you do in a world of plenty? When technology has increased human productivity several hundred times over and yet minimum required caloric intake remains just the same as it ever was? How do you justify an arbitrary authority when systems are so diverse and interdependent that no one person or institution could ever hope to control the economy’s physical choke points? Even if they are inclined to apply a brutal physical violence, conservatives become like sharks, doomed to circle their prey, endlessly and sleeplessly, inevitably to fatigue themselves with their own greed. Even sharks must die. Much better to convince the serfs to police themselves.
This, when you think of it, on a planet as horribly overpopulated as our own, is the most compelling social function of child bearing. Without the cutesy factor of kids, with their aura of charming innocence and all-consuming dependency, how long would most of us put up with the ceaseless and irrational demands of marriage? What, maybe five percent, tops?
What kind of decent state-subsidized Ponzi scheme or illegal military adventure could a nation sustain if a mere five percent of your population were too preoccupied to resist? If the shabby ideological framework of neoliberal capitalism chains us to our economic masters, the ridiculous and totally ahistorical conservative notion of ‘traditional’ marriage and childrearing chains us to our spiritual masters.