Some issues, while no-brainers, are divisive nonetheless. Same-sex marriage is one of those issues. Notwithstanding the the fact that term itself is steeped in legal bias and loaded language (“sex” as it pertains to the courts is a legal construct, as is the institution of marriage) what are we really putting our energies toward? The notion that same-sex marriage is a sign of progress is predicated on the assumption that marriage is an ideal circumstance which is being denied to a segment of the population. My chief qualm with such well-intentioned actions as people putting…
…this image up as their FB profile pic in a show of solidarity with same sex couples hoping to get married…
…is not that it is so-called “slacktivism,” but that they seemingly have not questioned the institution of marriage itself. This is understandable but inexcusable. We must constantly check our premises because no knowledge or custom we have is empirical; that is to say just because we have been doing something for a while does not make it universal truth.
I posted this picture a while ago:
So I have to ask again: What are we really putting our energies toward? Its funny to me how people will cognitively see the logic behind Stanhope’s criticism of marriage but still go on and argue for more access to marriage. i.e. “Well, marriage may be an antiquated custom and an outgrowth of scarcity
*, but everyone should have access to it.” This is so typical of our usual methods of problem resolution where we are more concerned with surface appearance than deep, possibly messy, structural change.
“You’d rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel”
-Lt. Cedric Daniels, The Wire
Rather than removing a sickness we would rather ensure that everyone has fair and equal access to it.
The Political Action Feint
I think same-sex marriage is just the latest in a string of accommodated, politically-safe movements which have been allowed because they don’t actually threaten the status quo but serve as great polarizing rallying points for different camps (i.e. Divide & Conquer). LGBT rights are the successors to Women’s suffrage (& Lib later on) and the Civil Rights movement. I don’t want to denigrate those movements but what did they actually accomplish and how deeply did they change things? Women’s suffrage for example got women the right to vote. Now certainly everyone should be equal in their so-called “rights,” but essentially women had a long hard battle for something which is ultimately meaningless. In fact, more than meaningless, it is harmful because it perpetuates the delusion that we actually have a say, through politics, in how our countries are run. (I’m not even going to get into how obsolete the concept of a nation-state actually is…)
Similarly, movements to put women in the workplace came at a time when our levels of technological understanding were getting to the point that cutting the workday in half for every man was looking like a reality.
“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come -namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.”
But instead of minimizing the workday through automation processes, everyone (women included) now has a McJob which on top of being typically underpaid is also technologically pointless and socially irrelevant. Do women really feel like they won something in this regard? (Note: I am not blaming women joining the workforce for the proliferation of McJobs I just want to point out that the workforce doubled when the workday was ready to be halved. The reasons it weren’t halved are many but come down to people needing access to work for income.)
Fast forward to the civil rights movement and we see more accommodation. Now rather than paraphrase George Carlin here I will just put down a direct quotation because he said it so aptly:
“I don’t really, honestly, deep down believe in political action. I think the system contracts and expands as it wants to. It accommodates these changes. I think the civil rights movement was an accommodation on the part of those who own the country. I think they see where their self-interest lies; they see a certain amount of freedom seems good -an illusion of liberty- give these people a voting day every year so they will have the illusion of meaningless choice.”
…”The limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins.”
-George Carlin, incisive as always
Bearing this point of view in mind, what did civil rights really achieve? Well black people in the south can ride the front of the bus, so there’s that at least. Also, segregation is not legally sanctioned anymore, and we all know that if something is not legal people won’t do it.
In my own personal estimation very little was accomplished in the civil rights movement beyond black folk gaining nominal “equality” with the white lower and middle classes who are just as disenfranchised as segregated blacks were.
“Congratulations on your equality, black people. Here are your new peers.”
This same issue came up recently when a girl I know tried to convince me that I had some great advantage over her as a male. Ummm…no.
Look at the circumstances of those you seek equality with before you set equality with them as your endgame. You might be sorely disappointed to find out they have it as bad or worse than you. To clarify, I don’t deny that certain groups have endured terrible injustices throughout history; slavery. internment, persecutions have all happened at various times and in various places and it would be insensitive to deny the significance of these events. However, I contend that such instances are outgrowths of a general inequality which still exists at all times even if a certain visible demographic is not being targeted.
On Using One Story to Distract you From Another
Now there are a lot of (more or less) well-intentioned libertarian groups who point out that the same-sex marriage issue in the news is meant to detract from important news like the Monsanto Protection bill. In a reductive sense, these news outlets (Death Before Disinformation et al.) are absolutely right. But on the other hand any government could just as easily have the media focus on the Monsanto bill to distract the population from something else. Neither the Monsanto bill nor the same sex marriage issue are fundamental, foundational issues. Rather they can both be used as needed to distract people from more fundamental issues. This is the problem with libertarianism (and any -ism really): when you define your position as counter to big government, you make a boogie monster out of it and end up endowing all of its actions as evil (which is not realistic) instead of looking at the causal chain of events which sets the government in opposition to its people.
Back to Well Intentioned (Sl)Activism)
I realize I got off on a bit of a tangent there, but tangential discussions are useful in that they provide evidence for how all things are connected. Every issue in society shares a common thread with every other issue, hence the tangents. Hence too my admonishments toward reductive and limited agitation for one narrow goal. I mean how can I really be expected to get riled up for women’s rights…
…when they don’t do fuck all for this kid?
How am supposed to give a shit about starving kids in Africa when feeding them still doesn’t protect…
…these women from rapists.
Even then, how am I supposed to agitate for women’s rights when doing so would not serve…
…the homosexuals who live in fear of violent reprisals for their orientations.
Finally, how can I profess to be a supporter of the gays, the women or the visible racial minorities when supporting those groups does nothing for…
…the straight white males. That fabled privileged class who rules the world.
I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but I want to get the point across that any well-intentioned action which is not specifically calculated to improve the life of EVERYONE on the planet in a tangible way is just so much masturbation; nothing more than a way to make you feel good without actually doing anything.
That may seem like a tall order but there are channels to go through which would have a net positive effect on the planet and everyone in it if more people were aware of them. First, an understanding of causality is required so that you can look at all the ills of the world and trace the causal chain of all of them back to a common mechanism. Then you simply suspend and impede all actions which support that mechanism.
Ok, so its not that simple. And if you look at the track record of people who have challenged the status quo at a structural level you see that it can be a hazardous endeavour. Martin Luther King and Gandhi got assassinated because they attacked the roots of the inequality which pervades society and offered an effective weapon against it in the form of non-violent non-participation. Whatever issues they started out as champions of, at some point they realized that they were fighting something bigger and that meaningful change could only come from addressing that bigger thing.
By comparison, Gloria Steinem and Jesse Jackson are still alive. I am not saying they are not well-intentioned people who didn’t do important work, but their messages were hardly rallying cries which every person on the planet could get behind.
And this is just it. If you want to help the gays, you can’t do that by loving the gays. You gotta love everyone. That means we gotta break down these barriers of seeing other groups as separate and apart from us, and other people as separate and apart from us as well. You’ll find that when you do this there are very few popular movements to run with. The established, accepted agitation groups represent only fragments of the population and so are necessarily exclusive in some respect. Furthermore, by hoping to have legislation passed, they know better than to piss on the carpet. In other words they don’t cross certain lines and instead they play ball with lawmakers. They have to. Chances are, if any politician is talking about any movement, that movement has already been corrupted and is therefore safe for political approval and backing.
The right issues are not the popular ones. The important questions are the ones few, if any, are asking. To get back to the initial point of this post. Always check what you are actually fighting for, whether its marriage rights, minority rights or whatever. Critical thought may reveal that you are not aiming high enough in your aspirations.
-Andre Guantanamo*When I refer to marriage as an outgrowth of scarcity, I mean it literally. What better way to ensure a potential suitor doesn’t leave your daughter when she turns out to be infertile or otherwise burdensome than to have the union legally ratified and unbreakable? Although we dress it up now, its the same prevailing logic behind things like common-law status for two people living together. If the more financially stable one decides to up and leave the other it can be economically disadvantageous so we brought the government into the equation (much to the chagrin of Mr. Stanhope) to arbitrate between the haves and have-nots.