Saturday, August 29, 2009

Between Choices And Consequences

Catholicism in Ireland was the site of an intellectual tragedy, or, perhaps more accurately, an unintellectual tragedy.
Tom Garvin, Preventing the Future
I think of Garvin's brilliant analysis of the demise of the Catholic Church in Ireland whenever I hear some of its current leaders commentating on one development or another. Take Cardinal Brady's recent comments on the Civil Partnership Bill:
During the next Dáil and Seanad term politicians and citizens will debate and be asked to make a fundamental choice about the future of marriage and the family in Ireland. They will be asked to approve legislation and policy which, among other things: will make same-sex partnerships equal in status to marriage, with the same benefits in tax and welfare as married couples – the only difference being the right to adopt children; will give cohabiting same-sex, or opposite sex, partners the same status as marriage, after they have lived together for a short period; will remove ‘marital status’ from key legislation and public documentation and replace it with ‘civil status’, thus directly challenging the Constitutional recognition that marriage is ‘a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law’ (Article 41.1.1).
The Cardinal is right about the fundamental choices that will be made should the Civil Partnership Bill be passed into law. Where he is wrong, however, is about the consequences. Cardinal Brady worries that "What the government is planning will hugely change people's concept of the family." Well I hate to break it to the Cardinal but people's concept of the family have already changed hugely: and the dire consequences he fears might happen have already happened.

Moreover, the issue of same-sex civic partnerships and ultimately gay marriage is something of a red herring. As I've noted before, as few as 1% of Irish adults are gay, and in countries where gay marriage is legal as few as 2-3% of gays get married. So we're looking at a big heated debated about legislative changes that subsequently might see 3% of 1% of adults (that's about 1,000 gay men and women) opting for a same sex marriage (though I don't doubt every single one of them will feature in wedding pictures section of the Irish Times magazine ;-) So not quite the end of civilisation as we know it ...

But the one aspect of the Civil Partnership Bill that does represents nothing less than a civilisation-destroying act of national suicide are the proposals on cohabitation (see Part 15 from page 55 of the Bill). These have received far less attention in the little debate there has been about the Bill, and yet will have exponentially greater consequences for the future of family life in Ireland. I urge you to read it: there is an entire minefield of society-wrecking ideas, notions and proposals contained in its pages sufficient to keep an army of lawyers, social workers and gardai gainfully employed for generations to come.

The legislation ostensibly sets out to extend most of the property and other protections of marriage (e.g.: to alimony) to cohabiting couples - regardless of the preferences of either cohabiting party. Let's start with the Bill's definition of cohabitation:
170.—(1) For the purposes of this Part, a cohabitant is one of 2 adults (whether of the same or the opposite sex) who live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship and who are not related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship or married to each other or civil partners of each other.

(2) In determining whether or not 2 adults are cohabitants, the court shall take into account all the circumstances of the relationship and in particular shall have regard to the following:

(a) the duration of the relationship;
(b) the basis on which the couple live together;
(c) the degree of financial dependence of either adult on the other and any agreements in respect of their finances;
(d) the degree and nature of any financial arrangements between the adults including any joint purchase of an estate or interest in land or joint acquisition of personal property;
(e) whether there are one or more dependent children;
(f) whether one of the adults cares for and supports the children of the other; and
(g) the degree to which the adults present themselves toothers as a couple.

(3) For the avoidance of doubt a relationship does not cease to be an intimate relationship for the purpose of this section merely because it is no longer sexual in nature.
There's more:
(5) For the purposes of this Part, a qualified cohabitant means an adult who was in a relationship of cohabitation with another adult and who, immediately before the time that that relationship ended, whether through death or otherwise, was living with the other adult as a couple for a period—

(a) of 2 years or more, in the case where they are the parents of one or more dependent children, and
(b) of 3 years or more, in any other case.
That's the definition bit (and I'm sure you've spotted a few significant 'anniversaries' that will influence the old 'will-I-stay-or-will-I-go' decision the majority of cohabiting couples with children end up making). But the fun really begins when you learn what the legislation empowers the courts to do vis-a-vis cohabiting couples, one of whom has decided he/she would rather not remain a couple. I've highlighted some of the more interesting ones below:
171.—(1) A qualified cohabitant may, subject to any agreement under section 199, apply to the court, on notice to the other cohabitant, for an order under sections 172, 173 and 185 or any of them.

(2) If the qualified cohabitant satisfies the court that he or she is financially dependent on the other cohabitant and that the financial dependence arises from the relationship or the ending of the relationship, the court may, if satisfied that it is just and equitable to do so in all the circumstances, make the order concerned.

172.—(1) An order under this section may provide for one or more of the following matters:
(a) the transfer by either of the cohabitants to or for the benefit of the other, of specified property in which the cohabitant has an interest either in possession or reversion;
(b) the settlement to the satisfaction of the court of specified property in which the cohabitant has an interest either in possession or reversion, for the benefit of the other cohabitant or of a dependent child;

173.—(1) The court, on application to it in that behalf by the qualified cohabitant, may, during the lifetime of either of the cohabitants, make one or more of the following orders:
(a) an order that either of the cohabitants make to the other the periodical payments in the amounts, during the period and at the times that may be specified in the order;
(b) an order that either of the cohabitants secure to the other, to the satisfaction of the court, the periodical payments of the amounts, during the period and at the times that may be specified in the order; and
(c) an order that either of the cohabitants make to the other a lump sum payment or lump sum payments of the amount or amounts and at the time or times that may be specified in the order.

173.—(7) The court that makes an order under subsection (1)(a) shall, in the same proceedings, make an attachment of earnings order under section 174 to secure payments under the order if it is satisfied, after taking into consideration any representations on the matter made to it by the qualified cohabitant ordered to make payments under that subsection, that—

(a) the order is desirable to secure payments under an order under subsection (1)(a) and any variations and affirmations of that order, and
(b) the person against whom the attachment of earnings order is made is a person to whom earnings fall to be paid.
So much for the legislation, what about the consequences? That's when it gets interesting. For the legislation on cohabitation amounts to nothing less than a gold-digger's charter. And it's a charter in favour of one gender only (I'll give you a clue: it's the one that has the babies ...) Up until the Bill the only way a woman could claim entitlement to a man's property, assets and earnings upon their relationship ending (other than through death obviously) was to be married to him.

But now any poor sap who has the misfortune to fall in love with a woman and live with her for a few years could find himself obliged to keep her in the style she and her children have become accustomed to even if she decides to terminate the relation. And don't forget it's women who instigate divorces in the vast majority of cases, so there's no reason to assume this won't apply in the case of separating cohabiting couples ('civic dissolution'?). Oh, and in case you didn't spot it in the carefully worded legislation I quoted above, they don't even have to be his children - they just have to be dependent children, regardless of whom the father is.

So hopefully you're beginning to grasp the full import of this remarkable piece of legislation - brought to you by the same enlightened geniuses who brought us de-centralisation and NAMA. To be fair to Cardinal Brady, I don't really expect him to grasp all this. He has a noble commitment, shared by most Christians, to the ideal that raising children is best done by both their biological parents bound together by their marriage vows. As it happens, I also think that this is the best arrangement we have yet discovered, not least because all other experiments with alternatives (from kibbutzim to welfare-state funded single parenthood) have so far failed (on all reasonable measures), and often failed spectacularly.

The question, of course, is why do the drafters of the Civic Partnership Bill want to extend to adults who are cohabiting the same entitlements/protections as couples who are married? The benign interpretation is that it's all about 'equality' - or rather, that it is an attempt to reduce discrimination against fellow citizens simply on account of their marital status. Discrimination is a bad thing you understand, because to discriminate is to pass judgement, and that is the one remaining sin in politically correct secular societies.

Still, why should a woman with dependent children be less entitled to the support of their father because she is not married to the father than if she was married? Of course, it's a loaded question. To answer it properly we need to unbundle an awful lot of assumptions, pressuppostions and feminist ideology before we are even ready to provide an answer.

Firstly, let's start with biology 101: it's women who have babies, not men. And in this day and age, women have babies because they want them, not because they don't have access to contraceptives (or to easily accessible abortion services in the UK). So almost all women who have children with men they are not married to do so of their own free will. Sure the men are willing accomplices most of the time: but in the final analysis they are 'influencers' not 'decision makers'. Moreover, there is no longer even the remotest shame in having children outside of marriage (quaint and all as that already sounds); indeed in some parts of the country it's practically a right of passage for young women.

So here's a more interesting question: why would a woman not want to marry the man she wants to father her children, knowing that divorce is a readily available option should it not work out? Here we enter into a very interesting world - one far removed from the Cardinal's laudable concerns about the state of matrimony. Because we are in the midst of an extraordinary experiment in the Western world right now, nothing less than the fruition of the original feminist revolutionary ideal. Don't take it from me, here's one woman's explanation (she works with women in abusive relationships) as part of a fascinating two part discussion on the theme of Why Has the Female Sex Lost Its Mind?:
For me, I feel that a huge part of the genesis is that women gave away their birthright with the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Ah, yes, the '60s again. Prior to then, the assumptions were that men supported women and children, were responsible for the family financial welfare, and protected the family unit. Women were responsible for safety and raising of children, refraining from causing uncertainty about parentage, and had constrained expectations about career advancement in that men who supported families were likely to be favored in promotions and pay. After the '60s, and having come into adulthood in the late '50s, I got to see the sexual revolution take place close at hand.

There is no doubt in my mind that the bargain that women struck (women get easy sex, complete control of reproduction, and access to competition [sometimes favoritism] in the workplace) was not by any means worth the price that was accurately forseen even at that time (men are released from responsibility for children, easy-come-easy-go on marriages and intimacy which led to endless financial risks for the woman, and a false expectation that raising wonderful children can be readily sandwiched into a life when the primary attention is on financial support of the family by a single parent).

It is a fact that this is a social experiment which no previous society known to mankind has ever before attempted. It remains to be seen if it is a successful experiment. The demographic meltdown of the populations of all Western countries suggests that it is not a successful model for the relations between the sexes, and looks more and more to be a failure of a social model. This failure is likely to be fatal to our societies.

Yep: we're boldly going where no sane civilisation has gone before. So an alternative assessment of those who drafted the Civil Partnership Bill is that they fancy themselves as social engineers, building heaven on earth one piece of legislation at a time.

Missing from all of this is the voice of men. No surprise there: it's rare that you'll see a man given airtime by our media to make the case for marriage, unless he's gay of course. But media portrayals of heterosexual men as knuckle-dragging, beer-bellied, x-box players to the contrary, men have actually twigged what's going on. And they're having none of it - hence the rise of Game and the entire PUA sub-culture as one tactical response. Here's Kay Hymowitz's take on what's going on with men:
It would be easy enough to write off the dating Darwinists as simple renegades against female empowerment. Easy, but misleading. Menaissance men think that women’s equality has brought real benefits, though they might not agree with women about what those benefits are. “We can have sex with as many women as we want and not have to worry about making any of them pregnant,” one of my more upbeat respondents, an SYM named Curtis, writes. “Men are having more freedom and fun than ever before in all of history as a result of this, because if there’s one thing every single man can agree upon, it’s that having sex with as many women as possible is a great thing.”
Men (who are mostly betas) are responding to a culturally-mandated extinction of the Alpha Male by adopting some of his tactics. We are witnessing something akin to a gender war, with constant escalations in its intensity, usually via legislation such as that now proposed, and men's reactions to it (as they are explicitly or implicitly the targets of the legislation). And I mean target in the crosshairs sense.

All of this is tragic, doubly so because it is also avoidable. The reality is that most young men want to get married and to be fathers. But increasingly the social, cultural and legislative changes that are being put in place remove absolutely any incentive for them to do so. It cannot be overstated as to how dangerous this is. As F. Roger Devlin observes in a series of extraodinary essays:
The discovery of fatherhood was a watershed event in human history greater than the discovery of the wheel, fire, or agriculture. Civilization is very largely a matter of high-investment parenting, and that requires heavy and continuing paternal involvement. Such involvement rests upon a fundamental anthropological fact: viz., men will gladly work, fight, and sacrifice for children provided they feel sure of their own paternity. No shotgun marriages, no governmental child-support enforcement agencies, not even much in the way of exhortation is necessary for that to occur. The human male finds satisfaction in fatherhood.
But instead of recognising this and doing everything possible to ensure that young men and women go on to provide the same civilizational continuity that our parents and ancestors did before us, our legislators are trapped in a lose-lose game of political correctness. Those protesters waving placards with the slogan 'Marriage is Gay' should enjoy the joke while it lasts. Because a generation is growing up for whom 'marriage' is increasingly synonymous with 'gay' - or even polygamy. But not with the ideal behaviour of young heterosexual couples who want to have children. And the problem is that no amount of legislation can put a culture or civilisation back together again once it has fallen apart.

So where to next? We can anticipate some of the actions and reactions arising from crass, mis-guided legislation for the foreseeable future. Still, there is enough social capital by way of the still prevalent ambition of most young women and men to get married. And I don't buy into the whole she-conomy/men are redundant nonsense. Nor can we/should we go back to some idealised, 1950s arrangement of gender roles. The question is - what can we go forward to? I'm not sure myself (I'm genuinely uncertain myself and still trying to figure/map it out), but I am sure that equating cohabitation with marriage isn't 'progress', if that word is to retain any positive meaning. Perhaps our politicians will come up with an answer when the Civic Partnership Bill comes up for debate before the Dáil soon.

har har har har har har har har har har har ...

2 comments:

  1. Great post Ger -

    I actually got deep, deep into the PUA subculture.

    I will bring you out sarging some night for the laugh Ger to atone for leaving so many far-left coloured comments on your blog :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have to come up with the answers ourselves as men. PUA sub culture was just an uprising of a group of men deciding to change things. Whether it is right or wrong is too simplistic of a representation system. There are grays in the community but ideally, we are all growing in the process and living the life we want.

    ReplyDelete

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