« Our ignorance of intelligence | Main | Global patterns in terrorism »

February 06, 2005

Culture and the politics of marriage

Marriage is supposed to be a celebration of life and commitment. It is supposed to be a time when two people decide to share their lives in the most intimate of ways - becoming a single taxable entity. Although there are certainly a great many incentives for marriage, e.g., studies often show it's a long-term investment in one's health, there are other advantages to remaining single, like greater independence and flexibility in picking out furniture.

Yet despite the fundamental importance of the family unit to the continuation of the human race, the trend is for Western young adults to stay "single" longer and marry later, particularly when they are well-educated or perhaps part of the "creative class". I suspect another positive correlation with a lengthier single-hood: living in a dense urban area, such as New York City or San Francisco provides such a vast array of opportunities (both social and career-wise), that we young folk are reluctant to close off any of those possibilities. Even with popular shows like Sex and the City moralizing about the benefits of marriage, the primary audience of the show don't seem to be imitating it in that particular aspect.

This fact is one more reason to suggest that the conservative movement to promote the misnamed "family values" (which is largely a religious cover for homophobia and bigotry) is fundamentally out of step with the culture as a whole. In fact, it betrays the movement's fundamental hypocrisy with regard to modern culture. This is best illustrated by, on the one hand, the monotonous promotion of "marriage" as a cure for all cultural ills, and on the other hand, the denial of that very institution (and all of the benefits that go along with it) to gays. Taking a slightly broader perspective, the movement's condemnation of social liberalism (e.g., tolerance of homosexuality, etc.), contrasted with its lustful relationship with corporate liberalism, is inherently two-faced.

Is it possible for politics to not sully itself with the commingling of self-serving power and the craven materialism? Apparently not.

posted February 6, 2005 08:48 PM in Political Wonk | permalink