Human nature – demand for the impossible

I think I’ve found what makes humans different from other occupants of this planet. It goes like this. Imagine something that you know is impossible. Pass the word around. Soon there will be some other human imagining how it might actually be possible. Once we know it might be possible then it becomes something that we want. As the impossible gets close to becoming possible then the ‘want’ becomes a ‘need’. When the impossible is now possible it becomes more than a need; it becomes a right, and if I can’t have it, right here, right now, I’m taking to the streets, forming a lobby, heading for the United Nations and appearing on morning television until I get justice, equality and my human rights. Anyone standing in my way will get trolled by my Twitter followers and demonised on Facebook. Look out!

That’s human nature and I that’s why they’re called human rights.

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The myths of the ‘yes’ campaign.

The ‘no’ campaign has been found to be propagating myths and lies, what about the arguments of the ‘yes’ campaign?

1. Marriage is a basic human right, and not allowing same-sex marriage is a violation of that right.

Marriage is not a basic human right at all. Marriage is an institution which has evolved within society to provide for society’s need for order and certainty surrounding the birth of children. Society has developed marriage for this purpose, to bind two people together, man and woman, to have children and form a family, which is the basic unit of society. Marriage has developed only because of this purpose. Without the fact that when a man and a woman join together they bear children to raise, there would be no need for marriage, so there exists no context where marriage would exist if this was not true. Extending marriage to encompass other circumstances is therefore irrelevant, at best.

What is a basic human right is that a person be able to choose their partner in life. Fortunately, these days, that right already exists for all people in Australia.

2. Not allowing same-sex marriage is discrimination

Discrimination is unacceptable in society; not allowing people of the same sex to marry is discrimination and is therefore unacceptable; so the law must be changed. 

Superficially this makes sense until you realise that almost all laws are discriminatory in some way. Laws always prescribe who is to benefit and who is ineligible based on certain criteria. Aged pensions are paid to old people except the very rich. Free schooling is provided only for young people. Ex-soldiers qualify for certain benefits. Citizens get rights that others do not. Disabled get to use disabled car spaces. Aborigines get certain rights that others don’t. Property owners get to keep people from their properties. SCG members get the best seats for the cricket. Car users use the roads and pedestrians use the foot paths. Company directors have special laws. We have different laws that provide different rules for different parts of society according to circumstance and need. So it follows that marriage laws, which currently apply to men and women, may discriminate against same-sex couples but it is up to the same-sex campaigners to prove that that discrimination is actually a bad thing. It is not an automatic conclusion.

3. Same-sex relationships are being treated as second-rate and this has an adverse impact on the self-esteem of the LGBTI community leading to suicides

It’s hard to argue against such an emotive argument. Of course, you would support any measure that reduces the rate of suicide in young, vulnerable people.

My first response is to say that not including same-sex relationships in marriage does not necessarily imply they are second-rate at all. Marriage is not some Holy Grail that imparts on those who acquire it some mystical powers. Marriage is a social convention that for tens of thousands of years has helped to maintain stable societies. It is generally entered into by a man and a woman who love each other. Recently, heterosexual couples have often decided to forego marriage ceremonies and just live together, have children and maintain a stable relationship. They are not seen to be second-rate, just different.

The second point to make is that it is the ‘yes’ campaigners who have turned the interpretation of a ‘no’ vote into a general condemnation of LGBTI people, which it is not. Even though some ‘no’ voters will be deplorable individuals that doesn’t mean that most ‘no’ voters won’t actually have a great deal of goodwill towards the LGBTI community. Linking ‘no’ votes to community attitudes towards gay people has been a successful but dishonest tactic by the ‘yes’ campaign.

4. The current survey is purely about whether two people who love each other should be able to marry.

This argument has been repeated many time by Christine Forster but it just shows that she shares with her brother the ability to deceive by simplification. A change in society of this magnitude is not without consequences. What consequences? We don’t know, yet. You cannot change the scope of an institution that has existed for so long without many flow on effects. I give it twenty-five to thirty years before we know. My feeling is that there will be consequences especially related to that natural consequence of  most marriages, children.

This report from The Economist  in 2014 gives an insight into novel ways to get children. In this regard I can only provide my own person opinion, not a rational argument. My opinion is that using such methods of creative procreation to satisfy the personal needs of adults, however earnestly felt, is ethically dubious at best and potentially a gross abuse of power and a reckless experiment at the expense of the children, who may suffer anguish and loss throughout their lives never knowing who their real father or mother is.

I feel that it is time that we stopped experimenting with children!

5. Marriage is not about having children because old people marry and not all people who marry have children.

This argument says that just because a same-sex couple cannot produce offspring is not a reason to stop them marrying. After all, there are old and childless couples who marry. However when older men and women marry they are just conforming with a social norm that compels them to follow certain conventions. This social norm does not now apply to same-sex couples and I doubt if it ever will. In fact, even most young people only marry because of this social norm. Given the choice they would gladly leave out the signing of the register and just get about their business of being happy together. Why do same-sex couples want to be regulated by the Marriage Act instead of just living together and enjoying their lives? This needs an answer. I repeat, why do same-sex couples want to be regulated by the Marriage Act instead of just living together and enjoying their lives? This still needs an answer. Why would you want the government to take control of your relationship? That is what the Marriage Act is about. The government wants to register and record who is with whom. Where is the love in that?

As for saying that childless couples are an argument for same-sex marriage I am particularly affronted by such an argument. Talk about marriage equality!

Besides, for almost a decade same-sex couples have enjoyed most of the rights of married couples, the same as de facto different-sex couples.

6. Same-sex couples do not enjoy all of the rights and privileges of married couples.

This argument is by way of exploding the supposed myth that the current laws bestow equal rights on de facto same-sex couples as de facto hetero couples. It argues that the de facto rights in Australia are not at all the same as having a piece of paper saying that you are married. Unfortunately, when that argument is dissected the only instances presented are around the definition of next-of-kin and the automatic change of a person’s pre-existing will. These two technicalities are hardly show-stoppers and laws can be changed in respect of these two matters if required. So this myth-buster just proved to create another myth.

7. Most of the problems children experience in life are inflicted by their heterosexual parents.

This is a particularly fallacious argument because it is patently correct. Since all children are born of heterosexual relationships all problems a child has in life must be spring from this origin. An implication of this argument is that hetero couples have been mucking up children’s lives and it is now time to hand the responsibility over to more competent hands. How is having two fathers but not the loving touch of a mother, or two mothers, without the strong influence of a father, going to be superior? This is delusional. Of course two loving men can raise a child well, just as two loving women can also do a great job of raising a child. But the human failings that beset different-sex couples when they try raising children that they conceived and gave birth to are also going to be present in just proportion in single-sex couples. But the consequences of failure are likely to be much worse.

8. Children of same-sex couples do just as well on indicators as those from hetero marriages.

This is based on actual studies and I believe it. I certainly hope that this is maintained if the marriage laws are changed. Most of the case studies related to cases where a mother with custody of her own children partnered a woman after a marriage breakdown. In these cases the children know their own father and understand the circumstances of their birth. We have yet to see the full implications of a second wave of children who know only one biological parent and have no understanding of how they actually came to be in this world.

9. Vote ‘yes’ for love. All love is equal. Vote ‘yes’ for marriage equality.

I think that these statements are the statements that capture people’s hearts and minds. They are very compelling. Why should one group be stopped from loving? Why should we treat one person’s love as being better than another’s? Why should we have antiquated laws that discriminate against one group in society? Let’s go with our hearts and make people happy. Let’s treat all relationships as equal.

These arguments are simple, easy to understand and attractive to people who want an inclusive, diverse and open society. They are also very sentimental and so attract people on the basis of their feelings. So what’s wrong with these statements?

Firstly, marriage laws are not about love. They are about regulating society to conform with some norms that have existed for a long time. To counter, you could say let’s change those norms, but that would be a completely different argument and that is what the ‘yes’ campaign has been careful to hide. Suppose the question on the survey had been “Do you agree that the government should change the basic unit of society with completely unknown consequences?” I think that would have limited success.

Secondly, marriage laws are not about love. People are already free to love whoever they like (no pun intended!) There is nothing in the Marriage Act that enhances one’s love for another. There is also nothing in the Marriage Act that prohibits unmarried people from loving their partner.

Thirdly, same-sex relationships cannot have ‘equality’ with hetero relationships in a mathematical sense, i.e. being exactly the same. Hetero relationships produce children whose biological parents are also the parents who raise them. Equality will remain a myth.

10. The ‘no’ vote proponents have lied and made up false claims that appeal to people’s fears.

Actually, this myth is mostly true. On the other hand they have been facing a very tricky opponent. For all the words of love and equality the ‘yes’ vote has been particularly ruthless with their opponents. I placed a small comment on twitter and was abused without mercy. The claims of having a small budget for the campaign do not stack up when they have pressured huge corporations to make statements in their favour and even being neutral has been a source of outrage.

Overall, both sides have presented some fairly specious arguments. What disappointed me was the ‘no’ side stressing religious arguments, which have little appeal to those who are likely to be wavering. They are just preaching to the converted, literally.

My decision

I voted ‘no’ mainly because of a sense of making a decision based on what I thought were rational rather than emotional grounds. I feel that I have tried to avoid using any of the tricky arguments of the ‘no’ campaign and presented responses that show that same-sex marriage in Australia is unnecessary, but also potentially a problem in the future. Of the latter, I have no evidence, of course!

Not only that, but the strength and the urgency of the calls for same-sex marriage as soon as possible, their resistance to the plebiscite and the postal survey and their intolerance towards any opposition all raise my suspicions. Why the urgency? Why so much pressure? I don’t like being pressured. What is behind this move? Why are we changing a law that really advantages no one and yet potentially raises the likelihood of adverse results?

Diary of Tim, age 7

My teacher asked me to keep a diary and write down things I do or think about.

Monday

Today I saw a lady outside the school. I think she might be my mother. She was very pretty and she smiled at me. I smiled too and gave her a little wave. Maybe I’ll see her tomorrow. I keep thinking about her.

Tuesday

Two weeks ago, I asked Daddy Paul about my mother. He said he would tell me all about her one day. That was two weeks ago and he still hasn’t told me about her.

I have two dads and it’s a lot of fun, especially when we play frisbees or cricket in the park. I like daddy Paul the best. Daddy Henry is very funny. He picks me up and laughs and rubs his face on mine. He’s pretty scratchy.

Wednesday

Daddy Paul said he is my real father because a little bit of him is in every part of me.

Thursday

Daddy Henry picked me up from school and bought me an ice-cream and we walked around the shops looking at stuff. He told me he didn’t have a father because his father ran away when he just little. That’s why being my father is so special.

Friday

I saw that pretty lady again outside the school. She smiled at me and waved. I ran over to her. She leant over with her face close to mine. Her face was very soft. I asked her if she was my mother. She said no, she was a relief teacher. She didn’t have any children, but she said one day she wanted a boy just like me. She gave me a hug. I smiled at her and then I cried a little bit too.

 

[NB: fictional account. no connection with any real persons]

Mass Hysteria

Occasionally through history there have been eruptions of mass thought that spread through a population, especially younger people, that although illogical or counter to existing morality, catch fire like Australian bushland on a hot, windy day. They then burn themselves out and later leave the protagonists bewildered about what they were thinking. Why did we do that? How did we allow ourselves to be sucked up into that strange society. Some never recover.

To give some examples: There was the hippy, drug-taking, free sex culture of the 1970s. They were going to change the world but within a few years ended up drifting back into the mainstream or wasting their lives in drug and welfare dependence. Then there were the idealistic youth of China who became the Red Guards and betrayed their family, their teachers and their fellows in a mass hysteria rarely seen since Hitler Youth. I once spoke with some of those people and they couldn’t explain their actions, even to themselves. There was the Spanish Inquisition and the Protestant witch hunts of the 16th Century. At a more banal level, there was an outbreak of RSI that occurred in the 1980s causing phantom symptoms in tens of thousands of workers. In each case, people develop a collective mentality that defies logical thinking. These cases can be trivial, banal or tragic and deadly. Think of the situation of the Cambodian people under Pol Pot. Think of the hysteria afflicting people joining ISIS.

As I write this I can see that the people who run this blogging platform have plastered a rainbow stripe at the masthead of this page. This marks their solidarity with gay-rights and marriage equality. After years of official discrimination nobody should be opposed to giving gay people a fair go or even a helping hand to overcome shocking mistreatment in the past and many well-meaning people have extended that logic to the absolute necessity of same-sex marriage. But I fear that at this point it has gone beyond being a simple matter of justice to becoming another outbreak of mass hysteria with people unable to use balanced thinking and unable to consider the arguments of those who say ‘no’.

First, I have to explain that I am not homophobic, but I would say that, wouldn’t I. Through my life I have never had a long-term friendship with a gay person but I have found that gay guys tended to like me. I can recall my shock when I first started work when a gay guy in the office was murdered, presumably by a gay-bashing gang. That was really shocking. In those days there was so much fear and loathing. Thank god that in the last thirty years that homosexuality has become accepted as just a personal feature that adds to the unique individuality of each person.

A lot of this change in perception has been achieved by the gay rights movement. That movement is not just a grass-roots movement but has been bank-rolled by wealthy donors, such as Tim Gill a software billionaire. He is reported to have spent half a billion dollars, fighting court cases to remove discriminatory laws or regulations that involved disadvantage to gay people. For having achieved so much he could be considered a saint. He has also used his influence to involve other corporations, some of America’s largest, to back his projects to the extent that the gay rights movement has a large war chest and a lot of powerful backers.

This powerful movement, however, has little tolerance of those who oppose it. Even my employer, with thirty-three thousand employees, is a backer to the extent that the CEO sent emails to every employee encouraging them to vote ‘yes’ in the current survey. That I found really weird. It seems so inappropriate for an employer to be interfering in a social issue of this nature and attempting to influence its employees in this way. When has that ever happened before? That is when I started thinking about mass hysteria. That is when I started to think about ‘correct-speak’ and ‘correct-think’ and how it filters through society like some sort of unquestionable moral imperative. Logic is put aside as irrelevant, reason is is treated as heretical and conserving the status quo becomes evil.