A life half-lived

Imagine every embarrassing moment of your life being relived over and over. Groundhog Day without the good bits. What a terrible inhibition on one’s ability to live one’s life.

Well, that had been my life until recently. There was, for instance, the time that I said something complimentary to one person that I later realised to be a terrible insult to another person present; a simple clumsiness that I regretted later; something from my childhood years, my adolescence, my first marriage, at a social function, at school, at work, in front of my workmates or my relatives, whatever, would pop into my mind at any time of day or in any place. I would cringe and groan and then try to forget it; but the memory would come back a few days, weeks or years later, only to repeat again. With seemingly hundreds of these cringe moments, it wasn’t uncommon for my wife to often say, “what’s the matter?” and I would shake it off and say, “ah, nothing.”

Well they are all gone now. I found a solution. Whenever a cringe memory hits me now, I think about what happened, I write it all down on an imaginary piece of paper, with a pretend pen; I try to learn from what happened ask forgiveness, then fold it up and place it in  an invisible envelope and post it into a make-believe letter box to nowhere. It never seems to come back. No more cringes, no more groans, no regrets. All gone!

I just hope I don’t regret writing this.

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Boring

I’m pretty boring. I know it. That’s why I’m not in television. Some boring people make it into television – they are called ABC news-readers. I have met a few flamboyant, irrepressible and down-right disgusting people in my time, even in my limited experience. ButI feel that when you enter the realm of entertainment that the likelihood of people there being debauched, pretentious, conceited, egotistical sociopaths rises exponentially. I don’t want to excuse bad behaviour – definitely not – but I don’t want to condemn people who are not like me just because they are not like me. I don’t want to watch television where only people like me are allowed on the set.

Recently we have had a lot of news about some entertainers’ lascivious behaviour. There has also been a lot of nonsense spoken, like poor Oprah’s tedious speech. The sight of a woman displaying her ample bosom, surrounded by a lot of women, apparently attending a public function in black underwear, demanding more respect seems odd.

There do need to be some standards – Harvey Weinstein should probably go to gaol and maybe share a cell with Dustin Hoffman. On the other hand, when we hear about someone’s behaviour, and it’s behaviour that we would consider unacceptable for ourselves, which of us really has the right to condemn them?

Our own Australian-made pair of Don Burke and Craig McLachlan have been exposed with shock and horror by Fairfax and the ABC. Their compulsive and at times repulsive behaviour has outraged everyone who likes to be outraged and brought their respective careers to a halt. But, when you examine what they actually did, you have to ask the questions, were the participants adults, who was actually harmed, which laws were broken and how much of what the accusers are saying is just in their own minds?

 

Logic fails to make sense

I may have mentioned before, that I often have to solve problems in my work. I like to use logic and I find that in isolating a problem there is a simple set of rules to follow that I learnt about twenty years ago. You see a problem and you isolate it in terms of time – when it happens, when it does not happen – and in space – where it happens and where it does not happen. Once you have split your observations into these four quadrants the answer sometimes leaps out at you.

Another way to sort out what’s right or wrong is to go back to first principles. If there is a relationship between two events can one be causing the other or is there some other cause? However, if ‘A and B then C’ is true, then can we say ‘if not A or not B then not C’ is true? How can you tell? There’s not enough information.

Recently, I have been trying to apply my form of logic to problems that involve peoples’ feelings. I would like to think that using logic gives a better result than emotion but some people don’t like my conclusions. Let’s draw a Venn diagram around all that stuff and forget it.

Isn’t specialising a form of discrimination?

Just did a google search and found a plethora of sites “specialising in same-sex marriage.” Huh? With all the agonising going on in parliament this is surely bizarre. What if someone’s business specialised in not providing for same-sex marriage? They’d probably be persecuted, graffitied, hounded into an early grave, taken to the Human Rights Commission and put in gaol. (Maybe not in that order.)

“We need more rope!”

Why does marriage exist in the first place? Marriage exists because men and women produce offspring. Without that simple fact, marriage would not exist. Marriage is unnecessary except for that fact. Society has depended on and nurtured the institution of marriage to provide certainty around the birth of children.

Story: A man visited a mountain kingdom where the people built rope bridges between the peaks so that they could trade with their neighbours. The man returned to his village on the plains and retold his stories. The people were puzzled and dismayed as they looked across the plains. “We need more rope!” they said.

Marriage between men and women has developed in every almost society on Earth for the entire history of man, and long before that, as a way to ensure the continuation of the tribe, the society, the culture. There are some minor exceptions, like the Naxi ethnic group in Yunnan province of China that refrains from marriage. In general though, marriage has been integral in the development of society and civilisation.

Story: The man who had visited the mountains had a better plan. The next morning the villagers were busy digging a deep trench around their village.

The concept of marriage has always been about a man and woman. Gay couples in the past have definitely established long-term relationships but until just recently, no one has expressed a need or desire to call this marriage.

Story: Having built bridges across the trench around their village, the people set off to trade with their neighbours. “Why didn’t we think of this before?” they asked.

Apart from man and woman, other combinations of the two sexes (man and man or woman and woman) do not produce offspring, so their pairing is irrelevant to to the original concept of marriage. Marriage is often celebrated as the act of two loving people coming together but we all know that it is the bit where a child is conceived that makes this pairing so essential to society. So essential that in the last two or three centuries, after thousands of years of custom, tradition and, indeed, thousands of years of religious observance, marriage between man and woman has now become part of the law of most nations.

Story: When the people of the village reached the neighbouring towns and villages they were astonished at what they saw. “Where are your bridges?” they asked. “How can you trade with your neighbours without bridges?”

Why were national laws required around marriage? After all, it is not the place of government to decide who can pair up with whom. When the marriage laws were first written (in British law specifically) there was a big difference between the relative status of the sexes. Marriage, at that time, ensured the legitimacy of a man’s children, protected the woman and her children from exploitation and placed obligations on both the man and the woman. There was already a stigma attached to pre-marital relationships and bearing children “out-of-wedlock”. A woman on her own with children was in the worst possible position.

Story: The people hurried back to their village puzzled to know why other villages did not have trenches and bridges but could still trade with their neighbours. The man who had come back from the mountains was ready. He replied, “Those people haven’t learnt the truth, yet. They are living in the past. Come with me and we can show them the right way.”

So the laws that we have today are based on two basic premises that had been true in most societies in most ages, that women are disadvantaged and require protection, and that their children must be provided for by their father, her husband. These may seem rather quaint concepts today.

Story: The people of the village went out across the land showing everyone how to dig trenches and build bridges so that they could trade with their neighbours. They attested to the stories of the mountain people and their special bridges between the peaks.

Are traditional marriage laws that exist in Australia today applicable to same-sex relationships?

Many of the conditions that existed when the laws were originally written are no longer relevant even for man-woman relationships. Nowadays, women often have children without marriage and the state helps looks after them. Men and women often forego the wedding ceremony and just live together with their children and there is no problem. Women are most often not dependent on a man as they can earn a similar income, although there is still room for improvement. There remains the automatic presumption of fatherhood for the husband.

Story: In the surrounding villages, the people encountered some resistance to their ideas, but they ridiculed and shamed whoever disagreed, and soon all the villages and towns had accepted the truth that they needed trenches and bridges in order to trade with their neighbours.

The preconditions of the marriage laws are not present for same-sex relationships. Obviously there are no issues concerning a mismatch of power between the sexes in the relationship, as both participants are the same sex. In same-sex relationships there are no natural offspring so the parentage of any children would need to be established by some other mechanism in any case. From a strictly logical point of view, same-sex relationships are irrelevant to the original tradition of marriage, and the laws that followed on from that tradition are irrelevant to any same-sex relationship. There is also no social pressure on gay people to marry before they cohabit, so it’s hard to see what is actually behind this push for change.

Story: Years later, a man who lived in the mountains went on a long journey. He came to the plains people’s villages. He asked them why they had trenches and bridges around their villages. They replied, “You should know better than us. After all, we learnt this from your people. It is so we can trade with our neighbours.”

The push for same-sex marriage has been pursued as if a society that doesn’t accept their demands is a society rejecting them altogether. That’s not an appropriate or logical extension. Same-sex couples are already free to have their relationships which are personal and can be just as valid as any relationship without the need for the marriage laws.

Story: The mountain man looked exasperated. “Don’t you realise how we much we resent having to cross those bridges to make the simplest journey and how we envied you people on the plains. You could go anywhere without any hindrance! Couldn’t you be satisfied with living in your own way in your own place?” 

Perhaps, some time in the future, same-sex couples will realise that the campaign for same-sex marriage was really about something else. Then they won’t really care about marriage anymore.

If we want more immigration, we must reduce immigration

As soon as someone like Dick Smith or Bob Carr suggests that immigration is too high, there is an outcry from some quarters.

People defend immigration for many reasons, such as reacting against the sniff of xenophobia or on economic grounds to insist that immigration is good for the economy, that immigrants work hard, that immigrants enrich our culture etc.

In my opinion, these arguments are all fine but that’s why we must reduce the level of immigration. You see, there is a natural limit to how many people Australia can comfortably hold. At some point in the future, as we approach that point, we will really need to put the brakes on. The longer we delay, the harder it will be and the lower the rate of immigration required to avoid environmental and economic catastrophe. If we have a lower immigration level sooner we can maintain it longer.

So, like a Sunday driver heading for a cliff, let’s slow down a bit and we can enjoy the ride for longer.

Can I change my vote? I misread the question.

Can I vote again? I must have misread the question. It seems that we were voting on the question, “Do you agree that gay people should be afforded the respect and love they deserve from the community at large?” I would have voted ‘yes’, of course. That’s what 62% of Australians did and I congratulate them for their warmth and sincerity.

Unfortunately, I thought the question had read, “Should the government change the law regarding the basic unit of society, with unknown consequences, and so that some people with unfulfilled needs can experiment with the lives of children?” Must have made a mistake!