The end of marriage
When Jean-Paul Sartre spoke and wrote the words of this title, he was speaking generally. He referred to the many people one meets in a lifetime of encounters. At some stage, parents, partners, friends, bystanders, and let it be stated stoutly – even one’s spouse – may tend over time to become so unbearable, excruciating and agonising that it will approach the point of intolerability, nerve endings will fray, heads will pound and something will inevitably give. Single spouse marriage lasting a lifetime cannot survive, not in this world of sex tapes at your fingertips on your cell, not in this sexed up world of the suggestions of sex and flesh on nearly every billboard, most advertisements in every magazine. It is all too obvious that we should admit that unshackled human sexual desire is the single most powerful driving force of human nature, other than hunger. The only lifelong marriages one can recall were Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, Robert Menzies and Patti Menzies and the Frasers and, of course, in politics, there is still an invisible concrete binding couples together.
When the alleged moral custodians of the country, former Deputy Prime-Minister, bitter Barnaby Joyce and Border Force Chief Roman Quaedvlieg, cannot keep their hats on long before they reach out to the nearest available unattached female in the secretarial pool,forgetting their marriages and embracing the newcomer into their offices – come hell or high water. Isn’t it time to proclaim the last rites for the current social construct of marriage as a sexual and emotional lifetime commitment?
The facts and statistics recently released on the rates of deaths in domestic violence circumstances in Australia are startling: one female every week is murdered by her spouse! One male every month is murdered by his spouse. These flags are all pointing in the same direction. The current architecture and scaffolding of marriage in the social context is long overdue for demolition or refurbishment. Of course, many couples to their credit cling to it like passengers in the wreckage of a fallen aeroplane at sea. “It’s for the kids!” they proclaim stoically while living out lives of quiet and more often unquiet desperation. Children of breaking and broken middle-aged marriages suffer as much as adoptees and foster children, recent reports asking children whether they prefer to stay in a breaking marriage or in parental separation, a large majority would rather the parents separate and they share custody than remain unhappy in a single home.
It’s over 30 years since Time magazine proclaimed GOD IS DEAD. It is high time for us to rethink His commandments.
The damage done to children’s psychological welfare at this delicate stage of growth is disastrous. Isn’t it time to debunk our kids of the current myths of marriage, lest we have yet another generation who have suffered from the destructively misleading myth of the nuclear family as did the generation, before them? The lives of children and youth have for far too long been crushed, demoralised, depressed and bewildered when mum and dad finally, and then ultimately call it quits, with the courage of smokers endlessly giving up the nicotine, only to lapse sometimes just after an adverse diagnosis time and again. Marriage is the last straw in the straw men of the myths children are bred to endure. The Tooth Fairy came and went with the introduction of fluoride and lack of coins, the Easter Bunny still provides plenty of sickening chocolate for a lifetime of work for dentists instead, and Father Christmas vanished up the chimney like smoke did with the invention of electricity. Organised religion is dying a slow cruel death in the West, it’s failing organs wheezing in “upbeat” hit tunes from the colosseums of Hillsong, and in diminishing numbers from the mortgaged Catholic churches in dioceses nearly bankrupt from cruelties past, the sad ironic legacy of religion that sought to impose chastity on boys and girls of 16 when they joined the convent and teaching facilities. Human nature abhors a vacuum in the sense that it created and insisted on a chastity that is contrary to our DNA.
The Bible Needs Revision
It’s over 30 years since Time magazine proclaimed GOD IS DEAD. It is high time for us to rethink His commandments. They were written when women were suppressed and chained or contained to kitchens and water wells and rivers for washing. When men feared women’s sexuality, so much so that the old God forbade us, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife”. How in God’s name can the mere desire of another woman, albeit married to another man, sustain its place as a separate free-standing commandment in the age of reason? I understand that young Jesus, according to Matthew, attempted to temper this commandment but really confirmed it: (“But I tell you that a woman not even married lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”) (Matthew 5:28 NIV). How can one commandment cover unlawful killing and murder and another covers coveting, which is just the thought of sleeping with an already married individual – and you go to hell for that?
Those couples and families who, despite the vagaries and turmoil of modern life remain bound together for the sake of comity, the children and the maintenance of the status quo. I appreciate that some couples are really tied together like Siamese twins into old age by genuine love and a growing mutual admiration. The sad truth, however, is that by any statistics and evidence, anecdotal or family law records of proceedings, traditional marriage is a dying institution and the couples mentioned in the proceeding sentences cannot erode this bitter fact. Doomed institutions like the British Empire had their heroes. Six hundred horsemen who rode into the valley of death, the ANZACS at Gallipoli, the young troops dying in the mud at the Somme. However, among the brave troops who recently fought in the Middle East, is there one soldier who served in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan who believed that George Bush just about got it right?
The current concept of marriage must yield to the stresses, forces and unlimited options available in a free and wonderful world.
Another reason for the demise of marriage is that the role and status of women is the rising tide, capable of becoming a tsunami that may wash away both the innocent and guilty in its wake, in its fierce anger after a long and bitter winter of denial of their full, human equality and rights. Economic freedom, no-fault divorce, full sexual freedom and growing awareness of women’s sexual capacity and superior emotional scaffolding is becoming so overwhelming and powerful that it embarrasses even the horniest soldier on leave or teenager in a toilet.
All these diverse current convergences, intersections and coincidences have created a world where marriage is not a life term without parole. In fact, every marriage can be as nuanced as the parties wish: it can mature, grow, explore with open minds and open hearts, and yes – open legs – fulfilling the vacuum of self-imposed denial that rained down thousands of years of social and sexual imprisonment and convenience have wrongly wrought. Australia is not built on families, it is bred by families, but populated by its individual people, with sexualities more subtle than the letters of the fluctuating Australian gay and lesbian alphabet can contain. The only constant is change and change is the only constant.
The current concept of marriage must yield to the stresses, forces and unlimited options available in a free and wonderful world. An American friend recalled visiting her 80-year-old mother in a nursing home in downtown Tulsa, housed with other Australian war brides who migrated and married after the end of World War Two. As the Waifs sang in “Bridal Train”, 5000 young Australian brides were shipped off to marry American marines and serviceman after a long train journey picked them up, travelling from Perth to Sydney. My friend’s parents’ marriage was conceived after exchanging photographs but met its first hurdle when the woman (her mother) who disembarked in San Francisco after a three-month voyage was two times the physical weight of the sepia photographs which her fiancé (her father) held in his hand. The marriage continued despite the fact that my friend’s father lost both his arms in an engineering accident building a bridge. He went on to invent the human claw that uses the muscles of the shoulder to clutch the knife and fork. Her father is now long gone. She recently visited her mother in the card room at the nursing home in Tulsa, where about half a dozen other Australian former-brides, now in their 80s, were playing gin rummy and bitchin’ about their lives. One of them turned to my friend and said “One cock! Just one fucking cock! That’s all I got! What a bag of bullshit we were sold. One cock!” The chorus of gin rummy playing grandmothers and great-grandmothers shouting “one cock just one cock” is an image that haunts me and I hope it is never repeated because the world has so much to offer to all the women who are now about to overtake it. Believe me, there are more cocks on Earth, like fish in the ocean, than David Attenborough ever dreamt.