Archive for the ‘society’ Category

Code Zed: Signs of the Coming Apocalypse

Nollaig 2, 2008

A new blog called Code Zed: Signs of the Coming Apocalypse has been launched by Saoirsí. If you like Zombie movies, social satire, weird science, and esoteric lore, you’ll love this. There’s one caveat: everything on the blog comes from real life – you really can’t make this stuff up.

Some may question the good taste, if not the morality – or even the sanity – of putting Japanese war crimes on a par with Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburgers as a sign of the end times. But then, in an era when Henry Kissinger can get a Nobel Peace Prize, and Merton-Scholes a Sveriges Riksbank Prize for quantifying financial risk, the Universe must already have a pretty sick sense of humour.

It is the intention of the author to actually set up a voluntary citizen-intiative, based on the Civil Defence: Code ZED – Zombie Education and Defence association.


Deireadh Fómhair 31, 2008

Some of my ramblings in response to a post at Cedar Lounge Revolution:

“… if the state were to implement supports or equivalency in the taxation code wouldn’t that have a solidifying effect upon cohabiting couples?”

Not necessarily. How is that set-up different from marriage, which already exists?

It’s different because marriage is both a legal and social commitment in a way that free cohabitation simply is not. If I incorporate a business to take advantage of tax breaks, I can’t simply walk away from it after running up large personal expenses (except if I’m a bankster, of course).

“…the benefits that would accrue from such recognition would itself incentivise those couples to move towards marriage, or would at the very least disincentivise them to break up?”

But if they both have essentially the same benefits, by definition there is no incentive to move. The incentive to move only exists if there is something different about the institution of marriage.

There is a valid objection that people who are willing to undertake such a lifelong commitment – with regard to establishing and maintaining a family, which is what fundamentally marriage is for – should not be placed in the same category as people who can walk away with far fewer constraints (especially when the welfare system displaces the traditional responsiblity of the father, and externalises the cost onto the rest of society). The tax and other benefits are a recognition of society of the huge long-term personal investment (costs) internalised by both people.

“…‘family’ is the crucial context or indeed ’social institution’ if you prefer. And since families come in all shapes and sizes – with marriage being but an element (albeit the majority) of many of them – I’d tend to the view that concentration on marriage over family is a mistake.”

Family is more important than marriage as social institution; many family’s have marriages, but not all; therefore family is more important than marriage.

In a strictly abstract, formalist construction of things, this hierarchy of sets may be true – if you choose to define it that way. It’s not value free, in other words. We are not talking about squares being automatically a subset of rectangles, but rather of what institutions tend to foster certain behaviours – and what those institutions were evolved for.

“…it is not marriage that provides the child with a mother and a father in a publicly committed relationship, but circumstance. Some people will make that journey, others won’t. But chances are the child, the mother and the father will exist one way or another.”

There is a danger of confusion here: in one sense, family is a set of given biological relationships; whereas as a social institution, family is a set of social relationships, which can be chosen to a degree. The discussion is over the choice of marriage as the best set of social relationships to contain the biological ones.

“…it certainly is true that ‘children benefit from having a mother and father both present…and they are much more likely to stay together if married’, I’d drop the much in that sentence…”

But this still concedes one of the main points of marriage…

“…and suggest that it is futile to argue perfection when we know it cannot be achieved.”

But to reach perfection is not necessary, when simply attempting something better. This is equivalent to saying that if perfection cannot be reached, we shouldn’t even try to do better. And perfection is not being argued for – certainly not in the qualifier “much”.

“…a curious inversion where the institution of marriage becomes more important than the actuality of the relationships.”

Marriage itself does not exist passively and independently outside, but as an institution seeks to sustain, fortify, and shape certain social and personal relationships. It is a set of relationships as ongoing implicit and explicit commitments.

“…religious and cultural aspects of marriage… imbue it with a character, either in the secular or religious versions, which has sustained it as the most popular expression of public relationship amongst people.”

First of all, secular and religious versions of marriage are not equivalent culturally and historically; it’s arguable whether secular states such as the Soviet Union, produced more long-term stable marriages compared to more traditional societies; this is part of the debate about marriage as an constructive, historic, cultural institution, not simply a set of recent laws.

“That’s not going to disappear simply because the state affords similar or the same rights to cohabiting couples…”

Hopefully it won’t disappear altogether – it may be heavily displaced as  though a primitive tribe, however, as inexperienced or even less responsible people choose the state-sanctioned easy option of no long-term commitment, with easier escape, and costs/burdens significantly externalised onto the rest of society.
“Arguably it will increase the distinctiveness of secular/religious marriage…”

It can’t – by definition – increase the distinctiveness of marriage, if it removes the differences from it. The main difference left – that marriage entails a public, cultural and legal commitment, whereas free cohabitation does not, is not simply a personal life-style choice, but has an effect on the rest of society.