All great ideas are dangerous, wrote Oscar Wilde. And someone else said that every great idea is initially ridiculed as absurd or reviled as heresy. Philosopher Glenn Parton, whose essay The Machine In Our Heads I recommended recently, has a new, great and dangerous idea. It builds somewhat on the ideas in James W. Prescott’s paper I wrote about earlier, that human violence stems from a combination of childhood neglect and adolescent sexual repression. Glenn has given me the honour of allowing me to publish his essay on it first on this blog. Although this may be hard to believe, Glenn’s idea is more radical than anything I have ever written, perhaps even more radical than anything I have ever dared think. It will probably trouble you, as it did me.
Please take the time to read this essay in its entirety — it will requre an hour’s investment. The first two sections are below, and the link at the bottom will take you to the whole essay. If it seems overly long, bear with it — it has a lot of well-entrenched preconceptions about our culture to challenge before what he proposes will seem at all acceptable to most readers. And if it seems overly preoccupied with the sexual aspect of relationships, substitute the words ‘love’ and ’emotional’ for ‘sex’ and ‘sexual’ respectively, and plug on. You may have some deep misgivings about what Glenn has to say, but if this article affects you as it did me, you will not be the same person when you finish reading it as when you began.
Please let me know what you think. I’ll add my own comments either in the comments thread below or in a follow-up article. I’m sure Glenn will be interested as well.
Let’s shift the focus from the question, what is to be done? to the question, Why can’t people see the obvious? If people could see what is self-evident to the rational mind, then appropriate action would soon follow. That Americans do not see the obvious truth is amply demonstrated by the popularity of George W. Bush.
Outline of a strategy for human renewal: One: Americans cannot think deeply because the heart is closed. When the heart is closed, then Reason, the mind, becomes a calculator, an instrument, a machine that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. It is hard-hearted people who are unknowingly supporting world-disaster. True knowledge, wisdom, must be informed by sympathy, feelings, and heart.
Two: The American heart has turned to stone due to sexual repression, stretching back to our Puritan beginning. Everyone in this culture is, as a manner of upbringing, sexually wounded, resulting in fear, shame, guilt, and resentment. The wound festers; self-doubt and self-hatred prevent us from loving others. Generosity, the opening of the heart, begins with the ability to experience sex as a gift. If you cannot do this, then all your good deeds will be wrapped in resentment. The Christian concept of love, which desexualizes it (Agape instead of Eros), leaves the person sick and suffering at the core.
Three: To open the heart so we can think deeply it is necessary to search and find our erotic nature, accept it, and freely express it. This is not something that can be done alone — through Yoga, Tantra, for example — but requires a new man/woman relationship. The old relationship — namely, monogamy (whose first historical form was patriarchy, but which is now co-dependency or co-ownership) is unnecessarily restrictive, a bedrock value, an unquestioned premise, the ideological basis of State Monopoly Capitalism which is destroying this planet.
In short, we will not think deeply unless we love, and we will not love unless we practice a free sexuality. Dare to love more than one person! It’s a simple idea that’s hard to do. Consult your daydreams!
The integration of politics and sexuality is the best way to build a social movement for resolving the ecological crisis which is threatening to bring Life on this planet to a crash in probably one or two generations, perhaps sooner? Traditional politics, party-politics, and protest-politics, are necessary for postponing world disaster, for providing time and space for fundamental lifestyle changes, but is not sufficient to heal us from the ground up, according to the original-natural order of things. For this task we need to mobilize a different kind of energy, not negative energy, but positive energy, the energy of Eros.
Sexual love is the prototype of all human happiness. If we let this joy, instead of conscience or duty or protest be the source of our community building, it would bring together and hold together aware people. Necessity alone, the advantages of work in common, even the primary work of saving the planet and ourselves, will not hold us together because the psychological damage in America is too great.
Americans have a defensive ego-structure — a system of self-deceptions, projections and prejudices that distort our perception of the world — the cost of survival in this harsh and grossly unfair society. This makes us, ìas we areî, incapable of forming enduring political communities for social transformation, which is precisely what we must do in order to avoid eco-catastrophe. We cannot get along well enough with one another for long enough to do the things that must be done. All our sincere and noble efforts self-destruct, but we can no longer afford to fail, for now the planet as a whole is in jeopardy. What will bring us and hold us together for world transformation? Erotic love is the last remaining force in the modern world capable of mobilizing, sustaining, and perfecting us for this long and difficult task.
But not if the erotic life-force is damned by monogamy. A transforming political community of monogamous couples is impossible because monogamous love places itself first and everyone else second; it produces separation and tension between lovers and everyone else, couples and society. However, by refusing monogamy in favor of a highly discerning free love, there is a chance of knitting a community that will not easily unravel. The pairing process, as far as I can see, will remain the basis of the social structure, but we could all work more easily and much better in a network of loving relationships, pairing without exclusivity, opening lines of deep communication that are presently jammed by jealousy, competition, mistrust, fear and arrogance. The key is not to abolish one-to-one love, but to multiply it.
There is already a manifest hostility between the sexes, which is going to get worse. Much of it is a result of a false morality that prohibits us from knowing one another. Each man is “allowed” to intimately know only one woman, and vice versa. How can we expect to find and work out answers to the critical problems we face, if a vital point of discovery, wisdom and sustainability — love between men and women — is so limited!
The age of discovery and togetherness between the sexes has not yet begun, so let it begin now with a few individuals who defy the sacred cow of conventional morality — namely, monogamy– in favor of political love, which means loving the ìhighestî in oneself and others, making one’s political destiny with a lover clear and binding, creating diverse relationships, loving communities, in which women draw out the best in men (infusing men’s minds with love), and men draw out the best in women (inspiring them with intellectual theory and global political priorities). Real love is transcendence, beyond the mutual validation of empirical egos, toward a shared commitment or vow, not just between two people, but to a new commonwealth.
The function of these erotic-political inter-relationships is to accelerate evolution, nature’s effort to become aware of itself as a whole, before an eco-catastrophe resets it back to the stage of the cockroach. Why not affirm sexual love as a vehicle for progressive social change; it is presently misused for every moneymaking purpose imaginable — with great success. That should tell us something. This retail culture would collapse if people tasted real happiness, instead of being locked in monogamous relationships that cannot satisfy the mass of humanity for a lifetime (even if a few simpletons stick to a single spouse), driving people elsewhere for satisfaction, finding everything but the real thing.
When material circumstances are ripe, an idea, Learn to love more than one person, can be a decisive force in history. It depends on a handful of living examples that prove the reality of the concept, and then thousands and tens of thousands will spontaneously respond to it. Today, the information and organs of communication for world transformation are in place: it is the inner readiness for widening the domain of love that is lacking, as Lewis Mumford said. That is our challenge, for without a positive concentration on love, understood as the integration of sexual desire and political awareness, we will not be able to rescue the planet and its creatures from the growing forces of hate and violence.
Did everyone who is dissatisfied with his or her love life make the wrong choice, or could there be something inherently wrong with monogamy? The American way is to always want to solve every problem with a new and improved technique, rather than consider a bold, new reorganization of life. The solution of the sexual problem, however, takes us to the core of human nature, and demands that we come to terms with the human role in the greater scheme of reality, our place in the cosmos.
According to the German philosopher, Maik Hosang, the logos of love can save us: evolution occurs through qualitative leaps, from matter to life to human life. Love among the parts sets the stage for the emergence of higher reality. The gravitational order of the celestial bodies generated life, and the balance and harmony of living beings gave rise to humankind. A just and peaceful world-order is the next step forward, but we need to untie the knot of monogamy and let the whole of evolution flow through a new and free man/woman relationship, creating loving and lasting human communities, which will rationally regulate our relations with nature.
Frederick Engels’ book, The Origin Of The Family, Private Property And The State, argues that “group marriage” is characteristic of hunter-gatherers, whereas horticultural people prefer “pairing marriage.” The later is more hedged around with restrictions, but is not based on any assumption of sexual exclusiveness for either partner. Pre-European America, according to Lewis Morgan on whose empirical research Engels based his theory, is the classic soil of the pairing family. The Iroquois, for example, simply dissolved relationships at will by going back home, and held festivals every year when tribes came together for the purpose of wider sexual enjoyment and cultural enrichment.
According to Engels, ìmonogamous marriageî, the third historical stage of the man/woman relationship, results from the influence of private property (beginning with the domestication of animals). Its express purpose being to produce children of undisputed paternity (so women cannot be permitted to have sex with other men), which later come into their father’s property as his natural heirs. Engels shows what a small part individual sex love played in the rise of monogamy. It has an economic origin. And along with permanent monogamy there soon appeared prostitution (for men) and adultery (for women), with no cure for either one.
According to Engels, women brought about the transition from group marriage to pairing marriage, with its greater equality and joy, but men introduced strict monogamy — though indeed only for women. In her introduction to Engelsí great book, Eleanor Leacock argues that it is crucial for women to understand that the monogamous family as an economic unit is basic to their subjugation, calling it, quoting Engels, ìthe world historical defeat of the female sex.î
Monogamous marriage, characteristic of modern people, imposes too heavy a weight on human beings. It is not the natural form of human association that corresponds best to human nature; it was a wrong turn, a historical mistake, perhaps facilitated by natural selfishness, but the important point is that it is not irreversible. We need to recapture the freedom and happiness of pre-monogamous tribal love relationships. L. Morgan, after studying the American Indians, came to the conclusion in his book, Ancient Society, that the advanced forms of civilization ìwill be a repetition, but on a higher level of the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which characterized the ancient gens.î
Love Politics is the idea that sex, the oldest force in the world for building community, when linked throughout to emancipatory consciousness, is still the basis for building a political community that puts us on the path towards a good society. The way to make us strong enough, wide enough, and deep enough to carry out the required socio-economic changes is to make the entire process an erotic adventure. A group of monogamous couples is a boring place, dead spirit, because you cannot stifle the erotic basis of community and hope to keep it alive and well. Gatherings and meetings of any kind do not work. Politics is bleak in America; we have come down to the primal energy of Eros as the source for a genuine political revival. Only by allowing sexual energy to flow more openly, as in aboriginal societies, can aware people create and sustain enough human cohesiveness and solidarity to make a true beginning… Read the whole essay (includes the above extract; scroll to the third section of the essay, entitled “Family”, to continue reading where the above extract leaves off).
©2004 Glenn Parton
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