Understanding the context of ideas can help us see the criteria that inform a person’s life view. For example, if one believes marriage is inherently exploitative then the policy predicated from this belief will reflect that idea. This article looks at the notion of things – private, to understand our interpersonal relationships in the public square.
What is Private?
The idea that some things are private to human beings concerning intimate relationships is of great relevance today. Intimate relationships, for example, cannot be deemed private in the same way a business is private. It follows, in a legal sense (at least in South Africa CURRENTLY), that commercial acts are disconnected from non-commercial acts in some important ways. Private acts in this very broad sense of the word, are protected from unwarranted state involvement because private conduct has no distinct public interest (is sacrosanct or immune from criticism).
In the larger context of political ideas framing the private sphere, we might think of the ongoing rhetoric of the ANC ‘National Democratic Revolution’ flooding the airwaves with the concomitant intent to undermine private property. We may then pause to consider some first principles from the communist manifesto. This to fill in the gaps in our understanding of the terms within this particular ideological frame. Moreover, our concern extends to the broader context of how this thinking informs the South African ad hoc brand of socialism more generally. This first approximation on the part of the Pinion Project is to be understood as a basic overview – we trust it will bring some perspective to the readers’ understanding of property (beyond the highly publicised restitution of farmland).
Marriage and Prostitution
Someone may ask at this point: “Why is the Pinion Project interested in this?” Our concern stems from the sort of thinking, explicit in the communist manifesto. This with particular reference to the idea that both marriage and prostitution are understood to be corrupt relationships (on the criteria that they both have implicit commercial interest). The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have made it clear that they intend to argue for the complete legalisation of prostitution in harmony with this idea. Why one might ask? How might we understand the move by the EFF. Of course one could try to find some, fact-checked level quotes, and pin a position on the EFF to make a particular point. We believe such an effort will do little to explain anything. However, the remedy then, might be found in understanding the history of the communist manifesto, and its two-step plan. First, legalise the communality of women (abolition of marriage together with the legalization of prostitution). To be clear, this legislation should not be understood as an endorsement of anything like classical liberal values. Rather, it is thought of as a transition phase in which the evils of the capitalist system are exposed (a stepping stone to crash the system). The next step is for the state to regulate relationships in which capital or economic gain do not play a role in the procreative act. Children, on such Utopian schemes, are sometimes thought of as the responsibility of the collective rather than the people who produced them (children are not the property of the couple). The state then defines the context for procreation as a matter of legislated social engineering. What is clear on this view is that marriage has no distinct public value. Put another way, “marriage as a bodily as well as an emotional and spiritual bond, distinguished thus by its comprehensiveness, which is, like all love, effusive: flowing out into the wide sharing of family life and to lifelong fidelity” (from the book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Robert P. George, Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis), is of no value in the socialist mind.
“Bourgeois marriage is in reality a system of wives in common and thus, at the worst, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in the place of a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised communality of women.” Communist Manifesto
The argument is made, via Friedrich Engels (1820-1895 German philosopher, and a committed communist) and his predecessors, that in history the practice of male ownership of property in marriage makes the practice problematic in itself. On this view one sees the all too familiar category mistake – viewing everything via the lens of harmful patriarchy (power), arguably a hasty generalisation. For the sake of brevity, the corruption of relationships via unjustified economic interest does not, we believe, provide a cogent argument to show necessarily (In argument shorthand):
Premise 1: Economic interests are bad
Premise 2: Acts of human commitment have economic interests.
Conclusion: Acts of human commitment are bad
Indeed, if this was the case, that all human commitments are bad via the communist criteria, then the argument seems to turn on itself, instituting a particular communist form of human non-commitment commitment. Well some may say, at the least, this non-commitment commitment should be thought of as moving to something better eventually (harm reduction). Giving the state the power to re-imagine our private relationships, seems to us an altogether horrible idea (particularly on something so under described). The public appeal to the sense of compassion for equality among people then provides warrant for notions like – all things in common, being understood to mean: no ownership of private property, no marriage and that children are to be educated via the state.
Communality of Women
South Africa has reintroduced the plurality of wives (not husbands interestingly enough). This certainly did appear, at first, like a relaxing of the law as an even-handed approach by government to matters of social custom. Even the changes to the same sex marriage law had the rhetorical trappings of genuine concern for minorities in South Africa. But is this not the revolutionary state moving toward undermining those institutions, that resist its power, in the name of being progressive? We think here of president Cyril Ramaphosa treating the South African constitution as something malleable (in terms of things private generally as a means to a revolutionary end). Even if this is not part of some grand conspiracy worldview narrative, could this not be part of an idea shift which opens the way to state social engineering, disconnecting our personal commitments in a grab for power? This idea can be imagined in our modern context via the fictional writing of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In Huxley’s book we see the totalitarian government educating the youth to embrace all manner of self-indulgent non-commitment sex acts as a means to control them. Indeed, if the definition of marriage is made to include everything, then it fails to be a meaningful distinction.
Disconnecting Sex from Commitment
The English philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton puts it this way in his book, Sexual Desire, he writes, ‘Attempts to liken sexual desire to appetite, disconnects the implicit interpersonal nature of human sexual responses.’ Indeed, the sexual revolution assault on sexual reticence can be seen in the deconstruction (level of analysis) being implemented in the sciences. The instrumental explanation of sexual desire championed by Sigmund Freud, Alfred C Kinsey and Michel Foucault, deconstruct sexual desire from the interpersonal sense. The desire for sex is reduced to an appetite. Sexual desire framed as an appetite, fueled the myth that ‘the worst manifestation of authoritarianism is – self-imposed control’. Rape, violence and all manner of pathology are seen to emanate from sexual repression (unconscious mechanism employed to keep undesirable ideas from conscious thought). Indeed, Freud’s theory is unfalsifiable – it can neither be proved true or refuted. For example, the unconscious mind is difficult to test and measure objectively. Furthermore, ideas in the same neighborhood seem disconnected from everyday experience. The problem is that, without a sense of a true good in relationships, we don’t know to what we should consent. It is uncontroversial to assert that monogamous relationships, like marriage, have significant benefits to the couple, their children and society at large in terms of health outcomes. A level of analysis that is in harmony with human dignity must account for self-control (emotional intelligence).
With this said, the South African government is going to introduce Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in 2020 in schools. CSE has been widely criticised for the Brave New World approach it implements. This is grounds for profound concern and more than a matter of conspiracy theory. The sociological data in defence of the natural family, as the context which best serves the interests of the child, is sufficient evidence that this reductionist view, exemplified in the communist thinking is mistaken.
Still, it is clear that marriage is not without its challenges in a post sexual liberation culture. If the #MeToo movement points to any fact, then it is this – sexual liberation has not been without challenges. The notion that, with birth control technology, sex is no longer a problem to be solved but rather a pleasure to be enjoyed by all (at any time), has been found to be mistaken. Consent is an insufficient test when the things being consented to are not defined. Children are particularly vulnerable to those who consider themselves more open-minded than others. It is not clear to me at this stage what the political leanings of Freud and Kinsey actually were. Still, just as Marx admired Charles Darwin (albeit somewhat critically), this neighbourhood of ideas seems to overlap in some important ways that deserve our attention. It is not difficult to see the work of Kinsey fitting the into the dystopian vision of Huxley under girding what is in affect, a wedge between children and family. Modern Marxist like Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Michel Foucault have explicitly moved in this direction. Certainly, as John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, in their book Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America noted,
“the strongest assault on sexual reticence in the public realm emerged not from the pornographic fringe, nor from the popular culture, but from the respectable domain of science,”
In her book Kinsey, Sex and Fraud, The Indoctrination of a People by Dr. Judith A. Reisman and Edward W. Eichel they note;
“No man in modern times has shaped public attitudes to, and perceptions of human sexuality more than the late Alfred C. Kinsey. He advocated that all sexual behaviours considered deviant were normal, while polemicizing that exclusive heterosexuality was abnormal and a product of cultural inhibitions and societal conditioning. By purporting to demonstrate a wide divergence between real sexual behavior and publicly espoused norms, the implication was that ‘cultural values surrounding sex needed revision.’”
This revisionist trend has radically undermined domestic codes, profoundly challenging even our understanding of the biological complementary of male and female relationships. The practical outworking of this reductionist view puts the reconstituting of our private relationships in the hands of the state.
I believe it is almost too late for South Africa in this respect (lack of political will). Still, for the rest of Africa our appeal is – take the time to think about the implications of your actions with respect to freedom, love and liberty.