Norway to the future
Saturday, April 10, 2004
Progressive thoughts from the southwest
I have long ranted about how old school a monogamous marriage is. Not only are they unrealistic when you look at divorce statistics (actually, I'm impressed by all those who do not divorce, they have managed to take a correct life-long decision based on almost no data), they are the result of several hundred years of piousness and indoctrination. In today's Stavanger Aftenblad (that's down in our Bible belt, which kind of makes me wonder what their agenda is), they take a stand for removing the prohibition on polygamy. The journalist argues more or less around the classic reasons for polygamy; being able to support widows in societies where there is a shortage of men and the tolerance for immigrants who already have several wives. He also comes with a moral reason many people can agree to:

Hva er det moralsk overlegne i et system som ikke har noe å utsette på en mann som har barn over hele byen, men som truer med fengsel hvis han vil gi alle barna den beskyttelse som bare gifte foreldre kan gi? Hvis vårt statsbærende parti har rett i at ekteskapet er et stort, nesten hellig gode, hvorfor kan vi ikke dele det med flere?

Why should not we be able to give all children the right to the security married parents can give? If the state sanctions the sanctity of marriage as a holy good, why is it denied from some?

The act of setting a new life into this world is serious business. A pregnancy is considered a right, and people do from time to time get married as a direct consequence of an unplanned pregnancy, again taking the decision to marry on a weak basis. The really sad part here is that the people who end up in these situations more often than not are people who are not at all suited to be married, even less suited to be parents. Sure, they might learn how to give their kid love, but what about security and a proper upbringing in a well-furnished house? Getting pregnant should not be a right for everyone, in much the same way we should have certain criteria for the right to be a citizen and to vote (but that is another story). There should be some minimum requirements as to the security the parents can bring this kid, an assessment of their mental, monetary and practical capabilities to foster the child. I know I'm ranting here, but I tend to get provoked when I see teenage mothers with small trophy children, believing that the guy who picked them up one night on the club actually is a suitable father. I also do not have all the solutions, as requiring a license to get pregnant smells a bit too totalitarian. Some things that may get things in the right direction might include:

1. Change the concept of marriage to be a time-definite union, with the option to renew. Let's say that if you get married, you get married for 7 years. Say the girl is pregnant at the time of marriage. If the strenuous work of early childhood care is too much pressure on the young mother or father, and he/she is thinking that it is the other persons fault, then maybe, just maybe, they will be able to hold together for seven years (also, the penalties for breaking the bond should be quite severe, economically). Voilà, the kid is 'secure' until he/she starts in 1st grade. If the parents after seven year still have not grown tired of each other, they have the option to renew for just seven more years. Voilà, the kid is 14, not the best age to see your parents separate, but better that being 12 and thinking it is your fault (if you also know that your parents are living together on a seven years 'lease' you could be expecting, even welcoming it). Another seven, and the kid is 21, ready to leave home.

This is just a thought experiment I do from time to time. I am not saying it is the best way to do it, or if it would work. But to me, it seems that adjusting the institution of marriage to something more in line with today's expectations, and giving people the possibility to commit to another person for a limited (how scary isn't 'till death do you part???) time, might make more people happier in total at any given point in time.

2. Almost the point of the journalist above; why only two people who are the legal sponsors of a child's life? Granted, the child is a product of their genes, but this is really a minor point. People adopt, and are able to show as much love for adopted children as for their own. Also, if the parents break up, only one person is left with the responsibility/right to raise the kid- usually the mother. It is then up to her to solicit help from her family and friends. How about giving family, but perhaps even more so, friends, a possibility to commit themselves to a child? Many young people live in collectives, they are part of tight-knit groups of friends which might mean more to them than their blood-line. They might even have spent quite some time in each others' beds and so on. Combined with the pragmatic notion that monogamous relationships seldom hold for more than a few years, how about the ability to start a child-raising poly-something (searching for a good name here, but lost... a club? hive? collective? polypolygamy? N:N-clique? update: the besserwisser word for group marriage is apparently polygynandry.) where everyone is responsible for providing the child with what parents should provide? Maybe with some additional rights for the actual mother, perhaps the father as well. Just think about the possibility of having a legally appointed babysitter or three, to share the more sleep- and fun-depriving parts of parenthood. Or, from the other side, the possibility to sit there as a godfather, teaching the kid the things a parent shouldn't be teaching its kid (but that the kid should learn nevertheless). This is, of course, just another thought experiment.

Oh, well, enough ranting for today. Off to barbecue the Easter lamb.

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