Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Is Enough

My wife reminded me the other day that it was right about this time of year, 20 years ago that we first met. It'll be 18 years this summer since we married and, unless there's something she's hiding from me, our marriage is by all considerations, inside and out, happy and healthy.

Which isn't to say we live a life of wine and roses. We are a pretty standard Canadian family with two kids and three cats living in a fairly standard 3-bedroom home in a standard subdivision in a standard municipality. If you take the opening theme song to Weeds (Little Boxes) and downgrade the neighbourhood by about 1/3, you'd have us.

I was thinking about married life in Canada because there is ongoing controversy in British Columbia about polygamous marriages where men have more than one wife and they all live together and raise kids. In our case, this is a fringe practice and the current court focus is on the community of Bountiful, B.C. where residents are a splinter group of the Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints). Now, seeing as even the regular Mormons are committed to following the doctrine of Joseph Smith, a known shyster who received the word of God in a language only he, conveniently, understood, it's hard to say exactly how screwed up the Bountiful crew is. I lived in that area for two years in my early 20s and got to see them close up as they traveled the streets in long dresses, kerchiefed hair and running shoes but I couldn't even venture a guess as to how their worldview operates.

I think this is more like a commune with Bibles than anything else but it's not for me to decide the faith and beliefs of others as long as they extend me the same courtesy.

In thinking about marriage, I can't really come up with a good reason why a person shouldn't have more than one spouse as long as all involved are consenting adults. I doubt this is the case in Bountiful where children are indoctrinated from birth but I could make the same argument about traditional marriage - we are brought up to believe one spouse at a time. (Historically, it would even make sense to have multiple partners - men can impregnate numerous women at a time and women would have sought virile, strong men who offered food and protection.) There isn't really a concrete reason unless you want to cite Judeo-Christian values. As much as I agree with most of these values, it doesn't necessarily make them more valid.

The arguments against polygamy seem to be:

a) it flies in the face of our societal structure. Well, people said the same thing about gay marriage (which I totally support) which is now legal in Canada. So far, our society seems to have survived it pretty well.

b) it goes against scripture. I give that about as much weight as I do to Joseph Smith.

c) people involved in these marriages are forced or coerced. This could very well be true. But the remedy to that is to prosecute individuals for marrying those below the age of consent or who have had sexual relations with an individual under the age of consent.

d) it will open the door to more islamic creep in our society. I'm sure not crazy about that idea but that's our fault for letting islamists come here in the first place. In reality, one suspects, most of the concern in Bountiful is actually aimed at islam as it is the only other slice of Canadian society that would actively seek multiple marriages. We can solve this problem by tightening up our immigration laws.

e) it will be more expensive in terms of benefits and other entitlements. This might also be true but then we don't have an upper limit for how many people can be in a traditional family. If mom and dad are strict Catholics and have 12 kids, the impact is going to be the same as a family with three wives each having three kids.

Really, the most compelling reason I can think of not to be married to more than one woman, at least concurrently, is because women are complicated creatures. I have enough trouble remembering all the little things I need to do or not do to keep up my end of the marriage contract (somehow, in our vows, I think I ended up with "obey").

I have a feeling that polygamy will eventually be legal in Canada. Other than creating some more work for lawyers, I don't think there will be any drastic fallout.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flaming Mo's legacy

So, leaders around the arab world are all of a sudden in deep shit thanks to one Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi,who set himself on fire Dec. 17 in a protest, reportedly, against unemployment in his home country. Ten days ago or so, the Tunisian government fell and now there are protests shaking regimes all over North Africa and Middle East.

This eruption in some of the poorest and most corrupt countries of the world is very interesting but I seriously doubt it's going to herald in some new era of growth in that part of the world. In Egypt, for instance, where long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak seems to be in some trouble, a power vacuum would likely give rise or at least increased power to the Muslim Brotherhood. How that could be good for Egyptians - well, other than the ones who are in the Muslim Brotherhood - is beyond me. Perhaps a poll of some Coptic Christians could shed some light...

As someone whose few remaining relatives survived not only the nazis but then the communists as well before escaping to North America, I was brought up to believe totalitarianism in all its forms must be rejected. The vast majority of arab nations are run by absolute bastards but it's not like there are a bunch of democracy-touting populists waiting in the wings to raise their people from poverty and oppression. More likely would be brutal crackdowns to stabilize the existing power structure or brutal crackdowns on those opposed to whomever takes over. That is the existing legacy of the Middle East, whether we choose to admit it or not.

It's not easy to care too much about what happens to the arab street. I can't find a lot of redeeming qualities out there. I'd love to see some freedom flourish in these regressive countries but I'm way too cynical by both nature and intelligence to believe it's coming anytime soon. This isn't post-Berlin Wall Germany. In the Middle East, even when uprisings succeed, what follows is generally anything but pretty - witness Iran following the shah's ouster in 1979 or Lebanon which, as of this week, is now essentially being run by hezbollah.

On the other hand, it is nice to see them protesting something other than Israel for once.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There sure a lot of cobwebs in here for me to clean out

Okay, so it's been 3.5 years since I last made a post to this blog.

I don't even know if people still bother blogging with Twitter and Facebook having overrun the interweb. Twitter seems kind of desperate ("I have something to say and you need to know it RIGHT NOW") to me and Facebook is just annoying.

There are, of course, your very large blogging communities where people of similar views on one issue or another tend to congregate. I never really got the point of a lot of those: "Here's my opinion which is going to be pretty much the same opinion every day and I really only want people who agree with it to respond. If you don't agree with it, me or one of my moderators will likely toss you."

Then there are messageboards where people of absolutely opposing views shout shrilly at one another with endless ad hominem attacks, strawman arguments, red herrings and complete fabrications. For a long time I used one of those boards but, as with this blog, I ended up just stopping, cold turkey. It became over run with extremely angry and personal attacks based largely on whether you supported or did not support Barack Obama. I doubt very much it is unique in that regard.

So, why do any internet writing at all? Well, like a lot of people, I'm opinionated. Or, depending on your perspective, I'm an opinionated asshole. Also, a person whom I have a lot of respect for advised me recently that my blog had been enjoyable. Stopping was never a conscious "I quit" decision. It was more like one day became 1200 or so. At the time, it seemed I had presented my viewpoint on issues that were important to me.

Last night, I re-read the posts I made 3.5 - 4 years ago. It was interesting to see what had changed in the world since then and what, sadly, had remained essentially the same. Also, I could look at what I had predicted what would happen in certain places or to certain people. Anyone who wants to - though I can't really imagine why anyone would - can judge for themselves whether I can compete with all the brilliant talking heads infesting 24/7 news channels.

I'll probably get to some more stuff in the coming days and weeks now that I've fallen off the wagon. Or, maybe I'll forget my password again and we'll see what the world looks like in 2015.