Monogamy : You shall not…marry more than once

41cwmcwvvul-_sy300_
You shall not…marry more than once

Before initiating a dialogue on this topic, one needs to be very clear about the definition of the term in question. There are several definitions of monogamy(and consequently, polygamy) depending on the context. I am not really an expert on this subject and I haven’t really gone through the pain of researching how the experts categorize and study this phenomenon but, I have come up with a few categorizations of my own.

First, we have sexual monogamy where a person is expected to indulge in sexual intercourse and other sexual practices with one individual only. Then, we have emotional monogamy where it is expected that a person will fulfill all his/her emotional needs by associating with one individual only. Then we have marital monogamy, which is probably the broadest form of monogamy, where a person is expected to spend his/her life being loyal and committed to one person. This usually involves both emotional and sexual monogamy.

Whether polygamy is right or wrong and whether it has any place in our modern civilized society is a question that has generated lot of traction in the last few decades. This is to be expected because the concept of monogamy as a virtuous model for a relationship between a man and a woman has originated fairly recently in human history. Its roots can be traced to the rise of the women empowerment movements in the western world that aimed to raise the status of a woman in a household by preventing the dilution of this status by the presence of multiple women. Before this, many women used to share one husband with the husband acting as the head of the family. This highly patriarchal model was not in line with gender equality. However, its not true that all men or that most men of earlier times had more than one wife. But, the reason behind this was that it was very tough for most men, except the most wealthy, to support and sustain a big family.

In truth, the concept of marriage as a solely romantic union is also very recent. Marriage, historically has been an economic and political ritual. As human beings evolved, the time period required for a human child to become self sufficient increased. In fact, at birth, a human baby is perhaps the most helpless among all animals. This necessitated that the two parents stay together for a long amount of time to take care of their progeny. And hence, it made economic sense for the two parents to enter into an alliance with a promise to procreate with each other. This was especially beneficial for males since, now they did not have to repeat the whole process of persuading a new mate. However, it was also a loss since, having only one partner greatly reduced diversity.

As human society evolved more and became more complex, males took the role of leaders while females were reduced to the status of workers. This made a life long relationship even more lucrative for men. In such a situation, it made sense for wealthy men to indulge in multiple alliances to ensure a wide distribution of their genes. Also, during time of wars, most healthy young men were sent to fight in foreign lands for extended periods of time making a long term relationship unsustainable. In some communities living in very harsh environments, like Bedouins in the desert, most men did not traditionally own land or other unmovable property thus, making them unsuitable for marriage. Due to these and many other reasons, the practice of wealthy men keeping multiple wives became a socially accepted trend and over time, this further reduced the status of women in the household.

The rise of gender equality meant that this practice had to be done away with. However, instead of allowing women to take multiple partners just like men, we decided to make monogamy the norm for everyone. But, is monogamy sustainable?

A close look at other animals species suggests that there are very few truly monogamous species. Even in the few bird species that seem monogamous on the surface, DNA fingerprinting reveals rampant cheating and adultery, with eggs in the same nest coming from multiple fathers. This is to be expected because monogamy is tough. It requires better communication abilities and social skills and hence, might have played a role in faster development of the human brain. As John Keating (Robin Williams) says in the Dead Poets’ Society “Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.” Well, seems there might be some truth to that after all. May be the highly evolved language skills that we humans have developed is partly so that we could communicate better with our partners. Monogamy seems to to make you smarter (take this with a pinch of salt though).

However, as traditional gender roles change and the contact between men and women increases in the workplace, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify how reasonable monogamy is. Is it unrealistic to expect one person to fulfill all your needs? In that case, it indeed makes sense to divide this responsibility between many people so that in case, one of them disappoints, you can fall back on the others. I, for one, find the idea of polygamy very tough to digest. May be its all part of a big corporate conspiracy to make us all shell out money or may be this is just the way I am but, I have always found a monogamous relationship easier and better. The long term commitment and trials and tribulations associate with it, have always seemed to me bearable if not, beautiful.

Monogamy : You shall not…marry more than once

Democratic socialism is a redundant term

dem_soc

A new wind of right wing fanaticism is blowing around the globe. In America, an ignorant arrogant misogynist and childish business tycoon has successfully wooed adult men and women to vote for him to be the head of the state. In India, the biggest democracy in the world, the leader of a leftist student organization was arrested for shouting anti-national, anti-government slogans and the move was widely lauded by people for all over the world. In Australia, with the national election just a month away, parties have openly called for a stop to the “Islamisation of Australia”.

So, when did it become acceptable for a govt. to arrest student leaders for giving “anti-national” speeches, for presidential candidates to call for the complete banning of the people of a particular religion and when did it become cool for angry young adults to take on to social media to post bigoted statements to show or rather prove (without anyone demanding a proof) their patriotism.

These winds created by the flapping of right wing have come to fill a vacuum created by the absence of any serious left leaning political party in most parts of the world. Socialism has become such a taboo word that the US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who has mildly leftist thoughts has to constantly defend his class of socialism by calling it “democratic socialism” which is just absurd because socialism by definition is democratic. If there is govt or party out there that calls itself socialist but is not democratic or supports undemocratic means for wealth distribution then its a autocracy masquerading as a socialism to gain legitimacy.

True socialism has to be democratic because socialism is much more than just a economic doctrine that demands for equitable distribution of wealth. It is a social movement that believes that in a civilized society. all the members should have access to a minimum level of well being and should live with integrity. If power is concentrated in a few hands, this is not at all possible. Hence, this attempt to rescue socialism (and its sad a philosophy that ought to be natural and universally accepted still needs protection) by joining the word “democratic” is completely stupid.

If there are still people in the world who believe that their fellow men deserve to die of hunger for lack of food and clean drinking water, die of diseases for lack of access to cheap health care and die of cold for lack of a shelter and clothes then, it is not socialism but, humanity that needs rescuing.

Democratic socialism is a redundant term

To Beef or not to beef. Is that the question?

shutterstock9723865

Much(read “too much”) has been said on the issue of consumption of beef. Politicians have found fresh material for their mud slinging competitions. Citizens of the internet have found a new issue to make memes on. The “responsible and politically aware” youth has found a new topic to rage on. Out of job actors and wannabe authors of national bestsellers have found a new topic to write “open letters” on. And last but not the least, I have a found a topic to write on.

Scriptures have been quoted, famous leaders have been quoted, legal passages have been quoted and retired judges of supreme court have been quoted. Clueless as always, I think its mildly amusing and highly unfortunate that whenever we are faced with a moral dilemma that doesn’t offer a simple solution, we swiftly turn to passages in old and dusty books and words uttered by old and rusty men(Is that anti-feminist?) for the answer. I am not going to do the same. I will take facts and use my own judgement to come up with an answer. Opinions, no matter where they come from carry an inherent bias and should only be treated as cues to guide us along the right path.

The primary question isn’t which animal is sacred and which is not. The first question that needs to be answered is, whether it is at all moral for human beings to consume animal flesh. At the outset, I would like to declare that the human anatomy is perfectly adapted to consume meat. We have canine teeth and a short small intestine like carnivores. At the same time, we have molar teeth and  our jaws can move sideways, just like herbivores and the pH of our stomach is slightly higher than those of carnivores. Hence, we are omnivores, that is, we are well suited to consume both “nuts and meat”. Now that I have got that out of the way, lets get back to the point.

Our ancestors have been consuming meat since a long time and even today, there are populations in distant locations like tribes in south america and Eskimos in Siberia whose diet largely consists of animals. But, that is mainly because they do not have access to other sources of food since large scale agriculture is almost impossible in these locations. But, we have a choice. Most of us living inside the constructs of the modern “civilized” society have access to non-animal sources of food that can satisfy all our nutrition requirements. So, is it then, unethical for us to kill these animals for their meat?  Honestly, I do not have a satisfactory answer to this question. My personal belief is that it is not unethical, not because I cannot give up meat but, mostly because, I have a lot of friends and family members who can’t and they are perfectly good people. And frankly, our(meaning all life forms’) existence is enough to cause distress to other forms of life and it is inevitable. Sure, we should try to minimize it but, there is no way we can completely eliminate it.

However, it cannot be denied that the present mode and rate of consumption of animals, especially in developed western societies is unsustainable and extravagant. The reason for this is that, most of the meat that we eat now-a-days is either purchased from shops or supermarkets or cooked in restaurants, out of our site. This disconnect between the consumer and the consumed might explain the lack of empathy. I believe that if we eliminate this disconnect, people will develop more environment-friendly and sustainable eating habits. A good way to minimize the distress we cause to animals would be to do away with the present methods of industrial scale mass rearing wherein animals and birds are kept under extremely cruel conditions. There should be strict guidelines dictating the conditions that need to be maintained in these facilities.

Now, we need to answer the more nuanced question of whether or not the flesh of all animals be treated the same. I believe that there is no absolute answer to the question. What one chooses to eat is too personal a question to have a generic answer that applies to everyone. This is a choice that would be affected by the environment that we live in and the kind of exposure we have had to animals. For example, if I have spent most of my childhood with a pet dog, then, I would not be very eager to consume dog meat, however delicious it might be. It is usually considered inhuman to consume animals that are domesticated because it is expected that having spent time with these animals we should have a soft corner for them. That is why different societies, according to the pattern of domestication, have different norms for what flesh is considered and what flesh is not. This might be a reason why consuming beef is frowned upon in the Indian society.  Similarly, consuming the meat of animals that cause us harm like animals that destroy crops and carry diseases (rodents and insects) or live in filthy environments (insects, crows and even dogs in some parts of the world) is considered a social taboo. This is most probably due to the evolutionary instinct of our ancestors to avoid potentially rotten or disease causing flesh.

I would like to add that I do not agree with the oft-cited explanation that claims that all life is equal and hence, if we are fine with consuming the meat of one animal, we should be okay with consuming the meat of another. All life is not equal. If it were so, then, I can extend the logic to claim that cannibalism should also be accepted. But, most of us would find that idea absurd because, we as human beings, form emotional connections with other human beings and hence, the idea of consuming another person’s flesh is just appalling.

In conclusion, I believe that, like everything else in life, it is best if what one considers edible and inedible is left to that person. Of course, depending the prevalent conditions, society would come up with certain rules and it has the right to do so but, these rules should not be hard and fast. In other words, keep your eyes off of my plate.

 

To Beef or not to beef. Is that the question?