Tuesday, February 06, 2007

United we stand

No - not politics, marriage. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and usually not my greatest hero, has come out with strong stuff on Tony Blur and his government's weak views on marriage and family stability.

The Blur government's moral ethics in this arena are summed up well by the words of Education Secretary Alan Johnson (himself twice married), "We have to recognise that the modern family is not always a married family. Marriage can provide stability, but it's not for everyone" (well, not if you want to screw around, not if you can't commit, not if you want to be able to ditch someone when they hit a rough patch, and not if your self-discipline is flawed).

Rowan Williams says the chattering classes are "trading off the inherited capital" of previous generations who worked at marriage and stayed together. Dead right. Not all our parents' and grandparents' marriages survived, but the vast majority did whereas it's 50:50 now. Not all their marriages were happy, but they stuck with each other because they'd promised to, and that provided a rigid framework which benefitted their children, wider family circle and society in general. Of that I'm convinced.

Now the UK government is made up very extensively of divorcees (and in that sense representative of society), but that doesn't mean they have to disown the benefits and the very ideal of marriage.

I myself am divorced and suffer the unending pain it brings. Like all divorcees I share a part of the blame for the breakdown of my former marriage, but I also know I was let down badly by someone who'd said she'd always be there for me. This generation has the misfortune to live in a time of a consumerist approach to all things, including marriage, and - to most people - today's marriage vows are not "till death us do part" but "till one of us wants out".

At its heart, you see, marriage is not about feelings - which can yo-yo - but about commitment through thick and thin. Long live marriage, and may future generations rediscover its true meaning and benefits.


At 6:16 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

I'm not sure that I totally agree. I have had to deal with many people who were the children abused by parents in miserable marriages who didn't have enough sense to end it. I have also had to help those people correct some of the problems which they in turn passed down to the next generation.

Folks change as they age. Sometimes, the person you loved just disappeared. When it can be amicably worked out between two married people who no longer have a functional marriage, the best thing is to break it up and at least try to remain friends. Why make one another suffer until the relationship becomes one of hatred and loathing and possibly even physical harm to one another? For what? An institution? They may end up needing an institution!

The old Celts notified the community, "We are together", and they were no longer fair game. When it was over, they notified the community, "We're no longer together", and got on with their lives. Infinitely more civilised.


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