The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Whatever it’s about, it ain’t about the children

There are a lot of arguments floating around in the continuing marriage equality debate, but there is one argument that just… won’t… die. Which I guess makes it (a) a little bit like Jesus, and (b) a little ironic given that the vast majority of its proponents are big fans (of Jesus, I mean, not marriage equality). It’s a textbook case of post-hoc reasoning, and the religious argument you use when you don’t want to look religious. And it annoys the crap out of me.

In its simplest form, it consists of a middle-aged white man wearing a brown cardigan and corduroy pants, running around in circles screaming “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!”. The slightly more academic version, however, goes something like this:

    Same-sex1 couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry because:

  1. Every child has a right to be raised by their mother and father; and
  2. Other things being equal, children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than the children of heterosexual parents.

Let’s have a look at these in turn.

1
This statement is obviously predicated on the assumption that the very purpose of marriage is children. And yes, traditionally almost every couple that traditionally walked down the aisle did so because traditionally that’s what you did when you traditionally wanted children. Traditionally that kind of made sense at the time, because traditionally no one really liked bastards. But tradition can take a hike, because not only are most of my good friends absolute bastards, but nowadays lots and lots and lots of couples get married with no intention of ever having children. Some couples even get married knowing that they can’t have children, even if they wanted to (say hello, Fred Nile!). Which is perfectly fine, and in some cases, probably for the best (say hello again, Fred Nile!).

The corollary to this argument is that, because marriage is all about children, any same-sex couple who is allowed to wed will make their marriage about children as well. Because that’s what marred couples do, see? That will of course involve at least three people out of biological necessity (or in the language of the bigot, “Poofs gotta get eggs from somewhere”), and there is a risk that the resultant child will never get to know the owner of the ovary (or nut) from whence they came. The consequences of allowing same-sex marriage, therefore, are very, very bad.

But let’s break that down.

There are, right now in Australia, lots of gay couples that want children. And do you know what they do? They have children. Which makes them a lot like straight couples who want children and then have children, except they can’t get married. There are also lots of gay couples who don’t want children. And do you know what they do? They don’t have children. Which makes them a lot like straight couples who don’t want children and don’t have children, except they don’t get abortions. Straight singles go out and have children, too. So do gay singles. And intersex and trans couples and singles. All of this is going on right now, with or without marriage equality. And there isn’t anything you or I or Fred Nile or the ACL or Bill Meuhlenberg can do about it.

What this argument is basically saying, then, is this: “The purpose of marriage is children, but you can have children without getting married, and you can get married if you don’t want children, and you can get married if you can’t have children, and there are thousands of gay couples out there who want children and could have children if they wanted to but aren’t having children because they can’t get married, because marriage is all about children, apart from all the married couples without children”.

Or, put another way, “I don’t like gays, and, furthermore, I don’t like gays”.

The only way this argument could possibly make sense is if people only get married to have children, and non-hetero couples aren’t having children because they can’t get married. And since neither of those things is true, the argument doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

It makes even less sense if you follow it one step further: If you truly believe that stopping same-sex marriage will prevent non-hetero couples having children, you are essentially saying that, rather than having non-traditional parents, it is better that those children don’t exist at all. Which is odd, given that almost everyone against same-sex marriage also follows that whole “right to life” thing. Think about it.

2
The second half of the “won’t someone think of the children” argument says that the children of gay parents fare worse than the children of hetero parents.

They don’t.

That should be the end of it, of course, but for some reason same-sex marriage opponents aren’t too impressed with “science”. Unless of course it’s bogus, discredited science that supports their established prejudice.

Even if we’re being incredibly generous, and concede that non-traditional families aren’t ideal, no reasonable person should be able to argue that the outcomes of such families are catastrophic enough to warrant their complete abolition. We know this because, if the outcomes were catastrophic, marriage equality opponents would be telling us about that, instead of mindlessly appealing to a specious defense of an outdated tradition.

Besides which, as we’ve already established, the marriage equality debate isn’t about children anyway. If you want to argue against same-sex parenting, go do it someplace else.
_____

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that this argument is a classic case of post-hoc reasoning, and the religious argument you use when you don’t want to look religious.

There’s no denying that there is a strong correlation between religious beliefs and opposition to marriage quality. And there’s no denying that the generally accepted position of all three Abrahamic religions is that marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman. Statistically speaking, the chance that this is due to pure coincidence is infinitesimally small. That alone should be enough to convince you that any time someone says “Won’t someone think of the children”, what they are really saying is “Won’t someone think of Baby Jebus”.

If you happen to be one of those people, however, and you genuinely believe that your opposition to marriage equality isn’t religiously motivated, ask yourself this.

If we, as a society, could somehow address all your concerns, would you still oppose it?

What if we could guarantee that all children raised by same-sex couples got to know their biological parents? Or if all those useless, horrible same-sex parents undertook a year-long course on how to be as good at parenting as heterosexuals? Or, perhaps better still, all married same-sex couples were forbidden from having any children at all?

Granted, those seem a little far-fetched. What about this, then: what if a multitude of independent scientific studies were published that proved that the children of same-sex couples actually do better than their heterosexual equivalents? If it’s all about the children, surely you wouldn’t object then, would you?

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but… yes, yes you would.

And if that’s the case, then you should wait for your cognitive dissonance to subside a little, grab your bible, and see yourself out. Because you’re simply not qualified for meaningful debate.

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1. I use “same-sex couple” here, for the sake of brevity, to mean any non-heterosexual couple.

Devine Logic

While waiting for a morning coffee, I decided to open a copy of The Daily Telegraph. Flicking idly through its pages in search of a few moments of diversion, I was surprised to discover that the world in general and this country in particular are in a terrible state. Not only is the progressive left taking over the world through the agency of single mothers and the ALP – things are so bad that even newspapers like the Telegraph have lost the ability to spell. Or reason,

But all this was as nothing compared to the stunning revelation that was in store for me when I turned the page and found myself staring at Miranda Devine’s latest effusion. In it, she makes the startling claim that the two major factors in the radicalisation of an Australian youth who recently performed a suicide attack in Iraq were: divorce and atheism.

This is deeply worrying, and not only because I now have to determine how we ended up back in 1950 again.

My parents were divorced when I was a small child. Also, I am an atheist. So, as if Labor selling us out to the Greens and paedophiles apparently lurking at every street corner weren’t enough, I now have to worry about spontaneously combusting in a Middle Eastern Country in the service of Allah.

What makes it worse is that this process is inevitably going to be completely impossible to predict. If atheism and divorce cause people to become Islamist terrorists, it must happen by a process akin to magic.

Miranda, bless her, did attempt to comfort me by attempting to overlay her revelation with a thin veneer of reason, but I’m not fooled. Her argument, if you can call it that, that the ‘moral vacuum’ of atheism and ‘nihilism’ that goes with it, leave vulnerable adolescents prey to belief systems that advocate violence is thin to the point of being diaphanous. For a start, Atheism does not necessarily predicate a moral vacuum. It is also very different from nihilism – you can tell by the spelling. It’s all very implausible, so I can tell she’s just trying to make me feel better.

Besides, even Miranda can’t expect us to swallow an argument that atheism causes religiously motivated violence. Only a semi-literate reactionary retard could possibly fail to grasp logic on such an elementary level.

So, assuming that she is right, then there can be no possible rhyme or reason to the apparently inevitable metamorphosis into an Islamist terrorist that I am about to undergo. It seems deeply unfair that my parents’ separation, combined with a rational refusal to believe in invisible sky people should have such dire consequences, but I guess that that’s just how the world works.

By magic, that is, and in direct defiance of reason,

I guess I should leave some final message before I go and explode myself thousands of miles away. All I can think of, though, is a request: if any of my friends out there should see me wearing an explosive vest and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, please try to steer me as close as possible to wherever Miranda is at the time.

Liberty, Equality and, for Crying Out Loud, Some Humility Please!

Watching our Foreign Minister always makes me feel uncomfortable. Sure, we have a long tradition of drunk, half-witted, boorish, ugly and just plain stupid ministers in general and Foreign Ministers in particular. So what’s the problem? There’s nothing special about this one, is there?

But there is. Deliberately or not, the FM carries herself in a way that suggests that it is her absolute right, as an educated Westerner, to tell the rest of the world how they should live and what they should think. I know, when I look at her, that she is utterly convinced of her mandate to instruct. Her obvious Western Supremacism radiates from her every twinset.

It’s also invalid.

I live in Manly. At this time of year, Manly is lousy with women wandering about the place in bikinis. Personally, I’m in favour of this, but even if I wasn’t, I live in a country where women have the right to wander about in bikinis to their hearts’ content.

It was not always thus. Near the the library, there is a mural made up of historical headlines from The Manly Daily. This being The Daily, they mostly deal with sharks, nudists and the wrong code of rugby. But then there’s this one:

 BATHING TRUNKS WORN IN STREET

Blonde in bikini put off beach

Just a few decades ago – within living memory – religious (ecclesiastic) law required us to cover our bodies in public. Sound familiar? This body of law still exists, but we’ve either stopped enforcing it or changed the way it’s interpreted. So we can all pat ourselves on the back for being an advanced, progressive society.

Really – I mean it.

It was a long, hard road. There were riots, demonstrations, some murders, a lot of protests and a hell of a lot of turmoil, but we got there in the end. Point is, though, that, historically speaking, the end of that process was something like five minutes ago. Wind the clock back a tiny amount and our ideals, values and principles are deplorable. Homophobic, militantly religious, racist, sexist – the list goes on. So what changed? Did we become better people? Have we risen to a higher moral plane than the rest of the world? Do we, somehow, deserve the irritating air of self-righteousness worn by Julie when she’s enlightening Johnny Foreigner?

Of course not. The latter half of the 20th Century found us holding the keys to the kingdom. The West was best, even the losers, so cue the welfare state, consumerism, education, urban redevelopment, and so on and so forth. Sure, there was the cold war and the communist domino thingummy, but, by and large, most wars were far away, bellies were full and the money was rolling in. So, like most people who have run out of real problems, the West began to examine its own soul. The result of this turbulent, traumatic process was the enlightened, liberal and more or less progressive thinking prevalent in mainstream Western politics today. But if the latter half of the 20th Century was a period of soul searching and self reflection for us, what was it like for the rest of the world?

In a word – hectic. Every major region of the world outside the West spent the greater part of the post war years in turmoil. Africa’s young nations, having been possessions, then battlefields and finally, orphans of the various dying Empires, have yet to finish recovering from the West’s tender mercies. Asia, convulsed by revolution, incessant warfare and the bumbling intervention of cold war America, is only now beginning to re-emerge as a viable version of its old self. The Balkans, despite the two global wars fought ostensibly with reference to their sovereignty, were far too busy imploding, exploding and committing war crimes to devote much energy to social justice. The Middle East, fragmented by the termination of the caliphate and the secularisation of Turkey, settled down to a few decades of near constant warfare, the politics of outrage, the catastrophic disruption of Israel’s formation and the inevitable crumbling of the ludicrously thoughtless makeup of their ‘nations’ at the hands of, you guessed it, the great Western powers.

So no, our advancements in social justice and political theory are not the product of some inborn Western superiority. The difference lies in opportunity. The only thing that separates us from the rest of the world is that the West spent the last half century angrily questioning its own morality, while the rest of the world spent it scrambling to survive.

How can we sneer at other countries when, less than a generation ago, Western nations were amongst the worst citizens of the world? We’ve produced rulers more fanatical than the Wahhabi, and reformers crazier than the Taliban. The faults we attribute to our enemies – religious fanaticism, tyrannical government, expansionist aggression, ethnic cleansing and persecution, slaving, the maltreatment of women, the disabled, minorities, minority faiths – Western nations of the post Roman era practically invented most of these.

So where the hell do we get off with this pretence of superiority? What right do we have to act as the world’s moral arbiters? Our power, as the West, rests in guns, money and the robust stability afforded by our legal and political systems. And guns. The world doesn’t listen to us because we’re better people. They listen because we have the most stuff. When we lecture foreign powers on democracy, rule of law and all the other nuggets of evolved statehood that we think we invented, there is a small possibility that our power and affluence might prove sufficient arguments to sell these ideas. But if we pitch these concepts from a position of moral superiority, we must rightly be rewarded with the horse’s laugh. We got where we are by theft, force and ruthless acquisitiveness. This is well known. The people we are lecturing are not only keenly aware of our past crimes, they are more than likely to be numbered amongst our past victims.

So please, for the love of reason, Julie, try to remember this simple fact:

We are no better than anyone else out there. We are just better off.

So let’s drop the self-righteous act, okay? Besides – I can’t think of anyone less entitled to it than the nations of the West.