Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Marriage is an Outdated Institution"

[An article written a looong while ago.]

To begin with, “what is Institution” is far better a question than “what is Marriage”. ‘Institution’,
as termed by standard social and legal practitioners, is “an important organization with particular purpose” in general sense, and “a custom or system that has existed for a long time” in the specific social term related with this topic. Beyond this, there is certainly a lot more to think about. Let us come to that later. ‘Marriage’, on the other hand, is a formal, legal relationship between a man and a woman. Both the terms, however simple and limited in superficial sense, embody vast social, economical, and historical values.

Let us start with an analysis of Institution. In general, the life span of an Institution has four stages – Birth, Acceptance, Growth, and Decay. In the following few passages, Marriage is discussed as an Institution according to this pattern.

The Birth of an institution like Marriage has three basic reasons – Desire, Security, and Religion. ‘Desire’ for physical pleasure is spontaneous and natural in every man or woman. This, from the first bath in the fountain, the first chirping of the bird, or the first nightfall, has driven the adrenalins mad. Even today, after so many years, it remains a very predominant reason behind every human relation. So, the role of Desire is obvious. Next comes ‘Security’. Security is a pure concept, a state of mind that makes a man or woman feel safe inside, a sense that keeps the nerves calm. It can be assumed that such arbitrary relation between human beings of opposite (or similar) sex created anarchy at some stage of time since there was no obligation on anyone’s part. Also, with the advent of morality, there may have risen a conscience against the abuse of sexual practice – extortions, to be precise. Thirdly, there was an impact of the belief in divinity. Every Religion, regardless of name or brand, holds Marriage at a very high esteem and expresses conservative opinions in order to protect its divine value. ‘Why’ is a question hard to answer, but every book of religion has a specific chapter on Marriage and its coherent values.

Second of all comes the issue of Acceptance. Any Institution is formally accepted if it manages to earn a set of recognitions. It is accepted as an Institution once Religion, Ruler, Society, and Reality grant it. Religion, in the life of the common man, is a very important subjective factor in gaining large-scale acceptance. It is from man’s trust on Religion, whatever the reason behind it (e.g. trust, fear, inexplicability, proofs, prophets, fables, and myths), that the concept of Marriage first got a real backing. However, it still needed to be ‘injected’ in the lives of many, and who better to do it than the ruling class? Society, as critics often argue, is “clusters of opinion glued together”. Society, in order to maintain the grip of its ‘Board of Directors’, often literally ‘stamps’ some customs on life. Undoubtedly, Marriage is one such stamp. Lastly, there comes a very
important, positive point – Sustainability against Reality’s evil plots. When an Institution proves its worth in face of Social, Political, and Economical challenges, it finally gains the golden key, the true logical base for acceptance among the thinking portion of a society. By dint of the value it had promised to add to life, the symbol of joy that it had existed as, and the notion of security that it had offered to the weak of heart, Marriage earned its social acceptance. But that seems so long ago!

Growth, beyond doubt, is related to the peoples’ choice. In Heaven and Earth, only those things grow which the mortals like best. The actual value and weight that we generally attribute to Marriage has a lot to do with the good that people have gotten or still get from it. Growth is acquired when a certain action or deed can attain a place in the common practices of men, gain a certain degree of conviction, or can promise due progression and festivity. So, this directly relates to the objective question of Security as well as to the subjective question of Festivity. From the muchquoted sentence “Hindu marriage is a social festival, Muslim marriage is a social contract”, it is quite evident that marriage offers both. But is that all? Haven’t things changed at all? I believe they have.

The Decay of an Institution comes when it fails to support, sustain, and supplement the notions that it originates from. Decay comes when exploitation takes in; decay comes when humanity is hijacked to a far-away land of daydream. The concept of Marriage has had a grand birth, an auspicious acceptance, a fluent growth, but what it is going through is a helpless decay. Once the smoke of festivity and infatuation gets blown away, eyes are attracted to the various inhuman aspects that the ‘legal’ part that Marriage gifts life with. Marriage, first of all, has lost to Religion. Religions, regardless of name or brand once again, have placed Patriarchy higher in everything nuptial. Unfortunately, God is male, and so are His verses. Otherwise, why should one religion find it usual and acceptable for four wives to share one husband while another would allow a husband to spank his wife if she refuses to entertain him physically? Why should religions
encourage veiling of women in order to keep the amorous men from being aroused? Why should a religion humiliate both the God and the husband by comparing the latter with an idol? Why should Marriage be the key to sex, not love? Surely, only the privileged or the medieval man would find Marriage still acceptable. Today’s world prefers rights to facilities. Marriage may facilitate lives with security, capital, ornaments, or pleasures, but none of these, under any circumstances, can stand in opposition to the universal cry for rights. Marriage has now contracted to a mere legal contract; there’s no place for love or value in it any more.
Now, let us dig deeper into the reasons why Marriage got an F-grade in the criterion called ‘modernity’. The primary reason is briefly mentioned above – Inhumanity. In both religious and legal terms, Marriage is extremely inhuman. Communion between a man and a woman can and does give birth to the greatest positive force in the world. Similarly, if diverted, it can give rise to the gravest of sins as well. Love is natural, and love’s transformation into the form of sex or other physical expressions is also just as practical. Concepts like Marriage, in the more traditional sense of matters, put a barrier between the two participants in this game of love. Men and women, from a very tender age, are taught to strictly avoid physical pleasure. This, eventually, gives the impression of sex being a dark, grave, evil, and unethical giant. The mind, in response to such
teachings, grows a distorted curiosity that finally turns into perversion. For example, of all examples of extortions, those carried out by so-called moral leaders are usually most violent and sadistic. This prepares the minds of many for accepting sex as a source of ‘fleshy’ fun, not pleasure; and such things, good or bad, accentuate in the conjugal lives, not the concept of share and complementation as one might argue. More importantly, these effects transcend the individual and start infecting the society as a whole. A society that suffers from such conflicts between body and soul starts to artifice its culture after some time. For example, the best examples of aesthetic and psychological aptitude come from either Ancient Greece or from
Renaissance Europe. Why? It is because the-then societies, even if temporarily, thought beyond the material obligations that Marriage or Church or Establishment imposed.

Today, the concept of Marriage is like the ‘Queen of England’ or the ‘President of Bangladesh’ – existent, but not predominant. Marriage’s legal part has no fundamental difference from an Insurance Premium, but what gave Marriage its one-time value were the vast joy, hope, and promise that it embodied. Marriage may still live as the celebration of love between two individuals, but not as the ‘binding force’ that it is wrongly presumed to be. One must understand that Marriage is a mirror (reflecting factor), not a rope (binding factor). The ever-rising Divorce Rate clearly stands as a fact in favor of such remarks. The “Marry first, then love” days are over, and rightly so. Such rejections have come from none other than the ones related to it. A curious question may be, “to what extent is Marriage’s mansion threatened?”

Honestly, Marriage is weak, but not lost. It is an institution that has a very strong grip on the minds of people; especially those denied of the right of education and a free life. The visions that helped a Concept gain the honor of an Institution still haven’t changed in the minds of many. But, from the rich to the poor, all men and women are now against the traditional concept of Marriage. It can be argued that Marriage has evolved, but I don’t think so. Instead, it is one great framework inside which minds are now experimenting on newer and better ways of loving, living. Despite the scratches by the ultra-modern faction of the West, Marriage’s façade still lives, but its interior is being hollowed each moment. At present, the West “rides on the horse” openly, the East kisses and flirts, ‘Middle Earth’ fusions lust and legislation into ‘Herem Sharifs’, the North melts in
heat, and the South just gets swept away. Isn’t it clear that the one-time ‘universal’ values have lost ground in all directions? Ours is an age when people go away in search of independence first, and then come back as conscious human beings to form a social relation. It is not the age when men or women were satisfied being a pawn of the society, it is not the age when love could be formulated.

To sum it all up, it can be said that Marriage is a concept that originated from the chemistry between men and women, got accepted by Religion and thus the Society, got praised by the Patriarchy and the Ruling class, rose to the ranks of Institutions, and is finally being rejected by those who deny divine dictation.

- Ishtiaq Rouf
February 09th , 2003


Monwar said...

The last para kind of confuses the otherwise clear-cut conclusion, but in any case, WILL YOU MARRY? That is the question of the day. ;)

Or if you do, it won't be to follow divine dictate, rather for the chemistry part, is that what you are trying to say? ;)

Do post some of your other gems.

Ishtiaq Rouf said...

yes, i will marry. it will be a great day in my life. however, i don't find it to be a true necessity any more. the gifts of marriage are up for grabs. realtionships no longer begin or end with vow; nor do they end with one.

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