Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Marriage and Divorce

Posted by Jerry on December 3, 2006

I hear people often criticize the very high rates of divorce in the west–particularly, in the United States–as being an example of all that’s wrong with the culture; they claim, it reveals the lack of familial bonds, the superficiality of love and emotions, the selfish me-centricism, and just the general decadence of the culture.

However, when I see the alarmingly low rates of divorce in other cultures–where divorce is a societal taboo, such as in Japan, India, and China–I see the rampant disregard for individual human rights (especially in the case of women), I see individuals choking under societal and familial pressure to remain in suffocating relationships, I see individuals racked with emotional guilt for having extra-marital affairs in the dark, for entering and remaining in marriages despite being gay, I see children growing up with psychological scars from seeing their parents quarrel and fight before their own eyes, I see teenagers rebelling against their parents and running away with their lovers or friends to escape the nightmare of their homes occupied with two individuals who hate each other, I see youth engaging in frivolous sex and self-destructive relationships unconsciously mimicking the failed and forced relationships their parents had, I see women being raped by their husbands, men being forced into alcoholism and escapist hedonism, I see a political society that gets increasingly moralistic and paternal because it believes that morality must be forced upon people and that people are inherently evil, unruly, or savages.

Japan has the highest rates of suicide in the world. India has the highest number of people with AIDS in the world.

Divorce is good; in fact, it is an almost reliable indicator of a healthy and prosperous culture that respects individual rights and allows individuals the space and freedom to BREATHE!

Show me a culture with high divorce rates and I will show you a culture that’s prosperous, healthy, and free.

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15 Responses to “Marriage and Divorce”

  1. Shivdeep said

    Good post mate! Very my thoughts when I would argue with my friends and even parents.

    “Americans, who make more of marrying for love than any other people, also break up more of their marriages, but the figure reflects not so much the failure of love as the determination of people not to live without it.”
    — Morton Hunt

  2. Ergo said

    Thanks Shivdeep.

    Given my post, those who do not know me well might miscontrue the post to advocating divorce. However, my position in this regard is simply that nothing beats finding someone you love and being with that person till the end–whether in marriage or outside of it.

  3. Shivdeep said

    This brings us to an interesting topic: Marriage! What do you think about it? Its origins though religious, it is still claimed to be a commitment (an ethical one) by most educated Indians. I merely think of it as a social convenience, with its list of benefits. Does it actually strengthen a relationship? And if it does, doesn’t it mean that, the relationship was not as strong as it should have been in the first place?

    I do not even know, whether I should be discussing this over here. 🙂

  4. Ergo said

    I don’t see marriage as some kind of “causal agent” that could strengthen or weaken a relationship. It is, afterall, humans who enter into marriages and make it a wonderful state of affairs or a terrible one.
    I doubt that the institution of marriage originated in religion; it appears to me that some form of contractual union among individuals with the intention of living together and procreating occurred even before organized religion stepped in to interfere.
    Marrying is certainly not a duty or an obligation–let alone an ethical one. Marriage is entirely optional, and should be done with focused deliberation. Whether people enter into marriages solely depends on their personal preferences in the matter (surely also with regard to the socio-political situation in their society). I do, however, hold the opinion that straight people should be banned from marrying because they are making a farce out of the entire institution–what with drive-in ceremonies, marriages that last no more than 15 minutes, the perennial equivocation exhibited by men and women who keep marrying and divorcing and marrying again and divorcing again!! ugh. Let’s fight for the defense of marriage by restricting it to only gay couples, who are so much more intense and committed in their relationships, and have historically had almost ZERO incidences of divorce! 🙂

  5. Shivdeep said

    Ha ha… now India would have been a better place, if you were in politics. 🙂

  6. Sinus said

    Very strong argument there. This coming from someone who thought she was against divorce. i am now completely anti-catholic!!! 😦 (remind me how you did this again???)

  7. TK said

    srry for the double post, the first post was incoherent. i’m in a rush and have the bad habit of never reading what i typed after i submit it and i have bad grammar.

    having the option to get a divorce is unarguably a good thing, but in the US and many other western countries, people romanticize too much and get marry too early without really understanding each other. Many people have the mentality of marriage is all fun, not to mention women in US get a some money so they can survive unlike countries like india. Too low rate is bad assuming the couples are being oppessed(which many cases they are). Too high shows lack of commitment and compromising. Can u imagine what the world would be like with a 99% divorce rate?

    Ergo, what does japan high Suicide rate has to do anything with low divorce rate? The majority are by men and usually because of financial reasons or by elder folks. Can you clarify what you meant.

    as for gay only marrying, marriage in western countries imo is more of a legal process for the money. who gets what money when that person dies. I’m all for gay marriage btw.

  8. Ergo said

    Hello TK,

    Since your first comment was “incoherent” as you said, I have deleted it. I don’t think there is any loss of essential content as such.

    I can see that you pay much value to marriage as an institution qua institution; you say that “many people” engage in marriage as all fun, presumably, without understanding the worth and value of marriage.

    I think this is where we part ways in our thinking. You seem to reify marriage as an instrinsically valuable institution. However, I believe that marriage is only valuable to the extent that the individuals involved in it, make it so. In other words, two individuals could be “live-in” partners and yet have a much stronger relationship than some average married couple. It is not the nature of a relationship that lends it a certain moral value but the *individuals* involved in it. People bring in value to a relationship, not some abstract notion of marriage. Entering into marriage–being married–by default does not mean you are in some “valuable” and “serious” relationship and must act accordingly. Within or without marriage, a couple (or group of individuals) can still have a very meaningful and valuable relationship.

    Thus, I am not necessarily arguing for the position that divorce is good or marriage is bad. To me, they are equally meaningless without considering the nature of individuals involved. Thus, to reify one over the other, or to ascribe more importance to marriage while trying all one’s best to avoid divorce is to drop the context of the lives and nature of the individual’s involved. I support neither marriage nor divorce.

    My point in bringing Japan’s high suicide rate was to point out that it is an unhealthy culture–and despite what the many empirical studies state–the reason is not purely financial burden. You cannot isolate one strand or aspect of a culture and state that as the only reason–that is a valid method only for scientific convenience, not an accurate reflection of reality. Taking the entire context into account, there is a relationship between Japan’s high suicide rates, low divorce rates, highly collectivist culture, anti-individualism, etc. There are all interconnected aspects. Similarly with India. The reason India has the highest number of people with HIV/AIDS in a country is definitely related to other aspects of its culture.

    With regard to gay marriage, my earlier comments were intended merely as a joke, to point out the irony of the situation–that gay marriages have had historically ZERO incidence of divorce and therefore gays everywhere should be allowed to marry. That was intended as a farce and to reveal the hypocrisy of those who argue that gay marriages will destroy the sanctity of marriage. Again, here the fault is with reifying marriage as an instrinsically valuable institution.

    TK, thanks for visiting Leitmotif for the first time. 🙂

  9. Ergo said

    P.S. A recent survey conducted among 26,000 people from across the world found that Japan had the lowest scores of sexual satisfaction in marriage–at only 15%.

    India has 5.7 million people with HIV–more than any other country in the world.

    Both Japan and India have very very low divorce rates; but do not presume that this low rate reflects on the strong cultural values of marriage and love and relationships in these countries. Indeed, I argue, it is quite the opposite.

  10. Mohana said

    Very strong arguments, Ergo. Balanced and fair. Totally agree with all you had to say. I suppose I should know – have been on both sides of the fence now…was once married, now living with my boyfriend, and don’t feel the need for marriage. Truth be told, am terrified of it second time around (that it’ll take away all the charm and magic of the relationship!) – don’t want to end up like several of my girlfriends, stuck in clautrophobic marriages, with their husbands’ last names added on to theirs and not much else, compounded by having had children with men they never even fancied from the start!

    And the parallel with Japan was spot on. That’s one hell of a twisted culture – apparent from all the movies and books that come out of there, barring Murakami (who, personally I think, is brilliant, but if his portrayal is anything to go by, it is one culture/society that is perpetually living on the edge).

    Good to read you – stumbled upon here by accident! And ever so glad I did.

  11. Ergo said

    Mohana, your generous compliments delighted me! 🙂 I, too, am glad you “stumbled upon here by accident.”

    I have not read Murakami, but my little knowledge of Japan comes from conversations I have had with Japanese students I went to school with and others who have visited or lived in Japan for some time.

  12. satyajit said

    Hey Ergo,

    TK’s comment, not sound I must admit, throws open a few more issues. With respect to people in the US marrying for money, well, such a sweeping statement demands far more facts. If marriages are more of a legal process there, then here its more of a ritual. In more traditional India, ‘marriage pressures’ are imposed not just by immediate family but by a coterie comprising aunts, uncles, relatives, etc. Further, marriage is quite often seen as a compulsion, a thing to be done, regardless of whether the involved parties are ready. When the status of both sexes isn’t the same, marriage cant be deemed as a relationship between equals.

    I feel marriage could be the next logical step for two people in love. However, to just confine the contruct within the straitjacket of an institution is bein very parochial.

  13. Alex said

    Thank You

  14. Thanks for your wonderful insight, as with any form of life changing events we should always study and look for the right solutions and follow our hearts… and it is never to late to say “I am sorry” for anything! Healing takes time, but worth it when you can forgive others.

    Thanks again,

    Howard

  15. Chris said

    Yes, your post describes exactly how I think of the divorce rate disparity. I just came back from there and the regular folks that I talked to over there are proud of their low divorce rate.

    I was actually there to help out my Indian friend. She asked her parents to support her in divorce and so they took away her passport, confined her to the house and limited her communication with the outside world.

    Then her husband came and took her away to his place and did the same and is still doing it now. She’s a virtual prisoner. Despite this, she’s too respectful to call the police about it. Her arranged marriage has become a forced marriage. She’s 28 and is still being treated like a naughty schoolgirl.

    Unfortunately, there was nothing that I could do about the situation (within the law) and I had to leave.

    Marriages that don’t break up are definitely not the same as happy marriages. Not at all.

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