Thursday, October 12, 2017

Family Isn't Extinct

I’ve been watching a new sci-fi series on BYU-TV called Extinct. One of the creators is Orson Scott Card, who wrote Ender’s Game, it’s sequels, and many other sci-fi fiction books and series. Even with those high expectations, I’m surprised at the quality of this show. I don’t know how they do it out of a college campus media program.

It was introduced October 1st, with two opening episodes. But BYU-TV did something I’m really appreciating. Besides showing one episode a week for the next month and a half, followed by a season finale, they put the first eight episodes online right away, for streaming at your convenience.
So I binge-watched that first week, up through episode 5. And then I decided to slow down, because I didn’t want to have a huge gap between those eight episodes and the finale. Anyway, I recommend the series, if you like sci-fi at all.

There was a moment in episode 5, “Broken,” that I want to highlight.

The premise of the show is that aliens came and wiped out the human race 400 years ago. But those aliens or others (not sure) recorded the DNA and memories of a number of the humans, and then they try to have the human race repopulate centuries later.

The humans wake up, one at a time, in a lake, with their memories from their previous life intact. They are at the age of their prime (mid-20s to mid-30s), regardless of the age at which they died. One character, Abram, was a psychologist near retirement age in his previous life.

I don’t want to give away too many surprises, but Abram has been trying to decode messages from a mysterious obelisk in their fortress, where there used to be a settlement. Rummaging around the place, he finds a notebook with shorthand notes—in a type of shorthand he invented for himself, back when he was a therapist. So it’s not possible that someone else wrote that notebook; he had been there before, trying to decode those very same things.

In episode 5, we get a flashback of the old Abram visiting his wife, Tasha, in the hospital before she dies. Then we see the new, younger Abram, in the fortress, talking with the drone (a floating metal robot about the size of a basketball) as he’s looking for something. If you watch the full episode, this two-minute clip comes at 18 minutes in.


Here’s the dialogue from the essential part:

Drone: Looking for something?
Abram: My notebook proves that I was here before. Maybe there’s proof Tasha was too.
Drone: What makes you think your wife may have been reborn?
Abram: Ezra and Lynn. Feena and Duncan. There’s a pattern of restoring couples.
Drone: I’d hardly call four people a reliable statistical sample.
Abram: Not statistics. Sociology. If you want to start a community and generate offspring, you need strong, monogamous relationships.
Drone: You don’t need monogamy to create offspring.
Abram: No, but you need it to create stable families. And you won’t have much of a civilization without those.
This isn’t the only time Orson Scott Card has his characters mention how important family is. I wrote about one place here.

The alien attack, when these Extinct people’s original bodies died, was approximately our day. It’s interesting that it’s an older character who understands, both intuitively and scientifically, the importance of family for building civilization, because in our day, especially among younger generations, that’s not always common knowledge.

For example, there’s this guy whose presentation came up through Mindvalley (a self-help organization, providing information on things as diverse as meditation, healthy eating, breaking through mental blocks, how the brain works, and other informative and sometimes weird things) on Facebook. The guy, Dan Savage, does a longer presentation called “The 3 things we get wrong about love, sex, and monogamy.” I apologize for the bleeped profanity; the subject itself is profane, but in the two-and-a-half-minute promo video [  October 4, 2017], Savage says,

Every monogamous relationship is a disaster waiting to happen. If you are with someone for 50 or 60 years, and you cheated on them one time, you are terrible at monogamy. It’s an impossible standard of perfection, and it’s why we all fail at it. Those who attempt it almost all fail at it. Those who attempt it almost all fail at it.
And we tell people, and people believe, that if someone touches someone else, someone who’s committed to you, made a monogamous commitment to you, touches someone else with their genitals even once, they didn’t love you. They never loved you. That your entire relationship was a lie, and your…the only corrective is divorce. You must leave that person. We define it as an unforgivable betrayal, and then we experience it as an unforgivable betrayal.
And we sit around with our thumbs in our a—s wondering why the divorce rate is as high as it is, when what we should be telling people is that you will grow up, you will fall in love. Perhaps if monogamy is right for you or what you think you want—a lot of people think they want it and actually don’t—you will make a monogamous commitment. And, asterisk, that doesn’t mean because you’re in love, you’re not going to want to f— other people. You’re still going to want to f— other people; so does your spouse. What monogamy means is you will refrain from f—ing other people, hopefully.
And if you make it through 50 years, and they cheated once or twice, and you cheated once or twice, you were good at mono… you get a monogamy gold medal, like the snowboarder who fell down that day. You should have a monogamy gold medal around your neck, not a noose around your neck.
I’ve been with my husband for 23-ish, 24-ish years, I can’t remember, but a long time. And for 18 of the last years, we have been non-monogamous. I have had conversations with people in monogamous… who are appalled by the fact that we’re public about it, that I’ve talked about it, the fact that we’re parents and we’ve talked about it publicly, and this is how these conversations have gone. I’ve had people look at me and say to me, “I could never do what you and Terry have done, because I value commitment and loyalty too highly.” And I look at them like…  I don’t say anything, but I’m thinking, “You don’t think I’m…  What?”  And the next thing out of the m—f—‘s mouth is, “All three of my marriages have been monogamous.” And I’m like, “Oh, what you’re committed to and loyal to is monogamy, not these a—s you keep marrying and divorcing, but monogamy.” We are committed and loyal to monogamy to such an extent that we are not committed and disloyal to the people we’ve married.
Let’s unpack this, because he’s making a living telling quite a number of untruths.

He’s not in an actual marriage; he’s in a same-sex relationship that cannot produce children (yet they got children from someone who did produce children). He says he’s married, but this doesn’t include the essential sexual relationship that leads to reproduction. And it does not include exclusivity as a marriage contract requires. He calls what he has a non-monogamous committed marriage. And the problem, he says, on his authority, is that the rest of the world thinks marriage should require monogamy.

He claims that nearly all marriages include infidelity, because fidelity is an impossible standard. That is, he thinks it’s hard, and therefore you should give up on the very idea. The social science shows that essentially all long-term same-sex relationships include infidelity—more so for gay men and for lesbians. So if he’s going by his limited experience, that’s about right. But their numbers don’t reflect what is normal for heterosexuals.

Among real marriages—between men and women, married for life, with exclusivity, or in other words monogamous—well beyond half, 70% or more continue without divorce. Of those, 78% of men are never unfaithful, and 86% of women are never unfaithful. Compared to the numbers for gays, those statistics are a sharp night-day contrast.

Heterosexual marriages that face infidelity are severely strained. Often they end in divorce. But where the straying spouse is repentant and willing to do whatever it takes to make amends—and this often takes professional counseling for both spouses—there is no requirement that the marriage ends. Savage is saying the goal is no divorce, which you get if you are willing to stay in a marriage with unrepentant infidelity. He’s not clear on the concept if he thinks that makes for a better actual marriage.

I’m raising an eyebrow at his casual reference to sex, like it’s a typo. If the person committed to you “touches someone else with their genitals even once,” like that could so easily happen. It doesn’t happen accidentally; we don’t walk around in public places with those body parts uncovered, where they could just accidentally bump into someone else’s. No, it happens when you make a number of decisions, a number of steps toward having sex with a person. If that’s with a person you are not committed to, then you did indeed commit betrayal. You lied. Maybe you thought you loved your partner, but apparently not enough to control your lust.

This guy holds himself up as an expert when he has no idea what an actual marriage is like. He doesn’t know that huge numbers of people are happy in their marriages—the vast majority of them with total fidelity. It means something when sex is an expression of love in marriage. It means something else entirely when sex is just about self-gratification within or without a relationship. It matters. Because when it’s about self-gratification, it isn’t an expression of love.

People are happier when sex is an expression of love. And that love grows when the two committed parents bring children into their forever family. Maybe, just maybe, God knew how we were most likely to be happy when he required us to limit sex to within marriage.

Because that’s the only way you get civilization. Without civilization we have savagery. There’s been plenty of that in the news this week. Consider: would it be better for us to slake our lusts wherever and whenever we want—so that whatever Harvey Weinstein and others like him do, we just shrug our shoulders and give them a pass? We don’t even think it’s wrong?

Weinstein’s defense? “Everybody makes mistakes.” Not big, felonious ones. Not dozens or hundreds of times. Not endlessly until caught and finally held accountable.

Who is happier when no one considers sex under any conditions wrong? Not those he has used.

Family--with a man and woman married and faithful, raising their children--is still necessary for civilization.

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