An American Moral Identity

It follows that marriage is a legal institution based on control and restriction over another person’s sexual organs more than anything else, but more often than not, the controls and restrictions are over a woman’s body rather than a man’s body. In turn, many of the laws pertaining to marriage in the Western world are man-made and have not been able to keep up with advancements in science. Thus, the institution of monogamous marriage has always stood on artificial and shaky grounds, and the laws and rules pertaining to love and sexuality were perhaps a futile attempt by man to control what is otherwise a non-anthropomorphic and uncontrollable force in nature. As Otto Weininger argued:

“Marriage can only have been introduced by Man. There is no legal institution of female origin. Every law comes from Man, and only a great many customs from Woman. (For that reason alone it would be totally wrong to derive law from custom or custom from law; they are quite different things.) Only man – la donne e mobile – could have had the desire and strength to introduce order into the chaos of sexual relationship, as indeed to introduce order, rules, and laws as such (in both practical and theoretical matters.)”

What may be hard for the overwhelming majority of men to believe is that patriarchy and monogamy actually amount to a flipping of the natural condition on its head, with the natural condition being constituted by matriarchy and polyandry. As Weininger stated:

“There really seems to have been a time when women were allowed to exert great influence on social developments in many peoples, but at that time marriage was unheard of: the age of matriarchy was an age of polyandry.”

For many men, the idea that matriarchy and polyandry are the natural conditions of social life may seem inconceivable and hard to fathom, which is why “between the ascetic existence and life in the world the most salient difference had to do with marriage” to borrow from Foucault. In essence, the ascetic life which is found amongst priests and hermits and so forth is a life without marriage and intimate relations with women, given the difficulty for many men to fathom or comprehend the actual and natural condition of social life. And even if one were to accept the most basic realities of social life, for some men, keeping up and living up to the expectations of a matriarchal and polyandrous social world may be difficult and rigorous, which is why there are always a set of men who resort to a life of asceticism. How to keep one woman happy – let alone an entire society of women – is more of an art than an exact science, and many men fail to comprehend that very complex art for various reasons. 

Nevertheless, an “American moral identity” to borrow from Richard Rorty is deeply intertwined with an effort to overcome all the social flaws which come with a system that has long operated based on the flipping of the natural condition on its head. But one should never lose optimism that things can revert to their natural condition and state, even if the road towards change and reform – or rather, reversion and reversal – is a long and arduous one. As Rorty wrote:

“There is no reason for us to deny that our country has been racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialist, and all the rest of it. But there is every reason to remember that it has also been capable of reforming itself, over and over again, and to use such memories as an aid in ‘cheerfully taking up our interminable task.’ The historical memories of those successes ought to be enough to make it possible for us to incorporate our American citizenship into our moral identities.” 

When taking all the aforementioned into account, it becomes totally reasonable for one to take issue with a “White Man’s World,” but not necessarily for reasons that have been conjured up by male minds.

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