by Liam Scheff
Love and marriage. Goes together like a…cultural trap? Anti-freedom top-down control gambit? A witch hunt?
Too abrupt? Let me start over.
Let me offer a point of view from an alien perspective: imagine that what I’m saying comes from the pen of an anthropologist from the future; better yet, from another planet, who’s been studying human relationship structures from a near distance for forty years, and intermingling with you dressed in local clothes so as to not draw attention to himself. That’s been my job.
I have noticed that this thing you call “marriage,” though you claim to yearn for it, seems to work against the success of Americans. You know, citizens of the United States. Americans: stressed, strained, overworked, under-served, disconnected, television-addled, drug-infused, fraying, straying and breaking…Americans. It seems to me that the most natural thing that you could do to support each other would be to form extended kinship groups – what we anthropologists call “tribes” to establish a structured network of constant support for, well, every member of the group.
But what if the tribe was destroyed by a directive? A hidden order that gets you to undermine its very nature yourselves? Its internal intrinsic structure of multi-hubbed intersecting support beams – you’re set to dismantle it without realizing it. What if you had been convinced by several lifetimes of brainwashing (through your grandparents and parents) to believe that you were supposed to actually distrust most of the people you know, and are only to truly trust one. “Truly” only one.
You managed to be inculcated with a notion; you must achieve a sense of belonging – an idea of duty and obligation, even of want or hope or desire, to bind yourself with promises of perpetual sexual obligation and restriction to that one person; but who?
Who knows? Just someone you met and had a sexual attraction to. Or could talk to. Someone you decided might be the one you were permitted to love, and so invested in as “the one” forever. Despite obvious misalignments and limitations. Despite the reality that no one can be everything for anyone – not even for themselves. But, you decided.
The one you decided must be the one, or, in a moment, while you were young enough, high enough on endorphins, inexperienced enough with the realities of the world. Just one person with whom, after a period of childhood and adolescence of mind-training, you would be permitted to express all affection, kindness, warmth, sexual interest, and more – social, psychological, financial obligation and total legalistic interweaving; life, death and parenting decisions – with one. Just one. In fact, you’re supposed to invest all your dreams, wishes, needs and hopes into one, small, exhausted individual, who is as lost and isolated as you are.
You call this the “American dream.” To “settle down” with one person, “forsaking all others,” abandoning all outside kinship connections, letting starve and die long held deep friendships, loves, affections, crushes and even little bits of fondness. It all has to go.
You’re motivated to ask what use any of these were. Why love or admit attraction or affiliation with anyone else? You’ve found “perfect love” with one person.
Except…you haven’t. You fall into guilt, shame, loneliness, burdened by unmet needs and desires you feel ashamed to express. It’s nothing extraordinary. Just a little affection here and there that you’d just die to admit to; just something to stir the soul, to remind oneself of the beauty of this world – the freedom to see the light of new enjoyment and appreciation of each other’s expansive being in someone’s eyes; to brighten you, to remind you of the joy of the world.
But you can’t, you repress it all. You’re “good” not “bad.” You’re “safe,” not a “slut.” You dare not enjoy thoughts or experiences of sex – or, you can, but with just one person. Maybe, if he’s around. If she’s still feeling attractive; if she still appreciates you that way; if you can still be excited by him after all the fighting you’ve done. If she can still tolerate you after the many ways you’ve let her down.
And if you don’t enjoy sex there any longer – well, you’re out of luck. “But,” you hear. But be glad you have a family! Be glad you’re not on your own! Be glad you haven’t been excommunicated from “the tribe!”
Indeed, this agreement, this two-person pod is your passport, your only available contract to cultural success. It is the only allowable entry into this tribe of lonely people.
Of two-person lifeboats of isolation and self-induced, self-policing lonely hours. Guarded by jealousy. Fear that either of you will, in any moment, be human again, and “betray” each other, with a kiss, a look, a touch, a desire…
You stand, readied by a lifetime of training to accuse: J’accuse! To be betrayed. To feel abandoned, and then to make it so. To go through a long, public humiliation. To cry bitter tears, to feel “not good enough,” to die a million deaths of despair wondering if your partner desired anyone else for a moment.
For a moment? But haven’t you? Of course; or you’ve ground that bright desire to ashes through repression. But when you allow truth to hit the air – you’re…well… still alive inside. Still excited by the joy of life.
What a bloody joke you’ve played on yourselves. You’re a normal, healthy, sexual animal. Hardly monogamous, you’re tribal. You spent 240,000 years living in tribes, with your chief obligation to the group, to being a co-provider of some food, a co-teacher of the children, a co-hunter from time to time; but never to be the primary anything.
You were a group creature: playing, laughing, singing, enjoying the pleasure of plant-based intoxication to see the stars sing brightly…and appreciating the easy pleasure of each other’s company from time to time; knowing that children were raised by the tribe, and no one ever had to pay alimony for the natural diminishment of the fleet-footed and passing romantic impulse. No, that was expected to fade; but the tribe was always the central axis and the dome of stars, and you always would be there for each other, to share food, shelter, and whatever was needed to live.
You’re built for a group sharing dynamic. You naturally form your relationships in groups, you raised your children in groups. Now it’s up to two people, strained, stressed, suppressing half of their normal impulses to flirt, laugh, find others attractive, to be lightly – lightly – promiscuous, but really only affectionate, mostly without falling into bed. All suppressed so vigorously they mutate into the most excessive fantasies in your regular television viewing.
The majority of your affections end in a little easy hugging and a kiss or two. And if more, then so what? Because a woman loved by many men a little bit has support her whole life long; a woman with a variety of men who are free to love and admire her without intruding jealousy always has family and fathers to her children.
Men free to love and admire several women in their tribe are connected to women; listen to women, know and feel for women; they are free to enjoy affections, and they gladly share responsibilities with a ready group of tribal brothers and cousins. Jealousies are minimized; they have little to no value because nothing important is wanting.
You aren’t sacrificed to the volcano for either having a romantic interest or for letting one fade. That is normal; no one cares or is surprised. Because you keep up your tribal affiliation. The important things were done by all of you; food, shelter, life’s basic resources. You didn’t own each other. You served a greater communal interest – a most practical one; and you needed to be linked at many levels. And linked affections only strengthened your web, your network.
Then the machine age came along, and stripped you of group work. Machines took over the digging, planting, carving, painting, building and even washing. What use do you have for a sister wife or brother husband? None. You’ve got the machines of ease and comfort. What more could you ask for?
The car zipped you around, you shopped, not grew or gardened; you bought, not made things; and you got busier and busier. So busy, so tired, so overburdened. And now you have to guard your relationship from interlopers. The fiendish parasites threatening to destabilize your gas-powered, iPhone-navigated perfect lifeboat of two lonely people, children looking at your calamities with dismay but set up to repeat it all; all of you desperate for outside contact; afraid to disappoint each other, terrified to tell the truth.
This system is a nightmare for everyone. It is an endless joke at your expense. You are not remotely a sacredly monogamous species. You are a tribal, connected, supportive, networked human animal. Everything in your being is pushing you to reclaim your tribal routes, to stop sacrificing children to a totally fraudulent and false god of science and government; vaccination and ‘teach-to-the-test’ public brain-clouding.
You’re clouded by both the liberal and the conservative misunderstanding of history. You’re clouded by the hundred contradictory messages you receive from your culture: sex is good, sex is evil; openness is good, truth is destructive; emotional development is healthy but do what you’re told by god, country and the invisible pressure of a community which is unable to get out of this cul-de-sac of fear and financial self-crucifying.
Oh, I’m sure there are some important realities I’m missing, I’m sure you love your partner; I never said you didn’t. What I said is that your species is tribal and always has been. And there are no lifetime Jewish, Catholic or Muslim marriages in tribes; there is only the understood promise to participate in the survival of the network, the tribe.
Or, that’s the view from my planet. I’m sure it’s not something you’ve easily considered. But imagine what life would be like if you lived in a tribe, as your ancestors did for 95% of your history; and imagine the security you felt in knowing you couldn’t be excommunicated for being entirely human.
Liam Scheff is the author of “Official Stories,” and is working on his new book about the tribe of humans, our sex lives and social networks, and the changes we’ll be faced with in a declining energy culture.