I finally figured out where I fit in society when I read Albert Jay Nock’s, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (see my review).  I am, like Nock was, a superfluous man, well capable of looking about me and seeing things mostly as they are, not as people wish them to be seen.  Society has no use for people like me.  The last thing it wishes of its members is that they can clearly see.  

This is doubly true in a marriage, which depends for its viability on the depth of commitment each party harbors for the lies they have agreed upon to believe.  A husband (or wife) may be expected to do quite a few things.  Thinking clearly about the nature of marriage in the context in which it is engaged is generally not one of them.  Allow me to share some of Nock’s observations about marriage, family and women, from the Memoirs:

On marriage:

Regarding marriage as essentially a quasi-industrial partnership, a business enterprise, and then looking over the persons of one’s acquaintance who are engaged in it, one must see, I think , that the distribution of natural aptitude for it is about what it is for other occupations.  There are many misfits, many who through no great fault of theirs have obviously mistaken their calling.  Society’s tacit assumption is that all normal persons are qualified for matrimony, and this is not so…When such as these experience a valid sex-attraction of whatever type, and seek to make the most of it by accepting only the terms that society has hitherto presented as admissible, the consequences are clearly bound to be unfortunate.  The best they can do is to maintain a position on the bare edge of spiritual solvency through a continuous series of stultifying compromises and makeshifts…

In the hope that they might profit from my mistakes, I have explained this repeatedly to both my kids (in front of my wife)–that marriage is a business partnership.  Love has next to nothing to do with it.  Never, ever get married for love, if one considers “love” as an euphemism for sexual attraction.  A mate should be chosen for attributes that would make for a good business partner, for that is its true essence. 

In light of its nature as a business partnership, and the state of relations between men, and the economically-ascendant women that no longer need them for much of anything, I would guess that more than a few married men are “maintaining a position on the bare edge of spiritual solvency through a continuous series of stultifying compromises and makeshifts…”, which is nothing new.  British men have been living lives of quiet desperation since the Victorian Age, at least.

On family:

Where the family chiefly show itself as inimical to the human race, to borrow my German friend’s term, is in its character as the strongest bulwark of whatever economic system may be in force, even the most iniquitous.  Now wonder the State and the Church unite in coddling the family and hedging it about with all the protective devices that law and factitious ethics can devise!  A person with a family does what he must and as he must…He must stay within the economic system and uphold it; and thus the demands of family are responsible for the atrophy of many fine talents, and for the progressive moral dim-out which darkens many lives.

Over a half-century later, it seems the State and the family are at war over which is the preeminent social institution, with the State generally winning.  The State has assumed so much of what was once familial responsibility until very little reason yet remains for the existence of the family.   But the State may have won a Pyrrhic victory, because the strength of any state has always been the value of services it provided to the family.  Families came first, then tribes, nations and states, as both ancient Greece and Rome illustrate.  Wither the family, what then happens to the state?

Families with children necessarily revolve around their upbringing, but in the over half a century since Nock wrote this, much smaller families mean that far greater resources are employed to raise the one or two children the families produce.  In China, with its one-child policy, the children have become so doted upon by parents and grandparents until they are collectively now called the “little emperors”.  It really can’t be good for any social unit when its least-experienced, most foolhardy members are granted the reigns of leadership, as happens with the worship of the child in American families these days.  A family isn’t supposed to be like a democracy, where ineptitude and incapacity is rewarded for its mass appeal.  The adults ought to be in charge of the family.  The world is not a better place that is ruled by the whims of teenage girls. 

On women:

If you approach a woman with the faintest suggestion of being a potential customer [i.e., if you approach a woman in hopes of a sexual relationship], you may expect to find the ensuing relation tinctured heavily with a spirit of mercantilism exactly analogous to that which my Armenian friend displays when some one comes in to look over his stock. 

Just as marriage is a business partnership, male-female relationships are business transactions.  Rush Limbaugh’s declaration that the young Georgetown student was a “slut” and a “whore” was mainly correct, if in poor taste.  The most powerful commodity in the world is a female’s womb, and any woman who leverages her womb for resources, which is to say, practically all heterosexual women, is then, if not a slut (which is generally considered a woman that has sex just because she likes it), at least a whore or prostitute.  It is the particular terms of the transaction that render it palatable or not to genial society.  Trading sexual favors for cash in a back alley downtown makes one an exploited prostitute, i.e., a whore, but trading sexual favors for similar resources in a suburban bedroom makes one simply a housewife.  The distinction is not so great as the suburban housewife would like to believe. 

These are just snippets of Nock’s observations on the matter.  I highly recommend his memoirs.  Who knows, you may find you’re superfluous, too.

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