Friday, January 3, 2014

The Idea of Good Living and State of the Art Marriages

(Image for representational purpose only)

In his path breaking novel, ‘Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley speaks of a world where everyone is for everyone else and nobody has a particular individuality or identity. People are categorized and conditioned from the very time of artificial their conception and they are brought up to become what they are supposed to become; planners, operators, workers and so on. In this peculiar caste system (which is not identified as caste system or social hierarchy because none is aware of a possibility of their existence in other conditions or planes of life) everything runs so smoothly that none even thinks of changing their given identity. If at all they are depressed for some strange reasons (which is not expected to happen), they are given a daily ration of ‘soma’ tablets that send them to a sense of euphoria. There is no marriage and no private property. In this world, words like ‘mother’, ‘conception’, ‘love’, ‘father’ etc are considered obscene. As everyone belongs to everyone else, as this society and its constituent individuals are conditioned in this fashion, sex is not a taboo and adequate precautions are always taken to avoid ‘pregnancy’ (another obscene word). None fights for women, property and money. There is no war. Everything is conditioned and everything is conditioned in this world.

Thinking of it, we may find that living in such world would be really fantastic. But, as we belong to a different world, with ample amount of strife, war, and public and private problems we have a different parameter in assessing the rosy picture painted by Huxley in ‘Brave New World’. Huxley’s intention is not to celebrate such a controlled society, on the contrary he narrates, through this fable, how offensive and horrible it would be for a normal man to exist in such gentrified, categorized and conditioned world. While his emphasis is on the authoritarian regimes that iron out differences and make people absolute observers of orders without any sense of rebellion, he also suggests that solving the world problems through homogenization of human traits and effective ways of socio-cultural and political conditioning will not take the human race to any progressive heights. Seen against this context, it is pertinent ask how individuality could be retained, cherished and nourished in a world that has been increasingly become homogenized during the evolution of history. Today, with the free flow of capital across the boundaries of nations, people all over the world have become addicted to certain ways of living, which is termed as ‘good living’ in the general parlance.

For maintaining a good living, first and foremost, one has to surrender all kinds of demands that individuality makes on the individual. Individuality stems from free thinking, a certain amount of analytical intelligence and the will to execute individualistic inferences. But good living will become, according to the prevailing conditions, bad living when an individual tries to exercise his/her free will. The idea of good living creates an atmosphere, rather a charged environment, in which the individual is expected to yield to the suggestibility of this environment. This ‘locale’ is created out of goods and ideas pertaining to these goods. These ideas and the creators of these ideas think for the individual and help him to choose the life that they would want him to lead. Buying a new iphone or a new dress, or even a refrigerator or washing machine is not related to its use value or peer pressure anymore. It has a lot to do with the decimation of free willing and yielding to the suggestibility of the ideas of good living. It becomes pertinent to have a particular consumer item with us for satisfying the demand for a good living irrespective of its use in the individual life. Seeing a program in a normal television channel is a normal thing. But seeing it in a high definition television with a plasma screen or a three dimensional television screen is a different thing. While the idea of good living tells us about the aesthetical experience that we would derive from such screens, it does not tell us why this aesthetical experience is different from the normal television experience. While picture quality and surrounding sonic ambience add to this aesthetical experience, the fundamentals of visuals remain the same, but the idea of good living very skillfully hides it from the consumer.

Goaded by this idea of good living, people slowly shed their individuality and distinction of their lives from that of others. Even seen out of the consumerist heaven of today, all other social practices are meant to create this homogeneity amongst the people in order to maintain the so called social structure, law and values. These structures, laws and values have been developed over a period of time, by making additions and corrections so that a larger number of people get benefit out of it by becoming a part of these homogenizing societies. Take for example the way we choose our religions and related rituals. In a society where we take birth, we are not given freedom to choose our religion or caste. We are born to a society which has already made the caste and religion of our parents fixed, notified and regulated. We are bound to follow that. While language is a ‘natural’ choice, religion and caste are not natural choices. As language is the mimicry of communicatory devices using sounds and gestures, religions are artificially made cultural contexts which are expected to be perpetuated by us without our consent. There are people who change their religions as they grow up through conversions or philosophical allegiance, and there are even people opt out of religion and practice something like ‘a-religion’ as in the case of the agnostics and atheists who in turn become addicted to those religions. Compared to the former, latter moves may sound better. But in both the cases we are left with no option to practice out of our religious ethos.

Religion is a very strong tool, like a name (that is closely connected to religion in most of the cases) that society employs to keep the individual under check. Such checking, though we see the kind of sanitized and liberal existence of Brave New World quite repulsive and too regimented, is as strong as its counterpart in the socio-cultural fables. Marriage is one such institution that makes us tied up with the social structure and structuring and severing all possibilities of exercising individuality and free will. Compared to the eastern societies, the western societies in the matter of marriage are considered to be a bit more liberal. However, when marriage is a reality, whether it is in the eastern or western countries, the same kind of norms for social structuring and homogenization come into practice. In a general sense, once you are married, you are expected to live a good life, irrespective of your economic status. What the idea of good life tells you is to adopt a life style that makes all the married couples look alike. Religion plays a very strong role in solemnizing marriages; so do the courts. Once a couple is legally and religiously wedded, they are expected to perpetuate the idea of social structure and good living by becoming a part of the established social norms, either by producing kids, giving them good living conditions, good educations, getting them good job, sending them off in marriage and handling all what comes in between these or by behaving like well to do couples, who look like many other well to do couples.

Exercising of free will is one of the biggest hurdles that marriage as an establishment and as an integral part of the social structure faces. While an individual enters into the pact of conjugality, he or she is almost ready to accept the ideas of social structuring and good living. It is the same case with the rebellious couple who decided to enter in a live in relationship. That is not so radical as it seems as it too replicate the same power relations and hierarchies of the society in due course of its progress. One thing what makes the living in relationship different from a religion approved or court approved marriage is the easiness of its solvability. While the former could be ended on a mutual agreement, as this mutual agreement is the basis of all living in relationships, the latter is held together, despite all its problems by the law of religions and courts. Couples, once they have produced a couple of children find it extremely difficult to end the marriage or go out of it and exercise free will mainly because in most of the societies the responsibility of the kids is directly on to the parents. The state does not take any direct responsibility in the upkeep of children. Hence, most of the couples live inside a marriage that is not so interesting as the idea of good living suggests.

A man or a woman, generally, gets married in their twenties. There is a saying that most of happy families are happy in different ways but most of the unhappy families are unhappy in the same way. There is no happy ending in a marriage. Marriage is a beginning of a series of comedies and tragedies. There are so many happy couples in this world who really respect and appreciate their partners’ contributions to their lives. But most of the couples live in a sour relationship. The reason should be sought in the idea of good living. They get married at certain age and subconsciously they become addicted to the idea of good living. Setting up a home is the first step and each couple has a different way of setting up their homes. But this difference is just skin deep because their idea of setting up of a happy home comes from the same idea of good living. Once a happy home is set up, they bring kids into it. Once the kids come, the parents become more responsible than before; this responsibility, though apparently looks like, is towards the kids, in fact it is more towards the structured society and the idea of good living. They want to bring up the kids according to the demands set on to them by the society and the idea of good living. They are to be taught in good schools and they are to taken for vacations and they are to be given everything that the market promoters say, is good for their growth.

But in reality, what are the things happen in that happy home? When he/she gets into a marriage, they are not full blown/grown people. Marriage is one step towards that growth. As they grown in that marriage, they grow up biologically, intellectually and spiritually. Though there are couples who grow up together to look like twins, though there are couples who read into the minds of the partner out of habit and practice, they remain two different people aspiring to grow in a different trajectory. However, the idea of good living tells such couple who grow to curb all the reasons and passions for such growth and pursue the path of good living. The realization of one’s own trajectory, which is often radically different from the idea of good living is the first reason for the entry of discordance in a ‘happily’ married couple’s life. The moment this idea of self-growth occurs and the partner decides to pursue that trajectory, if the partner is not so sympathetic about it and he wants to go by the rules of the good living or his own trajectory, there will be conflicts. When unsympathetic partners live under one roof, that marriage turns out to be a living hell. I do not mean to say that there are no happy couple who are absolutely sympathetic to each other and support each other, care for each other’s spiritual as well as physical well being.  Such couples are however rare and even if they are found you could see either one of the partners is an active member in the relationship and the other one is passive, or both the parties agrees to be a part of the pursuance of good living or different from it. But when they both pursue their trajectories in different ways, or when one tries to bring the other to his/her trajectory trajectories are bound to happen.

The idea of good living has made our lives living hells. We in the name of good life and happy life have been sacrificing, suffocating and annihilating individualities for ages. The history of human race perhaps has more stories about war and pestilence but compared to the domestic wars and discordance such large scale wars fought out between powers out there in the public domain look quite lackluster and lacking in severity. Whichever marriage has become successful and has a happy ending in a cinematic way, I should say, they are all the marriages of gory sacrifices and inexplicable adjustments. I do not think that such marriages should be hailed or made as models to be emulated. Whether it is the marriage of a genius and super rich or a poverty stricken lay man/woman, such marriages of adjustments are not good for the free flowering of our society. All the problems of our societies are caused by such marriages. Marriages are not solemnized over fire and they are not affirmed by seven rounds around fire, they are solemnized over future aggressions and hidden knives. It is high time that we think about such marriages that curb the growth of both the partners and the general growth of the children. People say that divorce is one way out of it; but there should be more beautiful ways of living together or living separately allowing each other adequate space for their personal growth. If the welfare of the children is a question, the parents in a bad marriage should make amendments to support the children from their respective spheres.

It is not my intention to nullify all the marriages as bad or write off the concept of marriage as humbug. My intention here is to say that so long as one is in pursuit of the idea of good life, which is absolutely imaginary and non-existent, based on myths and fables, the marriages are not going to work; they may be successful in perpetuating the idea of living hell than the celebration of the idea of good life. 

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