Thursday, December 3, 2009
© 2009 the Institute for Applied Common Sense
One can not resist asking, "Is there anything beneficial which society can take away from this Tiger Woods 'infidelity during marriage' situation (regardless of one’s position about the propriety or impropriety of the conduct of the various participants involved)?
An argument could be made that society should constantly re-evaluate all of its institutions, including the institution of marriage, to determine their continuing viability and value, and that unfortunate events such as the still developing story involving Woods, should prompt us to re-examine that institution now.
Arguably, every time society determines that something is not quite working the way that it was envisioned, it should re-visit the original reasons and expectations underlining the creation of the practice.
Marriage (as we currently view it in America, particularly its restrictions on sex with others) is a relatively recent convention, which has evolved and changed over time. When difficulties arise, especially involving celebrities and public figures, society has a tendency to examine the event from a static perspective, using the rules and expectations of the current culture.
Perhaps looking at it from a dynamic perspective, and determining whether it still performs a valuable societal function, including an examination of its costs and benefits, might be the way to go.
Many soundly criticized the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies and the investments banks, and the Federal Reserve for being asleep at the switch and not paying careful enough attention to business fluctuations which led to our current economic recession. "How could they have let this happen?" we asked. Why should we expect any less diligence from society in terms of monitoring and responding to fluctuations in societal values?
Is marriage really for everyone? Why do we expect virtually everyone to marry at some point during their lifetime? Why does society have a tendency to question the “whatever” of people who haven’t been married by a certain point in time in their lives?
A suggestion on our part was previously made that marital infidelity had at least some biological component, which went beyond the simple exercise of discipline or personal responsibility, or religious beliefs for that matter. That suggestion was soundly and emphatically criticized by our readers.
Assuming, for purposes of argument, that there is no biological component, then simply examining the conduct of golfer Woods, Albert Einstein, Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Ensign, inventor Henry Ford, Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton, would strongly suggest that many do not respect the institution as presently constituted or evolved.
And this is not to suggest that the rules of the marital agreement have only been violated by men. And that’s not to mention that the “other women” are also members of society, who obviously do not respect the current form of the institution.
Some of the best and brightest minds of our culture, people who have excelled in their various pursuits, and who have served their countries and improved the quality of life for millions, have chosen not to adhere to their marital vows. And why not?
There must be something there. For us not to re-examine the real issues, or for us to simply dismiss them as “aberrations,” or even examples of “selfishness,” would serve little value.
Perhaps people today are marrying for all of the wrong reasons.
Are potential loneliness and a desire to grow old with a companion sufficient enough reasons to justify marriage? And what about security? Are the reasons that most people get married so self-serving, in terms of underlying motivation, that the majority of marriages are bound to fail at some point?
One of the wrong reasons might be public and peer pressure. Many a professional person has felt compelled to get married in order to advance professionally.
Imagine the questions which would be raised about an unmarried presidential candidate.
Back in July of this year, we featured an article about the risks associated with conformity. The article suggested that group-think may delay our addressing certain problems and crafting solutions. If the group thinks that nothing is wrong, or that the current model still works, then it continues to deny the existence of problems.
Some years ago, Charlie Rose interviewed a very prominent member of Indian society and an Indian family dynasty. The young man had been educated in some of the best institutions in the world, and had grown up in both the Western and Eastern worlds.
Since the man was recently married, Charlie asked whether he thought that family arranged marriages or marriages where the participants were romantically involved were better. His answer was quick and unequivocal – arranged marriages. He explained that one felt more responsibility to society and to one’s extended family in an arranged marriage.
He also added that if one actually fell in love with the designated spouse, then that was like “icing on the cake.”
And with all of the talk about infidelity in connection with the Woods marriage, we still do not have a clear picture of whether there was any violence.
However, there is little question that when a spouse disappears or is murdered, attention is first directed toward the other spouse. An editorial in Time magazine some years ago suggested that marriage is one of the most dangerous places for an adult woman to be in terms of physical violence.
Tiger Woods has done a lot of good in the world, and has made many of us proud. This is obviously a blemish on his career, for which he has taken full responsibility and apologized.
However, in the same way that Magic Johnson’s AIDS condition may have done much to focus society’s attention on that disease, perhaps Tiger’s “indiscretions” may help society focus on whether marriage is still a viable institution for the majority of its citizens.
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