"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
Will and Intent
Exclusive to STR
October 9, 2006
What is the dividing line between civilization and savagery? This fascinates me. It seems so simple. It seems clear to all, in some instances, and yet bafflingly convoluted in others, and this lack of clarity I find difficult to fathom.
Sex is a good place to go looking for answers, I do believe. A man I know stated he could not understand the concept of "spousal rape." He asked how could there be rape in a marriage since one of the prime components of marriage is the "right to sex"? This statement dumbfounded me in that it seems to confuse desire, agreement, and right. As I understand it, a marriage is not considered valid unless "consummated," which is a convoluted way of saying that the two parties to the marriage had sexual intercourse, or "got it on." This seems clear enough and natural enough. It does seem that sex is a prime, perhaps the prime consideration in a marriage. Other things unfold from that, but that does seem to be a central grounding point. But rape? How does it follow that one member of the relationship can forcibly "take" the other and this can still be considered a "union" of two lives? Isn't marriage a contract?
(If this seems off topic or if you are embarrassed by the discussion of sex, please bear with me as I do think the issue is larger than that.)
The definition of contract is a meeting of the minds regarding a topic and an exchange of benefits. Absent either, the contract is void or has been defaulted on. True, in default of a contract it is generally agreed that the defaulting party must make restitution to the other. So let's say that one of the partners isn't "getting enough" or may not be 'getting' any. Does this allow the other party to "take" what has been contracted for? And, if so, could the contract be considered to still be in force after said payment had been extracted? At the very least, I would say that a condition of duress now existed.
But a contract of marriage is generally entered into and agreed "until death do us part." Now I ask you, can that in all good conscience be separated from slavery? Regardless of the intent of the person signing any such agreement, is it reasonable to hold a person to his word forever with no possibility of escape? Generally contracts are designed with penalties built into them, for all reasonable people understand that the future is unknowable, hence it is unrealistic to not provide for an escape mechanism should events turn out differently than expected and planned for. Even outside of such expectations, there is the legal concept of "acts of God" which is a recognition that there are some things over which no one can be expected to have control or to be responsible for.
Surely sex would be deemed to fit this category? Is there anything more fickle, more outside of the control of the "owner" than sexual desire? If I do not find you attractive, is there any rational expectation that I have it in my control to change my attraction at will? Now it is true that in the past, and perhaps even still in some cultures, marriages were "arranged" and the two partners were expected and often did perform their "duties" and often came to love each other in the process. Even so, in those instances where this loving or respect or whatever you might call it did not occur, is it reasonable to effectively enslave another person against their desires and wills? If you say yes to this, then I wonder if any condition of slavery is unacceptable to you, and if so, what would it be that would make the difference to you?
Now I am not saying that a contract can be abandoned willy-nilly. If that were the case, then the term "contract" would cease to have any meaning at all and we might just as well remove the word from use. But all contracts have exit clauses and means for making the aggrieved party whole, or at least as whole as possible in an imperfect world.
I submit to you therefore, that "spousal rape" is a perfectly valid term and contract. No one, regardless of expectations or prior agreements has the right to forcibly violate another person. Several years ago there was an excellent movie made, "The Accused," starring Kelly McGillis and Jody Foster, regarding a gang rape, in a bar, on the drunken and titillating/enticing/provocative character played by Foster. The film made it clear that if anyone had ever "asked for it," this woman was it. Yet, at the point where the "rubber met the . . ." erm . . . "road," Foster's character said "NO." The men in the bar did not heed her wishes and proceeded to take her up on her implied "promises," or at least the promises that they had inferred. She was brutally raped as the crowd cheered on.
This film helped me to clarify, in my mind, many things. First it clarified the issue of "she asked for it." If force is involved, it is not asked for, and there is no way you can twist the meaning around to make it fit. "Asked" and "force" do not peaceably coexist in a civilized world. In fact, that in itself may be the sole distinction between civilization and savagery. It is this greater perspective that has profoundly confirmed my outlook on life. I do believe that I was born with this concept. Maybe, maybe not. But I do believe that inherent in each life there is the understanding of what is voluntary and what is only acquiesced to because of the threat of death. It really can be brought down to that simple a level, I think. There have been conversations and debates and philosophizings over the centuries, but the bottom line is always, are you going to grant me the respect to walk away, or are you going to make the threat that must have the will and intent to kill me behind if it is to be worthy of "respect?"
When the cop turns on his lights and pulls you over for failure to wear a seat belt, are you going to ignore him, or pull over? I will pull over. I will do this only because I understand that this person is a savage who has the will and intent to do anything, up to and including killing me, to enforce his or her wishes on me. There is no difference between a seat belt stop and the gang rape in that bar.
What separates civilized people from psychopaths is the will and intent to use any force "required" to enforce their view of the world on others. Notice how insidious that word "required" appears in the previous sentence.
The same person, who above stated that there is no such thing as "spousal rape," beseeched me to wear my seat belt out of concern for my well being. Notice that he didn't feel justified in pulling a gun on me, he appealed to my own sense of intelligence and rationality, and respected that it was my choice to make, not his--regardless of how much he cared about my well being.
Now consider this, if this person went to the polls and voted to make it mandatory under penalty of law for me to wear a seat belt, what he is effectively (and do note the meaning of this word, it means that regardless of what you might feel or think, the real world effect will be to . . .) willingly pay someone to force me to comply with his wishes regarding my seat belt use. Force. Should I choose to continue to drive peaceably down the road, minding my own business, harming and threatening no one, driving in every other respect safely, responsibly and courteously, that police officer has the authority to use whatever force is required to get me to stop, to acquiesce to his or her demands.
Okay, now we have a new word/idea to examine: authority. What does that mean, in "effect"? The effect in the instance painted above is that the police officer can run me off the road, if that is what "is required" to get me to stop at his discretion. If someone else did this, it would be considered a violent act, reckless endangerment, a negligently criminal action. Right? But not for the police officer, for he or she has "authority." In other words, this person has the willingness and intent to act in a savage manner, knowing full well that there will be no negative consequences; in fact getting paid requires savaging other people.
Consider that the "authority" that this police officer holds is assumed to be granted by the vote of my friend who thought it would be a good idea for me to wear a seat belt. Yet if my friend saw me driving down the road without my belt on, and tried to flag me down and get me to put it on, and I flipped him "the bird" and continued on my way to the strip club, church or grocery store, and my friend proceeded to come up behind me and force me off the road to tell me to put on my seat belt, most people would consider this to be a dangerously violent criminal action.
If this is so, then how is it that this same friend can "authorize" the police to anything, up to and including endangering my life, to force me to take a potentially life protective action? Is this not insane?
So all of you voters out there, you who believe that you have the right to pass laws (laws are things which "authorize" enforcement by the police), just remember that, at the very least, you are the equivalent to those in that bar room who were cheering on the rapists. You may not have the guts to just go out there and take what you want by force, but you can "get your rocks off" by cheering on those brutal enough to violate others with your support.
In life we have two ways of operating: with respect for others (voluntarily) or with contempt (with force). Consider this fact: if you vote, if you work for the government, if you take money or services from the government, you are behaving as a savage.
The word "govern" means "to control." It doesn't mean to request, to implore, to beseech, to entice, to shame, to ridicule, or to lead by good example. It means "to control."
Please consider what it means to be civilized. There are all kinds of excuses you can find or make up to avoid having to take responsibility for your actions, but the only one who has 'authority' over my life . . . is me.