Those who know me, know that very little else on the internet gets under my skin as Brendan O’Neill’s articles. It might be because in his articles he inducts ideas I support in a logic stream that, to me, seems almost perverse and twisted. For that I say, “Well done Brendan”. At least you are helping me to think beyond the ‘left’ and ‘right’ ideological boxes that I long assumed the world’s opinions were divided into.
Take, for example, Brendan’s recent Spiked Online article on gay marriage. He claims that the issue of gay marriage is a bad idea, not only because it erodes traditional institutions in place (the classic conservative argument against gay marriage), but also because he doesn’t think ‘the gays’ actually want it because gay activists once campaigned for their right to live outside these institutions. He doesn’t think the gay marriage issue is ‘populist’ enough to be given much weight as there has been ‘no leaping in front of the Queen’s horse, for the right of gays to get hitched’. As is typical of him, he smells an ‘elitist’ agenda at play here.
However, I would really like to know where you get off dividing the (post) post-modern consciousness into ‘populist’ and ‘elite’. He blames conservative ‘political parties’ and ‘massive corporations’ as having an elitist interest in regaining their sanctity by rallying support for this issue. I find this quite problematic as by adding an elitist tag to a particular political demand he is downplaying its legitimacy.
He also seems to have an outdated and static view of what a political demand would look like in current times in a democratic, technologically enabled society. So this ‘movement’ doesn’t look like the Arab Spring. Does that make the demand less valid? Is he really saying that we must wait for our citizens to be driven to the extreme desperate edge of their democratic pull from where leaping in front of the Queen’s horse looks like the best way to get what they want before we consider this issue serious?
Brendan’s article also cites the fact that historically ‘gays haven’t been interested in getting married’ as an argument against gay marriage being considered as an issue today. This, I think, is ignorant. Marriage is a tool the government(s) use to regulate the distribution of wealth and welfare, and despite arguments against the institution it has continued to persist virtually unchanged for centuries. Exclusion from this institution often results in frustrated desires and aspirations towards material and social progressions and pursuits of happiness. A petition to be included within such a rigid but pervasive institution might seem to many as the more desirable option.
Britain’s marriage laws are ancient. Everyone who marries these days is aware of the redundancy, if not the downright sexism and exclusive nature, of certain aspects of the law. When I married I cringed at these and was told by a Registrar at Trafford Registry Office that the laws have not been changed since mid nineteenth century because the MP’s don’t think its worth their time to discuss these details.
Perhaps the reason people don’t often raise their voice to pressure their MP’s is because once they are married the details of how they were married stops being such a huge bother, but the point remains that many people today feel that the current laws are antiquated and does not reflect their lived realities and aspirations. Is it such a stretch to imagine the gay marriage demands not as something that will dilute the meaning married people place in their legal and social position, but as a sign of growing discontent with the state prescriptions regulating their social interactions?