Monday, September 28, 2015
Pope Francis raises big questions on peoples' resistance to forming familues at all, and on resistance to intimacy
Sunday morning, as I blogged an “issues” post about my recent trip to South Carolina to look at both military (Fort Jackson, related to my own conscription) and slave history, I heard Pope Francis give an existential sermon at a mass in Philadelphia. The address was delivered to Bishops at the World Meeting of Families (link) and would be overshadowed by a larger mass outdoors Sunday afternoon.
I mentioned this yesterday briefly on my GLBT blog, as Francis did not specifically take up sexual orientation or gay marriage in the address. And he even was properly skeptical of the role of government in “family values”, keeping a bit of libertarian distance. But he did take head on the attitude we as individual human beings have in our openness to interact with one another at various levels personally.
For example, when encountering a “poor” person in the streets, most of us (in my culture) have no idea how to communicate with someone. I perceive someone in these straits as being in a different world, more about physical survival, less about abstraction and reason.
More, I see in myself the attitude that such a person is not “worthy” of personal interaction from me, of a place in my life. I suspect that others often react to me the same way (as in the post about the camping trip Thursday). Instead of reaching out and trying some interaction, I would rather just stay way, in my own space.
The Pope talked about how people used to see themselves as members of families and communities, rather than as individuals competing for recognition. That had a big effect on business (globalization, and the “shopping mall” paradigm, as opposed to local businesses), and on family life. People became pickier about who would be suitable life partners.
I have covered parts of this before: on this blog, particularly March 13, 2011 and February 20, 2012; furthermore, some of this substance was covered in some youth sermons(at Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington) that I discussed on the Drama Blog on February 26, 2012 (an event that had followed a youth 30-hour fast). I was surprised at my own déjà vu as I heard the Pope speak.
The Pope then expanded into the issue of marriage, and not the usual problem of fidelity, but of the tact that young adults are reluctant to take the “risk” of commitment and marriage altogether. So fewer families get formed in the first place. Part of the reason is economic: the world has become so competitive that it is difficult to afford children until well established (and people without the responsibilities for kids can low-ball wages in the workplace). This feeds the issue of declining birthrates in non-immigrant populations in wealthier countries, and even teases the paid family-leave issue. Part of it is also emotional resilience. People don’t want sustained intimacy with others whom they perceive as failing to be perfect.
In fact, it’s the latter that “family values” has so much to do with. Some men become promiscuous when their partners become less attractive with age. In fact, I personally cringe at the idea of waking up every morning with someone who has “declined” in my own bed! How selfish. It’s all a matter of perspective, and of economic status.
How this plays out with gay issues is, of course, a convoluted topic. Gay couples are capable of long-term commitment, as they have shown repeatedly. They aren’t capable of producing their own children with their own relationship. So the whole question of the importance of sexual intercourse itself in one’s socialization, into learning to be part of a community and family and meet the needs of others, becomes an issue that defies logical resolution.
Human beings are unique in their mix of capacity for hyperindividualism, and for heavy socialization at the same time. We're halfway between cats and dogs, The Pope insists people were intended to experience family and intimacy and continuous connection to others, but admits many individuals can learn to live very well standing alone, as if "people like me" affect the game for others because of the way we "compete" with less of our own skin in our games. Competitive cycling or swimming closes the analogy.
Jill Abramson weighs in on similar concerns in The Washington Post September 25 in an article about women (and men) “having it all” on Sept 25, link here where she refers to writings of Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg.