SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Loveless Marriage And The Spectre Of Engineered "Singularity"

In a society designed around individual liberty, has marriage become little more than a temporary link-up of working people choosing to spend some free time together? And the kids?

Through thick and thin?
Through thick and thin?
Norbert Blüm*

-Essay-

Marriage and family are evolution’s great stabilizers. The core family unit has held through natural catastrophe and revolution. Neither Robespierre nor Hitler, not Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot managed to wipe out the family, however much they may have tried. Marriage and family have survived any and all assaults launched their way.

Until now. More threatening than the violence of the past is the silent undermining going on today. Outsourcing is sapping the core of marriage and family to the point where only their empty husks remain.

What can marriage and family still be good for in our day and age? Cohesion? When each person suffices unto him or herself, and self-realization means realization of the self on its own, the need for social cohesion evaporates.

For offspring? You don’t need marriage to bring children into the world. Not only are out-of-wedlock births on the increase, but ways of “perfecting” babies are as well. Creating artificial people is possible, as Ray Kurzweil has written in The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

Imagine a reality where people can be “optimized” as per economic requirements, genetically engineered for whatever way they will later be productive. Joblessness thus becomes obsolete: everybody occupies the professional role he or she was programmed for. Society is stabilized: no striving for upward mobility, no fears of falling off the social ladder.

Do we need marriage, a family unit, to give kids a childhood, an upbringing, an education? In Germany, the debate over child care subsidies has shown that the model of parents bringing up kids, being a part of their education, is obsolete. Parents are regarded as dilettantes; and if children are to have equal opportunity, they all have to receive the same level of professional education. Our system is thus geared now to turning kids over as soon after birth as possible to “experts.”

Children will be schooled one way or another by “experts” all through childhood. Time for non-didactic activity, all the space for childhood adventure and discovery, will be squeezed out of their existence even during holidays when learning camps -- supervised by “pros,” of course -- take over. Families are where kids spend the night.

Limits of marriage

As for marriage: a long marriage has come to be seen as a limitation of one’s freedom of choice. In fact any type of commitment is perceived as compromising freedom. Freedom to choose is considered the highest form of freedom. So, marriages are not contracted for life but basically until somebody better comes along.

An “until death do us part” marriage has morphed into a temporary partnership for a particular tranche of one’s life, and one with relatively little legal protection – certainly less than with rent or job contracts. "Irreconcilable differences" in a marriage is enough grounds for dissolving the union. All you need to do is get through a separation period successfully. It would not be possible to get any lighter than our divorce laws.

Western monogamy has come to resemble Eastern polygamy, except that the latter is simultaneous and the former is consecutive: instead of several people in a marriage together at the same time, we have several people filling different chunks of time separately over a lifetime. The western model is also gender neutral in that it is available to women.

Temporary marriages also mean separation of goods – and income. Anybody who puts more energy into the marriage than into earning money is quite simply the stupid one when divorce time rolls around. "Advanced" couples thus contractually plan the end of the union as they enter into it: for Homo economicus even “love” requires lawyering up.

In this day of uninhibited looking out for Numero Uno, working for others and unpaid to boot – as family members do – is quite simply not on the agenda. Only working for money and for one’s own advancement counts.

So marriage has become a temporary link-up of working people who choose to spend some free time together. The model is not well-adapted to down times. And at the end of the day, the people losing out are both the parents and the kids. Children progressively grow up without parents. Parents progressively experience their kids as secondary phenomena. Children are fast becoming creatures of the state.

One of the perhaps unexpected results of this type of emancipation is more single older women. As they get older, husbands prefer younger second wives. It’s the bitter revenge of a narrow-minded patriarchy. Is there some form of feminism that is unwittingly working as a secret agent for male hegemony?

Today’s successful person is untouched by love – self-sufficient in every respect, emotional issues dealt with pharmacologically: if genetic engineers ever manage to wipe out all trace of tendencies toward togetherness, autism will become the official order of the day.

To a modern understanding, marriage is the addition of two independent individuals, whereas in the old sense it’s a community that is more than the sum of its parts (Aristotle).

The “new human” is spared the disarray of love, its joy and pain, and hence knows nothing of the happiness that comes from the enriching experience of sharing, and the dependence of love that --paradoxically -- sets people free.

*Norbert Blüm (1935) is the former Chairman of Germany’s liberal-conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party and a former Minister for Labor and Social Affairs.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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