Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adjectival Oppression

IF HUMANS had the good sense of the salmon, life would be a less complicated affair. Hatch, roam, return, spawn and that’s it, goodbye. We would still have the struggle and the uncertainty, albeit with less reason to worry about bears, but there would be no problems with adjectives, which are the great curse and complication of the modern world’s obsession with codifying the individual’s rights.

Take marriage, for example, a nice, solid noun whose narrow meaning was for a very long time apparent to all. Then we see a push to accept in law the modifier “gay” at its fore, and, quite suddenly, it is on for young and old.  We still have that old, reliable noun, but the debate currently stoking public passions isn’t really about the legitimacy of recognising unions in which both parties have muscular opinions about soft furnishings and neither questions the absolute right to mainstream respect for those who parade once a year through Taylor Square in sequins, feathers and little leather shorts with the bottoms cut out. The right to do that, and many other silly things, is sacrosanct, no different from the freedom to cultivate muttonchops, get a tat or, much as certain activists do not like to hear as much, to advocate what the various faiths’ sacred texts advance as their one-and-only models for righteous concupiscence.

All who believe in individual liberty can accept all of the above without question and they do, most often without complaint. If two individuals – or four or ten, for that matter – wish to  bet their future happiness on a binding contract, so be it. But then, once the laws of man have been observed, there remains the obstacle presented not by Fred Nile’s opinions or so-called homophobia, that ugly twisting of the Greek root (don’t get excited, chaps), but by the unyielding rules of grammar.

Simply put, the “gay marriage” debate hangs on a demand that the state ordain a compound expression be heard as a single word. Our representatives can vote their consciences until the cows come home, but in the real world their deliberations will not make a scrap of difference.

Having a dinner party and plotting who will sit where and next to whom, perhaps with a view to a little romantic matchmaking? Well of course, when putting down the place cards, you will take into account the inclinations of your single guests and couples. The adjective does not go away and never will – which is, perhaps, the only objection to the grammatical abstractions soon to be debated in Canberra. If you specify “gay marriage” as an available option, will it not manifest an implicit prejudice if an obligatory “straight” is not grafted by force of law to the more conventional union?

Follow the logic and there is only one real solution: evict the state from the marriage racket altogether. Sure, have contracts rubber stamped by public servants, but only as the law now guides any agreement to sell and buy a house or car. Gay or straight, who we fancy and how we express it is none of the state’s business. Even simple salmon understand that concept. One day, if we are very lucky, we may be served by representatives boasting a comparable degree of intelligence.  


  1. If it is to be "gay marriage" would that preclude two non-gay broheims getting hitched? Why should two straight guys who want to get married be discriminated against? They might have sound reasons for entering into vows of wedlock, eg upcoming court case where they might be required to testify against each other. Who's to deny them their happiness?

  2. Get the government out of marriage, period. If two or more adults want to get 'married' in a church that will accept them, fine. Or by a celebrant of their choice, ditto. Abolish civil marriage.

  3. Get the government out of people's private life's,fancy these dysfunctional political DRONGOS interfering in normal peoples affairs! Let them get their own affairs in order first and keep their hands out of the till !

  4. I love your work Professor, but have to disagree with you there.

    While government hands out money to sole parents, provides child allowances and funds child protection, welfare education and health programs, then it has an obligation to legitimise, protect and endorse the reationship status that provides the best return on investment - that is marriage between a man and a woman.

    -- Nora

  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 13, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Decided to be bold Professor, and swim against the gathering mainstream.

    Sadly the spawn that we produce in our battle up the rapids has a long maturation period and likes to know who its mum and dad were. If only we were adjectivally gay little salmon, each to his or her own, abandonned free in the sensual stream of life, how easy it would all be. If only individual people were not gifted their genes by an individual man and an individual woman and if only it did not matter - but matter it does, deeply, individually.

    The Rubaiyat laments and reflects:

    "Ah Love! could thou and I conspire
    To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire
    Would we not shatter it to bits .. and then
    Remould it nearer to the heart's desire?"

    Perhaps we should just learn to live with the wish, and remember the old wisdom: "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it".

  6. Maybe as a courtesy to a couple of gay friends, I should have sounded out their opinions before I posted here. Alas, such an undertaking was well down on the scale of things to do.

    Whether or not legislation is amended to incorporate same sex matters little to me for this reason:

    Will such an amendment affect me? No.

    I have scant respect for the sanctity of marriage or the act of marriage itself, so I won't be working myself into a lather one way or another.


  7. I am unaquainted with homosexual salmon, but in the air-breathing dry lands we humans inhabit, your request for the state to absent itself from ordering society would create yet another vacuum for the activism of a "Green" or perhaps sharia mindset to exercise itself in.

  8. I believe it is not so easy. What do you do about dissolution of marriage, and division of marital assets? Working back from there, you need to know if the parties come within the jurisdiction of that legislation. So you need to be able to define a marriage - even if it is celebrated by mormons, or muslims, or greenies.
    It is reasonable to have rules restricting marriage - it is hard to argue against both parties needing to have the mental capacity to voluntarily enter into a marriage.
    Granted that Murphy's law (the 1975 Family Law Act is a mess, and perhaps needs re-writing. But I still want a codification of whatever the common community perception of marriage is.

  9. I can only agree with the Professor on this issue. Being a smelly, obese and unattractive female due to an accident of birth I finally found love and sexual relationships with Flossie, my pet pygmy elephant. I am outraged at suggestions by gay and lesbian people in particular that I am somehow morally or genetically deficient in my overwhelming desire to have sexual relations with an elephant. I want to hold, love and cherish Flossie as my legally wedded wife. It is not something that I have any choice about. Flossie is my true love and we have a right to be happy. Move on Australia. Get with the program. Let's set an example for the rest of the world to follow. Get the government out of the marriage business.

  10. Is Flossie male or female;
    we don't wish to promote abnormal behaviour in the beast? Moreover, has Flossie had a defacto relationship with any live or deceased animals whose wishes need to be accorded recognition. Let any animal or animals now speak, grunt, give us a sign, or forever hold their peace.

    allah hu akbar Professor,
    "....you missed the starting gun ....." Pink Floyd.

  11. I get the feeling that the gay lobby are really confused to what they want, because they all stupid lefties with littel brains. What they want is for gay long-term relationships to have the same rights as heterosexual married couples. That is simple, you amend all the laws giving those rights (ege social security, succession, superannuation and taxation legislation) so that a partners in a civil union bewteen a gay couple is treated in tha same manner as a spouse in a marriage.

    You don't antagonise people by wanking on about gay marriage, which is a maningless collocation of words.

  12. Please excuse this late posting. (I have been peregrinating about the salubrious Southern Highlands of NSW, where also may be found some splendid golf courses Prof).

    I agree with you. I think it is accepted that the 'marriage power' in the federal Consitution may be employed to legislate for marriage-like realtionships. So what is now the 'Marriage Act' could be changed to the 'Civil Unions Act' and permit any 2 people (with exceptions, eg, for age and perhaps consanguinity) to form a union. Chuches could provide for a marriage ceremony.

    Then, and this my additional bit, various statutes that recognise de facto relationships ahould be amended so that only a properly formalised civil union was recognised. This would stop much rorting of the welfare system and give greater certainty and a fairer operation to laws about succession and the like.