I congratulate people who are happily married for their good fortune. The problem is, things seem to work out differently for so many of us. Why do human pair bonds often result in emotional estrangement, domestic violence, and separation, phenomena seldom observed among members of actual pair bonding species?
Though our culture teaches that a family is based on a pair bond, our general failure to realize happiness in those relationships suggests otherwise. The question is: What do we value most, how we feel—innately based values—or what our culture teaches us—culturally imposed values?
How can we distinguish between culturally imposed and innately based values? Culturally imposed values are defined by words; innate values are expressed only through feelings.
Love, anger, hunger, grief, and romance are examples of innate values. Some innate values apply for life, like a mother’s love for her child. Most, however, apply only to the moment. They change in light of changing circumstances, as, when having eaten, we are no longer hungry, or when having expressed anger, it’s time for reconciliation. Innately based values express the survival wisdom of our species. Except for variations in individual emotional natures, they are common to all of mankind.
Examples of culturally imposed values, on the other hand, are good and evil, right and wrong, human rights, morality, ethics and marriage. These values are defined by words. They were created by governments to control the masses. As such, they very significantly within each jurisdiction, and are perceived by their subjects as fixed for eternity.
Cultural values exist in the belief that, by imposing good ideals, a government can control the future to desired ends. The institution of marriage was created to control property and inheritance rights. As originally defined, the wife was the husband’s property. We continue to value marriage, however, in the belief that, by making a legal commitment to love one another for life, we will experience a lifetime of happiness. When emotional estrangement instead results, we blame either ourselves, or our spouses. That the failure is seen as human, instead of institutional, reveals how highly we regard culturally imposed values relative to innately based ones. We fail to recognize that, when not being true to ourselves—not honoring the feelings with which Nature gifted us—we can hardly expect to be all that happy.
In light of the failure of our institutions, why do we continue to believe in culturally imposed values? I sometimes wonder, for instance, if a 50% divorce rate isn’t evidence that the institution of marriage has failed, what would it take, 75, 85, 95%? We worship institutions, not because, as an individual, we have experienced the happiness they promise, but because we depend on them to define our relationships and secure our material needs.
The brain worships whatever it is dependent on to survive. Before the Whiteman arrived here, the indigenous people flourished without institutions. As such, they worshiped the members of their communities, and the land that sustained them. Once institutionally subjugated, however, they took as much pride as any other American in defending the flag that, not long ago, had dispossessed them of their homelands. Once dependent on institutions, be they of marriage, law, or money, we are as blind to their failures as is a dog to the mistreatment of its inconsiderate master.
Will the dog wake up? Will we? The question is for us, not our leaders. Because their authority is culturally imposed, our leaders are powerless. Only individuals can express the values of the human spirit. And if, like our nearest primate relatives in the wild, we are indeed a social species, then to regain our natural sense of dignity, sustainability, and happiness, requires that we again trust our life to an extended family bonded by feelings, instead of to an institution men created to control the masses.