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Dialogues with The Elder
On Obligations and Morality -

Dialogue 2: Raising Children, Marriage

By Feng Xin-Ming, 2014

跟長者的對話 - 倫理、道德



(To "Dialogue 1: Having Children")
(To "Dialogue 3: The Multigenerational Extended Family")
(To "Dialogue 4: Homosexuality")

The Elder said:

Having and raising children is the natural morality of the universe; we are all obligated to have and to raise children. And both biological parents should marry to raise their biological children together. The multigeneration extended family is a great achievement in human morality. Persons with homosexual sexual orientations, just like persons with heterosexual sexual orientations, should also fulfill these same obligations - having different sexual orientations doesn’t mean one has different obligations...

(Cont'd from previous: "Dialogues-1"...)

I:   Fine, fine, so one is obligated to have children. But is one obligated to raise those children? Can't one just give them up for adoption? What's more, does one not meet one's obligations to pass on one's genes and preserve human biodiversity merely by donating one's sperm or one's eggs?

Elder:   No, no, no, one is obligated to raise one's own children.




I:   Why? Why must one pick up a life-long burden of debt to one's children?

Elder:   One must pick up a life-long burden of debt to one's children, because children have a right to being raised by their biological parents.

Not only does one owe to the human race the passing of one's genetic material to one's children, but also one owes to the human race the nurture of one's own children. That's because for humans, in "nurture" vs "nature", that is, in the culture that one imparts to one's children through their upbringing vs. the genetic material one imparts to one's children, "nurture" or "culture" is just as important as "nature", if not more so. Humans are the sum total expression of not just their genetic natures but also their "nurtures" or their individualized "cultures". In turn, this "nurture" is passed on by one's children to their children, and so on - one's nurture of one's children exerts effects for generations down the line. Therefore, the "nurture" or that unique, individualized culture that one imparts to one's children is just as important a part of the children's inheritence as the "nature" or genetic material one imparts. Thus, just as one owes to the human race the obligation of having children, one also owes the obligation of nurturing or the raising of one's children.

Culture is an extremely important part of a human being, and determines to a great extent whether a human survives and how well he flourishes. How a person behaves, perceives the world, and thinks is greatly dependent on the culture he is imbued with as he grows up. Therefore the culture that each set biological parents can impart to their biological children through their upbringing is very precious. Human culure is extremely complex and each person's culture is the product of long evolution, just like his genes. While each individual's culture can be broadly described as "Chinese", "American", "Russian", "Indian" or so forth, in broad national terms, within those broad language and national categories each person has his own individual culture, unique to him. Each person has a unique variation of culture, and the individual variation of culture that father and mother each brings combine to impart a yet more unique hybrid culture to the offspring. That in turn combines in the individual offspring with his genetic dispositions and abilities and various incidental random events to form still another unique individual culture in that individual offspring.

Over many generations, dad has learned from granddad and grandma, and so forth, about how to best work with the dispositions of his genes, which result in certain outlooks on life, ways of behavior, ways of interacting with the world, what marriage partner he ends up with, etc. This culture, this knowledge of how to work with one's genes should go with the genes so that the children get the best match and flourish best with them. Moreover, the individual culture unique to that set of parents also includes the physical child raising practices as well as the socio-economic status of the family, and thus determines many physical things like what food the offspring eats, what kind of breastfeeding he gets, what kind of physical care he gets as an infant and a child, etc. There’s a unique match of this culture to the unique set of genetic materials, resulting in a unique individual.

Along with the genetic material, the children have a right to the appropriate matching unique upbringing and culture. It’s from the same persons as the genes and it’s part of their inheritance. They inherit your genes, so they should inherit your culture. You owe them that because it’s just as unique as your genetic material.

If you give your children up for adoption, or, what amounts to the same, if you begat them by merely donating sperm or egg, you are depriving them of their inheritance and you’re lessening their potential. The children may not may not flourish to their full potential, and you have messed with the destiny that evolution has been taking. There may be a trajectory of magnificent culmination of genes and culture in your children, which may result in one of them becoming the most recent commona ancestor, but by giving them up for adoption you’ve thrown them into another couple's arms, and you’ve mismatched the genes and the culture. This mismatch may mean a complete reversal of the progress that the evolution of human individuals has made, who are the sum of not just genes but also individual cultures. This mismatch can be very, very serious; it could mean, just as the genetic material could, the survival or the flourishing of the human race.

Since we don't know what the future may bring and what kind of humans the future will select for, therefore we must ensure not only the biodiversity of the human race, but also its individual cultural diversity. Again, just as anyone can be that most recent common ancestor of the human race genetically hundreds of thousands of years from now, anyone can also be that ost recent common ancestor of the human race culturally hundreds of thousands of years from now. Therefore, one owes to the human race the obligation of raising one's biological children.









I:   So both the biological mother and the biological father owe the same obligation to the human race to raise their biological children?

Elder:   Yes, most assuredly so.



I:   Then doesn't that mean the biological mother and father have to get together to raise their biological children together? Doesn't that mean they have to get married?

Elder:   Yes, absolutely.

Marriage is the relationship of permanent mutual help between a male and a female to discharge their obligations to mankind to have and to raise children. Marriage provides a defined environment for sex between the male and the female to begat children. Then marriage provides for permanent mutual help between the male and the female to raise the children.




I:   How do you mean by saying that marriage provides a defined environment for sex between the male and the female to begat children?

Elder:   It's mainly about exclusive sex - having sex exclusively within the marriage, also known as chastity. This is important because if the woman is chaste, then the husband can be sure he's raising his own children. If the woman is not chaste and come to have another male's children but doesn't marry that male, then she is depriving that male of the opportunity of raising his children. To remain moral the woman must marry multiple husbands. If the woman is chaste but not the man, then for the man to remain moral he must marry multiple wives. Historically multiple wives is the norm rather than multiple husbands because males have much more earning power than females and one male often can support multiple wives.

Speaking of the term "historically" in the same breath as the term "chastity", I must point out that in the course of human development, it was female chastity that brought about marriage, and it was marriage that brought about civilization. Before marriage, in primitive matrilineal societies, women raised the young by themselves, hoeing the cassava with baby on their backs and another child at their side, while men lived together, frittering away their days with their war songs and war dances, their hunting for decorative feathers and their instigating of feuds with neighboring clans. When men felt the need for sex they would bring a rabbit to the female of the moment, and may stay for some days, but then leave. One woman would have a number of "boyfriends", and the men knew not who their children are, nor did they care. It was only when some very smart woman declared to some man that she "belonged to him forever", and would not have sex with any other man, that she could present her children to him as his, and demand that he too toil to raise the children. Thus women yoked men to productive tasks of producing material goods. As marriage deepened and men put their bodies and minds more and more into productive tasks, goods grew more abundant and exchange and trade appeared, along with a great increase in the population as far more children survived to adulthood, then tribes and states came into being, along with human civilization. Chastity and marriage are indeed the historical basis of human civilization.




I:   That was historically though; why be chaste now since there won't be any no children from the extra-marital liasons? We've got birth control now.

Elder:   Very good point. Still, sex is a very intense, emotional, mutually interacting experience so it should be used to strengthen bonds between the husband and wife. If done with outsiders it weakens the emotional marital bond and leads to mutual resentment, and we need the emotional marital bond to be as strong as possible so as to have better cooperation and to be permanent. Therefore we still need sex to be exclusive to the marriage and we still need chastity.

By the way, it's the same argument for abstaining from pre-marital sex and maintaining one's virginity: to make the emotional marital bond even stronger, so that the emotional bond from sexual intercourse is focused on only the spouse and no one else, there's no distraction, no comparison, no thought of another. Of course, this is for both men and women.




I:   Now isn't marriage a form of male domination? In traditional marriage the woman and the children have to respect the man of the house, why?

Elder:   No, quite the contrary. As I have pointed out in my recounting of the prehistoric origin of marriage, marriage is actually a form of female domination - the female yokes the male to the raising of children. True, the woman and the children have to pay that man of the house respect, and indeed in Xiao Jing, where xiao or being good to parents and ancestors, is equated with the greatest virtue, it is said: "Of all forms of xiao, none is the greater than dignifying the father." Yes, that is to give men the satisfaction of respect at home from wife and children. Why? Because men need that sense of respect to satisfy their testosterone drive for glory, so as to keep them yoked to family and work, to keep their testosterone-driven lust for excitement, achievement and glory in check and focused on family and work. This is the basis of marriage; and marriage is the basis of human civilization itself.

When we look at the downtrodden minorities of various countries, the above argument becomes very clear: in downtrodden minorities the male is often given no respect by the women and the children in the home. Of course, this is a reflection of that fact that they are not given respect in mainstream society as a whole. That the male is given no respect by the women and the children in the home is a clear sign of the downtrodden condition of that minority. As we well know, what accompanies this lack of respect is breakdown of the family unit in those minorities, crime, juvenile delinquincy, academic under-achievement, alcoholism and drug abuse, and so forth. In turn, mainstream society then uses this to further justify discrimination against that minority, resulting in a vicious cycle that keeps the downtrodden minority down.

In contrast, during the 20th century in many Asian immigrant families where the father figure remains strong and the wife and children all continue to respect the man of the family, even though the new arrivals are poor and occupy low socioeconomic strata, the children often grow up to be upwardly mobile and doing very well.

Also, lack of respect for men in general and men as husbands by their wives and as fathers by their children is a pernicious side effect of the "women's liberation movement" that has swept so many lands. One look at the TV shows and movies and one can tell: the heroines suddenly and often mistakenly lash out at and even physically assault the hapless men who do nothing, and the shows arrange for no censure or consequences at all for these heroines, and this is considered normal and OK. Also, the women dress in a seductive way, exposing their thighs and breasts, but the men are not allowed to act on their aroused sexual desires. Female seduction is an exercise of female power over men, especially younger men, who physically get aroused by sight, even against their will - this is the power of women over men, analogous to men's power by physical strength over women - and the men are to meekly subject themselves to it and neither act to satisfy their physical arousal nor to demand that the seductive way of dressing stop. To be sure, there are many injustices against women, but correcting those injustices should not result in disrespect for the man, for husband and father. Unfortunately that has happened. We now see in those lands amazingly high divorce rates and younger males being uninterested in marriage. Of course, there are other factors at play, but lack of respect for husband and father, lack of satisfaction of the male need for respect, is a key factor.

Indeed, it is most important that males be given due respect by wives and offspring to maintain the strength and vitality of marriage and hence the strength and vitality of society itself.







I:   Alright, fine, get married in order to have mutual help to raise the chidren. But once the children are raised, can't the two then divorce and separate? Why still permanancy? Why remain bonded together then?

Elder:   Goodness, after all these years of struggling together for a common goal, building a life together to raise the children, wouldn't there be a comradely emotional bond? Wouldn't there be a deep love? Wouldn't there be a desire to spend the last years together?



I:   Sure, for those who are emotionally bonded, go ahead and remain in a permanent union and until death do you part, but why not separate for those who are not so emotionally bonded?

Elder:   One has the responsibility to financially support one's wife, and one spouse has the responsibility to emotionally support the other spouse.



I:   But what if both sides mutually despise each other, then mutual emotional support becomes a non-issue, and what if economically the wife doesn't have any problems with independence - even if she has all she needs is for the court to award alimony - then why can't they divorce once they've finished raising the children?

Elder:   Well, you are increasing the total cost of living having the two of you live separately as compared to having the two of you live together, so that your financial resources will run out sooner. This places a heavier financial burden on the children to support the two of you when you are old and infirm. Moreover, having the two of you apart will place a heavier burden on the children to look after the two of you medically and physically when you live apart as opposed to living together, looking in on you, taking the two of you to the Dr., etc., will take twice as much time. Besides, with the two of you togehter you can to some extent look after each other in your infirmity, and that lessens the burden on the children; living apart their burden increases.



I:   Oh goodness, but surely the children should shoulder some cost for the sake of our happiness? After all, we've given them so much! What is there left, to morally bind a couple together after the children are raised?

Elder:   Very good question. I am so glad you persist in your questioning. There is a big, very big, moral reason to remain married, even if the two spouses are so flawed that they have not been able to form a deep emotional bond of love after all those years working to build a life together.

That big moral reason is: continuing to cooperate, in order to create a multi-generational extended family of much more total overall mutual help and therefore greater morality, since mutual help is morality, instead of splitting the family up into merely two-generational nuclear families with much less total overall mutual help nad therefore lesser morality.

This includes cooperating to continue to help and nurture the children, especially helping them raise the grandchildren. A couple more pairs of hands is much better than none, especially when these hands are commited due to the emotional bonds of being family. Also, the grandparents are more relaxed and under less work pressure, and will have much more patience with the children. Having other adults than one's parents to provide nurture and culture will only enrich the grandchildren.

Building an extended family also includes providing a focus for the offspring to wholeheartedly, with full commitment, support and care for you in your old age and infirmity, since you wholeheartedly, with full commitment, support and care for each other and for them and their offspring.

On the contrary, if you are separated and then remarried, the offspring will feel less or even no urge to support and care for you.

Your remaining together provides a moral example of full commitment to mutual help, mutual caring and mutual support.

The multigenerational extended family is a great achievement for human morality.










... 繼續

Back to Essays Page 回到論文頁 To "Dialogues-1" 到“對話一” To "dialogues-3" 到“對話三”→

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