mardi 5 janvier 2010
Family values -- human values
There has been a lot of talk, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes even aggressive talk about "family values". I think we have some confusion here. Family is an important thing for us, human beings, men and women. We need it. But at the same time, family is not a person, it has no feelings, no wishes, it doesn't suffer. We do. And I don't think it is fair if a man or woman, a child or a grown-up person suffers for the sake of family. What counts, is not family, but other persons, their feelings, their security, their well-being. Strictly speaking, there is no such a thing as the well-being of a family. We speak of the family as a kind of a super-person. Language is often illogical, we tend to find short expressions for complex things, use metaphors. Sometimes these metaphors begin to live a life of their own. Family, marriage, honour, love become things that seem to have an intrinsic value, independantly of our feelings, of our well-being, our happiness or suffering. Sometimes these values help us, we get some support from thoughts about family, honour, love... But sometimes they turn against us, can even become destructive. In the Christian and especially Islamic tradition, adultery is not, first of all, a sin because it makes another person suffer because of jealousy, because a person feels abandoned, abused, insulted... This is a human tragedy. But for the tradition, adultery is a sin, because it is directed against an institution that is considered sacred or nearly sacred, not because it causes suffering. Adultery is a sin in itself, an abomination regardless of what the persons whom it directly touches feel and think. I feel this is wrong. What matters is not the institutions, but us humans, our happiness or suffering. Family is just an instrument that should increase our happiness, give us more security, more ways of live a good life. Family should be for us, not us for the family. As is often the case in traditional societies. After all, nobody can kill a family (I don't mean family members, humans), but sometimes men and women are killed in the name of family. Or family values.