Last night New York voted to allow same-sex marriage.
I think back to some of my friends from youth who are probably enraged and also convinced that this signals the end of western culture. In some ways it does. The open acceptance of homosexuality tends to occur in the late phases of an empire's arc. Though this became less and less true after the Christian and Islamic empires emerged as they had central texts by which they were morally guided and bound to, texts which denounce homosexuality as a sin. For better or worse, some might say, the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, and the pre-Islamic Persian empire tended towards sexual openness in society mostly during their waning phases.
That homosexuality has always been under complete societal oppression is an historical falsehood unsupported by fact. Many have fought for it and created it at various times in history. Some societies did not even require this struggle. It simply became openly accepted once the societies had achieved a certain level of self-assurance, wealth and centralized political power, as it did in the Greek and Roman empires.
It is easy to say that the western empire (if it can even be called that) differs because it was established partially on the very premise of human rights and equality. But that forgets that none of the individuals or groups fought for (or mentioned) this particular aspect of equality during those many years of inception. It is a late addition to the concept. In fact, many of the original framers of these concepts argued only for equality among men. Though there were those who included women in the premise also, and still others who used the term "man" to denote all of humanity. A term which still serves that purpose when used in that way. Though many might disagree.
Yes, it was mostly white men who initially fought for and developed the concepts of equality before the law and human rights. Though it has been a broad spectrum of ethnic and religious groups, and those of diverse sexual orientation, who have fought the ideas through to continued fruition. This perhaps partially explains now why it is a passe' concept somewhat, or one that is vaguely ridiculed when discussed. It seems to either align the speaker with an ideology or an oppressed struggle. The assumption is that white men embracing either is done so out of a combination of that same ideology or guilt, or both. Easy targets.
Many of the left-leaning liberals I know seem to feel that it is a battle that has been won and there is no need to continue fighting towards its completion. As if the juggernaut of liberalism is one that can not be stopped, or has accomplished all that it can and it is pointless to continue in. But much like modernism it is something that only finds periods and places where it can flourish. It is not a universal value and one that exists beyond the constraints of politics and power. It is instead enabled exclusively by those politics and that power.
So, I have mixed feelings. I am pleased for those who can now enjoy the same privileges that I can but also recognize the many various indications of a waning culture. It is an odd position to be in. To recognize the value of the thing that perhaps indicates a collapse, though to see it as a victory rather than a potentially larger failure. The fluctuation between the triumph of the individual and the sliding of the center, and the whole, towards its historical fortunes.
I am happy for those that I know who can and will enjoy this new liberty granted to them after years of long struggle and perpetual denial. To be able to enjoy the rights that have been denied them and to establish the legal grounds by which they can share both the struggle and benefits of life together. It is a victory for all of those who believe in the equality of enjoyments under the law and individual human rights. The law is but one force that keeps us from barbarity, servility and arrogant oppression.
Cafe Selavy wrote this morning: "I have a feeling, though, that I would like to explain things. A life is never what it seems to be. The underlying motives for an action is the story, not the action itself. At bottom, we are all fools and simps stumbling about, bumping our noses in the dark, driven by partial understanding and ignorance. "
But in that darkness there is also impulse and pleasure. We construct a partial vision of the world there. Always in pieces we pursue or deny, always alone.