Vanity thought #1426. Frogland

There’s a devotee with better than average knowledge of poetry and every now and then he quotes some pertinent observations from classics. Somehow or other these people have been blessed with a unique insight into human condition and it’s uncanny how Kṛṣṇa conscious they appear when quoted in the right context. Maybe Shakespeare was right that there’s nothing new under the sun, or was it actually from the Bible?

What is interesting, though, is that all these quotes come from dead people. Our contemporaries fall seriously short when compared to them. Take this insight on saving souls from David Beckham, for example:

    I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don’t know into what religion yet.

Brooklyn here is his son, btw.

Sometimes Louis C.K. says something insightful, like when he talked about money as if he was a true renunciate:

    I never viewed money as being “my money” I always saw it as “The money”. It’s a resource. If it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system.

Of course he is no renunciate, he is hopelessly caught in the snare of sex. Maybe he realizes that he is enslaved by the sex desire, maybe not, but he, like everyone else, can’t even imagine life in celibacy.

There are two other clowns who supposed to be observant and witty but, looking through the entire video below, actually anything but, at least in my no so humble opinion. One of the last sketches here, however, hits home.

It’s a prayer circle that suddenly draws attention of God Himself who then gives them one single instruction on how to please Him – sell everything they own and spend money on helping poor. When they first hear His voice they drop on their knees but as the import of the message downs on them they start having second thoughts, and then openly rebel, declare the house to be hunted, and run away.

I’m not sure real Christians are ready to admit that there’s a lot of truth in this scenario but at least to these two it looks entirely plausible, minus the voice of God, of course. They then continue about a religion where you just do a short five second ritual once a month and be done with it. I hope actual Christians are not like that yet and actually look forward to their services, many of them would probably welcome them to be shorter, though. It’s just a sign of our times, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.

Modern culture completely screws up people’s knowledge of the world around them and especially history. Like that infamous Dr Frog they look at everything through the prism of their very limited experience. Having seen nothing but his own well Dr Frog can’t even imagine there could be such a thing as an ocean. He can’t imagine it being limitless and he can’t imagine that water there is salty. None of his friends and family members, assuming he has them, can confirm the possibility of an ocean, and therefore in his view an ocean not only doesn’t exist but can’t exist, too. That’s what they say about God now.

Maybe it’s not a new phenomenon and people have always judged other cultures by their limited standards but this time it’s different, we refuse to learn from others but rather ascribe our own values to everything foreign or ancient. I noticed this during last year’s Cosmos TV series where Neil deGrasse Tyson described every historical episode as a struggle of science against religion, for example.

More often it’s about struggle for human rights and democracy, though. All Disney’s animated movies about Chinese or Indians or Arabs follow the same cliche – smart young people rising against unreasonable oppression of their elders. No matter what era or what country they place their story in, the attitudes are always the same. It’s same characters saying same things, just drawn differently. Last week there was a three part story about Ancient Egypt on TV and guess what – it was about challenging customs, giving women their rightful place, exposing priests as corrupted hacks profiting from selling lies, and, I guess, something about gay marriage, too, because this particular “universal right” is fashionable now. I caught a part where the pharaoh was taught to appreciate beer, the drink of the masses, instead of boring palace wine.

They just can’t imagine people having different values and living different lives. If two men were close to each other they must have been gays. Case in point – Michelangelo. Lots of people convinced of his homosexuality on the basis of having close friendship with a young and attractive man. Real historians dismiss it as a conjecture but in the modern mind closeness means sex, there’s no other way to express people’s deep feelings.

They even go as far as allege homosexuality in such ancient practices as blood/spritual brotherhood that existed in every culture from vikings to Chinese. They just can’t imagine that there was no sex involved and say that the practice was a covering for gay marriage.

When they look at Mahābharata they accuse Arjuna of being gay for year when he lived incognito in the court of Mahārāja Virata, even our devotees of GALVA persuasion cite this as an example. It all sounds convincing except I don’t think Arjuna ever expressed his sexual attraction to men during the time when he was “gay”.

That is all peanuts, however, compared to their attitude towards God. They just can’t imagine Him being real and being able to communicate with His devotees. While in India it’s a given in the West it could be nothing more than mythology and imagination, and not just God, gods in general and even practices of yoga can’t possibly be real, because they don’t have any comparable experiences in their beer guzzling, sex-obsessed culture.

When Indians had their first contacts with Greeks they sent a dozen “ambassadors” to demonstrate the advancement of their civilization. It’s no surprise that Indians choose sadhus and ascetics to represent them because they have always been considered as the highest order in Vedic culture. Greeks, however, just couldn’t understand it, like at all. Why would people wearing only loincloth be considered as crème de la crème? They thought Indians were animal like barbarians. They couldn’t fathom that these ascetics had real mystic powers, they were proper children of Kali Yuga and considered only wealth and sensual pleasures as a sign of progress.

I imagine sadhus were astonished at Greeks’ profound ignorance and one of them tried to demonstrate his abilities through self-immolation, a typical yoga procedure for leaving one’s body at will. It registered in Greek annals but they failed to appreciate the significance and implications. Modern descendants of Greek culture, science, and democracy can’t comprehend it either.

This kind of things doesn’t happen to them, doesn’t exist in their perverted society, therefore it couldn’t exist anywhere else.

Another example is family ties. In India they are famously strong but in the West children are expected to move out and live on their own from the age of eighteen, and even if they can’t afford to be financially independent they are expected to be independent in their views and decision making. Parent’s can’t wait until they ship their kids off to college. In some cases parents would also refuse any kind of service from their kids, not even helping to carry bags or luggage. Indians are shocked, westerners say it’s their “culture” and imply that therefore it’s okay. It isn’t, and it isn’t culture, it’s just habits and customs, and they can look as savage to civilized people as various tribal rituals somewhere in Papua New Guinea.

Bottom line, unless people renounce this nonsense they can’t have any hope of real spiritual progress. When Śrīla Prabhupāda brought Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the West fifty years ago it was a given, every new bhakta was ready to accept western culture as hopelessly corrupt. These days even some devotees are deeply attached to it and therefore very defensive. It won’t work. There could be no spiritual progress unless we cleanse ourselves from this western corruption and selfishness masked as “individualism” or “human rights”. Kṛṣṇa will never appear before us in any shape or form unless we abandon all these other kinds of “religion” – as modern people treat their “values” quite religiously.

Dr Frog mentality has to go.

Vanity thought #1414. “Supreme” Justice 15

Hopefully the last one in the series, the last dissent, and it’s the shortest opinion of all. It doesn’t cover a lot of ground and in many ways it repeats objections raised by others but it’s no less potent in its persuasive power. Perhaps it’s the shortness itself that creates a greater impact, there’s no fluff there, every paragraph is right to the point, and it sustains the same intensity throughout, one just doesn’t have time to get tired and let his mind wander away.

In this sense we can all learn how to write powerful presentations, how to strike a perfect balance between detail and intensity, and how to quickly and flawlessly move from one point to another, piling up the damage on the opposition. It doesn’t mean that all arguments need to be presented only in this way, the wit and sarcasm of other opinions has its value, too, and technical arguments should also be given sufficient space, but someone should always deliver a knockout punch, short and to the point. This opinion probably does it for the dissent, not that many people would care.

Another interesting aspect of this dissent is that its agnostic of people’s battle stands in this issue, it argues on the strength of the common, undisputed values, and it doesn’t rob winners of victory. Come to think of it, we ourselves can take it up and use it in our own defense of traditional marriage without provoking any ire or backlash against our own beliefs. It doesn’t really matter what we or anyone else believes here, it argues on the strength of undeniable facts that some people chose to ignore for the moment, but let’s get to the opinion itself.

The first argument is the most common one – the Court has no authority to rule on SSM. The procedure should be very simple. Up until this ruling there was debate in the American society about recognition of same-sex marriage. “The question in these cases, however, is not what States should do about same-sex marriage but whether the Constitution answers that question for them. It does not. The Constitution leaves that question to be decided by the people of each State.”

Case closed. What can you say? But but but rights, the Fourteenth Amendment…?

Yes, citizens have liberties, and the Court finds that liberties guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment encompass the right to same-sex marriage, too. Liberties, however, mean many different things to different people. For classic liberals it means freedom from government regulations, for example, for socialists it means a right to a variety of government benefits instead. The Court here used its own definition of liberty and it’s not the Court’s place to do so.

The dissent cites an earlier ruling outlining the limits of Court’s interpretations: “.. the Court has held that “liberty” under the Due Process Clause should be understood to protect only those rights that are “ ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.’” SSM is obviously has no roots beyond the past decade, which isn’t deep at all.

Ideally, the dissent argues, when and if the American people embrace SSM and make it an integral part of American history and tradition this right then could be recognized as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. ATM, however, the opinions are split and SSM is banned in more States then it’s allowed. It’s not Court’s job to create traditions.

Realizing that this is not a good argument to legalize SSM the Court then turned to the right to equal treatment. “Noting that marriage is a fundamental right, the majority argues that a State has no valid reason for denying that right to same-sex couples.” This, however, depends entirely on the definition of marriage. The anti-SSM States do not deny the right to marry, they just don’t consider same-sex relationships as marriage at all.

The Court argues for definition of marriage that is based on mutual well-being and personal happiness of participants, and this view is shared by many Americans, but it’s not the traditional one. For millennia, for all cultures in human history, as acknowledged by the Court itself, marriage was inextricably linked to procreation. That’s what the tradition is.

Specifically for Americans, “.. basic argument is that States formalize and promote marriage, unlike other fulfilling human relationships, in order to encourage potentially procreative conduct to take place within a lasting unit that has long been thought to provide the best atmosphere for raising children. They thus argue that there are reasonable secular grounds for restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

Friendship could be considered a fulfilling human relationship and for many people’s well-being it’s absolutely necessary but it isn’t a protected right with benefits.

Not everyone shares this traditional view anymore but that’s because the link between marriage and procreation has gradually frayed and romance has taken a more prominent role instead. 40% of children are now born out of wedlock. Some people welcome these developments while others see them as leading to further decay of the institution. The point is that it’s not up to the Court to decide which view would be more beneficial in the long run. Fact is, no one, not even social scientists, can state the long term effects with any certainty. Five unelected judges cannot afford to be wrong here, and yet they’ve taken responsibility no one gave them.

Whichever way you turn, the Court usurped the powers from the people, which isn’t a great argument for our Kṛṣṇa conscious position on SSM, except to state our disagreement with its validity. If people decided it themselves we could have considered it as new reality, sanctioned by the Lord, but now it’s just a temporary fluke, like when Hiraṇyakaśipu took over the universe. The trick in this argument is that we would imply that democratic changes are legitimate in Kṛṣṇa’s view but they are generally not. We could, however, argue that traditions (meaning supported by democratic majority) form our given nature which we shouldn’t reject but rather purify through Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So, if SSM had become a tradition we would talk about ways to deal with it instead of rejecting it outright.

If there was some sort of varṇāśrama where gay marriage was legitimate we would have to deal with it, sure, but I think we can be safe here for now. Hmm, I wonder if SSM is commonplace on demoniac planets and so if we preached there we would have to face this question for real. Lord Caitanya didn’t appear on demoniac planets, though, so for them success in chanting could be getting a birth here and getting married like normal people. And, of course, they could always accept completely celibacy.

The dissent then adds the last point – this newly minted orthodoxy on SSM will be used to vilify people who stand by their traditional views. “In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

I don’t see how it could be a legal argument but it’s certainly an astute observation – we know how militant atheists can become in their attacks on religions, I mean figuratively, of course, and we know that stating opposition to SSM publicly can quickly become a social suicide. “..those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.” and then “Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turnabout is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.” It’s a fair warning, I think, and it will further deepen the schism in the American society.

If we take sides, however, we might end up with Fox News viewers for the company, and that means social suicide in our preaching efforts, too. Siding with liberal, otoh, won’t get us any traction in red areas either.

Perhaps we should stick to our fundamentals – sex strictly for procreation, and all alternatives are spiritually degrading, and not even the Holy Name can save one who maintains his material attachments. This is the truth that hasn’t sunk in our own society yet, however. Many of us still hope that whatever married devotees do in their bedrooms has no effect on their spiritual lives. This hope is foolish, there can be no spiritual life for those who don’t strictly follow the fourth, it’s just impossible.

We can have decent substitutes, make decent careers out of legitimate Vedic occupations, get respect in the society and so on, but we won’t have a spiritual life. Devoid of true spirituality we will reduce ourselves to trading lessons from Gīta and Bhāgavatam for our personal comfort and maintenance. Maybe this will get us a good birth somewhere in India, living off pilgrims’ donations like priests in Gaya and Varanasi, but we can forget about serving guru and Kṛṣṇa, though we’ll probably find some guru-pretender willing to give us all kinds of initiations in exchange for a reasonable sum.

Spiritually, however, it’s a dead end, and we should avoid going down that way before it’s too late.

Vanity thought #1413. “Supreme” Justice 14

Near the end now, there’s just one point about dignity and one more dissenting opinion left and I will be released.

The dissenting argument about dignity is more philosophical than legal, it’s just a gripe the dissenting judge had with the reasoning deployed by the majority opinion. What’s interesting about it is that it makes sense, then loses sense under counterarguments, then gains sense again, and then loses sense when put in Kṛṣṇa conscious perspective.

The basic argument goes like this – the majority realizes that liberty has nothing to do with legalizing SSM and so it argues that SSM restores human dignity. The error is that the Constitution does not talk about dignity, and even if it did, dignity is not something that can be bestowed by the government.

At one point the majority suggested that marriage confers “nobility” on individuals. That’s not a legal right protected by the Constitution, and the suggestion that married people are therefore more noble than unmarried is specious, it sounds good only on the surface.

I don’t think the majority would agree with this general description of their legal reasoning regarding dignity but the objection raises interesting points on its own so let’s go with it.

Here’s a long quote that is also so concise I don’t think I can improve on it: “Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the image of God and therefore of inherent worth.”

The government, therefore cannot confer or take away people’s dignity. Simple and brilliant.

The counterargument, however, is that we’ve seen plenty of examples in history where human dignity was taken away and needed to be restored – slavery or interments camps, for example, mentioned by the dissent itself. The innate possession of dignity by the slaves was never a reason not to outlaw slavery, so courts and governments have all the rights to restore dignity.

This counterargument wasn’t raised in the dissent, of course, it’s something I’ve seen in discussions about it. The answer to this is also simple – it’s precisely because human dignity is innate that slavery was perceived to be wrong. If existence of slaves’ dignity depended on the government slavery would have never been outlawed and no one would ever raise voice against it. It would be like arguing for restoring rights of rocks and stones.

There were plenty of people, of course, who didn’t see slaves as fully human, equal to their owners, and it was that attitude that was deemed unconstitutional.

So, perhaps, the dissent is right in rejecting the idea that SSM confers dignity to gays, if it was exactly how the majority argued, but I don’t see how it stops the court from reacting to SSM in the same way they reacted to slavery.

The answer to this would be, I guess, is that there’s still no “nobility and dignity” clause in the constitution and so if the court was looking to right some wrongs it should have used different legal arguments to go about it.

What about dignity from our POV? Is it really as innate as the US Constitution says?

Dignity in the sense used here never appears in Prabhupāda’s books, it’s just not something he was concerned about so our “official” understanding of it will always be somewhat speculative. There’s only one discussion with Śyāmasundara about philosophy of Kant where dignity is discussed in the context relevant to the topic:

Śyāmasundara: He says that man, because he respects the moral law and practices it, is a personality having infinite dignity. He believes in the dignity of man based upon his adherence to moral principles. If a man follows moral principles, then he has dignity, which is different than any other…
Prabhupāda: That is already explained, that varṇāśrama-dharma, because the brāhmaṇas, they follow the good laws, therefore dignity. A brāhmaṇa is supposed to be the first-class man in the society, and therefore they are honored.
Śyāmasundara: He says everything else has an exchange value or a price, but man alone possesses self-direction or dignity, and this is priceless, and so we should never stoop to sell ourselves. If we sell ourselves like a commodity, then we lose our dignity.
Prabhupāda: That dignity is his inherent quality of obedience to the Supreme. That we should not sacrifice. Here, modern civilization is that he knows that he is not independent, he is subordinate to God’s will. Still, artificially, to defy God he is manufacturing so many philosophies, hypocrisy.
Śyāmasundara: He sees that men sell themselves like commodities. In order to get something, they sell themselves.
Prabhupāda: Yes. To get some popularity, to get some money, to get some adoration, he sacrifices.
Śyāmasundara: He says that the way man should really act is to follow the moral code, and then he has dignity, because he has self-direction. He is determined to follow the moral principles, so he has dignity.
Prabhupāda: The moral codes are there. If anyone follows actually, he has dignity.

From this exchange it appears that dignity is not innate but depends on following moral codes, or varṇāśrama. In other words, dignity comes from being connected to God, we have it only as a reflection of God’s own infinite fame and honor, and so it can be lost. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that atheists have no dignity because they still follow laws originally laid out by God but, in general, this explanation is perfect.

Acting on your own, in pursuit of your own interests, is not dignified in any way I can think of. A mother taking care of her kids has dignity in her purpose but the same woman committing adultery looses dignity in that aspect of her life. If she has to prostitute herself to support her kids she has dignity in that but in other ways her behavior is certainly immoral and undignified. She is not going to be respected as a prostitute but she can still be respected as a mother.

Does this relativistic understanding of dignity contradict the US Constitution? On the surface it appears that it does, but look at what is actually said in Declaration of Independence: people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. The connection between God and dignity is there – it all comes from a connection to God. We were all created to serve the Lord, that is our eternal nature, and in that sense our dignity is innate and unalienable even if we refuse to do so, but this refusal and whatever follows from it has no dignity, and not even granted “rights”, which would be a surprise to American atheists and secularists of all stripes.

I wonder what they would say to this argument. If I had a chance to present it I’ll certainly report their reaction.

Vanity thought #1412. “Supreme” Justice 13

Next dissenting opinion is quite long but it offers a somewhat different perspective. The ruling is, of course, seen as unconstitutional but not because the court went beyond its assigned powers but because it interpreted the constitution totally wrong. I don’t know if anyone could refute this particular argument, it seems pretty solid to me.

The main thrust of it is that the court misunderstood liberty not as freedom from government action but as entitlement to government benefits. Maybe this interpretation of what liberty means is not the only correct one, but in any case liberty is certainly not the same as the right to claim benefits.

Second point of this dissent is that human dignity is innate and not bestowed by the government, as the court mistakenly assumed. On the surface it seems correct but when looking at it in detail it becomes counterintuitive, only to emerge as logically consistent in the end again.

Going through the judgment for nearly two weeks now I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “Due Process” phrase and I never understood what it really meant. This dissent is the only place that explains it in the most simple, straightforward way – the constitution “guarantees only whatever “process” is “due” before a person is deprived of life, liberty, and property.”

Even if the phrase is meaningless for us, the explanation itself is worth admiring in its brilliant simplicity. Somehow none of the judges who mentioned “due process” before has captured its essence and exposed majority’s folly here. No one is going to deprive same-sex couples of life, liberty, or property, and therefore court’s reliance of “due process” in this case is totally misplaced.

The dissent then dismantles the petitioners claim step by step, methodically getting back to the definition of liberty. It spends quite a bit of space on explaining where the American notion of liberty came from and how it was always understood as freedom from governmental restrictions. It all starts from Magna Carta, apparently.

This year marks an 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and so it quite often gets into the media. We’ve always been taught that Magna Carta is the first democratic constitution, a contract between the rulers and the ruled, guaranteeing freedoms and liberties. It’s only this year I, personally, learned that it lasted only a few weeks and was abandoned when neither the ruler not the ruled wanted to follow it anymore. So much for cornerstone of democracy.

How can they call these rights “universal”? If they were universal they wouldn’t need enforcing. Gravity is universal, no one going to bomb anyone to restore the law of gravity, but rights like freedom of speech clearly are not part of the universal order, they depend entirely on whoever is in power at the moment, on how they interpret them, and on how much energy and resources they can commit to maintaining (or suppressing) them.

This is in addition to the argument I made here before – it’s not freedom of speech they seek, it’s freedom from negative reactions. Karma is universal but their attempts to circumvent it are not. So, their Magna Carta is only an ideal and only a one side of universal duality, like happiness or distress. We wish that happiness lasted forever but it’s not possible and we wish that ideals of Magna Carta stood forever, too, but it’s similarly impossible, because karma always brings reactions and sometimes they are negative, no way of getting around it. They can make any contracts they like and refer to them as much as they want, karma doesn’t care.

Anyway, the dissent slowly builds up the case of compelling historical precedents to interpret liberty as freedom from government restrictions, or, as it quotes from earlier court interpretations, the meaning as basic as “freedom from physical restraint”. By citing even more scholars and early American leaders the dissent argues for “negative liberty” understanding – freedom from, not freedom to.

The dissent then states the obvious – the petitioners, same-sex couples, haven’t been restricted in any way in their behavior. No one forbids their cohabiting, no one forbids them behave as if they were married, no one forbids them raise children and so on. The States that do not recognize SSM do not tell them what to do or what not to do, their liberty is intact, they have nothing to complain about.

What they really want, however, is government benefits offered to married straight people: “Petitioners claim that as a matter of “liberty,” they are entitled to access privileges and benefits that exist solely because of the government.” Italics are in the original, too, and it’s an important point in light of understanding of liberty as freedom from government.

If Framers of the Constitution, the dissent says, recognized the right to marriage, this right “would not have included a right to governmental recognition and benefits. Instead, it would have included a right to engage in the very same activities that petitioners have been left free to engage in — making vows, holding religious ceremonies celebrating those vows, raising children, and otherwise enjoying the society of one’s spouse — without governmental interference.” This right would predate the government, not flow from it, as in people have it because of the government.

The dissent then goes thought precedents cited by the majority and shows how in each case people were actually physically restricted in their behavior. Interracial couple, for example, was sentenced to a year in prison (suspended) for cohabiting in a state where interracial marriage wasn’t recognized.

The man who was behind on his child support payments was prohibited from marrying and there were criminal penalties involved. Prison inmates also couldn’t marry without permission and cooperation of prison authorities, their liberty was clearly restricted. In all those cases the court restored liberty which was unfairly lost, but nothing was lost in SSM case and so those precedents are irrelevant.

The dissent then gives a warning about religious freedoms, even though it doesn’t enumerate potential areas of conflict. It observes that in the US marriage is not only a governmental institution but a religious institution as well, and if they go by starkly different definitions clashes are inevitable.

The dissent also stresses that religious freedom is much more than the ability to teach principles central to people’s faith, “guaranteed” by the majority, but it is also a freedom to ACT on those principles and the scope of that liberty is related to civil restraints, now established by the court rather than through democratic legislation. Doesn’t sound very convincing to me, perhaps it’s a bit alarmist, but the majority clearly haven’t thought this through either.

I’ll leave the argument about dignity, how it is inherent rather than granted by the government, for another day.

Vanity thought #1411. “Supreme” Justice 12

The second dissenting opinion is, perhaps, also the most quoted one. It also belongs to a judge who is accused of flip flopping in his judicial approach from one case to another. I don’t even want to check if there’s truth to these allegations, I’m simply reading it for pleasure.

Ideally we shouldn’t, of course, but this judge undeniably has a way with words, sometimes missing the mark but never failing to impress. I guess it could be classified as sundarīṁ kavitāṁ mentioned in the śikṣāṣṭaka.

Hmm, that sundarīṁ kavitāṁ is a slightly controversial issue. Usually we accept it to mean “beautiful women” but kavitāṁ is poetry, not women, and our official translation in Caitanya Caritāmṛita says “a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language”. Notice “or” and not “and”. Since both words are there it should be “and”, but, as I understand it, we have to take it as a phrase, “sundarīṁ kavitāṁ”, which would mean “beautiful poetry”, but then “women” would be excluded from the translation altogether, which Prabhupāda never did, afaik.

A couple of years ago I wrote about that and, iirc, the conclusion was that for the benefit of his western disciples Śrīla Prabhupāda specifically mentioned “I do not want beautiful women” there instead of “beautiful poetry”, which was rather irrelevant to the situation. It doesn’t mean that women are not included in śikṣāṣṭaka, they fall under janam, which Prabhupāda translated as “followers” but other meanings include “family”.

In Lord Caitanya’s time kavitāṁ was relatively more important to avoid but as time goes by other attachments take center stage. For us “beautiful women” means any random girl on the street, at the office, on advertising boards, in magazines, on TV or on the internet. We are tempted by them all the time and they present themselves as easily available, attraction to our wives is far easier to manage than dealing with these unexpected and intrusive she-devils.

They aren’t even real most of the time but those who present them to us know very well how to play on our fantasies and spark our desires. By “not real” I mean both that the images are heavily photoshopped and that these women are unattainable. What is real is lusty urges they provoke in us and false hopes they plant in our hearts. “I want that” is a very real feeling and it might not even be about the woman in the ad but whatever her presence adds to the advertised object, be it a car or a house or a boat. The car doesn’t come with the girl, but our desire for it does link them together.

I can’t imagine if five hundred years ago in India they had anything like that at all, so it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in śikṣāṣṭaka. Śrīla Prabhupāda, however, brought it up by stressing other meanings in the translation, just like Lord Caitanya had a hundred ways to translate ātmārāma verse.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about the original sundarīṁ kavitāṁ, it’s probably a trap awaiting us in the future, when we purify our consciousness enough to appreciate the beauty of skillful expressions. Lord Caitanya’s spend almost a decade playing with words, we might not appreciate their attraction now but if it was interesting enough for Him we can assume it would be interesting for us, too.

Even without knowledge of Sanskrit I sometimes catch myself being fascinated and invigorated by clever use of language, I want to hear and read more of it, it’s a natural reaction I can’t really stop, only ignore and redirect my mind elsewhere.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, the dissent. Basically, it repeats the same argument that marriage is a matter for the people and for the States to decide through never ending process of legislation. The SCOTUS has no authority there and the Fourteenth’s Amendment doesn’t provide it either.

The dissent illustrates this point in a variety of ways, from quoting earlier opinions by the majority judge stating that marriage questions should be answered by States to analyzing SCOTUS composition as unrepresentative of the people. It also says that according to this ruling every State had been violating the Constitution for 135 years since passing the Fourteenth Amendment and until SSM was allowed in Massachusetts in 2003. They were all driven by ignorance and bigotry but now the court has seen the error of their ways.

The dissent pokes fun at ruling’s statement that “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.” Constitution doesn’t protect freedom of intimacy or spirituality. Freedom of expression is protected but the dissent notes cheekily that in marriage one must voluntaryly restrict this freedom and learn limits of what he can prudently say. Freedom of intimacy is also rather restricted by marriage, limited to monogamous relationship, one person for life.

It’s at this point that “ask the nearest hippie” was written. Hippies have been extinct for decades, the judge must be stuck in some other era, disconnected from today’s reality, or unable to find a fitting example from contemporary society. Everyone picked on this but they chose to ignore the main point – contrary to what the majority ruled, marriage restricts freedom of intimacy, not promotes it.

The dissent then lays into language used by the majority, highlighting its imprecision and vagueness that, in the end, means whatever the majority wants it to mean. It can probably be compared to Lord Caitanya’s complaints about māyāvādīs’ fanciful explanations of otherwise clear cut ślokas. They appear to be learned and complicated but in reality they only cloud the meaning.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain where such explanations go wrong. Not impossible but hard, given how many right and wrong steps we need to take back to find the root of the fallacy. No one is usually prepared to dig that far, and, if they want to contest each and every step, the whole thing quickly snowballs out of control.

Personally, I don’t know what to do in such cases. Most of the time I just sigh and change the subject, it’s hopeless to argue about it, especially if people are stubborn and defensive. I have no idea how someone can preach in these situations, probably only with the help of Lord Caitanya and the Supersoul who can put just the right words in our mouths.

Maybe the solution here is not to untangle the knot of ignorance but to decisively cut it. No arguments can stand against Lord’s mercy, and no arguments can substitute for it either. If people don’t have this mercy then their attraction to sense gratification and their egoism will always prevail. What we need to do is to invoke this mercy on people we preach to, if we fail in attracting it we won’t save ourselves by arguments either.

And this mercy comes only at behest of those who are pure in their devotion and absolute in their surrender. That was the conclusion of our saṅkīrtana devotees when discussing best ways to distribute books and it still stands.

Vanity thought #1410. “Supreme” Justice 11

After forcefully expressing the opinion that it’s not SCOTUS’ job to overwrite vibrant and democratic legislative process the dissent turns to the definition of marriage and what the court has done with it.

There’s no argument against the right to marry or marriage equality, it says, the question is what constitutes marriage, or who decides what marriage is. For millenia, in every known civilization, it was a union between a man and a woman, without variations. Obviously, the court, or whoever takes charge of the issue, should think twice before changing the tradition that has been with us throughout whole human history.

Marriage, the dissent says, wasn’t an act of legislation, it didn’t result from political movements, wars, religious doctrines (not sure about this one), and it certainly wasn’t a result of some prehistoric persecution of gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need – procreation and ensuring safe and stable environment for raising children. This purpose is so obvious it doesn’t really require an explanation. This lasting bond between a man and a woman is recognized by the society as marriage.

This is obviously an atheistic, Darwinist explanation, but we can go with it for now. Gay marriage stands no chance from a religious perspective, let’s see if it survives arguments from evolution. The dissent brings evidence from early American society that marriage had always been understood in this traditional, biological way. It even brings out dictionary definitions, starting from Noah Webster himself.

It’s at this point that the dissent dismisses “transformations” of marriage cited by the majority opinion because even with racial discrimination no one has ever questioned the basic, traditional, biology based understanding of marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Allowing interracial marriage or doing away with coverture did not change that understanding in any way, contrary to majority’s claim of “deep tranformations in its structure”. It’s hard to disagree with the dissent here, I just don’t see how it could be done.

In the past decade or so, there has been a popular movement to reconsider what marriage should be and to recognize same-sex couple’s relationships. In several States gay marriage was legalized. The petitioners asked for equal recognition in all other States as well, on the grounds of the Fourteenth Amendment. One of the courts before SCOTUS concluded that petitioners had not made “the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters” and dissent stands by this decision.

The dissent notes that Due Process Clause in this case was disowned by Solicitor General of the United States (must be an important person) who argued FOR the petitioners, and yet majority decision is based mostly on this Due Process thing. The dissent then goes into detail why it shouldn’t apply here. It says that while the Constitution doesn’t enumerate all fundamental rights that need to be protected, the five unelected judges should not take this upon themselves and overwrite State legislation in the process. It then gives an earlier quote from the majority judge confirming this position.

It brings out an example of such wanton protection of “rights” – how slave owners argued that giving freedom to slaves would mean stripping slave owners of their possessions, which, come to think of it, is a far more fundamental right than SSM. This was initially granted, however, and overruled only after the Civil War. The point is that not all rights, however “fundamental”, need to be protected at all times. There apparently has been some 200 laws that were eventually repelled even if they were meant to protect individual liberties. The lesson for the Court was not to meddle in policy making of the day and turning personal preferences into constitutional law, and so the Court should have stayed away this time, too.

The dissent then explains four reasons why this petition had to be rejected and why majority ruled inappropriately. It starts with majority recognition of petitioners sincerity, that they did not seek to denigrate, devalue, or disrespect the institution of marriage. The dissent agrees, but points out that sincerity is irrelevant to matters of constitutional law. It then again dismisses cases cited by the majority regarding “right to marry” as inapplicable here. In fact, theses cases, like the ban on interracial marriages, were in support of the traditionally defined marriage that was restricted by particular propositions (italics not mine).

Next, the dissent dismisses cases cited in support of the right to privacy as irrelevant, too. It notes that unlike criminal sodomy, for example, not one in the gay community has been restricted in their personal life in any way. Gays are free to live with each other and no one checks on what they do in their bedrooms. In fact, it’s not the privacy that they seek but public recognition, and to “convert the shield provided by constitutional liberties into a sword to demand positive entitlements”.

The dissent allows the argument in defense of freedom of personal expression and individual autonomy as the basis for recognizing gay marriage, but it says that this liberty should not be unconstrained, even in majority’s own view. The majority, however, defined those constraints based on their own understanding and their own “new insights” into the “nature of injustice”, which might be a good moral philosophical point to make but it has no place in constitutional law.

The dissent then goes into the slippery slope argument. It says that nothing in the majority’s opinion would prevent anyone from seeking to recognize marriage between not two but three of more people, it would even be a smaller jump than from straight to gay. All the same rights and liberties the majority decided to protect here exist for those seeking plural marriage, too. It then goes into tasting morsels of majority’s rhetorical language if applied to plural marriages. Works just as well indeed.

There are more legal arguments about applications of this or that clause and I don’t really follow them here. I didn’t understand when the majority made them, I don’t understand why dissent disagrees with them either. I could read up on it but there’s no benefit in delving into these issues. Then there are several pages chastising the court for taking away democratic power from the people and taking it upon themselves, that has been said many times already.

One particular downside of this judicial law making is the effect on religious people who reject SSM as a tenet of their faith. Acting upon that faith is the right actually spelled out in the Constitution, as opposed to the right to gay marriage imagined by the majority. The majority gracefully allows religious people to “advocate” and “teach” their views on marriage but, ominously, not to “exercise” them in their lives.

Christian colleges, for example, might deny accommodation to same sex couples as if they were married. Christian adoption agencies might deny placing children into same sex families. Churches might deny renting out their wedding chapels to same sex weddings. The Solicitor General, appearing for the petitioners, admitted that in some cases religious institutions might lose their tax exempt status if they discriminate against legally recognized SSM. All these issues, and there could be many more, are not addressed by the court but they are usually addressed by State legislation.

Finally, the dissent notes that disagreement with SSM, which is nothing but expressing views held by billions of people throughout the entire human history, including tens of millions of Americans who voted against SSM in their States, is described in such words as “disparage”, “disrespect and subordinate”, “denigrate”, and inflict “dignitary wounds” on their fellow gay citizens. Just like that – thousand year long held views become socially unacceptable today. Sometimes I wonder if these people are even meant to be saved. Should we really chase after them or should we concentrate on finding those who recognize deep injustice of the modern ways? Personally, I think that if someone forcefully argues in recognition of gay marriage he is a lost case, an atheist to be avoided, not preached to, but that’s just me, I’d love to hear arguments to the contrary.

There are three more dissenting opinions but they are all shorter than this first one.

I don’t know if there are any particular lessons to be learned for us as devotees here but it makes for a good case study in debating, a skill that might come useful in totally unrelated cases, like that dreaded female guru issue. Otherwise, I’m sorry to waste everybody’s time here.

PS. Renting out space for weddings could run into a problem for some ISKCON temples, too, unless their temple presidents are not against allowing SSM ceremonies on their premises, an opposition that is implied but isn’t given these days.

Vanity thought #1408. “Supreme” Justice 9

I’m almost at the end of the majority opinion, after that there are four dissenting opinions and the whole thing will be over. I don’t think I want to cover dissent paragraph by paragraph as I’m doing with the ruling and its support so dissent should be relatively quick.

Today I’ll start with opinion’s opinion of what effect SSM legalization should have on people who disagree with it on religious reasons. The opinion is that religious freedoms will not be affected, just as there will be no effect on straight couples attitudes to procreation.

Personally, I’d dismiss this argument out of hand. There always IS effect, they just don’t want to admit it. It’s the part of the opinion where they want to sweep problems under the carpet, it’s nearly the end and they have no energy or desire to engage with question rising arguments. Everything should end smoothly, they can’t leave the readers hanging, wandering if SSM legalization might bring negative effects to the society, so they just stated blankly that there will be no effects, no problems, nothing to even talk about.

This paragraph, and it’s only one paragraph out of twenty pages, basically tells religious people what to do, completely skipping any of their potential concerns. Essentially, they say that First Amendment still stands and so religions will have nothing to worry about and should continue in their usual ways. People can still believe whatever they want on the matter and they can continue to teach others “divine precepts” with “utmost, sincere conviction”, so that settles it. Done in two sentences.

Then the opinion awards the same freedom to anyone else who opposes SSM on whatever grounds, just to be fair, I suppose. I don’t even know who they have in mind here but if these people exist the court mercifully grants them permission to think what they think. They can’t DO anything about it, however, except talking to others. The same freedom is then awarded to proponents of SSM so that they can continue to debate religionists. The difference, of course, is that they can also practice and flaunt SSM legaly in religionists’ faces.

It’s basically a message to religions that they don’t matter and should stay in people’s minds, where they belong. The state is a secular institution and religions can’t touch it. This is a big topic, however, and I’m not prepared to talk about it in detail.

In short, I’m of the opinion that separation of church and state was introduced to protect religions from governments. The US was founded by Christians fleeing government persecution in Europe and they didn’t want the repeat of the same experience in the New World. I won’t state this with any certainty, however – the issue is controversial, there are arguments for all sorts of interpretations, and the overall balance might be tipping towards protecting state from religion, which should have been a concern, too – those European governments were acting as extensions of the Catholic Church and so protestants beef was not so much with their states but with the church behind it.

Either way, we can only guess what founding fathers intentions were but we can see what separation of state and church has become now. The state gradually took over all aspects of public life that were traditionally in the domain of the church, particularly marriage and education. When the US was founded there was no secular education but now religious education is outlawed in public schools, another big topic for another day.

As far as marriage is concerned – the state has replaced the church as an authority here. People still recognize the value of being married by a priest but from the state’s POV it’s anachronism that has no bearing on the legality of the union. In this area I’d rather support the movement to abolish civil marriage altogether and call it something like civil union instead, they’ve been doing this in Europe for a while now. This way they get the same legal rights to whatever benefits but avoid the word “marriage” altogether. The beauty of this solution is that marriage stays the same, as God intended, and atheists or gays also get what they want.

The problem is that gays and atheists want to be married in the eyes of God, too, they want God to recognize their unions just the same. By calling it “same sex MARRIAGE” they send the message to God and all those who still believe in His existence that they can make their own laws and definitions. Civil unions are meant to diffuse the confrontation but proponents of SSM are not interested in that, they want total victory over God in every aspect of public life they can think of.

Practical effects of legalizing SSM on religious organizations are covered in dissent so I’ll leave that out for now.

The final argument the opinion deals with is the requirement for all States to recognize SSM performed elsewhere. One reason is purely technical – if the Court ruled that all States must issue SSM licenses then it makes no sense not to recognize out of State marriages. Another reason is an ethical one – it harms gays couples. What harm? It’s “the most perplexing and distressing complication”. Clear now? Not to me. It promotes “instability and uncertainty”, the court clarifies. Still not clear. Freedom from complexities, instability, and uncertainty is not the one protected by the constitution and so it’s not Supreme Court’s job to remedy these afflictions against democratically affected legislation by the States.

There’s one practical example given, though – same sex couples crossing into a state where their marriage isn’t recognized will run into “severe hardship” in case of spouse’s hospitalization, which was the subject of one of the legal cases that were combined for this ruling. Fair enough, but as one of the dissenters said, these problems can be easily overcome by either amending hospital regulations or by using the power of attorney to prepare for such emergencies, ditto for settling issues with inheritance. Allowing people to visit their “spouses” in hospitals should not be the reason for the Supreme Court to override State legislation on SSM.

And then there’s the final paragraph summarizing the whole case. Marriage is important, bla bla bla, gays do not disrespect marriage, bla bla bla, they just don’t want to be condemned to “live in loneliness”, and the court grants them that right. That’s right – they are essentially talking about right not to live in loneliness, now constitutionally protected. God bless America.

Vanity thought #1407. “Supreme” Justice 8

Next on the agenda is effect of SSM on straight couples and the entire institution of marriage. First of all, we need to know what marriage is for, otherwise we won’t know if effects are positive or negative, and this shows once again that the root of all current problems lies in rejection of religion.

There are clear injunctions in Christianity, and Hinduism, too, for that matter, to go forth and multiply. In our case that’s what prajāpatis are for, starting with Lord Brahmā. If one says that he, personally, is not a prajāpati, it’s not a valid argument because we ALL come from prajāpatis, we aren’t self-born, and so we are all obliged to follow dharma given by prajāpatis no matter how many generations we might be removed from Dakṣa.

The accompanying pleasure of the family life can be explained in different ways. For the conditioned souls it could serve as a justification in itself, for the designers of the universe it might be a sweetener added to the pill of dharma, to religionists it might be proof that dharma works. The court seems to have sided with atheists here, though they probably see themselves as secular, not atheist, as all judges are either Catholic or Jews. In either case, secularism here means putting rational reasoning above scriptural injunctions, so atheism.

For atheists, the only standard of measuring anything, including marriage, is their own empirical experience. They look at themselves, look at others, reject the outliers, reject religious reasoning, and settle on democratic average. The injunction to multiply, therefore, does not carry any weight for them, only the amount of resulting pleasure vs resulting pain. For each person the balance is different and so they leave it up to individuals. If they feel like it, they should go for it, if not, it’s up to them. In courts own words, these decisions “are based on many personal, romantic and practical considerations” – note that “religious” is not even on the list.

This means that procreation is not the goal, as given by religions, but a result. If it happens (for whatever reasons) it happens, if it doesn’t – no foul.

The effects of SSM on traditional marriage, therefore, should not be judged on effect on procreation, not that it would even be any, as the court states. It quotes from a precedent: “[I]t is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of the love and commitment between same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples”. This sentence is probably taken out of context but I don’t see how it could possibly be true, I don’t see how it is “wholly illogical” to expect people to take laws of the land into consideration when making personal decisions.

One could say they are talking about recognition of “love and commitment”, not law’s stance of pro-creation, but to believe that these two are not connected is wholly illogical in itself. Recognition of love and commitment means that love outweighs objections on the grounds of procreation. If gay people love each other then there’s no fault in not procreating and their union should be recognized as marriage anyway.

One could say that love-procreation tussle here is a false dichotomy that exists only in the minds of religious people but then these are the same people the court says will not be affected. Nope, it’s the atheists who will not be affected, but for religious people the decision is an affront to their most fundamental values. To say they will not react to it is wholly illogical.

Some will probably strengthen in their faith, but many on the fringes will gladly accept one more argument in favor of not procreating. If gays are not obliged to do it and the state says it’s no foul not to procreate, then some won’t accept the sacrifice of personal time, freedom, and energy to raise children.

It would seem ironic how, considering designer’s POV, adding pleasure to the pain of procreation now leads not to an increase but to a decrease in the activity. Perhaps other design considerations are more important here – souls must be given a chance to indulge in decidedly irreligious activities, souls must be given a real choice, not a 99% certainty that duties will also be pleasurable. At one point in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam Nārada Muni mentions indulgence in sex as a means to eventually overcome sex desire, leading to the moment when one finally gets bored with it and seeks something better.

Perhaps gays should be given this chance and this experience so that they see for themselves that there’s no spiritual fulfillment there that is present in the lives of married religious people. ATM they believe their marriages are exactly the same, spiritually speaking (whatever it means for them), and they need to see it for themselves that śāstra does not lie and speaks the truth.

Fact is, nothing can outweigh personal experiences. We can argue and prove things and present tons of valid reasons and it might help us overcome our material desires but as long as we experience sex as pleasurable we will always KNOW that it is, and it will always remain an anartha in our hearts. It will go away only when it becomes utterly insignificant compared to the pleasure of bhakti. We can SAY we want to spit at the thought of sex but if our body reacts differently we’d be lying. That’s a whole other topic, though.

So, I think there’s a reason in letting gays have a go at marriage to prove to themselves that it actually isn’t, just a poor imitation.

In court’s defense, they said that they didn’t hear convincing arguments from opponents of the SSM and that might have been the truth. Could they have gone and looked for better arguments themselves? I can understand how they might have thought it’s not really their job to go an extra mile for one of the opposing sides, which they also happen to disagree with.

Maybe it shows that the corruption has reached the highest levels of Christianity. If they can’t present convincing arguments in defense of their followers in such an important case they probably deserve (or are destined) to lose.

Next section is about effect of the ruling on religions themselves, it’s gonna be interesting.

Vanity thought #1406. “Supreme” Justice 7

Next part of the majority opinion is, perhaps, the most “legal” one. It relies on interpretation of several previous cases some of which had nothing to do with marriage at all, but the court wanted to find a suitable interpretation of rights so that right to marry could be understood as right to marry a person of the same sex.

Maybe it makes sense legally but to me the court’s reasoning looks like a non-sequitur. At one point the opinions says that, historically, right to marry was interpreted by the court in its “comprehensive” sense. Maybe so, but even in that “comprehensive” sense it didn’t even think about including same-sex relationships, it never ever occurred to anyone fighting against ban on interracial marriages or marriages for inmates of marriages for fathers unable to pay child support etc.

At another point the court says that rights cannot be defined only by those who exercised them in the past because in this case received practices would serve as their own justification and new groups could not invoke rights once denied. Maybe so, but it doesn’t mean one can make up a new right out of the blue and claim that it’s protected by the constitution.

It’s at this juncture that the court says that rights must also include “a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.” Again, maybe so, but this approach means that the court takes upon itself to interpret liberties and “urgencies” of our own era instead of the constitution, but even if it was okay it doesn’t make same-sex relationships into marriage because our era is still undecided on this as SSM legislation has been rejected in a large number of States, even majority of the States, as appears from the dissent. Why do judges claim to be more in touch with the times than people themselves?

To me it looks as if basic reasoning here went like this – proponents of same-sex relationships want them to be called marriage, the rest of the society scoffs at the idea, and therefore constitution must come to their aid. The justification for recognition of SSM, therefore, lies in the fact that someone asked for it but was ridiculed in return.

Once again, this is the sign of our times where everyone wants rights, and not just right to do whatever they want, but the right to be recognized and respected for their choices, however stupid. It’s not the right to be married that is under discussion here, it’s the right not to be ridiculed. This is in addition to the right not to be lonely mentioned earlier. One of the dissenting judges dealt with this newfangled interpretation of liberty better then me.

Then there’s a murky part about the Due Process clause and Equal Protection clause where the court says they are connected in the profound way and create some sort of synergy, and therefore same-sex marriage. How? That’s why I used the word “murky”, because the opinion doesn’t spell how it arrived to such conclusion at all, as in it offered no specifics in interpretation of these two clauses as related to same-sex relationships whatsoever, only the same cases of interracial relationships etc which stopped at the traditional man-woman union and not an inch further. Weakness of this paragraph was noted in the dissent, too.

Here the basic reasoning misses the point that in all those cases marriage was never defined as between a man and a woman of the same race, or a man and a woman who are not in jail etc. All those conditions were extraneous and didn’t even attempt to redefine what marriage is, but same-sex relationships do. Contrary to the majority opinion, they are not precedents for making up new definitions but for enforcing the existing ones.

In the end, the opinion once again says that bans on same-sex marriage “burden the liberty” of the same-sex couples, which is the same newfangled interpretation of what liberty is I mentioned above, and the opinion makes it very clear what this burden is – denial of benefits. Some critics picked up on that and argued that the Constitution does not promise equal benefits to everyone and does not protect equal access to benefits, certainly not the 14th Amendment. Here’s once again what the amendment says: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. Note that there is no “benefits” on the list of things the States shall not deprive people of. Neither does the following “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” means providing equal benefits.

This just does not follow.

And once again, the court says that otherwise gays and lesbians will be disrespected. This is not the right provided by the 14th Amendment either (14th is explicitly mentioned as legal basis here) and it goes against people’s right to free speech and the right to think whatever they want about gays. Not that we, as devotees, care about free speech, but on the strength of court’s own premises this argument does not hold.

The opinion then mentions one precedent from 1972 when Supreme Court refused to rule against Minnesota State’s ban on same-sex marriages “for want of a substantial federal question” and considered it overruled.

Next part of the opinion deals with the fact that SSM is a hot issue for the society and that in issuing this ruling the court stops this democratic process from going forward. The opinion acknowledges the argument but says that it doesn’t matter if the fundamental rights are infringed, which goes back to the point that right to same benefits as straight couples is not fundamental in any sense. The court decided that it is and people can shut up and go home.

The court once again brings the case with decriminalization of gay sex but misses the “criminal” part of it – gays were not free to engage in sex while they are now free to live as married couples, the only thing lacking is benefits and a nod from the society. It’s fundamentally different from being thrown to jail for doing something, not the same ballpark, not even the same game. You can’t compare actual harm to gays in these two cases even if they might feel strongly about both of them.

Next part is important, it’s about the claim that allowing SSM would harm the institution of marriage itself, and I don’t want to start it today so I’ll stop here.

Vanity thought #1405. “Supreme” Justice 6

The children, what can’t we do “for the children”? No one would dare to oppose legislation protecting the young ones, protecting our future. Right, and as well we should, because with gay marriage there will be fewer of them to care about.

This is also the first time procreation entered into legislative consciousness here, unfortunately, not on the side of marriage, not as a fundamental principle of marriage, but as a side effect of whatever else happens to whoever else, and gays are entrusted with picking up the pieces. I’m a bit overdramatic here, of course, gays do not just pick up strays, they adopt after rigorous checks and they probably do an okay job, but, more importantly, the opinion mentions that gays can be biological parents themselves.

Ironically, their children would be born out of wedlock here, with surrogate mothers or fathers. They might provide nice homes for these children to grow up but these kids’ relationships with their missing biological parents will be messed up forever, but that is probably not a very important consideration given everything else that will be totally screwed up in their lives.

The court’s job, therefore, is to protect their fragile psyche and convince everyone, the children themselves and the rest of the society, that the situation is totally normal and natural. In pursuit of liberty the court decided to tell everyone how to feel about gay marriages. It didn’t prescribe any punishment, for now, but it’s determined to reshape social attitudes of the general public. What has it got to do with liberty? Beats me, it’s just the opposite of what liberty means.

The opinion says that right to bring up children is central to the liberty protected by the constitution, but it sidesteps the procreation part of it altogether. Adoption is just as good, the court seems to imply. Is it, though? Just how many unwanted children are there? Is it enough to cover all gay families desirous to have kids? Is it encouraging people to give up their own children in exchange for rewards of some kind? Shouldn’t public policies be directed at reducing the number of abandoned children instead?

Once again, if biological parents are unwilling or incapable of bringing up their children themselves there must be something wrong with all parties involved, including children themselves, because it’s not an auspicious birth and it wouldn’t be awarded to souls with good karma. It’s not an argument for the Supreme Court to heed, of course, but we should keep it in mind ourselves. Children only appear to start with a clean slate but, in fact, they carry with them the weight of their karma enough to last for the whole life.

I’m not sure if gays can handle it. They are willing to, and they assume that all children are innocent, and they try their best, I suppose, but it’s a long term experiment and the real effects might not manifest for decades. We don’t know what a generation that has grown up in gay families and in the atmosphere of acceptance of gay marriage would look like. Will they procreate themselves? Will they become responsible parents? Personally, I’m inclined to think that they will not consider procreation as a duty and as a natural purpose of marital relationships. They won’t have examples and role models to give value to this kind of behavior. Even in this court’s best moment procreation and raising children is seen as a right of parents, not as duty of everyone to the society. I mean if they fancy having children the law won’t stand in their way but it still puts personal desires above duties.

Atheists have a huge problem with procreation even without gay marriage. Look at these two maps, see how they perfectly complement each other:

birthCrop

Irreligion_map

First map shows birth rates and the second levels of irreligion. Somewhat higher birth rate levels in France and UK are due to immigrant population, largely Muslim, not the natives, but that’s a topic for another day.

In the last paragraph on child protection aspect of court’s reasoning there are finally words about procreation: “An ability, desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State. In light of precedent protecting the right of a married couple not to procreate, it cannot be said the Court or the States have conditioned the right to marry on the capacity or commitment to procreate. The constitutional marriage right has many aspects, of which childbearing is only one.”

As expected, marriage is for the pleasure of the participants, not a duty, and certainly not a religious duty. There’s no reason to impose any kinds of limits on one’s pleasure, and one can always demand it to be called marriage, can’t really fault the court here, it’s just the sign of our times. This particular die was cast when the court ruled for the right to contraception all those years ago.

Fourth principle cited by the court is about social order. They start with a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville: “There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is so much respected as in America.” Humility is obviously not this court’s forte. It apparently operates on the assumption that the US sets standards of what is good, bad, strong, respected etc for the rest of the world. If Americans say their marriage is the strongest and the most respected, we need to adjust our own measurements so that ties of Indian marriage, for example, do not look as strong and respected as those of Americans. It’s not really difficult – Indians still practice arranged marriages, which are inferior to true marriage of love, even if between gay people.

I don’t know what to say here – they want to see the world this way and nothing can stop them. Everyone, not just this court, not just the Americans, insist on their views being superior, and they implore everyone else to share in their self-appreciation. Displays of their confidence in their own righteousness are everywhere, it’s the most visible aspect of their public persona, or, perhaps a necessary defensive mechanism to hide their utter failure to lead truly righteous lives. Whatever, we should avoid these people like a plague, their attitudes to life are infectious and even contemplating them can be polluting, so let’s move on.

Maybe the court is onto something when it says that marriage carries its values into the whole civic polity. They hope that gay marriage will improve the society, of course, but it’s not court’s gamble to make, it’s a policy decision best left to people themselves and this objection will come up in the dissent, too.

Next they get to the benefits. Society pledges to support marriages, they say, so gays deserve the benefits, too. There’s a long list there, from taxes to health insurance, about a dozen items. Somehow without these benefits the liberty to live with gay partners is incomplete. But it’s more than just material benefits, the court says, lack of recognition brings intolerable instability into same-sex relationships, and it’s demeaning. It imposes stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by the Constitution.

Again, it’s not court’s job to legislate public perception of gay marriage. Maybe legalizing it will change people’s opinion, maybe it won’t, certainly not for Christians who will become only more resentful of the state intrusion into their lives. Now they have to publicly respect gay marriages even if it goes against everything they believe in. The effect on religions is covered in dissent as well.

At this point the opinion turns to legal justification for the recognition of the right to marry the person of the same sex, this section is quite long and I don’t have the energy for it right now.