Happiness lost

We have only one life. There is no afterlife to make up for the slings and arrows of misfortune that we experience in this life and so we should try and give people every opportunity to be happy and not deprive them of the chance to seize happiness wherever they may find it simply because they violate some socially constructed norm.

It is wonderful that at least now the LGBT community in the US has the right to get married and (at least in many parts of the country) can be open about their sexuality and live with the person they love. While we can and should celebrate that, we should not forget the many, many people who lived in the past and were denied that chance of happiness to freely choose their partner because we were too locked into old ideas and taboos.

NPR’s ongoing series Storycorps has the poignant story of 75-year old Glenda Elliott who, as a young woman in rural, small town Georgia, could not live with the woman she always considered her one true love because living with another woman that would have been unthinkable.

Hers is a moving recounting that is worth listening to. Although she did not sound bitter, I felt some bitterness on her behalf at the sheer senselessness of it all.


  1. says

    Social control is such a complicated thing. In a sense, it’s what makes us human -- it’s what defines our civilization. We are completely trained to want to conform, and to want others to conform. That’s great when the axis of conformity is positive but, to be completely cynical for a second, I think it is only about 50/50: our training not to murder people is offset by governments’ training people that murder is good when done under the aegis of their excuses. And we see this at its worst when we finally begin to suspect that there’s one set of expectations to conform to if you’re hoi polloi, and another if you’re an aristocrat.

    What has always bitterly amused me is that the oligarchs and aristocrats (and a fair number of the clergy!) specifically allow themselves that which they preach against. Why, of course, they are special. They can handle it. Etc.

    The crime in all these things is that it’s relatively simple to think it through if you start without the encumbrance of past baggage. If you start from the viewpoint that the only things that ought to be controlled are the things where one person non-consensually harms another coupled with the idea that the harm must be demonstrable and clear (pissing yahweh does not count, unless you bring yahweh in to drop testimony. That also eliminates 3rd party harm, i.e.: I want you to be punished for pissing off my barbie doll. When two harms are opposed, that is the only time it is morally acceptable to compare harms: does the harm of seeing two women holding hands or smooching in public outweigh the harm someone might suffer from seeing a public display of affection?

    Meanwhile, the aristocracy and oligarchy demonstrate the harm they do every single day and have raised an entire political party based on their world-view of harming others in order to benefit the aristocracy. It’s maddening that so many people have fallen for it.

    Montaingne’s friend De Boetie wrote a “treatise on voluntary human subjection” which reads like it was written with these things in mind. He asks

    For the present I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, Dictatorships present many puzzles. so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation! Yet it is so common that one must grieve the more and wonder the less at the spectacle of a million men serving in wretchedness, their necks under the yoke, not constrained by a greater multitude than they, but simply, it would seem, delighted and charmed by the name of one man alone whose power they need not fear, for he is evidently the one person whose qualities they cannot admire because of his inhumanity and brutality toward them.

    Indeed. Why the fuck did we put up with the whole abuse of LGBT at all? It’s so completely fucked up it’s not even close to funny.

  2. StevoR says

    Dunno. Not for sure.


    Either way seems like a good philosophy live by,

    Too much evil and wrong in this world without adding to it. Too little time, too much to do. LIve well and try to be happy and help others be happy and the environment around you be better off for you being there. If other’s aren’t hurting you or others, why not let ’em live and try to make the world better not worse? What’s the alternatives and how are they better?

  3. StevoR says

    .. and so we should try and give people every opportunity to be happy and not deprive them of the chance to seize happiness wherever they may find it simply because they violate some socially constructed norm.

    Yes. As long as its between consenting adults.

  4. says

    As long as its between consenting adults.

    I don’t like that. I know why you said it, but there’s a problem with it: it denies the rights of children. There’s way too much of that bullshit already going around: the idea that a parent can decide to raise a child ignorant for religious reasons, or to have the child’s genitals altered, or to assign the child to a religion, etc. It should be:
    “As long as it is between individuals that are capable of consenting, and that do consent.”
    Children’s rights get trampled on a whole lot and one of the reasons given is that the children are not old enough to give consent, don’t understand, etc. But as John Stuart Mill might have said “at the point where you can say ‘no’ you can withhold consent”

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