I am a child of the sixties, which makes me a baby boomer, and ever since my high school and college years there seems to have been a concentrated push in our society for individual freedom. I used to be a devout follower of individual freedom until I realized how personally and socially damaging it is to follow your own way. I hurt myself and I definitely hurt other people. At the time, I never really thought about “following individual freedom'', I was just living like most everyone I knew was living.. Most of us, when we are followers of individual freedom do not think of ourselves as selfish; we are living for a greater cause: “individual freedom”, an American ideal, the right to live our way. We only see our selfishness in the wake of debris we leave behind in the damage we have done in others lives. I think it is a fundamental problem that plaques many of our societal problems today. It certainly is part of the struggle to redefine marriage and undermine its purpose and meaning.
David Blankenhorn in The Future of Marriage frames this struggle as “marriage as an individual matter” vs. “marriage as a social institution”. He describes this fundamental change in how many Americans view the meaning of marriage as the rise in the belief that the couple comes before the vow. This, of course, is individual freedom at its finest; rather than anything being greater than me, or us, such as marriage having a greater purpose and meaning to have and raise children so that our species thrives, is replaced with what ever we decide is meaningful to “us”. This is so sixties bred; and so destructive to our society! Individual freedom lovers rarely consider what is good for the “other”, like children.
Consider what he says: “On their wedding day (if the vow comes first), couples become accountable to an ideal of marriage that is outside of them and bigger than they are.” This is a profoundly important statement and one that is totally lost on followers of individual freedom: “Something is bigger, more important, and outside of me? There is no way I am going to be accountable, allow something to influence and inform me on how to live.” This perspective does not allow the vow, the promise of committed love, safety, protection, and help to one another to influence and shape the relationship. There is nothing for the relationship to hold on to, to count on, to depend on, to turn to; it is whatever seems right, or expedient, or pertinent to the moment or the need. There is no bearing, no guidance, just....whatever!
The thing that followers of this way fail to realize is that not only is this destructive, it is an incredibly lonely place to be. You are on your own making all your own decisions. The wisdom from an institution like marriage that has developed over 5,000 years is unavailable. It is all up to me, or the two of us. All because we want our own way. I don't know about you, but I want others with me along the way. It is fraught with challenges and dangers that we are not prepared to deal with alone. This truly is a madness of our age when we think we know better than something that has stood the test of time.