Saturday, 2 April 2005

Polyamory (1)

Hi C
Forgive me for not writing earlier. I really wanted to try to express my immense joy at hearing your story and I wanted to do so at a time when I would be free of other distractions.
Chatting can be difficult sometimes because of the time difference. It usually means losing a night's sleep for me! ‘Lovemore’ was the first chat room I have joined, which I did only a couple of weeks ago. I was quite pleasantly surprised and did find it quite addictive. I think I will need to wean myself off because I am hoping to start a new job fairly soon and I wont be able to afford the sleepless nights anymore.
As I think I said, your story is what I have been searching for. It is a real love story. All I have really seen so far have been bad examples: where there has been jealousy and tension and bitterness. I have always believed that it is possible to have a truly fulfilling, committed and loving marriage of more than two people. That is what I have always wanted. The convention that love is ‘to the exclusion of all others’ is not only wrong but it is cruel and, above all, untrue. True love is inclusive.
We are living in a time when there seems to be a lot of talk about human rights. The human right to form and maintain a family based on loving mutual support is not just a question of individual freedom; it is the brick and mortar of the human species. Without that the edifice crumbles to dust. The concept of one man, one wife as the only option is not true, either for our own species or for any other of the great apes. Marriage based on that concept has always been unjust. Countless status-less and unprotected mistresses and lovers and wives and husbands feeling their unions were under threat have testified to that.
Now, in western society, marriage itself is not trusted and many people form their liaisons without the stamp of church or government endorsement. Slowly government is becoming more tolerant of the facts as they are. In the UK registered civil partnerships between same-sex couples offer the rights and responsibilities of marriage in all but name. Polygamous marriages contracted in countries where such marriages are legal are recognised. But they still cannot be contracted here. In immigration law, a choice has to be made: which one, and only one, spouse is to be allowed to join. Cruelly, families have to be split. If, as presumably in your case, people do set up a family with multiple ‘spouses’ the new partner cannot be recognised and has no rights: and no responsibilities either. That is not only unjust but it means that the law drives a wedge between the hearts of people who want to share their love and support for each other equitably and openly.
It is not only in civil rights but, more cruelly, the strictures of society that can make life difficult. And it is, eventually, society's attitude that can open the way to changes in law and civil rights. Those strictures are in part derived from institutions like the church which created cruel and unusual tensions.
In the UK we have the farcical situation of the heir to the throne and ‘Supreme Governorship of the Church of England’ being forced, by the Church, into ‘living in sin’ until being allowed by slowly changing attitudes to have a civil marriage. He ought to have been able to marry both of them from the start. Most of the UK's aristocracy were given their hereditary titles from being the ‘illegitimate’ offspring of monarchs.
Did you know, by the way, that ’Liz isn't the ‘real’ queen after all? The real King of England is an Australian republican, Michael I.[1]
Like many things, attitudes towards multiple marriages are tainted by fear. The ignorant finger is always pointed together with mutterings about ‘promiscuity’, ‘exploitation’, ‘STD[2]’ as though such things do not happen in supposedly monogamous arrangements. Multiple arrangements are either ‘barbarous’ and ‘foreign’ and come from societies where women are supposedly exploited and undervalued (as though that was not the case in the west) or else they are dangerous and stem from uncontrolled passions and practices like wife-swapping which are practised by the amoral, bored and rich.
People learn through stories. In the 1970s awareness of the problems of homelessness was awakened by a film, Cathy Come Home[3]. Films can be immensely powerful.
Yours is a wonderfully moving love story. Your family life deserves every chance of success and you need to be left alone to find your way; with the support of dear and close friends, of course. But your story should be told. It could be the spark that opens up that real human freedom that is so needed: to form and maintain loving committed families of whatever size, shape or form that suits best without fear, prejudice or injustice and bearing the endorsement of the institutions of society: Because it is society that depends on families.
Your story should be told: perhaps ‘fictionalised’: Because that is the way to reach people; to help them to understand and to change attitudes.
Personally I feel that I have turned over a priceless treasure that night in the chat room. I really hope that I may get to know you all of your family and if we were to become friends that would be my supreme delight. I hope, at least, that we may share our thoughts for a while.
Please forgive this rambling email. I really am quite overwhelmed and, perhaps, a little nervous.
My fondest and best wishes to all of you,
Rafiq Mahmood
Edinburgh