My choice to create a life with Andreea in Israel was a revolt – we went up against powerful cultural norms. We were aided by “NewFamily” – an Israeli non-profit organization that is fighting to advance relevant family-status legislation (family status in Israel is subordinate to religious norms instead of legal norms). NewFamily is currently in the news representing a single gay man who has officially and legally born two children with a surrogate in India (because there is no legal framework for it in Israel). The babies are now two months old and the Israeli government is refusing to let them into the country. I am very familiar with the kind of blind bureaucracy he is facing.
But, I believe that if you peal away the emotional layers, this is a wonderful example of intellect attacking social norms and a social system (in this case mainstream Israeli society) struggling to advance. A single homosexual father to surrogate-born twins is more then the current social system can accommodate. You can tell by the government officials’ lame responses – they are not really stupid people, they are facing a frightening change of social values – and their fear blinds them and … well makes them sound stupid. The problem is that the legal system has not yet matured enough and is not yet equipped to process this situation and as a result one man’s struggle is actually shouldering an entire society and its stagnant social values.
My family values are not typical family values – to be honest I don’t know yet know quite what they are. This current event together with my recent immersion in Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality got me thinking about family.
On one hand family is the most fundemental building block in the social structure that is society. Family regulates the biological conditions for bringing new people into society. Family is the first and most dominant environment for transmission of social values to new members of society. Family embodies the most intense emotionally committing relationships. Family often represents a mechanism for acquiring social and economic status through marriage. Family often stretches out into adult life through family-businesses (Dad & Sons Inc.). While there are various social definitions of family, I am guessing that most (if not all) societies have some kind of construct that represent a basic social building block.
On the other hand family is the most exposed social building block to intellect-rooted change. Family is almost exlusively free (even in the most tightly controlled societies) to form it’s own mix of social & intellectual values. In the privacy of a home parents can choose to introduce intellectual values that are not aligned with the social norms of the world outside the home (or even the extended family). Almost all social structures outside the family are by definition larger and therefor more socially dominant – they are often charged with promoting and enforcing social values (especially education systems which are supposedly dedicated to intellectual values). Family is probably the only social structure where intellectual rebellion can find support – a father can choose to support a rebellious teen even though there may be a conflict in values – because family trumps!
Seen from the outside, family is a building block cemented into the foundations of society. Seen from the inside family is an incubator for change. Society is built upon family while family incubates dynamic change that will attack society and force it to change. In the war of social-vs.-intellect, family-bonding is poised (like carbon did for biology?) to tip the scales in favor of intellect.
Marriages (two people choosing to spend life together) that challenge religious and social boundaries, homosexuals, single-parents, surrogates … these are all expressions of change, of personal pursuit for fullfillment and expression, of intellectual liberation struggling against static social patterns … all taking place within family. For me that sheds new and important light on family!
It amuses and placates me to know that people like Andreea & I and this proud gay father are the ones carrying the torch of change on behalf of a unknowing and ignorant society who treats us like enemies.