Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Morganatic Existence

Morganatic marriage was originally and mainly a German custom. It was marriage between a high-ranking man and a woman of lower rank (rarely the other way round) in which the woman keeps her former status and in which any children of the marriage are not allowed to inherit the property of their father or his rank or titles (his dignities in the jargon of this esoteric legal field). It has its roots in an idea common in medieval Germany that people who entered into a variety of transactions, not just marriage, were expected to be of similar social standing. The most celebrated such marriage in modern times was that between Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek, both of whom died in the assassination at Sarajevo in 1914 that triggered the First World War.

Unsurprisingly the blunt topic of society comes alive when it involves the aristocracy and money, both subjects which quickly succeed to humour even the most casual observer.  In the context of the monarch however the reference is not entirely free of condemnation - this even though relatively recent history has sought to lighten the allusion.  Though it was not long ago that Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the throne in preference for his love of Wallis Simpson (twice previously divorced between 1916 - 1937 and who reportedly said "You can never be too rich or too thin"), the legitimacy of their heartfelt marriage never fully gained strength among the ranks of upper society.  It was however illustrative of the need for reform - not far removed from the child-like question about the Emperor's clothes.

The "Emperor's New Clothes" is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new "clothes", no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"

Our current indignity upon reading this tale is reminiscent as well of the challenge being faced by the apocryphal stories of organized religion.  In fact the increasingly persuasive support of the "masses" is seemingly becoming the preference.  Donald J. Trump for example is making a world-wide theme of social popularity (which regrettably for him is aligned with his shallow promise to "drain the swamp").  Some have made the mistake of calling "hoi poloi" the "deplorables".  It is an unfortunate ad hominem label because it fails to attack the real issues which I believe more fundamentally characterize their agenda (such as unemployment, health care and universal education).

I don't however accept the collateral assessment that Trump speaks for the people.  In fact based upon what I have gathered from those who supported him in the 2016 American presidential election, Trump is primarily palatable to the limited few who stand to gain from his greedy and Machiavellian remonstrances.  Furthermore I don't for a moment accept that Trump speaks "a language" which the great unwashed prefer.  Again my personal experience is that talking-up to people is better than talking-down to them.  Trump's error in speaking an unsophisticated vernacular is progressively diminishing his authenticity (particularly when combined with his egregious mollycoddling of his rich cronies).

Disguising anachronism with intelligence is dangerous. Eventually people of every stripe will see through perception.  The arcane details surrounding morganatic marriage for example are destined to collapse. Even if one were to advance some historical or cultural significance to the doctrine, it will ultimately reveal an acidic relationship to misogyny. The high-ranking quality of morganatic marriage is for example only slightly removed from the ancient concept of dower (which was once the only possessory rights a woman was entitled to from marriage).  Significantly this archaic chapter of the law has been replaced with the purified entitlement to equal division of family assets - at least that is among the "commoners".

Meanwhile the windstorm of so-called "democracy" continues to sweep the globe, simultaneously usurping trade cooperation for nationalism and isolationism; swapping intelligent contribution for vulgar colloquial speech; trivializing sexual lasciviousness (while at the same time dismissing male bravado); and - most savage of all - reducing human nature to the level of selfishness, racism, sexism and general want of passion and sympathy. I have to wonder how far removed that tribal component is from morganatic marriage?

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