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Marriage, Dystopian Society–A Story about conflict prevention

The year 2085 was when the Great Dystopian Revolution finally took full charge of Earth.  The entire planet fell under the control of huge international corporations.  Daily life was carried on by virtual rather than real relationships, managed by technology and pharmacology.  Marriage as such was abolished because sex was also virtual and childbirth was carried out in laboratories.  

Tens of thousands of dissidents, who called themselves “Free Spirits,” were transported by space ships to the uninhabited planet Thélème, which resembled Earth.  The planet was named after the utopian society imagined by the great 16th century French writer François Rabelais.

The dissidents had been ordered to either conform to the rules of a society controlled by media and psychotropic drugs, or to leave Earth.  Their first task had been to identify leaders for their mission.  They chose five people who had courageously risked persecution: Shireen Mandela, a civil rights lawyer; Kemal Ghandi, a community organizer; Rosalind Curie, a research physician; Jules Huxley, a futurist writer; and Leonardo Turing, an inventor.

Their journey, which had been made possible by time warp technology, took three months.  As the men, women and children disembarked from the space ships, which were crowded but well organized, there was a great sense of elation, but of course also some anxiety.  The Free Spirits had drawn on all of Earth’s utopian writings as to how people could live together in achieve real peace and happiness.  They took these writings, which were henceforth banned on Earth, with them when they left.

Everyone agreed that Thélème was a beautiful planet and that the issues of global climate change had been left behind.  There was excited talk about what marriage and the family would be like on Thélème, and also concern about as to how these ideas would work out in practice.  As Shireen Mandela put it, “If this is really to be our utopia, it must be simple, compassionate and fair.”

The first tasks were to find edible plants and sources of water.  The seeds that were brought along were carefully selected.  The space ships also carried the carefully chosen animals, birds and fish that came with the settlers.  No firearms had been allowed on the space ships, but there were many different kinds of useful tools and machines, as well as robots.

The leaders made certain that they took with them the technology they needed for the new society on Thélème, but they were also careful to leave behind the technology they preferred to avoid in their new society.

As the settlers disembarked, everyone realized that it was a planet very like Earth.  There were edible plants and water, but no animals, birds or fish except for the ones they brought with them.  The dissidents had the technological knowledge to create a complete modern society, which they realized might take years and even decades to achieve.

The immediate objectives were to find food and housing for everyone, planting seeds, and letting the creatures they brought with them reproduce.  There was a shared sense of community, and joy at being free from the manipulation and pervasiveness of the diverse technology that had taken over Earth.  Those feelings of freedom were liberating and a bit scary.

The journey on the space ships had been quite uncomfortable, but on arrival the Free Spirits could finally appreciate their spirit of community.  As Rosalind Curie said, “I have never felt more alive!”

Everyone agreed that the new society must be built from the ground up, rather than imposed by a new government.  That meant that the basic unit of society would be the family.  However, as Kemal Ghandi pointed out, on Earth the family had furnished sustenance and protection, but frequently it was also a source of oppression for some of its members.  Jules Huxley added that the first task of government would be to make certain that families did not exploit their members and that each person would have an equal opportunity to reach her or his potential.  Leonardo Turing stressed that individual rights also depended on the responsibility of family members to each other and to the goals of society.

The Free Spirits had agreed in advance that the new society on Thélème was to be organized around marriage and the family.  Since marriage was based upon mutual consent, no state approval was necessary.  There were three ways to become married.  The first was simply for each party to sign a public register and pledge an egalitarian relationship based upon mutual rights and responsibilities.  The second was to live together in a marriage-like relationship, and the third was to become the biological or adoptive parents of a child.  The second type of marriage was deemed to be based upon the same principles as for those who registered their marriage.

The settlers decided not to have a rule that an individual may be married to only one person at a time.  Thus the forms known on Earth as bigamy, polyandry and polygamy were permitted, but only to the extent that all parties consented.  Marriages were not required to be heterosexual.  The age of consent for a registered marriage was 17 years.

Marriage involved acceptance of certain rights and responsibilities by all involved parties and to their children.  Family was deemed to be more a term of social relationships.  It included all ascending and descending blood and adoptive relatives, and for each individual all first cousins of the whole and half-blood, as well as ex-spouses and their children.  More formal family responsibilities might be imposed only in regard to certain aged and disabled family members and certain ex-spouses.  There were cooperative centers for child care and the care of the needy aged and disabled persons based upon a Scandinavian model. 

Every party to a marriage was given an absolute right to leave it by simply registering the dissolution.  However, if that person or his or her spouse noted a request on the register in regard to a parenting plan, support and/or a division of property, a state mediator was appointed.  If the parties were unable to agree and a more formal decision was required, the matter could ultimately be brought before a small council of respected adult citizens.  The council had the right to request the advice of any relevant professionals, including attorneys.

Now let us now go forward in time by 30 years and see how these ideas worked out as time passed and Thélème became more complex and industrial.

Thélème After 30 Years

It’s now 2115, 30 years after the planet Thélème first was settled by refugees from Earth.  Spaceships brought more settlers, and many births have taken place.  Cities grew up around plans for public transportation rather than the other way around.  Education is based upon a creative integration of personal interactions and technology.  The system of universal health care is focused on essential medication, exercise, healthy food, and supporting the immune system.

It did not take long for Thélèmians to discover that two-person marriages based upon a registered commitment were generally more stable than plural or unregistered marriages.  Children are raised by their parents in collaboration with a network of community child centers.  The parties in every registered marriage may file a written marriage agreement, which they may also revise (within limits).  They are encouraged to update their agreement at least once every five years.  If the partners do not have their own agreement, they may adopt the Thélèmian marriage principles, which they may also revise if authorized. 

The Constitution of Thélème contains the basic principles and rights that apply to every citizen.  The need for lawyers became recognized and departments of legal studies were established at the university level.  The Thélèmian Civil Code is a relatively non-legalistic social science book of laws setting forth principles and guidelines more than rules.  It leaves scope for individual and community interpretation.  The legal ethics code encourages lawyers to be problem solvers who are settlement specialists and skilled in promoting future-directed results.

The central principle of marriage is equality between the spouses.  Every secondary school has mandatory experiential courses on marital negotiating, parenting, and household management (including healthy cooking).  When a child is born both parents are expected to take maternity leave.  Money as such is no longer used and a structure of social credits ensures that no one lives in poverty.  The social credit system also makes taxes unnecessary.  Every able adult is assured of a job and is required to have one.  Progress depends on balancing the three elements of technological change, namely robotics, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering, with the social goals of the Constitution. 

The term “divorce” is not used since dissolution means that there is no longer mutual consent.  The system of social credits eliminated the need for alimony, but spouses who have a child must negotiate the respective rights and responsibilities of each of them.  It is unethical for lawyers to conduct their cases in a manner that discourages future cooperation between parents.  Everyone is entitled to free housing, lifetime health care, creative child care, healthy food, and full access to the system of public transportation.

Given that the Thélèmian family was formally established as the basis of social organization, bureaucracies soon began to assume responsibility to make sure that families functioned properly.  After 30 years the Thélèmian bureaucracy became pervasive, somewhat on the Scandinavian model on Earth.  A child whose room is routinely messy or a spouse who constantly nags might receive a call from a family agent.  Equality among adults and the individualization of children are principles that are gently if routinely enforced, especially in unregistered and plural marriages.  If an intact family becomes dysfunctional, corrective therapy can be mandated.  Economic guidelines are also set up for intact families.

Crime on Thélème was initially a minor problem.  As the communitarian “we’re all in this together” spirit of the early settlers faded a bit, however, it became more common, but still far less than on Earth.  Incarceration is based mostly on the goal of rehabilitation, as in Norway.  Serious violent offenders were exiled to Earth until it was discovered that those who were sent off on Earthling-manned spaceships never made it all the way back.

Private business is encouraged as a means to acquire additional social credits.  Business is regulated more than on Earth, which has both advantages and disadvantages.  Great disparities in wealth are seldom found on Thélème.  However, the scope of business regulations continues to be criticized as inhibiting personal initiative.  Craftsmanship is rewarded and waste of all kinds is actively dissuaded and at times penalized. 

The system of social credits has eliminated the need for alimony and child support as such.  Separated parents, like those in intact families, are expected to have a workable parenting plan.  Thélèmians are far less materialistic than Earthians and have more space to enjoy creative physical activities.

Due to advances in contraception and STD prevention, sexual mores on Thélème are flexible, and reproduction is encouraged to populate the planet.  Except for violent criminals and seriously deranged persons, psychotropic drugs are rarely authorized, but are also available to combat addictions.  So far Thélème has stayed free in its egalitarian society from many of the Earthian problems, such as recurring wars, abuses of power, failures to protect the planet, widespread greed and rampant materialism.

Despite Thélème’s occasionally pesky bureaucracy, few malcontents have elected to return to Earth.  Thélèmian society depends far, far less upon media than on Earth.  Much more time is spent on healthy activities, such as jogging, hiking, camping, swimming, skiing, bicycling, and kayaking.  This has resulted in longer and more satisfying lives, and an ability to pursue real family and personal relationships.


Larry Gaughan

Larry Gaughan was the Professional Director of Family Mediation of Greater Washington beginning in 1980.  He was admitted to the Bar in Montana in 1957 and in Virginia in 1967.  Larry was a full-time professor at three law schools, Virginia, Washington & Lee, and George Mason.  He did a year… MORE >

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