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Commercialism and Homosexuality

Some 110,467 new ideas a year were being developed in the 20th century, compared with 3,834 a year in the period from 1500 to 1900; 1,027 a year from 1000 to 1500; and 267 a year from 0 to 1000.

David Crane, The Toronto Star, January 9, 2000

The incidence of homosexuality appears to be on the increase. This could be an illusion of course. A genetically-determined proportion of homosexuals may simply be living more openly, gaining legal ground and social acceptance and claiming their proper place. The evidence, however, is that a combination of genetic, environmental and experiential factors determine whether individuals will be homosexual. Studies of identical (mono zygotic) twins, separated at birth and raised apart, have discovered that the twin brothers of gay men are gay 50% of the time.

This is a strong predictor, but it is not 100%.

Similar results have been observed in women: J. M. Bailey, R. C. Pillard and others conducted a study of female identical twins raised in the same family, in which one identified herself as a lesbian. The results showed that 48% (34 out of 71) of the other twins said that they were homosexual.

Another finding demonstrating the dominant role of genetics is that a ‘standard proportion’ of children raised by homosexual couples grow up heterosexual.

The incidence of homosexuality in the general population is variously estimated at between 5% – 10%. In the following, I assume that the genetic and socio-economic factors determine sexual orientation – a position most investigators have taken. It is interesting, and I think important, to consider what these factors might be. A frequent suggestion involves the whittling away of gender differences; for example, in workplaces and athletic accomplishments. Another suggestion notices the melding of male and female roles in homes, (although this has not yet occurred to the satisfaction of either).

I would like to suggest a further possibility: In North America, a growing percentage of goods and services is produced outside of homes. (Many are produced off-shore!) The relevant consequence is that children rarely see adults producing the commodities and services required day by day.

It is not simply that children do not see parents performing gender specific work – they do not see work being performed at all. A growing percentage of North America’s meals are prepared commercially and consumed in restaurants, automobiles or delivered to residences. Even home cooked meals are often prepackaged, pre-mixed and pre-cooked, requiring little more than a can opener or microwave. Household chores are accomplished by an increasingly sophisticated arsenal of appliances, central vacuums and automated laundry systems.

In addition, the modern home is heated with piped in oil or natural gas, garbage is carted away instantly, body wastes are transported out of harm’s way, and potable water seems to be endlessly available at the turn of a valve. In short, we have contrived a state of affairs wherein bodies’ homoeostatic mechanisms are rarely called upon – and the means whereby this womblike accommodation is accomplished proceed outside of the experiences of children.

Thus, the modern child understands less and less that their continued existence involves important contributions from mothers and fathers; never mind the adults that once comprised extended families and communities. This circumstance has emerged so gradually that we have not noticed it becoming a way of life. Among other consequences, the commercialization of domestic requirements grants children de facto permission to linger in a condition of arrested development. Adults, of course, know perfectly well that goods and services need money; and that obtaining money may be as demanding as producing goods directly.

What is important for our purposes is that money-earning activities occur beyond the purview of the young. The fact that factory or office work is usually onerous, that discipline and skills are involved ... have no influence during children’s formative years.
(The occasional ‘bring your child to work’ day is, at best, a superficial acknowledgement that something has gone missing.)

This state of affairs may be more important than the blurring of gender roles in the genesis of ‘discretionary homosexuality’ – and other phenomena that should trouble us far more.

The notion that living requirements can be left to corporations, governments and educational institutions provides the backdrop against which gender blurring is proceeding. The point is that it might be possible to have present levels of gender homogenization without homosexual ramifications – if this was occurring in cultures wherein children regularly observed adults visibly responsible for threshold portions of living requirements.

This suggests that the commercialization of domestic work has set the stage for blurring gender roles to be blamed for increased homosexual populations. If parents were perceived by pre-school children as engaged in important activities, it seems intuitive that these examples would contribute to queueing children heterosexually. Thus, feminist accomplishments have little to do with homosexuality, although feminism is regularly indicted by conservative factions.

What may be more important is that the life-sustaining activities of adults have been removed from children’s sight.

This is a corollary of the fact that work activities occur more and more outside of homes.

This state of affairs can be contrasted with our concern that newborns have at least one parent available during the first year of life. However, we /are surprisingly content to have both parents ‘resume careers’ thereafter. It does not seem to trouble us that equally critical experiences may be necessary during the next two or three years. Rather than insisting upon (retaining) circumstances wherein children observe parents and other adults engaged in clearly life-sustaining work, we have been handing them off to institutional care.

Kindergartens and nursery schools embrace children as young as two years of age. The sexualizing cues and responsibility-modelling opportunities previously provided by working adults have been institutionalized out of existence. If children do not see such activities, they may fail to develop a work ethic – or sort themselves out sexually. They may fail to develop an enlivening sense of what is required for success – lessons that observing the activities securing family well-being once engendered.

In other words, homosexual populations may not represent the ingenuous expression of sexual preferences so much as the consequences of affluent living; and the fact that children no longer observe value-adding adult activities when it counts.

The even more important question is whether these missing experiences may be harming children emotionally and psychologically. This state of suspended animation – to speak provocatively – eventually comes to an end. The physiological and hormonal seasons of life are ineluctable. Without a normal complement of discriminatory beginnings, North American children are increasingly at risk of investing their nascent sexuality in homosexual or bisexual ways. What seems to be suggested, by both intuition and research, is that human populations contain a continuum of predispositions: a portion likely to become homosexual no matter what, another whose sexual preference is dependent upon circumstantial factors, and a majority who are heterosexual. It is this middle population who will be critically informed by circumstantial factors, including the industrialization and commercialization of seminal domestic activities.

It is fair to ask: what difference does it make to add yet another factor to an already robust list of possible homosexualizing influences – in the service of a hypothesis that cannot, in fact, be tested? The answer is that commercialization should be of concern because, if it is affecting so deep an issue as sexual orientation, then we have reason to ask after other consequences – which may be of greater consequence and which may be testable.
Sexuality has often been regarded as an obstacle to responsible behaviour. A great deal of political and cultural energy has been invested in efforts to curb sexual activities. What is not often considered is that sexuality has been a catalyst of psychological and moral development. For example, until recently in a few privileged places, men were under considerable pressure to acquire psychological maturity and economic credentials. They had to meet standards of deportment exacted by parents, especially fathers, of daughters they hoped to spend quality time with.

A comparable cluster of attitudes and skills have been urged upon young women. This was to render them interesting to desirable suitors; and also so they would be more likely to repudiate the unsavoury.

Such concerns and normative strictures have greatly diminished across North America and Europe. Two important factors have been the development of satisfactory contraceptives and reliable automobiles. Together, these technologies constituted a circumstance wherein sexual activities could be indulged without asking for or demonstrating maturity and responsibility.
Notoriously, men have always enjoyed a measure of such freedom; it was only women who had been placing obstacles in their path.

It is interesting to reflect upon just how much civilizing and character building was predicated upon the women’s reticence and skepticism vis-a-vis male overtures. This question suggests a paradoxical possibility. Western cultures have been enjoying a liberalization of sexual attitudes. The irony is that this can be seen as watering down the experiential content of sexuality. The charm of any consummation has much to do with anticipation and preparation. Like many other features of consumer society fare, sexuality’s attractiveness has been waning, the experiential richness of sexual encounters eroded.

Since this is likely to seem a provocative, perhaps even an outlandish, claim, it is fortunate that an example is available: For decades, a debate has been occurring over what constitutes acceptable standards in the adult entertainment industry. The test the courts have been using include something called ‘community standards of tolerance’. There has been a striking change recently over what is deemed acceptable. We have been evolving a ‘liberal attitude’ with remarkable rapidity. Appealing to community standards is a legitimate litmus test. The interesting question is, what is driving the changes we have been seeing? Apologists claim that it is a matter of habituating to levels of explicit sexuality; and perhaps noticing that the sky has not fallen. We then notice that the entertainment industry keeps pushing the envelope for legitimate profit reasons.
The quest for profit, we are all agreed, is the sine qua non of everything holy; and manageable bits of sin are to be countenanced in its service.
There is another possibility. The commercialization of domestic proceedings has had consequences for children growing into adults enjoying personal responsibility and experiences with delayed gratification. At the same time, we appear to be evolving a society less and less able to experience sexuality without benefit of ‘professional titillation’. Most of us do not frequent adult entertainment centres. However, we all know something of the delights available therein. The point is, we no longer have the same sense that anything extraordinary is occurring. We are all, whether we prepared to admit it, in the grip of strong sexual appetites. We are correspondingly disposed to acknowledge an inalienable right to a certain level of sexuality. The fact that we now say that the opportunities and services available within adult entertainment are within this ambit is telling us something important with respect to our own sexuality. What it is telling us is that ordinary sexual opportunities no longer catch our attention, or count as opportunities worth pursuing, the way they once did. Relationships are difficult to initiate and sustain, and we have less and less experience with autonomous, ab initio interchanges. At the same time, in every other area of our life, we have learned to go to the market place for satisfaction. We are also agreed that the products and services available therein are likely to be better than anything we could manage on our own.

When community standards are said to be changing, it is the average tenor of the inner lives of citizens that is being referred to. Like every profit-generating enterprise, the adult entertainment industry is constantly testing public constraints. Individual entrepreneurs hope to enlarge their take, either by enlarging the sector overall, or by claiming a larger share of a fixed quantity of business. Thus, communities have an especially ironic relationship with adult entertainment. The content of this industry is a barometer of what is occurring in the psychological and sexual life of the community at-large. It is not the case that the adult entertainment industry is leading or in any way defining the sexual or social mores of communities.

Precisely the opposite is occurring.
An oblique issue involves a possible connection between contraceptives and emergent homosexuality – whether in terms of incidence or degree of openness. Contraceptives make heterosexual encounters as reliably sterile as homosexual. Historically, an unindicted source of homophobia has been resentments harboured because homosexuality’s pleasures are free of reproductive ramifications. In terms of aftermath and issues, it does not matter whether homosexual activity occurs. Abetted by excellent contraceptives, heterosexuality has become indistinguishable in these terms. In short, contraceptives and automobiles, linking with gender homogenization in workplaces, and commercial appropriations of once domestic responsibilities, make it a matter of decreasing consequence whether one is homosexual or heterosexual. This can be seen as paving the way for increasing public acceptance of homosexuality, and possibly combining with gender homogenization to influence the subset population capable of either orientation.
As interesting as such questions are, there is a more important issue: investigations into the consequences of commercialism could shed light on the alarming growth of dysfunctional behaviour among the young. We also need to admit that dysfunctional behaviour is not restricted to criminality or delinquency, but takes such forms as inadequate tools to cope with, for example, rapidly changing employability criteria; as well as harbouring life-style expectations predicated upon the perhaps unsustainable economic success enjoyed by parents. On Jan. 1, 2000, the Toronto Star devoted a section to the so-called information revolution. This era has been characterized as sorting people into knows and know nots, just as the industrial revolution segregated human beings into haves and have nots. What is inescapable is that this new age threshing machine will widen the have/have not chasm. There is, however, a critical difference: The information age comes complete with a newly potent rationale for regressiveness: in the industrial revolution, have-nots regularly became incensed because they did not acknowledge that they were as deserving as wealthy. In the information age, we are being persuaded that technological competence uniquely qualifies individuals to possess immense wealth and power. To be sure, even ordinary folk can possess wonderfully competent computers and software, but they do not understand how these devices operate. More to the point, there is nothing they can do with these machines that is directly connected with producing goods and services. Accounting for the abstract quantities involved in their manufacture is one thing, and tracking their migration around the planet is another, but such activities assume something which our very success in the information technology sector is threatening – namely that there will be a continued critical threshold of demand. The wizards now populating Silicon Valley may be extraordinarily adept at consuming, however they can still only wear one pair of pants at the time.

Part of the reason the gurus of western economies have been able to avoid coming clean with respect to this obvious truth is because the public has been well trained in obeisance. For example, societies eagerly submit to medical professionals, architects and engineers, supporting them handsomely for their efforts. These are, to be sure, professions requiring wonderful intelligence and dedication, and are doubtlessly important to our general health and prosperity. Less happily, these professions have established a precedent now being appropriated by other experts, whose machinations intend nothing less than the immolation of ordinary well-being. The point is, Leah are we unable to take exception to the project that they have conceived and cordially implemented, we cannot even engineered at the enormous wealth that they are accumulating along the way. Indeed, there is an even greater irony. The accumulation of wealth in their hands (more generally, the hands of the top ten per cent) is precisely the complement to marvellous computers and software programs needed to achieve this immolation.
Undermining the robust economies of the western world is such an extraordinary undertaking, and would amount to such an extraordinary ‘accomplishment’, that we have to think about what could make it possible. The precedent of the professions alluded to can only be a small part of the required circumstance. Indeed, given the apparently inexhaustible vigour of western economies, any such suggestion appears to fly in the face of reality. However, it is my conviction that what we are experiencing is the false flush of health sometimes seen in the terminally ill. Indeed, close inspection suggests that the apparently robust economies we are enjoying at the turn of the millennium owes more than it should to transfers of existing wealth from the middle and lower to upper. Certainly there is evidence that we are spending down previous investments in roadways and other infrastructure. This form of public wealth is necessary for economic success, but it is not being maintained.

In addition, there are glaring problems in the health-care system. A reasonable suspicion is that universal healthcare is being withdrawn from poor and middle-class populations. At the end of 1999, federal health minister Allan Rock explained why the health care privatization spring up across Canada does not amount to a two-tier system. Apparently the public has neither the right nor any reason to be concerned so long as private clinics do not charge for listed services. They can, of course, bill for amenities not covered by the standard bill of fare. In this scenario, the wealthy are not queue jumping, but merely paying for extras – and who can say that this is improper? Of course, they will duly wait their turn at private clinics, but private clinics will not be crowded since they will only be available to those able to pay for amenities. What falls out of this is preferential access to basic health care, and the ironic prospect of a privatization process enjoying core funding from the universal system it proposes to subvert.

None of this seems likely to be admitted publicly. However, for the majority of us, the important question can no longer be avoided: how long can this seemingly healthy level of economic activity be sustained? I suggest that we will not be long finding out! It is not just that we are spending the public investments of previous generations in a frenzy of high living. Some of us are living high because we have been discovering new ways to transfer wealth from the bottom and middle populations to the top. These mechanisms include corporate downsizing, amalgamations, automation, and the out sourcing of productions to third world countries. Virtually every one of these stratagems involve the eliminating or denigrating of existing employments. This means that the demand portion of the supply – demand economic relationship is being compromised. Of course, each corporation intends to be a winner in the new circumstance the perpetual round of downsizing and rationalizing corporation will be participating in and constituting. In this way, we see how a circumstance accomplishing general immolation authenticates itself each and every step of the way, sorting corporate players into winners and losers. The losers, of course, are typically identified in terms of corporations vanishing from the economic landscape. They are never characterized in terms of vanishing employments and occupations. Selling this extraordinary process seems to only require repeated reassurances to the general public that the victims of any particular downsizing or corporate takeover will be phased out painless by of attrition. We seem content so long as most affected individuals avoid the trauma of unemployment.

On this criterion, North Americans could lose every worthwhile job over the next thirty years, and not one person would have cause to object. Under the anaesthesia of attrition, we could gut the employment sector of virtually everything that made the North American economy a success. (Indeed, people being pensioned off and otherwise displaced might well regard themselves as well served, thinking their dollars will fare better in a non-inflating, depressed economies.)

In short, the globalization and rationalization undertakings we are presently seeing are self-perpetuating and insatiable. The global competition alluded to by politicians and corporate axemen explaining the need for still more sophistication of manufacturing capabilities, calls for commensurately rising sophistication on the part of the remaining workers. Lurking behind these relationships lies in the real engine of economic change – the world’s sagging capacity to purchase goods and services. This failure has two components: The first is the flagging real income of most first worlders, and the second inheres in the failure of competent third world consumers to materialize. Both owe their existence to the onset, one might say the onslaught, of the information revolution.

In other words, our present spurt of economic vigor is not sustainable. We cannot continue pounding along the literal and metaphorical highways constructed by earlier generations without deflecting an enormous cost upon individuals a decade or so down the road. This example of illicit wealth transfer is particularly apt since North America’s highway system has replaced warehousing as a kind of virtual storage medium for big box retailers’ just-in-time delivery strategies. This amounts to another extraordinary transfer of wealth to the well-to-do. By avoiding warehousing costs, goods, the commercial sector transfers a traditional cost of doing business upon the public sector and undermines the tenability of more efficient, less ecologically destructive transport, such as railway freight services.
None of this would be possible if the west’s spiritual and economic fibre had not been eroded this past half century or so. The equation is simple, and has two parts:

Moral and psychological development requires demonstrations of character and responsibility as a precursor to sanctioning active sexuality.

To prime this pump, the very young need to have working demonstrations of what is required to ‘live well and prosper’.
Many cultures continue to harbour repressive sexual practices and brutal chauvinism – female circumcision or invagination being only the best example of a depressingly long list. The need to eschew brutality and arbitrary repression need not, however, lead to embracing an equally destructive permissiveness. The harm in the first instance is obvious. The harm of the second is deeper running, and frequently masked by the false appearance of experientially fulfilling sexual opportunities. It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that a considerable portion of the sexual energy of North Americans is now vested in vicarious participation n the lives of a small tribe of stars supplemented with various sorts of masturbatory activity.

Commercialism’s far subtler consequences of moral and character dysfunction can sprout across the landscape; almost always without obvious connection with often seemingly benign developments.
The last few decades of the second millennium have seen the emergence of strident insularity and greed across wealthy nations. People seem little concerned for those suffering in other countries or, indeed, in their own communities. This is often characterized as a grave departure from the humanitarianism and idealism that typified the ‘60s generation. There is a way of explaining this phenomenon. A central harm of thoughtless creature comfort – and this harm is not restricted to the young – is that cocoons tend to legitimate insular lives. How can conducts so pleasurable and expensive to arrange be flawed? A further precedent involves the relationship of the wealthy vis-a-vis the middle-class and poor. There is a self-validating dynamic about the fact of extraordinary wealth in the face of a general impoverishment. A further autonomic wriggle is for the advantaged to adjust their opinion of themselves and the impoverished so that the rich – poor split is explained as a wholesome outcome of some underlying, appropriately vested excellence and deficit of moral character. In Ontario, we see this in strident action as the Harris government takes repeated runs as marginalized populations – workfare, snitch lines, anti-squeegee legislation.

This tawdry business is not restricted to just the wealthy in our own environs. We are all more than willing to recycle exploitive models by voting for similar incursions into emerging nations. Just as the wealthy in the west accelerate their holdings by appropriating wealth from the middle and poor, western nations are enslaving poor nations via global trade arrangements and such mechanisms as the World Bank. Of course, emerging nations have their own wealthy classes; and the world’s wealthy people spontaneously conspire to promote their mutual well-being.

In this quiet, autonomic conspiracy, the wealthy in emerging nations are glad to to play up to the fact of global trading arrangements, World Bank debt ... to explain to local populations why their lives are not going well.
If we are to understand the genesis of such consequences, and our willingness to submit to them, we must identify sufficiently deep influences. As well, it would be convenient if these influences could be seen as coming into play at the correct time to explain the emergence of insularity, homosexuality and economic paralysis. For the last five decades, North Americans have been growing up in circumstances of unprecedented comfort. We need to think about this new fact of life in terms of our morality quotient. A provocative posibility is that people experiencing nothing of physical difficulty, hunger, heat or cold, and unrelenting, (i.e., the daily lot of the world’s unfortunate), have a deficient ‘organic vocabulary.’ What does this have to do with morality? We are unlikely to have empathy for the cold, hungry and miserable ... without a taste of the physiological precursors is of their plight. In other words, previous generations internalized the precursors of morality and spirituality just in the economic difficulties they experienced growing up.

Obviously, these difficulties must not be traumatic or paralyzing. Equally obviously, it is important that parents ensure that children get these seminal experiences by way of nurturing the capacity to be empathic. A life that is “nasty, brutish and short” is unlikely to yield ‘world class people’, but what we have been getting up to seems no less foreboding. Indeed, we have an additional account to settle: by living too well on the backs of both nearby and offshore victims, we have truncated their moral possibility as well.
Traditionally, economic affairs involved children observing adults working, then participating themselves, along with extended families and communities, in creating a living. These arrangements automatically accomplished important socializing lessons and models. Their loss is a subtle, hidden cost of commercialism. Consequences include a diminished likelihood that the young will grow up with a work ethic. They may also suffer an ambiguous sense of their own and one another’s sexuality.

It is doubtlessly possible to live comfortably without harming one’s capacity to be thoughtful of the future and others. (Indeed, it may well be necessary!) What is important is the manner in which comfort is achieved; and what may be required is that some threshold portion of requirements is accomplished locally, including domestically. Economic well-being must be understood as one of the rewards of maturity and responsibility. No contrived replacement by educators and politicians can possibly equal such experiences in terms of organic relevance and realpolitik.