This is a pregnant seahorse. In that belly are thousands of its children. That’s some serious pressure on momma right there! Oh, wait, this is a ‘male’ seahorse packed with kids? Yeah. Contrary to what many may believe, the concept of ‘family’ is a complex and varied one for all creatures out there. There are animals who eat their mates or some of their offspring, some that stay around their offspring until they die, while others seem to not give a damn about them as soon as they are born, some don’t even need a partner to give birth, and others that ‘take care’ of other creatures’ offspring. Some function similarly to ‘normal’ human families: parents + kids = family. Those kids eventually become parents and form their own family, living together for an extended period of time until their young mature and become parents themselves. Then again, that is only similar to how ‘some’ human families function.
When it comes to human creatures, I was born into a ‘normal’ family. My father is male, and my mother, female. I also have a sister. We formed a family. My parents were married, which means they had agreed to a legal contract that they should stay together for life (it was both a materialistic contract as they shared stuff - and also an ‘emotional’ one as they believed that they were somehow connected with each other by this ritual). All of the families I knew at that time were like that. I did have a few friends who only had a mother, or just a father, or none, but that’s just because one or both of their parents had died.
But what was normal for me was not normal for many others in the world. While I was growing up, there were other kids who had two or more fathers plus a mother, or multiple mothers plus a father, and even two of the same ‘sex’ serving all parental roles, such as two mothers and no father. All of those combinations are ‘culturally’ based families, but it’s now possible (in a way) for a child to have more than two ‘biological’ parents. Because some babies are born with some health issues that are due to genetic factors which can be ‘fixed’ using this method, bits from the female and male DNA are combined with bits from a third female human DNA. Basically, the third female contributes less than 1% to the baby, replacing an unhealthy section present in the first female’s DNA (source).
This way of ‘making a baby in the lab’ is not exactly hot news anymore, as in vitro fertilization has been in practice since 1970. The combined materials can come from people outside of the couple who want to care for the resulting baby. For instance, a male may not have fertile sperm, so the lab combines the egg from the woman with sperm from another male in the lab, and places the resulting cell into the woman again. In this way, the couple has a child that is genetically related to only one of them (the mother in this case), or neither of them if both the sperm and egg cell come from other people. They can also contribute their sperm and egg cells, but have another female take on the ‘duty’ of pregnancy. Same sex couples can also adopt this method, where their child will be genetically related only to one of them. With the state of technology today, we will soon be able to edit the DNA of an embryo to make a child taller, change the color of the eyes, the type of hair, improve health, and so on, perhaps looking nothing like their parents (source).
And, sure, many humans ‘adopt’ and raise other people’s children. So, there is no single or specific genetic inheritance or cultural ritual that can be found everywhere across planet Earth when it comes to families. It’s a mix of them.
Take a look at these people: [PHOTO MAGAZINE]
All of the combinations between them are accepted across many varied cultures, for both cultural reasons like marriage, as well as sexual relationships, while the same goes in other cultures for how unacceptable it is for such combinations to occur. Then add to the mix, combining all kinds of humans of all ages and in all imaginable ways, and they will still be acceptable within some cultures (people), but not for others.
Some people can be together and feel like a family without a sexual relationship, marriage ritual, or financial and material gain pressuring their choices. Still, the influence of those can be huge. If the prospect of marriage comes with financial advantages, citizenship, social status, etc. for someone, it becomes very tempting. In some cultures where people cannot afford to live a good life on their own, they cluster in large families (mothers, fathers, children, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so on) in order to support each other (money, housework, agriculture, etc.). When people gain the means to live more on their own, they may choose to cluster in smaller groups (just parents and kids). Also, when people accept work far away from where they were born, their family becomes smaller due to regional separation.
If you view the world as a set of experiments in societal organization, you will realize how fluid this notion of a family is. People love or hate other people (whatever that means to them), form families and often break apart, etc., and do so across all kinds of colors, patches of Earth, cultures, or genetic inheritance. It seems to me that there is no ‘natural’ tendency for white people to prefer a white partner or like white children more, or for Asian people to only desire an Asian partner or like Asian babies, or for humans to only like those who share their genetic makeup. Nor does it seem that all people want families, or a specific number of partners and/or children.
For instance, it may seem that all mothers experience a kind of nurturing ‘instinct’, especially when they are pregnant. However, such a huge statement implies that you can’t find women that don’t care about their pregnancy or their newborn, but there are many examples of such mothers. Some hate pregnancy, some are not what we might call a loving parent, and some even kill their newborn (for varied reasons). That shows that even if some ‘nurture-inducing’ chemicals naturally kick in during pregnancy to make her want to care/love for her newborn, then these chemicals are either not present in some women, not present in any women, or the human brain (as proven so many times) is very flexible and almost completely shaped by the environment, even to the point of overriding such internal chemical signals. So, depending on the person’s culture, how one feels and deals with the stresses of pregnancy, the idea of having a baby, and so on, appears to be rendered by the environment.
There are many parents who do not love their children, and kids who don’t love their parents.
When the US tribe announced this year that gay marriage is finally accepted by the tribe as legal, it was, again, proof of how primitive humans still are. It shows how rituals have morphed into businesses and how some take advantage/control them. If you love someone, whatever that means for you, it seems really strange that you would care about gaining the approval of any other humans for you to continue to stay together. But since the world we live in still retains a reverence for statuses (tribe leaders and those subordinated to them), as it has for millennia, people still grow up generally looking for approval from these chiefs.
A look at this wikipedia page describing various types of marriages (rituals) will help you recognize how much of a dictatorship the world was, and continues to be, as nearly every tribe out there had and has something to say about how people should cluster together, and what is ‘permitted’ in regards to a family.
Religion (culture) and money (system), along with other notions, have shaped people’s minds into thinking that there is one ‘right’ kind of family, with much of that sustained forcefully by rules, laws, and punishments for not adopting them. There are also laws in place that merge the stuff that two people own when they get married, so all of that stuff becomes owned by both of them. If they later split apart, they also need to ‘legally’ split their stuff. All of this creates many businesses and jobs, without which the monetary system would suffer.
Also, have you noticed that if someone slaps his/her kid, or screams at them, or other conflicts inside the family, they are not viewed the same as if they were doing those things to someone outside the family? Why is that? If I slap my kid because he cracked my phone’s screen, that may be perfectly acceptable to many. But if I do that with someone else’s kid… Well… imagine that. I am not saying that one is good, and the other is bad here. I’m saying that it’s very interesting how such things are regarded today. I think many will agree that it’s more acceptable to explain to the kid how whatever s/he did affects someone else, and how to avoid such situations in the future, but when the kid is ‘yours’, people usually avoid opinionating about it. I believe it’s perverse to look at any human being (with or without your genetic makeup) as ‘yours’, like property, but I also recognize how very dangerous it is to dictate to people how/why they should have a family and/or children. The notion of family as ‘property’ is highly integrated into today’s world, and it seems to be a reflection of the monetary system, mainly because kids are fully financially dependent on their parents within this system and, on occasion, parents may later become financially dependent on their children.
I have met people who wanted to find someone to be friends with and, on occasion, have myself been asked by people if I want to be their friend. Has that ever happened to you? I think it says a lot, since friendship is something emergent from a relationship, not something you can find of force. We can’t suddenly be friends, we can only become friends over time and shared experiences. I think the concept of family must be regarded the same way: not as a rigid structure created by all kinds of notions, ideals, and materialistic gains, but something that is arrived at.
Charles Darwin married (had sex, loved, befriended) his first cousin. Today, 1 in 10 marriages happen between cousins (source). There are also people who marry their niece, uncle, sister or brother, or even their parents. But this is yet another backwards look at the situation, as a thousand years ago and beyond, most sexual relationships, and eventually marriages (once that ritual went viral), most often occurred between genetically close humans. They had no notions of incest or pedophilia, which are ‘modern’ rules that perhaps make no sense at all. It’s certainly true that having a baby with someone who is genetically very closely related to you increases the chances for genetic diseases to be spread to the child, but this is not the reason for not ‘allowing’ such relationships.
In a global trade-free society, where materialistic influences have become obsolete and we focus on real education (science), people will have all the means to form a family without restrictions, and will have the knowledge as to what that particular type of family may represent for them. It’s quite hard to see how rituals like marriage will have much relevance in such a future, or even clustering people in little groups and calling that a family. Since children won’t be culturally or materialistically divided, and the more science they learn, the more they can recognize that we are all members of the same species, maybe this will make all of the world’s people feel like they are part of one big worldwide family.
Imagine being trapped on a deserted island for 10 years or more, able to survive but devoid of human contact. Then you see a ship on the horizon. You make a fire, they see you, and come to rescue you. Maybe they speak a language that you don’t understand, and you realize that they are from a very different part of the world than yours. But man… when you see these humans from a different tribe than you, speaking another language, you will jump for joy seeing any fellow humans. Why is that? Perhaps it’s due to a ‘lowest common denominator’ phenomenon. While there are normally obvious cultural differences, your situation easily allows you to recognize the similarities and ignore those differences (you all eat, sleep, see the world through the same senses, need good health, protection from harsh environments, etc.). The same may happen if you are from the US and you go to a different tribe like Japan. You may find that you can’t relate well to the people there (maybe due to culture or language), but when you meet a ‘fellow’ American, you instantly feel like ‘brothers’, or at least much closer than you were likely to feel if you met the same man ‘back home’ within the US tribe. I think it’s the same idea, where you feel closer to the American because you share more values with him than with Japanese people.
Interestingly, I feel closer to the people I’ve met online than with my own family, although most of them were raised in completely different tribes, in other corners of Earth, and despite all that, it’s because we share more common values.
And another important thing: if you relate only with a few people, your life may change for the worst when those few disappear. Having more friends or family members allows you to better cope with the loss of some (death, for example). Older people often become lonely or depressed because their old friends become sick or die, even if they themselves are in a good health and physical condition. They also often become lonely as their children and grandchildren cluster in small groups separated from them. All of this is reinforced today by the separation of people by age via all kinds of social programs like retirement plans, education, jobs, or homes for elderly, together with continuous reinforcement of the idea of small families (parents + kids only) via movies, offers, laws, and so on.
All of these things create lonely people. When we add in the effects of ‘social’ networks which encourage people to spend their time alone, staring more at their screens, seeking views and likes, exploited by advertising companies through offers (“Ah, you have so many likes, we are going to pay you to promote these products” - “We saw you are interested in this, well you can now buy that at a 30% discount!”), you end up with a perfect recipe for people that can’t help but become even more lonely. Did I mention that if you want to meet people who share more of your values, you can’t, due to monetary limitations? Yeah, that’s also a thing, and a huge one. When I want to meet the ‘online’ folks that I have come to know and share the same environment with them, money prevents that.
So if people of all ages grow up together in large clusters, with a good background education (science), not limited by region or access, the likelihood for a human family to develop at a planetary scale is very high. Maybe when you meet new people in the future, you will respond like that guy trapped on an island, eager to meet those new humans because you know that we all share the same basic values and respect each other, since we recognize ourselves as humans. Our common denominator will be that we are all humans, but today’s people have to be taught that, as most were not taught to realize this. Plus, focusing on teaching people to understand humans that have different values will also bring much more to this notion.