Adultery and Politics: Ashley Madison and Questions of Unity

Cheating website Ashley Madison reveals the lack of honour and dignity with regard to public declarations. When a marriage is contracted, the partners declare, not only to each other but also, to the wider community that they will be faithful. Adultery must be understood as a political act that corrodes political communities. 

Shock horror … in case you haven’t heard (or more likely will read this blog post in two years’ time after coming back from a sojourn in some wifi-free zone of the world and wonder what I am on about) the cheating website Ashley Madison that boasts some 37 million clients (including 100 K from my own home country of Ireland) has been hacked.

Bourgeois moralists are offended … the Daily Mail is up in arms … most of the chattering class are having a titter. It’s a harmless bit of fun (say those who are confident their nearest and dearest is not on it). And yes, it will probably blow over … which is why I made sure our outback trekker knew what I was talking about.

Ashley Madison‘s message is simple and it is a seductive motto: ‘life is short, have an affair.’ One could just as easily say ‘life a short, be obnoxious to all and sundry,’ ‘life is short, rob a bank,’… etc… The transience of one’s existence could justify anything. And, Of course, their ‘service’ comes at a cost. Clients are inconvenienced as a result of the breach.

Now, I paid very little attention to this story when it broke. As of time of writing, it is about 2 days into the ‘crisis’ and during that time I have begun to think. If the figure of 100,000 is accurate for Ireland, then that is a large number. ‘Cheating website’??? I never even contemplated such a thing existing. But after all, there are worse things that people are doing to the private body parts of others, sometimes forcefully.

However, this website is legal. Adultery is being openly encouraged and profited from. While there may be worse things than adultery, those things are banned and rightly so.

And, as my thought processes grinded on I wondered: how does this adultery factory stack up in political terms? If you have read articles on this blog, then you know that I don’t interpret ‘politics’ as a career path for a solicitor. Politics is above all about unity. That is is why marriage, the public institution most relevant to this hacking story, is public. And I mean marriage as that union between a man and woman because it can be consummated, a precondition of marriage. Two people publicly declare themselves to each other. They don’t just say to each other ‘I do,’ note. They tell the public, their fellow citizens of their intentions. They announce to the political community who they dwell amongst that they will honour their arrangement to the best of their ability unless they legally dissolve it.

Now, it is understandable why a blind eye is turned to organizations like Ashley Madison. For over a century, the ruling classes in the West, particularly in Europe, have been terrified of a revolution. Their initial response, pursued with gusto after WWII, was to open the coffers and try to buy away revolution with presents of money and security benefits. When, by the 1970s, the money was no longer in the kitty, a different tactic was used to stave off revolution. People would be allowed ‘express themselves,’ living empty lives of consumerism and decadence, all the while stretching themselves thinner and thinner financially with magic bits of plastic. Left-wing thinkers also turned from economic to cultural revolutions, and destroying the family has taken the place of destroying the hard-working and prosperous.

Since aimless pleasuring has become an ersatz for financial power, it is now virtually a modern sin to even question what people do with their own bodies, despite the fact that historically it has always been widely recognized that the political community can regulate morals to ensure its own survival.

Yet protestations of freedom don’t alter the fact that an adulterer has publicly lied in a public arena. A religious place of worship or registry is really no different from a court. To break a public vow is akin to perjury. Someone could say it is none of my business what goes on in a bedroom (and to a large degree it isn’t) but a public declaration has been made and it is illogical to go through all the paperwork and solemnity of public declarations without considering those public declarations to be worth defending. It is not an act of liberty to consider public vows as of no import. That is just corruption.

But don’t think that I am idealistic. Adultery can never be ‘stamped out.’ Adultery has always been practised throughout history and this will not change in the future. What is unacceptable is that nowadays adultery is pursueded shamelessly and even considered a potential source of revenue by governments.

Where is the concern for the political interest here? Family is the backbone of any society. Adultery attacks the family. To achieve political unity requires a cultivation of family life. Marriage is the public institution that is necessary for the family life that supports nations. The blase attitude adopted to matters that affect the public weal seem to reflect a political agnosticism concerning the political survival of political communities by governments authorized to defend public life.

To conclude, the worst reaction to this is the faux-pas shock horror that will turn into yesteryear’s news tomorrow (that will most probably boost Ashley Madison‘s revenue in the process). Governments, and I am referring specifically to the Irish government, have a duty to cultivate family life. That is a national obligation and requires care for the public trust at all levels of society.

Currently, I am researching a book on Carl Schmitt. I have already authored one book Mysteries of State in the Renaissance. My Amazon page is here.

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