Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I blame modern secular rationalism

In the (London) Times today:

What explains this return to family values?
Richard Morrison

Astonishing news. The divorce rate is going down. What on earth is happening to this country? First we had that trendy campaign to overturn centuries of British tradition by making school meals tasty and nutritious. And now this — the return of family values! Is there no end to these assaults on our way of life?

I couldn’t believe the divorce figures that came out last Friday. They seemed so counter-intuitive, so contrary to the usual view that the state of matrimony is about as alive and well as the state of ancient Carthage. But the Government does not lie. (Well, except about weapons of mass destruction, obviously.) And the eye-popping revelation from the Office for National Statistics is that the number of divorces is down a whopping 8 per cent in a year.

What’s more, it isn’t us fogeyish wrinklies who are making the running in the eternally-yours stakes. It’s the young ’uns who are turning all meek and monogamous. Among the under-forties, divorces are at their lowest level for 15 years. Admittedly, there are still more than three times as many each year as there were before the “permissive society” reared its promiscuous head in the 1960s. But there’s no doubt about it: the trend is down, down, down. In defiance of all sociological predictions about the collapse of the family, it seems that more and more people are sticking conscientiously to that chilling pledge: “till death us do part”.


Could it be that the decline in divorce is evidence (or rather, further evidence) of the public mood finally turning against the liberations of the 1960s? Naturally such a notion will be ridiculed by the baby-boomers who run the world. They are blithely confident that the changes they wrought upon society are such self-evident improvements in the human condition that they will never be reversed.

But that is mere vanity talking. And badly informed vanity at that. British history is full of periods when social and moral values were turned upside-down in astonishingly quick time. Often a climate of permissiveness, even licentiousness, gave way to an overwhelming aura of propriety and repression within the span of a single generation.

And such changes always came as a surprise to the generation involved. Who, among the free-spirited Elizabethans of the 1590s, would have predicted that, barely 50 years later, fun and laughter would be stifled by Cromwell’s censorious Puritans? Who would have imagined, a century later, that the working-classes would be flocking in their millions to hear the gospel of sobriety preached by John Wesley just a decade or two after Hogarth captured the apparently permanent degradation of Gin Lane?

Hell in a handcart, I tell you! Hell in a handcart!


Blogger Duck said...

You damned secularists just won't stick to the script! How are we going to re-Christianize you if you solve your own problems without religion?

September 05, 2006 8:14 AM  
Blogger M Ali said...

According to the Economist, divorces tend to rocket upwards in recessions as financial strains scupper new marriages.

So this is another beneficial side-effect of a healthy economy.

September 05, 2006 1:05 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I have to admit this is ambiguous news for a conservative lawyer. However before we all start celebrating, there are two things to keep in mind:

a) The boomers (the bulge in the population) are now past the prime divorcing years of the 30's and 40's. For most folks, if you make it to 50, you will hang in;

b) Respecting the young'uns, it is much easier to get a divorce if you first get married.

September 05, 2006 2:14 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Your b) was my first question.

It's very difficult, anyway, to compare family ties across generations, since:

1. Divorce was virtually impossible to obtain.

2. Lots of matings dissolved informally.

September 05, 2006 9:12 PM  

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