Marriage – the Competitive Advantage

U.S. Captain for the victorious 2008 Ryder Cup team, Paul Azinger in an interview on the make-up of his team indicated that he used Mayer Briggs personality tests in assessing the fit for the members on the paired section.  Marriages need different strategies in that they require a serious commitment over a long period of time. People change, their income generating status may change, and concessions must be made on both sides. Marriage is not always a “we like each other”, and “we can always get a divorce” option. The fact is that it is one of the most sensible and rewarding avenues to engage in companionship, develop oneself, raise a family, invest and increase assets, and pay off debt.

When things are good, with few commitments, even two fools in love can have a great time. The rewards of a sustainable marriage however come with a lot of work, and the sacrifice of personal freedom and time. The mindset of a married couple differs from the mindset of someone engaged in the singles scene.  The concept of “being together” requires a much less complicated framework than the concept of “staying together”.

It would seem however that there are certain criteria that should be inculcated early in the value system of the young adult. These include,

a)    Avoid teenage pregnancy,[1]

Teenage Pregnancy Trends and Totals

b)    Get a good education,[2]

Increase of Salary with Education Level

c)    Stay out of Jail[3]

Incarcerated Persons by Race

This simple list is neither extensive nor exclusive, but sometimes children need to hear and see the benefits of following these simple “rules” as they develop their own value system. Ignoring any of the above simply makes for a harder road in life.

In collecting African Tribal Art, and researching the culture of African Tribes (nomadic or otherwise) the singular most common factor is the importance of the institution of marriage. Whether tribes follow matrilineal or patrimonial systems, marriage is extremely important to the sustainable development of the family and the community.

From a resource perspective marriages bring people together, but they also bring families together. It doesn’t always happen like that, but one can’t blame the system because people fail to take advantage of the opportunities inherent in the system. The Tax code, insurance rules, and even religious organizations offer married couples advantages over single and other civil designations. There are tangible carrots out there, but there are also intangible benefits as well.




Marriage, Family, and Community.

Marriage, Family, and Community

We take many aspects of marriage for granted.. very much like the Federal backing of a Ginnie Mae mortgage backed security, or the FDIC guarantee for bank deposits not exceeding $100k…. we assume that God has an implicit spiritual guarantee in place for people who faithfully adhere to the tenets of marriage and monogamous living. Ironically this represents an enormous leap of faith and diabolical logic.

Baule : Spirit Partner

One of the most interesting quotes I came across was that marriage may have began as an institution to adequately access nubile women… this made sense,  since who would want warriors killing each other in their quest for companionship! [1] Another interesting point was that around 600 years ago no priest was required for a European styled marriage, which was basically sealed by a promise. The modern marriage came into effect around 1556, after the 1553 Council of Trent.[2]

It may come as a shock that marriage in and of itself does not bring God’s blessing and it is by itself a spiritual nostrum. Almost any crook, murderer, or thief, can get married in the finest church and walk out as husband and/or  wife.

This is not to say that the social construct that is marriage is useless… far from it. Nor would I rank the payment of taxes (another construct) on the same spiritual level that some marriages clearly attain, but I refrain from linking deep personal intimacy with spirituality.

Bambara Maternity Statues

Bambara - Maternity Statues

Within the context of a community, and raising a family, different types of marriages clearly work better than others.

If any one wedding tradition might be said to be indicative of the African continent it would be the importance of family. An African wedding is, more than anything, the bringing together of two people as a single family, or the combining of two families or even the mixture of two tribes into one family unit. The concept of family is one of the unifying ideas of the African continent.

There are more than 1,000 cultural units in Africa and each culture, each tribe has its own wedding and marriage traditions, many of which can trace their origins back hundreds or even thousands of years.

Divorce is rare in African marriages. Problems in a marriage are often discussed with both families and solutions found. Often entire villages join in to help a couple find solutions to their problems and keep a marriage from failing. [3]

A good marriage can provide a “win win” situation where both sides find love, and companionship, as well as raise a family. It remains hard work and it would seem that some Western societies do not provide adequate training for the task, yet the freedoms afforded the Western females are such that they are not disadvantaged to  as great an extent as in Eastern and African societies.

It is clear that the most important part of the marriage is the love and commitment of the couple to each other.  A marriage represents the legal, spiritual, union of two people but can easily devolve into a basic contract on paper, and an amazingly complex hell on earth.





Witchcraft, Happiness and Coincidence

Malleability is an inherent characteristic of all men… very necessary so that when we get all “bent out of shape” it’s easier for God to straighten us out.

Bambara, Chiwara - Shapeshifter Legend

The opening diatribe is an essential preamble to a blog on race and religion -which covers two of the three PC untouchables. 

 So at the heart of the matter – I happened to come across an interesting article yesterday and the following quotes piqued my interest –   “A new Gallup poll found that belief in magic is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with over half of respondents saying they personally believe in witchcraft… Interestingly such belief was inversely linked to happiness.” [1]

One may view such articles as embarrassingly irresponsible , and funny, but at the same time I recognize that they represent a truth to certain people  and others may find them insensitive, demeaning, and misleading.

To begin with let’s start with the low hanging fruit. If one were to heavily weight the divorce rate as an inverse metric of happiness then the people in the US would far and away rank as the unhappiest in the world, (4.95 per 1000).[2] Conversely the Total Fertility Rates (TFR), in SS Africa are among the highest in the world[3], (go figure)!  Another point to consider is that maybe the causative factors of the alleged unhappiness in SS Africa have more to do with the poverty, infant mortality, and endemic malaria in the region[4], and less to do with their belief  in astrology and astronomy.

Kota Tribe - Abstract Ancestor Reliquary

On the issue of witchcraft – it has been a long recurring motif used to marginalize and degrade people based on differences in their religions. As part of the justification for the legalization of slavery, peoples of SS Africa were branded as pagan, cannibal, and inhuman.  History has shown the inverse to be closer to the truth. Many Tribal African religions involve ancestor worship (read as “Honoring the spirits of one’s ancestors”) and have a central Animist[5]  (a favorite of Aristotle) theme. The consistent irony is that the demonization of non-Christian religions is in itself contrary to the tenets of Christianity. Think about it. If people put on their “selective incident caps” and called a religion whose leaders engaged and enabled horrific acts against indigenous peoples (Fang, Mayan, Arawaks), and

Fang, Bieri

systematically seduced young males in their congregations, would one be straying far from the mark if they then linked that religion to devil–worship?

One can’t define people by their religion…. people take what they want from religion…. some take love, some hate, some indifference… if categorizing people is a high priority, one might as well define people by the reservoirs that supply their potable water needs.






Trust, Tiger, Dogon Lion, & Chiwara

On 8/23/2010 Tiger Woods got his first divorce. While his mental fortitude is amazing his lack of a working moral compass resulted in a much publicized series of extra marital affairs and a dramatic failure in his ability to contend at PGA tourneys. This is admittedly a stretch of a segway into this blog (which deals mainly with African Tribal Art), but I believe that initiation periods for both young men and young women are an important option in developing the moral fabric of communities.

Bambara : Chiwara - Male and Female

Coincidentally  I finally paid off on the Bambara pieces shown. They represent a half man, half antelope being (shape shifter for TrueBlood fans), who first showed man how to farm and till the soil. What was most interesting was the payment plan. I paid over several months (lost the bill actually) , but I was taken at my word for the remaining price. It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to walk into a store in Manhattan and not only  to NOT be viewed with suspicion, but to be viewed as a trusted client. I had to admit that even intangible collateral benefits are appreciated. The Bambara culture uses age and caste cofraternities and the chi wara ton society passes on necessary farming skills.

Dogon : Lion Mask

The other piece I picked up was the Dogon Lion mask shown.  (See “The Five Things One Should know about the Dogon” blog). It had been advertised as a “Monkey mask”, which was actually quite a close guess. The patina was severely encrusted, which seems to be a characteristic of the wood used. The age cracks spread in a radial pattern from the top of the head as well, forming a very pleasing pattern. The seller was very interesting, a musician/historian type and I consider myself very lucky to come across this particular piece. The mask itself is used in a masquerade to lead the spirits of the dead away from the  village. This is “the closing of the mourning period”  and is handled by the “Awa” men’s association.

The Dogon also use societies to assist adolescents in bridging the gap to adulthood.

Male and female associations are entrusted with the initiations that take place by age group, tonno, corresponding to groups of newly circumcised or excised boys or girls. The members of an age group owe one another assistance until the day they die. Initiation of boys begins after their circumcision, with the teaching of the myths annotated by drawings and paintings. The young boy will learn the place of humans in nature, society, and the universe. Dogon mythology is so complex that a griot needs a week to recite it in its entirety.”[1]

In the absence of special Associations however the responsibility and onus lies with parents to fill the role or find the best proxy of a moral guide for their children. It is clear from this episode in TW’s life that the repercussions can be very detrimental … as my grandmother used to say, “Bend the tree, whilst it’s young”.


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