Joseph Daniel Unwin was a very well known anthropologist, who studied almost all the cultures in the world before he died in 1936. After looking through 5,000 years, he concluded that “the whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous”.
So, he was basically saying that strictly abiding by a ‘one man, one wife’ policy was what was responsible for a society being advanced. He found a positive correlation between the cultural achievement of a people and the sexual restraint that they observe.
I agree with Unwin, but I wouldn’t blatantly say that monogamy is what directly leads to civilization. I would say that the virtues of monogamy are what help build a civilization.
The mark of true civilization is predictability. I live in a civilized society and I can predict when the bus that takes me to work is going to come by, because public transportation runs on a schedule. I can predict that when there’s a red traffic light telling the people on the road perpendicular to mine to stop, they would stop. And that means it is safe for me to go. There would be no ramming me from the sides should I keep on driving through my green light. I can predict that, for the most part, I can walk the streets at night and not get waylaid; I can go for a nice run and be safe. I can plan my day, my week, my month, and even my year in advance and not be met with undue surprises.
Why is this so? Because of discipline. People who live in a civilized society are disciplined people. They conquer nature everyday and it can first be seen physically in the structures they build and systems they put in place, which rise above the natural chaos of this world to the structured order of an organized society. And then, non-physically, in the way they conduct themselves – suppressing their natural tendencies, exercising restraint and disciplining themselves so they can rise up to their ‘unnatural’ aspirations.
It is unnatural for a man to devote himself to one woman. Men are created with an insatiable sexual drive that is fueled by fantasy and variety. But when a man rises above nature and is committed to his wife and to the family that they raise; then he is cultivating those virtues of self-restraint, discipline, fidelity, integrity, commitment and dedication. Now picture all men in a society practicing monogamy and therefore possessing these virtues. What would that society look like?
A civilization is largely built on the backs of its men. This is true, whether we care to admit it or not. Now when you have men who cannot ‘keep it in their pants’, there’s a huge problem because it means they lack the virtues required either to build a civilization or to retain one.
Unwin also concluded that there was no example of a group retaining its culture or civilization after it had adopted less rigorous customs. This means that when a society begins to justify why it is only natural for men to cheat because they have ‘needs’, then that civilization begins to decline. When it is okay to have baby-mamas, which translates to lots of men shirking responsibility and passing that same mindset down to those unfortunate kids, then that society is in trouble.
Succumbing to nature is the beginning of trouble. That was why I said that the bible was the best personal development book out there, when I wrote the list of My Top 10 Books So Far. It always calls us to rise above our natural tendencies. In fact, it typically does not give us a commandment that we can naturally do. It always tells us to do what goes against our nature.
So, we are told to work because our natural inclination is to be lazy. We are told not to crave what others have because our natural inclination is to be covetous. We are told to honour our parents because our natural inclination is to want to bite the fingers that feed us; even suckling babies want to bite their mothers’ breasts every once in a while. We are told to be generous because our natural inclination is to be selfish. We are told to be wise because our natural inclination is to be foolish.
It also calls for men to be devoted to their wives – one wife, and not to covet those of their friends and neighbours. I’m pretty sure that’s because the opposite is the natural inclination of the ordinary man. But ordinary men do not build great civilizations. Only extraordinary men do. They have the discipline to work hard, the integrity to put trusted systems in place that reward such hard work, and the self-restraint to stop themselves from sliding into corruption and taking advantage of the same system that they put in place.
They are not born with these virtues. No, they are born ordinary men. They only become a little bit extra by choosing not to do what the average man would do, but to cultivate these virtues by voluntarily following simple principles and guidelines in their personal lives. And these could be as restrictive as not sleeping with whomever they like, but instead limiting it to one man, one wife.