There's just been a fairly frank exchange of views over on the polyamoryaustralia list about the old chestnut of ranking relationships as to primary/secondary/tertiary ...and not. The original discussion was sparked by Mistress Matisse's article
on the very same topic, which I rolled my eyes at and disregarded, as I normally do when that subject rears its ugly head.
I briefly said onlist that I was "allergic" to my relationships being defined that way, and that it made me "foam at the mouth" when people used heirarchical language to describe my
situation. Well, apparently I didn't acknowlege the fact that relationship heirarchies exist
(goodness!), that it's dishonest
not to admit that, and that obviously people who believe they don't have such a heirarchy want to live in some hippy utopia
I got a little cross at this point, hee!, but I didn't use any swearwords in any of my responses! But what it boiled down to for that and at least one other person onlist (the proto-fascist wanker) was that the labels help describe where everyone stands in a relationship structure.
And this got me thinking of the wider issue of people conflating heirarchy
. There is a reason these words are not synonyms in English - they are not the same. But many people appear to conflate the two, or say that without the one, the other doesn't exist. Bollocks.
I personally like structure. I'm naturally a very lazy person. If I didn't have to get up and go to work in the morning, I wouldn't. I'd doss around the house all day on the Internet and would generally do sweet F-A. I like to pay my bills so that I continue to get supplied with shelter, food and fun. I like the fact that those organisations I pay money to to supply these things are in fact obliged to do so. I carry out my own obligations (virtually all of the time), and I like people's obligations to me
to be fulfilled. All that requires structure
, both for the delivery mechanism and for the expectation
that things will be carried out as arranged.
is a model for defining inter-personal relationships in any structure that involves people. You know your place, and your boss knows their place, and their boss does theirs... and so it goes. It's a way of assigning authority and obligations. I have authority over the email systems. I'm obliged to my boss. He has authority over 6 staff and the email and storage systems, and is obliged to his boss and his financial reporting. It's very clear as to what place in the structure we're in. We know the rules for each of our positions.
What that doesn't confer, however, is certainty
. And I think that most people who enjoy heirarchies believe those things are precisely what you get from "knowing the rules". If you're in the military, someone tells you where to point your gun. You don't have any moral dilemmas (well, they're trained out of you), because that is someone else's responsibility. You know
you're doing the right thing, because you're following orders. The trouble is, when the orders are wrong, things can fuck up in a bad way. Or they're not applicable. You can't go around saluting people at a cocktail party.
It seems that people who rely on certain kinds of external structures for certainty and security get really fucked-up when they lose them. So, why do some people insist on them, while others are "eh, that's all there is" and others again are strongly allergic? Perhaps there's a genetic component. Heh.
I strongly believe that heirarchies are the 4th Form maths of interpersonal relationships. You have a simple equation, and when you know that x = 5, it's very easy to solve y = (2x + 1)². What if you don't know the value of x? What if it's i
And really, personal relationships are all about i
, as far as I can tell, leaving aside other kinds of relationships. Which means there is a limit to how well rules
can model what you should do and how you should do it. IMO, of course. :-)