At an anniversary celebration a couple of weeks ago, one of the guests asked of the long-married couple what it takes to make a marriage last. The usual banter and jokes were offered like ‘make love not war’, ‘too busy to think about it’ or ‘time is not the enemy of everlasting love’. I asked Camp what he thought.
‘Well, that’s a loaded question,’ he said, ‘since I’m only wedded for a few years I’m not the expert on longevity in matrimony. I would say that tolerance of each other’s idiosyncrasies and giving each other the personal space is probably the most important facet of my relationship with Muriel. Without her support for some of my silly habits like reading the news at 3am or my bizarre conviction that I’m always right it wouldn’t last.’
‘I’ll let you in on a little secret Camp,’ I said.
‘The best answer to solve the riddle of long-lasting relationships was distilled into the simple phrase by our savvy journalist friend: ‘We are better off together than by yourself?’ she said. As in: The sum is bigger than its parts. Just ask yourself that one simple question Camp. Are you better off together or apart? The honest answer should reveal your future.’
Camp took a pensive sip of his beer and then looked at me over the rim of his glass, nodding his approval. ‘You got something there buddy. Better together doesn’t only refer to partnerships and marriages but to society as a whole. You know what I’m talking about. Socialism as in co-operatives, commercial, social and economic partnerships work much better than the cowboy-individualism so overvalued in the USA.’
‘You mean the lone cowboy and gun slinger?’
‘That is a stereotypical myth promoted by Hollywood and writers like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Real cowboys were in fact a mix of cattle-raising Native Americans and Mexican vaqueros, who taught them. At least a quarter of these hard working and poorly paid ranch-hands were also African Americans but they’ve been written out of history,’ Camp pointed out.
‘Yes, everybody for themselves against the other is a waste of energy and resources. Teamwork, sharing of talents and resources are the foundation of a progressive and democratic society. I’m always amazed of how the Swiss – who are convinced capitalists – are also highly committed to co-operatives and democratic socialism as in housing and agriculture, where dozens of small producers ban together for development, labour pools and marketing. A good example is when I asked my cousin what the heating system in his apartment is. You’ll like his reply Camp. ‘It’s heated with beer, meaning that the heat the nearby brewery produces, is transferred to heat our radiators. Several factories in the city’s agglomeration have banned together and are pooling the heat from their industrial processing to heat whole blocks of flats.’
‘Which seems to prove your point: Together is better. Even cowboys had to band together to make their work easier. Individualism is self-serving, and divides people into winners and losers which is the American way. In order to solve big problems like the environment or stop rouge warmongers, we as a people need to stand together and provide a united front: against profiteers, fascists, dictators and charlatans, against fake news, flat-earthers and conspiracists, against ignorance and cults.’
‘Hear, hear, you make a good point but let’s not get carried away. I’m convinced that despite what sensationalist media and promoters of extreme opinions want to make us believe, the majority of people still value common sense, decency and logical thinking.’
‘I hope you’re right about that. I’m about ready for another pint,’ Camp said just as Vicky appeared and made his wish come true.
‘Cheers,’ she said, ‘I overheard you saying that together you’re better off. Drinking and arguing alone is definitely no fun.’