Madison, WI : Most people have few doubts when it comes to believing in true love. In fact, most people are enamored by the idea of having a passionate, dynamic, and honest connection with someone– a love that lasts throughout the ages, a timeless devotion, a passion that cannot be contained by dreary nation-states and religious and cultural divisions. Most people are in love with the idea of “true love”.
Most people, that is.
Last week, at the Cultural and Social Anthropologists Annual Conference (CASAAC), the most controversial presentation of the day was a paper discussing the possibility of “true love” being a tool of colonial oppression. The paper, submitted by Dr. Jane Younger of the University of Berkeley, California, argues that the “true” in “true love” is a Western construct that should be re-evaluated.
“In the post-modern world,” explained Dr. Younger, “ There is no such thing as something being ‘true’ in a universal sense. One’s idea of truth depends on cultural values, societal constructs, and structures of power.”
In her paper, Dr. Younger goes on to suggest that the absolutist term “true love” be replaced with the more culturally inclusive concept of “relative true love”. She believes this new term to be more sensitive to the complexities of the modern world.
“What we see as being a timeless and powerful love my not be shared in other cultures,” argued Dr. Younger, “Did you know that in northern Mongolia, true love is defined as two people who have the same number of toes and fingers? This is because it is quite common for people to lose various digits due to the harsh weather conditions.”
In fact, that is how Dr. Younger met her Mongolian husband. “I lost two of the toes on my right foot on an anthropological expedition through Ghana two years ago,” said Dr. Younger, “And my husband lost the same two toes on his right foot during the Great Blizzard of 1984.”
“In was relative Mongolian true love at first sight,” exclaimed her husband, Zhi-Tso.
Dr. Younger believes that Western culture, through corporate domination of film, literature, and music, has been exporting its own notion of “true love” to other cultures and the effects have been quite harmful. “Villages in South Asia have been left abandoned, Chinese farmer’s field left untended, Argentinian cow herders have left their livestock to roam the lush countryside because they have all ran off to find a Western ‘true love’” argued Dr. Younger.
To counter this devastating effect, the West must alter the cultural values they present in their films as truth. “Rather than seeing a movie with a love based on physical and mental attraction,” said Dr. Younger,” Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a film in which two people fall in love because they can both stay underwater without breathing for the same amount of time, as they do in the West Indies?”
Cultural absolutists, though, were visibly disgusted by the argument. “Just like how everyone on earth wants democracy, freedom, a nuclear family, and women’s liberation, true love based on two people who are ready to finally ‘settle’ for each other is an absolute value!” cried Kevin Grout, President of Universal Values Now!.
Amongst all of the debate, Dr. Younger gave her audience a word of warning. “Those people experiencing relative true love should think twice about traveling outside of their culture,” suggested Dr. Younger, “ Because, well, a lot of people end up breaking up when they leave their own constructs of true love behind, especially during Spring Break in Cancun.”