A Man’s Home is His Castle

Political history is a long history of destruction. It’s hard to study it and not come away ashamed to be human. Almost all the history we know is the history of POP Cults – patriarchies run by people-of-power for their own benefit with incomprehensible suffering among the lowest on the ladder.

The life-story of Guatama Siddharta, later known as the Buddha, really begins with the pivotal moment when he saw three forms of suffering – illness, old age and death. The sight was enough to send him out of civilization, to a wandering life of exile from the political world.

The suffering inflicted by nature compelled him to search for the truth of what it is to be human. It has nothing to do with society, civilization, politics. This search is really every one for her or himself.

I wonder, if he had seen instead the murder of a man, the rape of his wife, and the taking into slavery of his child, what his reaction would have been?

Can a person who has found something of truth turn away from the sufferings inflicted by society? Would the three principal kinds of suffering caused by POP Cult — murder, rape and enslavement — cease if POP Cult was itself destroyed? What would or could replace POP Cult?

Perhaps because they knew they would otherwise destroy each other, POP Cults instituted boundaries that protected each from each. I would call it a “gentleman’s agreement” except that there is nothing honourable about it. They gave each POP the right to do whatever he wanted within his own kingdom, whether that was a hovel containing only himself, his wife/wives and children, or many square miles occupied by millions of people.

No POP will trespass on another’s property unless he wants it for himself and is prepared to fight to the death for it.

So, for centuries men could beat, enslave and sell their family members with impunity. And for centuries rulers could beat, starve and kill their populace with impunity. No ruler would presume to act in any way that would stop the destruction.

POP Cults have regularly practiced genocide, seeing it as a solution to a problem. Absent some other human quality that we don’t really know how to name or define, genocide is a reasonable solution to a population problem. If a developer wants to develop a property site, the first thing he does is raze everything that’s already there. From the empty ground he can construct his new buildings without any obstacles. So, a national ruler, the head POP, might put up with people who are “other” on his property as long as they’re not in the way, but once he decides he needs more room, more opportunity, more money for his own sort, the most efficient solution is to exterminate the “other.”

Why do most of us find this so repulsive? What is it in us that revolts? Any words we might use have been so corrupted by other patriarchal institutions that have oppressed people as to be terribly suspect. Do we have a “soul”, that demands we not kill other humans? A “spirit”? Is it a matter of “heart”? Or is it some genetic, purely biological factor that works to prevent us from slaughtering our own, for the benefit of the species?

At last in western society the law has wriggled into the homes of men. Police can arrest and charge and convict a man for beating his wife, even if she refuses to cooperate. A man who murders his wife is not let off with a slap on the wrist because other men understand this “crime of passion.” Social workers can remove children from abusive homes. Children are no longer the private property of a single man, the one whose sperm went into their creation.

And what about genocide? Since the start of the twentieth century there have been many, beginning with the Turkish massacre of Armenians, continuing with the German massacres of Jews, Poles, homosexuals and Roma, then the massacre by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge of Muslims, Buddhist priests and anyone who wore glasses. Next were the murder of Tutsi in Africa , of Muslims in Yugoslavia, of Kurds in Iraq. Millions and millions of people slaughtered in a mere 100 years.

Is the ruler who does this the only perpetrator? What about all the other rulers who continue to trade with them, who take a ‘business as usual approach’, who continue meeting with them, who supply weapons to them?

International POP Cult is a boy’s club and all the rulers support each other regardless of what they do within their private kingdoms.

When Dylan Roofer in Charleston went into a church and shot 9 people, mostly older men and women, because they were “raping our women”, he was engaged in fantasy genocide, he was playing at being POP. And he was doing what POP tells men to do. Real men charge for the top because they deserve the top. Real men take because they have the right to whatever they want and because only inferiors ask. Real men destroy whatever is in their way to the top and all its entitlements.

Roofer was playing like almost every boy in America who plays with toy guns, who plays “cowboys and Indians”, playing at domination, murder and genocide. And he was playing like almost every boy in America who plays violent video games, slaughtering human images with gun images.

Of course Roofer took the fantasy play into the real world and killed real people with a real gun. But he’s only one out of thousands of boys who take the fantasies into the real world, trying to be men in a world where men are still taught to kill, rape and take.

Racism will only stop when patriarchy, with all of its fatal messaging, stops.

How can it end? And what can replace it?

Advertisements

All the World’s a Stage, and all the Players Men

 

The history of civilizations is the history of men. Women stand and have always stood, at the sidelines, watching. Men have obscured this crucial fact, using language that purports to be inclusive, but is not. To be a woman is to be an observer, rather than a participant, in history. Women have not, usually, been agents on the political stage.

The history of civilizations is the history of one-legged cripples, one-eyed men, one-handed fighters. With all that they think of as “feminine” taken from them, men are caves that have collapsed into themselves, piles of rubble where pillars were meant to be. There is bravado without real strength, intellect without wisdom and even play without joy.

Rene Descartes discovered what he thought of as the “light of reason.” He was probably wrong to call reason a “light”, but he qualified the power of reason in his “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences”. In it he says “The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vice as well as of the greatest virtues” and specifies that his method is meant to show how to “promote the good conduct of his reason”. Reason must be conducted. Reason is a set of stepping stones, connected by logic. It can be a helpful tool, but it is not reason that chooses the destination, or the path on which the stones are laid. So, what is it within us that can conduct the reason as it struggles to find the way?

In the four hundred years since Descartes proposed an alternative to obedience to authority as a means of seeking truth, the answer to this question has been ignored. Even the idea that something must conduct reason has been ignored.

Human beings do have access to Truth, but the entranceway is in the body, in the heart. Descartes, living as a Christian in a time when people could almost not conceive of atheism, might have assumed conscience was the conductor and felt it not necessary to elaborate.
The best men are those who have had genuine companionship with women – not because women are better, but because they offer a different perspective. Though they also hobble about with one leg, extend helpfulness with one hand, see with one eye, they offer the perspective of the other eye.

As long and men and women are conditioned in such mutually exclusive ways, robbing each of the capacity to be whole humans, combining masculine and feminine within themselves, they need each other’s perspectives.

It is because of what has been amputated from them at and soon after birth that men need a woman’s eye and a woman’s input.Businesses are discovering this now, aren’t they? Those with women in higher positions do better. We have another example with the recent shut down of the American government. While the male senators postured and puffed and refused to back down or even to search together for solutions, the women senators got together to do what politicians are paid to do – solve problems for the good of the people.

For the most powerful of masculine-constructed people, reasoning together for a common good seems to be a missing skill. Yet it is one of the best uses to which reason can be put.

Dick-tatorial Divisions

Recently someone described me as an “intersectional feminist”. I wasn’t sure what I was being accused of, so I looked it up. Turns out it’s accurate. Intersectional feminists examine and critique all unequal power dynamics. I would suggest the term implies a view far bigger than that encompassed by the term “feminism”, but oddly, those who criticize other specific power imbalances don’t address the intersections of all of them. Marxists are famous for dismissing the need for strong women’s rights language. Those who fight racism don’t simultaneously challenge sexism. Why is it that of all  disempowered groups, only women see all abuses of power as equally important?

I think it’s because all other groups fighting power imbalance are led by men, and they don’t see that the source of discrimination and oppression is patriarchy, or, as I like to call it, POP Cult. This means they refuse to see their own privilege – even when they are disadvantaged — and they are blind to the limitations of their own masculine perspectives. As long as the values of patriarchy underpin their challenges to the powerful, they will keep on recreating the same systems under different names.

The means don’t justify the end, they predict the end.

This week was the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I went to a concert, a “Requiem for Peace” that included “The Stupidity of War” by Victor Hugo. The poem ends with the question, “How to bring down an emperor without creating another?” When men use what they have learned under patriarchy to topple a regime, they cannot but recreate that regime. The means don’t justify the end, they predict the end. Use force and you will create a system that is upheld by force. India’s Mahatma Ghandi was probably the only man who recognized, to the degree that he did, that patriarchal tactics cannot destroy patriarchal power. He succeeded by adopting the “feminine” tactics of passivity, quietude, and contentment with little.

It’s a well-known adage that if POP (People of Power) can divide, they can conquer. In researching the definition of “intersectional feminist”, I came across this quote by Alice Walker:

“Part of the problem with Western feminists, I find, is that they take after their brothers and their fathers. And that’s a real problem.”

It is a problem, but I doubt that it’s confined to Western feminists.

Women attack other women. They are encouraged to do so by POP, but also by the kind of conditioning that everyone in an oppressive hierarchy is subject to. In a hierarchy, everyone wants to make it to the top. Women take many approaches to winning top spots and they’re not pretty. We may try to align ourselves with the men at the top, either through marriage or other means less honourable. We may try to align ourselves with men, period. We may act like men when in positions of power. What other models do we have?

This is a problem described and analyzed in literature about abused children. Any child whose weakness and helplessness is exploited learns to hate the weak and the powerless. It’s a way of deflecting the self-hatred the child feels for his/her failure to prevent the exploitation or abuse. Many abused children go further and identify with the perpetrators of abuse.

Have you heard of chick flicks? Of course, any movie about a woman.

In POP Cult, women are abused in multiple ways, starting with the demeaning of all things produced by and for women. Have you heard of chickflicks? Of course, any movie about a woman. (No one’s heard of a dickflick, right, though practically every Hollywood movie is one.) Chicklit? Any book about a woman. How about viclit? Any story about a woman’s courageous struggle to overcome the effects of abuse.

It’s commonplace to hear men whine about these works of art or entertainment, as if learning about women through women’s artistic production isn’t a worthwhile and possibly productive thing in itself. Having relationship problems, guys? How about heading to the bookstore and checking out the chicklit section? Might learn something that could help.

Chicklit? Any book about a woman.

Women on the other hand routinely watch films by and about men and read books by and about men. There’s currently a push to get women to stop reading books by male authors for a year. A year? For as long as I can remember I have read one book by a man for every ten I read by women. Why would I read books that express a masculine perspective about a masculine problem? Oh, right, because there’s no such thing – because when men write, they’re expressing a human perspective on a human problem. This is the great lie we’ve all been indoctrinated into believing.

Women act and react in the ways that abused children do. Some of us become lifelong victims, refusing to take responsibility for ourselves, and blaming others for our problems. Some of us pretend we’re not and never have been victims. These might be the ones claiming the system is just fine and women are privileged to stay at home minding babies – it’s a sacred task afterall – and should leave the workforce to the men. Some of us run around trying to force others to see their victimization and take immediate steps to end it.

This is one of the accusations non-Caucasian, non-western women make of first world feminists. Western women can be blind to both their own continued victimization, and to the relative power women may have in other patriarchal cultures. We in the west tend to think that middle eastern, African and Asian women are way more oppressed than we are. Meanwhile about 3000 women are murdered by spouses and ex-spouses in the U.S. per year (about 300 in Canada), a women in North American is raped every … can it still be counted in minutes, or is it now every 30 or 40 seconds? The rape of infants and very young girls by pedophile gangs is the black stain our culture refuses even to recognize, and that stain is growing. And we are now in the midst of a backlash that seems to insist that for every step up the ladder women are “allowed” to take, they have to remove clothing to show their continued sexual availability –as if life, for women, is some addled game of strip poker. When we win, we lose.

So, I don’t know, how can one compare suffering, and why would one? Well, maybe it’s about dividing and conquering.

If, in a Muslim country, a girl is sold into marriage at 10 or 12, that girl is oppressed, is deprived of choice and thus of spiritual life. I would say that’s the worst kind of oppression.

And if teenagers are lured out of Cambodia, Vietnam, Russia and Poland with promises of jobs, but instead are sex-trafficked in Vancouver and Los Angeles, I would say those girls are oppressed and deprived of spiritual life. I would say that’s the worst kind of oppression.

And if high school girls in North American schools are drugged and gang-raped by their male classmates, who then send videos of their crime out to the web, where they go viral, I would say that’s bad. I would say it’s the worst kind of oppression.

Western women often have many more choices about how they want to live than do women in other POP Cults, that’s true, and the reasons have as much to do with technological advance, industrialization and secularism than with Caucasians being somehow more “advanced”.

Egalitarianism is the opposite of patriarchy because it’s the opposite of hierarchy. We will not have an egalitarian society until we have one where people aren’t ranked by degrees of power, influence and priviledge.

Egalitarianism means, among other things, that we perceive all adults as equally capable of making choices. And it requires a lesser degree of judgement about choices than we’re used to. So how should western women react to Muslim immigrant women who wear the veil? It’s easy to say we need to tear it off of them because it’s a symbol of their particular POP Cult conditioning. This is a belief that emerges from the western idea that no free woman would cover her face, her hair, or her body.

We think we’re superior because we reveal pretty much as much of our bodies as we feel like, even though we are then subject to male abuse. Exactly why is this superior? Western women could choose to hide their beauty from men. That could be a reasonable choice, but we’re all thinking only of male perspectives. Men tell us simultaneously to cover up and to uncover. Under that kind of pressure, we seem incapable of making our own choice.

But aside from the fact that both western and Muslim women may be dressing according to patriarchal conditioning, there’s the question of how to instigate change. How many of us have chosen dictatorial fiat over persuasion at some point in our lives? Come on, be honest. Commanding someone to do something is so much faster and effective than taking the route of education and persuasion. I’m betting we’ve all done it at some time or other when we have felt we could. To command is to take the POP Cult route, the one that lets the powerful command the powerless. From that perspective, we really can’t force Muslim immigrant women to dress like western women.

Women everywhere suffer at the hands of men who have been taught indifference, contempt and even hatred for women. Who has taught them that? And why? Any bets that the more conflict there is between men and women, the more POP gains?