A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Patriarchal Planet Earth

Sometimes we adapt to what is because there is no viable alternative.  I believe that this is what is happening on our planet for both the male and female of the human species.  We are still ruled by our biology.  On the whole, men are physically stronger than women and because of this advantage we have inherited a very ancient male dominated or patriarchal rule in nearly all of our societies.  Patriarchy echoes the natural world, the eat or be eaten world of predators and prey where the dominant animals rule over their group at the very least.  We have translated this natural tendency into a might makes right philosophy that continues to promote wars as somehow acceptable behavior.  But patriarchy goes even deeper than the ability to promote and support violent national conflicts.  It is interwoven into the fabric of our societies; it's in the way we govern, do business, educate ourselves, worship and more.  It's so all pervasive across the world that we've stopped seeing it.

Men should not be ruling the world, but then I don't think women should either.  The only really good form of governance is egalitarianism.  In order for that to happen there needs to be an infusion of women into positions of power in government, business, education, religion, etcetera.  I believe that culture is slowly moving in that direction, which might be why deeply patriarchal countries continue to severely restrict girl's and women's rights.  The old ways are being challenged and these countries are on the defensive, instinctually seeking to preserve themselves by attacking those that don't conform.  This challenge and conflict could be seen during the presidential election in the United States.  The country was given a choice to continue with a Democratic president who openly supported women's rights and gay people's right amongst other things or to revert to the more traditional patriarchal rule of the Republicans.  Though the country went with the Democratic candidate, the country is still deeply divided and there are many hurdles to go through in the next four years.

To me it is obvious that we can't go backwards; patriarchy does not work because the natural outcome is extreme overpopulation.  To be fruitful and multiply is no longer common sense.  If we continue doing what we've been doing we will become extinct one way or another.  Divide and conquer doesn't work either because we've divided up the whole world with imaginary boundaries that we take so seriously.  The new frontier is not in some physical location; if anything it is contained in cyberspace.  This is the era of globalization, the realization that we are not a collection of nations, but one people on one planet, a planet that we have been using selfishly.  Pollution is a fact and climate change is real and our resources are dwindling.

The question is, can we rise above our biology?  The testosterone level in men has dropped significantly in the past 20 years worldwide, which makes it appears as if our biological parameters are changing to include a different norm.  Testosterone levels in men who become fathers also get reduced which implies that nurturing behavior can affect an individual's biology.  Another change I've heard about is the rise of people who neither marry nor have children.  Could this be part of a survival mechanism for our species?  Reduce the births on earth, reduce aggressive, controlling, exploitative power.

The sense of a power structure begins in the family unit.  If there are fewer families the reasoning behind patriarchal rule will weaken and new approaches will be tried and accepted.  I believe many Americans, who are part of the vast Christian/Republican orientation here, focus so strongly on a male dominated family unit as the basic building block of their social organization.  And this is why they are so threatened by reproductive rights for women and the right to marry and raise children regardless of sexual orientation.  The additional fear of socialism is once again the fear of the family unit being undermined, subsumed into the general population.  If one's community provides good services --  food, shelter, education, work, transportation, healthcare and community service and friendship -- there is no real need for the strong father (or mother) figure to be the overall provider for the children.  Likewise, if there were peace on earth, the myth of the superhero or supernation would be exposed.

Before I began writing this blog, I did an internet search to see if there are any matriarchal societies today and basically there are very few and they are small.  What this means is that we have only patriarchal models to follow.  I am not trying to assert that men are "bad" and women are "good" when it comes to organizing and running human societies, but the bias in favor of male rule is so pervasive all across the globe that there is a serious imbalance of power.  Being animals, it is not surprising that we are territorial and protective of our home turf.  Traditionally men have done the hunting and the warring over the centuries.  On a small scale, this is not so terrible, but as a blueprint for an entire world it is divisive and destructive.

Women continue to be second class citizens and yet instinctually women are inclined toward social organization and mutual cooperation.  Where many boys are out sparring and establishing dominance and relying on competition, girls tend to stay closer to home, working in small groups, relying on verbal skills more than physical dominance and prowess.  Of course, there is cross over between the sexes, with some boys having an aversion to competition and some girls being drawn to it.  But generally speaking boys and girls conform to the roles set up by the patriarchal societies we live in.  The women who do choose to compete in order to gain positions of power must follow male standards and rules.  In a sense, they must convert themselves because they are investing in the only system available.

Right now, approximately a fifth of the US Congress is female and it looks as if that percentage will increase given time.  The question remains, will an increase of women in the US government significantly change the balance of power away from male dominance and towards a more egalitarian society?  I believe, if the numbers approach 30 to 40 percent, this is what will begin to happen.  Women in a minority position are less likely to challenge the status quo and some go so far as to reinforce it as a means of consolidating their position.  But when there are enough women to offer mutual support on sensitive issues, there is a much greater chance for the change in society to take place on a deeper level, often put into law.

Both men and women struggle; no one has it easy if you look at an entire lifetime.  I live in a poor county of New York State and I know the people around here struggle to earn enough income to support themselves and their families.  We do live in a patriarchal society, but that doesn't mean that the men here are powerful.  Along with the poverty, there are problems with addiction, obesity, child abuse and domestic violence.  I know from personal experience that domestic violence is one of the ways that insecure, stressed out men usurp power over their partners and children.  These men may not have much power or respect within their communities and so in their sickness and distress they bring a little hell home with them each day.  It's a vicious cycle.  We teach our children that violence is acceptable in certain circumstances such as in the police force and military and that it is a predominantly male activity.  But men getting into drunken brawls at bars is also fairly common and to a certain extent accepted.  And what about the fine line between sports and violent outbursts?  Violence portrayed in television and films has become entertainment.  There's just too much in our culture to support a boy or man in crossing that line into abusive behavior.

Boys are given mixed messages right from the beginning.  It's only been recently that I've noticed in films that leading male characters are finally allowed to openly cry when something upsetting has happened to them.  The message to be tough and not feel and express sensitive feelings is a damaging one.  When you stuff your feelings and become generally less aware and sensitive, it's a lot harder to identify with others and easier to cross into controlling, judgmental and even aggressive behavior.  In order to work with others in a spirit of tolerance that's willing to compromise, men have to be willing to feel their fear and sadness and their insecurity and let go of, at least for a time, the tough guy persona.  It's not men who have to step up and take on responsibility and rule this world by being tough guys, it's all of us who need to share the responsibility.  A little toughness goes a long way, but tolerance and fair play and humor goes so much farther and is the glue that holds the world together.  We are all in this life and this one world together.  Let's stop setting up impossible and unhealthy standards for men and women.  

1 comment:

Gabor said...

Wow, amazing post, and what amazes me the most is that you summed up so well what I wrote and talked about for years, it's hard to find such a coincidence but I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this way and I hope more and more men (and women!!!) will realize the truth. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please keep on writing! ;)