A Feminine World Order
We are coming out of an era that depended on competition for progress and suffered the consequences in the forms of war, class struggle, mental instability, and a great deal of emotional suffering.
Black Lives Matter is now advocating for a change in our tactics, divesting from armed forces and investing into communities. Though this might seem like a mere movement into a more generous welfare state, its potential to radically change the way we think about government and society is tremendous…
1/9 Falling from Eden
We have lived under a stark division of the genders for so long, we even project it to pre-historic times. We have the picture that the men hunted while the women gathered, when perhaps in an environment free of gender expectations, women were as skilled in hunting as men were nurturing fathers. What is more, the tribe’s strong bonds of affection might have been as fundamental to their survival as their ability to kill prey and fend off predators, so perhaps no duality existed between love and prowess, let alone an assignment to them on the basis of on sex.
“These populations [hunter gatherers] could not have evolved in harsh environments without placing cooperation between the sexes and families at the heart of their lifestyle… egalitarianism, food sharing, large-scale cooperation and sex equality are all a matter of necessity.”
The Conversation, Why our ancestors were more gender equal than us
Perhaps placing strength, courage and swiftness on the male side of the equation, while sensitivity, care and cooperation on the female side only came up as we settled on the land. Settling led to planting, planting led to cropping, cropping led to accumulating. For the first time, we knew property as beyond portable trinkets, and we knew labor beyond a few hours a day. (William Lomas, Conflict, Violence, and Conflict Resolution in Hunting and Gathering Societies)
Long working days were ahead of us, breaking the solidity of the tribe. Men, who could work uninterrupted by pregnancy and nursing, became increasingly more involved in the work outside the home, while women increasingly more confined to it.
Exchanging our roaming freedom for consuming, arduous labor, also stirred another monster in us... We realized that we could save ourselves the bother by subjugating our neighbors, either by force, by making them believe we were some mythical God, or by granting them protection from “barbarous, invading foreigners.”
The thirst for power had awakened, and it redefined our values for the following millennia: our object of admiration and desire became the strong heroes who took journeys, conquered distant lands, and slayed powerful monsters. Brute force was revered and celebrated in our epic poems, public statues, coliseum rings, and thrones.
In turn, physical weakness was disdained, perceived as pathetic. And so, qualities relegated to the archetypal feminine, when not regarded as one more object of conquest, became insulting and taken for granted.
A radically patriarchal set of values had arisen and with it a time of division, expansion, conquest, slavery, and war.
As much as we had become enraptured with brute strength and disgusted with emotionality, suppressing such a vital part of our psyche was not sustainable. Preachers of universal compassion such as Siddharta Gautama and Jesus of Nazareth would not have gained such a strong following had they not been speaking to a part of humanity that longed to be acknowledged and welcomed back.
Still, the desire for domination is a fierce opioid. When it could not stomp the messages of solidarity through slaughterings and crucifixions, it used them insidiously with threats, sometimes physical ones like public stoning, sometimes psychological ones of miserable lives after death. On its call for salvation also came the conquering of lands with cleansing, inquisition, and full moral license of a ‘God-given’ mission.
Still, the feminine did not die within us. Part of us did not grow completely numb to the horrors and recognized them for what they were. Humanists eventually realized and proclaimed the value of lives beyond the regents, and in came the sets of revolutions for liberté, egalite, fraternité.
Unconscious as to what our ailment was, however, the infection of toxic patriarchy continued afflicting our “free” societies. The continuation of a multi-continental slave trade, the blood baths after the French Revolution, the loss of millions to the Gulag. The efforts towards compassion-based societies still held the premise that order could not exist without violent control.
Was this an evil, carefully orchestrated move for domination? Maybe not as much as a natural consequence of perspective…
From ancient times to recent ones, the only members of society who could immortalize their observations through writing happened to be affluent white men. Socrates, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke… most of them and their fellow philosophers were socially positioned to have very little to do with child-rearing, home economics, manual labor, or other activities that sustained the social fabric of everyday life. Based on their writings, what we believe to be “universal” human experience, values, and nature are actually based on the narrow perspective of a tiny fraction of the population.
It is no wonder then, why we ended up with a distorted view of human beings as atomized, independent, with competing interests and out to domineer one another were it not for a strong authority, the necessary evil of the Hobbesian Leviathan to keep the peace.
Furthermore, as merchants and tradesmen began rising in social power and toppling the monarchies as regents, the world associated their rhetoric of freedom and equality with their interest in market growth, making those two concepts synonymous.
From this ideological basis, we have evolved to a civilization whose dominant class is shaped by narrow masculine views, heir to the ancient adoration of force, and convinced that a competitive economic system is the key to the common good. Any dissidence from the groups it left behind in its conception is seen as a deadly threat and repelled with its only known weapon: violence.
4/9 The Kerner Report
Fast forward to 1968, during the dusk of the Civil Rights era in the US. President Lyndon Johnson sought to test the hypothesis that Communist agitators or Black anger had caused the fierce riots in cities like Newark, Los Angeles, and Detroit in the previous months. He created the Kerner Commission for this purpose but was in for a surprise when the commission concluded its investigation.
The group found that “policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination” were to blame for the uprisings (Alice George, The 1968 Kerner Commission Got It Right, But Nobody Listened)
The Commission’s conclusions revealed the nature of crime as a social condition and saw its solution through enrichment programs and broad-based investments for these communities. It also deplored outfitting cops with even more deadly weapons for patrolling heavily populated areas. (Aaron Ross Coleman, What the protesters want and why they might not get it)
The results were promptly ignored, discredited, and shelved. Beyond the inexcusable bias manufactured towards black citizens in the US, the dominant ideology simply could not grasp that solutions existed outside of threats and forceful submission. Practices that fostered social cohesion — creating safe home spaces, loving environments for children, compassionate practices to treat addiction — had long been feminized, devalued, and regarded as a nice luxury to be earned, rather than a fundamental human need to be met.
The constant idolization of might and strength has also, ironically, riddled us with fear: fear of seeming weak, fear of rejection, fear of change, fear of each other, fear of losing property, fear of retaliation from oppressed groups if control is lost.
The more fear, the tighter the grip, and the more we learned to over-rely on police for almost any squabble. In the US particularly, police have become the first responder for a deviant arrange of issues, from school discipline to drug overdoses. Delicate affairs that require careful, non-violent training, are instead met with our punishment-driven mindset. Most gravely, racial prejudice has led to outlandish, racially-targeted police calls, invasive Broken-Windows policing in Black communities, and the tragic murders that have often followed.
These are the premise of the call for defunding and abolishing police forces: Policing is not a solution to social problems, it is but a patch to maintain a shaky stability through violent threats, when not a deadly cause of much more hostility.
“Police abolition means reducing, with the vision of eventually eliminating, our reliance on policing to secure our public safety. It means recognizing that criminalizing addiction and poverty, making 10 million arrests per year and mass incarceration have not provided the public safety we want and never will. The “abolition” language is important because it reminds us that policing has been the primary vehicle for using violence to perpetuate the unjustified white control over the bodies and lives of Black people that has been with us since slavery. That aspect of policing must be literally abolished.”
-Christy E. Lopez, The Washington Post, Defund the police? Here’s what that really means.
An actual solution to social tensions is funding. Funding community mediation centers that can help work through differences peacefully; funding housing projects that provide a basis to start a new life with; funding addiction recovery centers and prevention programs; funding schools that uplift students into their passions.
Why haven’t we done this before? “Because it is not fair” the patriarchy asserts.
6/9 The Ethics of Care
Nel Noddings, Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held and other philosophers identified the anomalies in our ethics due to their lack of diverse perspectives. They labeled traditional ethics ‘The Ethics of Justice.’
From Held’s reflections (The Ethics of Care, 2006), we gather that Justice Ethics value impartiality, equal treatment, non-interference, and corrective behavior through punishment. As it parts from the premise that individuals are separate, competing agents on equal footing, it focuses on equal treatment, individual rights, and abstract, consistently applied, principles.
This is the sense of morality through which we have been trying to fix social problems for centuries. Justice insists on applying equal treatment, laws, and expectations regardless of unequal histories, income levels, and social contexts. It keeps on falling short on delivering fairness, particularly for marginalized groups, yet it is convinced of its righteousness and stays blind to the reason for its failure.
Feminist philosophers saw the weakness of the Ethics of Justice on its premise and sought to create a set of ethics that included feminine perspectives and painted a more accurate picture of the human experience. Instead of assuming the independence and opposition of each individual, it recognized the fact that each human is highly dependent and molded by its bonds of care and surrounding community. A natural label became The Ethics of Care.
“An ethic of care sees the interests of carers and cared-for as importantly intertwined rather than as simply competing…Those who conscientiously care for others are not seeking primarily to further their own individual interests; their interests are intertwined with the persons they care for.”
The Ethics of Care, p. 11
Care ethics value trust, solidarity, community and empathy. Instead of looking to consistently apply a rigid set of laws or principles, it recognizes that humans are the product of the context and the relationships around them and fairness will look very different for every case. Instead of being encouraged to leave each other alone in the neoliberal fashion, it calls us to take responsibility for the communities we belong to. Instead of dismissing social, ecological, and historical contexts, it shows us how deeply embedded we are in them. It reminds us of the immense value and moral significance of relationships in our lives.
The social implications of looking at morality from this perspective are colossal. The investments we would make, the legal decrees that would be enacted, the actions we would choose to criminalize, would all be very different that what we have known. Held expresses it beautifully in the following passage:
“Instead of seeing the corporate sector, and military strength, and government and law as the most important segments of society deserving the highest levels of wealth and power, a caring society might see the tasks of bringing up children, educating its members, meeting the needs of all, achieving peace and treasuring the environment, and doing these in the best ways possible to be that to which the greatest social efforts of all should be devoted.”
The Ethics of Care, p. 19
7/9 Boat Building
Archeological evidence shows that even during our paradise days of hunting, wandering, and sleeping under the stars, violent conflict existed among us. Perhaps fits of murderous anger will plague our species forevermore and keeping some appropriate safety mechanisms is a good idea.
We have had, however, enough time in this planet, experience, and scenarios to observe our minds and behaviors closely, bringing the field of mental health to a most sophisticated level. Its thoroughness and growing accessibility is unprecedented and could be as revolutionary as Gutenberg’s Press.
Not only do we now have clear tools to understand, feel, and safely express our feelings, but also an expanding body of data showing that cruel childhoods, trauma, and PTSD often precede violent acts (see some studies here and here). We are becoming aware as well of how subtle forms of emotional abuse and bulling that can be strong begetters of anti-social behavior.
Thanks to these advancements, we have more tools to help us become more empathetic, emotionally intelligent, and more supportive friends, partners, colleagues, and parents. We are learning to listen more closely to children, validate their feelings, identify their needs, and foster their passions. In turn, we are teaching them to respect, understand, and see others at deeper emotional levels.
If we have indeed identified the root cause of our hurtful behaviors, it might not be ludicrous to believe that we could evolve into much more fulfilled, self-actualized, and peaceful society in less generations than we imagine. A society that does not require patches to stay afloat because it knows how build sturdy boats.
8/9 Search and Rescue
Mental health experts and those of us who have experienced the thrills of mental illness, know that the quickest way to decimate our wellness is to deny the ‘negative’ feelings, try to fight them away, or numb them out with substances. Our vain attempts fester into a fouler cocktail that eventually takes over and we can no longer escape.
It is not until we face these terrifying emotions that we realize they are not the monsters we made them to be. They are but denied parts of us that desperately needed our attention and consideration. Until we learn to see and listen to them, we know no peace or freedom. Until we learn to forgive ourselves for ignoring them for so long, we cannot heal.
That process demands unprecedented levels of compassion, vulnerability, and strength from us, which are impossible without searching and rescuing our feminine qualities regardless of gender, often buried under years of shame, manic achievement, and numbness.
Fear is the greatest impediment. It fights nail and tooth for us not to change, not to threaten the illusory stability, not to put down defenses and coping mechanisms. It convinces us that feeling the pain will kill us, it assures us that integrating our suppressed aspects will lead to our demise, it plays our worst nightmares over and over again in our minds.
The fear detoxification is harrowing, but if we sit in perfect stillness through it, we start seeing the cracks on the paint, the windmills from the giants, the man behind the curtain. We notice the falsehoods on our fear’s voices, mostly fabrications of our own mind.
Then we can begin to see how worthy we have really been all along, how innocent, how confused. We start seeing as well how worthy others have been all along, and how even the ones that seem unbearable are also caught in storms of their own. Since we now know the pain of their condition, extraordinary compassion comes easily, and with it, real connection, real care, real love.
That is the gift of the feminine within us. She was the one searching and rescuing us, not the other way around.
9/9 The Journey
If the individual storm looks at all like the collective storm, its remedy might be the same.
Healing the microcosmos of our lives often means making our diets, exercise, rest, and relationships our number one priority, much higher than any job or abusive relationship. Healing the macrocosmos of our society might require making food accessibility, wellness programs, and social support, a much higher priority than any economic index and abusive policing practices.
Yes, the changes are terrifying, virgin, uncharted, territory; they require faith, patience, and creativity. If we cling to the false sense of security of our old patterns, avoid making mistakes, refuse to be vulnerable, and resist the growth, we will sabotage our future and stay caught in the storm. We will fail to reap the rewards of true freedom, full potential, and rich, caring, connection.
It is deeply saddening that so many humans have had to live and die tormented for the rest of us to finally be willing to face the demons in our collective shadow. With this, Black Lives Matter activists are doing more for humanity than we realize: by not letting it stay asleep, still, busy, and buried, the movement forces everyone take the steps into our shared journey.
Now, what will we do?
Will we look away? Or will we stay present, open-hearted, and ready to build what comes next?
A quick brainstorm of concrete steps we can take to create a more inclusive, relationship-centered, world order:
- Continue listening to and supporting Black organizations and activists.
- Continue advocating for community investment. However, let’s not rely on government completely (another inherited paternalistic pattern). Let’s reclaim our power as civil society and organize resilient communities to fulfill our basic needs (more details on: How to not go back to Normal).
- On that vein, let’s stay creative and free to imagine how we want to live, trade, and interact! It’s us who make this world.
- Imagine and create new ways of providing access to mental health services, experts, and communities. Normalize their use. Elevate the voices and influence of female and racially diverse experts on the field to enrich it.
- Learn, implement, and spread the use of non-violent communication, as well as mediation centers.
- Gain awareness on emerging, new forms of ethics (Transformative Justice is another proposal close to Care Ethics) and also imagine and create ways to implement them as our new justice systems.