ON OUR WATCH - Climate Change, #MeToo, & the Patriarchy

justice weighing planet and fire

We live in an era of firsts, and also a time of lasts.

The last days we are witnessing are the ones we can still use — before it could be too late — to stem catastrophic climate change. Floods, fires, and hurricanes have all increased in the last ten years, all of which were predicted by scientists.

They just didn’t think it would be so soon. They have now set 2030 as the threshold when exploitation of the Earth will produce irreversible effects: droughts, wildfires, floods and food shortages. The UN Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report on Monday that says our planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels in only 12 years!

But who’s listening? We’re too busy waking up to the massive problems faced by girls and women in schools, homes, and workplaces, in villages from Africa to Malaysia, and in cities from Honolulu to Manhattan.

In the last two weeks, numerous clients and friends contacted me to ask, am I crazy to feel so angry about the Senate’s unsavory behavior toward a survivor of sexual assault? Upsetting too is the reason behind the Republican push, which was to assure the new judge would rule against women in Roe vs. Wade, to lessen chances of reversing Citizens United, and to give cover to a criminal president who has good cause to believe this judge will protect him from the Mueller investigation.

I assured them, it’s not crazy. It’s a legitimate feeling when faced with a system of injustice that is damaging women, our democracy, and the planet we live on.

It’s complicated. But it’s not.

THE #METOO GENERATION – OPPOSITE OF PATRIARCHY

Global warming hasn’t been a recognizable problem for long, only 50 years or so, but the dangers of exploiting women and children have been with us for millennia. Out of the notions of the patriarch came violence to animals, misusing fossil fuels, and abuse of other people because of their race, shape, gender, or religion. The damage that we as a “just society” and as a species have done to women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a reflection of these patriarchal notions.

When I was a girl and first noticed there was a patriarchy, I didn’t think it had much to do with me. Those days are gone. Patriarchal patterns affect every one of us. The unseemly behaviors of senators and politicians, fueled by the grisly charisma of the Orange Menace, are pictures of dominating men exploiting women, children, and the environment for their own self-aggrandizing ends. The damage they have done to our democracy is far-reaching, like the damage to our planet and women.

HOW DO WE STOP THE DAMAGE?

First of all, naming the patriarchal roots of violence against women, climate change, and war, is not against men. There are wonderful men who have thrown off their stereotypical male roles, who understand equality, and are capable of living as partners rather than dominators. Many men as well as women are remarkable for their devotion to a healthy planet. But we’re all still swimming in the patriarchal soup. And it’s not fun, for women OR men!

Second, support peaceful women and men who are standing up to violent assaulters and seeking justice for the overreach of male supremacists. Living in an era of incredible change, the #MeToo generation, we need to support women who come forward, often at the expense of families and jobs, because they can help us see the links that will lead to solutions. between sexual violence, super typhoons, wildfires, and the climate change barreling toward us.

Third, we have to really look at the situation. I had to laugh when I heard the Orange Menace say how frightened he was for his sons. Most women have been frightened for their whole lives.

Every 98 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. That means every single day more than 570 people experience sexual violence. That doesn’t count the unwanted touches, the ignorance of the fact that they should always ask for consent, and the million small ways that dominator men feel threatened by powerful women so that they bully or stigmatize a woman for speaking out.

WHAT IS THE PATRIARCHY ANYWAY?

For ages, in almost every culture, women and men have suffered from the system of patriarchy, where a man or a group of men controls a family, group, or government.

The first signs of patriarchy appeared 12,000 years ago when ancient humans of the Neolithic Era, who relied on a system where men were the hunters of a tribe and women the gatherers. During this time, the realization occurred that it took a male and female to produce offspring. It is theorized that with this realization, these Neolithic men first became aware in their role in paternity. These same men also began to take private ownership over their individual herds.

People of the preceding Paleolithic Era had shared both land and supplies. With this new concept of ownership came the desire to have private herds left to the descendants of the owner. Because of this new desire, it became necessary for women to be virgins before marriage and for them to abstain from adultery after marriage so that men could have the reassurance that their offspring were their own. With this new control over women began the earliest patriarchal families.

Patriarchy was furthered at the end of the Neolithic Era when women began to be traded as commodities. This was seen in arranged marriages between families or villages, women being used to having sex with visitors as a deed of hospitality by tribal chiefs, and the ritual rapes during festivals to ensure prosperity.

Women were treated as commodities, and from a young age became accustomed to this identification. Women’s values lay in their reproduction, especially in farming villages. In these villages, more people were needed to work the land and sustain the population, so women were expected to produce a large amount of offspring. Children became an economic asset too.

As culture evolved, the patriarchal society grew increasingly misogynistic. Ancient Greece played a large role in promoting patriarchal practices. When a democracy was established, it gave men somewhat equal rights, compared to the aristocracy they had known before. But as men gained equal rights, women lost many of theirs.

If this were simply a problem in the West, we could point to democracy itself as a cause of patriarchy, so vividly on display in all its bizarre distortion at the Senate hearings on the new Supreme Court judge last week.

It’s easy to see how the patriarchy creates violence, but how does it produce climate change? Patriarchy presupposes a dominator class and a victim class. It gives one person the right to control another’s life, body, marriage, and finances. It makes exploitive behavior the norm, so when women rise up and say, we won’t be exploited anymore, it threatens the entire oil-guzzling, weapon-wielding, corporate-run system of thought that makes global warming possible.

The strength of patriarchies throughout history and around the world has become a danger to everyone.

SPIRITUAL AWAKENING IN THE MIDST OF IT

Spiritual awakening isn’t about climbing to the top of a mountain and step by step, leaving our worldliness, pain, and attachments behind. Some of us hope we’ll reach the peak, having transcended our problems, having left behind all the people who annoy, hurt, blame and shame us. Having attained a state of unconditional love and peace, we ought to enjoy the escape we’ve worked so hard for.

But then the problem is that we left a lot people behind. There’s the friend whose wife just died, the woman who was raped, the bipolar uncle, and the ailing mother. Then there are the girls in the Congo who are being sold by their fathers for water to grow their crops and the others who have suffered genital mutilation, bloody abortions, and unhappy marriages because they do not have the right to control their bodies.

Our torments may be momentarily gone while at the top of the mountain, but the suffering continues. In the process of discovering our true nature, the journey goes down, not up. We think we want to climb out of the muck, aiming ourselves to the top of the mountain and the sky beyond, but we will never know the truth that way. To know the truth, we move toward turbulence and doubt. We slide into the hard places, jumping into the fires of our rage and grief.

We dance, tiptoe, or glide toward the insecurity and unpredictability and pain, instead of always trying to transcend the suffering. Even if it takes years, even I fit takes lifetimes, we move at our pace to absorb the reality of our lives and the systems of thought we honor and repeat, passing down both our intelligence and our ignorance to coming generations.

The reality is that as long as we allow an aggressive culture to exist, as long as we train our boys to fight and our girls to accept being second-class citizens, we will suffer. As long as we ignore the plight of immigrants and refugees and try to separate our bounty from the needs of the larger world, and the survival of all creatures, we will suffer.

If we move down into the earth, down the mountain, to examine how we’ve allowed a dominator society to overwhelm the peaceful potential of a partnership society, we can start to clear up our problems. We can call a partnership society into being, as opposed to a dominator culture like the patriarchy. We can create a world where both men and women are equally valued.

At our own pace, with millions of others, we climb the metaphoric mountain a little bit, and then we move down and down and down. Not because we don’t want to rise up, but because by going under, we can awaken. By going under and looking at the roots that have nurtured the unjust society, we can under-stand. We can see clearly, and we can see the whole of it.

We may see at the bottom there are actually quite lovely rivers of compassion and streams of good will for all people, male and female, all creatures, finned, furry, and feathered. Right down in the thick of it, we find the love that will not die.

And when we carry that love up the mountain and bring it to our loved ones, it is authentic. It is baptized by your tears and initiated by the fires of your anger and grief and ultimately, joy. It’s a climb worth taking, and it’s only possible if we’re willing to make the descent to learn what the mountain is really made of.

How did we get here? How do we return home? There’s no understanding if we’re afraid to hear another’s truth, if we’re so busy bragging about out gains and how the dominating tendencies of the patriarchy have been good for some people some of the time, so what’s the big deal?

But if we go down to where the suffering started and commit to being partners rather than dominators, we may be able to make the “rapid-far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” that the IPCC says are needed to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.”

Go deep, look clearly, do your best, and vote!

All my heart,
Marya

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