Thursday, 29 January 2015

19. The revolution is in the hands of women

Women as indicators of social development

I read somewhere that the true level of development of a country is down to how well women and children are treated, and it normally comes in that order: women's movements and then issues related to children and -I would add- other minorities in the wider sense. We see these issues being discussed through its negative consequences: aggression, violence, sexual exploitation and degradation, as well as from a positive/progressive angle: fighting for recognition of individuality, respect and freedom.
These topics of discussion and public debate emerge when we are trying to resolve individually and collectively the most basic conflicts with the "other" and 'healing' the hatred of the weak.

So something must be boiling when we read:

That's why we also read:

Even though women's power and influence should be discussed in all its multidimensional richness, in this entry I will focus in motherhood. Why? It is not because women and mothers are the same thing. No. First of all, probably due to the need to de-couple womanhood and motherhood, motherhood has become a taboo subject. But most importantly, it is because the narrative of mothers shape society, so the first step to a revolution is for us -mothers- to take ownership over our words and become conscious that what we say and don't say -if we are mothers- is crucial. In this sense, it is curious what happens with women politicians in Russia: "Female politicians always enter parliament as feminists and as representatives of women’s rights, but – because they need to pursue their political career – they become outrageous saviours of traditional values.", says Ekaterina Dementieva. Sadly, they lose their own narrative, their voice in a survival game. 
This is why one of the most revolutionary acts we can do are completely under our control: the first one, I argue, it is becoming conscious and reflective of what's the narrative that we are passing on (at personal and social level), how coherent it is with our reality and our acts, how coherent it is with our feelings and emotions, if the words we are saying are truly ours, why we adopt alien speeches and why do we keep silent in some cases.
The second one is ensuring our children are seen in their own individuality and recognised as individuals by this narrative so they have the right tools to break away from it and write their own version of the story when they are ready.

Mothers as architects of the world psyche

Mothers. We are the custodians of the next generation consciousness. We lay the foundations, we are the first organizers of the world psyche through our children's psyche. With our words we interpret our children's reality during the first years of their lives, naming what exists, what happens and what's important. 
Our children live this period of their lives tuned to our emotions. They express with their bodies what we don't say. Our children are attentive observers of how we feel, what we do, how we react to our environment, the amount of attention we give them, and all of that shapes them.

We are also the ones able to create a negative space in our children: our silences, our disapproval and our incoherence. Our lack of words will leave emotions unacknowledged and disorganized, floating in the unconsciousness; our incoherence will create a tension within them. We are also the first to point out the things they "should" not like about themselves, the things that "should" be rejected: we design our children's shadow. This shadow not only stores what we consider bad, but also talents that we don't acknowledge or value.

Etruscan bronze statue: She-wolf, Romulus and Remus

When we are present, in the moment, practising our perception, we are able to truly feed our children, connect to their reality, and realize what's going on, putting words to the situation, containing and channelling emotions to be used as a positive driving force.

We need to know that this is not always the case, and that when we are not present in ourselves it has a big impact on our children. We can be toxic, feeding from our children's attention, invading their spaces with an excessive projection of what we want them to be, instead of guiding them in their journey of discovering who they are. These mothers appear in fairy tales as witches (also a bad mother archetype) that eat children, the woman that appears when "the mother is not there".

We can be emotionally absent too, withdrawn in ourselves, distracted by other things, or living in auto-pilot unconsciously following our formed habits, leaving our children unseen, emotionally unfed. These mothers appear in many fairy tales as the step mothers (another bad mother archetype) that replaced the dead/absent mother.
Emotionally absent mothers in the past accepted and sustained a culture of "children are to be seen but not heard", which contributed to create a context that enabled child abuse to go unnoticed and unpunished. Children, hungry for attention, looking for love sometimes found (and keep finding) abuse instead, and felt they have no one to go to. They found (and keep finding)  those predators that appear in the fairy tales, the wolves. They automatically assumed no one will hear them...  "children are not to be heard". They weren't helped in interpreting what went on in the first place. There were no words, not understanding. They were left to believe that it was their fault.

Some mothers may think they don't know how to do it and look for a third party and send their children to boarding school, which may lead the child coping with the consequences of this virtual abandonment. See this short video from George Monbiot on the subject.

Some other mothers, disappear completely. With this rejection, children are left full of self destructive tendenciesChunchi is a canton in Ecuador with the highest level of youth suicide in the world. It is also a canton where mothers left their children behind to go an make a living in the developed world after an economic crisis in 1999. 51% of school children live in a house without parents. They dutifully sent dollars and technology. But this is not what they needed. Children with dollars and an hole in their soul meant that drugs and alcohol became a epidemic, as much as suicide.  
"Not being able to receive the love of your mum is like being dead" Luis, a boy from Chunchi, says. 
This anger and self-destructive behaviour might be behind the Charlie Hebdo attack. Before making this tragedy an issue of millions against millions, we can also see it as the tragedy of two children that lost their father quite young, and then were abandoned by their mother soon after she got re-married and had another child. She decided she could not cope with the boys any longer and abandoned them in the moment that they needed her the most (their background story was researched by Der Spiegel). In religion, they found another 'mother' who offered them recognition and did something that expressed a deep rooted anger and ultimately enacted their self-destructive behaviour.

In this context, it's almost scary to think how many orphaned children have been produced during the recent conflicts, how many children are being born after rampages of rape, with mothers that despise them and the effect this will have on their future and our future. 

Being aware of the effect we have, as mothers, is the first invitation to work on our awareness of ourselves, our emotions, our own childhood, our auto-pilot, our absence, our shadow -as mothers and as women-. An invitation to work on the awareness of who we are, and more: accept it, and even more: love it. This very subtle work, almost invisible, will however have a huge impact on our children and the future generations. 
We can put words in what before was left unsaid; we can tell a different story and this can be truly revolutionary.

Hungry women, angry men and the taboo of imperfect motherhood

Women were for ages considered weak, irrational, even reduced to the level of property. One of the rationales against women's voting was that a married man would be voting twice. So what sort of mother is a woman that was taught she was "unwanted" and inferior? A rejected woman grows up hungry. She lives hungry of love and acceptance, but she is not aware of it because this hunger was never named. And how does she behave in front of a daughter who holds up a mirror of what she is? If she rejected or did not approve of her own femininity, she'd likely do the same with her daughter's, discharging more negativity to her than she would do on a boy, pushing her to turn to her dad for approval, becoming a bond in a trans-generational chain of hungry-angry women that can only find acceptance in men. Even if the effect gets very slowly diluted down the chain. 

And how does she behave in front of a son? She'd probably unconsciously teach him to reject what she rejected in herself too. So men have to learn to be men, strong and undoubtedly masculine. Emotions are bad. They have to suppress everything in them that is loving, caring, sweet. They have to hate it inside and hate anyone that manifests these qualities (in some cases leading to violence against them). She'd probably feed from this son that accepts her, leaving him angry-hungry for this reversal of roles, for this invasion. "I am the one that was supposed to be fed. Where is my tit? I want the page 3 of the Sun." and thus becoming a bond in the trans-generational chain of angry-hungry men. Even if this chain gets very slowly diluted. 

Motherhood, the untouchable institution

But wait a minute: on top of being labelled weak, inferior, unable to own anything not even our bodies, being paid less for equal jobs, having a glass roof, and all of that... we are now criticized as mothers??? Give me a break. Motherhood is an institution that no one can speak about. Whatever I do is my business, I've read this or that book and I'm on this camp of perfect motherhood and don't you dare to say a word, don't you dare to make me feel guilty.

Yes, of course. But guilt and responsibility are two different things. 

Louise Bourgeois - Maman
As Spider-man would say (digging deep into the rich realm of superhero philosophy) "With great power comes great responsibility" and our first responsibility as mothers and women is to discover who we are, becoming aware of our emotions and our relationships (with our own mother is usually a good start) and then talk about motherhood without taboos. Accepting ourselves, our attempts to do what we can and put words to our discoveries in order to make conscious what was left unconscious. Being aware is accepting responsibility. Being aware brings more coherence to the triad of what we think, feel and do. This will help us shape our lives with honest coherence instead of trying to fill in the space that a cultural stereotype has drawn for us. There are studies that show that the biggest is the mother ideal in a country, the lower the birth rate. It is difficult for young Italian women to see themselves as the traditional 'mamma', or for the German to see themselves as die perfekte Mutter that, by the way, cannot do anything right. So somehow we are leaving these stereotypes untouched and just avoid the whole issue altogether. Who dares to say that being a perfect mother is a bad thing? The point is that it is not real. Women cannot feed others with love and attention if they don't feed themselves with love and attention. 
And how women feed themselves is a mystery, some sort of divine source of food. (Some assume) They don't need to be paid fairly, or recognised, or given a job at the level of her capacity, or given assistance while she searches for her own food. Feeding women generates resentment if we haven't sorted out our own history with our mothers. 

Left and right politics are still shaped by traditional mother and father stereotypes

In the first entry of this blog, I argued that the world we live is an emergent result of what we are, built up in scale. We all carry a pattern of polarities within ourselves, we build it in our families, and every social structure upward. When we overcome our fears, when we resolve our issues, when we integrate our shadow and our polarities and we change, everything changes even if it takes a while to see it. 

Somehow mother and father figures -and how they have developed in history- represent the basic pattern that built up the model of any hierarchical structure we live in (it does not have to be like that, but that's what we -collectively tend to do). The State v The Private sector, Left and Right (plus liberalism as the child perspective), our own relationship with the Company that employs us (which gives us food) and our boss (which gives us directives and makes us accountable), west v east (and the developing countries), are all examples on the entities we usually project our own model of mother, father and child. We project it outside, usually we participate too in creating it and building it, to then see it, understand it and eventually to overcome it and create something new. 
Mother and child -
Fernando Botero

In politics, the left (frown upon in general in the West world), normally follows a mother pattern, focusing on education, health and giving equal opportunities to all (nothing wrong with that). Has a more holistic view but it can appear as "waster" of money, not smart in economical terms. The state, that is the embodiment of the mother, should be big.
Communism represents its extreme, becoming the toxic mother: where the state should be everything, control everything, it also stops the masculine to act (in separating the children from the mother, in guiding them to penetrate the external world through self mastery, in creating wealth).

The right focuses on structures, law abiding and efficiency, controls the money making process, the cutting dependencies from the state (nothing wrong with that either). However, under this ideology, the state cannot do much right, its economical activity is "spending" and therefore it should be as small as possible because "there is no money". And of course, feeding the state with taxes... we rather not. The private sector is said to be the income generator, somehow seen as the bread-winner, and should be left alone.

The liberals too were concerned about the individual and its rights (of men only) in front of the political power of the State -when it emerged it was against monarchies and aristocracy- (somehow representing the child trying to break away from its parents), seeking to maximize deregulation, but failing to acknowledge that the political is not the only power that can subjugate the individual. The concentrated, organized economical power has been largely ignored. 
We are not in front of a conservative set up of politics: we are in front of an old-fashioned view of the world, a view of the world that seems to have frozen sometime in 1950.
Even if in 1950s, the role of the state was much more active that what seems to be fashionable now. It is only in this context, this old-fashioned view, that Nick Clegg, the leader of the liberal democrats in the UK, can claim he would add a heart to the conservatives (right), and a brain to Labour (left).

See this article from Kofi Annan: The Global Order can only be saved if new powers are let in

The role of the state and the missing woman

In this old view of the world we are submerged in, women have to fight to be seen and recognised, left and right are antagonists instead of two important complementary roles. It also sees the state in negative terms whilst we see the rise of corporate power acting carelessly and unchallenged. We are constantly prompted to react to any crisis, quickly taking sides and condemning the other, with half truths making up full narratives.

It seems to me that this is no more the time to talk about how fat the state (or any woman) is, in the shape of austerity programs, but instead what it can create, what it does and how it will occupy the space it needs to be in without crashing anyone. It is not the time to speak about how much freedom corporations need, but how much responsibility and presence they should have in society. It's time to stop projecting our own shadow, our aggression onto others but look at the "what for" behind our rejection of the other.

I dare to think that this change will happen in the eyes of women and it will trickle up. Women that don't think like men but rather integrated their masculine side and accepted their feminine, that are not concerned about slimming down so she can fit into the good girl costume. Women that see themselves, her partners and her children (if there are any) for who they are, and not what they want them to be or they are supposed to be. Women that look at the calendar and shout "Come on, people, it's 2015, it's time to wake up!".


If you liked this article, you may also like:

Women: invisibility or blindness?
The absent mother
Fear and power: owners of our fears, writers of our history

Examples of concentrated unregulated economical power

Nawal El Saadawi

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

18. Civilisation v barbarism: Je suis tout le monde

Civilization v barbarism has been one of the biggest battles history books have fought against History.

From Greece and Rome, China and European colonialist powers to this post-colonial era, the barbarian label has been used to justify... well quite barbaric behaviour... This label is put -mostly by an imperial power- to foreigners and peoples that did not accept their rule. Barbarians are inferior, they are brutal, cruel and no worth of any respect, recognition or empathy. They are not equal. Therefore, they can be invaded, bombed, gassed, subjugated, raped, tortured, orphaned, enslaved or plainly killed. 

We find the "savage" outside so, so when we kill it, civilization wins, believing that this act of violence will be a proof of our superiority rather than a manifestation of our own savage nature.

The presumption of superiority does not finish in a war or an invasion context, see this segment from Jon Stewart's show, touching on this point:

Of course, believing in our superiority (or inferiority) is the biggest delusion. We project our own capacity for cruelty onto others, without being able to see it in ourselves. Under this logic, killing half a million children in Iraq is considered a hard choice, but "the prize was worth it", according to Madeleine Albright. 

See these articles from Guardian's columnist Gary Younge:
Behind curtains- Jaco Van der Vaart
Churchill said "I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilized tribes", which was later used against the Kurds. Only a few years later, he had to face his own super magnified shadow in Nazi Germany-for which he was hailed a hero- and in that clash he produced something unexpected: words about the struggle, about bravery and freedom that ended up inspiring even the ones he would refer to as "savages".

So, what then? The West is barbarian? Who are the "good ones"? Who is the hero?

Here is where the real "Je suis" comes to play. "Je suis tout le monde", "I am everyone". 
Without seeing the humanity of it all, the unapologetic blind cruelty of the "civilized" and the unapologetic red-eyed rage of the "savages", the strength of the order and the hidden logic of chaos, we cannot connect with the totality of our own humanity. We won't be able to connect with ourselves.

At the end, the only difference between civilization and barbarism is the capacity to step aside the one-sidedness of any given position. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

17. When liberté and egalité don't get along

Freedom without love is just an expression of power. I do this, because I can. I am superior, my values are superior... it's a kind of freedom that makes us unequal. 

Freedom without love is false freedom

Religion without love is just an structure of power. I am superior, my values are superior... it's a kind of religion that makes us unequal. 

Religion without love is a false religion.

So... where is the love?