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Fri Dec 27, 2013, 02:16 PM

On Domestic Violence

"Well, we have ALL, from time to time, been prisoners of one kind or another; we have all, at times, been prisoners of our own assumptions." -- Dr. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Yesterday, I joined an on-going DU:GD debate about the battle of the sexes. In doing so, of course, I was running the risk of offending segments of the DU community. From past experience, I knew that to even put forth some of the lessons taught by Erich Fromm in his classic 1955 book, "The Sane Society," was likely to upset the minority of people who seem more invested in arguing, than in identifying ways in which we might resolve the tensions between the male and female species.

Without question, western culture rests upon a patriarchal foundation. This involes the majority of social structures, from the family to religious institutions. I mentioned those yesterday, and again today, because any system that is patriarchal at these levels cannot avoid the negative potentials that patriarchy contains. This does not imply that every aspect of that society is saturated with those negative potentials: we see, for example, that Amendment 1 attempts to create a wall between church and state. However, even among those Founding Fathers who were not "religious" in the context of their time, the willingness to deny large segments of the population the rights and protections of the Constitution.

Indeed, even the greatest of (known) American thinkers from that era were infected by both racism and sexism. And that is not a coincidence: for both racism and sexism are assumptions that go hand-in-glove with patriarchy.

The September, 1987 edition of National Geographic features a wonderful article about "James Madison, Architect of the Constitution." It's worth reading. That article is followed by one on the "Living Iroquois Confederacy." It, too, might well be of interest to DUers.
The Haudenosaunee played a significant role in the founding of the United States. (See: "Exiled in the Land of the Free," by Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, and Vine Deloria, Jr.) One cultural tradition that didn't get across that divide was the concept of an equality between the sexes. They knew "equal" did not mean "exact." But they knew that equality was best obtained by a matriarchal social structure
That structure was found in family systems and religious/spiritual systems. When that is the family and religious structure, it leads to political systems (likewise, if we apply the positive social values that we advocate for politically, we can be sure they will impact other systems, from family to church). This did not reduce men's rights and responsibilities. Far from it: it strengthened them.

That edition of National Geographic has a map that showed Haudenosaunee influence during the colonial era as covering a quarter of the current United States. But their influence didn't stop with the Revolutionary War. As I noted yesterday, Engels' inspiration for his 1884 "Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State" was the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. (Engels learned about the Haudenosaunee by reading "Ancient Society," by Morgan.)

So long as we continue to define "family" in the manner prescribed by patriarchal society, a great number of social inequities will continue. That doesn't mean we should attempt to return to pre-Columbian times, of course, but we do not have the luxury of ignoring those principles that promote social justice. Such principles are constant, even within the context of a changing society. The truth is the truth. Respect is respect.

Obviously, no society is perfect. But what I suspect was the most promising of Haudenosaunee principles was that children were, as human beings, not to be abused. They had the right to be fed and clothed, and loved by an extended family. They were not to be beaten or molested.

There are lots of good and dedicated parents today. Mothers and fathers. And there are many good grandparents, aunts, uncles, and step=parents. Likewise, there are numberous good teachers, babysitters, ministers, and neighbors. While no childhood is "perfect," a lot of children in our country enjoy a fairly stable, nurturing environment.

On the flip side, a lot of children in our society do not have enough of these supports. And that doesn't mean that they have a bad parent, or terrible school teachers. There are parents who, due to the economy, do not have all of the resources that they need. Same with teachers. More, just as not every child who grows up in comfort turns out to be good (think of George W. Bush), lots of children who are deprived are Good their entire lives.

Yet, as Gandhi often said, poverty is the worst form of violence. Societies with the economic stratification like the USA will perpetuate violence, in many, many forms. I've mentioned sexism and racism, but there is a wide range of social pathology that is institutionalized in this nation. (Which is not to deny either other equally bad or worse places, or to ignore the many good things in and about America.)

In the introduction to his book "Gandhi on Non-Violence," Thomas Merton speaks of the potential benefits of combining western culture's intellect with eastern culture's wisdom. A similar benefit is found in making use of all people's full potential to be Human Beings, no matter if they are male or female. We need to recognize the value and dignity of all people. And that requires a conscious awareness that we are all connected, part of the human race, a large extended family.

It may be that at some future time, we will reach the point where we will be, to borrow from a Good Friend on yesterday's thread, a human-iarchal society. It would be nice if some of the unhealthy tensions that divide the human family were eliminated. But, until that time, we have the right and responsibility to take what steps we can -- as groups and individuals -- in that direction. Obviously, not everyone will agree on the nature of those steps. And that's okay. In fact, that's the way it should be.

H2O Man

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Fri Dec 27, 2013, 04:24 PM

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