Friday, February 22, 2019

Patriarchy Challenged

In the book Sapiens, the author Harari states: “All societies are based on imagined hierarchies”.  These imagined orders divide people into make-believe groups—upper levels enjoy privileges and power while lower levels suffer discrimination and oppression. There has been some change over time . . . but, “One hierarchy, however, has been of supreme importance in all known human societies: the hierarchy of gender.” 

“Most human societies have been Patriarchal societies that valued men more highly than women.” “People everywhere have divided themselves into men and women.  And almost everywhere men have gotten the better deal . . . In many societies women were simply the property of men, most often their fathers, husbands and brothers.”  

In rare instances a woman has gained prominence—as in Royal succession—she may inherit the title when there is no male heir; but it is illusionary.  He gives the example of Elizabeth I of England who reigned for 45 years yet during her rule, “all Members of Parliament were men, all officers in the Royal Navy and army were men, all judges and lawyers were men, all bishops and archbishops were men, all theologians and priests were men, all doctors and surgeons were men, all students and professors in all universities and colleges were men, all sheriffs were men and almost all the writers, architects, poets, philosophers, painters musicians and scientists were men.”

“Patriarchy has been the norm in almost all agricultural and industrial societies . . . since it is so universal, it cannot be the product of some vicious circle that was kick-started by chance occurrence.”  How did this happen?  Harari asks, “What accounts for the universality and stability of this system? . . . we just don’t know.”

I want to speculate on a possibility . . . it is evolution.  Teilhard says evolution is the underlying principle of all that is. Life is dynamic, ever changing and time is one directional—an ever expanding process.  Looking at the law of complexity-consciousness, in all things, as the external (the without) grows more complex, the internal (the within) expands in consciousness.

When the Homo sapiens first acquired language and complex thought, it was an untamed brutal world. It stands to reason that men were better equipped with their strength, aggression, and violence to take command in that world.  It was also obvious that since nature gave women the responsibility of bearing, birthing, and nursing the next generation (which was not a one-time thing but continuous) that confined her activities to a smaller circle thereby the domestic scene with its requirements became her primary stage of operation.  Those obvious roles were dictated by nature in a primitive world.

But as the world became more civilized, more complex and with more opportunities, men, having come from that ‘might means right’ brutal world, saw themselves as being ‘in charge’ . . . so as civilization advanced, there was no desire on the part of man to share decision-making authority with woman.  Clearly men had the strength/violence advantage to enforce that, so what began as a natural biologically ordered division of labor became a dictatorial Patriarchal system in which, almost universally, women became second-class citizens with no authoritative input and the ‘voice’ of women was silenced. 

In psychology it is recognized that all human qualities are present in all people, but are exhibited at different strengths in each individual.  It is also understood that taken as a whole, each gender emphasizes certain preferences.  Lists of gender characteristics give males as having: strength, courage, independence, dominance, violence, competitiveness, assertiveness . . . and females as having: gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion, jealousy, nurturance, tolerance . . . Given these characteristics each gender sees the world through different eyes and speaks with a different voice.   

By having long ago adopted Patriarchy as the basic societal hierarchy, half of humanity was eliminated from shaping the forward movement of civilization.  For uncountable generations this system was unchallenged and those dominant male qualities shaped the world to his view—with aggression gaining ever more prominence on the world stage as wars increased in frequency and intensity. 

Slowly female consciousness has awakened to the inequality and danger our world has found itself in.  It was and is an evolutionary awakening of consciousness.  By Patriarchy silencing the female voice during civilization’s advance distorted the outcome; the violence, aggression, dominance, and competitiveness of male characteristics have gone unchecked by female sensitivity, compassion, empathy and tolerance.  That makes no claim of female superiority; rather, it recognizes those qualities present in all humanity but associated more with the female.  They have been left out of the equation by silencing the female ‘voice’ thereby unbalancing our world.

Evolution is kicking in to bring attention to the ‘left out’ dimension, and the changing of the state of women on the world stage gives evidence to it. 

Evolution moves forward by advancing in complexity while increasing in consciousness and transforming to a higher state.  That is our present challenge—to fully embrace the whole of humanity.  There is purpose and direction to be found in evolution . . . we are to build the earth, not destroy it.