Monday, February 25, 2008

Men, Women and the Illusions Thereof

A recent blog-post caught my eye. The gist of it is that war is the cause of the gender conflicts in human society.

An interesting take, for certain, and I appreciate the perspective that patriarchy has not been a benefit to men.

Most men have received little of the perceived "benefits" of what are commonly defined as the rewards of patriarchy. These benefits--like the differences between men and women--turn out to be self (and other) destructive illusions. Men who have been "relieved" of the drudgery of child rearing, for example, find themselves alienated from their children; men who are able to control their wives find hostility and passive aggression seeping out everywhere in their relationships.

I don't think that the problem between men and women is war. I think that's a manifestation of the problem. My experience is the problem is that regardless of sex, we are all made crazy trying to live up to--and force others to live up to--concepts of male and female that are unattainable because they clash with who we are.

All those traits we think differentiate men and women don't, really. Empathy, rationality, nurturing, etc--they are all on a continuum in everyone and as we kill off or repress those tendencies that aren't consistent with what our cultural conditioning says is appropriate for someone with our secondary sex characteristics we just kill off and repress ourselves. And insofar as we try to make others--children, spouses--conform to those notions we do the same to them. No good comes of that.

People will fight, in the military and the domestic spheres, until they are transformed by the Spirit to conform to the Spirit and thus are reconciled to on another. Then, in the military and the domestic spheres, they will be at peace, in harmony with themselves and with others.

That's long been the faith and practice of Friends. Some may prefer to leave the "by the Spirit to the Spirit" out of that equation, these days, but the test is the same: is your life increasingly changing such that characteristics like harmony, simplicity, equality, community and integrity (or the eight-fold path) describe you more each day? If so, keep going. If not, consider your direction and how to change it.

In so far as things external to our own condition "make" us fight with one another it is those illusionary things we are trying to be, and not to be, that give evil that ability to control us. There is nothing inherent in evil that gives it that kind of power.

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