Monday, June 30, 2014

Will the real man please stand up?

Here are some instances. Together they make a very deep impact on me -

1. Ecological damage
2. Violence - south sudan, Iraq, so on ,
3. Rape of women
4. Growing number of divorce
5. Women challenging traditional assumptions and seeking to redefine themselves and their roles.
6.  2 cases of older women (50-60) approaching consumer court for damages from travels company and winning despite their husbands telling them it is not worth it. They sought to teach the companies a lesson.
7. Bhartiya mahila muslim andolan - a grass roots muslim women's group drafting Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act by talking to muslim women while the All India Muslim Personal Law Boards and religious institutions are quiet
Several more, these are just from today.

Once upon a time when we faced threat from wild animals in the jungle - women held kids while men safeguarded - against wilderness and sometimes other tribes. They hunted and brought meat, women collected fruits and more as they took care of the children. Men led and women contributed to decisions involving collaborations, strategies - to hunt, fight and organise the community. Men led with power, women held together with love.
Agriculture came, men organsied and fought each other; women cultivated. Men also contributed and made decisions for cultivation. Patriarchy developed as men became the 'protectors' and their 'protection' defined which family or group it was. Xyz' family - protected by Xyz and sons. Each person of the family thus gets identified by the lead male of the group - Xyz. Except in those rare communities where identity was defined by who you were born to - the mother. Identity, organisation (system for governance) and further political power emerged as a responsibility and prerogative of men. Clash of communities, religious groups further lead to intensification of the condition for the in-group and out-group. What is mine needed to be defined and ownership marked aggressively. Women along with land and produce became property to be safeguarded and owned.

With industrialisation, the role of the man got extended to working in the industries with skill and knowledge to bring the food to the table. This and managing the company, the economy and government in which this happened. Essentially continuing the previous roles with modification relevant to what was the governing system, what needed to be secured. Women who were actively farming but not making decisions were left home. Possibly because land needed to be farmed and the machines were perceived to be physically more dangerous. Then like previous times, wars were fought. Men went to fight leaving the industries to women, who proved that they could do it just as well as men.

After the war, there started a new era of feminism, women in the west feeling equal and demanding to be treated equal. Women in colonized countries felt equal as they fought alongside men to gain freedom. Along with this worldwide questioning of domination and equality of all humans started. Women started breaking in into male dominated roles and proved they were equal. Men watched, many slowly conceded. If this happened in the last few decades, Gen x & y face a further twist.

Here are women continuously questioning roles, exploring and understanding who they are , what they want, loving the freedom and growing init. Each challenge of the system led to reflection and strength in women. In one generation suppressed women gave opportunity to their daughters that was unheard of in their own times. Age old beliefs are still deeply ingrained, but desire for liberty to be who they are and who they want to be was felt and striven for. Clashes were there, these were met by developing ability to juggle, multi task and so on.

But today, we , the Gen X and Y women stand feeling deserving of liberty, capable by ourselves, earning and caring for family and questioning the role of men in our future lives. This is in the context of violence on women.
There is a vicious backlash by men. Stripping us violently, shocking us with ferocity of resistance. Not as one system to be fought with but several individual small actions. But we feel the pain. As children die, nature suffers, ethnic cleansing happens, water becomes scarce, where is the governing system. Women have redifined themselves, but how about men? Have they looked at their roles, questioned, grown? As we need a better system of governance that promotes the growth of all humans , suited for a modern day, will the men step up or do women take it up alone?

I am going by the idea of innate archetypal masculinity in men and femininity in women being more than the contrasexual other. ( i.e men being more masculine and women being more feminine but also possessing the other). Masculine includes in it thinking, developing systems, protecting, analysis, etc.

If men, dont access the higher form of masculine, women will. They will build a society in which there is safety and growth for all. The question is will the men standby or step up to their roles as partners in this?

While writing this, I acknowledge the emotional charge that I carry from the news of the day. That colours depiction but does not change facts. Post the world wars, attempts at this better governance were made with the UN coming into existence. But its inefficacy is evident. More such effort is needed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Building a national identity - a solution for ethnic violence?

Ethnic cleanising and ethnic conflicts are still commonplace on parts of the world. The pain and cost of it is not at all commonplace. The UN estimates 8 million children to die out of lack of food in 2014 if any intervention is not made. In some other parts of the world, a single death is the cause of an uproar on governance. I dont need to speak more about the condition of poverty because of ethnic violence. It is a horrific data we cannot bear to comprehend and hence better left unsaid and undealt with. ..syadly.

On the other hand, lets explore what helped some countries/communities emerge strong and stable. In 15th and 17th centuries, many of the developed countries of today emerged as a nation from being a bunch of fragmented comminites - tribals, peasant communities, settlements or communities with conquestorial interests. In nearly all cases, there are hereoes/heroines, a major movement - peaceful or violent which develops a sense of what it is to belong to that nation. 
The above makes sense when you look at examples - Germany was united under Bismark, French by the wars with Britain, Napoleanic wars and French Revolution, USA as a land of promise from settlers with roots in Free Masons, UK from accession agreements with Scotland and Ireland based on understanding of commonnality and differences in culture, India, China and several other countries with a struggle for independence from colonial powers.
Another major factor has been renaissance, industrialisation, freedom struggle, etc
Factors I call to attention in increasing order of importance -
- conquest by stable monarchs, under whom a common identity is felt
- legends, hereoes and heroines that form the common binding culture
- historic struggles that question status quo, cause churning and bring meaninfullness. In this process, they also establish new legends, heroes and heroines.
- Renaissance, industrialisation, freedom struggles, communist movements debunked the beliefs of fixed places for individuals in society based on their birth.

All this together helped developed a unique national identity that gave the people an identity and cemented them as a community. This is what we have come to identify as a nation of people distinct from a country (country's definition is limited to being citizens of a politically defined region.). The development of this identity heralded a common vision in which everybody finds a stake and this provides a stable environment in which this vision can be pursued.

This is effect an Organsiation Development perspective developed from applied psychology for small groups and organsiations.

Now by extending this model, can we examine what processes can be set , communication to be developed that can help small sub saharan, western african communities to develop national identities in ways that allows them to retain a tribal identity along with a national identity like India has language, caste, ethnic, regional identities co-existing with national identity.

What are the legends, struggles which are common in communities. The communication of challenges in such ways that it brings communities together to face them in a struggle that develops national identity.