By Kent Monroe
“Eve, if you get hold of the fruit
don’t ever refrain from eating” – Taslima Nasrin
One dusty, sweltering August evening beneath a big tent beside a rural intersection deep in the heart of Dixie, my uncle, vodka-buzzed and exasperated, raised his Bible in the air and hollered into the crowd of sweaty, earnest-faced folks in attendance. “You get them youngins in line, mother! Quiet them! I ain’t shootin’ no bull up here! This world is goin’ straight to hell, and you need to pay attention! It ain’t somethin’ to be playin’ around with – this world!”
The year was 1978. I lived with my grandmother at the time while attending a nearby university. I can’t recall exactly how I hooked up with my two tent-preachin’ uncles — I hadn’t seen them in years – but I met them by the road that morning and helped set up the tent and chairs for their weekend shows. For some years they had proselytized for a dead man they believed was a prophet who had routinely communicated with god through angels, but life had eroded their faith. They now both drank hooch for solace and inspiration and their Valiums rattled in their pockets as they walked.
By then, they had also lost control of their wives, who, now disobedient, had traded mandated bonnets and full-sleeved, ankle-length dresses for short-sleeved blouses and calf-length cotton skirts. One wife had her hair done in a perm. While my uncles preached – red-faced, neck veins popping, voices hoarse with fervent desperation – their wives sat inside an air-conditioned RV and listened to the devil’s radio.
All those years of forced ascetics, of living without friends outside the cult, living without television or radio or the printed word except for the Bible and their prophet’s delusional, rambling sermons, couldn’t stifle the wives’ desire for a richer existence. They rebelled. They summoned will and courage and escaped the dark room of their husbands’ domination, but they still walk the prison grounds of a world where for the vast majority of women, gender equilibrium at best means the woman deciding how the living room furniture is arranged while the man huddles-up with other men to decide rule of law, how wealth is distributed, which nations to ally with and which to attack.
The male psyche is the stone dropped into the world’s pond and the ripples have washed across the earth over the ages, creating the patriarchal world, establishing androcentric hegemony within societies, making the rules for how we live and how we treat one another, who gets power and who doesn’t, who gets wealth and who gets nothing, who gets a voice and who stays silent.
To those who would deny this world is androcentric and misogynistic to the core, please show me a land where men must cover their faces to please a god authored by women? Where is the closest battered man’s shelter in your community? Where might we find men stoned to death for witchcraft, or set afire for claiming autonomy of their own bodies and feelings, or hung from trees, raped and dead because a woman felt empowered to do it with impunity? Where is that nation where women waited deep into the twentieth-century before begrudgingly granting men the right to vote? Where is that country where entire towns have zero male representation in national elections because their women forbid it? Where is the shining, god-blessed land of liberty where men are paid less across-the-board than women for equal work? Where is that evolved nation where women exert hegemony in government, in the workplace, in armies, in the corporate-financial-media colossuses, and their political and police apparatuses? What advanced, god-fearing land systematically discourages men from reporting sexual assaults? Just where, pray tell, might we find a woman who could wipe her ass with her fingers, and then with the same hand pick up her sacred text and tell a man he can’t touch it because he is menstruating?
This world is commanded by men who turn from the gifts of change like vampires from the sunrise, and these men know from experience that this power of command is maintained by perpetuating ignorance and superstition. The firewalling of thought is the prime means of control central to the continuation of business-as-usual, and it was perfected when men created narcissistic, bellicose masculine deities to legitimize, perpetuate and glorify their primal territorial and hierarchical desires. By skillfully weaving these religious threads with patriotic heartstrings on the patriarchal loom, the tailors fashion cultural hoods, cognitive shrouds that act like burkas of the mind.
Voltaire said that if a person can be led to believe absurdities, they can be led to commit atrocities and we witness it every day. Subservience and conformity to the norm is required by religious dogma and thus it is not surprising that the secular kingpins of most societies tap into such a valuable tool. God and country are fused together into a monolithic brand that not only resists cultural evolution, but also creates a moral acceptance for wars that never end. This acceptance is then used to generate profit for the commanders’ symbiotic whores of industry. The profiteers do not waste even the human debris of war. The physically and psychologically damaged soldiers are presented to the compliant public as “wounded warriors” and “heroes”, and used to market insurance and beer — along with more god and country.
Apocalyptic religion is the shadow cast by men, and war is the shadow cast by apocalyptic religion. It took a bloody guerrilla insurgency to convert pagan Arabia to Islam. The Jews took their promised land by the sword. Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire soon after the Emperor Constantine saw a luminous cross in the sky, accompanied by the words: “By this sign, conquer.”
This he did, and Christians have been masters of conquest ever since, for, as Voltaire also said, “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” Trumpet blares punctuate all three apocalyptic religions’ battlefield-earth end-times prophecies, the climactic kill-fests that end our story. Only the elect from the winning belief system live on in an eternal supernatural reality—the ultimate territorial and hierarchical jackpot!
Humankind sorely needs the integration of the feminine into the world’s decision-making towers of power. Gender equilibrium, however, is not just a human rights issue; gender equilibrium is a human survival issue. Left unrestricted, the androcentric world will devour itself through its intrinsic desire for war and its increasingly bloodthirsty and cannibalistic capitalism. The environment, now treated by the all-powerful profiteers as the shit-shack out back of the neon altar to money, will eventually succumb, drowning us in our own poisons. Drones will kill indiscriminately – both the combatants and the innocent folks, and severed heads and mass executions will increasingly be the focal points and backgrounds for selfies. The chasm between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, the manicured-nailed barons of Wall Street and the coal babies of Gaza will become the black hole that sucks everything into the androcentric eternal equilibrium of nothingness.
The notion civilization is progressing is, like Chris Hedges says, a myth. In one hand we hold a gun, and in the other a laptop, but we cannot be both caveman and spaceman. The caveman won’t allow it. The same technology used to land machines on comets as they streak through outer space also streams images of man’s reciprocating atrocities in real time to a billion smart phones. This perverse, dichotomous reality reflects the submission hold the androcentric civilization has on humankind.
The question is, then, how do we change a man’s world still driven largely by biological imperatives? The tribal competition for resources and preeminence rules today just as it did when Constantine had his hallucination. Societal altruism comes straight from the toolbox of natural selection, as does empathy, religion and patriotism. We group up with those like ourselves to give our kind the best shot at predominating, and we help others when it serves our interests, directly or indirectly.
We must turn off this evolutionary autopilot that our male commanders are stuck in and take command of our future. To accomplish this, woman must first become equal partners in all decision-making processes. This is the essential first step on the path to a world that will one day become a cosmological civilization. In ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’, published in 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote: “It is time to affect a revolution in female manners – time to restore to them their lost dignity – and make them, as a part of the human species, labor by reforming themselves to reform the world.”
232 years later, her words reverberate with urgent relevance. Without gender equilibrium, humankind cannot evolve and thus, survive. We shall never see gender equilibrium unless women continue laboring by reforming themselves to reform the world. When brave women everywhere resist androcentrism and misogyny, they don’t just claim their rights as human beings, they save men from themselves. A wonderful example of this is Malala Yousafzai, the seventeen-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating education for girls. Her story is a striking example of how important gender equilibrium is and how vital education is to achieving this, thereby reforming the world. Malala’s bravery in the face of the most extreme misogyny should serve as inspiration for women everywhere. Nearly killed, she has survived to become a voice for women, for education, for a better world. The Taliban wants her dead because in this young woman they see their own death.
When asked recently how she managed to be so brave, Malala replied: “I think that bravery is when you overcome your fears and when you think that yes, you can stand up for your rights and you can speak. So I think you all are brave because you are joining these campaigns for education. You are struggling your best… we just need to recognize the abilities we have, the talents we have and you all are brave.”
She went on to say: “I think the role of every person in society is very important. If there is one child that we know about who is deprived of education and who needs our help, I think we should definitely support that child…There are artists, there are musicians, there are poets and so many other people who can motivate children all over the world through their beautiful voices – to come and continue their learning and stand up for it.”
We must listen to Malala’s beautiful voice and stand up! The gateway to gender equilibrium is the global fostering of three-dimensional minds that travel like light in all possible directions. Any system of belief — secular or religious — that prohibits this segregates humanity from the magic of existence by robbing us all of true meaning and purpose. Our story has not been written; it has just begun. If we can teach our children to live in the now but dream a hundred years out, or a thousand, or ten thousand, and understand that there is a real connection to their present and their dreams, we shall make it. Together.
We don’t transmit new ways of thinking through our DNA; we do this through our words, our beautiful voices. Women and men who care deeply about future generations, folks with luminous minds and matching hearts, can inherit the earth…and one day, the stars.
My uncle was right: this world ain’t nothin’ to be playin’ around with. It’s time to stop playin’ around and stand up, raise the curtains, open the windows and let our beautiful voices change the world.
Kent Monroe lives in Troy, New Hampshire. His memoir ‘Karla’ appears in the current issue of Your Impossible Voice. Odd notions such as the abolishment of war inhabit his mind.