Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Chalice and the Blade—and Trump

I write this to offer hope, as an anti-peace, anti-human-rights, anti-environment agenda seems to rule the U.S.   Hope can grow when we place current events in a larger context. Looking at the broad scope of human history assures me that, whatever consequences we suffer from a broken political system today, events over the long term are moving toward a gentler, more equitable world order. We can’t know how much time it will take, but focusing on the broad perspective reassures me.

The distinguished anthropologist Ashley Montagu called Riane Eisler’s work, The Chalice and the Blade “the most important book since Darwin’s Origin of Species." 
Eisler identifies domination and aggression (the blade of the Father) as patriarchy’s model for ordering society. She shows that partnership and nurturing (the Chalice of the Mother) endured as a countervailing power throughout human history, even during the fiercest patriarchal times. It prevailed as the model to structure social systems during the Paleolithic and early Neolithic ages:
  In sharp contrast to later art, . . . Neolithic art [contains no] imagery idealizing armed might, cruelty, and violence-based power . . . no images of “noble warriors” or scenes of battles . . . no signs of “heroic conquerors” . . .
  What we do find everywhere—in shrines and houses, on wall paintings, in the decorative motifs on vases, in sculptures . . . is a rich array of symbols from nature . . . wavy forms called meanders (which symbolized flowing waters) . . . serpents and butterflies (symbols of metamorphosis) . . .
   And everywhere—in murals, statues, and votive figurines—we find images of the Goddess, . . . the divine Mother cradling her divine child in her arms. . . .
the Goddess, whose body is the divine Chalice containing the miracle of birth and the power to transform death into life through the mysterious cyclical regeneration of nature.
This prehistoric civilization was woman-centered but not matriarchal. Women did not dominate; they were not superiors in a pecking order but had status as birth-givers. Excavations of Paleolithic and Neolithic societies bring into view feminine figures, symbols, and activities that occupy a central place in art, in buildings, and in villages.

Patriarchy with its dominating subordination of women took over the peaceful societies and, over the course of many centuries, replaced pre-patriarchal honoring of birth and regeneration with a militaristic, male-centered framework.
Eisler includes influential thinkers in her far-reaching synthesis.
  Nietzsche’s philosophy, under which the “noble and powerful . . . may act toward persons of a lower rank just as they please,” is the forerunner of modern fascism. . . .
  Nietzsche’s ideal moral order was a world . . . ruled by men who say, “I like that, I take it for my own,” who know how to “keep hold of a woman and punish and overthrow insolence,” and to whom the weak “willingly submit . . . and naturally belong.”
A present-day political figure comes to mind.
  Nietzsche despised the Judeo-Christian tradition as not androcratic [male-dominated] enough because it contained what he called an “effeminate” “slave-morality”; ideas like “selflessness,” “charity,” “benevolence,” and “neighborly love.” 
The Christian tradition’s embrace of these values is uneven, but Jesus of Nazareth did not preach domination, says Eisler.
  He rejected the dogma that high-ranking men—in Jesus’ day, priests, nobles, rich men, and kings—are the favorites of God. He mingled freely with women, thus openly rejecting the male-supremacist norms of his time.
. . . time and time again we find that . . . [Jesus preached] the gospel of partnership society. And in sharp contrast to the views of later Christian sages, . . . Jesus did not preach the ultimate dominator message: that women are spiritually inferior to men.
Eisler refutes the belief common among atheists and agnostics that there never was a historical Jesus with the “compelling argument” that Jesus modeled feminine values.

Today the dominator model is breaking down, asserts Eisler. Stereotypically-masculine traits like tough leadership and fighting, often with violence, is giving way to the stereotypically-feminine virtues of compassion, cooperation, gentleness, and partnership. The pendulum is swinging back. Taking the long view with Riane Eisler, we can see feminine attitudes slowly taking hold today, as in ancient history they were slowly supplanted by male dominance.

I take hope from the breakdown of dominator values happening today. Yes, it’s long and slow, but boosting a change in attitudes is the weirdness of Donald Trump. The whole world seems repulsed by it, the final straw, as my friend predicted (see “New Year hope despite chaos” below).

Respect for standing over and against others (the patriarchal Father) is lessening, while respect for loving and accepting all (the nurturing Mother) is growing. My hope surges when I see growing numbers of manly men endorsing the shift to feminine values.

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