Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Chalice and the Blade—and Trump

December 30, 2016  New Year hope despite chaos

Since the election I have been veering back and forth between fighting despair and being the one to console others near despair. I counted ten Trump appointments of persons apparently committed to destroying the departments they should manage. They threaten justice, labor, money policies, environment, education, energy, commerce, housing, and health care.
We are on the cusp of change coming from chaos. I fear the center cannot hold.

William Butler Yeats, a poet of yesteryear, has a poem for our time:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Looking for hope, I had a talk with a mentor/friend of mine who would hesitate to call herself a psychic, but significant images come to her. I was not surprised to hear an optimistic message from her. Twice she saw the image of the sun rising—right before the election and right after. The sun was farther over the horizon after the election of Donald Trump.

Her interpretation of the images:
  The recent images just before and after the election are saying we have reached the tipping point and the light will begin to be on the ascendant. I realize it sure doesn't look like that at the moment.
   There is a lot of inertia.  Doing a mass 180-degree turnaround "socially, or culturally"  is like turning around the biggest ship imaginable. As an analogy, the engines have been put in reverse to slow the ship down enough so it can gradually be turned in the opposite direction.
   Among all the influences and feedback we've been getting for decades, Trump's election seems to be the final weight that is tipping the balance. He is apparently "the straw that will break the camel's back." Seen from within the culture at the moment, it sure looks like chaos.
   "The center cannot hold.” From my perspective, the center is already rotten to the core. Trump is just bringing it into very bold, can't-be-missed, focus. Every single person, wittingly or (mostly) unwittingly, is complicit to some degree in the present situation.
   Every thought we think, every belief we act on, every single purchase we make, every interaction we have—with another person, animal, plant, institution, whatever –is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.
   Look at the food people buy: fake food loaded with harmful chemicals, devoid of minerals and nutrition to keep them healthy. Meat from animals who are treated horribly, and loaded with body-destroying chemicals. A vote for industrial agriculture.
   Then, when sick, there are lots of votes for a medical system that only treats symptoms, not causes. A vote for the pharmaceutical industry, which turns out drugs at a prodigious rate that they know can make you sicker.
  The voting goes on and on in every moment of your life.  And it all has resulted in the present world situation.
  We've all had our input on both the light and dark sides. Now we are almost forced to become conscious of our daily votes and start making wiser choices.
I cannot believe we are headed for doom. Our country is strong enough to survive a Trump presidency. I take heart from the promise of the images.

Comment:
Steve Applegate commented:

    This was written around the time of World War I, when everything in society seemed to be engulfed in chaos. We survived then and will survive again.



February 11, 2017

Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade has relevance to Trumpism:
     Myths of classical Greece show how the male-centered invaders who conquered female-centered societies thousands of years earlier also conquered minds. In the earliest Greek myths, Hera reigns supreme as the Queen of Heaven. In the male system, she becomes the jealous wife of the all-powerful thunder-god Zeus. Greek religion even grants Zeus a power unique to women. The goddess Athena springs fully-formed from his head; he fathers a daughter without the help of any mother!

Greek drama of the fifth century B.C.E. deserves our respect for its artistic value, but it also deserves our criticism for its anti-feminine values, as illustrated in the Oresteia, a trilogy by Aeschylus. 
Stripped of its artistry, the plot in brief repels us. Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia. To avenge his crime, Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon and mother of Iphigenia, kills Agamemnon. Then their son Orestes avenges that act by killing his mother Clytemnestra.

Orestes is brought to trial and absolved for murdering his mother. On what grounds? The god Apollo argues that a mother is not truly a parent, only a vessel to nourish the father’s seed. He points to Athena, saying, “There can be a father without any mother.” Athena agrees that only fathers are related to their children. Expropriation of female power is complete.

Can there be a more effective victory over feminine values? Christian myth copied it.

But today, the power of the Father/Son myth is waning. This monumental change is evidenced by the “nones,” the 25 percent, and growing, of U.S. society non-affiliated with religion. Other phenomena signaling the shift are frequent messages of love and acceptance in public discourse and growing rejection of capital punishment.
A large signal of a major shift is the uproar surrounding Donald Trump.

His choices to head departments and agencies designed to protect health care, housing, economic security, clean energy, fair access to technology, voting rights, a safe environment, and mutual respect have histories of undermining the very institutions they will now head.

When Trump rolled out the names, I looked for the source of the force behind Donald Trump, who doesn’t have the brains or the ultra-right inclination. All Trump gets out of dismantling protections is the celebrity-attention of being Disrupter-in-Chief. Who’s the driver behind the scene? I thought Mike Pence.

It is Steve Bannon. White America first, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, militarism—all espoused by Bannon and consistent with the values of warrior tribes that overtook peaceful, woman-centered civilizations thousands of years before Jesus of Nazareth lived.
     Bannon, who is Catholic, allies with Vatican hardliners who oppose Pope Francis' more compassionate approach to church doctrine. Bannon sees the world in a fundamental clash of civilizations—Islam versus Christianity—and the “church militant” needs to actively fight “this new barbarity,” he says. He is livid with zeal.

When a system is dying, resistance to the shift toward an unfamiliar paradigm flares dramatically. Bannon’s opposition to Pope Francis perfectly illustrates this. Our country is being ruled by the extreme ideology of Steve Bannon and the emotionally-damaged Donald Trump.  But there is hope. The blazing show of Donald Trump/Steve Bannon signals patriarchy in demise.

"Intelligence Squared" debates pit four debaters against each other, two on each side. The debate over the proposition, “Give Trump a Chance,” reinforced my feeling that we stand at a crisis point that will generate massive changes. Only one debater defended Trump. The other debater on the side of giving Trump a chance argued that our institutions are strong enough to resist Trump’s destructive policies and those who voted for him need time to reconsider their vote.

I didn’t care which side of the debate won; I wanted to hear debaters argue to give or not give Donald Trump a chance as a way of gauging whether our society is choosing cooperation and partnership over domination and competition.
How much resistance is building to the Trump administration’s stance against others and over others? That even the debater who argued to give Trump a chance recognized the destructiveness of his policies assures me that stereotypically-feminine values indeed are surging. 

I am not arguing for feminine qualities to overtake masculine qualities and reign alone. We need masculine strength, independence, and confidence. We need balance,   and this has been missing for millennia, ever since warrior tribes invaded and conquered matrilineal societies during the fifth and fourth millennia B.C.E., and replaced their peaceful, egalitarian cultures with warlike, hierarchical ones.

More next time.

January 31, 2017
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” above).



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.