- Kosmos Journal
- Kosmos Online
- Kosmos Live
- Digital Subscription
- Log In
By Alnoor Ladha, for One Billion Rising and Kosmos Online
One Billion Rising is celebrating its sixth year of risings taking place from February 14 to International Women’s Day on March 8. You can find out more and join the movement here.
The last 18 months have been indelibly defined by the rise of a feminist revival. The #MeToo campaign was a cultural matchstick sitting upon a tinderbox of a patriarchal system built over thousands of years.
But there is more to it than this. If we look at the broader currents of what is happening, we are seeing a profound shift in values away from what has often been called dominator logic. This is not just a re-balancing of masculine versus feminine values, but a redefining of the central tension of anti-life versus life-centric values that are at the very core of our global operating system.
Of course, there can be no tidy narrative of linear progress. Reality is far more complex, haptic and entangled. We are simultaneously witnessing the dissolution and apotheosis of late-stage capitalism, which in its death throes is producing peak-hierarchy, peak-violence, peak-patriarchy and peak-delusion (along with the strongmen embodiments of these values in world leaders such as Trump, Putin, Netanyahu and Modi).
I do not pretend to have answers for where we are going or even what the shift from the male-dominator logic will mean, but I would like to offer three reflections that might provide a different lens from which to view the coming transition. These ideas were triggered by seeing the powerful My Revolution video by the social movement One Billion Rising.
Capitalism and patriarchy are mutually reinforcing
As we begin to understand the consequences of the 5,000-year spread of patriarchal logic – from species extinction to eco-systems collapse to perpetual war – a more constellational worldview is forming. Climate change, increasing inequality and rampant poverty are not “externalities” of a well-functioning system, as the economists would have us believe, but rather the logical outcome of a set of rules, norms and cultural practices that stretch back to our invention of agriculture and creation of the first city-states.
History builds upon itself in reinforcing feedback loops. We cannot create a society built on masculine values – including rewarding competition, aggression, violence, rationalism and domination – and expect the outcome to be anything else than our current plight as a civilization on the brink of existence.
Although the traditional essentialism of ideas such as “masculinity” versus “femininity” are reductive, they can be useful shorthand when it comes to identifying general tendencies. The upshot being that masculine values are primarily responsible for the historical creation of the violent, patriarchal culture that gave birth to proto-capitalism and then capitalism itself.
The economic operating system has been programmed to extract more, consume more, and control more. The system rewards those who best serve its prime directive: to increase capital. This is the epitome of dominator culture, which rewards men exponentially. As such, we as men must go beyond being ‘allies’ by recognizing and calling out patriarchy; we must become allies in actively dismantling the system and helping to usher in post-capitalist, life-centric values. This is not simply a moral requirement or a form of redemption. It is the necessary pre-condition to ensure that we can maintain Life on this planet.
Patriarchy is a mind-virus
When most people think about memes they think of LOL cats or other viral internet memes. But the technical definition of a meme is a unit of cultural meaning. Richard Dawkins, who coined the term in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene says, “Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain, via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.”
If we understand patriarchy in this broader sense, as a memetic virus that moves from host to host, mutating to suit its various cultural environments, we start to understand what we’re up against. Although patriarchy is institutionalized through systems and structures, it is also latent in the inner structures of the mind. That means patriarchy is not solely gender-determined. One only needs to think of the archetype of the ambitious Western corporate female or NGO bureaucrat to see how patriarchal memes are internalized and re-propagated.
We also see this in progressive circles where people who are versed in power dynamics believe they are immune to the memetic virus of patriarchy. However, the thought-form mimics its own nature – it is extremely cunning, transforming itself into other forms of aggression. Even the desire to castrate men for their crimes is a form of perpetuating the virus of patriarchy (however much they may deserve it). One may argue that this is somehow the shadow of feminism, but if you accept the memetic perspective, even the more extreme feminist reaction is in fact the shadow of patriarchy.
No one is immune to the virus. Everyone who has been affected by globalized capitalist culture has been infected. To varying degrees, we are all carriers of dominator logic.
The revolution is not just political
In order to create the antigen to the patriarchy virus that exists within us, we must address our inner world. This is a frightening proposition to most, and often regarded as irrelevant to the political process. But if disembodied, rationalist men, largely socialized in the dominant culture, are disproportionately powerful agents of creating modern reality, then surely their spiritual and psychological development is a key factor in creating the possibility of what is to come.
This is not to say that we should not focus on the material aspects of creation such as building new forms of political economy, but rather, we must complement building new infrastructure with re-wiring the inner world of the male psyche. This can take many forms including mindfulness practices, psychotherapy, men’s groups, working with psychedelic substances in ceremonial settings, etc. It may also mean rethinking the very fabric of our relationships – whether they be romantic relationships, our relationship to our own body, our community structures and our relationship with the living planet.
Whatever the avenue, the goal is to de-school the mind from the patriarchal dominator logic that is at the heart of capitalism. Patriarchy and capitalism are intertwined and interdependent thought-forms; they co-evolved, after all. We will not transcend capitalism until we dismantle the patriarchy. And we will not transcend patriarchy until we dismantle capitalism. Importantly, we will not have a chance at either if we do not first become aware of how the mind-virus of patriarchy operates within our own psyches. The challenge that lies ahead of us is as much political as it is metaphysical. It’s as much about storming the 21st century Bastilles as it is about dismantling the inner Trump that lies within us all.
About the Author
Alnoor Ladha is a co-founder of The Rules, a global collective of activists, writers, researchers, coders and others focused on addressing the root causes of inequality, poverty and climate change.
Fall | Winter 2017