Male Belonging: Why “pride” is irrelevant

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 10.06.11 amReflecting on “Masculine Pride” I find myself asking,”Why do we need to attach pride to gender to be OK with having male bodies?”

For me, masculinity is not something to be either ashamed of or proud of, it simply exists. And it exists in a context that is fundamentally male supremacist, which makes it a slippery fish to discuss.

Gender takes up way too much room in the box where we have been indoctrinated by the patriarchy to find and express identity.

Gender, race and “occupation” (how we make money) are the mainstays of patriarchal identity. There is an implied hierarchy on an identity continuum.

Race is assumed, based upon appearance. The hierarchy continuum is white, brown, black.

Conventionally, gender was also assumed based upon appearance. This is no longer true, to the dismay of conventional dominant culture. The gender hierarchy continuum is straight, male, female, lesbian, gay, trans. The data supporting this is relative homicide statistics and hate crime victimization rates.

Once the first two questions are answered, “So what do you do?” is the next thing we need to know to place a person in the hierarchy of the status quo. This continuum puts laborers, farmers, unemployed persons and indigenous people at the bottom of the scale and pen pushers, celebrities and billionaires at the top.

These sources of identity are vertically oriented and create a constant feeling of anxiety in nine tenths of the population.

In cultures which are primarily oral, and secondarily literate, like most indigenous cultures, the primary locating questions are about relationships not status. “Where are you from?”, “Who are you related to?” and “Do you know so-and-so?”

The first can be answered satisfactorily in two ways: where you live now or where you were born. The second is an effort to determine kinship, or the degree of kinship separation, and the possibility that we might even know someone in common. These sources of identity do not imply hierarchy status but rather are horizontal and imply connection.

Pride, when attached to masculinity, especially the question, “What are you proud of as a man?” tends to push us into a patriarchal framework of identity. Menʻs groups which are specifically exploring questions about masculine identity in the context of feminist social critique spend a lot of time exploring accountability and unraveling male shame. This is hard work with many pitfalls.

It is not uncommon for men who are doing this work to try to balance the negativity of these explorations by asking, “What are you proud of as a man?”

It is as if seeking and reinforcing pride has some magically uplifting quality that everyone deserves to claim equally without regard for what circumstances they are handed by dominant society based upon their position in the gender, race and occupation hierarchy.

The question also assumes a connection between identity, sense of worth and gender.

Both of these assumptions are derived from the fundamentally alienated sources of identity in the patriarchal identity hierarchy.

The first act of conquest in colonization is to kill or assimilate the spiritual and political leadership of the indigenous people. This expresses the patriarchal principle that might makes right.

The second act of conquest is to claim ownership of the land and resources. This breaks the fundamental identification of a people with their landscape and their physical and spiritual sustenance.

The third act of colonization is to impose hierarchical culture and religion on the conquered people if they are animist and ancestral, or to replace a previous hierarchical culture and religion with a new one if they had been conquered and converted before.

Before colonization, people derive identity from their ancestry, their cultural practices, their language and their deeply connected relationship to place. Who you are is a matter of to whom and to where you belong. Identity and belonging are equivalent.

In traditional societies exile was often more feared than death. To be exiled was to be cut off from belonging and thus identity. To be exiled was to be without land or kinship, to be no-one, not a person.

When there is no conception of “ranked identity” in your world view, the experience of belonging and being of value is integral to existence.

This is the experience one hopes for for oneʻs children in the context of innocence and family. In contemporary society, loss of innocence is the recognition that belonging is conditional and worth is scaled.

Identity suddenly matters when there is a possibility of being lower or higher on the scale of “might makes right” identity.

This is a fundamentally alienated state of existence. All questions of pride and identity in dominant culture are conducted within the assumed condition of alienation and a broken sense of belonging, but without acknowledgment of that condition. Because everyone shares the same basic alienation it is “normal” and therefore unquestioned.

The path of liberation from the consequences of colonization is different depending upon many factors. Most of these factors have a lot to do with where a person falls on in the identity hierarchy of patriarchy. The specific cultural nuances of how a particular patriarchy expresses its authority is also a factor.

If you are a man you are handed pride as a birthright. If you are a woman you are handed shame and inferiority as your birthright. Obviously this dichotomy is not accurate or nuanced. If you are a rich woman you get some of everything. If you are a black man you get more of everything.

But for the sake of discussing pride in the context of privilege and oppression, claiming pride is healing and liberating for those who are denied it in the hierarchy. Womenʻs pride and black pride make sense in the struggle for liberation. Male pride does not.

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In the long run we all need to reach for belonging as our source for identity.

When our identity begins to approximate that of our indigenous past, our sense of worth, and therefore our pride, is rooted in our sense of belonging, which is to say, our connectedness to place, ancestry and kin (which includes teachers, mentors and friends).

It is more important for men to ask themselves what they are doing to promote their sense of belonging than what they are proud of.

Where is our sense of self worth growing? Authentic unalienated self worth stems from being in service to that to which we belong.

To whom and where do we belong? How are we connecting with and serving our community? How are we connecting with and serving nature?

These are the questions that will help men dodge the bullets of gender hierarchy and alienated identity. Pride is not a factor that relates meaningfully to menʻs healing and transformation.

The Sin of Property

“The sin of property we do disdain. No one has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain.”

Leon Rosselson – The Diggersʻ Song

Private ownership of land has always been at the root of state patriarchy. It is most certainly at the root of global state capitalism.

In order for some persons to own land, others must be excluded from owning land.

This creates a basic class division in society between owners and non-owners.

In order to exclude persons from owning land or from having free access to land, social mechanisms must be employed to separate people from the land. This fundamental alienation separates the common person from their direct source of sustenance.

Over time, mechanisms of exclusion become codified as social and political laws.

In order for laws to be effective they need to have either broad societal consent or some mechanism of force to back them up. Usually there is some combination of both consent and force on the social contract continuum.

In traditional, sustenance oriented, village, clan and tribal societies that rely on oral systems of law and governance (ie. indigenous cultures) social consent forms the primary basis for law and compliance, with much less emphasis on the use of force.

Such societies did not conceive of land as property, but rather as a shared resource that came with a sacred social responsibility to protect as the source of community sustenance and vitality. Often, these societies did not even have the conceptual framework to conceive of land as property.

In order for land to become personal property, which implies rights of exclusion, the view of land as sacred and belonging to itself, or to the elemental forces or gods that govern nature, must be abandoned and ultimately broken as a social and philosophical norm.

Land cannot be both owned as personal property and held as sacred. What is sacred and eternal and governed by natural law and mystery must, by definition, be outside of private ownership. No one owns the universe and therefore no one can own the gods or the pathways to the gods or god.

Only patriarchal religious establishments claim otherwise. And historically such religions have always supported and reinforced the rule of law by force, rather than consent, in state patriarchies.

From the beginning, city and state patriarchies have used violence and brutality, and the threat of violence, as their primary source of authority. Violence establishes and maintains law and social order according to the dictates of the owning class. Ownership of land is the primary mechanism of holding and maintaining wealth and power over classes of non-owners under patriarchal systems.

The philosophical basis of this system is “might makes right.” This premise might be disguised under religious or democratic window dressing but always exists at the heart of patriarchy.

When property has rights, violence is the arbiter of law. It can be no other way.

This poses serious problems for modern so-called democracies. All states and state institutions universally agree upon state or private ownership of land. All states and state institutions therefore rely upon force and violence as the ultimate source of their authority.

This is inherently anti-consensual and therefore inherently anti-democratic.

Therefore ownership of the land, the earth, is inherently anti-democratic.

We have a problem. How can we expect state actors to be helpful? Their source of authority comes fundamentally from violence, exclusion and the separation of the owning class from the laboring classes and upon the alienation of the common person from their direct source of sustenance. Patriarchal states exist to compete for dominance.

How can we possibly expect state actors to do anything about the deliberate greed that is consuming the earthʻs capacity to maintain regenerative living systems?

The struggle for peace with justice, the effort to address climate catastrophe with justice and the fight to democratize society must inherently stand against the “sin of private property.”

We must never believe that we can generate lasting solutions by petitioning the patriarchal state for reform.

We can strategically petition for reforms that will buy us and our planet time. But these can only be understood as transition strategies, not as solutions. The Green New Deal is a very important transition strategy to fight for. It is not a real solution in the long run because it cannot address the global injustices of North and South.

Unfortunately, all of this is much too bitter of a pill (or too red of a pill in Matrix terminology) for most people to swallow. This is because it strikes directly at the heart of our deep cultural indoctrination under patriarchal rule.

It is a practice of calculated restraint to be a revolutionary while strategically fighting for mere reforms to an inherently corrupt system. This is exactly the place to engage in ongoing debate about strategies moving forward.

To Remember is to Repair

We must not glorify any part of history. We must remember where we have come from.

We must honor the moments when our humanity shone its light upon truth, courage and justice. And we must tell the stories of humanities most horrible failings without edit. Then we must learn from every part of our past, the beautiful and the ugly. This is what it means to re-member, to put back together, our legacy.

Our history is not what we are taught in school or on TV.

That “history” is merely the narrative of the patriarchs: carefully selected stories that glorify the procession of the elites toward greater and greater wealth and power through time. Dominant “history” deliberately obscures the reality and experiences of indigenous peoples, women, slaves, workers, soldiers and non-conforming persons.

Civilization, as we currently know it to be, has produced great works of beauty and great works of horror. It has produced great works of engineering and great works of ecological destruction. It has aspired to freedom and committed itself to endless war.

Modernity is witnessing an unambiguous escalation of the paradoxes inherent to nation-state civilization culminating in the twin threats of nuclear war and global climate catastrophe.

We have achieved the unbelievable at the cost of the unbearable.

We can travel to the moon and we can send voices, data and moving pictures through space and time. We can lay waste to whole cities and nations with the push of a button.

But we do not care enough yet to feed the hungry, care for the ill, lift up the poor, empower women, stop hatred, turn away from war, share wealth, protect and serve the health of nature and respect diverse cultures.

Civilization, as we currently know and experience it, appears to be failing. Any young person who rejects the dominant indoctrination can see this truth clearly.

Donald Trump is the perfect leader of the most powerful state apparatus civilization has yet produced. He expresses as an individual what civilization has become as a system: a web of self-reinforcing narcissistic institutions consumed by greed and power, deliberately in denial of the obvious, and proud of it.

If it is not clear to you by now that the Republican Party in the United States is expressing a modern manifestation of what we called out and fought as fascism in Europe 80 years ago, then you are not being honest with yourself, or you are not paying attention.

The Democratic Party is at least struggling with the dilemmas of our times, even if its most accurate and vocal reformers are not fully capable of facing and addressing global and systemic truths head on.

The only movements that are fully facing the truth of our times are the international indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice movement and the most clear-sighted youth led factions of the climate justice movement.

This makes perfect sense because indigenous communities are and have always been at the business end of the rape, pillage, enslave and exterminate policies of state sponsored conquest and resource extraction. Youth are inheriting a catastrophe and they know it.

This does not mean that indigenous people and youth, alone, have the solutions for our existential global crisis.

It does mean that indigenous and youth voices represent points of view that we must strive to understand and work to elevate to a platform of leadership in global political and philosophical debate.

We must learn from indigenous cultural wisdom and from the indigenous narrative of modern history. We must hear the impassioned call, and the piercing critique, of the youth.

We must not turn away from the fact that nation-state civilizations have an unfathomable historic debt to pay for ruthless expansion, genocide, slavery, war and arrogance over the last ten thousand years.

The only way to pay our debt is to put every resource at our disposal to work turning around the damage we have caused culturally and ecologically.

Reparations are required for our mutual survival at this point in history. Cultural and ecological restoration is mandatory for survival.

What reparations need to look like must be a collective conversation, but not whether there should be reparations or not.

We must replace glorification of history with a real commitment to reparations for the horrors of our past. Then we will be prepared to move forward.