Extirpate the patriarchy!
by Phil Hall
The patriarchy has Alzheimer’s. It has lost its way. It is destroying the earth for profit because it can. Cavalier, it likes war for the sake of war; for the sake of the manufacture and sale of armaments and the consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of a few old, white monkey-men. The patriarchy has lost its heroic raison d’être. We need a matriarchy now.
The resentment of subjugated womankind is enormous and justified. In the newspaper today there is an article about women who go out into the countryside in groups to scream. They are the slaves of slaves and my mother, Eve Hall, wrote an article with this title in 1970: Women are the Slaves of Slaves.
In the last three or four years, women’s liberation movements have mushroomed all over the world, spawned offshoots to the right and to the left and given birth to near lunatic groups like SCUM: The Society for Cutting up Men. It’s fairly easy to explain the sudden militancy and vocal demands.
Two generations after women wrestled the right to vote from male-ruled society, a hard fact is becoming more and more apparent; that, as votes for men did nothing to shift the power from the Capitalist class to the workers, so votes for women haven’t brought the hoped for freedom, equality and a better life.
Along with Blacks in America, students all over the world, Tanzanians, Cubans and Vietnamese, women realise that the fight is not for equal rights. The fight is for change in society itself. ‘Genuine equality can only be realised in the process of socialist transformation of society as a whole.’
A hundred years ago a US newspaper magnate, James Gorden Bennett, said:
‘How did women first become subject to man, as she is now all over the world? By her nature, her sex, just as the negro is and always will be to the end of time inferior to the white race and, therefore, doomed to subjection; but she is happier than she would be in any other condition, just because it is the law of nature…’
Eve Hall, Transition (1970)
Think of the anger of Black people whose forebears, 500 years ago, were enslaved and who suffered 300 years of the European slave trade. Now think of the anger that has built up over the last 5,000 years of the absolute oppression of women, only recently somewhat alleviated in the metropolis. And, inhumanly, the patriarchy expects women to accept that oppression and to behave like Stepford Wives.
Some women are pretty angry about the situations they find themselves in and they take it out on their kids and husbands. They become very cruel. Many children are taken into care not only because of abusive fathers, but because of abusive mothers. We have all felt these great streaks of anger in women who are rightfully furious about the disadvantages they face and the subjugation they experience. Men, to their chagrin, often feel that anger in their wives and – when they lack understanding – they think it unaccountable. Brothers feel it in their sisters. This incredible rage is often controlled and softened by love, forgiveness and understanding, but not always. No wonder there are parties of women going out into the fields to scream.
Have you been to the Arabian Peninsula or India, or Latin America, or Japan, or to any country in Africa? The patriarchy in different forms is absolutely everywhere and its omnipresence is obvious to anyone but a fool. In Europe and the USA, the patriarchy is still good and strong, don’t you worry. Many of the men there want to exert their rights over women’s reproductive systems. The patriarchy is where women’s reproduction is regulated and controlled by men. The patriarchy is not an abstraction; it contains us all; it is the zeitgeist, and the only reason for not acknowledging the existence of a patriarchy is that, perhaps, to you, it is the water you swim in, as natural as the air you breathe.
It is true, of course, that some women become evil and that some of the ideas of matriarchy can be evil, too. It is not all one sided. Take the examples of the Goddesses Kali and Tanit and the Fates. The female Goddess is a life giver, but the female Goddess also cuts the thread of life. She has her reasons. In destruction and death there is renewal. So, there is a sinister side to Gaia.
The story I tell myself to explain how the matriarchy ended is to imagine that the patriarchal religions in the Levant and Arabia replaced a certain, very cruel, matriarchal religion: the religion of Tanit– a version of Ishtar. Tanit is symbolised by the triangle. Infants in Carthage were sent back to their great mother through an oven in to placate her. This was the Tophet. Children were burned alive to please the Goddess. You can see their bones in museums in Tunisia.
If you look at Islam, it replaced the fertility religion of the three women of Arabia, in particular, Alia, or Al-Lat, the childbearing mother whose centre used to be at the Ka’aba. In The Golden Bough, for example, fertility relied on a king chosen for a year who was then killed and chopped up and ploughed into the Earth.
The matriarchy became cruel because the climate changed in the north of Africa, the Levant and Arabia. The earth became drier and stopped being so fertile. From being generous and beneficent, the Goddess became cruel, mean and hard to please. What followed was the outraged rejection of this cruel religion by the people in favour of something more heroic and positive: the male religions.
In fact, Nietzsche, at root, is not really against the Jehovian religion. He was for it. His idea of the hero who solves problems and derives his (because it was always a ‘his’) morality from science, engineering and unifying national achievements, is right there in embryo in the macho religions of the Middle East and in most of the religions of the axial age. Karen Armstrong is wrong. The defining characteristic of the Axial Age religions was not kindness, but heroism. They were tough guys, the inventors of those new world views. Buddha was a hard man. Buddha was a Nietzschean. He was a James Bond of a God-man; detached from suffering.
My argument is for a rebalancing.
The foundations of our current society are about macho control. Our spirituality, and our science is macho, too. Typically, we think we understand things less so by accepting and embracing complexity, and focusing on the subtle nature of complex systems, but through macho, numerical, Procrustean, reductionism – by smashing things together and looking at the bits.
I believe that we will only really be able to understand the answers to the deeper questions like the birthing of the universe when we uproot the language and values of the patriarchy. It imprisons and blinkers us. The analogies we use are patriarchal and phallocentric flawed by a Cyclopean masculine vision; language is built on metaphor and our language reeks with the metaphors of war, business as war, and misogyny.
From the patriarchal perspective, the beginning of the universe was a Big Bang, thank you Maam. But from the matriarchal perspective the singularity was pregnant with complex possibilities and, perhaps, responsibilities. The singularity was a seed that grew which blossomed into a universe. It wasn’t a bombshell. Bombs don’t create life. The analogy given to us of the universe is of violent explosion, not growth and blossoming. Which analogy is more accurate, given that the universe produced life, and sentient life, which might very well be ubiquitous? One analogy is more fruitful. The DNA of life was present in the singularity. How could it not be?
The social sciences suffer terribly when they ape the objectivist methodologies of the hard sciences. In doing so, they look ridiculous; the fantasy of being able to measure the mind and learning accurately through behaviour is an example of an alienating, imitative stupidity.
Nearly all the science in the patriarchy that is selected and funded, is science for profit. Big macho science is there to help control and oppress people and nature; the sciences of the great corporate monopolies are intent on facilitating the concentration of power and wealth and setting up barriers to entry. There is no nurturing altruism about them. The bottom line is not general well-being and prosperity, it is profit. Get real, shlemiel! Doing good is for the birds, the romantics.
But we can’t just rebalance. It’s not enough. We must go further. Before we can rebalance, we must extirpate the patriarchy in our language and thoughts. Our language (and therefore our thoughts) are permeated with the values and concepts of the patriarchy which constrict our thinking and understanding.
The domination of men over women is recently imposed and artificial. The male view sees the world as the survival of the fittest, the cleverest and the strongest. But, increasingly, as women get back their agency, their power, this stops being true.
Evolution is the survival of the men woman want. Increasingly, women choose who they want to reproduce with. It is women who decide on the course of our evolution, not Frankenstein-like geneticists. In an age of social medicine, antibiotics, relative peace and equal rights, human evolution is not really going to be about the survival of the toughest men anymore, but about the survival of the cutest.
Another example: all around us we see buildings going up like penises. Rockets, too. But when Zaha Hadid made her design for the stadium in Japan, in Japan the Japanese macho commissioners were shocked. They rejected Zaha Hadid’s stadium because it resembled a vagina. The very spaces we live in reflect the values of the patriarchy. For most of human history, we have lived in caves and in huts with hearths in harmony with life, but when big alpha monkey men enslaved huge numbers of people and herded them into cities to fester, they built up great prick-like buildings. These are the Ozymandiases, the whole lot of them. If we allow them to, they will destroy the planet and leave desolation behind them; lone and level sands.
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The patriarchy is sclerotic. It has lost the plot. It wants war for the sake of war, for the sake of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few old white alpha monkey-men. It has lost its heroic raison d’etre, and we need the matriarchy now.