Saturday, February 21, 2015

Health and Human Rights and Women

Women heal the world.pngIn the International Health and Human Rights class I'm taking at Stanford, I'm having to confront some very uncomfortable issues. I knew "intellectually" about the oppression of women planet-wide, but that kept me safe at a distance from real harm or real emotion. Since joining the class, I've not just "learned" about how women all over the world "give up" their rights involuntarily at the hands of men, I have come to know some of those women. They have become real people to me because I can interact with them in real time. Imagine the stories that begin "in my country.." and that recount similar yet divergent ways in which women's sovereignty is violated.

How does this happen in the modern age? In the 21st century? Well, it's an old tradition the arises out of ignorance and a sense of "entitlement" on the part of men. Many men around the world believe it's a privilege of their gender to do whatever they wish to women in their culture. Incredulously, some of these same men complain about fascism, cast systems, domination and slavery.

Entitlement and domination come through economic suppression, illiteracy or lack of education, an accident of geography or birth, cultural traditions, religious doctrine, tribal and other rivalry, attempts at ethnic cleansing through forced procreation, war-making and just plain... opportunity.
What is it about human nature that welcomes superiority and an opportunity to wield "power over" another human being? Do we believe so little in our own intrinsic worth that we feel compelled and satisfied to diminish someone else's?

What's really striking about the practice of entitlement, superiority and domination over other beings is that as humans we are NOT hard-wired for barbarism. We are actually hard-wired for empathy and compassion. It's hard work to overcome one's natural inclinations so as to justify the submission of other humans in whatever form that takes. It's a practice of the ego, not of the human heart. We literally have to "harden our hearts" to accomplish violence, barbarism, terrorism and war.

Given the times in which we live and the urgencies that face us as a planet running out of resources, running out of tolerance for human consumption, waste and folly, and running out of time-- we might want to look at how to develop solidarity instead of creating differences artificially and acting out of illusion or delusions that there somehow is forever or endless capacity for human infantilism and egocentrism.

Newsflash: This is not the planet I signed up for:
Bully Women and You Risk the Planet:
(Article at the Charter for Compassion)

And neither did you.

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A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...