September 26th, 2018

Patriarchy, Unconsciousness, and the United States Government

Like many people, I have recently felt somewhere along the spectrum of affected to triggered by both the accusations of sexual misconduct directed at Brett Kavanaugh and the response to them from politicians and the culture at large. Interestingly, I have perhaps felt most triggered so far by the insights in Lili Loofbourow’s article entitled “Brett Kavanaugh and the Cruelty of Male Bonding,” which resonates strongly with me.

Why? Because this is the kind of man that has, for as long as I can remember, been the one that has seethed me to my core. The kind I have historically most dreaded, most despised; by whom I have felt most enraged and toward whom I have felt violent urges that surprised me. I have yet to come close to carrying any such violent impulses out, and at this point carrying them out no longer feels forthcoming or like the point. The point is that this is the kind of man I was always considering, always including, when I felt compelled to discount men as a whole, when I thought men and women were at intrinsic odds with each other. It was because I knew this kind of man existed.

The first error in that perspective was that I was identifying the men in question rather than the behavior. I am relieved to say it is now obvious to me that the behavior (more precisely, the manifestation of unconsciousness) is what I despise rather than the human beings themselves.

The second is that there is no reason for different genders to intrinsically be at odds, of course. On the contrary. It is simply the patriarchy that provides the breeding ground for that perspective and that circumstance.

Of course, the patriarchy has been with our species for some time. So much so that we have become inoculated to it—we think it is literally the way life is, the way the species is built or designed or needs to exist. This, upon reflection, is not only patently absurd but fascinatingly ironic: It is ironic to perceive a structure within which we operate as a species as something inherent rather than as a result of any number of collective experiences, developments, circumstances, since we tend to recognize the case of the latter so easily in our individual lives.

I recently finished reading Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. Cleopatra and Mark Antony ultimately faced defeat in a war waged by Augustus Caesar. Caesar rallied Rome’s populace with the same kind of fear and manipulation we use to rally large numbers of our species today. Caesar was of Rome, which, according to Schiff, had quite a different perspective about people and culture than did Egypt, which Cleopatra ruled. For one thing, they were far more patriarchal. For whatever reason, Egypt did not experience the rampant sexism Rome did at the time.

Astute readers may already have realized that means that the world could be a very different place had Cleopatra and Antony happened to prevail in that war. (As well as had the Roman perspective thus not been the one to largely convey the history of that time.) And that’s just one relatively small, though rather significant, instance of how an event in human history affected the perspective and experience—and socialization—of the species as a whole. If we consider how it is that our own individual lives could have taken innumerable trajectories, the intricate seeming chances and random tiny or large choices or incidents affecting them in profound and inevitably unpredictable ways, is it then so hard to imagine that the macrocosm, cultures, countries, indeed the whole of human history, reflects the same phenomenon? The human species could look inconceivably different for any of these kinds of incidents, turns, choices, collective events. They happened as they appeared to. They could have happened differently.

To assume the species’ trajectory or the perceptions as we currently experience them are the “natural way of things” or somehow intrinsic to the existence or survival of the species rather than, as we recognize in an individual sense, a series of incidents and choices from any number of potentialities and possibilities, represents an astonishing obliviousness and indication of the trappings and arrogance of the egoic mind.

The egoic mind being the one via which we’re usually perceiving.

***

I was in eighth grade during the Anita Hill hearings. I was old enough that I remember hearing the names “Anita Hill” and “Clarence Thomas” but didn’t really understand why or what the conversation was about. I didn’t grasp the significance of a nomination to the Supreme Court, and I didn’t overtly know a lot about sexual harassment.

The other day, I watched a brief montage of scenes from Anita Hill’s 1991 questioning by the judiciary committee. I was aware that it was compiled to show some of the most egregious scenes and moments of those hearings, but I didn’t really need for it to. I know what that kind of questioning looks like, what it comprises, what it implies, what it demonstrates about the questioners and the contextual culture. I didn’t need to watch the senators to understand the repugnantly predictable treatment she underwent at that time.

Rather, I was interested in watching her. I had not been paying enough attention to do so at the time and had never seen footage of her testimony.

It took well under 30 seconds for me to feel no doubt she was telling the truth. This isn’t because of what she said in particular. It was simply an awareness as I watched her. Granted, it’s not as though I had doubt before I watched the footage—like Christine Blasey Ford, she had nothing to gain by making such a thing up and much to lose. It’s just that watching her confirmed the confidence in me that Anita Hill was telling the truth.

Though I knew little to nothing about her accusations against Clarence Thomas at the time, much less the implications of what Clarence Thomas was being considered for and why Anita Hill was talking about whatever she was talking about, I do seem to recall getting the sense that there was something shameful, something improper, about the subject whenever her and Thomas’s names came up. I would say now that that didn’t actually have to do with the fact that she was offering an accusation of harassment. I would say it was because the very subject of sex was being touched upon. Because that’s how we tend to feel and speak whenever sexuality comes up. As though impropriety is somehow instantly in the room as well.

This is one of the reasons we experience so much distortion around sexuality. Because we have learned for millennia that there is something shameful about it, something embarrassing, something that makes it so we shouldn’t talk about it or recognize it or respect it as much as we talk about and recognize and respect eating, for example, or exercising, or birthing, or creating. Sex is every bit as intrinsic as any of those things. It is, in fact, where we came from; it seems to me hard to get much more intrinsic to human life and experience than that.

And yet we find it a shameful, an embarrassing, a somehow inappropriate subject to talk sincerely about. Which manifests in things such as sexual repression, gender socialization and discrimination, an absence of sexuality education, sexual harassment, rape culture…and a situation where a young man can sexually assault someone in high school and be a serious contender for a seat on the United States Supreme Court decades later.

Nominated by a president whom we saw on tape say he grabs pussies without concern for consent.

***

Deborah Ramirez has stated that Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into her face without her consent. As Loofbourow points out, this is alleged to have been done in the company of a number of Kavanaugh’s male peers and thus, arguably, for their benefit as well, with little to no regard for the subject/recipient of his antics. This is indeed the kind of behavior that has stemmed from a patriarchy rooted in profoundly ugly distortions around the feminine, the masculine, and sexuality.

Some will already have noted that Brett Kavanaugh has continued to insert his presence where it is unwelcome, behaving the same way from what is now considered a more “adult” position of wielding official command via channels of government- or corporate-rendered authority. As a judge, he has had the government-sanctioned clout to dictate what women do with their bodies, to metaphorically shove his penis in their space without their interest or consent, unconsciously feeling said anatomy should be the last word, the highest priority, something to be wielded indiscriminately with greater impunity than any woman’s right to her autonomy and sexuality.

That is, ultimately, what Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch have in common in this situation. The unconscious attachment to their penises as representative of an authority granted solely by the fragile and arbitrary structure of patriarchy is a higher priority to them than anything women in general say, feel, or do. More important, even, than women’s very existence as autonomous human beings. Influenced by unconscious fear and insecurity, these men have been driven to see their penises as the most important thing in the room.

In that respect, I differ with them greatly.

***

A perspective that has been notable to me of late is that of Lindsey Graham, who has expressed to the press that he thinks Christine Blasey Ford “is being used [by the Democrats] here.” Ah, yes. Such a silly little girl she is, so eager for random Democrats’ approval that she concocted a careful story that is so careful she doesn’t remember certain details of it (not recalling certain details is, as we all know, an excellent way to convince potential skeptics) just so they would pat her on the back and tell her what a good job she did! She of course found it worthwhile to forgo her sense of personal safety and the feeling that she and her family could safely remain living in their own home in order to be used in this way. Or, wait, maybe she just naively doesn’t realize she’s being used! It’s not as though she has a doctorate in psychology and may possess a little more insight into the motivations of some who may be intending to “use” her or anything.

It is unfortunate that Lindsey Graham is choosing to exhibit the condescension and entitlement of an individual lacking the wherewithal and/or courage and/or maturity to recognize and evolve beyond the levels of ignorance, obliviousness to privilege, and unconsciousness that have defined his public service and are certainly exemplified in this instance. Graham has also indicated that he does not intend to “ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this.” Interestingly, not promoting someone to sit on the highest court of the most officially powerful country in the world is arguably not “ruining one’s life.” It is disallowing someone from acceding to a position of official authority that one’s previous actions have arguably disqualified one for.

It could perhaps be argued that enduring online and offline harassment, receiving death threats, and feeling forced to move out of one’s home for the safety of one’s self and family could be considered “ruining” of one’s current life…. That hasn’t seemed to occur to Lindsey Graham. It could be that he considers Blasey willing to ruin her own life in order to “ruin” Kavanaugh’s. An interesting perspective. Or it could be something else, something we seem rather uncomfortable considering or confronting, which seems understandable given how breathtakingly appalling it is.

That is, though Lindsey Graham and his ilk are unlikely to admit it out loud, that they don’t think what Brett Kavanaugh is accused of doing is really a big deal.

Unconsciously, one of the distortions of the perspective that sees patriarchy as the “natural way of things” is that women are not only subservient and inferior to men but that what that means is that women’s autonomy literally doesn’t exist. Put another way, that when it comes right down to it, women belong to men. That would of course mean that they don’t have a right to their bodies, which also belong to men.

This may sound farfetched or like something “no one believes anymore.” I am indeed talking about a deeply unconscious perspective, so it is not likely to be forthcomingly evident to many’s conscious awareness. That is, however, how the unconscious works. And it is why, as much overt progress on the surface as society has made in securing legal rights for women in some areas of the world on subjects of domestic violence, sexual assault, and obtaining safe and legal abortion care, there is still a prevalent faction of society that, to more or less subtle degrees depending on the subject and the surrounding circumstances, just doesn’t see these things quite the same way some others of us do.

It is because they are unconsciously gripped by the (ultimately arbitrary) view of patriarchy as a structure/system of operation. They erroneously think it is a way of operating intrinsic to the existence of humanity, and it ultimately tells them that women are under the purvey of men such that their autonomy doesn’t actually exist. To this end, sexual assault itself also wouldn’t actually exist. They can make a show or even think they believe consciously that it is sometimes heinous (not likely when done by a husband, as marriage may be seen according to this view as official ownership of a woman by a man, but perhaps by a stranger—especially if the woman is already spoken for by another man, in which case the assault is actually seen as an offense against the latter man), but ultimately, it comes down to a set of maneuverings among men. The women are pawns, possessions. What is done to them has implications for the men under whose perceived “ownership” they are (father, husband, etc.); if they are under no one’s ownership, they are a potential threat to the patriarchy itself, a wayward existence that doesn’t “fit” yet and offers no reason to be considered credible or particularly important.

Again, many people would not likely realize influence from such a perspective, much less own up to it. The unconscious is a powerful thing. Our calling as human beings is to explore it in ourselves to see how it is controlling us, distorting our perspective, hindering our potential to offer the love and beauty we intrinsically are to the world.

To be clear, this is every bit as much my work as it is anyone and everyone else’s. To return to how I started this post, 20 years ago, the punitive, rageful perspective in me was abundant and dominant. I did not carry out violence at the time, but I knew I felt strongly that some individuals—specifically, men who acted like Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of acting—should receive the death penalty immediately upon conviction with little opportunity for appeal. (Ironically, at that time, I had little enough comprehension about what is called the justice system in this country that I didn’t realize how uncommon such convictions actually were. Which, I hope anyone reading this realizes, has nothing to do with how common the actual acts are.) I will admit to having wanted to perform it myself. But here’s the thing—and this is important: These very intense feelings I had about perpetrators of sexual assault were 1) largely fueled by unconscious patterns and fears in me, and 2) alarmingly oblivious to everyone’s ultimate humanity and the understanding that we are, quite literally, all One. Number two, by the way, was a direct result of number one.

At that time, I was fully unaware of this. I also, at that time, wanted to be a cop and run for public office someday. I was maneuvering my way through life thinking I was actually “right” about things, and had I pursued either of those ambitions to their realization, I would have been acting in those capacities in direct response to the unconscious distortions that were at that time my view of the world. I truly thought the way I saw it was an appropriate foundation for public policy rather than simply a reflection of unconscious patterns in me that had formed largely in response to experiences I perceived during childhood development.

(This is not, I am sorry to say, an uncommon phenomenon.)

At this point, I have done a degree of Work to see some of the unconscious influences in me with the aim of awakening to the true connectedness of all beings and offering what serves via this life I’ve been offered. That, of course, is why I’m aware of the distortedness of the perspective I identified with 20 years ago. It is why I now see the death penalty as astonishingly and heartbreakingly misguided, and why I can simultaneously look back and clearly recognize and understand why I felt so strongly about it back then. There was much unconscious rage and aggression in me heavily influencing how I saw the world 20 years ago.

It takes attention, intention, support, groundedness, and awareness to position and allow ourselves to perceive what is unconscious in us. It is also the only way we will truly release the limitations and projections that wield, both individually and collectively, and to our profound detriment, far too much influence on our species right now.

Love,
Emerald


  • “You wash your hands, you come up clean, but fail to recognize the enemy’s within, you say we’re not responsible, but we are, we are…”
    -Ana “We Are”

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    4 Responses “Patriarchy, Unconsciousness, and the United States Government”

    1. Donna says:

      Thank you for this!

    2. Emerald says:

      Thank you for reading, Donna. <3

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    2. […] reflection, the above explains to me how they could have. There is still so much relative unconsciousness in us as a species that the desperate, clawing (and indeed understandable) urge toward self-preservation with no eye […]

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