The Curve of Time

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big picture stuff, Feminism

Hillary is from Mars, Obama is from Venus is a perceptive article (on Salon, free, but they make you endure a brief commercial), that I’d like to use as a launching point to discuss the rebalancing of the genders, which I mentioned toward the end of Opening of the Western Mind.

First, a look at the gender swapping roles of our interplanetary presidential candidates:

In the Democratic presidential pack, the leading man is a woman and the leading woman is a man.

Throughout history, American presidents have been men’s men who puff their out chests against evil. Think Teddy Roosevelt on safari, Jack Kennedy in PT-109, Ronald Reagan on his horse, or George W. Bush with a chain saw clearing brush. If leaders show any slackening of testosterone, especially in wartime, they are quickly derided as wimps (George H.W. Bush), a Frenchman (John Kerry) or weaklings (Jimmy Carter). But on the Democratic campaign trail these days, where the first woman in U.S. history is making a serious run at the White House, gender roles are being swapped.

When Obama travels the country, he does not appear to worry much about posing with guns or wearing those khaki workman jackets that made Kerry look so silly in 2004. Instead, he sings an empowerment ballad on the stump that would make most lady folk singers proud. "The decision to go to war is not a sport," he tells crowds, rejecting the male metaphor. "We can discover the better part of ourselves as a nation," he says. "We can dream big dreams."

In contrast, Hillary Clinton has run her campaign with all the muscular vision and authority of the macho candidates of yesteryear. "I’ve seen her stand up to bullies," announced Christine Vilsack, the former first lady of Iowa, when she introduced Clinton at a rally in Des Moines last week. On the stump, Clinton repeatedly tells people that they should let her take control of the country, eschewing Obama’s more abstract calls for national soul-searching. "If you are ready for change, I am ready to lead," she says.

You probably have no trouble imagining The Duke saying that last line.

"The first woman absolutely has to out-masculine the man, kind of like Margaret Thatcher did," says Georgia Duerst-Lahti, a professor at Beloit College who has written extensively on gender in presidential politics. "Men have a lot more latitude. Just think about Ronald Reagan when he would tear up. Could a woman ever tear up? No. But a man can tear up."

One of the points I want to make is that gender roles and behavior are not strictly tied to the sex of your body, and this is borne out by our interplanetary candidates. All of us, men and women, can and do display behavior and ways of thinking that traditionally are associated with the opposite sex. In New Age parlance, each of us “runs” a unique mix of male and female energy.

Begore I go on, let me assure you that I’m not some radical feminist (not that this is bad). I’m a middle aged guy who has many of the usual “guy” interests, along with a barebones understanding of feminism, gained almost entirely through osmosis. I’m definitely not a metrosexual. What I’m writing about is much bigger than feminism, IMO. What follows is speculation, although I’m hardly alone with these ideas.

As you’re aware, we live in a time of intense polarization. On the one hand, dogmas and social conditioning of all kinds, including gender roles, are being challenged, a process which started back in the 1960s or earlier. This forms the grist for the opposite pole, the reaction, the intense need some have to maintain traditional order. We call those with this need "conservatives".

Hillary’s macho posturing notwithstanding, the feminine is reasserting itself, whether conservatives like it or not, while the traditional masculine approach is waning, and has been for some time. Rather than trying to convince you with a shower of data points (a book-length project), I’m a lot more interested in exploring the reasons why this is happening.

There has always been a tension in our race between male ways of seeing the world and acting in it, versus the feminine approach to the same. Which approach prevails at a given time is reflected in the sex of the gods of that time. The fertility gods of the distant past were a mix of males and females, and I’m not convinced that one sex consistently prevailed over the other. But at one point, several thousand years ago, in what was the forerunner to Western Civilization, the gods by and large became male, and stayed male, to this day. This coincided with a shift in consciousness that produced cities, writing, armies, nation-states, technology, space travel, and so on. These are the apparent fruits of the male tendency toward domination and hierarchies. This list also includes the subjugation of women, which feminism understands well.

Each age sows the seeds of its own demise. From "The Curve of Time", a chapter in Thom Hartmann’s inspiring semi-autobiography, The Prophet’s Way (Note: the thrilling "upward glissando" toward the end of the Beatles’ song, A Day In the Life, is an awesome musical companion to this excerpt):

He [Hartmann’s mentor] took a napkin and drew two lines which intersected to create a backwards L. "If you look at the speed of transportation for millions of years, it was the same," he said, drawing a straight line just above the bottom line of the backwards L. "Then they started to ride horses", the line went up a bit, "then cars", a bit higher, "then airplanes", higher still, "and then jets and spaceships." At that point he shot the line straight up to the edge of the vertical line of the backward L. "The same is true of how much energy humans consume. And of the population of the Earth. And of the number of evil acts committed. And of good acts. And of the destructive power of weapons and bombs. And, and, and. Always, at the end, the curve ends with this radical upward sweep, the point it cannot go beyond without collapse, and it is happening now, in our lifetimes."

The point of this, is that the power and reach of the the average human, both individually and collectively has increased geometrically, as a result of the male dominated approach to things, to the point where we can easily destroy the planet and ourselves. We’re painfully discovering that traditional military solutions – the ultimate form of dominance – often don’t work any more – they backfire on ourselves, something that conservatives have yet to appreciate. And so the traditional male approach to things – hierarchies and dominance, and all the fruits thereof – have in many cases hit the wall in terms of being able to deliver workable solutions to the problems we face. It’s debatable whether the male approach now causes more problems than it solves.

In parallel, the traditional feminine skills of intuition, empathy, and collaboration have come to be more and more prized. Because of "the curve of time", it’s vital to be able to get along, both with our neighbors and with the planet’s ecosystem. This requires respect, and an empathic working with, over dominance. Intuition has become more valued than logic, because it’s faster, and produces answers more aligned with our real, deep concerns, in an age when time itself feels sped up. Intuition is also more valued for its ability to penetrate to the truth of things in a time when we’re drowning in confusion and disinformation. How many of us simply knew in our gut that Bush was lying about Iraq in 2002, without a great need for hard evidence, or even in the face of the phony evidence that was presented? The left-brained Mr Spock seems stiff and silly these days, and probably would not exist if Star Trek were being created today.

There’s a dance that goes on between the male and female energies in our race. One dominates for awhile, and provides the groundwork or impetus for its opposite to catch up. Labor saving machinery levelled the field for women by reducing the need for physical brawn. The ascent of the feminine likewise is providing the space for men to introspect and heal their old wounds, to develop their feminine side including their own gifts of intuition and empathy, as well as to develop a more authentic, heart-centered, and mature form of male leadership.The whole planet has certainly seen enough of the immature, embarassing form of male leadership, based on dominance, over these last six, very dangerous years.

If you made it this far, I hope you understand that I’m not putting down men or male ways. Both styles of consciousness are complementary and necessary. What I see going on however, is a rebalancing between them, one that is necessary for our survival ahead. It’s interesting that neither Hillary nor Obama are being laughed off the stage (at least not by Democrats) for their embrace of their opposite energies. This wouldn’t have happened fifty years ago – they would’ve seemed like freaks, straying from the relatively rigid gender roles of earlier times.

I’ll close with the thought that all the major spiritual figures were very balanced in expressing their male and female sides. That level of mastery (and transcendence) is the goal for each of us. It is where we are going. I say this being far more personally familiar with contemporary figures (such as Yogananda) than obviously those from the distant past.

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8 Comments

  1. Bonnie  •  Jul 14, 2007 @5:55 pm

    Moonbat,
    This looks interesting; however, I am under pressure of some deadlines in getting ready for a business trip and just cannot spare the time. I do want to tell you, though, that I am a radical feminist and very proud of it. At 61, I am proud of the opportunities young women have because of my battles and feminist activities. It is now for the young women to do what they have to do to keep them. If they don’t recognize that they can lose these opportunities in the blink of an eye, I feel sorry for them.

    What I think is more urgent right now is correcting the mistakes made when the 2000 election was stolen. Bill Moyers Journal had a very good discussion on impeachment. I highly recommend it. I think I just saw a video at Talking Points Memo and Truthout.org. Also, truthout has a transcript. Here is one of the most import comments from John Nichols:

    John Nichols: – back in 1974, after Nixon had resigned, and said, “We must continue the impeachment process.” It’s – it is under the Constitution certainly appropriate to do so. And we must continue it because we have to close the circle on presidential power. And the leaders in Congress, the Democratic leaders in Congress at the time said, “No, the – country has suffered too much.” Well, this is the problem. Our leaders treat us as children. They think that we cannot handle a serious dialogue about the future of our republic, about what it will be and how it will operate. And so, you know, to an extent, we begin to act like children. We, you know, follow other interests. We decide to be entertained rather than to be citizens.

    Well, you know, and Bruce makes frequent references to the fall of the Roman Empire. You know, that’s the point at where the fall comes. It doesn’t come because of a bad leader. It doesn’t come because of a dysfunctional Congress. It comes when the people accept that – role of the child or of the subject and are no longer citizens. And so I think this moment becomes so very, very important because we know the high crimes and misdemeanors.

    The people themselves have said, if the polls are correct, that, you know, something ought to be done. If nothing is done, if we do not step forward at this point, if we do not step up to this point, then we have, frankly, told the people, you know, you can even recognize that the king has no clothes, but we’re not gonna put any clothes on him. And at that point, the country is in very, very dire circumstances.

    So, I want to challenge everyone here to stop letting this Administration and the Congress treat us like children. I am not a child. I want to see the elected leaders do WHAT IS THE BEST THING FOR OUR COUNTRY! I will vote ONLY for those who will act in the best interests of the country and the Constitution.

  2. erinyes  •  Jul 14, 2007 @6:42 pm

    Great Post Moonbat, and kudos to you Bonnie.
    I have arrived at the conclusion that our government is about punishment and not much more. The feds keep the roads and bridges up to snuff, keep a military ( way overblown), collect taxes, and keep the sheep (or cattle) in line,they try to scare the F*ck out of us when it seems to be the thing to do..
    So Bonnie, our Federal government treats us far worse than children.
    We are treated like expendable draft animals. If anyone disagrees, please enlighten me……………..

  3. Donna  •  Jul 14, 2007 @8:20 pm

    Great post, moonbat and kudos to you, Bonnie, for the points you make.
    I have long believed that the elements of gender discrimination have harmed men perhaps as much as women, if not more so. Discrimination against women has been overt, which at least allows for straightforward corrections of instituting legal rights and protections, and job and wage opportunities, for example. But, the discrimination against men has been insidious and damaging in ways not so easy to correct because the very process of correction has to rely upon the tools traditionally allowed women but which were forbidden or made shameful in men, i.e., empathy, tender emotion, intuition, and so forth.
    I once became a ‘first woman’ in a traditional blue-collar man’s field. For two years in my union local, there were 1,102 men and one woman, me. I knew after a few days [yes, I knew this intuitively] that my presence on those work sites was just as hard on the guys on those crews as it was on me.
    I am really glad that the old boundaries are being breached to allow women freedom to do all they can do, and allow men to tap into their inner sensitivities and flexibility.

  4. erinyes  •  Jul 14, 2007 @8:25 pm

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/silber/silber11.html
    It is indeed up to us……….

  5. moonbat  •  Jul 15, 2007 @1:47 am

    Donna, thanks for your appreciation and personal story. It means a lot to me.

    erinyes, I’m a big fan of Arthur Silber who was quoted extensively in your link.

    Bonnie, the proud radical feminist. I am proud of what you stand for and what you helped achieve. I just want to say that the phrase “radical feminist” nowadays means different things to different people, including, for some, some very misogynist, anti-male attitudes. And yes, sadly, I’ve known women who were so badly hurt by men that their notion of “radical feminism” has little room for men at all. Because my piece risked being dismissed as an anti-male rant (possibly issuing from an aforementioned misogynist radical feminist), I felt it wise/entertaining to insert this disclaimer, simply to get skeptical readers past this potential obstacle. Who better than a straight man to promote ideas about the ascent of feminine consciousness?

    I heard that the Bill Moyers show was going to be big, and yet because I don’t have cable or TV I missed it. It’s great that sanity is slowly filtering its way back onto mainstream TV.

    Agree with you about being treated in this country like children – this is classic authoritarianism. Beyond the situation specific to the USA, in so many ways, childhood for our race is over.

  6. Swami  •  Jul 15, 2007 @12:26 pm

    Nice post, moonbat. One suggestion after the fact..You should have mentioned,” bring it on”..What better way to illustrate the poverty of a high testosterone leader. We’re governed by a complete moron who doesn’t even acknowledge or appreciate the value of the traits and qualities that are ascribed to the female gender. Valuable tools if we can learn how to use them.
    When I see how Bush has embraced a macho stance against Iran and Syria by refusing dialog because he’s deemed them evil..I cringe.. another example where we need a feminine touch.

  7. grannyeagle  •  Jul 15, 2007 @12:29 pm

    Moonbat – you made a very important observation in your next to last paragraph. That is, both styles of consciousness are complementary and necessary. This is the whole concept of yin/yang. One cannot exist without the other and only when they work cooperatively can balance be maintained. If not, chaos and disaster happen. All animals and plants in nature have no problem adhering to this principle. Man (as in humans) enters the picture, sees himself as outside or above nature and wants to control everything. However, when either yin or yang get out of balance, nature cannot keep that position. It naturally collapses and the opposite side occurs. The best example that I can give that I think people can understand is heat stroke or the diagnosis bipolar. Too much heat uses up the body’s fluids (yin) then the body collapses which is a yin state. In the manic state, people are hyperactive, not sleeping or eating. They are also euphoric. If this goes on too long, they finally collapse, get depressed and can’t do anything.
    I have long thought the world is too yang now. Too much activity, too much light and of course too much aggression. We can’t even see the milky way anymore unless we live in the wilderness. We have lost our night which is intended for rest and rejuvenation. If we do not do something, nature will take care of it.
    I agree Obama seems to be more yin than Hillary who is desperately trying to appear strong. However, the whole mess in Washington is too yang and that is what needs to be changed. I have lost faith that one person in the role of president can change anhything.

  8. moonbat  •  Jul 15, 2007 @6:30 pm

    grannyeagle, comment 7 – I am so glad you brought up yin/yang, because you’re right on the money – this is exactly what the whole post is about.

    There is a lot I wanted to say but had to cut it down to size, and also I had to tailor it for people who aren’t necessarily familiar with these concepts. And so there’s very little here about metaphysical ideas, which I would’ve loved to include.

    I remember giving a Toastmasters speech more or less based on this post, (it was a very unusual Toastmasters group, that alas, is no more), and I used the terms yin/yang – which basically drew a lot of blank stares. Rule 1 of giving speeches/writing posts: Know Your Audience.

    Thanks again.

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