War And Prevention


Flinders (author of At The Root Of This Longing) relates a pivotal story in the Mahabharata where Princess Draupadi is treated as property, gambled away, and dragged from her chambers. The moral is ‘things can get no worse’ because her society treats all women as property. (195-196) Flinders realizes, reluctantly, that her own society–ours–treats women as property (even though legally women are persons). In the face of this, Flinders wonders, ‘What does spirituality look like when it coexists with feminism’s sharp critical faculties? And what does feminism do when it is steeped in spiritual perspectives?’ (200)  What is the connection between Princess Draupadi and pornography, between then thousands of years ago in iindia and now–right now–in America, between the practices of ancient meditation and the analyses of modern feminism? (214-215) image from wikipedia.

Meditation clears the mind and prepares one for the satya, the truth, revealed by feminism, that women have been ‘obliterated’, literally and figuratively, then and now, as seen in the stories of both Draupadi and pornography. ‘Here was the strychnine…. The verb obliterated was chilling, but it seemed accurate [particularly]… in the light of everything I knew now about cultures where women are cherished, instead, and the feminine is revered.’ (215)

Gandhi01Flinders studied Gandhi, whose ‘ “Expose the injustice” was ever and always the byword of satyagraha. Set wrongdoings out in the strong light of day.’ (216) Slowly, she has come to see patriarchy as a war in which everyone–men, women, and children–loses. iindeed, men ‘are more likely than women to become addicted to drugs and alcohol, to be homeless, to commit suicide or spend time in prison.’ (216-217) image from wikipedia.

philip-berrigan-from-commondreams-orgStarting in 1994, U.S. laws recognized this, and money was spent on enforcing them–hiring SWAT teams, building and staffing prisons, arming further already armed police–moreso than on preventative measures. By the time they become adults and steal or brutalize or murder, it’s too late. You must start early, before the problem becomes endemic, for things sometimes take a long time to resolve. At a conference, Violence And Children, keynote speaker Philip Berrigan said, ‘If the problem you’re working on you expect to see solved in your lifetime, the problem isn’t big enough.’ Better to prevent social problems. image of berrigan from commondreams.org.

Similarly, prevention works in gardening too. But prevention takes a different mind-set than the SWAT-team equivalent of spraying pesticides. For example, the Canadian Organic Growers magazine reminds us that ‘organic pest management is more about prevention than reaction; systems are designed to avoid problems. This works well for apple growers who are starting their orchards from scratch. However, many organic apple producers have transitioned from conventional production and are somewhat bound by previous farming decisions.’ image from wikipedia.

girl-with-braid-buns-from-aboutSo, we need to work on things right now to prevent things in the future even if we may not live to see the future. Good thing we’re not needed for the outcome. But we are needed at the outset. That means girls are safe. ‘Why girls in particular?’ Flinders asks. ‘Doesn’t everyone need protection? Of course they do. But a girl who is just becoming a woman is … particularly vulnerable because she is turned inward, absorbed in a momentous transition. And a society’s willingness to recognize this and guarantee her safety is a good index of everybody’s safety.’ Justice for girls means justice for all. Flinders writes, ‘There would not be desperately poor or crazed individuals [in the streets]. Wealth would not have piled up in the hands of a few. Little boys wouldn’t be growing up unloved and unguided.’ (222) image from about.com.

kids-from-arts-wallpapers.comShe continues: ‘There must also be, ambient in the culture, some sense of connection between women and the sacred…. To honor the sacredness of girls and women is not to elevate women over men, or girls over boys, but rather to honor life itself…. But spiritual principles can’t be legislated.’ (222-223) Thus, the connection to the sacred is more ‘mysterious’, it can’t be codified; it requires trust and faith in something intangible, something a priori. (229-230) Our culture, it strikes me, puts its trust and faith in control and security, with devastating outcomes. Flinders is asking us to shift our trust and faith, and instead place them in life, starting with girls. image from arts-wallpapers.com.

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