The damage done to the souls of men and white people

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One of the reasons I am a fan of Fanon, is because he dared us to examine the heart of the colonial beast from the brilliantly liberating vantage point of it’s diseased center.

His writings breathed fire. They were powerfully anti-colonial and anti-Eurocentric. No doubt, like any other man, they were also mired in his gender oppressiveness. But he nevertheless helped me understand oppression in a very liberating way. I realized that understanding the damage done to the souls of oppressors was a far more empowering way to engage with the myriad forms of oppression in and around me.

Now, we can further complicate this shit, but I don’t think I have the literary skill or temperament to hold your attention for that long. So for now, I’m going to limit myself to two particularly well-known global demographics – men and white people – both groups of whom, it can safely be said, benefit from the overwhelming majority of oppression on our good green earth. Yes, yes, in varying degrees when we complicate it with class and nationality and yadda, yadda. But wherever you go on this earth, men have it better than other genders – at least in their own local communities and societies – and white people have it better than damn near everyone else on the fucking planet. (Holy crapola did that European settler colonialism work wonders for the melanin-deficient.)

Now, I say that we gain spiritual strength over our oppressors (inside and out) by understanding the damage done to the souls of those oppressors. And in the global north, i.e. the privileged-ass Western world, this means understanding the damage done to the souls of men and white people.

(And I daresay that would be the case in any other part of the earth as well.)

The reason I think it is empowering for me to think of oppression in this way is because it both humbles and strengthens me at the same time.

It humbles me because I realize that even beyond what oppression does to our bodies, our minds, and our social environments – it is at our deepest, most soulful level that oppression is fought.

It strengthens me because I realize that no matter how violently and/or silently oppression might manifest in our daily lives, those who reap the benefits of it cannot hide from the damage it does to their souls.

And that’s a comforting mixture of truth, justice, and that little bit of whacky to help you sleep at night.

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Sadly, Trump’s misogyny is commonplace in a rape culture society

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When I inexplicably found myself back in grad school for the second time in my life, during a slightly lonely period in my late twenties, I used to hang out with the “dudes” of my department. These hang-outs were usually drunken, come-to-think-of-it-rather-trite-and-banal, shindigs.

When the hang outs were all guys, sexism in the form of humor was an oft used lingua franca among many of them. Unfortunately they tended to be the loudest and dominated the proceedings. Since this was a progressive social science department, all the guys had taken different feminist theory classes during their grad and undergrad years. Indeed, the most disgustingly misogynistic of the lot apparently even minored in women and gender studies at UCLA, his previous alma mater.

(Just goes to show that ivory tower credentials are highly unreliable in determining good human beings.)

In more than one party, this misogyny masked as ribald humor would rear it’s ugly head. Indeed, the stuff that came out of the UCLA-graduated head misogynist’s mouth was no less than the vileness that has been revealed to come out of Trump’s mouth. And it was all laughed at and seen as fun by the rest of the guys in that group.

All I did at the time was numb my loneliness with booze, as folks guffawed to the drunken ramblings of some white, self-identifying Marxist’s lewd misogyny, heartily egged on by his drinking buddy – a white, Anarchist dude who identified as a very public feminist. (If there’s one thing socialist and anarchist dudes seem to find congruence on, it’s male privilege).

The group also happened to be a really white and heteronormative group. Me and a buddy of mine were the only men of color (and I was, as far as I could tell, the only queer man).

I don’t say this to make some vague point about intersecting forms of oppression.

I say this to undo the shame I feel to this day of not doing a damn thing to intervene – cowering behind the excuse that I didn’t feel safe enough to do so. When in all honesty, I would have been fine. I could have told them off, walked away (and almost certainly have been far happier and healthier for it). I could have even tried to counter it with humor or sarcasm or just done something. For a variety of reasons, I preferred cowardice at the time.

But as I sat there wallowing in my misery, I did make particular note of this feeling that churned inside me, a rather sickening feeling.

There is a particular insidiousness to misogyny when it comes from men of the more entitled sections of society. Because there’s greater social and cultural power behind the words. Whether it’s white men in America or upper caste Hindu men in India or men from the majoritarian sections of society wherever the fuck their miserable selves may exist – rape culture is held up, among other ways, by majoritarian male power and control.

And glued together by the silence and willful ignorance of others.

Now Trump’s misogyny seems to know no bounds – be it his braggadocio in committing rape and sexual assault or his despicable sexualization of his own daughter on, of course, the Howard Stern show – Trump is human refuse. But he is not human refuse in a vacuum. He emerged, or rather was hellishly spawned, out of a society steeped in rape culture.

Indeed, one of the most troubling things about the revelations of his violently sexist conversations is not really being addressed by the media – maybe because it poses far more difficult questions for us as members of this society.

Trump-style misogyny is far more commonplace than we might think.

The patriarchy that is bred in silence – and a bro way to fight it.

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We all are, or at least ought to be, aware of the more brutal manifestations of patriarchy – a social, political, cultural, and economic existence for humanity that privileges men over women and gender non-conforming folk.

(Apologies in advance for any mansplaining transgressions in this essay btw.)

Physical and sexual violence often come to mind right away when thinking about the most commonly cruel fall outs from this system of male power and control.

But I know there is more than just those egregious forms of patriarchy. Many people, myself included, have viewed or continue to view those types of gender-based violence solely in a vacuum, separate from the rotten and fetid foundation that the violence stems from. For if it wasn’t apparent to me before, it certainly is now, that the foundation of this global system of oppression is ultimately kept in place  via silence – a willfully tight lipped ignorance.

Most men, across the globe, close ranks when it comes to discussing patriarchy and sexism. Even the self-identifying “decent” ones, like many of the men I used to have in my life, tend to not be very open or concerned about gender injustice because it ultimately means looking into the unearned privileges they have accrued at the cost of the women around them. Now make no mistake, these are men who would condemn gender-based violence, maybe even with a lot of emotion, but cannot bring themselves to understand and engage with their own internalized sexism and male privilege.

The preservation of unjust privileges can often be a far stronger unifying force for those who benefit from them than the dismantling of those privileges can be for those who are oppressed by them.

(Fuck me, there I go mansplaining again – and with such long, boring-ass sentences too.)

But men closing ranks around the preservation of patriarchy is a real pain in the butt – especially if you’re trying to play even the tiniest of roles in effecting some social justice and real liberation (not to mention deal with your own internalized crap). Cos this shit happens across the board – cops, military soldiers, nationalists, religious crazies, cultural figures – all and more close ranks when the injustice of their existence is questioned. It’s men being men.

Petulant, cowardly men.

So when I find myself mired in rather depressing questions.

Ones like:

Why is silence so effective in maintaining this oppressive system?

Why are so many men so very scared of talking about these very real problems afflicting our communities and our homes?

What is it that prevents so many men from embracing true love and liberation and equality? And the enriching, but often difficult, struggles that are needed to keep regenerating those beautiful life forces?

When I get bogged down by such painful ruminations – I also remember to hold onto hope.

For I now have a beautiful new realm of bromance-building to find good men in my life.

It is the gift and all important responsibility of fatherhood.

(Which also often happens to be buckets of awesome, if occasionally irritating, fun in and of itself.)

Because a friendship cultivated with a man out of a mutual treasuring of that most liberating of life endeavors – that of parenting a child – is likely a friendship with a man who is caring, nurturing, and honorable.

And that’s a bro I can hang with.

I don’t have the time or patience for men who fear love, liberation, and struggle

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This is among the longer titles I have for an essay. But I’ve had a three week break from this blog, so I wonder if I’m maybe trying to make up for the break by just throwing it all out there in the title. (Did you also notice the shameful nod to the name of the blog itself.)

Long titles are actually one of those cardinal sins I commit far too frequently as a blogger.

But then again, these long titles are useful for me because they kind of summarize what I’m trying to say. People will also be better informed to see if this essay might be worth the time it would take to read it. And it’s a more democratic and egalitarian way of presenting an essay – catering even to the reader with the patience levels of a fussy infant who has just gained enough sentience to realize how glorious she is and how much she needs to constantly and very loudly exclaim that fact to her parents.

(I love my awesome daughter so damn much now, that she does occasionally frustrate me with how incessantly illustrative she is of my own incompetence as a bumbling father.)

I wrote quite a while back about men who fear love – and today I want to add that I also don’t have the time or patience for them. I just don’t want to put in the energy into maintaining relationships with these men, because they always also fear equality and joy and real happiness and true gender liberation. The pyrrhic benefits of patriarchy and sexism are just too much to let go off because of that fear.

To be sure, I’m not suggesting that these benefits magically disappear when you start fighting for real love and happiness from the standpoint of equality, social justice, and liberation. Men across the world, regardless of the “isms” they identify with, are swaddled in patriarchal privilege, even if some benefits for some men are tempered by colonialism or racism or poverty. Those benefits nevertheless remain in various forms and will remain until we realize the folly of the last few thousand years and return to living in truly gender-liberated matriarchal societies, led and guided by women and gender non-conforming people, especially women and trans people of color.

Now, that will take a while because patriarchy is kinda stubborn and stupid and assholish (not to mention mind-numbingly evil), but letting go of that fear of love and happiness grounded in equality and liberation will reveal the soullessness and diseased nature of those patriarchal benefits to us men.

At least I’m betting it will.

But then again, what the fuck do I know?

So, let me bring in the power of someone who is a far superior soul and human being than I am.

Nowadays,  as is quite apparent from my recent writings, I can’t stop from bringing my little warrior goddess of a daughter into my essays, occasionally using appalling attempts at subtlety. But Daya invokes so much awe in me that I must bow before her strength and wisdom every day (apparently utilizing the power of a blog that gets a dozen views or more on a good day).

Because she teaches me so much about myself, about the people around me, about the world in general. Equally importantly, she helps me unlearn and relearn. She and Sus give me so much happiness, love, and outright freedom of the spirit – that it becomes easy to do that difficult unlearning and relearning. One feels strong enough to deal with any consequences, such as sadness and hurt. What’s a little sadness or hurt (not to mention anger and depression) when you have two powerful goddesses in your family?

Now, I have had to unlearn and relearn a lot about myself and the world, and equally so about my family, friends, and community – both in South Asia and North America. This most recent family visit to Bangalore I made alongside the afore mentioned two greatest human beings on earth – so that one of them could meet her grandparents and family in India – was yet another chapter of unlearning and relearning for me.

For starters, I think I need to finally come out as a survivor of many years of sibling abuse that I faced at the hands of my older brother during my childhood – physical violence in the form of punches, shoves and slaps, in addition to regular emotional abuse and verbal humiliation.

I realize that, while I forgive him because he didn’t know better (he seems to be a loyal, caring husband and a good, hard-working father), I would like to simultaneously formalize my non-relationship with him and declare that there never was and never will be any brotherly love between us.

(To be honest, I’m kinda happy that I don’t have to continue the facade of a relationship with bullshit politeness and banal conversations.)

It also just confirms to me how little actual blood or bloodlines matter when it comes to real, caring, and nurturing love for a fellow soul.

I also know that his abusive behavior towards me (which was usually followed by an apology of sorts, in keeping with the cyclical nature of abuse in most family or interpersonal relationships) was pretty much a direct result of being the firstborn in a shitty, socially conservative, and patriarchal marriage between my parents, which was arranged by their own patriarchal, socially conservative parents. The marriage itself had a shitty, socially conservative, and patriarchal relationship with my father’s side of the family, which made things way, way worse.

My parents seem to be doing much better now. As is the wont of the patriarchy from some generations, marriages are for freaking life no matter what, so eventually some of these couples realize that there’s nowhere to go but up, and thus might as well try to get a better marriage since they’re fucking stuck in it anyway, with only their own shittily-married parents as the norm to break free from (it’s no wonder that the bar for loving, long term relationships is set so low across the world).

 

I truly do believe that a major part of it is also fear in men – fear of perhaps losing those pyrrhic benefits and power that comes from patriarchal social norms, fear of the work and self-reflection needed for true equality and liberation that has to be the foundation for love and happiness, and indeed, fear of that love and liberation itself. Some might call it cowardice, others might say that men around the world are in reality, adult children, immature little bratty boys – infantile humans who have been handed a variety of powers and privileges due to thousands of years of patriarchy that molly-coddle the ever-loving crap out of them.

But what do I know…

And that is why, I’m going to stick to the personal (while surreptitiously getting onto a mighty giant pile of soap boxes) and in a nod to both my past and my future relationships with men, however they may or may not end up, indeed to the men in my life across time and space – I make this declaration:

I have no time or patience for men who fear true love, happiness, and liberation as well as the hard work, the struggles, the learning, unlearning and relearning that it takes to build a foundation of real equality, justice and liberation.

If I see this fear in any man in my life – and I now really seek it out because it irritates me no end – I might need to cool off from the relationship, or just not have one, you know, might not really want to be around the guy and talk or be all chill and polite. I might tell the guy, I might not, based on what I need for my own emotional and mental health. Because I need to dedicate my time and energy to people who truly don’t fear love or happiness or liberation – and the necessary struggles against patriarchy and self-reflection around oppression it takes to keep nurturing those life forces.

I have enough awesome love in my life, human and non-human, so I can afford to make this choice.

(NB: I have never paid adequate credit to my awesome, glorious partner, Sus, for all the critique, support and editing help she provides for every essay I produce. I hope to change that from this post onwards and show how truly grateful I am for it.)