One hundred years ago, the start of the battle of the Somme in World War One.
World War Two, The Cold War, Falklands, Iraq, 9-11, Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Turkey, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, conflicts, disputes, skirmishes, incidents, and so so many more wars since…
15 days ago Jo Cox MP was murdered, and her maiden speech is quoted repeatedly: ‘We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than the things that divide us’.
Ten days ago, I ask a group of 9-10 year old girls in Keighley (most of them of Pakistani heritage, and from Muslim families) what they would do if they were Queen of the World – among a range of fascinating answers, one of them says, ‘World Peace’.
One week ago – the shock of ‘Brexit’, and a 57% increase in racist hate crimes reported.
Two days ago, a close friend in tears because she feels fearful, daily, of racist attack.
The Prime Minister has resigned.
The leader of the opposition is repeatedly declared ‘unelectable’.
It’s a mess – that’s one thing that most people seem to agree on.
But why? And what to do about it?
I think (as I usually think) that the route cause of all of this mess is the patriarchy. (I’ll explain why I think that in a minute).
And that if we are to change anything then we need to unite in peace, hope and kindness and love – and to undermine and challenge the patriarchy in every way we can – loudly and angrily, calmly and subtly, fearlessly and relentlessly – it is the most important thing we can do.
Why is it the patriarchy?
Because it’s the system that underpins all the other broken, twisted, vile, damaging systems through which we operate in most of the world – without patriarchy, the rest (capitalism, establishment, the old world order that relies on fundamental unfairness and inequality) would come crashing down.
Patriarchy is a system built on the premise that we are, in a fundamental way, different – that women are ‘other’, and in some ways lesser than men – weaker, fairer, prettier, needier, whatever. Before you all shout ‘man-hating feminist’, I would like to point out that I love men and that you’re missing the point.
The point is that, by identifying HALF OF THE WORLD as ‘other’ – and building structures of governance, economy, domestic life, work, leisure, social mores, creative narratives, everything on that premise – we all collude in a system that generates and perpetuates inequalities of all kinds. We quietly continue to operate our lives taking that fundamental inequality for granted, often subliminally, through our language and our thoughts – because it seems ‘natural’ that women are the care-givers, the softer sex, the nurturers, the kindness, the love, the peace, the gentleness, and that men are ‘by nature’ more competitive, combative, stronger, more agressive, less emotional, less intuitive.
As a 6 foot tall woman who’s work includes impersonating a drag queen, I can assure you that whether there is a difference in the biology and nature of men and women or not, there is almost nothing that one sex can do and the other can’t. And with an increasingly visible and vocal trans community to consider, gender identity has to be understood as fluid, changeable – the clear distinctions based on gender as a ‘natural’ state simply do not exist, and human beings are more alike than different – building our entire world on the premise that there is a fundamental difference between one half of people and others SIMPLY MAKES NO SENSE. But the patriarchy is a system constructed by all of us colluding in this fundamental misunderstanding of human nature.
Once we have misunderstood human nature, and decided that some are more equal than others (men and women), we can then identify other differences and turn them into inequalities by saying that someone else is ‘other’ – because of the colour of their skin, the country they were born in, their religion, their age, their sexual orientation, their social position, the way they speak, their ability to spell and punctuate, their wheelchair, their headscarf, their hat, their funny hair, their political views, their ability to understand the complex implications of a vote to leave or remain in the EU, their willingness to listen to and agree with simple soundbytes and slogans that blame immigration for the failing of the NHS, their need to channel their frustration somewhere that leads them to abuse someone in a street or on a tram, their willingness to join the army, join the protest march, join the political party, campaign, vote, spoil their ballot paper, take part, look you in the eye, whatever. There are people like ‘us’ and there are people like ‘them’ and because ‘they’ are ‘the other’ ‘we’ can blame ‘them’ for the mess.
We blame women for wearing short skirts, getting drunk and getting raped.
We blame immigrants for taking our jobs, being lazy, and draining the NHS.
We blame leave voters for unleashing an undercurrent of racism, resulting in a 57% increase in hate crime.
We blame Jeremy Corbyn supporters for destroying the credibility of the opposition.
We blame and blame and war and war and it’s all still a mess, because of the ‘other’, because of the patriarchy and the stuff that is built on top of it, and the uncertainty of change is making us all frightened, and miserable, and more inclined to blame each ‘other’.
I still don’t know about Jeremy Corbyn. I agree with most of what he stands for, and he seems like that rare person in politics who stands by his principles. 60,000 people have joined the Labour party in the last few days, apparently, many in support of him and his ‘new kind of politics’. I won’t be joining the Labour Party – I won’t join any political party, because of the patriarchy (see above). But I do participate and I do vote and if he’s still in charge of the Labour party at the next election I’ll almost certainly vote for them. His ‘un-electable’ tag seems to come from the media, and the Tories, and those who have a lot to lose if his policies came to pass. And then there are left-wingers who say he’s not passionate enough, not a great orator, not a firebrand, not a leader. I think that’s what I like best about him – because all those things he’s not are things that feel to me like a core part of the patriarchal establishment – the establishment that is tearing itself apart, fighting for survival and making this mess. I still don’t know if Jeremy is part of the solution, or part of the patriarchy – but I do feel like he might be a source of hope and unity. But this is not about Jeremy.
This is not about any one person, and power, and making things feel stable.
If we’re going to challenge the patriarchy we’re going to rock the whole world.
This is about hope and unity. This is about love. This is about having ‘more in common’. This is about removing blame and always being kind. This is about building communities where no-one is the ‘other’.
It’s hard to imagine, hard to describe, so it’ll be even harder to make it real, because none of us know what it would look like. it’s scary, and difficult – but maybe it’s possible. Maybe the fundamental lie of the patriarchy is beginning to wear thin. Maybe the world is starting to shift. And if we can do this, really find a new way, then my young friend’s wish for world peace might just happen. And we’d all be queen of the world, our world, together.