Patriarchy literally means the rule of fathers.  In more ways than we imagine, we live in a patriarchal society despite the trappings of what we call democracy.  One way this is evident, for instance, is in the desire of so many people around us to be “patriotic.”  That is, people who are patriotic declare their support in the most literal sense for the fatherland.

There are so many directions to go with this discussion, but let me start here on one path.  Patriarchy, I hope it should be obvious, is – like all forms of rule – illegitimate.  Nothing inherent in being a father logically entails the conclusion, “Therefore, you are right to rule over others.”  The thought of trying to prove the conclusion from the premise is laughable.  I provided sperm; sperm is a creative force from which you would not exist; therefore, your existence would not be if not for me.  Those who provide a service are owed a debt, and therefore you owe a debt to your fathers to serve them. 

You’ll note the additional premise connecting service with debt, which is a premise concocted out of thin air.  Yet, it is a premise on which the practical applications of patriarchy surely rest.  I provided the start up money for this company, and therefore I own and have a lien on your production forever.  I created this idea, and therefore my copyright or patent is inviolable.  I planted this land first, and therefore it is mine forever.  The seed of patriarchy that roots from nothing more than a single cell is used in tandem with an invented premise to assert a right of rule over everything that came into existence because of that seed.  We normally do not call this seed sperm; no one would be dignified to think that all of patriarchy arises from the messy, smelly scent of semen.  Instead, we talk of labor, capital investments, improving property, and all the rights and privileges that supposedly come from that.

Obviously, we miss the obvious fact in patriarchy that it takes two to tango.  Women and their eggs have often been left entirely out of the equation – the egg seen as a passive receiver, the earth as that which is there for the labor of man, the worker being the mere tool of the entrepreneur.  In recent years, there is an attempt to correct that and to provide women equal rights.  Something is missed, though.  The logic of domination is still essentially patriarchal.  Rather than resist the fallacy of the concept of rule, we simply choose to make patriarchs out of women, too.  Or, we cleverly try to use terms like matriarchs or democrats or some new way to hide up the fact that we are still living with what are essentially patriarchal premises.  That is, there is a creative force which brings a thing into existence, a debt is owed, and rule arises from the debt that needs repaying.

It is not hard to see, then, how property rights are tools of patriarchy.  The property owner is he who plants his seed through the sweat of his brow (the metaphorical semen) and creates wealth for which he is owed payment.  The property is his.  It is his to defend and even expand upon if someone leaves his land barren and childless.  Wars quickly arise among the fathers and their fatherlands.  Peace activists stupidly say often that “peace is patriotic.”  That’s nonsense.  There is nothing more patriarchal and therefore patriotic than war.  The line of reasoning should be obvious.

We also see patriarchy clearly in the way we conceive of our relationships.  Men have been conceived of as better than women, of course.  However, humans have been better than non-humans.  Some would say that whites have been better than non-whites, though they would eventually be smacked down for not understanding the right arbitrary lines for patriarchy’s slippery slope.  Being a father is to be a ruler of families.  Yet, outside of the obvious hierarchy within the family itself, we begin to see each unit of society as a fiefdom of itself.  Rather than see our fellow beings in our world as a community, they are competitors for what is rightly ours.  We live in fenced off little lands earning our wage and not feeling any sense of responsibility for our neighbors.  We live a life of tyranny driven by jealousy – our sex lives, our intellectual lives, our emotional lives are monopolized by our insular family units.  If we break out of them, we are often considered to be doing something wrong.  So, there’s a whole underground world of adultery, for instance.  People feel constrained by their captive lives, and many inevitably reach out for something beyond their ball and chains.  Yet, such things often become simply about sex.  It’s convenient that the larger constraints of patriarchy are not exposed because many acts of desperate fleeing from the cages of life strike us as cliché and otherwise morally bankrupt.

That may sound extreme.  People surely forge all kinds of friendships outside the home and all kinds of relationships within the larger community.  Of course they do!  The question, though, are the boundaries of those interactions.  I cannot go off to a different country and simply expect to be a welcome member of the community.  I am owned in my case by the United States of America.  I can visit, carry on trade, or perhaps be involved with military or business escapades in the country.  I cannot very easily fall in love and leave without going through a harrowing amount of red tape.  This is as true in the interpersonal level, where we’ve created in many cases all kinds of boundaries that tie us so resolutely to our various fatherlands.  Tell me how many of your children would be allowed to meet another child and then live with them on their own choice for months at a time.  How many of your significant others could venture off the reservation for more than an hour or two – particularly with a close friend (dare we say of the opposite sex) – without seedy things being wondered at, things that violate the private property contracts that really govern our relationships whether most of us are willing to admit it.

I am not arguing that we do not have responsibilities with regard to each other.  That is misconstruing and debasing my argument.  What I am arguing is that our current relationships are rooted in a patriarchal fallacy about rule.  Since that rule is fully illegitimate, we need a revolutionary approach to re-conceiving these things.  Nevertheless, it would be ridiculous to think that we should therefore just go run off, have an affair, or drop out of society, move to Alaska, and die in a magic bus.  Why?  The negation of a falsehood does not necessarily produce a truth.  If I were to say that 2 + 3 does not equal 6, it does not mean I should go out and assert that 7 is the truth because it is not 6.  We have to be careful how we go about unshackling ourselves that we do not replace someone’s illegitimate patriarchy with someone else’s illegitimate matriarchy.  Ultimately, you can guess from this essay – if you have never read anything else about me – that I am urging anarchy.  Yet, what is anarchy in practice?  Does that not depend upon a careful study of our nature?  Are we really prepared to take on that study?

Thus, I’d urge that to undo patriarchy at the macro and micro levels, we need to have real conversations about our nature, and about the nature of reality itself.  Such an act is in some sense defiance against patriarchy, as it puts the onus on us rather than someone else to figure out answers for us.  And, rather than urge more specific answers, I’d call on people to engage the question honestly and seek to root out patriarchy from our lives and own up how it infects each of us (certainly in the case of men like me, but in all humans).  I know I have so very far to go, which is no doubt a large part of what motivates me to write this.

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Comment by Occupy Cafe Stewards on May 28, 2012 at 1:38pm

Your "Here Is How" gathering  (love that name!) has a lot in common with the gatherings we are considering as part of the "Occupy meets Transition, etc." initiative Mark mentioned above.  I would love to talk, Jim, about ways we might integrate this work together.  

Ben Roberts

Comment by Christopher Wroth on May 28, 2012 at 3:15pm

For me, philosophy is the attempt to answer ultimate questions:  "What is reality, why is all this here, who am I?"  To think and make decisions about what to do next is life - not philosophy.  Of course, being a well-fed and over-educated American, I love philosophy.  It's just that OCCUPY started and continues primarily as a  protest against economic injustice in solidarity with other protests in Europe and the Arab countries.  So, let us philosophize as Marx did, and ask the ultimate question of economic philosophy:  "How can the global masses gain economic justice?"

Comment by Jim Macdonald on May 28, 2012 at 3:39pm

Like "anarchy", the meaning of "philosophy" has been destroyed by a propaganda campaign for a very long time (by people, including Marx - who likened philosophy to mental masturbation) ... how a word that means "the love of wisdom", which arose out of Socrates's maxim that the "unexamined life is not worth living" (my emphasis), has been reduced to being about something distinct from the wisdom of this world or this life, is too long a story.

I don't believe we can consider questions of economic justice apart from considering what gives rise to economic injustice - (or ultimately without understanding "justice") - (certainly, Marx agrees with me that far!).  If what I am writing here is true, then it turns out the problems of economic justice are not merely economic problems.  They rise from a worldview where people tried to justify their domination.  Therefore, we have to root out the problem everywhere, or we simply replace one evil for another.  Look at the Bolshevik Revolution - (or so called revolution) where the pragmatic Bolsheviks thought such discussions to be bourgeois luxuries, that while people are starving, we can't afford the sentimentality of things like free speech or intellectual discussion.  They replaced the machinery of capital with the machinery of the Communist Party in an attempt to root out what they saw as the condition of economic injustice and usher in a new practical reality that could serve as a transition to a stateless society.  What they did, though, by replacing one authoritarian patriarchal structure with another authoritarian patriarchal structure because they focused so intently on a limited aspect - capitalistic injustice - (by doing in many ways what Marx urged them to do - you can dispute whether Russia was a good Marxist example, but the program still in many ways followed Marx's understanding of the practicalities of revolution) at the exclusion of everything else.  This is why Emma Goldman quickly became disillusioned in Russia and noted that actual revolution must also be rooted in cultural transformation.

I see my point essentially the same.  Patriarchy manifests itself into many forms; one of those forms is economic injustice.  It also reaches deeply into our culture and into our personal relationships.  We must root out patriarchy if we are going to have truly practical revolutionary change.  (And pragmatics, therefore, is not reduced to economics but to all aspects of life - including our interpersonal relationships).  I argue, of course, that anarchy is the most practical approach (though leave what that means open), and I'd argue that philosophy is certainly the most practical means by which we appreciate the truth about our life and our practical reality (that to suppose the dichotomy between big and small questions is very false).

Ben - let me study what you are doing more - I WILL BE IN TOUCH.  Here Is How is certainly I hope the kind of praxis that shows that questions of philosophy and life are not at odds with each other.

Comment by Christopher Wroth on May 28, 2012 at 4:35pm

Jim ~ First, let me thank you for your excellent writing and thinking on this site.  Also, it is very helpful to learn about what others are doing.  Thank you for the info on Bozeman.  And at the same time, thanks to the site stewards for their work.  Better communication between many minds discussing the way ahead is movement building.  I'm not here to trash philosophy, only to ask.  Assuming that economic justice depends on replacing patriarchy with something better, the question becomes:  "How can patriarchy be replaced with something better, and how can we be certain that eliminating patriarchy will result in economic justice for the global masses?

Comment by Mark E. Smith on May 28, 2012 at 5:05pm

Christopher, a person without philosophy wouldn't think or make decisions about what to do next, they'd just do whatever seemed easiest and most practical. Only with an idea of what reality is, why everything is here, and who we are, will we actually consider alternatives rather than just taking the easiest path.

Occupy didn't start as a protest against global injustice or in solidarity with other countries. It began, and for the most part still continues, with protests against economic injustice against the middle class here in the US, as in the 99% and the 1% and in "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out." I know of Occupiers who went to the anti-NATO protests in Chicago and who were angry with pro-Assad protesters because they simply didn't understand that Syria is under attack by NATO and they believe the NATO propaganda and think that Assad (like Sadaam and Gaddafi before him) is the bad guy and that NATO can help save the people. In truth, these so-called "bad guys" never seemed to get the urge to "kill their own people" until after the US and NATO sent in death squads to kill innocent people to destabilize their governments, and once NATO intervened, hundreds of thousands of people (millions in Iraq) were killed where previously there had been peace and prosperity. Only those Occupiers who understand the problem of global capitalist imperialism, are in solidarity with those protesting global economic injustice. The rest just want job, homes, or lower taxes for themselves, and don't care about other countries. 

Jim is one of those who see the bigger picture. The global masses cannot gain economic justice as long as the United States continues to use genocide to hog the lion's share of the world's resources, and it is patriarchy that justifies ownership and greed instead of freedom and equitable sharing.

Ben, there's a guy on Twitter who uses the word "voluntaryism" instead of anarchy, and those who have adopted that usage say that it saves them hours of argument with people who don't know that the two words mean approximately the same thing. I prefer the word anarchy, meaning "no rulers" because to my ears, voluntaryism sounds too much like Libertarianism, freedom to own property, to be greedy, and to exploit others. There is nothing on this planet that was created by us. We can take what was freely provided and put fences around it, mutilate it, and turn it into weapons, but no human created the sunlight, air, water, and nutrients that sustained us for tens of thousands of years before agriculture and civilization, and nobody is more entitled to that which we were given to sustain life, than anyone else. In the new Constitution of Ecuador, nature itself has rights. Theoretically (although not necessarily in practice) that could mean that nobody had the right to buy a mountain and destroy it to sell the coal within--that the mountain itself had a right to exist. We didn't create it and we have no right to own or destroy it.

Comment by Christopher Wroth on May 28, 2012 at 7:52pm

If global capitalist imperialism is the cause of global economic injustice, and is itself caused by patriarchy, then the question remains:  "How can global patriarchy be replaced with something better?"    

Comment by Mark E. Smith on May 28, 2012 at 9:47pm

I never thought this would happen, but Anna was right that Occupy Cafe has changed me.

Christopher, we don't have to replace global patriarchy, we only have to replace patriarchy in our own hearts.

Yup, that was me, saying new-age stuff I thought I'd never say.

But it is true. The steps to replacing patriarchy are:

1. Discussing it so that people understand the problem.

2. Creating practical working alternatives so that people can experience a better way of doing things.

But it can't be done with a great and benevolent ruler telling the masses how to live, because that would be hierarchy whether the ruler is a patriarch, a matriarch, a plutocrat, a Communist or anything else. It can only be done when we stop thinking in terms of the elites and the masses, and start thinking in terms of everyone being equal. And that is something best done individually or in Small Groups where everyone has an equal place at the table, so that the individual is respected, nurtured, and cherished rather than dictated to. Once we can respect our own unique personhood, we can respect that of others. Once we stop thinking of ourselves as being below some people and above other people, we can separate ourselves from hierarchical systems and not impose them on others.

My local worker-owned food cooperative has been operating successfully that way for decades. But each new worker-owner who joins the co-op is given an individual orientation so that they understand what it means to be a worker-owner rather than an employee. Otherwise some might shirk their responsibilities because nobody is bossing them around, or start trying to boss others around. It's a new and different way of thinking and acting. I shop there at least once a week and I've never seen anyone who didn't take pride in our co-op and in the way that it functions. When it first started out, many people voluntarily made great sacrifices and endured extreme hardships to make it work. But they believed in it and they succeeded. Some of the founders are still there, but people leave and new people come in all the time. For those of us who have only experienced hierarchy, learning about and experiencing equality is world-shaking. And it is spreading. There are millions of people all over the world working in collectives, cooperatives, and other non-hierarchical systems. But it happens one person at a time or in small groups. That's how the world is changed, one person at a time or in small groups of committed people. We're not global masses, we're unique and precious individuals. That is the same in a modern food cooperative in the US, or in a primitive food cooperative in a third or fourth world country. And it enriches everyone it touches.,

The question isn't, "How can global patriarchy be replaced with something better?" The question is, "Do I want something better, do I know it is possible, and am I willing to work with others to make it happen?"

Comment by Christopher Wroth on May 29, 2012 at 4:07am

Yes, a good three-part question.  I am curious as to how you would answer.

Comment by Ben Roberts on May 29, 2012 at 6:17am

Go, Mark, Go!!!  

The coop model is certainly appealing.  And I guess it can even scale well beyond what most of us might imagine, as demonstrated by Spain's Mondragon cooperative.  I read recently that there are some US groups seeking to emulate that model in the Rust Belt.

My friend Vic Desotelle talks a lot about the idea that we will have parallel systems for a period of time--a theme I hear from you a lot now too, Mark.  In other words, putting our energy into attacking the Old Economy isn't going to work, but creating more compelling alternatives and simply inviting people to opt in is an approach that might be liberating.  

I think it's Barbara Marx Hubbard, or maybe Joanna Macy, who talks about our task at this time of Transition being "to hospice the old paradigm and midwife the new." I love the gentleness of that metaphor (although birth is far from a gentle process!).  Despite its apparent strength and dominance, is it possible that patriarchy is brittle, creaking and crumbling from within?  If we treat it, and those who are struggling to maintain it, with the compassion we might show a dying and somewhat crusty old man, is it possible that might serve us better than angry protest?  Meanwhile, the suggestion is to use our creative energies in service to the emergence of the new paradigm.  

Comment by Christopher Wroth on May 29, 2012 at 6:15pm

Ben ~ Great models for alternative lifestyles and local economies have always been with us.  When was Mother Earth News first published?  Remember Henry George?  These models are the 1% of the economy.  Wal-mart, Amazon, Target, Bank of America, TV advertising, etc. is the 99% of the economy.  Unless there is a sudden consciousness awakening everywhere, all of the alternative models will remain just that - alternatives on the margin.  With climate change here and now, with widespread food and water shortages not far away, we may be a little pressed for time.  My operating assumption is that the challenges are global.  If humanity doesn't have a macro solution to these challenges, well, it won't be fun.  I think the questions we must ask are:   Is there a global solution that can end most global injustice in less than 5 years, what is it, how can it be made to happen?  The slogan, "World Revolution, the only Solution" has been on the home page of #OWS from the beginning.  World revolution is a macro solution and I really thought at first that it could  happen in 5 years.  The Mayday fizzle was hard to take.  We tried re-encampment and the police were too overwhelming.  And is World Revolution really the ONLY solution?  That notion is disturbingly like TINA, a favorite tool of the plutocracy.  


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