Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Midweek Musing: Sharing wisdom, sharing power

When I share an article that names the dangerous human tendency to value men over women I am not sure the appropriate response from men is 'Oh, how I feel emasculated.'

This week's musing is the result of some weeks of fermentation after just such an interaction.



Such articles as I share from time to time on the way women are viewed and treated in our society are not written and shared to say that being male is somehow bad or wrong, or not in the image of God. These articles are written and shared because many societies have said that to be male is good and not said to be female is good. In fact, we have said, in the history of humankind, man is good, woman is bad.

And then we have gone on to equate any number of dualisms to this good/bad - male/female dichotomy. Let me place them in line with each other

good / bad
male / female
God / human (and men are human, so there's something really odd going on there)
mind / body
or
soul / body
logic / imagination
rationality / emotion


In my PhD thesis I will be calling out this dualistic tendency of humans in terms of rational thinking and imaginative, intuitive, emotional ways of making meaning. In doing so, I will be drawing on scholarship from a vast array of fields, including cognitive and neural science, psychology, and philosophy.

For postmoderns, who are supposedly adept at pluralism, we are still hanging on to an awful lot of dualisms - something must be either / or, rather than both / and.

To be human is to be more than this or that. It is to be many things at once. Let's take the mind / body dualism, since I deal with that in my thesis.
Understanding how a human engages with and understands the world, themselves and their experiences is hardly as simple as mind over body. There is a physicality to human being - we are embodied organisms, embedded in time and place. There is also an interiority, a spiritual, subjective, soulful dimension to being human. We feel. And our mind, our thinking, knowing, meaning making is a dynamic interplay of physical and non-physical elements of human being.

I would say there is a third crucial element to being human, which engages both our physical and soulful selves, and is also more, beyond us. For our human being is not about being one human. It is about being human together with other humans, and the physical and intangible elements of our communal life are essential to our individual wellbeing as much as the physical and soulful health of the individuals contributes to the communal wellbeing.

When I share an article that calls out the privileging of men over women in our society, it is not to say all men as individuals disrespect women. It is to say that we - the community of human beings - have still not learnt how to live with difference in such a way as to welcome it, embrace it, celebrate it as vital for our communal health. What sort of community would we be if we were all the same? Where we are the same is in our dignity and worth as human beings, bringing our uniqueness to the community for vitality and health.

I feel the burden of privilege when I am in multi-lingual groups, conferences, courses and such, where English is assumed for all to be able to participate. I wouldn't say that speaking English is bad. But I am aware of my privilege, and the power I hold in those settings, because English is my first language.

The point of this awareness - of writing and sharing articles naming the privilege that hurts some humans - is to ask ourselves what will we do with the power we hold in any given situation?

Will we cry when someone wants to name the unbalance and share power around? Or will we use our power to empower others, to make sure the overlooked are seen, the quieter voices are heard, the vulnerable are cared for?

When I share an article that names the dangers of communal valuing of some humans more than others, I don't do so to devalue those humans currently privileged in our estimation. I do so to reclaim the inherent dignity and value of every human being. If you feel offended at your position being questioned, then I sure do want to take your power and share it around.



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