She called at night. I took the phone as if I was expecting the call. She told me that her husband had been unfaithful. Again? “When, how, why?” I asked.
I knew about the first time, a year or two ago. Now she told me that when she was pregnant, he took her to a swingers’ club. She didn’t like it, she told me. He did. She felt used. Then, when she gave birth and was feeling insecure about her own body and sex appeal, he began having another affair. He didn’t even hide it. Openly, at work, he’d touch “this other woman,” although she would be present. They worked at the same place.
She gradually became so vulnerable, so full of doubt that she became another: invisible.
I saw that. I told her to leave him. “Leave him,” I said.
I guess that’s why I expected the call. Yet, I couldn’t know the impact of it. I only knew that he blamed her for everything, all the while not doing anything. She took care of the children, the house, the shopping and the cooking while he chatted with girls on the internet.
I told her to stop doing it all. Don’t serve him dinner. Don’t wash his clothes.
I told her that no one would thank her for sacrificing her life for him. I was worried. She was no longer funny—and she used to be very funny. She was no longer caring, but a person tainted by anxiety. The husband didn’t notice. His mind was elsewhere, probably where his genitals were.
Then, one night, she called me and said, “I can’t go on.” She told me about it. Everything. I got so furious that I think I would’ve seriously hurt him if he’d been standing next to me. For five years, I made sure to avoid him. Call it self-awareness.
She cried, of course. I told her, “Today is your first day … now your life begins … you only needed his sperm … you’ve got beautiful children … that’s enough … move on … find yourself again.”
I might have sounded like Oprah Winfrey, although I’ve only seen Winfrey on television once, during the infamous Lance Armstrong interview. Anyway, she did leave him. Gradually, she grew stronger, found her smile again. After more than a year, she regained her posture. I recognize her once again.
Women are stronger than men
I mention this story of sadness and healing transformation because I, like everyone else, recently read about Harvey Weinstein. I didn’t know about him, but had heard the stories going around. Then many more stories emerged about the abuse of women, mainly by powerful men. Too many to count. And after a while of digesting all this, I realized that women are stronger than men.
Why? Because they have to be. My mother realized that her first husband was having an affair with a man—just two months after she gave birth to twins, during which one of the babies died in labour. Yet, she managed to go on, even as her former husband just took care only of himself.
Today, the world continues to favour men, because they’re men. It’s easier to be a man. There are few places that I don’t have access to, due to my gender.
I thought of the woman calling me on the phone. I thought of my Mom, my wife and daughter, and all the other girls and women out in the world. The problem is not only that some power-hungry, egoistic men are sick. Rather, the problem is that when such men are sick, it has severe consequences for all of us, because men still, to a large extent, rule the world.
I remember Rebecca Solnit saying something about men being the problem—not all men, but men. And she’s almost right. Because men, as philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said about women, aren’t born men; they become men. Weinstein didn’t come into this world as a sick misogynist. He, like all those like him, was formed by the culture in which he was brought up.
Luckily, I think, I spent a lot of time with my mother and my sister. Yet, many small boys spend time with their mothers, and less time with their fathers … or, at least, they used to. Does this mean that even women—some mothers—are favouring their sons? Encouraging them to see themselves as better than girls? Telling their daughters to passively obey?
Capitalism—the core of the problem
What Weinstein and his ilk have done is a violation of many women, but not only women. It’s also a violation of what it means to be a human being; what it means to be with other people regardless of their gender, age, skin colour, sexual preferences or religious beliefs. It’s a lack of respect, trust and justice. He’s not capable of this; he’s not capable of living in a society of mutual respect. And for people like this, most societies have jails.
I think that part of the problem we refer to euphemistically as “gender problems,” although it more correctly should be called “misogyny” or “sexism,” is related to capitalism and the patriarchal organization of many religions. However, here, I’ll only refer to capitalism.
Due to capitalism, we’re told that freedom is related to property rights, as if anyone could own another human being. The false idea of ownership ruins the possibility of love—that is, love as more than a romantic feeling; rather, a capacity to be taught. Capitalism makes people (including women) selfish, greedy and morally impotent.
Narcissism, egoism, nationalism … they’re all related to capitalism and the right to own a territory, the illusion of being in control and the belief that some people can treat others as they see fit, because of ownership, money and such.
Preventing future monsters
We can only solve problems together. So how can we prevent future monsters?
First, by accepting that empathy and compassion don’t grow like nails and hair. These are things that need to be cultivated or trained. For this reason, I think a major step towards a better future would be to teach mindfulness and philosophy to children from the age of six or seven.
[Hannah] Arendt showed in her work how evil arises from thoughtlessness—not stupidity, but rather, the fact that you don’t care at all.
By learning to mindfully pay attention to the present moment, we not only cultivate our awareness, but also minimize potential forgetfulness—we remember where we are, what we’re doing and who we’re with. We’re always here, now and together, all of us.
Hannah Arendt writes in The Life of the Mind, “The very word con-science, … means ‘to know with and by myself,’ a kind of knowledge that is actualized in every thinking process.” Among many things, Arendt showed in her work how evil arises from thoughtlessness—not stupidity, but rather, the fact that you don’t care at all.
Learning a combination of mindfulness and philosophy will ensure that children maintain their open minds and hearts instead of pre-judging people and situations. A philosophy based on this non-judgmental approach can affirm or create new paths that may overcome what’s beginning to look like moralistic trench warfare between genders.
Survival of the compassionate
Mindfulness is one example of constructive revenge. It shows people who feel superior because of money, gender, race or religion that the most powerful human being is a person who cares for what brings life. Nothing else.
The survival of the fittest basically means the survival of the compassionate.
None of us would be here if someone hadn’t nurtured us, held our hands or warmed our bodies and minds when we needed it most. None of us would be in this world if it weren’t for all the people who were here before us, passing on their wisdom and experiences. Instead of being greedy and hate-filled, we should be grateful for all the things that work in the world.
Actually, most of us work rather well from the beginning. No one is born a racist, sexist or misogynist individual; it’s something you learn. I’ve never encountered a child who discriminated against another child because of his or her skin colour or gender. Hate, like evil, is a sign of thoughtlessness or carelessness from the side of parents or other caregivers.
Weinstein and others like him can serve as a wake-up call for all. He’s a symptom of a sick culture, and for that, we’re all accountable.
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