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Archive for January, 2013

How many times has a story about one person gained top headlines for a month? Not often, unless that person has activated a powerful movement and demand for change within one of the world’s largest and oldest cultures. I am not going to repeat the details of the Delhi rape case again, it is described in nearly every news article about the event and even in a Wikipedia page. I think we are all familiar with what happened and how the movement is still alive while the woman who inspired it is not.

 

And unlike Faiz Jamil’s article Can India’s anti-rape moment change a culture? and the BBCWorld’s article The Rapes that India forgot (which strangely has no author), I believe this is no passing movement to be forgotten when the headlines are no longer interesting. I can’t remember when a news story has held my attention more, and this one, although having a tragic beginning, is telling us how the candour to the discussion around dignity and rights is unfolding in places with long held taboos on many sexual topics. With all that is currently happening in the world, knowing the people of India are on the streets yelling and singing that it is no longer acceptable to rape, molest or beat a woman while also stating these crimes were the fault of women is heartening. Yet, in my opinion, it is not an example of 4th wave feminism to say that women have been the victims and men the perpetrators of such acts. I think that simplifies a very complex history that has lead to a certain way of life for many millions of people, not just in India, but in places like Egypt and Africa where similar types of sexual abuse are also rampant and not addressed by laws or social morals. Watch the Egyptian film, 678 by Mohamed Diab, that is based on a true story which happened just before the Arab Spring erupted. You can start to see how many different views are held when it comes to abuse of women and how each plays a part in a violent circle. In any society that devalues women, there is also a cost to men.

Article image borrowed from The Guardian

In a well known 2002 study by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea den Boer “A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace,” it is clear that a gender imbalance caused by a shortage of marriageable women results in higher rates of crime committed by young unmarried men including rape. As of the 2011 census data, there are about 17 million excess men in India in the age group that commits most of these types of crimes, up from 7 million in 1991.

In a marriage market where women are scarce and thus able to “marry up,” certain characteristics of young surplus males are easily and accurately predicted. They are liable to come from the lowest socioeconomic class, be un- or underemployed, live a fairly nomadic or transient lifestyle with few ties to the communities in which they are working, and generally live and socialize with other bachelors. In sum, these young surplus males may be considered, relatively speaking, losers in societal competition.

[ ] ..the behavior of men in groups — most particularly young, single, low-status males — will not rise above the behavior of the worst-behaved individual. Together, they will take larger risks and be more violent than they otherwise would individually.

We are stating how 1 in 4 women will be abused in her lifetime, yet how often do we say that 1 in 20 men in India will be losers since even if they wanted to marry a woman, there will be no chance for them to find an eligible wife. The most companionship they might have is a gang of male friends in the same situation as themselves. It is also important to ask what the effect of rape and molestation has on men with wives and girlfriends. One of the women in the film 678 can no longer stand to have her husband touch her after years of being molested while taking the bus to work since a cab was too expensive for her family. Another woman leaves her husband because he can’t handle the fact that she was abused by men in a crowd after a soccer match. For myself, I am beginning to see how a tolerance of abuse against women starts seeping into the lives of everyone. Even more disturbing is the how the same police and military forces that do not protect women in India are now treating the men who committed these crimes. There are photos of the men accused of the Delhi rape being lead to court with black bags over their heads reminiscent of the men accused of terrorism and detained during the American wars on Terrorism during the last decade. And a chilling demand from some of the people of the world that the solution to this problem would be to install the death penalty for rape in India and to definitely hang these six accused men. Again, I am not seeing how this fits with modern values or needs and the 4th wave.

 

Dr. Gabor Maté, a brilliant and unconventional doctor and researcher, has written about how early experiences have a key role in shaping a person’s perceptions of the world and others. In When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection he says that emotional patterns ingrained in childhood live in the memory of cells and the brain and appear in interpersonal interactions later on. He describes the impact of ‘adverse childhood experiences’ such as a child being abused, violence in the family, a jailed parent, extreme stress of poverty, a rancorous divorce, or an addicted parent can have on how people live their lives and on their risk of addiction and mental and physical illnesses. He argues that people need to explore their childhoods and the impact it may have on adult behaviors. Overall, he argues people benefit by taking a holistic approach to their own health and seriously considering their “mind-body unity” and “spiritual unity.” Is it too much of a reach to see how this same advice for the individual could apply to a whole society and in fact all of us living on the planet.  The time for seeing ourselves as little empires tucked away on various continents is really past us now. To abuse a woman is not acceptable, yet neither should punishment and further criminal acts, even as they seem to rest within the law, be what we teach our children.

Young protester India

 

We can all remember and take lessons from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa begun in 1995. The mandate of the commission was to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, as well as for reparation and rehabilitation to be practiced. In the same way the First Nations cultures have circles in which healing can occur between people.

In virtually all Aboriginal communities, the concept of health centers around balance and harmony within and between the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of individuals. Human health is also seen as interdependent with the natural and spiritual world. The acknowledgement of this interconnection between human, natural, and spiritual worlds is fundamental to an understanding all of the aspects of Aboriginal cultures. More over, all the expression of culture such as language, art, and healing is not in and of themselves distinct practices within community life but different expressions of a holistic way of living in community and culture. For example, transformation masks seen in Northwest Coastal Cultures used in various ceremonies illustrate the interdependence of artist, spiritual, and healing practice.

 

That is what it means to be living in the 4th wave, that we are all in the same boat together, and what happens to your sister, happens to me, and what happens to your father, happens to mine. And although there are not 100% of the people expressing this concept 100% of the time, this is what I see happening in the global tipping points of the past year, a real concern for justice, equality and peace. Check out these brave souls in India! They are ‘holding’ hands with the men in North America who donned high heels recently in support of security and rights for women. So very 4th wave…

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Welcome to 2013 first of all. Many of us were not sure we would make it, and if we did, some of us weren’t sure we wanted to. But that is all past us and now we have work to do and changes to make. That is my prediction for 2013, change and masses of it.

In the coming months, I am hoping to bring into focus some of the thoughts I have held for many years on various topics. This post about health care is inspired by the revelations of a medical doctor on how the modern medical system treats patients. For one, thank you Mr. Murray for expressing these views, it takes courage to say what no one else dares to. When I was younger I dated a doctor’s son, he would often tell me stories about how he received the worst medical treatment from his father because it was often none at all. If there were anything really serious, he would be sent to a fellow physician to be looked after. I used to think it was some sort of strange negligence on the father’s part, or his busy life and hectic schedule leading to neglect, but now that I have read Mr. Murray’s article I am thinking maybe it was a desire to not cause any harm to his own children.

In his article, How Doctor’s Die, Ken Murray, MD describes how he and other doctor’s when facing a serious or terminal illness would rather go home and wait death out than be treated in a hospital and kept alive at all cost.

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “NO CODE” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.

So the secret code is NO CODE. I am considering where I could put it as a tattoo myself if it could keep me from experiencing a brutal last few hours or days and save the health care system enough money to keep a person alive on social assistance for several years. For that is also what Mr. Murray describes, how the patients, the doctors and the system have a part to play in how health care is currently administered and it sounds like some of the main problems are a lack of education about the effects of current treatments and medications, not enough time for communication about expectations and beliefs around health and death, and the way money is made by doctors in the system.

When I was about 24, I read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. It talked about death from the Buddhist perspective and when I had read that book several times I was convinced of how death and birth were the grand portals and everything that happened in between was inseparable from the quality of those moments. In the Rinpoche’s words:

…in death all the components of our body and mind are stripped away and disintegrate. As the body dies, the senses and subtle elements dissolve, and this is followed by the death of the ordinary aspect of our mind, with all its negative emotions of anger, desire, and ignorance. Finally nothing remains to obscure our true nature, as everything that in life has clouded the enlightened mind has fallen away. And what is revealed is the primordial ground of our absolute nature, which is like a pure and cloudless sky.
This is called the dawning of the Ground Luminosity, or ‘Clear Light,’ where consciousness itself dissolves into the all-encompassing space of truth. […]
The dawning of the Ground Luminosity, or Clear Light, at the moment of death is the great opportunity for liberation.

Now imagine an eighty-year-old patient in the hospital being resuscitated from a stroke or heart attack and then being attached to a life support machine. Did they know they could tattoo NO CODE on their wrist to avoid this treatment? Are they actually quite ready to go gently into the night? It is no longer their choice once consciousness is lost or taken away. And although they may not know of or believe in the Bardo states of Buddhism or reincarnation, it is still their moment. The time to reflect on a life lived and to have a chance to see the place of becoming and where they are going to from their own intrinsic knowing which resides in all of us. How then is this possible when surrounded by frenzied doctors, machines and while having their body cut open, injected with tubes and stimulated beyond their innate capacity? I think it is clear that it is not humane; it is not the saving of a life but the destroying of a death. And it is a truth that the one thing we all have in common is a birth and a death. Those are our moments to enter into a corporeal existence and to exit one. Without needing to know about what may occur before and after, we are all poignantly aware of what happens in between for that is our life. And each one of us deserves to have our dignity from the beginning of our life to the end of it.

The Dying Gaul sculpture

The Dying Gaul

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