High Life

Basic Instincts

August 24, 2009

A man I know wrote to tell me he finds my “€œintelligence”€ frightening.  My penultimate column on the subjects of marriage and parenthood provoked mostly positive responses from both sexes. This man was the notable exception. He seems to think women with opinions are threatening to men, and that my opinions in particular, are the likely cause of my unwedded status. He suggested that I write something light and frivolous for my next column, and that in so doing, I might find a man.  Naturally, I considered his advice, and wrote a playful essay on Matkot, the national sport of Israel, to see what sort of response that would garner.  Presently, I am still single.  Hmmm…

How could anyone, roughly three hundred years after the Age of Enlightenment, consider reason, or the display of it, a flaw, unless they are themselves incapable of rational thought? But, this man is not an anomaly. In the 21st century, billions of men and women are still operating under a pre-Enlightenment paradigm. One need only consider the thinking that motivated the World Trade Center bombings”€”and the subsequent responses”€”or the prevailing ideologies in the Middle East to get an idea of how far we have not come since the 18th century. Sure, some advancements in science and technology have exceeded anyone’s expectations. (We got the Internet, which no one anticipated, but then where are the jetpacks and personal spaceships all those novelists said we”€™d be enjoying in the 21st-century?) Nevertheless, at some basic level society is still primitive. Surely, the hanging of Saddam Hussein was not a triumph for civilization, nor the absurd financial debts we are accruing, a testament to progress.

Despite the international law introducing voting rights for women in 1948, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in 1979 by the U.N., women’s rights are still nil in many parts of the world. Nations like the United States have dealings with countries like Saudi Arabia. When they do, are they fueling the sort of misguided thinking that enables societies to uphold antiquated, patriarchal values? Are anyone’s best interests actually being served? Perhaps there is no one to blame. Maybe the system is as it should be, and these aforementioned laws are not important.  After all, it is the mighty, not the just, that generally prevail.

If anyone is to blame, however, perhaps it is not the men”€”but the women. Women are the ones who will need to be more demanding if equality is to be achieved. Without subverting modesty and gallantry, women will have to seize power for themselves. This is no small task”€”fighting their maternal instincts and the paternal prototype is hard enough.  And doing so gracefully would be an immense challenge. The possibilities remain to be explored, though they won”€™t be unless fewer women are on diaper duty and more brave women are willing to die for equal rights!

I wonder though, do women actually need more power, or do men simply need less? Conceivably, the only power anyone really needs is the type of power derived from rational, rather than base and selfish, thinking. Were more people adept in this manner, might there be more pleasure, and less fear, violence, and corruption in the world?

The troubles we face now are not dissimilar to the ones people faced in the Middle Ages.  Societies are still burdened by theocracy, oligarchy, and the divine right of kings. Does this mean that God has indeed bestowed a divine right upon kings, as it would seem he has in Saudi Arabia? Does this mean that modernity, republicanism, liberalism, and humanism are inferior models? Or does the current state of development, or lack thereof, indicate that men who think like my acquaintance are simply uncultivated, cowardly, dishonest, and chauvinistic? Whatever the case may be, both men and women will have to master modern thinking if the standard is to advance. A scary thought for sure, but obviously not one that should be censored in order to ease the fear triggered by the mere thought of a pretty girl with brains. 


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