© 2021 Hazel Henderson
Worldwide, male members of human societies are still controlling women’s bodies: from Afghanistan’s Taliban, now admired by US insurrectionists, to US Republicans in Texas, the Supreme Court and among gun-toting militants intimidating voters and preaching hate and violence. This global misogynist backlash against women’s progress and rights also predominates in Islamist countries, proponents of Sharia Law, among Israeli orthodox extremists, as well as in fundamentalist economics, religious doctrines, and sects of all kinds, including Christians and Catholics around the globe.
All these societies have males who support within their families and societies, patriarchal domination, rather than partnership with the other half of humanity, as described by evolutionary systems sociologist Riane Eisler in her best-selling “The Chalice and The Blade“ (1988). Indeed, controlling women and their bodies is fundamental to such societies’ demographic, political structures, laws and hierarchies of privilege. These patterns have been documented by generations of anthropologists and illustrated in economies by New Zealand parliamentarian, Marilyn Waring in her ground-breaking “If Women Counted“ (1990) and vividly portrayed by Canadian Margaret Atwood in her “The Handmaid’s Tale“ (1985). I write from personal experience growing up in a violent patriarchal family.
Today, all these issues of patriarchal domination are colliding with planetary resource-use, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems’ services to humans and are now determining human populations and survival chances. Today’s Sixth Extinction of species caused by humans’ ecological destruction may also include the eventual extinction of humans. Life on planet Earth will survive and other fitter species will take over. We humans need not worry about saving the Earth — only how best to save ourselves and our own species’ future. Responses range from typical biological feedback seen in mammal species in breeding storms: homosexuality and gender diversification to reduce reproduction rates and increasing conflicts over resources and territory. Cultural feedbacks now include the global revolution among our children as well as protests by the rising numbers of the Extinction Rebellion in our streets and cities. Additional decades of rational research, environmental law-making, international UN summits and treaties address ecological destruction, such as those efforts of the IPCC and the COP (Committee of Parties) in the international meeting of governments culminating in COP26 upcoming in Scotland, November 2021.
Thus, controlling women’s bodies and their reproductive choices are now a key to humanity’s survival and bring our population into line with the planet’s carrying capacity. Wherever women’s freedom to limit conception is respected, birthrates fall. Today, women are electing to have fewer children everywhere in the world, as documented by Canadian researchers Darrell Brickner and John Ibbitson’s global political surveys in “Empty Planet“ (2019). This research counters United Nations (UN) projections of human population reaching 10 billion or more by 2100. The reality is that governments in China, the European Union (EU) and many other countries worldwide at all stages of development are exhorting and incentivizing their women to produce more children to buttress conventional development models of GDP-measured economic and population growth. Yet, even in China’s socially-controlled development model, women are refusing — even to marry, along with similar trends in Sweden, EU countries, even Italy with its predominant Catholicism, has fallen below its population’s replacement rate.
No wonder males everywhere are fearful, often vengeful against women’s progress, due to eroding of previous privileges and social dominance. The young generation of men in many countries are happy with partnerships with their sisters, wives, and lovers. Other men still take vengeance in intimidation, threats and still pervasive violence and killing of women, as the tragic statistics show. As veteran media expert Jean Gaddy Wilson, founder of “New Directions for News” at the University of Missouri reminds us “Violence in societies can just grow, but prevention of violence has to be organized. Thus, we see in the USA the recent ruling in Texas offering bounties of $10,000 to any vigilantes among citizens anywhere for even trying to help women in the still lawful exercise of their reproductive rights and political freedom. This travesty of Constitutional law is abetted by an out-of-control activist Supreme Court now dominated by anti-abortionist Catholics. Thus, we see how these attacks on women are also fundamentally about human rights, voting rights and civil liberties. As civil rights leader of the National Action Network, Reverend Al Sharpton put it when interviewed on national television on September 4th, ”Women’s rights have everything to do with civil rights, voting rights, freedom and democracy”.
Even well-meaning efforts and reactions to raise funds to pay victims of bounty hunters’ $10,000 extortions of helpers of women may signal undue acknowledgment of such totally unacceptable, illegitimate perversions of law and democratic principals, which US President Joe Biden described as “un-American”. Any kind of reimbursement of such extortion is akin to the selling of insurance policies bought by some victimized companies, hospitals, local governments disabled by hackers in today’s ransomware attacks. This only normalizes or encourages further attacks and is now discouraged or disallowed in the same way that governments do not pay ransoms to hijackers or kidnappers.
In today’s democracies threatened by authoritarian politicians and movements or totalitarian control, as in Russia and North Korea, or creeping personal surveillance by corporations, these tendencies to curtail people’s freedoms of speech and assembly, or threated their lives, must be countered head-on. Societies need to “Reframe the Politics of Polarization” abetted by all forms of communication and social media platforms on the internet, as well as their chattering classes of pundits seeking fame, ratings and profits. Citizens need to now take responsibility for “Steering our Powers of Persuasion Toward Human Goals“.
Even in the USA, since its Civil War, racist Jim Crow laws and policies limiting minority and women’s rights continued until 1964, when the passage of national civil rights legislation finally guaranteed universal voting rights. Not until 1973 with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Roe v. Wade case, did women obtain rights over their own bodies and reproductive freedom to plan their families and life choices. This right was first granted in Western societies in England in 1215 under the Magna Carta, which upheld the rights of people to own their own bodies under the Writ of Habeas Corpus. In today’s Information Age, this includes peoples’ right to also own their own brains and all the information they generate. Naturally, this includes women’s rights to own and control their own bodies and not to be hunted down by vengeful bounty-seeking or merely nosey neighbors or other citizens without legal standing in any normal court of law.
The oldest principle underpinning these human rights and responsibilities to each other is The Golden Rule: “Do As You Would Be Done By“, which has fostered humanity’s ethical development and permitted our mutual aid and cooperation from our nomadic past. this allowed settled agriculture to prosper into villages, towns, cities and today’s international, ever-larger groups were formed. As the human family grew, multinational corporations, trade unions and nations appeared, along with the EU and the UN and all its cooperating agencies, the International Postal Union, the International Air Traffic Association regulating air travel, as well as thousands of cooperating academic and professional associations and the International Space Station and space programs. Wikipedia holds a vast section describing how humans throughout our history, have used The Golden Rule to evolve their inter-personal and group behavior and its translations in hundreds of languages and societies, religious and secular groups.
Still today, the unpaid, voluntary production in communities, families based on The Golden Rule, which are the bedrock of all societies but un-noticed by economics and un-measured in their GDP and macroeconomic statistics. These are still actually larger than the money-measured market sectors which these Love Economies enfold and support. This is particularly true in developing countries in the global South, where their GDP-denominated “official“ economies are a smaller percentage of production than their unpaid sectors based on barter, production for local use and mutual cooperation. Today, there are still more people on planet Earth employed by cooperative enterprises than all the for-profit corporations combined (www.undp.org).
Markets and money are great inventions and tools used by humans for centuries, using shells, wampum, or tally sticks as money and trading locally as well as across continents as Native peoples have done for centuries. Citizens surveyed in 12 countries by Globescan and Ethical Markets in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2020 still show large majorities favor expanding money-denominated GDP with relevant scientific metrics on health, education and environment (www.ethicalmarkets.com/BeyondGDP ). Many books now confirm, along with Pitirim A. Sorokin’s “The Ways and Power of Love” (1954,1982); Rutger Bregman’s “Humankind”, (2020) and “Nurturing our Humanity” (2019) by Riane Eisler and Douglas Fry, with vast empirical evidence, that cooperative, peaceful societies are possible and indeed have always evolved the behavior of the human family toward altruism. Charles Darwin had predicted this, in his theory of natural selection, as documented in “Rediscovering Darwin” (2018) by evolutionary sociologist, David Loye. Our common human future now depends on restructuring our societies, cultures and laws to reflect these long-ignored realities.