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WE CREATE OR WE ERR by Burton Sankeralli

posted 4 Apr 2017, 04:02 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Apr 2017, 06:34 ]

I realize that I may be called upon to respond and perhaps even critique two of my last pieces: the first pertaining to the so-called child marriage issue; the second - an examination of patriarchy.  As regards child marriage while painting a rather grim picture of our present scenario there is clearly a need for some manner of constructive proposal. 

And in my engagement of patriarchy while attempting to describe in a very simple if not simplistic way how patriarchy works in our capitalist societies I evaded precisely the kind of messy questions concerning the presence of that range of cultural traditions that were the focus of the first piece and as I said requires a more practical engagement.

The only problem is when it comes to the real hardcore practical solution/s I don’t have the answers. To be honest there is good reason to believe that no one actually has the answers. But I am sure that there are many out there who are way ahead of me and have a critical role in such resolution.

It is thus my aim in what follows to point out what I believe to be real concerns and hence to assist the process and to assist those heroines and heroes who are actually out in the trenches getting their hands dirty. I shall endeavour to do this while not sounding like an armchair academic sitting on the sidelines shouting out of order advice. However I must confess that some of my concerns might appear rather theoretical. Is that a dirty word?

Now, in these very messy trenches there are a network or intertwined networks of activists working with the marginalized; this including engaging critical issues of violence and abuse of women and children. Those involved come at this from various intersecting trajectories. Many are profoundly organically grounded in our communities some may formally identify with different cultural and religious traditions. Some belong to organizations and groups (NGOs etc.). Some are concerned with activism addressing specific social issues. Some are socialists or from that background. And there is very present here the Western liberal position based on the individual.

As a professed liberal non-believer I have to confess that this tradition centred as it is on the “rights of man” and democracy has made a profound contribution to the struggle for human dignity. It can moreover be very effective in agitation against power and in the mobilization of citizens around important indeed critical causes concerning “human rights” and pertaining to the marginalized such as the oppression of the poor and the abuse of women and children.

On the other hand this liberal perspective can be and has been readily deployed as a moral high-ground. This is evident in the discourse of the metropolitan capitalist democracies and such hegemonic international organizations as the United Nations that so love to preach down to us Third World savages. Here is a racist sub-text that views “other” traditions and groups (to borrow an image from a colleague) as natives out of an Indiana Jones movie. Of course such discourse has been readily utilized (often unwittingly) by various spokespersons and activists in the advocating of “human rights” etc.

I shall return to the liberals but I want to turn to our traditions. And yes I do seek to defend our traditions that articulate our ancestral vision of and insight into community. But we do have to face up to the reality that they are flawed; that no tradition or people is perfect. And that we have been badly fractured by our violent ongoing colonial modern history.

So for starters most of our prominent religious groupings and institutions are patriarchal. And our presiding cultural hierarchies intersect with and all too often participate in the dominant oppressive power structure. Moreover as someone who has been involved in and researching and writing about our cultural traditions for decades let me say that one gets the sinking feeling that things are more screwed up than many are prepared to admit. We can trust neither pastor, pundit nor calypsonian.

So who has the answers? Nobody! And who possesses the moral authority to intervene? The answer is the same – nobody. Yet the intervention impulse is strong. That goes back to when the good old Christian Spanish wanted to deal with the heathen cannibals… oh… and thanks for the gold and the real-estate. Now the Americans are bombing heathen Muslims in the name of democracy… oh… and thanks for the oil and the real-estate…

Liberals are similarly driven by this intervention impulse. If you don’t want to do anything about it we’ll get the State to do its thing. So up North they are so concerned about the smallest act of child abuse they are effectively placing children into the tender, loving, caring capable hands of the State apparatus. These guys are brilliant! Yeah, the universe is a dangerous place and parents may be pretty bad at raising their offspring but I can think of at least one agency that’s worse. And of course this intervention model is being exported to us in the colonies.

While we must learn all that is positive in the liberal model, its orthodoxy is coming to an end. Just as judgment day came for classical Eurocentric socialism at the end of the 20th century so does the 21st promise to be a long and grim one for liberalism. But just as socialism has creatively morphed and indeed its arrowhead is just a few mile off our coast, so we, in our own landscape of “Trinago”, may articulate our own vision drawing on the insights of this resurging socialism - the best of the modern West and our own traditions and communities that primordially ground us.

The Venezuelans say – we create or we err. I promise to be, or at least attempt to be, practical in my recommendations. We need to draw on these various strands in the developing of a new praxis - one that moves away from the “individual”; one that affirms the collective not as abstract, but as vitally embodied in our still living communities, traditions and social patterns; one that is relational and thus affirms the person and not only the human person but the ecology as a whole; one that opposes and combats oppression wherever it is found.

The new praxis means rebuilding a new network of organic activists rooted in our communities, our various social formations and traditions. And it has to hit the ground running, addressing the real life hard situations. While its ultimate aim has to be revolutionary in that it is concerned with radical social and thus political transformation it cannot wait for the revolution while women, children and other oppressed are immersed in cultures of violence; working class youth are being shot in the streets by the police and other criminals; our communities are living in a state of disruption, if not terror, and the environment despoiled.

Of course in this network there will also be a range of perspectives. The days of barren ideological squabbling are over. Moreover it is not rebuilding from scratch as we work with whoever is there on the ground.

Of course such a network would be pivotal in articulating the vision and providing the answers we are searching for, this in its very praxis. Because one day, maybe tomorrow maybe a hundred years from now this is all going to come crashing down. On that day when the system some call “Babylon” collapses the still unanswered question remains – With what do we replace it?