Friday, May 26, 2006

Man And Woman

Man And Woman

I think I am about to showcase my ignorance, but it should be entertaining nonetheless. So be it.

What is Man? What is Woman? The Question sets a kaleidoscope of images, sounds, smells, and memories spiraling up to the forefront of my mind (whatever the Mind Is and Is Not) from somewhere deep down on the bottom, from somewhere within the insulated darkness of my Being. But it is all a confusion of conflicting and sometimes unconnected Thoughts. There is no Order. If I grab hold of any one Thought and follow it through, I find it comes to it's own exclusionary conclusion, in other words, it's rightful and obligatory extinction. It's all appears connected, but when I follow a particular train of thought through, I find it very lonely and without support from all the rest of the thoughts swirling about this topic.

But then a voice from way down deep brushes aside the cacophony and quietly states, "Be a man." My father, the atheist, taught me that to 'be a man' meant these five things, in order of importance:

1) Don't hurt a woman
2) Don't hurt anyone weaker than me
3) Don't let anyone else hurt anyone weaker then they are
4) Help those in need
5) Accept responsibility for my actions

(Those five represent fingers being folded, the resulting fist means, if all else fails . . . call in the Marines)

Those are good, simple words to live by (and it doesn't escape me that to "be a Man" is to "be Good"). These rules give Meaning to Life. However, it comes to my attention that except for #1, and then only on the barest of technicalities, if then, these words could very well apply completely to someone being told to "be a Woman." In fact, it would be better to use those precepts to describe what it means to "be a Human." I think you can figure out why Women should not be harmed, even by other Women so I'll leave that for later -- #1 applies.

Hmmm. I wonder what my father taught my sister?

Anyway, given that, I am no closer to defining Man. I will definitely have to leave describing Woman off until after Man, for the obvious reason that I am a man and therefore I must first figure out what I Am before I can assess The Other.

Another lesson my father taught to me, this one solely by deed, is that a Man is a Good Father. I'll get to "Good" later, and I promise I'll sum "Good" up succinctly, but for now know that I am using the word "Father" to describe a paternal kinship connection between a man, a child, and the mother. The attributes a 'good father' must have, in order of prominence, have been handed down by tradition to me, and are:

1) To Love
2) To Protect
3) To Provide
4) To Teach
5) To Nurture
6) To Be There

Again it is unavoidable to conclude that these virtues mayhap can also be fully used to describe what it is to be a "Good Mother," and hence, Woman. Perhaps you would re-arrange the importance of each item, but all of them would still be there somewhere. So again, I am no closer to what it is to Be a Man.

I acknowledge the influence on the meanings of Man and Woman by the world of society, but will not embark into that morass because the whims of society are completely fabricated and ephemeral. Society is mutable, and I am looking for bedrock. Briefly I will say that Society seeks to force Man into something more than Human, and Woman into something less than Human. The "perfect woman" is Woman as an intelligent Animal to do the domestic drudgery and satisfy the carnal fancies on command while providing sons to carry on the patriarchy. Society as it is in the main, as I experience it, is cruel in ways petty and mean, and therefore at cross-purposes with what being Human is all about.

"Such a woman (Ed-note: the desired result of the time’s commonly approved teachings for children of the perfect woman) ought to be an angel - or she is an ass - for I discern not a trace of the human character, neither reason nor passion in this domestic drudge, whose being is absorbed in that of a tyrant's." - Mary Wollstonecraft, "Vindication of the Rights of Woman", 1792

Back to the subject of manhood . . .

We come to the seemingly self-evident biological aspect of manhood, but when one gets right down to it we find out that even the genitalia, the external reproductive organs, are basically the results at the extreme ends of the spectrum of the same Human thing. The penis and clitoris, to anyone who's taken a good look, and I hope we all have because those two particular things, I think, certainly do occupy a lot of space in everybody's head one way or another, are simply variations on a theme. The labia and the scrotum, likewise, provide the melody, as it were, to make the variation work in harmony. I know I don't have to take this further as it is all common knowledge . . . we just seem to be in a state of denial.

Now that I've titillated the dear reader with words that should be common, and realities that should be openly and honestly taught to us from the beginning, we can get down to the one seemingly definite difference between Man and Woman, and therefore is the path of inquiry I have been searching for on my journey to uncover the definition of Man. That difference I mention is the production of sperm and ovum. Up to this point in time only Man has sperm, and only Woman have ovum. I will admit my further knowledge into the technical aspects of this area is severely limited, but again, I suspect the difference is more contrived than actual. I suspect that the ovaries and the testicles are quite the same things in a very Human way; simply variations of the same theme. Further (always further), I think scientific trends indicate that before very long that imaginary difference will no longer be a sustainable misapprehension -- that eventually science will perfect methods, from genetic to surgical and everything in-between, so that the physical roles of ovulation and spermatogenesis are not gender specific. Fantastic as that may sound it is just one of the many things Science has in store for us this century. That should erase, forever, any talk of difference between Man and Woman. But it probably won't. Regardless, the future of genetics will result in changes to the Human Race, literally. That is quite scary, but, alas, fodder for a different day.

So without ever delving into the definition of Woman, and never even discussing the realities of the third point of the sex triangle -- the rare and mystical Hermaphrodite -- I will conclude my understanding of the definition of Man is as the provider of sperm, and after that a Human (i.e. those 10 (or 11) principles above, which can otherwise be known as a canon if we expand the word to include philosophy). From that, I would guess that Woman is then the producer of ovum first, and then a Human after that exactly as Man is. But I concede that there is no real difference between the two, as sperm and ovum together make Human, and so at this point I cannot define either Man or Woman, only Human.

Now, I know I can't get away without speaking of sexual behaviours and roles. Sure, the world around us, society, places a great deal of emphasis on lust (let's call it what it is, it is not sex but the lust for sex that is encouraged in our hedonistic consumerism) -- specifically, a male's lust. I don't have to convince anyone of this -- simply spend an afternoon channel surfing, and analyze for yourself the visual message and verbal innuendo washing over everything like a stormy, incoming tide. I daresay that even the visuals of the male body used in this way usually depict the male perspective, the male ideal of itself, the male as simply a stand-in for the female role, or the male as a non-threatening placeholder in a scene where we will fantasize our own male selves in the dominating role. But in any case, my point lies in the fact that sexual behaviours and roles are entirely learned -- they are not in any way constant; not constant in Nature, not constant in the Race, not constant in History, not constant in an individual's Life (at least, not mine). Behaviours and Roles are learned from the Family, from the Circle of Friends, from the People of the Community, and from the World At Large (which gets more intimate all the time).

Sex, the physical act of sensory pleasure as opposed to the mechanics of reproduction, is something we all spend a lot of time thinking about (if my own thoughts over the course of my life are indicative of the 'human experience'), casually as well as passionately -- and this "Modern Western" culture that is society's influence seems to funnel the thoughts of the People to desire a self-indulgent sexual fantasy in all aspects of everyday life (just check out the periodicals at the checkout line, pulp/pop movies and TV commercials . . . 'nuff said). Sex is being screamed at us from every vantage point, but we aren't saying anything constructive. Take a look around . . . is it working? No. It's broken.

The dynamic importance pleasurable sex has in our thoughts indicates that this is an important topic for our discussion if we are to understand the Meaning of Life. I think it is generally fair to say that sex, in all it's incarnations, dominates the flow of thought in the minds of most people -- and society (that is, people) has irrationally decreed that genitalia should limit the options we have in life, not only in sexual behaviour and sexual roles, but also in every other aspect of Life. Everything, from the clothes we wear and the words we speak, to the focus of our lives in totality. It all revolves around the particular size and shape of our external reproductive organs (and, in this culture, woe to all those born with so-called ambiguous genitalia, or worse still, born intersexual).

I assert that at the core of it, the penis and the clitoris are simply variations of the same thing, and therefore the entirety of accepted sexual behaviours and roles are built upon a Leap of Faith that constructs something that does not exist. Yes, I know that there is a physical difference between the totality of the reproductive functions of a clitoris and a penis -- that the clitoris does not take an active part in reproduction except as a center of pleasure for the Woman (ain't that active enough for ya?). But then, aside from helping to deposit sperm in an advantageous spot, Man views and uses his penis as simply a lightning rod of pleasure -- exactly the same role the clitoris plays for the Woman (or so I'm told, and I accept as reasonable to assert because it feels right, but I acknowledge I have no practical experience in this matter except as a Man is a Human, and a Woman is a Human).

Society tries to force people to live this important aspect of life in Bad Faith, and therein we will find, I think, all the emotional problems stemming from sexual desires, good human ones, that deviate from the currently accepted norm for the group we live among. It isn't the sex that's broken, but the sexual behaviours and roles we are taught and expected to fulfill that are the problem. The behaviours and roles are based on nothing real. We fight against our own artificial restrictions imposed for some insane reason to prevent us from experiencing the wonderful totality of what it means to be Human. That we place any barrier on sex, or anything else, for any reason other than the encroachment of an individual's unalienable rights is, to me, sheer and utter nonsense. It is like saying there is only one reason to walk.

No, I do not justify a hedonistic sexual chaos just as Sartre did not justify a deadly moral chaos. What can be taught to me by Others, can also be taught to me by my own choice through my own experience in my own life. The choices and lessons I teach myself can indeed be good ones, and I hold that an honest approach must yield virtue in this respect. It is also my choice on how to apply the knowledge I gain (what a wondrous age of information we live in!). In my own uneducated view I would think that the intent of sexual behaviours and roles would best be directed to bring a larger fulfillment into the life of the individual, and hence into the lives of everyone around the individual in a domino effect like a breeze across a grassy meadow. I think it is sad that this is not the focus of sex taught to us by society as being acceptable (i.e. Normal).

Why are we, as the society of the United States in 2006, afraid of sex even as we thrust lust in everyone's faces as the basis of good consumerism or faux rebellion? It seems that sex should be the one thing we all should understand and be most comfortable with as we get on with the business of being human and living life. I think it frightens us because the cultural behaviours and roles we are taught amount to nothing less than enslaving one Human to another, doing violence to the spirit, the emotions or the physical being of another person -- and we Know, deep down, this is not the way it is supposed to be, this is Not Good. We are scared because we are cowardly living in bad faith.

OK, I promised a short definition of "Good." Here it is:

"Good" is beneficial. "Good" must first be beneficial for the specific individual, no matter what the particular focus or topic. Next it follows that this same "Good" must also be beneficial for the Family the individual depends on, and then on to the Circles of Friends as well. Further still it follows that it must be beneficial for all the people who nourish and support the security and prosperity of the individual, the family and the friends through all the tribulations of life. Then logically we must also include within this "Good" all the people who nourish and support all the people who nourish and support the individual, and so on until every Human in creation is within reach of the initial "Good."

That is what "Good" Is. Make no mistake, it doesn't have to be perfect, just good. There's a huge chasm separating "perfect" and "good" that many people ignore. Be that as it may, . . . getting back to the subject . . . there's no room in "Good" for personal foibles, and if we bend Good to include a little favorite selfishness or cruelty (or whatever our favorite Not Good thing is), then we have made it Not Good. Pure and Simple. We cannot compromise Good with Not Good.

Some say “Good” is in the eye of the beholder. For example, it rained yesterday. Many people thought that the rain this Sunday was not a good thing – they had plans, after all, and could very well have been at the beach. Well, the facts of the matter are that it is Spring, and Spring means rain, and rain means life. Rain in Spring in New England is Good. Anybody who doesn’t think so is insane. Bottom line: you can try to put your own spin on Reality, but all you end up doing is fooling yourself, not Nature. The day of the week is an irrelevant bit of nonsense. Recognize Good, accept Good, enjoy Good.

We can choose our lives, choose our sexuality, choose our culture . . . it seems to me that we only need to realize we have the choices.

"You know the drill: you help'em or you hurt'em." - Mendy Ripstein (Peter Falk as a mobster movie character), "Undisputed", 2002

Oh, what is Man? What is Woman? Whatever we want to Be. The choice is ours: god or demon . . . good god or bad god, but gods all the same. Man and Woman are Human, that is self-evident. There is no difference, We Are One. All of Creation is Ours in all its rainbow glory. Recognize, accept, and enjoy.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Unalienable Rights

Unalienable Rights

Recently, in class, we students were asked if we believed human beings had unalienable rights. I was sitting near the front, and I didn't turn around to see the hands go up, but I could sense how lonely my arm was as it steadily held my hand high aloft. That even one citizen of this country thinks we do not have unalienable rights saddens me. That more than one does is, in my eyes, simply a tragedy beyond words.

The United States is founded upon the principle of unalienable rights, so without unalienable rights there is no United States. The Declaration of Independence is the document that created these United States by affirming and defending the unalienable rights of every individual. This is the fundamental principle of the Declaration, and by definition and necessity, this must also be the fundamental principle of these United States.

The birthright of every citizen of these United States is laid out in the Declaration of Independence. All we have to do is sign our names down at the bottom when we come of age. The Declaration of Independence created this nation, so without the Declaration we have no United States. As long as there is a United States, the Declaration is where the focus of identity lies. The Declaration exclaims to the world that we are, who we are, and what we believe. It is bold and forthright, and its language is, itself, self-evident and undeniable. We have unalienable rights, and among these are Equality, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Further, that Government is a simply a necessary tool to protect the unalienable rights of the individuals of the community against all restrictions. The Pledge of Allegiance, which each of us has boldly proclaimed countless times with our hands held over our hearts for emphasis on our sincerity, affirms our unalienable right of Liberty, and proclaims Justice for all, while declaring our nation to be Indivisible. That word, Indivisible, means that all of us equally acknowledge, respect and defend the unalienable rights of every other citizen. Indivisible: you cannot break us apart from our fundamental principle. Indivisible: we are one people, all equal, and you will not divide and conquer us. We stand firm against all who would restrain us from our unalienable rights. We each can proudly declare: "I am Me, a citizen of these United States. I am free, and I have the liberty to live my life as I wish."

Briefly, I will exclaim that the Right to Property, sometimes posited as an unalienable right, and other times produced as a necessary right, is a major mischief to the exercise of every citizen's true unalienable rights. Our birthright, as citizens of these United States, includes the unalienable right to Live upon the Earth with Liberty in the Pursuit of Happiness. It does not follow to extend that right to where the individual can restrict another individual's rights to use, or otherwise to live upon, any particular bit of property, with liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness. However, an individual should have resource to as much property as one's prowess in life can accrue, limited only by the barriers represented by the unalienable rights of fellow citizens. Therefore, by necessity, the Right to Property is a communal right that needs be overseen by a government set up by the community for the sole intention of protecting the unalienable rights of its citizens. The government itself has no claim to any property, indeed, the government has itself no inherent rights at all except the collective unalienable rights of its citizens, and of these it has no claim for itself. The People, that is to say, all the individuals who completely compose the community the government represents, can, at any time and with all authority, change any and all powers available to the government, as long as every individual in the community retains full access to exercise their unalienable rights without restriction.

Government is simply a tool. It is inanimate, and it is potentially as useful and as useless as any other tool. Like any tool, it must be wielded with intent, and in the proper circumstances, because of itself it can do nothing. The wielder of Government must be the People, must be the individual. The People must shoulder all the responsibilities of the obligations of Government equally as citizens, while at the same time fully discharging their duties as individuals. The needs of the individual must be able to be communicated directly to the Government, with effect. The citizen must be an active wielder of Government. Anything else is antithetical to the Declaration of Independence, and hence, diametrically opposed to the principles that provide the meaning for this country's existence.

As far as Law is concerned, the Declaration provides a detailed insight into the spirit of the laws that Government must enact for the common good. The listing takes place as a series of complaints that detail how the government and laws present at the time failed. By outlining the areas laws and government should not tread, the Declaration highlights the completeness of these, our unalienable rights.

More important than Government, Property or Law in the Declaration, is the Right to Safety. Indeed, the provision and defense of each citizen's safety, with all liberty and equality, in the pursuit of happiness, is the primary job of the tool that is Government. It is, in fact, the reason for the Declaration of Independence.

By the same token, it is the responsibility of each citizen to hold a decent, humble respect for all of the opinions of humanity, while at the same time being prudent in deed and patient in adversity. But when the need for action overtakes us, we must fully discharge our duty toward every citizen to ensure the security of these, our Ideals, in our everyday lives. Additionally, each citizen must pledge life, fortune and honour to uphold and maintain the Declaration of Independence for all citizens; else there is no country, no community, no Us.

The last issue I will take up is the use of the word "man" in the Declaration of Independence. I declare this truth to be self-evident, that in all these rights man and woman are equal.

I do not consider this viewpoint on unalienable rights naive or idealistic, nor do I appraise it undoable in today's world. What I do further declare is that it is naive and idealistic for the Powers That Be to think they can still teach us freedom is slavery. It is my fervent hope that they will eventually find that is undoable in this world, and the Revolution will continue toward the goal of citizenship in the United States of America for every person pole to pole.

Equality, Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness and Safety; they are not just words on the Declaration of Independence; they are the Meaning of Life Itself.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006