The Real Wealth of Nations: the people
Irigaray’s fascinating work, which I reviewed yesterday, calls for a radical change in the individual’s worldview as expressed through an intersubjective spiritual caring and hospitality, but is (perhaps unfortunately) also written primarily for the academic. Intriguingly, in the same year an eminently pragmatic book was published on much the same subject, though from a far more worldwide and empirical perspective. Like Irigaray, in the 2008 book The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics Eisler flatly observes that our current woes are directly attributable to our having inherited a world, both individually and socially, which was built by masculinity consistently devaluing and subordinating the feminine. Where Irigaray philosophically examines the spiritual and interpersonal, however, Eisler’s contrarian goal is no less than a complete epistemological and axiological overhaul of our current economic values.
Eisler explains economies, whether capitalist or socialist, as social inventions embedded within their respective cultures, and refers to the principles of patriarchy — i.e.: hierarchy structured on often violent oppression of women and the poor — as a “dominator” paradigm. Consequently, and due to being built upon this flawed paradigm, all current economies have become dangerously destructive both to human society and our natural environment. As the author notes, these attitudes do not promote human welfare and happiness, instead leading to spiraling environmental degradation, growing poverty, spreading interpersonal and international violence, and staggeringly unjust gender inequality. Around the world women are still violently oppressed and subordinated, due to a distortingly androcentric devaluation and domination of the feminine, and these damaging values deeply permeate their respective societies.
Instead of continuing on this ultimately self-destructive path, the author argues, we need a new perspective to resolve these critical issues — a perspective in which we finally recognize the true wealth of nations is their human resources. To properly value such resources requires an economy which recognizes the importance of nurturing and developing humanity; Eisler refers to such a culture as possessing a “partnership” mentality, and includes practical and important proposals to accomplish these inspiring and hope-filled goals.
What makes this book both fascinating and ground-breaking in importance is Eisler’s well-referenced inclusion of empirical data to support her insightful and comprehensive analysis. She cites data demonstrating that caring for the young and the weak actually increases productivity and economic development in the long term, and she offers numerous examples of currently existing, modern caring economies which are both successful and thriving. As she points out, this type of society does not fixate solely on financial wealth, instead recognizing and nurturing the richness found within human and natural resources as essential, fundamental components of their economies.
Such a partnership worldview promotes human welfare and happiness, incorporating principles such as caring, respect, and compassion into social attitudes. Consequently such cultures also often include more concrete social benefits, such as universal health care, paid parental leave, flexible work hours, and so on — thereby rendering socially visible the valuable and essential work of caring for both humans and the planet. Only through this new caring economics can we truly enhance human life — from the nurturing beginnings our children receive, through living in a community and a natural environment which sustains and heals us, to the enriching gifts of life and caring performed by women worldwide.
In a dramatic contrast of both epistemologies and agency, the next selection consists of the agonized and often (justifiably) angry pleas and demands of the women of color who author the 2006 collection of essays titled The Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology. Edited by INCITE!, a nation-wide network of radical feminists of color working to end violence against themselves and their communities, this volume is a distillation of the dialogues and deliberations of the 2000 Color of Violence Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. The book’s challenge is straightforward: what would it mean to truly end gender- and race-based violence? As the authors powerfully set forth in poetry and essay, putting women of color at the center of the work is the only serious means of ending violence and domination.
Passionate and well written, the assembled voices bridge a broad continuum of race and ethnicity, academia and activism — even beyond the gender binary. They fiercely critique and interrogate the conflicting complexity of diverse survival strategies drawn from the deeply varied lived experiences of women of color from all nations who suffer under the oppressive violence of white, androcentric, imperialist supremacy. Filipina American editor and transnational feminism professor Neferti Tadiar perhaps puts it best when she dryly notes, “Capitalism hides and contains its contradictions in places and peoples who, by virtue of an endemic class colonialism, are deemed inhuman and secondary to those privileged enough to be regarded as human” (95).
As one of those so privileged, several of the articles are particularly personally poignant — from the self-damaging internalized racism encouraged by white supremacy (191), through the information that Latina and African American women are respectively four and eight times more likely to be imprisoned than are white women (168) and that the trans community is disproportionately represented in homeless shelters and prisons (228), to the discovery of the violence done to both individuals and communities by the medical and criminal justice system (224). Even more painful is reading of the engagement and struggle of women of color confronting patriarchal violence done to and by men within their own communities — while simultaneously maintaining a powerfully anti-racist paradigm. It is through the radical and visionary writing of these women and trans people of color that the interconnected, intersectional, self-maintaining systems of white supremacy, androcentrism, and imperialistic domination are profoundly analyzed for their contributions to the systemic injustice and inequality which unfairly burdens women of color.
Despite the terrible immensity of its subject, however, the book maintains a fierce hopefulness and vitality. Refusing to cast women of color as passive, helpless victims of increasing interpersonal and state violence, it calls instead to “act with integrity, speak with honesty, and reject any fear of our difference and conflicts” (195). One terse article even passionately reminds the reader that women of color do not need rescuing for someone else’s cause, but rather wish for freedom on their terms (118). Various essays highlight the innovative work of building movements and resistance strategies created worldwide by survivors and activists of color in order to “not only end violence, but … create a society based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity … safety and security… will be based on a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples.” Thoughtful and skillfully woven together, the book envisions the ending of racism, gender oppression, and both domestic and systemic violence through the instigation of complex and illuminating discussion on an inadequately-examined topic, in order to promote social justice and freedom from oppression worldwide.
P.S. Re-reading now… man, my first drafts are rough! ;)