Friday July 25 , 2014

Archive for February, 2011

Religious Law 101

Occasionally, in the midst of a what I believe to be a meaningful existence  insulated by layers upon layers of meaningless activity, I try to figure out what makes me happy. I’m reading a book right now called “Let the Great World Spin” – I read on my hour long commute to work, and again on my hour long commute back home again – and, although I’m not far into it, I can feel myself building up a reaction to the scourge of religion which seems to permeate every fiber of my being – still.

My goal, fellow human being, is to cast off the shackles of yesterday, as the “Suffragette Song” in Mary Poppins (one of the best musicals ever made and THE best children’s movie, in my opinion, having watched it several times due to having children born in the video age) advises.

Although, please take note that, when Mr. Banks and Michael do what they want instead of following convention, they find happiness. When Mrs. Banks stops doing what she wants, she finds duty.

Jane, it seems, never catches a break, good girl that she was born to be.

Mary Poppins, as a barren and single woman, can only find happiness in the fulfillment of others.

Naturally.

(Interestingly, in the books, by P.L. Travers (nee Helen Lyndon Goff – the P.L. being used to disguise the female in her stage name, Pamela Lyndon), Mary Poppins finds fulfillment in being a harsh taskmaster. P.L. herself would seem to have been somewhat lacking in maternal instincts. At the age of 40, single, she adopted a baby boy from Ireland named Camillus. Which seems okay until you read that, in so doing, she separated him from his twin brother, whom she refused to adopt.)

In any case, I had a whole other blog post planned, one recounting a moment of happiness discovered when I emptied all my change, including a few twoonies and loonies, into the hands of a young woman on the street – for the second time in as many weeks – and looked into her face and told her to have a good day and she looked back into mine and said, “You, too”.

But then I read about the judge who gave a police officer a conditional discharge after he was found guilty of child abuse and I decided to pass judge judgment.

I have a close relation who is a judge. But before he was a judge he was a lawyer, and I remember him very clearly saying a couple of things about being in court: 1) Police lie, and 2) He has read media accounts of cases in which he is quoted and he hasn’t recognized either the quote or the case as his own.

So, disclaimers made, let us proceed as it the the media account of this story is spot on and a judge in the year 2011 gave a conditional discharge to a police officer found guilty of abusing his four young children based on a plea by his wife that the victims would suffer financially if he went to jail.

Now, is it just me (and I admit to being anti-authoritarian such that I’ve never applied any kind of discipline to my children because I don’t believe in it, having found that fear is not a great motivator, that it’s a crippling affliction that imprisons the mind as it wreaks havoc on the body and causes those in whom the fear was instilled, i.e. women, to limit themselves to the safest of choices that turn out to be in the interests of everyone but the fearful) but is this not a decision that is so clearly steeped in the trappings of religion that it belongs to a theocracy, not Canada in the year of our lord, 2011?

But that’s just it, isn’t it. When we rode into modern times where justice must be done AND seen to be done, we should have left God behind, minding history, to preserve it from colorization. What we’ve done instead is insist on an unreality to inform our decisions, where women come from the ribs of men to activate evil and doom humanity to death until the Son of God comes along to restore us to a life everlasting.

Of course, that’s the religious interpretation, isn’t it, the film version, so to speak, in which the feel good spin absolves men of responsibility for their actions and dooms women to duty, guilt and blame with a twist of stand by your man.

But let’s take away all the religious/Hollywood spin and pretend there’s a P.L. version, which is, really, a completely different story (and apparently, she was so furious with the film adaptation of Mary Poppins that she cursed Walt Disney to the grave, which she didn’t go into until her 90s – dead, of course, not still cursing Walt Disney – although it probably would have been sweet vengeance for the twins if she’d taken a mouthful of dirt mid-curse) and Eve springs forth from Adam’s rib to tell him to stop being such a big baby, grow up, deny authority, since he’s the one who created the idea of an omnipotent being anyway, and take responsibility for this one and only life.

Of course, later, when Jesus Christ comes along with his promises of a happily ever afterlife (if you give up taking responsibility and start obeying commands from an omnipotent being that Eve explained already was a figment of Adam’s infantile imagination), P.L. would probably have had it play out pretty much as it does in The Bible – minus the martyrdom. Just a flat out “We like our meaningful life insulated by layers upon layers of meaningless activity. It’s a mystery. A perfectly unsolvable mystery to which no one will ever find the answer. Now quit squirming while we nail you to this cross for introducing a lot of poppycock into a practically perfect narrative. ‘

Because that’s the thing, I don’t come from a family steeped in religion and yet I’m horribly burdened by it thanks to living in a society top heavy with religious rules and laws and prohibitions dreamed up by religious men. So I can’t for the life of me understand why parents inflict religion upon their children when we should all know by now that religion is just a particularly nasty form of politics that denies us our humanity.  And I’m shocked, I think, by a judgment that so blatantly denies the fact that women have been responsible for providing for their children since forever – often while defending them against men – and that what this couple needs is a swift kick away from religious co-dependent enabling and over to a humanist reality that encourages adults to take responsibility for their actions.

And what really puts the rank in rankles is that the judge used a woman to essentially make a judgment against women, adding to the insult in the worst way. He didn’t just tell society in his judgment that any man is better than no man when it comes to women and children, he made his judgment based on the recommendation of the good wife who stood by her man in true believer spare the rod, spoil the child, God and family fashion, good wife apparently canceling out bad mother in Canadian law these days.

Meanwhile, the young woman on the street asking for change is seen as the problem by our current crop of politicians, the true believers we’ve elected, for some reason I cannot fathom (I mean, Jesus Christ, the Liberals were knee deep in a sponsorship scandal, not neck up in preparations for Armageddon), to lead the country.

Enough already. God, the King,  they’re both dead. Long live humanity and can we please boot this festering gob of bile called religion to the curb.

At least keep your religious judgments to yourself -  Your Dumbass Honour.

 

And Speaking of Brotherhoods

I notice that, while charges against citizens with broken noses donated by local police officers are being dropped by judges who are clearly sick and tired of the lying that goes on in court by our men in uniform, I’d like to know why charges aren’t being laid against the perpetrators of these assaults and their aiding and abetting colleagues. I mean, ferchrissakes, why are we paying thugs to beat us up when I’m quite sure they would happily do it for free?

 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Brotherhood?

Hey, I just realized that the Government of Canada has been taken over by the Christian Brotherhood. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. Those people believe in something I don’t and they believe in it fervently. And I mean fervently in the totally gay sense, too. They also believe that I’m going to go to hell because I’m a Feminist, a real one, not one that believes women don’t own their own bodies and should be forced to give birth if they become pregnant. I mean, wtf? And why should Egyptians get to go from being under a corrupt and brutal dictator, however friendly he was to Americans who paid for his army while he squirreled away some $70 odd billion in pin money, to being a Brotherhood-free democracy? It’s too soon, Egypt. Look at us here in Canada. We have democracy, sort of, except when our Christian leader decides we don’t, and some 30 odd percent of the 50 percent of us who voted chose a Brotherhood to govern us. It could be worse, I guess. Although, I’m not sure how.

 

Fortune Cookie 500

I was just thinking about how our Western capitalist governments indicate no awareness of being pwned by the dictators of communist China and yet have no trouble pronouncing on democracy activism in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s as if Tiananmen Square never happened, which, it might just as well not have. So, the expressed concern about the Muslim brotherhood is interesting. Nevermind slave labour, etc, the Chinese have a glass ceiling for women thicker’n The Great Wall of China. Who are our governments trying to kid? The rest of the world? Or just us? The Chinese government could issue an edict that all newborn girls be murdered on the birthing table and our governments would still be talking about China’s human rights violations while elbowing their way to the front of the line to do business with it.

 

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

I finally got around to reading Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” – and boy are my lips tired. And my arms. Cripes, every second page demanded a “you go, grrl” black power solidarity salute.

Of course, until I read her autobiography, I had only a vague awareness of who Maya Angelou was (in fact, she’s still alive, not dead as previously assumed) and associated her with pancakes and poetry.

Just kidding, just kidding. I had enough awareness of Maya Angelou through the odd friend in Women’s Studies back in the day to know that given a bad night and a semi-automatic she’d happily shoot Aunt Jemima in her big fat jolly face for smiling on the side of a box of whitey flour – and then write a poem about it for a Women’s Studies course.

But even though I’m whiter’n a Canadian Heritage Minister and Maya Angelou probably wouldn’t be my biggest fan (don’t need her – I’M my biggest fan), I’m a big fan of Maya Angelou now that I’ve read her autobiography. That’s primarily because we shared the same righteous indignation about unfairness while growing up. For her, it was the power of “powhitetrash” no matter how stupid, evil and undeserving the individual powhitetrash, over a Black person (she capitalizes “Black” in the book – the same way I capitalize “Feminist”!) no matter who the Black person happened to be. All Black people were less than the lowest powhitetrash of Spanks, Arkansas.

For me it was being surrounded by boys and men who used the expression  “women’s lip”.

It’s all relative, right? I mean, for white people, anyway. I can’t really speak for Black people. At least, now that I’ve read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” I can’t. That’s mostly on account of I don’t know why the caged bird sings. If I was a caged bird, I’d be squawking vitriol at every Tom, Dick and Harry who happened by and imploring every Jane and Mary to set me free.

My autobiography would be called “Buy My Autobiography, XX of Some Non-Reading Dumbass Shit-for-Brains Y Chromosone Loser Asswipe Patriarchal Gulag Beneficiary Retard!”

But back to Maya Angelou and HER autobiography. It was a book club read and as much insight as I gained from reading it, there was an equal and opposite reaction from my white, more suburban, middle-class wife/mother sisters.

They didn’t care for it. Not even a bit. And the character I most admired, Maya Angelou’s mother, Vivien Baxter, they viewed as, well, not very maternal. That’s because she sent Maya and her brother, Bailey, to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, while she worked in San Francisco nightclubs and hung out with gangsters and left the reader guessing as to whether or not she was a prostitute.

In other words, she didn’t behave like a mother is supposed to behave according to white, suburban middle-class wives and mothers.

Now, the thing for me is, I used to be suburban and middle-class, too. And I’m halfway back to being both again. But that’s with the benefit of having pecked my way out of the cage, so to speak – metaphorically – I was free to leave any time, I just didn’t know how to do it without upsetting a lot of people and suffering through an eternity of guilt and loss.

By the way, an eternity turns out to be just over seven years. After that you cease caring what other people think of your decision to live free of the bonds of marriage. It’s also when you discover you may have screwed yourself financially, but that’s an aneurism, I mean, topic for another day.

What I learned in my book club is that, not only can one be considered a bad mother for not raising her own children (and you thought Juno was doing the right thing – shame on you), but women who are thought of as bad mothers can’t, by definition, be good role models for girls and women. Bad mother cancels out good role model.

The good mother puts her kids first for free, the role model puts herself first for money. It’s not really possible to do both so women have to make a choice, first, whether or not to become a mother, and, second, whether to be a good mother or not. White/Black – it doesn’t matter. Our society judges a woman by those two choices.

Which is fine if you don’t care what society thinks. But by my estimation, unless a mother starts out not caring what society thinks, it will take her a minimum of seven years to get there, and even that’s with doing – literally – twice as much as a man in the same situation feels called upon to do.

And yes, I realize I said practically the same thing in an earlier paragraph. So please do not come to my blog to comment that you are a man and you’d like to know how I arrived at seven years and twice as much or I’ll change twice as much to three times as much (seven years stays, though). Because the other comment in response to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was, “Where are the men?”

Well, fair enough, I guess. Or is it? If my marriage is anything to go by, the men take the opportunity to surge ahead while the women are busy putting their kids first. NOT that there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily, although, it isn’t very partner-like, but, let’s face it, if anybody other than mothers thought there was any value in doing the job of motherhood well, it would pay a helluva lot better’n it does.

Otherwise, the men in white suburban middle-class culture are depressed and angry and playing the victim of Feminism card like they’ve got a full house, which most of them don’t because they’ve either left their wives or their wives have left them because, post-kids, 9 out of 10 times husband and wife don’t want to spend/waste any more of their lives together trying to make a marriage work that doesn’t. Also, financial dependence can breed, “I’d rather be poor”. That’s because men don’t do anything for free, if you catch my drift.

We don’t stay married because we don’t have to stay married.

So who are we, really, in this white suburban middle-class society, to tell anybody else in the world how to live when the job we claim is the most important one to do well is the same one that not only goes unpaid but which holds the women who do it back while the men with whom they may one day be in competition over scarce financial resources have surged so far ahead that they’re in a different tax universe? Especially when we consistently elect governments to ensure this remains the case. I mean, I wouldn’t give my kids back for the world, but how is it that I brought three excellent citizens into it and I’m way behind where I started while their father is way ahead? And how is it that every single woman I know who made the same choices I did is in the same situation?

Ah well, I am woman hear me roar. And watch me be an awesome role model for my kids now as I work my way back in middle age to where I was when I was thirty so I can retire some time in my 80s on a moderate pension. One thing you won’t find me doing is judging how another mother makes her climb back. Because if one thing is for certain – marital breakdown is like death and taxes. Yet, for some reason, everybody is pretending it isn’t.

What this white suburban middle-class society of ours needs is a great big mirror.