Our only hope for extricating ourselves from the grotesque, nightmarish situation that mires our society and our world, is for women to find a real voice on this planet.
I love to tell stories (true ones). There’s a story that’s worth telling here, that explicates why high status, a real role with a real voice for women in this world, is ultimately our only hope.
Here’s the story… first I’ll tell it. Then you’ll see why I’m saying what I’m saying.
About 23 years ago, give or take, I sat in on a lecture by Jane Goodall. She talked about her work at the Gombe Reserve over the previous decades.
She presented maps of equatorial Africa. The maps showed where chimps used to live, versus where they were currently living. The map showed their living places being steadily eliminated by human development (meaning destruction) of all the previously wild spaces across central Africa. Where chimps once had free range from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, they were now living in little islands of habitat. These islands, because of their isolation from each other and their shrinking sizes, were (and are) herding chimps into tiny refugia. In those refugia, their populations were too dinky to maintain the genetic critical mass any species needs to survive and reproduce.
In other words, although a head count of the total number of chimps in Africa might look pretty good, their having to live in dispersed little concentration camps that were getting fewer and farther between meant that they were (are) going to die out like individual lights going out on a Christmas tree.
They were (and are), quite simply, going extinct because humans were taking away all of their places to live.
It’s not if, it’s when, unless something changes.
To drive her point graphically, Goodall showed time-lapse pictures of the mountainous terrain on the far side of the lake from Gombe. In the first picture, she showed what it had looked like when she had arrived in the late 1960s. Back then, it had been covered by a lush green rain forest. A Garden of Eden.
Then she showed what it looked like around 1995. It had become a barren, sloped exposure that looked a little better than the Mojave desert, but not by much. It reminded me of what the ground looks like after it’s been whacked by an atomic explosion. All the big stuff either knocked over sideways or just gone, and what’s left, burned off. Any normal person would find it horrifying.
She said, “What has happened here? The people living here need wood for their cooking fires. They cut the forest for that wood. For 100,000 years they only needed as much wood as the forest could re-supply every year. It was sustainable. The people lived and the forest lived.”
“But now they take more than the forest can re-grow. So they have destroyed the forest.”
“Are these people stupid?” she asked aloud. “Do they not know that they are destroying the very forest that they must have in order to themselves survive?”
She paused. And then she answered her own question.
“No, they are not stupid. They are as intelligent as any other people. They know what they are doing. They know they are destroying their own place, the place that they need, in order to live.”
“Then why are they doing this?,” she asked. And then she answered.
“They are doing this because they see no other way, no alternative, no choice. They do this because they have become so numerous. And they have to have wood to cook their food. So today they cut more of the forest, knowing that someday soon they, like the chimps and all of the other forest creatures before them, will have no place left to go.”
Goodall paused. The room was silent. She went on.
“There is only one way forward. It is for women to have high, equitable, meaningful status in their societies. Status in which they have a meaningful say in their own reproduction. Only when women have real education, real opportunities in life, real control over themselves and their destinies, will this situation change.”
So I sit here and I think as the first snowfall of the season comes down outside.
Goodall was talking specifically about women in central Africa. But I think her words are exactly true for all of the women in America and on all of our planet.
For you see, we are all living around Gombe now, everywhere on Earth.
We are seriously in major trouble. I am terror-stricken for what our future may hold. The only healthy part of our society here in America is our war-making machinery. That alone should be a dire warning for us all, about where we are heading.
My own demographic, a minority of middle aged running to elderly, rich white men, is running an entire industrial society virtually unopposed. It hasn’t been alone, but it has done way more than its share to get us to this pathetic point.
We still have some shreds of democracy left, that haven’t been bought and paid for. Most people can still vote, even though the old, rich white men are straining mightily to keep the poor and the brown from voting, to the extent that they can.
But those creepy old guys have two powerful allies. Those allies are keeping them on top. Those allies are keeping the old men in the places of power from which they are in turn doing everything they can to enrich themselves and their immediate descendants, even if in doing so they are trashing our democracy at home and our planet in general.
I find both to be inexplicable. Why so many Americans won’t vote is beyond me. Most people in this country know they’re getting screwed. And a lot of them know it’s those old guys who are doing the screwing. (The old rich guys, for their part, are trying to scapegoat the blame onto women and brown people. Those who lack power are always the easy go-tos.) Others still don’t get it, at least not yet. But if more people in general would vote, things would in general get better. (Let’s just say, it’d be hard for them to get worse.)
If not voting is inexplicable to me, then the women who actually do vote for this ongoing garbage-hurling trebuchet assault on them is even more inexplicable to me. (Find some fun YouTube video, you’ll see it’s an apt analogy.)
Women are more than half of our population. A lot of them totally get what’s going on, of course. And they’re doing everything they can to make things better. To which I say Thank You So Much, Elizabeth Warrren, et al.
But the tipping point can come, the tipping will ONLY come, when the bulk, the majority of women, stop turning a blind eye to the awful things that Creepy Old Jerks are doing, including to them and their children and grandchildren, and start voting consistently to right these wrongs that we see being constantly committed against them, against our society, and against our planet.
Like Goodall said, without the status and the voice that women need and deserve, we’re all going to be goners, in more ways than one.