At the time of climate change and crises of capitalism we need to drop our sense of entitlement to comfortable life or even to life at all. Nature will not spare us just because we are humans. When the meltdown of economic and environmental systems occurs, we are all going down: humans and non-humans, women and men, spiritual or not. We have almost run out of time.
Victor Pelevin, my favourite contemporary Russian author, has a novel called “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf“. I love it in part because, like Kill Bill, it is a rare creation by a male author, which manages to capture the female warrior spirit.
It starts with the main character, a Chinese Buddhist Were Fox who lives in present-day Moscow, consoling herself: “What else (or What the fuck) did you expect from life, A Huli?” A Huli is her name, supposedly meaning Fox A in Chinese. It is also a swear phrase in Russian, meaning “What the fuck?”
What A Huli means is that she has made a mistake of grasping at a sense of entitlement, expecting life to be easy, or happy – or even being at all. None of that is natural, realistic, or fair. As Rodney Smith of Seattle Insight Meditation Society says: “Look around. Life is not fair.” If you have any doubts, just switch on a wild life channel.
This sense of entitlement is one of the characteristics of the patriarchal worldview. Men and those high up on the pecking order feel life owes them something. Women owe them. Social inferiors owe them. Environment owes them.
Rodney Smith teaches that in Buddhism, everyone is unique – but no one is special. If this sounds too harsh to you, let’s re-phrase it: “Everyone is special. No one is superior to anyone else.” In the Buddhist samsara wheel, the human realm is just one of the six possible realms. Each human is the result of their karma: no more, no less. Each is equally capable of attaining nirvana.
For a super-quick round-up of the patriarchal feeling of entitlement watch this Why Are Vegetarians Annoying? video. The gist of it is that the vegetarians are annoying because there are intellectually and morally right, yet the author of the video insists on his choice to still eat meat. The reason? Because “it’s simpler”.
This video does not come from a channel by some fundamentalist right-wing bigots. The channel is mid-of-the road politically, even with a slight slant to the left, and intellectually it is a cut above most of YouTube channels.
What is most dangerous about this sense of patriarchal superiority is that it is not the purview of macho marginals. It is the blood and bone of our everyday life.
I have read the memoirs of a Russian rock star. Currently, this musician opposes the nationalist militarist homophobic regime of Putin. In particular, this man criticises Putin’s actions in Ukraine, for which he is now facing a smear campaign in media. So, just to be clear, a decent man, a talented musician, a conscientious person.
And yet, his memoirs read like a history of violence and subjugation. Growing up after WWII in the Soviet Union, this boy abused everything that was weaker than him. He caught and killed insects. He befriended another boy, impressed by the latter’s confession that he had tried to tear a cat apart. After being bullied by older boys, he went and bullied an old female dog.
As a teenager, on learning that his Mother had a baby girl, he was heart-broken. A little later he put his leg out when his Mother was passing carrying his sister, and it was only by miracle that the baby was not hurt. The author blames this action on an evil spirit that possessed him. This sounds a lot like a rapist’s excuse: “She made me do it!” This same sister later cared for their Father before his death, while the author of the memoirs was away on tours.
While at school, the initial members of his band were girls. However, he did not consider this a proper band, so he discarded the girls and got together a team of boys, which stuck as his very successful rock band. He also mentions, in passing, a number of female lovers to which they were almost entitled as a rock band.
I am wondering why this person was so surprised when his country invaded Ukraine, which is considered inferior in Russian public opinion, when for his whole life he has treated half of humanity – women, – along with non-human animals, as inferiors?
Both men and women buy into the hierarchy of bullying that is patriarchy. Once you enter, you have to oppress. Some people currently see kindness as weakness and pounce on the kind person as an easy prey. Women oppress to make up for the humiliation and lost opportunities they had to face in life. Parents are divided into carers and creative inspirers. Siblings are divided into creatives and carers.
How do we teach our sons and young men that what we do for them is out of love, not because they are special? How do we stop them in their tracks when they start venting their anger at the system by hurting those weaker than they?
How do we get across the message that under patriarchy everyone loses out, except the 1 percent? And these people probably already have bunkers built for the event of environmental collapse.
Human is not superior to nature. Humans are not superior to each other – by gender, race, class, education, nationality. Or even spirituality. That rock musician believes in God, defines creativity through proximity to the Lord and had mystical experiences. However, just because you have access to the world of the spirits, you do not necessarily understand it or have any right to decide what is better for other human or non-human beings.
Oxana Poberejnaia is a content writer at http://content4you.org. She was an Officer of the University of Manchester Buddhist Society while studying for a PhD in Government, and has been involved in organising the Manchester Buddhist Convention, now in its 10th year. Oxana is now exploring the Sacred Feminine through marking seasonal festivals, working with her menstrual cycle, frame drumming and shamanic journeying, while keeping the practice of Buddhist meditation. Oxana is an artist and an author. Her works can be found on her blog.