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HUMANNESS DEVELOPED WITHIN A MATRIARCHAL SOCIETY

18 March 2013 06:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Vickramabahu Karunaratne


The philosophical debate, that is most important even today, is on gender equality. Every year on March 8, we listen to eminent people, mostly women, explaining various aspects of this problem. Obviously all condemn violence and discrimination against women. We all shout for gender equality. But the problem exists on a different level, as a fundamental philosophical problem.


One has to go back in evolutionary history to understand the real nature of this problem. Obviously, there is an inequality; but should it be interpreted against the role of women? Relatively speaking, humans emerged from the animal kingdom by negating brutal behaviour. This happened in a very short time in the evolutionary process. It is necessary to look closely at this revolutionary step in the evolution that separated man from the animal world.

On this Evelyn Reed says,

“While male animals have only themselves to consider, the females also have to provide for their offspring. This exception to individualism became the starting point for the modification of animal traits and the development of new habits required for socialising the species. The highly-developed mother-care of the primates is the end product of tens of millions of years of slow and precarious development. Basic factors in the rise of mother-care are a reduction in the number of young born at one time and prolonged period of dependency of the infant.”

However mother-care created a revolution that changed the general attitude and gave rise to love and compassion common to all humans. This is how human species emerged.

Evelyn further says,

“Although both sexes were equally endowed with hand, brain, and other anatomical preconditions required for human activity, it was the female that led the way over the bridge from animalism to humanity. The mothers alone were equipped with the maternal and effective responses that were extended into the human world in the form of social collaboration”.

Accordingly humanness developed within a matriarchal society.Within that women were by nature forced to collaborate because the brainy human child had to come into the world prematurely, compared to other closest animals. An infant with a large head had to be brought out prematurely, to protect the head of the infant with the least damage to the mother. Thus mother-care was the beginning of human nature though all were inducted in the course of evolution.

On the other hand desire or drive of humans has to be explained in the same manner. Desire of humans, denoted as Thrushna by the Buddha is unique to humans and has no connection to brutal behaviour found in the animal kingdom. Just as much as human mother-care is qualitatively different from instinctive mother-care among advanced mammals, desire is more complex than hunger or any other animal drive. Desire could be unconscious but it is within mental constructions. Also it is not directly related to bodily functions, but exists as a constant pressure within human unconscious mental activity. This was recognised by the Buddha when he explained craving as something that renewed itself constantly and in turn drove the human mind. Thus deeds based on Thrushna are not reflex actions or instinctual reactions. These are intentional actions for which the person is responsible. Lacan, the Freudian master explains “the constancy of the thrust forbids any assimilation of the drive to a biological function which always has a rhythm.” The first thing Freud says about the drive is, if I may put it this way, that it has no day or night, no spring or autumn, nor rise and fall. It is a constant force, we can agree with him. Thus desire too is distinct for humans and it was a part of our baggage when we emerged from the animal kingdom. While women developed mother-care to support the reproduction of a being with a big brain in ancient society, another need of the same society added ‘desire’ to the human subconscious. Lacan says,

“I would hold that no meaning given to history, based on Hegeliano - Marxist premises, is capable of accounting for this resurgence - which only goes to show that the offering to obscure the god of an object of sacrifice is something to which few subjects can resist succumbing, as if under some monstrous spell.”

Here he indicates racial and national commitment as the ultimate end of the drive. Tribal society was eternally struggling for a habitat or territory for its existence. Though the tribe is a commune, it has to protect itself against any intruders to their territory. This is where men came into  the forefront. Sacrifice of one’s life, for the territory, land, the habitat and love for the land and property was the beginning of desire.

However today we have grown out of love for our village and we have entered the era of ‘global village’. While mother-care has grown beyond all boundaries to become universal human kindness, the drive and sacrifice of the tribal hero has become obsolete in modern society.

The time has come for us to drop intense desire for land and property.
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  • janak Tuesday, 19 March 2013 06:31 AM

    Good article by a very educated person. I like Dr. WK.


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