by Alex Tabisher
A public campaign exhorts us to not look away when violence is perpetrated. It is much like holidays that are not quite where they should be. For example, Mother’s Day shouldn’t be celebrated on only one day of the year. Birthday wishes, congratulations, commiserations have been reduced to pre-packed memes on social media.
We are now following world politics by reading the tweets of the powerful. My education consisted of fabrications that reinforced the indefensible acceptance of white superiority. But this column is not about race. It’s about social institutions that still perpetuate half-truths and other mind-manipulations.
As an emancipated post-colonialist, I do not take a nihilistic stance against these prior falsehoods. I do not seek attrition, nor do I have a desire for anything to fall.
My appeal is for us to address the “gender violence” at its root, not after the first open-handed slap echoes, or the fist inflicts the horrible sound of flesh affronted. We do not wait until the fist is replaced by a lethal weapon. We should start the process of healthy socialisation at the beginning. Reconsider the custom of dressing girls in pink and boys in blue. Teach the boys that it is alright to play with dolls, and tell young girls that playing soccer does not make them lepers.
Look at inherited social rituals that perpetuate violence of a different (and to my mind), more virulent example of gender violence: The ritual of marriage. Women have their one day of glory, then they relinquish so much as part of their new status. They lose their names, they are “ringed” like cattle and they are unambiguously instructed to obey their husbands.
When do we teach the miracle that only women can achieve, the miracle of perpetuating life? Why don’t we venerate our partners for the gifts they bring: love, comfort, encouragement, solace, praise?
Men father children and waltz away, floating freely above the law, instead of being held to their responsibilities. It seems our greatest failure is not economic, but a toothless judicial system. I recall with shudders the cartoon that depicts a certain luminary preparing to rape Lady Justice while his cronies hold her down.
And our greatest gender abuse is that which we inflict on our own Mother Earth. She of infinite generosity and kindness is manhandled, trampled, defaced, sullied and generally treated with a singular absence of gratitude or respect. My column promotes peace, but I want the fight against any form of violence or abuse to go beyond gestures that have become as fatuous as the ritual wearing of coloured ribbons. We need a cutting of the Gordian Knot, a rigorous and thorough cleansing of the Augean Stables
Fight fire with fire. Jail abusers for a long time. Inflict public social service as recompense. If not the death penalty, at least reintroduce the pillory. Involve all agencies to spread the word that regeneration is not infinite. Teach the truth that respect is also a form of preservation and renewal.