Author: Elisabeth Loibl
Systems of domination and money fixation push what is actually elementary into the background. Namely the good life itself, our manifold relationships with each other and the appreciation of Mother Earth. But the question is how to achieve and lead a different way of life. Researchers on matriarchal societies and subsistence farming provide valuable impulses. For the necessary transformation they also have practical suggestions .
With this contribution, I intend to take an in-depth look at how we can free ourselves from the difficult situation in which we currently find ourselves in. With a loving, caring and prudent view of people and the world we are very capavle of helping ourselves. Which previous view of things would have to be abandoned for this? Which unpleasant facts have to be taken note of? How can we bring our thinking, feeling and acting into harmony?
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The starting point is the question of what we can learn in this context from matriarchal forms of society. First, they are focused on subsistence, the provision of the community. After describing this – the subsistence approach and matriarchal – I would rather ask another question.
My thesis is, we humans were created for this way of living. So what has happened to us when we consider ways of life antiquated? Unlivable nowadays, or backward that correspond to our humanity? That would cause us to live caringly and in harmony with others and nature? How could we get into such a lifestyle that is hostile to life, destructive, and alien to our essence? And above all, I ask myself, why do we consider ourselves powerless to stop the destruction of our relationships and livelihoods?
Before I turn to these questions, first of all some definitions. We can only understand conditions, if we use tangible terms. I am reluctant to speak of patriarchy because I believe this would imply male-only domination. However, my perception is that most men are also disadvantaged by the prevailing conditions. They cannot develop their potential any more than we women can.
There are many women, who also support this system of mutual oppression and in turn prevent others from self-development.
THE SUBSISTENCE PERSPECTIVE
At the center of the subsistence perspective is the provision of all necessary products and services for daily life.
In contrast, the neoliberal market economy is concerned with the commercialization of life and natural resources, the acquisition of money, and profit maximization. The difference in economic terms is evident in the question: money or life (cf. Bennholdt-Thomsen 2010)?
Nowhere is this fundamental distinction more evident than in our everyday life.
It is very much shaped by gainful employment, by being forced to earn money.
Therefore, work would be reduced merely to gainful employment. According to the lecture of Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen. It is too easy to forget that there are various jobs that are necessary for our lives but do not fall within the scope of earning money. Subsistence/care work in the household and family is usually only noticed when it is not done. This is because it is taken for granted. At least as long as the household, family care of children, dependent and elderly people is done. Whereby those who perform these tasks almost invisibly are mostly women.
Regularly cooking a meal, preparing a snack, creating a cozy home. Listening to the worries and problems of others, giving someone a friendly or parental advice, these are no broadcasted activities that are. All those works and mutual services that we depend on to feel well and nourished, both physically and emotionally, have been increasingly commercialized. Families outsourced that since the 20th century, because women as well as men spend their daily lives primarily earning money.
This was one of the main points of attack on the subsistence approach, also called ecofeminism. When care work in the home and family, motherhood, and childcare are seen as an important focus in everyday life, experience shows that there is resistance from feminists. Because they see all of this work as regressive. Motherhood and the accompanying distribution of roles became an “institution of the oppression of women” by the dominant society. In it, children are no longer a self-determined task for women (Göttner-Abendroth 1998: 51f).
EGALITARIAN FORMS OF SOCIETY OR MATRIARCHY
Heide Göttner-Abendroth researched other matriarchal cultures besides the Mosuo in southern China. For example the Khasi in northern India, the Hopi and Iroquois in North America, and the Tuareg tribe in North Africa. In her book Matriarchy I, she discusses tribal societies in East Asia, Indonesia, and Oceania. And in Matriarchy II, tribal societies in the Americas, India, and Africa. The following is a brief account of what characterizes matriarchal societies – according to Heide Göttner-Abendroth (1998: 45).
The economic characteristics are gardening and farming societies. Clans own land and house, there is no private property. Women have the power of disposal over food resources. There is a constant balancing exchange of essential goods. Therefore, Göttner-Abendroth speaks of equalizing societies.
The social characteristics are matrilineality and matrilocality, which means that the land is passes on from mother to daughter. Also children, adolescents and adults of both sexes live in the mother’s clan. Male caregivers for the children are the mother’s brothers, and the biological fathers either live in their mothers’ clan or are traders. There are visiting seances between the clans. Göttner-Abendroth speaks of kinship societies.
The political feature is consensus building both in the clan house and at the village and tribal levels through a delegate system.
The delegates are merely communicators, but not decision-makers.
In addition, there is a lack of class and power structures. Heide Göttner-Abendroth says in an interview that it is not important for people in consensus societies to assert their own will. This is in shatp contrast to the customs in this country. Rather, they are concerned with finding a constructive solution. It forms from the opposing proposals and everyone can at least live with it.
In ideological terms, these are sacred societies in which there is no separation between everyday life and spiritual acts.
“The Valley of Women” – a documentary – shows this wonderfully. In it the farmer Dorje Dölma in Bhutan prays while stirring milk to make cheese.
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As far as economics is concerned, an essential prerequisite for change would be the model of the gift economy, founded by Genevieve Vaughan (2009). Barter is about considering what I do have and what can be exchanged to get this or that. These days, that is usually money. In contrast, giving is about giving what is in abundance to those who need it. If a child gets everything it needs to live from an early age, it will be just as generous in passing on what it has in abundance. Yet there are a great many needy parents in our culture. Therefore, children often grow up providing for others, including adults. They do this out of love, even if this in turn makes them needy parents.
This shows that economics cannot be separated from human needs, nor from social and ecological systems. The prevailing financial system, which requires constant economic growth and thereby destruction of nature, keeps all three systems in an unholy imbalance. So here, too, it is necessary to eradicate the evil from the root. Thereby generous behavior becomes possible again, which makes life easier and brings joy in a simple way.
In the Mexican city of Juchitán, there has always been a tradition of spending accumulated surpluses in the form of communal feasts. Year in and year out, a smaller or larger neighborhood celebrates a party almost every day. This prevents what we know in this country as capital accumulation. The “Limosna”, a donation of money to the organizers of the festival according to their income, contributes to a redistribution of money. People also bring drinks and food (cf. Bennholdt-Thomsen 1994).
About the author
Elisabeth Loibl, *1963, research associate at the Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics and Mining, graduate and 2012 to 2019 lecturer at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, since the late 1990s subsistence perspective and matriarchy research. Author of: The Bread of Confidence (2003), Deep Ecology. A Loving View of the Earth (2014).
This article appeared originally on the German Homepage of Tattva Viveka: Der freie Wille, die schöpferische Kraft und das gute Leben