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April 15

THE AGE OF AWAKENINGS

By Efren Poveda Garcia

Dear readers, hereby I invite you to join me in a game.
If you care, please close your eyes and try to imagine a human being.

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Done? What has come to your mind? In my case, I always see the typical silhouette signalling the presence of a public toilet. Is your case similar? Well, whatever the answer I have more important questions to ask: is what you’ve seen a male figure? Because mine is. And I bet I’m not alone in this. For the sake of the argument, I will assume most of you have encountered a man instead of a woman.

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And what about his limbs? Did he have two arms and two legs? Was he standing? He doesn’t need a wheelchair, right?

And what about his shape? Is he skinny? Is he a bit overweighed or stocky?

And what about his ethnicity? I know, I know, I said I see a silhouette. But if I focus on the image, in one of those acrobatics of the mind I know for sure, I can feel it: a subliminal sensation informs me that it is a white man.

And what about his age? I bet he’s not a man of advanced age.

Perhaps I’m wrong in my assumptions. Perhaps these are just the mental compulsions and self-centeredness of a white abled man in his thirties, but I seriously doubt that the explanation is so simple, so innocent.

And I bet, and I’m pretty sure about this, that the image of your human comes with a subconscious attribution of independence and self-sufficiency. This human is certainly not felt as vulnerable or in need. Neither is he surrounded by other humans, buildings or nature. Am I right?

In my bed last night, thinking of what I would write this morning, I tried to introduce nature in the picture, and the whole scene changed. Suddenly my human was a primitive homo sapiens, sitting down, holding a bone, in the company of others and close to a bonfire. But he was still male, abled, young and white. Isn’t all this revealing?

Is it just me or a couple of centuries of feminism and anti-racism and all these decades of environmentalism haven’t been able to change what our guts take as a normative human being? Is the white, middle-aged, abled, self-sufficient, urbanite man still the measure of all things? Even if your image didn’t correspond to mine, I guess it is difficult to avoid an affirmative answer.

NEVERTHELESS, and this is a big nevertheless, the times they are a-changin’. Faster than ever.

Despite the generalised pessimism taking hold in Western countries, I can’t help but thinking that we are immersed in the age of awakenings. Never before activisms such as those in defence of LGBTQ and women’s rights, animals and the environment, and even those (perhaps with less strength) of international solidarity with the voiceless, have been so globally widespread and interconnected, and never before has a set of movements been capable of changing the way we understand society, history and even ourselves as these are.

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I know, I know, the labour movement has lost force in the West through the last century. It’s a shame and we will have to tackle this situation, but (damn!) what a time to be alive!

At least for now, feminism seems to me the most successful movement in the development of the aforementioned potentiality. Feminism, which has been able to embrace the other tendencies in its radical critique.

Since Simone de Beauvoir, we realised that women are not only located in discriminatory social positions, but that there are explicit and implicit norms in our cultures that try to shape females and males so that they fit in the locations society has prepared for them. These norms are what makes us associate femininity and masculinity to different kinds of tastes, behaviours and preferences.

In short, gender and sexual norms pervade physical and physiological traits, which cannot determine identities and social roles by themselves, with contingent meaning. But right now feminism is disrupting these clusters of meanings, forcing many of us to evaluate our behaviours from new criteria. As a result, it’s easy to realise that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has acted and thought in sexist ways in the past, and is very probably still reproducing sexism one way or another, even if we talk of a convinced feminist.

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We are undergoing a feminist awakening that hasn’t been completed yet. And that’s really exciting, don’t you think? Who knows what this and other progressive movements will be able to bring to institutions, worldviews and self-understandings. Who knows how they will transform each of us. For we’re not only talking of a redistribution of wealth and opportunities. This is a change in the meanings with which we construct our selves and our selves are constructed.

Having this in mind, I can’t but feel extremely curious and expectant. And with curiosity and expectancy come two questions: what other processes will subvert my map of reality and what kind of current actions and ideas will I be ashamed of in the future? Or, to put it another way: I am expectant, but what kind of awakenings are expecting me?

Several transformative movements and theorisations come to my mind, but my imagination is limited: they have all taken off already and they have all started to exercise some degree of influence. Here’s a provisional list:

-The increasing awareness about ageism

-The challenge to gay normativity within the LGBTQ movement and a possible excision that grants more visibility to, for example, transgender or gender-fluid people

-The disclosure of polyamory

-The Human Rights-based strengthening of international solidarity, especially with the disadvantaged around the world (the voiceless, the exploited, the abused, refugees, victims of war, the dispossessed…) and the relativisation of borders it entails, except for the cases where land and resource sovereignty has been a factor of oppression

-The process of social learning about mental illness and the need of promoting mental health since childhood

-The discovery and learning of our emotional world and how it works (emotional intelligence)

-The awareness of the extent and consequences of aesthetic discrimination

-The account of physical disability that understands it as a relational problem, not as a problem in itself. Also, a myth debunking account of mental disability

-The practices and accounts of democracy that try to make democracies… well… democratic

-The factual consideration of children as persons in their own right, as opposed to extensions or possessions of their parents.

-The discovery of aporophobia and how we confuse it with other discriminations

-The realisation that many of the problematics pointed at in this post have an overarching system of global domination by big corporations behind

With this framework already set, I will try to address the topics on the list in future posts. I hope my writings won’t be disappointing or, even worse, boring.

So many possibilities ahead… Really exciting, don’t you think?

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