Cultivating a Partnership Culture of Compassion

Image from Lanka Standard

As we lament the brutish culture that has taken root in our lovely paradise, it is interesting to delve deeper at the underlying physiology, norms and values that promote war and violence. Terror and violence stem from a macho alpha male driven culture. The current regime reeks of it – the rhetoric, the swagger of the politicians, the supporting monks, political off spring are all a testosterone driven overflow of sexual repression.

Our biology informs us of the stronger sexuality of a woman – her Yin essence is virtually inexhaustible where as man’s Yang energy has limitations.   The woman has to bear the strain of producing and nurturing children.  She is both emotionally and physically superior to do so, as she has a limbic capacity for unconditional love and compassion to carry and then nurture a helpless infant.

This superiority, as well as the woman’s infinite sexual capacity terrify and fascinate us men.

A mind that is not evolved, lacking of emotional and spiritual intelligence will be insecure with this biological fact.   This insecurity manifests itself in seeking physical, political, financial, intellectual and religious advantage over women.

Riane Eisler in her seminal book, The Chalice and the Blade goes back in history to examine how compulsive masculinity has wreaked havoc in our civilization.  She also points to times of peace in history when there were feminine, peaceful and compassionate values.

Eisler goes onto state that two contrasting social models – partnership and dominator – have affected our cultural evolution.    These are essentially two different ways of structuring the relations between the male and the female halves of humanity that profoundly affect the totality of a social system.[i]

Eisler describes times in history where a partnership culture – a true female-male alliance existed resulting in peaceful times.    Archaeological studies coupled with carbon dating technologies have unearthed civilizations that have lived in harmony for long periods.  They have lived without walled fortress cities, and evidenced by graves where men and women were buried as equals.

Contrast this to dominator periods where the cities were martial states led by strong violent men – their graves often adorned by pomp and design to show superiority in death as it was in life.   These were periods in history full of suffering, from invasions, wars and dominance over many by a few mean men.

David McClelland in his well researched book In Power: The Inner Experience states that periods of war or peace can be predicted by the writing, statements and rhetoric of the time.

Modern right wing ideologies like Bush’s America or Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka promotes masculine values which lead to injustices and inequalities illustrating a systemic relationship between male dominance, warfare and authoritarianism.

The current militarized nature of the country makes it difficult to imagine a shift towards a partnership culture.   The macho male dominance at the political level has permeated through the nation by glorifying the war.

Yet at the core, most Sri Lankans sit uncomfortably with this, having been for centuries the guardian of the most compassionate of religious teachings – hospitality, generosity and loving-kindness is embedded in the DNA of the people.   At the deeper level, Sri Lankans live a partnership culture.   Just that they are the silent majority.

The sad irony is that some of the very men who should be promoting compassion and a partnership culture, the Buddhist monks are exerting their repression through violence driven by fear and insecurity.   If they practiced what is core to the teaching – meditation and mindfulness, they may not behave this way.

It is also ironic that the West, realizing the folly of external gratification through material wealth driven through male dominance, is looking inward seeking meaning of life.  True to the West’s need for empirical proof, much research is done now on meditation and its impacts on the mind and the body.

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University School of Medicine founded in 2008 is one such institution conducting rigorous scientific studies on compassion and altruistic behaviour along with meditation and mindfulness.

A number of studies have now shown that a variety of compassion and “loving-kindness” meditation practices, derived out of traditional Buddhist practices, help cultivate compassion.  Sri Lankans knew that for 2500 years even though we are not leveraging that wisdom.

We may dream about a transformation – imagine if our arrogant politicians, their spoilt off spring and the xenophobic monks practiced mindfulness meditation, we may just see a transformation from the volatile nation with low social esteem, led by a few through fear, to celebrate what is inherent to being Sri Lankan – the smile, gentleness, hospitality, generosity, graciousness, all housed in a container of compassion and love – a true partnership culture.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.Buddha


[i] Eisler Chalice and the Blade pp 105

  • http://brainoil.wordpress.com sharanga

    Bull…t. I agree with the spirit of the article, but I can’t stand it when ideas are justified using loads of pseudoscience, even when those ideas are right.

    Eisler’s book is feminist nonsense that is as absurd as stuff written by Dan Brown in DaVanci Code. Her basic claim is that before the murderous Indo-Europeans came along, the Old Europeans were these nice people who practically worshiped the feminist goddess. I mean, really? Those ancient people were able to override their biological drives while we are not?

    Look, if evolution is true (it is true, of course)the primary force that drives any species is the desire that each individual has to reproduce. Given the nature of our species, it is the men who have to fight with each other for women. So it is constant power struggle between men. This is not to mean that the reason men want power and abuse it after they get it is because they want to increase their chances of attracting as many women as possible. What it means is that men who wanted power and abused it after they got it have been historically more successful than other at reproducing, meaning that we have their genes as well.

    Their are species where the powers of the males and females are more or less equal. But primates are not like that. Every kind of primate species there is has dominant males. Be it Chimps or Gorillas or Baboons, they all have dominant males.

    Though it is true that alpha males still run the show, if we compare ourselves to other primates, we have come a long way. Through time, the less dominant males have made progress. This is shown by the fact that humans are mostly monogamous. All other primates are largely polygamous, meaning that it’s only the alpha male that gets all the women. Monogamy is a victory for less dominant men.

    As for Eisler’s archaeological evidence, the author of this article hasn’t cited any because there is none. Her whole book is about drawing big conclusions from evidence that barely support them. She sees a symbol and concludes that, okay, right, that must men and women were equal in terms of power in this society.

    P.S. None of this means that I think men and women should’t be equal in terms of power. If you think that’s what I’m saying, you are crazy. So this is a preemptive defense.