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Thursday, November 3, 2011

We are the 7 Billion

There are now, as of this week, 7 Billion humans on the planet.  
This is an incredible fact. I am one of them. So are you. And we're a bit of a problem. We're pushing other life to the edge of its capacity to survive, we are rapacious users of energy and resources, we pollute, cause climate change and seem unable or unwilling to plan for the long term survival of our own species let alone any other. And we're not even that good to each other. We do not distribute power equally, do not observe human rights equally, and this enables a very few of us to keep whatever we can for ourselves. We damn some of our number to live in poverty and misery as though it is not our problem, as though they are not just as human. 

I read somewhere this funny and profound answer to someone who was complaining about being stuck in traffic. The response was, "You are not in traffic. You are the traffic." We are the traffic, my fellow humans; we are the 7 Billion. We are the problem and we are the solution.

As the Occupy movment has pointed out so well, our leaders have let us down. Their obsessions are mere distractions from the real problems the human community and the earth face. They exist to maintain power among themselves. The United States continues its downward spiral with the attention of its leaders averted from showing leadership on the environment and on human rights in the global community, or dealing with its crushing debt, a debt with the potential to destabilize other countries, or even dealing with the growing gap between the rich and the poor within its own borders. Instead, they are obsessed with legislating control  of women and criminalizing non-reproductive behaviour.

But we have to remember. We are not just the 99%. We are the 7 Billion. If we let them get away with it, it's no one's fault but our own.

I like to believe we are in the death throes of patriarchy, that the kind of desperation being exhibited by fundamentalists the world over is the desperation of patriarchs clinging to power. I happened to see a segment of Oprah with Chris Rock, who talked a little bit about the Tea Party. He said something like he was heartened by them. He felt that they were like kids who were over-tired, acting out just before they finally succumbed to sleep. He said something like he figured this was a last tantrum, a  last explosive burst of racism and sexism and heterosexism, the fury of which was a sure sign it would end soon. Bed time is coming.

Of course, patriarchy has been with us for some 5000 years now, so this last burst might take a while. But I have faith.

In Canada, there are those who are just as obsessed with women's reproduction as our American friends, patriarchs one and all. They want to "reopen" the abortion debate instead of dealing with the real problems we face. Reopening the debate is just another way of saying they want to recriminalize abortion, delegitimize non-reproductive behaviour in women, attack women's human rights and re-assert that women's primary role is to bring babies into the world. Apparently they have such a huge interest in this happening that they are willing to legislate away women's freedom. ARCC (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada) has a new piece on what reopening the debate means, and more importantly, what we could make it mean.

We could make this into a discussion about how to end problems with access and end the stigma associated with abortion. We could make this into a discussion about how women can further break from patriarchal controls. Conscious choice in reproduction has never been more vital. We are the 7 Billion.

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