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The Right Choice

February 1, 2011

Britain’s Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton are to marry at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, a day which the government has designated as bank holiday. Prime minister David Cameron welcomed the announcement of the wedding date, which he said would be a “happy and momentous occasion”. The Prime Minister added: “We want to mark the day as one of national celebration — a public holiday will ensure the most people possible will have a chance to celebrate on the day.”

I have to admit, that I would never ever have taken notice of this “momentous event”, because I’m not interested in royal families except when there is a chance that they can to be toppled and replaced by democratically elected representatives of the population and when they can be stripped of their privileges and their appanage. Kings and Queens are quite expensive, the Thai royal household for instance is costing taxpayers 65 million US$ a year, the British royal family is costing 74 million US$. I didn’t find reliable numbers about the Saudi royal family, but their annual budget is estimated to be around 3 billion US$.

I heard the news about the royal wedding when I was listening to an Al Jazeera podcast, which mocked the extensive coverage of this event in the tabloid press and was musing about the worldwide interest and excitement. I’m not surprised that people are interested in celebrity and royalty news and yet I’m disheartened, because the plight of the needy and disadvantaged, the one billion people who live in poverty and who are suffering, would much more deserve public attention.

I’m disheartened because the money that funds the luxurious lifestyle of royalties and celebrities could be spent for people in need: How many children in Africa could be treated from river blindness, how many wells could be drilled, how many homes could be built for the destitute Haitians who still live in tent cities, how many small farmers in Bangladesh and India could receive seed donations to get on their feet again?

I will write about social disparities in forthcoming posts, this very issue will be for sure a reoccurring theme in my blog. I also intend to write about the wasteful lifestyle of the super rich, about social injustice and the broken social contract. Yet this was not my initial intention when I started with this text. The first thing, that came to my mind as I listened to the Al Jazeera podcast and got notice about the royal wedding was: How must a woman feel, who is engaged in a relationship that will inevitably confine her to a subservient role?

How do all the beautiful wife’s of rich and powerful men feel? How do the “trophy wife’s” feel? How do the mistresses feel? How does a woman feel, who is nothing more than a status symbol of some rich moron who treats her like his personal possession? How does the young teenage girl feel when she provides her body to the “sugar daddy” who could be her grandpa.

The wife of Italians Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi filed for divorce after 19 years. He didn’t mind and is reportedly having a good time with young girls and allegedly also with minors. Donald (you are fired) Trump was divorced twice, but he easily found a third wife, who is 24 years younger. Rupert Murdoch also was divorced twice, 17 days after his second divorce he married Wendi Deng, who is 38 years younger.

After his first wife Linda died of breast cancer, former Beatle Paul McCartney married Heather Mills, who is 25 years younger. I like the music of the Beatles and consider them still as one of the greatest bands in pop history. I never was impressed though with the music, that the Beatles produced in their solo carriers. John Lennon has my respect for his social and peace activism (working class hero), Ringo Starr is not worth mentioning, George Harrison and Paul McCartney produced music that was bearable but for sure not outstanding.

Paul McCartney had all my sympathies until I saw the video of a US concert tour in 2005. The video included backstage footage which showed Paul interacting with his wife and he appeared to me as being patronizing and lofty. I was not surprised when I learned about the nasty divorce battle which the couple fought and which was settled with a 40 million US$ payment for Heather Mills.

Rich men like (and get) beautiful women and beautiful women like (and get) rich men. This is just a reflection of the current value system and the state of our society.

Only one percent of the world’s assets are in the name of women. There are only five women CEOs in the Fortune 500 corporations. In Silicon Valley, for every 100 shares of stock options owned by a man, only one share is owned by a woman. Only 13 percent of Goldman Sachs Partners are women. Men in the Arab states have 3.5 times the purchasing power of their female counterparts. 70 percent of people in poverty (living on less than one US$ per day) are women.

US women earn in average 77 percent of their male colleagues. Female M.B.A.s make 4,600 US$ less per year in their first job out of business school. African-American women earn 68 percent of their male counterparts.

Men have the money, women have their body.

Only seven percent of the world’s total cabinet ministers are women. Women ministers remain concentrated in social areas (14 percent) compared to legal (9.4 percent), economic (4.1 percent), political affairs (3.4 percent), and the executive (3.9 percent). Women accounted for only about 14 percent of members of parliament worldwide in 2002. Only 16 percent of US Congress members are women.

Women’s participation in managerial and administrative posts is around 33 percent in the developed world, l5 percent in Africa and 13 percent in Asia and the Pacific. Just 2.2 percent of senior management positions in top German companies are occupied by women. Women hold only 9 percent of the top management jobs and only 21 percent of senior management positions in the UN bureaucracy.

Men have the power, women have their body.

We live in a society, where everything is a commodity and is subject to the rules of a free market (demand — supply). Love is a commodity like everything else, it can be advertised, traded, rented, lend, optioned. I just red an article by Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory with the title “The sexual cost of female success”, where she argued that the “price of sex” has hit an all-time low, because women are excelling academically (57 percent of students in US colleges are women) and have difficulties, to find an adequate partner (meaning: men are simply to dump for them), and also because men don’t like women who are more clever than they are. Demand for bright women is low, so these women have to sell their body at a lower value.

The mindset and the logic of Americans normally doesn’t astonish me anymore, but I couldn’t believe it, when I read this. I just want to ask, what is the remedy? Adam Smith, Milton Friedman or John Maynard Keynes?

Speaking of US America, I forgot one crucial factor in gender relations (or should I call it the “gender war?)”: Men have the muscle strength and men have the weapons! Violence causes more death and disability worldwide amongst women aged 16 to 44 than war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents. One in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape, one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

A woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read — a third of all women there are raped. In October 2010 more than 600 women and girls were raped along the Congo-Angola border. A few months before, more than 200 women were raped in a single thatched-roof village in eastern DRC while UN peacekeepers were less than 12 miles away. Just a few days ago it was reported that another 60 women were raped by armed men in Congo’s South Kivu province. Rape is also rampant in the tent cities of Haiti.

Did Stevie Wonder mean this with his song “All In Love Is Fair”? (I know he didn’t, I’m just cynical.)

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It is not the first time, that I contemplate and examine gender issues. I found in the archives on my hard disk a short text that I wrote on February 6, 2002. It only consists of a few lines, I don’t know if I should call it a poem or just a note:

The Right Choice

Everybody was embarrassed, when the prince choose the ugly woman. And everybody wondered, why he had not chosen one of the beautiful girls, who had lined up to become his princess.

When he kissed her, she didn’t transform into a beautiful girl. But her eyes shone bright like stars, and her face was enlightened by a heavenly smile, and her warm love poured out from her heart and ashamed everybody and convinced everybody, that the prince had made the right choice.

The text sounds strange and doesn’t meet at all the ideals of a competitive, success oriented society and if one reverses the gender roles it will become even more strange:

Everybody was embarrassed, when the princess choose the ugly man. And everybody wondered, why she had not chosen one of the respected knights, who had lined up to become her prince.

When she kissed him, he didn’t transform into a handsome prince. But his eyes shone bright like stars, and his face was enlightened by a warm smile, and his love poured out from his heart and ashamed everybody and convinced everybody, that the princess had made the right choice.

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“You have to kiss a lot of frogs (before you find your handsome prince or princess).” Alternatively you can search on Craigslist. If you are a man you can try to become a billionaire — or at least a millionaire. If you are a woman, you will probably not succeed in becoming a billionaire or a millionaire because of the “glass ceiling”, but you can try to improve your appearance with cosmetic surgery.

Or you change your mind and look for true love… I know, a true love is hard to find in a world, where everybody wants to outsmart everybody and bring home the best deal and brag about and make all peers blush with envy.

When I wrote this small text “The Right Choice” it was first and foremost about the commoditization of love and about “trophy wife’s” and gender roles. As I think it over now I realize that there was also an autobiographical component in play. I’m old enough to write my autobiography so I want to get that off my chest now:

There were at least two situations where I met women who would have been wonderful partners and who would have taught me real love and who would have helped me to become a better person. I met them when I worked as a musician in dance bands and jazz ensembles.

One was a simple, down to earth, working class woman. She had common sense, she had humor, she had an open heart. She admired me and looked at me with a mixture of hope and fear. And I ignored her! The other one was a harpist, a gifted musician. She admired my ability to play improvised solos and we played together a few times. I let this chance slip away. She was not pretty enough for me and I kept distance and she gave up after some time.

I feel terribly ashamed and guilty when I think about this encounters and I really wish that this two wonderful women have found nice and caring men and that they are happy now. I am guilty and I would have well deserved to spend the rest of my life alone, becoming a bitter old men and finally dying of a broken heart.

Life was forgiving and kind and the woman who is now my wife looked for a man and by chance found me and married me. I didn’t deserve this outcome and am indebted to the women of the world. I cannot change the past but I can try to give back to the women what I owe to them and support the women of the world with all available means.

So I am a feminist now! I am trying to encourage and support and promote the women who need it. I am not proposing gender equality, it would not be just — I’m beyond that. Men have dominated human society for thousands of years and have caused indescribable suffering and destruction. Men are responsible for more car accidents than women, men commit five times more serious crimes and nearly all of the violent crimes, men fight wars!

Women give birth, women give life, men kill, men take life. This is called “task distribution”.

As I said just before, I am not proposing gender equality, it would not be just. I dream, that this patriarchal society will change to a matriarchal society. I dream, that one day the tyrants will fall and the sisterhood of competent and determined women will replace the evil brotherhood of men. I dream that the wise women of the world will take over and lead mankind into a better future.

I wrote about this dream already in my blog post MOTHERS OF THE WORLD, and I intend to publish further post with more detailed ideas.

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In a far away place in the province of Yunnan in China, about 450 km from the world famous city of Li Jiang is a mountain lake called Lugu Lake. It is not a big lake, just about 130 square kilometers in size and 2690 meter above sea level. The water in this lake is very clear and the visibility to the bottom is a few meters, since there is no pollution.

The people that live around the lake are called Mosuo people. This is the only ethnic group in China and perhaps in the world that is still organized in a matriarchal system. The head of the family is the mother or grandmother. All other members in the family are either her siblings, her own children, nieces or nephews. She is the only one that controls the family’s financial situation. Men and women here do not get married. They have only lovers or “Achia’s” which means “the dear one”. When the boy or the girl find their “dear one,” they will signal each other. The boy will visit the girl at her house and spend the night there, then go back to his home in the morning and continue living there. In the evening, when the boy is on the way to his “Achia’s” house and people ask him where he is going, the answer usually is “I go for a walk” therefore the Chinese call these relationships “Walking Marriages”.

The children born out of this relationship are the girl’s responsibility and the children get their mother’s last name. The children know who their father is but there is no close relationship between a child and its father; the children are closer to their uncles. The boy’s responsibility is to take care of his sister’s children. When the relationship ends, the boy will not be welcomed at the girl’s house any more. There is no divorce and there are no legal or financial matters to discuss. Both sides have the right to seek a new “Achia”.

In the house, the main room belongs to the mother and all the family functions are held there. When the girl comes of age, she will be given a room called “The Flower Room” where she can meet her “Achia”. There is no room for the men in the house as they are expected to spend the night at their dear one’s house. If they have to spend the night at their own home they will sleep with the children or another place that is just available.

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