No freedom without respect
BY Usha Jesudasan
Respecting another as much as you would want to be respected; allowing someone else to have as much as you have; giving another the same opportunities that you want for yourself and your family… all are not just idealistic theories, but the pat hway to a real non-violent way of life. These great truths have been the blueprint for good living throughout history. Because they are eternal truths that bring life and happiness to everyone, and not just a few, they have also been suppressed from time to time.
Have you ever thought about why certain truths are often suppressed? Those who suppress truth — whether in the form of information or knowledge — have power over others. Truth enables us to be strong, live with a sense of purpose, and to think without fear. Lack of the truth makes us ignorant, fearful and vulnerable.
The suppression of the great spiritual truth that all men are created equal and thus entitled to the same privileges and freedoms has been the cause of so much violence. The truth that women too are created equal and have the same rights and liberties has been the cause of even more suppression and violence. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the way young women were pushed, beaten and hounded out of a public place. A history and culture of suppression of women still taints our society. The majority of responses to my previous article, “Voices of Dissent”, came from women.
My husband has two cell phones, but I am not allowed to have one or use them./I am not allowed to go to the shops alone./ I hold an M.Phil. and work as a lecturer in a college. My husband will only give me daily bus fare. I have no money even for emergencies. I am a talented artist. After I got married my husband tore up all my pictures.
The letters go on and on… Many husbands adhere to the false truth that they are superior to their wives and will not allow them to make decisions, be independent in their thinking, or be responsible for their finances. Often, the only way to reinforce their power is through violence.
Why the suppression? For centuries, women abided by the patriarchal form of family life. Men held the power and women were submissive. Even today, some husbands want an obedient wife; one who will not question their power; who will have no social life except that ordered by her husband. When questioned or thwarted, the man feels threatened and thinks that the only way to restore the balance of power is through violence.
In this new century, where revolutions for equality and freedom have liberated many who live in submission, male superiority is no longer tenable, as women from all walks of society face the new truth — that they too have rights, freedoms and privileges.
Today, as we journey through a new century, many of us want to build a world without suppression and violence, especially in our homes and work places. How can we turn away from ahimsa-based society to an ahimsa one? By understanding that the opposite of suppression and violence is freedom and wellness for everyone. We cannot have freedom without respect. We cannot have an ahimsa way of life without equality and respect. Thus in families and work places we need to treat women with the same respect that we give to men.