Women of the world: on Afghanistan and other hells

In these days of scorching heat, in a world that is increasingly drifting, I don’t know how many manifestos I have signed, read or simply found on social networks. The horror of the Taliban in Afghanistan has awakened our conscience of solidarity, limited in most cases to publicly assuming a beneficent role in the form of a proclamation, sentiment or slogan. This is not to say that under this media cover there are no authentic convictions or commitments, but I fear that in most cases they are limited to being a sort of gaseous impulse, a kind of immediate awareness that is immediately accommodated, perhaps, in the best of cases, because it is well aware of our smallness as revolutionary subjects. In this scenario where masks are imposed – let’s remember the origin of the word persona, let’s think of the scenic sense of political representation – we witness, together with a waste of authentic crusades, grotesqueries such as those returned to us by politicians who claim for other parts of the world what they deny here, or a perverse use of terms such as ‘feminism’ that now seem to be as good for a broken man as for a broken woman. Especially when they are used by those who have previously shown little or no commitment to the vision that involves turning around a world made in the image and likeness of men.

The drama that is placed in front of our comfortable eyes, those that seem forced not to blink, as Remedios Zafra explains in Frágiles, situations like those in Afghanistan are of the same caliber as those in other contexts, countries and cultures in which girls and women lack the condition of subjects. Let us remember that in some cases we even have diplomatic, commercial and political relations, with the overlords who keep them in a subordinate status. In the same way that, to complete the patriarchal circle, sexual minorities are persecuted, humiliated and even imprisoned or executed. Let us not forget that the great political challenge of the 21st century is growing inequality, fuelled by factors such as economic neoliberalism or the climate crisis. An inequality that in some territories explodes in blood, but in others, apparently more civilized, such as Western democracies, it is slowly and progressively oozing, like that barely imperceptible liquid that comes out of the wounds and that we only notice when it soaks the gauze. The only common element in the multiple experiences and contexts that we could cite here is that women are the main victims, the most violated, the most denied, the ones who always become the bodies on which the victor sculpts his rules.

If anything, the horror of Afghanistan, but also the pain of the bodies on the run and the pain of the women’s bodies on the run and the pain of the women’s bodies on the run, is what makes it clear to us.n the Mediterranean, the desperation of so many in South America, or the dryness of the lips that seek water in lands that we have sunk into misery so that a few of us believe we have the world in our hands thanks to Amazon, is the failure of a civilizing model, and with it, of course, of human rights, articulated on three logics that feed back on each other: patriarchal, state and western (colonial). On this triangle we raise the constitutional buildings that, with difficulty, reach a 21st century in which the cracks make the pillars made in the image of the heterosexual man, provider, owner and individualist, crumble. The one that was placed in the juridical base of the nation states as a moral referent. The one who, with a predator’s vocation that has not been overcome, was weaving the nets of an economy in which it was not relevant who made Adam Smith’s dinner.

This whole set-up, of which I will not deny certain healthy fruits to be preserved, has been in trouble for decades, as feminism, among other social and political movements, has shown and continues to show. The limitations of nation states, the inability of the law to control the wild powers, the inadequacies and perversions of an international community that languishes between treaties in the sun and bureaucracies that stink, the dreamt Europe that almost always lives more in the dream than in reality, the gears of a world forged in the two world wars of the 20th century that has not been able to reinvent itself, are a good expression of the shortcomings with which we try, unsuccessfully, of course, to address the challenges that we as humanity, that big word, have in a century where we limit ourselves to surviving. Today’s every man for himself is a strange mixture of shared and entangled narcissism, of desires elevated to the nth degree and the lack of a shared ethic from which to forge a good life. And I fear that the pandemic, far from feeding our fragile and interdependent nature, has done nothing but fatten our adolescent ego, and with it, the suicidal and happy drift in which we are ensconced.

The most urgent and positive lesson that we should already be assuming as the axis of political transformation, and not only as a manual proclamation or manifesto headline, is the inevitable universality of rights, dignity and equality. This does not mean that the local level is not a key space for change, but that it is impossible to advance in social justice, in peaceful coexistence and in human development if we do not look beyond our navel, if we are not aware of and give a positive impulse to the networks that unite us beyond borders, if we do not articulate economic, environmental and all kinds of policies that take into account our necessary interconnection. An urgent challenge that involves overcoming the state logic of protection of rights, nationalism as a political banner and, of course, the patriarchal conception of the human being that denies precisely what defines us best: vulnerability, the need for care, our interdependence.

We are therefore talking about a political revolution, but above all an ethical revolution. From which we should approach a complex and uncertain century, beyond the urgent answers needed by so many human beings who are on the precipice. As long as we continue to think in terms of manifestoes or policies that only patch things up, we will be condemned to continue going round and round in the same vicious circle. A circle that, let’s not forget, pushes the weakest people to the outskirts, those who lack power, those who always end up being a bargaining chip. Something that the women of the world know well and feminism, which, as my teachers taught me, is either internationalist or it is not.

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