Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eivind Skjellum - Amazing Lecture by Jacqueline Novogratz

Eivind Skjellum is the man behind Masculinity Movies, which is only occasionally active at the moment, but since completing the New Warrior Training Adventure in June 2011, he has been blogging from time to time at The Mankind Project Journal.

As long-time readers know, I have had issues with the MKP organization but have found many of their members to be good men of heart and strength. Eivind is one of those men - this post originally appeared at his blog.

I am pretty sure I posted this at IOC back when it first was posted by the TED folks - but it's worth seeing more than once. She gets to the important insights about men at the 7:15 point in the talk - she really gets it (text at the bottom, but please listen to the whole talk).

Amazing lecture by Jacqueline Novogratz

March 5, 2012 

I was very inspired by this incredible TED talk by Jacqueline Novogratz. Not only is she a wonderful, heart-open and humble woman deeply in tune with humanity’s challenges, but she has the visionary insight that male depression is related to female suffering. For some women, it’s very common today to think and say that men make women suffer because we are evil and uncontrollably violent, little else but walking testosterone bombs who need to be feminized to heal us from our inherent evils.*

Jacqueline understands that a young man who has not been loved, blessed or nourished by an elder man will turn into bitter, disempowered, depressed men who lash out from a place of pain and who are easy prey for tyrant demagogues. She also seems to understand how masculinity is a wonderful thing that the world needs more of, empowering men to serve as stewards of our future.

One story she told impacted me a great deal. Ingrid Washinawatok, a Native American woman, told Jacqueline how elders of her Native American tribe would visualize children from seven generations into the future watching them from above, seeing them as stewards for the time that was once going to be theirs. This concept is so powerful it strikes me right in the heart. All we think of in the midst of consumerist hysteria is “I need more”. Selfish, ignorant and altogether miserable are so many modern lives.

Have a look. Trust me, it’s worth your time.

* “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” – Catherine MacKinnon
* “The media treat male assaults on women like rape, beating, and murder of wives and female lovers, or male incest with children, as individual aberrations…obscuring the fact that all male violence toward women is part of a concerted campaign.” – Marilyn French
 Here is the piece of the transcript that I find most moving for men, although the whole thing is excellent.
I also have been touched by the dark side of power and leadership. And I have learned that power, particularly in its absolute form, is an equal opportunity provider. In 1986, I moved to Rwanda, and I worked with a very small group of Rwandan women to start that country's first microfinance bank. And one of the women was Agnes -- there on your extreme left -- she was one of the first three women parliamentarians in Rwanda, and her legacy should have been to be one of the mothers of Rwanda. We built this institution based on social justice, gender equity, this idea of empowering women.

But Agnes cared more about the trappings of power than she did principle at the end. And though she had been part of building a liberal party, a political party that was focused on diversity and tolerance, about three months before the genocide, she switched parties and joined the extremist party, Hutu Power, and she became the Minister of Justice under the genocide regime and was known for inciting men to kill faster and stop behaving like women. She was convicted of category one crimes of genocide. And I would visit her in the prisons, sitting side-by-side, knees touching, and I would have to admit to myself that monsters exist in all of us, but that maybe it's not monsters so much, but the broken parts of ourselves, sadnesses, secret shame, and that ultimately it's easy for demagogues to prey on those parts, those fragments, if you will, and to make us look at other beings, human beings, as lesser than ourselves -- and in the extreme, to do terrible things.

And there is no group more vulnerable to those kinds of manipulations than young men. I've heard it said that the most dangerous animal on the planet is the adolescent male. And so in a gathering where we're focused on women, while it is so critical that we invest in our girls and we even the playing field and we find ways to honor them, we have to remember that the girls and the women are most isolated and violated and victimized and made invisible in those very societies where our men and our boys feel disempowered, unable to provide. And that, when they sit on those street corners and all they can think of in the future is no job, no education, no possibility, well then it's easy to understand how the greatest source of status can come from a uniform and a gun.

Sometimes very small investments can release enormous, infinite potential that exists in all of us. One of the Acumen Fund fellows at my organization, Suraj Sudhakar, has what we call moral imagination -- the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and lead from that perspective. And he's been working with this young group of men who come from the largest slum in the world, Kibera. And they're incredible guys. And together they started a book club for a hundred people in the slums, and they're reading many TED authors and liking it. And then they created a business plan competition. Then they decided that they would do TEDx's.

And I have learned so much from Chris and Kevin and Alex and Herbert and all of these young men. Alex, in some ways, said it best. He said, "We used to feel like nobodies, but now we feel like somebodies." And I think we have it all wrong when we think that income is the link. What we really yearn for as human beings is to be visible to each other. And the reason these young guys told me that they're doing these TEDx's is because they were sick and tired of the only workshops coming to the slums being those workshops focused on HIV, or at best, microfinance. And they wanted to celebrate what's beautiful about Kibera and Mathare -- the photojournalists and the creatives, the graffiti artists, the teachers and the entrepreneurs. And they're doing it. And my hat's off to you in Kibera.

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