Dreaming and Reality
I think that our subconscious-conscious division might
be an internal replay of the two paradigms. (Perhaps even
the functioning of the right and left brains plays out this
division.) Of course, this is hard to see because, at least while we
are awake, it is always within consciousness that we are present
to ourselves. And in consciousness, we are often serving our
own definitions of ourselves, carrying out their
The gifts of words hover somewhere in our
mental cupboards, ready to pop out whenever necessary. They are
there vibrating in resonance with everybody else's words of the
same kind. As we move through the external world, everything
we encounter has the quality of a potential relation to our
words and their combinations, and/or to the words of others.
Our communicative needs for bonding with each other in relation
to the world arise and are satisfied by the collective products
of previous generations, which we collectively and
individually recombine and use to create ever-new gifts, to which the parts
of our world are related as their substitutes in communication.
We create our subjectivities ad hoc, together, by giving
gifts to one another both materially and linguistically. The
great potential for human development through this process
is hampered by patriarchy. Only enough of our
collective humanity remains for us to continue to understand each
others' speech, transmit information, and function as
somewhat efficient promoters for the egos we have developed
through definition, self-definition, and exchange. The fact that we
do somehow continue to live is evidence, not of the functionality
of the masculated ego, but of the creativity of giftgiving and
itself, which carry us along in their flow in spite of the ego's
self-reflecting empty shell and the self-similar society.
In patriarchy, the community we form by communication
is usually shattered into many pieces or remains a wish,
an abstraction floating somewhere behind our backs (a might
have been, an ideal, a different possible world). Our word-gifts
have been turned towards the purposes of exchange
through advertising and propaganda, and we motivate
ourselves according to priority lists which define us and others,
putting ourselves as privileged ones at the top, bolstered by
privileged one possessions or relations and positions within
other hierarchies. We do not even notice the presence of society
in our words, much less in our lives, because private property
(even of our consciousnesses) does not encourage us to look outside
at others as the source of our good or as having needs we
can satisfy. Our thoughts appear to be our 'own,' because we
are isolated from others. Instead, as individuals we are the
alienated community, thinking.
If we could go back to materially nurturing one another,
we would recreate our community and ourselves on a more
solid earthly basis, healing each other and the planet. Instead,
we look at ego values and not at bodies--the egos of the
rich compete against the bodies of the poor. Evidence of
parasitism abounds. Every nuclear test site, dump, mine, oil well attests
to the destruction of the mother for the purpose of the
gifts renamed 'profit' that exchange brings with it.
Our sharing has been pushed into a mythological past
(or infantile bliss) and into by-products of our ego activity, and
has become the collective unconscious since
con-sciousness (knowledge together) in our society is based on definitions
and exchange. Perhaps it is not Persephone, daughter of
Demeter, who is the most important character in the Greek
mythological story of a mother's loss but Hades, the son of
Gaia, the boy who became the god of the underworld.
Knowledge of the Heart
Our hearts pump our blood to take the oxygen and
nutriment out to our cells that need it, then when the blood is exhausted,
it comes back to the heart to be nurtured. This is a
physiological archetype that the exchange paradigm prevents us from
following. Individually, too, our subconscious prompts us with
buried information, and ideas come to us from nowhere, out of the
blue, gifts from an unknown source we perhaps call our
Selves, imagination, God.
Humans are basically loving beings. Our social structures
and the logic of exchange are patriarchal distortions of love.
The sharing and caring which we experience in the original
mother-child relation are often the only experience of free love we
have, and they become the model for us for the rest of our lives. This
is the reason early childhood is so important for our psychology.
All the rest of our lives, we have to deal with the various
distortions and blockages of love. Our nostalgia for childhood, even for
the womb, is nostalgia for a primary period of health which has
never returned, because there is no social or economic structure
that permits it. Our independence is so distorted that we
belittle dependence instead of honoring it. We insist on standing
alone, and yet we are a mass of individuals crying to be touched,
fed, caressed, supported.
The free circulation of the blood between the mother
and the child in the womb is the natural paradigm of a
healthy society. It is the model of life-giving collaboration, where
both hearts pump the same blood and nutriment is shared. Like
the wind that moves from a higher to a lower pressure area,
good circulation moves from those who have more to those who
have less. Once the child is born and draws the air into her
needing lungs, beginning her interaction with the free outside world,
she receives and perceives as much as she is able of the
abundant environment and gives her new humanness to the gaze of
the onlookers, her touch to other bodies, saying who she is and
The circulation of the womb has begun on a new
level--out from within a body to between bodies. The hearts no
longer pump the same blood but pump laughter, language,
motions, gestures--to the need which is recognized, goods and
caretaking flow. The child creatively receives, is an interpersonal
creature, an interpersonal heart, a subject of attention, who also
gives attention. Milk flows to the needy stomach through the
baby's own actively receiving mouth. It is not denied. There is
no blackmail, bribe, payment. Though her signals may let us
know her needs, these are not exchanges but free products
issuing naturally from her whole being.
Like synapses where nerves do not transmit impulses
through direct contact, but by means of processes over a different space,
life in many forms is transmitted freely by the mother to the child,
by the child to the mother and to the others who love her.
Mother and child are pleased with the freedom of their giving. Neither
is embarrassed by the relation of dependence, which requires
and permits the circulation, just as no one is embarrassed by
our dependence on air, which requires and permits our breathing.
We can take what is freely given and give freely in this
relation, enjoying and touching each other from the outside,
sensation passing through and into sensation, sharing in time outside
Since our society is embarrassed by dependence--by the
need for free giving--but actually would do anything to have it, we
build ever larger barriers against it, including in the barriers a
certain amount of flexibility, places to let off the pressure that builds up
in us, because we cannot have what we really need. Yet, we
keep working towards having or getting more than enough ourselves,
so that it will seem free to us--only to us, not to others. Since we
tap only our own experience as babies with our mothers and later
find that the world and its rules are different, we may think that
nobody else ever had or needs to have the experience of free nurturing.
Instead, the free circulation from those who can give to
those who need, the ability to ask freely, to receive freely, to give freely,
is the basic process through which the flow of life
unimpeded. The consciousness of the various things which
are given and received is shared as perception or language are
shared, freely in all the transformations, as the gifts pass from one person
to another, from nature to people, from people to nature and
to different people. This is the new consciousness of
nature, an evolution, a new shared life of life.
Giving and receiving life is not confined to
conception, pregnancy or physically birthing babies. Rather, it takes place
in every act of need satisfaction. Exchange, by placing itself
between the giver and the receiver, the giver and the gift, the receiver
and the gift, has obstructed the synapse and confused us.
The processes are distorted, unfree. We no longer intelligently
and creatively give and receive life, but base our interactions
upon masculation. A prize has recently been offered to the first
male who becomes pregnant, but giving and receiving is exploited
and belittled everywhere outside the womb.
Our Common Dream
We could look at judgments of reality and unreality (and
of waking and dreaming) as depending on whether or not
the exchange mode and the masculated concept relation have
come into play. Dreaming explores other syncretic relations,
frees samples from their phallic investment and satisfies our needs
for understanding through symbolism, which is not one-to-one
or one-to-many but 'over-determined'where one image
represents a number of different and seemingly unrelated issues, items
or events. Complexes and syncretisms1 of various kinds allow
for associations we might never make within our
hierarchical classification system (and social class system).
In dreams, our images do not have to toe the line,
relating themselves to samples or to words, providing us with
factual socially validated help for managing our lives in the 'real'
waking world. Instead, they can free-wheel it, satisfying our needs as
soon as they come to mind, or memory. They are subjective,
me-first sometimes, but without the hegemony of the masculated ego.
In dreams, our needs are gratified according to the
pleasure principle, without our having to work for their satisfaction.
Our real needs are symbolized, our intuition addresses them. Real
help is given. In dreams, we are treating ourselves as if we lived in
a gift economy. The reason why dreaming is only subjective
and based on wishful thinking is that the external world is framed
by exchange. Author-itarian therapists might frown at
this 'regressive' and 'infantile' mode, but why not see it from the
other point of view, as utopian and maternal? Dreaming seems to be
the satisfaction of co-municative needs on an individual basis. If
we could satisfy our co-municative needs collectively, we could
all live our dreams.
Upon waking, a reality judgment comes into play at the
same time that the one-many cognitive strategy kicks in. Then we
use the one to uphold the other. We marvel at how silly our
dreams were, discount our syncretic thinking, thus validating our
one-many thinking. This makes us deny or forget and disqualify
our dreams as inferior to our waking states, perhaps because
our strategies for remembering are one-many as well.
Children syncretically belong in the 'category' of dreams, as silly,
non-rational and non-phallic. Women and wishes are also
often relegated to the dream netherworld.
By over-valuing and phallically investing
conceptual thinking in the society at large and projecting it into
the structures of institutions, we have collectively created a
social reality which is different from our dreams and inhospitable to
that way of thinking. As we validate 'reality' each time we wake
up, we also discount the kind of reality our dreams are made of
and the many non-phallic parts of our waking world. Thus, it
may happen that, every time we wake up, we unwittingly
dominance, misogyny and the hatred of children, of nature and
of giftgiving, as we say to ourselves, "That was not real--this is real."
If nothing else, dreams do satisfy one need shared by
all--they provide an alternative, much as Communism did
to Capitalism (and vice-versa), communicating to us that the
'real' world is not the only world, and masculated,
phallically-invested conceptual thinking is not the only way of thinking. If
dreaming functions according to unmasculated gift processes, it is a clue
to a better world, like language and mothering. Humanity's
common dream is the map of a world to come. The injunction to
humanity to 'wake up' is mistaken. Instead, we need to change re-ality
to make our dreaming come true.2
The Imposition of Re-ality
Language itself speaks to us, and it tells us that
the collective unconscious has seen some things that we
ourselves have collectively ignored. I believe language is full of clues
to just the issues we have been discussing--the
masculated concept, exchange, hierarchies and giftgiving. The words
we are presently mentioning on this page are clues along the
royal road to the discovery of the nature of 'real-ity.' (Spanish real is royal.) What the clues are telling us is that you can't get
there on the royal road alone. You have to approach the
'subject' from another direction.
So kingship or thingship, from Latin--rex (king) or res (thing)--is telling us about the 'one-many' basis of re-ality.
The pun existed already in Latin. It points to self-similar
dominance patterns in our knowledge of the re-al, outside the
giftgiving grain. And the ego as 'king' is also part of what defines this
re-ality, coinciding with it in structure, while the giftgiving
self remains outside it. Re-ality is a common ground, which
originally comes from giftgiving, but is ruled by phallically-invested
cap-italistic concept thinking.
Basing thinking on concepts disqualifies differences--or
at least makes them important mainly as signals of another
concept. "What concept do you belong to?" appears to be the
real question. We leave aside your needs and how
peculiarly interesting and beautiful you are, the sparkle in your eye.
Instead we ask if you look enough like the model or sample to belong
to the concept of 'beautiful,' the concept of 'lovable,' of
'successful business person' or 'academic.'
Is the affirmation of masculated re-ality the recognition of
an external given, or the imposition of a gift which we have to receive? Perhaps we feel obligated, because of the
exchange principle, to 'give back' something to re-ality.
Re-cognition perhaps? Re-ality satisfies our distorted common needs, but
may leave aside our healthy un-realistic individual needs. What
are the consequences of not receiving the present?
Abandonment? Insanity? And of receiving it? Do we give up the truths of
our subjective view for the masculated collective view, so we won't
be left out of the concept of human and sane? If we refuse
re-ality, are we being ungrateful, selfish, 'self-indulgent,' as
one psychiatrist said about mental illness? If we go crazy, perhaps
we are just displacing our reality judgment from a
collectively mediated to a subjective stance. We do that because we are all
the 'walking wounded.'
A Selfish Collective View
A common judgment of reality is, after all, a
collective attribution of value which is probably more likely to be
functional to each of us than a purely individual attribution would be.
When we insist on kindness, or wish for a better world, and people
say we're not being 'realistic,' they are appealing to a
collective attribution of a quality or value which assures at least a
certain degree of functionality--adaptiveness for the individual as well
as the group. For our own best interest (our self-interest), they
say, we should adapt to the collective judgment, not change
anything or envision anything different.
But why does the collective view seem to be less
selfish? There is a division between the self and the collective, and
what is not collective seems to be egotistical. But the ego itself is
a collective product, and there are many collective
mechanisms and values that give it strength. It also fits into a sort
of generalized ego-orientation of the particular collective of which
it is a part--for example, the race, the class, the religion,
The ego also depends on a collective attribution of value
and reality to the individual's internal configuration, which
validates it for each of us, but especially for (successful) masculated
men. The self-similar structures in the society perform this
function. The privileged one, the process of exchange and the denial
of giving, institutions based on masculation, money, and
the phallically-invested concept are all social mechanisms by
which value is collectively attributed to the individual ego.
The ego and egotism may be viewed as a collective
stance, while the subjective stance really may be more giving and
other-oriented. We can collectively be very egotistical. However,
we could collectively put the dividing line somewhere else
between individual and collective, and validate a different kind of ego
and giving itself, creating a different kind of collectivity. In order
to see that the split is in the wrong place, perhaps we need a
three-dimensional view. If we see what we think of as our selves as
made from and through the social gift that is language as well
as through the gifts of life perhaps we would stop envisioning a
polar opposition between individual and collective, the I and the
other. This re-framing would allow the division between subjective
and objective, subconscious and conscious, dreams and reality to
Reality is affirmed and defined by the imposition of
the masculated way upon the collective. The distorted community
is constructed to carry out this imposition and its definition as
'real' is part of the construction. The judgment of reality is a
meta message which serves to maintain the patriarchal status quo. Then reality seems to be just organized meanness based on the
of 'human nature.' Anything goes, because we believe the
meta statement, "People are just that way."
The individual gives the value of reality to parts of
her experience, creating an on-going attribution with a
continuing gift effort of energy. But reality itself does not appear to
be giftgiving or to include the gift paradigm. Giftgiving on
the external is being continually misread, and the internal gift
mode is unseen and unrecognized as such. Sometimes, if we are
not burdened by scarcity and overwork, we can experience
the giftgiving side of nature and each other, but for many
people these happy moments do not come very often.
All of this has the effect of not allowing our
internal giftgiving mode to have a co-respondent in reality,
though perhaps our efforts to get others to give to us might be seen
as mistaken attempts to make 'reality' reflect our giftgiver
within. (Perhaps our giftgiver within appears to us as an 'other.') Since
we have validated exchange and put the mother in an other
category, it seems right or harmonious that others should give to us.
If we look compassionately at exploiters, we can see that
they are convinced of the reality and perhaps permanence of
scarcity, and that they feel the challenge to overcome this individually
by taking, i.e. making others give. Their very parasitism is almost
an attempt, within the scarcity created by their way, to make
reality nurture at least themselves when it doesn't nurture anyone
else. Perhaps it is an attempt to make reality their own mother; is
this the secret motivation of greed? Are they each sucking alone
on the reali-titty?
If they believe they deserve more than others because
they produced more or are stronger or more intelligent, exploiters
are participating in the exchange mode and canceling the gift,
which is, paradoxically, what they were seeking. No one can
make reality her mother, unless we restore the gift paradigm
for everyone. Reality is a collective construct, and if we
collectively construct reality to nurture only one or a few at the expense
of the many, we destroy the many--who are the collective. We
make our giftgiver within correspond with real giftgiving on
the outside--this will liberate both the individual and the
collective. Meanwhile, restoring our contact with nature can help us find
an ecological niche outside us for our giftgiver within. Nature
needs to be cared for, restored to herself as the free giver; then we
can align ourselves with her.
Exchange is actually a displacement of what would be
the solution to our problem--giftgiving both internally
and externally. Exchange requires that the 'other' take on the
same ego-oriented motivation each exchanger enacts. Each gives,
but for something beyond the present, something other than
the satisfaction of other's needs. The giftgiving side of the 'other,'
or nature or reality is misread and translated into the 'fair' or
'just' correspondence between giving more and getting more.
Reality then does not seem to give freely, but only to respond to
an exchange. Then because giftgiving is not modeled in reality,
we reflect the distorted equation. The solution is collective
giving, collective altruism. Money, as a collective product, can be used
to begin this process.
Dreams-Come-True Inside and Outside
Maybe if dreaming is in the gift mode, Spider Woman
really does dream the world as Paula Gunn Allen
says.3 But masculated re-ality is a collective nightmare, a collective gift to end all
gifts, which cuts off giftgiving because it assimilates it into
exchange. Masculated reality is what much of humanity unconsciously
gives energy to. We need to collectively dream something else, and
to give our waking energy to making a different reality, making
our dreams of a better world come true instead of our
nightmares. With more giftgiving in reality, our giftgiver within would
be empowered, as would our creativity and love.
Artistic creation is giftgiving in reality and a bridge into
a better world because the medium or vehicle of the gift is itself
free gift, which satisfies and creates aesthetic needs. For
example, singing is free to the listener, and the vehicle, the voice, satisfies
a need, a potential in ourselves for enjoying beautiful
and pleasurable sounds, rhythms, harmonies, while the words
satisfy communicative needs. Visual art is similar. The colors, forms
and textures can create pleasurable sense givens, whatever the
subject or topic of the work may be. Though many kinds of art can
be bought and sold, they all maintain a free need-satisfying
side, which is essentially their co-municative channel. There is
no exchange between the ear and the music, the eye and
the painting, though access to those experiences is often
expensive. The work of art itself gives. The creative gift of the artist is
the ability to make something that
gives.4 (Earlier, in contrast to Levi-Strauss, we said that women are not commodities
or messages exchanged among kinship groups, but
gifts-who-give.) Numerous kinds of exchange-based activities become
parasitic upon art, as they do upon other sources of giftgiving.
Even if art restores giftgiving to some extent in the
outside world, it does not suffice to corroborate the cancelled model.
For the present, giftgiving stays in dreams and the unconscious,
and unrecognized as such in art, stories, myths. Stories can
introduce children kindly to exchange through communication,
satisfying that need. They show children the transitivity of one thing
leading to another, the satisfaction of one need, which permits
the satisfaction of another--an action resulting in something
else. Action can be seen as giving; satisfying one need creates
another--when the baby has eaten, she needs to go to sleep, or out to
play. The mother needs to clean up, to rest, to go back to work.
The if-then structure, however, captures the gift with
a consequence--if you put your finger in the fire, it will burn
you. When the framework of social reward and punishment
is introduced, the transitivity of the gift transforms into the
logical consequentiality of exchange. If/then becomes 'do this, get
that.' Thus, it may seem that when the child does something,
what reality 'gives back' is what she 'deserves.' Did Cinderella
to go to the ball and marry the prince because she worked
so hard? Did Little Red Riding Hood deserve to be eaten by the
wolf because she was not obedient to her mother? These stories
are explorations into the exchange between 'reality' and the
stories' protagonists for children who are just beginning to consider
their behavior according to the exchange mode.
What are the prices we pay for not giving, the rewards we
get for giving? An equilibrium rules these exchanges--at least in
fairy tales. As children begin to learn how to exchange, their
morality co-responds.5 Making children obey, instituting a system
of rewards and punishments, brings them away from the gift
mode they were participating in with their mothers and prepares
them for the exchange mode rampant in 'reality.' Stories
satisfy children's need to be introduced through kindly co-munication
to a 'reality' rendered alien by exchange.
It is true; we do have a need, as children, to be taught
to adapt to 'reality.' But that is because 'reality' is distorted.
The need to adapt is imposed by an environment which is
artificially and pervasively altered by the exchange paradigm.
Socialization imposes an evolution towards functionality in the system and
an adaptation to the roles of having or not-having at all the
different levels. If we were functioning within the paradigm that works
for human and planetary development, we would not have to
be taught giftgiving and receiving from the outside, but we
would learn from our experiences--just as we learn to make sense of
our perceptions, to manage our bodies' activities and at least in
large part, to speak.
Teaching children to obey imposes the dominance-submission pattern, including the reward and
punishment components of exchange, upon warnings like: "If you put
your finger in the fire, you will get burned." This phrase is
purely informational, but it is used to prop up parental dictatorship
like, "If you don't say, 'Yes, M'am,' you can't go out to play."
These dictates function according to the exchange mode, even
our actions a price in terms of consequences. "You
disobeyed. You're grounded for three days." The author-itarianism of
the parent is often not only a replay of her or his own childhood
and relationship with her/his parents, but an attitude
of oppressiveness against her/his own giftgiving and receiving
'child within.' Our schools, with their practice of grading, extend
this reward and punishment process to quantitatively
evaluatable amounts of 'knowledge' acquired.
The Iroquois and the White Man
When women support women, or nurturers nurture
nurturers, a transitivity of giftgiving takes place, so that the good is
passed on and on and the receivers receive from and give to
many. When this is done on principle, people become conscious of
it and then reality contains more actions determined in this way.
If the gift paradigm were validated and consciously
practiced, however, we would not need to think of it as a principle.
We would be able to be more flexible, experiment, and act on a
case-by-case basis. Perhaps, if we found it useful, we could even
safely practice exchange in some instances--because the context as
a whole would carry giftgiving. Native American woman-led
tribes, like the Iroquois, created alternative giftgiving realities of
this sort. The context carried the gift values even though
exchange--at least symbolic exchange--was practiced to some extent,
and wars were sometimes fought.
The values of the gift economy threaten the practicers of
the exchange economy, and I believe that this is a reason for
the ferocity of the White Man against the native people. The
White Man had a mother, too. He learned to kill her in the slaughter
of the witches. Yet, he could not do that without killing himself,
his mother within. There is no gender. Humans are all
formed according to giftgiving. By slaughtering and enslaving
his European mother, the White Man deprived himself of the
model of his human potential. By leaving the motherland
penetrating the Americas, the White Man left his humanity
to carry out his false masculated agenda of conquest. There he
found mothering societies, exploited them and committed
genocide upon them. What he considered civilized was the ego
and exchange, with its empty logic coming from definition.
Yet, the White Man has a heart. He lived in his
mother's womb; he was nurtured by her, received her gifts and gave her
his own. What he did not realize is that all men and women
share the same dream, the same way of dreaming and the same way
of speaking. We already have a common language. The language
is not just co-munication of material gifts--though this
is important. It is the communication of verbal gifts. It does
not matter what the specific sound-gifts are, but that we give them
to each other. The Tower of Babel is just the phallic symbol
of masculation, which does not let us see that all our languages
and our lives come from the Mother and from Mothering. If we
can give up masculation and return to the mother and child
within each of us, we can restore the dream.
From Re-ality to the
Giftgiving and exchange are locked together on the level
of economic re-ality, a fact which puts many obstacles in the path
of doing effective social change work towards giftgiving.
Moreover, the goal of social change is often mistakenly identified as
the integration of everyone into the exchange economy. This goal
is mistaken because it ignores the fact that, for the market
to function, free gifts must come to it from somewhere.
There are many groups who are excluded from the
capitalist market system whose products do not have access to the
market or cannot compete there. Artisan work by indigenous people,
for example, though it is of the highest quality, usually has no
way into the market except through exploitative
middlemen. Recently, projects
market have been begun by well-intentioned people, who
seek funding from foundations or other entities. The problem is
seen to be the presentation of the crafts on an equal footing
with mainstream items. (There needs to be an 'equal exchange.')
The contradiction here is that the goal is seen to be
an assimilation into the economy which has excluded and
exploited those groups, and which continues to exclude and exploit
others, taking from them large quantities of hidden gift labor. Only a
few can become 'equal' to the mainstream few who are 'equal,' and
all of the few are brought to this 'equality' through using the
hidden gifts of others. The gift of the funding of these projects takes
the place of the hidden gift labor for a time, but
'self-sufficiency' within the capitalist economy is usually an illusion,
because capitalism needs hidden gifts in order to function.
'Self-sufficiency' often only means effective dependency on
the capitalist market, just as it has for women who enter the
labor market in order to be 'self-sufficient.'
The production of Native American beadwork in Hong
Kong is a case in point. International exploitation produces
cheaper, more competitive, 'more equal' products than social justice
or self-sufficiency projects can. It factors in the gift-quotient
that becomes available through the exploitative relation
between nations (which produces the difference in their levels of
life), together with the 'gift' of the exploited labor of the workers in
the individual foreign enterprises. The illusion is that groups
'outside' of the mainstream could succeed if only their products were
good enough to be competitive. What is not seen is that being
'good enough,' being equal, or even in the same 'ballpark' requires
the addition of a comparatively large amount of hidden gifts.
Perhaps by producing a new product or cornering a
market, people outside of the capitalist economy could enter
it successfully, benefiting their communities. But this requires
a knowledge of the market which individuals achieve
through education and through experience in the market, which
usually brings them into attempting success for their own profit, not
the community--according to the capitalist values of 'every
man for himself.' Even the attempt to enter the market, to
produce competitive or equal products, validates the market and
'equal exchange' as the best (and even as the only) way to
abundance. Alternatives are seen as impractical or non-existent. The
gift economy, hidden and integrated into the exchange economy
as exploited labor, is victimized and sacrificed--no value is given
to it; it is invisible or discredited and despised.
At the individual psychological level, the subconscious is
out of sight but serves as the source for the energy of our
conscious minds. Many subconscious motivations and associations
never reach the surface and are discounted. In the same vein,
people outside the market support those inside the market.
Similarly, women support men in their 'equal' relations with other men
and in their competition to dominate, without recognizing the
effort they themselves and other women have put into nurturing
them. What we must do is to stop giving value to the kind
of consciousness which is based on exchange and mutual
exclusion, to equality in the market, to making our products or ourselves
or our children 'competitive,' and try alternatives which
are altogether different.
While it may appear difficult to create giftgiving projects
in present reality, I suggest that many ways are actually possible
that are not being recognized as such. Many women whom I
know personally provide services, housing, training, and support free
for other women, often believing that they themselves are
'crazy' because they are not requiring payment. There are
many experiments with women's land trusts, movements for
self-sufficiency and living lightly on the earth.
Movements against domestic violence and sexual
violence involve the free satisfaction of needs, as do movements
against addictions. People in these movements, as well as those
working against racism, and for the liberation of peoples, against
the destruction of the environment, against the puer-ile games
played with radioactive waste and chemical time bombs, against
war, militarism and military spending are all giving enormous time
energy to satisfying important general needs for social change.
While a great deal of volunteer work is done by
women, much is done by men, as well. It is not clear to those who
are involved in mixed activities that, in doing unmonetized
need-satisfying work, both males and females are following the
gift paradigm based on mothering. Women's leadership according
to giftgiving values is therefore not taken as the standard.
Indeed, women often support men who are carrying out the
masculated agenda, even volunteer in activities that have the goal of
creating social change. In fact, in many cases, the masculated agenda
is not even recognized as problematic.
Giftgiving has often acquired a bad name, and people
have been discouraged from doing it, because patriarchal
beneficent organizations have imposed their gifts upon the
receivers, considering them passive and inferior, not listening to
their assessment of their needs. Here, too, women as well as men
have espoused paternalism to the detriment of everyone involved,
and clouded the connection between women and the gift paradigm
by not recognizing the difference between giftgiving and
exchange. In fact, these organizations have often used giftgiving as a
pretext for domination and profit-making of various sorts.
I have heard the old saw--that it is better not to give
poor people fish but to teach them how to fishwith a twist
that points at social change. We need to ask how the scarcity
was created in the first place. Why have the people not had access
to the lake so they could learn how to fish? Was it privately
owned or controlled by a corporation or a government? Is it
even possible that a group of hungry people could live by a lake
to which they had access and not learn how to fish?
We need to give to change the causes of poverty, and one
of the major causes of poverty is the system based on
exchange. Creating projects to bring people into the market system will
not change the causes of poverty. We need to create a change
in consciousness, which will let everyone identify the causes
and focus on changing them.
It is important to create alternatives to patriarchal
capitalism, experiments based on the ways economies were organized
by different groups of so-called 'primitive' peoples outside the
market system. I suggest funding or otherwise promoting
alternative projects--perhaps non-monetized local gift and sharing circles
or projects to restore fertile land to dispossessed people to live
on and farm. (Many women have already begun buying and
sharing land with other women). These projects need to be made
possible by monetary gift giving--funding--which in itself is a
different economic way. Though funding may appear to be parasitic
upon capitalism, it is then parasite upon the parasite--so it has a
meta view (parasight) and can put a different way into practice.
Funding gift economies (even in an experimental
way) carries its own confirmation at the meta level. It is giving for giving. By asserting the existence of alternatives, we can affirm
the value of difference and dis-invest from capitalistic equality.
From within the classes privileged by the domination of the equal
= sign, women at least can hear the resounding call of the
First Commandment of Altruistic Reason: "Try something different. This isn't working!"
Matter-spirit, mater (mother)-breath are probably
false oppositions. The illusion is that mater doesn't mind because she is attributing importance to the other and not taking
credit--but that really means she minds more. What we have to do,
instead, is make mind mater. Atmospheric pressure moves the air, and
as we develop a need for it by expanding our lungs, it is
inspired, satisfies the need. Things in nature satisfy needs--from
the chlorophyll in the leaf providing sugar for the root, to plankton
at the bottom of the sea, where whales feed, loll and take
their ease--from ancient rocks with which we build our houses, to
the potter's wheel.
That is because needs, which are also a part of
nature, are creative. Creatures, including humans, adapt to what is given,
well as change it. Mat(t)er is already mind; parts of it attend
to one another, needs arise and are filled. But the human mind
has been interpreting itself according to the exchange paradigm
and so has detached itself from its matrix, reflecting upon itself.
In allowing itself to be taken care of by giftgivers, women,
the mother and child within, the many--the mind is not
minding about them. Occupied by its ego-orientation, it
philosophically tries to track what it alone is doing.
Perhaps the mind (and the brain, as well) can be
better understood if we look at them from the viewpoint of the
gift paradigm. If we put the mater back into matter, we can see
how she minds, how mind is mothering, and how we must now
satisfy our own need and that of humanity and the earth, to
recognize that mater as a given. Spirit hardly matters in reflection; it
is breath upon the mirror, something belonging to a
different concept. But actually, the mother and the wind work according
to similar principles. They go where there is a lack, a void, a
need for them. And they bring the words we need to hear to form
our communities again.
I go for a walk in the country--there are so many
creatures, insects, plants, wildflowers, so specific and different from
each other in the places and ways they grow. A variety, a
magnificent wild, slow dance of plant and animal life is in each square foot
of terrain. Each kind is related to a word as its name, but they
are rhea-lly far from equal. Now the combination of the
concept, the definition and the exchange has produced an
environment where things are actually identical to each other. We no
longer pick berries in the woods; we pick up identical cans of berries
at the supermarket.
The goddess has not been completely destroyed.
Preparing, cooking and eating the food we cook--feeling, moving,
many types of enjoyment from sex to poetry to watching a
storm--are still ways of embracing her gifts. But forcing reality to give has
do with male violence: mining, drilling, bombing. If you
force someone to give, you get security that they will give,
and perhaps this security provides needed comfort to the
artificial exchange ego.
We should look at Rhea-lity as Mother Nature,
Mother Nurture. The same thing is being done to her that is done to
us, depleting her so as to force her to give, showing that men do
it the right or only way, that they have control of Rhea-lity as
well as re-ality. They do this by not attributing or giving nurture
to nature or value to giving. Canceling the mother makes it
appear that mechanical cause and effect, if-then, objective
exchange processes, are the basis of life. This blots out a whole spectrum
of nurturing intentionality from the least 'human,' the wind, or
the chance of the amoeba's finding a juicy morsel in its path, to
the most 'human,' a feminist revolution or a lullaby. In the
beginning, ontogenetically and phylogenetically, mothers feed their
The work of maintenance of the world still attributes
value materially though 'menially.' Despite monetization and
exchange, needs continue to be recognized by women (and some men)
both emotionally and intellectually. In fact, I believe it is the
human connection with the needs of others and our own that is the
basis of human emotional life. Masculated egos, immersed in
exchange, are notoriously (and unhappily) detached from
needs, 'insensitive.' Attention to needs appears to be irrational,
because what we consider rational is based on exchange. Since we
have allowed exchange to pervade our world, blocking out giving,
we have set all our values askew, making them more abstract
than they would have been if they had been grounded in giving.
Then value has been given to abstraction itself.
Emotions continue to flicker around unsatisfied
needs, drawing attention to them, giving them value so they can
be satisfied. Those emotions are often ignored,
discounted, disqualified and otherwise superseded by the logic of
self-interest. Giving value to abstract reasoning draws our attention away
from needs. While it is true that abstract reasoning may sometimes
be useful for understanding how to satisfy complicated needs, it
can become an end in itself and an excuse to disregard needs and
the emotions that lead us to them, forever.
Patriarchy has re(x)-ified re-ality. It has extended its
network of self-similar images--phallically invested conceptsseizing
the gifts of the collective, like an OBN of businessmen seizing
new markets. Overlaying these concepts onto 'reality' diminishes
its nurturing side, makes needs invisible, discounts the emotions
that respond to them, and reality then becomes mechanical
and objectified. What is a given is taken for granted, important
only because it has been organized into concepts, made relative
to privileged ones. We are always in receivership, however,
though we don't recognize it. Reality is always nurturing, even
though abstract concepts hide it and deceive us. The network
of concepts, the self-similar system, is an invisible web,
abstractly shared, deviating our attention away from the real gifts of
the goddess Rhea and onto phallic Rex and Res.
1People who associate (form a society) with one another usually practice
giving-and-receiving with each other in a variety of waysand would do it more if they did
not live in an exchange economy. That is why giving and receiving are a key to the
idea of 'associations' found in dreams or among words. A schizophrenic who was asked
to perform Vigotsky's experiment told the experimenters that the 'sample' was
a policeman telling a crowd of people what to do. We have traced enough
self-similar patterns at this point that the policeman-crowd relation can easily be seen as a
'one-many' concept derivative. The policeman actually dominates the
association-crowd, while the schizophrenic gives us the gift of a needed connection ('association')
which has not been made. (See Hanfmann and Kasinin, op.cit.)
2I would like to mention that the spiritual practices which promote gratitude
upon awakening keep us partly in the gift mode for a few more moments, providing
some continuity between our 'real' worlds and our dreams.
3Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred
Hoop, Beacon Press, Boston, 1992.
4Lewis Hyde discusses the creative gift in a somewhat different sense in The Gift, op.cit..
5See Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University
Press, 1982, for the moral perspective of care.