After leaving the Jesuits in 1982, my wife and I decided to form a community (Commune) in the USA modelled on the basis of the early Christian community as described in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 2 and 4). We strived to live a very simple life directed by the spirit. There were about 15 of us – 5 married couples and three women and two men – sharing all our resources, giving what we have and taking what we need. We mostly lived in very poor, run-down, inner-city, black neighbourhoods with minimum conveniences in St. Louis, Missouri. We communally owned an 80 acre-farm with a nice farm house on a beautiful river to have solitude and reflection from the hectic life of the St. Louis metropolis. In the city we tried to help the deprived and empower the poor. Equality of sexes and races was a prime concern in the Commune. After about five years of communal experiment, I began to notice the extreme feminism and gradual denigration of men that began to creep in. Some of the women in the Commune became very strident, loud, and even intolerant. They thought of every man taking part in patriarchy and oppressive structures that dominated women. They thought that men, growing up and programmed in a dominant, male chauvinistic culture, could not but dictate terms to women and use their power to control women knowingly or unwittingly. Even I who was a moderate feminist defending the rights of women and being conscientised about the indignities and discriminations that women suffer in a world of men could not change fast enough to suit their pace.
In my commune days I became very aware that the battle of sexes was brewing in the air especially in the West. The women’s liberation movements were afloat. And I thought the next war after the wars of races and castes would be that of genders. Unrest and agony have been widespread in the institution of marriage, the most sacred of relationships between a man and a woman. It is not uncommon to have media reports of spousal violence even to the point of a man killing his wife or a woman killing her husband. Talking of genders, my wife told me that men sometimes do not have a clue to what is going on in the mind of a woman. Half-jokingly she stated further that men do not understand women and women do not understand men. I mused: “Are we then condemned to be united in love?” Looking at me with a puzzling smile, she said: “I guess so”. While men are trying to understand the feminine make and mystique, women are trying to figure out what clicks for men.
I have no doubt in my mind that both men and women can be violent. Culturally men are more likely to be aggressive and physically violent, while women tend to be passive-aggressive and emotionally violent. Men tend to dominate and intimidate women into subjugation; women enthral men to slow psychic enslavement. When benign understanding is not there, both cannot live with each other and cannot live without each other. The plain fact is that both need each other. When both complement each other and function as one entity as they are supposed to, the marital bliss is never-ending. Here then both, at least in a fantasy yearning, returns to the mythological state of Hermaphroditus – the fusing of the son of Greek god, Hermes, and love goddess, Aphrodite, with a nymph resulting in one person possessing the physical characteristics of both male and female. For us living in the present dispensation the only fair thing for both men and women is to respect the sexes and give them their human rights so that the war of genders can be avoided. At this moment it is good for a man to do some self-examination: “If I were a woman, would I like to be treated by the way men treat women? Women also can, in empathy, put themselves in the place of men.