by Katharine Daniels
Executive Editor, The WIP
* The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, the new book from Dr. Riane Eisler, has allowed us at The WIP to take our mission to a new depth that I personally was not at before. I know that it will make the same impact on many other readers.
So to celebrate the release of Dr. Eisler's The Real Wealth of Nations, The WIP is proud to repost an editorial I wrote after I had the honor of interviewing her. This editorial first appeared on The WIP on March 31, 2007.
I read a book about Economics—something I don’t do very often. Actually, I think this was the first book I’ve ever read in my life about economics. It’s by Dr. Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations. It was accessible and legible, and interesting, and even inspiring. It was historical, thought provoking, and if what she proposes is true, life changing.
It was around the third chapter that I had eased into my couch and her statistics started to resonate with me—stats like the fair wage for a typical stay-at-home parent would be $134, 471 per year, or a 1995 United Nations report that calculated the annual unpaid work by women at 11 trillion dollars.
I had to stop and think when she cited a report that found that $1 in the hands of a woman has the same effect on child survival as $18 in the hands of a man. Or another study that reported that an additional $11.40 per month given to a mother in Guatemala would achieve the same weight gain in a young child as an additional $166 earned by the father.
But what do these stats really mean and why are they important? What am I supposed to do with all this information? I am not brutalized, mistreated, or unloved. I kept reading and discovered the irrelevance of my concerns.
What we are all affected by is a deeper gender discrimination. A global sickness that is systemic in our system of values. Inequitable budgets and misallocated resources. The sorry state of our schools filled with children who sometimes aren’t even taught basic reading skills. The disgusting gap between the rich and the poor in this country that continues to grow as our protected natural environment diminishes. It isn’t about better policy—it is about what we value as a society.
“People don’t like to talk about gender,” Dr. Eisler told me as I interviewed her over the phone. “It makes them uncomfortable, but change only happens when we talk about what we find is uncomfortable.”
My instinct would have been to chalk this theory up to how feminists always make everything about gender. But with every chapter, I was learning of the inversely proportional relationship between how a society organizes the roles and relations between women and men, and what a society does or doesn’t value. Our economic system is so blindly ineffective because it fails to recognize and incorporate the feminine contributions both women and men make on a daily basis in the caring sector—caring for family, the home environment, and the natural environment. This gendered economic system is why there always seems to be money available for prisons, weapons, and wars, but not for the stereotypically "feminine" responsibilities like caring for children and people’s health, or for nonviolence and peace.
I wondered aloud if we can’t even get our politicians to follow through with the promises they make to us every year on the campaign trail, how would we get them to embrace and implement caring policies. Dr. Eisler responded with evidence of long term policies that invest in caring for people, something policy makers have paid little attention to. In nations like the Norway, Sweden, and Finland, women make up half the legislatures. In those countries, universal health care, universal early childhood education, and generous paid parental leave are all part of a robust economy.
In the U.S., we do not have any coherent policy for investing in human capital. Money set aside for health, education, and welfare are reduced every fiscal year. I was stunned by a statistic in the book that only exemplifies the depth of our ignorance. American children are not only more likely to be poor, perform poorly on international math and science tests in adolescence, and have babies as teenagers than their counterparts in other rich Western countries, but American children are more likely to die than children in nations with lower GDP, such as Cuba, Malta, Andorra, Macau, and Aruba.
We can continue with “business as usual” - even though both science and our native intelligence tell us that the mix of high technology and an ethos of domination and conquest may take us to an evolutionary end. P. 234
I asked Dr. Eisler, if she thought the period we are in now is darker or more challenging than the crises humans have faced in the past. She responded that she believes we are moving forward from a brutal past that you can trace back to the Middle Ages. She pictures our trajectory as an upward spiral movement—with dips. She admits we are in a big dip now. The solution lies in changing the conventional conversation to include caring. We must truly go deeper into analyzing our dominator tendencies that not only say so much about what we value in our society, but can and will have disastrous consequences if we don’t. In the presence of a woman so caring, this left me feeling more hopeful than I have felt in a long time.
After our conversation ended, I sat at my desk rubbing my temple where a migraine was beginning to form. The notes I scribbled down during our time together began to realign themselves in complete sentences until it hit me what exactly The Real Wealth of Nations had done for me—a fundamental piece in our struggle for equality, justice, and peace was missing. Maybe the solution doesn’t lie in my commitment every four years to elect ‘better’ presidents. Success could not be found in a campaign promise to improve our schools and allocate more funds to programs that protect our neediest. Freedom would never be delivered in another book or blog about the injustice of it all. I learned from Dr. Eisler that what was essential was something systemic—something right in front of us that we’ve never wanted to look at, but until we do, our values and priorities can never change.
What I didn’t fully grasp before I read Dr. Eisler’s book is just how interconnected we are and how deep that connection runs. For me and The WIP team, from this new perspective, our primary objective—to add to a global dialog that addresses the issues that we all face—will grow, to strive to become a voice that leads the way in changing the conversation, a goal much deeper and clearer than before.