Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 70

years old, it’s my house, I’ll do what I want.’” The friend laughed, amused that his dad was still trying to school him even though he was fully-grown and ostensibly an adult. And I thought, “Huh…wow, I think I just witnessed Daly Patriarchy slap the Noble Patriarchy in the face.” I couldn’t shake that story. I felt for the dad, whose son mocked him, shamed him, and clearly disrespected his role as patriarch. I thought about the many ways that our cul- ture disparages seniors; our fixation on youth; and the widening divide between our elders and the upcoming generations. I also thought about the flip side of this humiliation—older men who turn themselves inside out, upside down, and backwards to stay competitive with young men as a way of also seeking their ap- proval. This is an old story, Biblical in fact. 1 Kings 12:1-14 tells a story about the rise of King Rehoboam, who was the son and suc- cessor of King Solomon, The Wise. When Solomon ruled he was exceedingly harsh to a group of Israelites, who left in protest to live in Egypt. When their leader, Jeroboam, hears that Rehoboam has ascended the throne, he gath- ers a group of Israelites to go to talk with him. When they meet, Jeroboam and his caucus say, “Your father brought difficulty upon us. If you will be less severe with us, we will come back and serve you.” Rehoboam says, “Let me think about it. Now, go away and come back in three days for your answer.” Rehoboam goes to take counsel from the old men who had known and served his father, Solomon. The elders counsel him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people and will serve them and answer them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” Rehoboam leaves the elders and seeks counsel with the young men, who did not know Solomon, but only had served Rehoboam. Rehoboam asks them, “What shall I tell people who have asked me to 70 W W W .T I K K U N . O R G make their yoke lighter than my father’s?” The young men say “Here’s what you should tell the ones who said, ‘Your father made our burden heavy, but you could make it lighter.’ Tell them this: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. And now where my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father beat you with whips, I will beat you with scorpions.’” Rehoboam eschews the counsel of the elders, and listens to his peers, forsaking the unity and healing of his broken tribe for the acceptance and approval of handful of imma- ture sandal-lickers. This ancient text is basi- cally letting us know that the Noble Patriarchy was dead on arrival. This text presents a set of contrasts—tempered male seniors versus their fiery male juniors, the loud din of male voices against the utter lack of women’s voices—and raises up several archetypal binaries. The constructs “Male” and “Female”, “Youth” and “Sage” collide and lay the foundation for the assumptions held by “The Patriarchy” in which the power goes to a male elder. Stereotypical attributes and deficits are encoded in these limited identities. On the upside, masculinity is associated with strength, reserve, and courage; femininity with regeneration, sensitivity, and caring; youth with energy, innovation, and hope; maturity with wisdom, patience, and integrity. Equally there are negatives: masculinity is associated with violence, territoriality, and brutality; while feminine culture can be competitive, cruel, and erratic; youth is typified by impulsivity, inex- perience, and arrogance; while advanced age is often associated with rigidity, conventionality, and weakness. Given this set of cross currents (albeit highly reductive and painted with a broad brush), it seems to me that the impedi- ments to establishing and maintaining any highly selective hierarchy based on gender or age (i.e., Patriarchy or Matriarchy) that would prove to be overwhelmingly virtuous, rooted WINTER 2019