The coats that are passed on
I remember how last year in December 2013, Nelson Mandela passed away and the whole world was mourning. It felt like a very close friend had just passed away. And yet, he and many of our heroes like him – Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Wangaari Mathai – they remain alive in our memories, because they fought for the universal principles that unities us all: dignity, honesty, fairness and justice. They did timeless deeds; they valued the dignities of life that will always be the foundation on which we stand. They have impregnated us with their integrity, vision and dignified behaviour, as if a coat of their visionary and idealistic DNA has silently been passed down to be worn by all of our hearts. It urges us to carry on with faith and perseverance even in the midst of seemingly unsurmountable challenges that we face at the moment.
Gerda Lerner passed away two years ago. She too took off her coat, only to pass it on to the ones of us who have not given up on the vision, that women and men will be true, authentic equals, truly co-creating our future together. We are in an enormous time of change but we need to be very awake to see the signs of positive change in the midst of a very chaotic, insecure and disoriented world. I believe strongly, that in all the challenging areas that are touching our lives at the moment, we will come out as a better human race, if we persevere with courage, patience and a very very open mind. Change does not happen overnight and the evolution of matter, life, animal kingdom and us humans has always been filled with chaos, pain and relentless effort. And all of this is carried by mysterious beauty that binds us all.
In our times where women still suffer tremendously, where they are still being treated largely on our planet as ‘less than’ and are even in some of the most developed
countries physically and virtually threatened when they courageously stand for their basic freedom as a human being; in a world where violence against women is still an encoded cultural practise; and in a world where medieval warfare to make women into sex slaves in masses is still practised, or where school girls (children!) are being abducted only to be raped or shot dead by men who say they do this in the name of God, in these times we cannot become passive or get paralysed or cynical by the complex challenges at hand. I think we have to take on the coats that our heroes and heroines have left behind and put them on silently, even if they seem often way too big for our little selves to carry. I also believe that in our relationships between men and women we need to foremost see that we are ‘in this together’ and that both men and women need to change the way we relate and open our views much wider. And I also believe that we can help each other, by having the courage to dialogue, to talk, to face each other’s weaknesses and support each other’s strengths. I don’t mean small talk, I mean REAL talk, talk of change and of new realistic visions. I think men can learn a lot from women, but women need to have the guts to voice their views, stand on insecure grounds; and vice versa. If we can do this with humility and respect and be fluid and humble within this process, we lay a strong foundation to walk through the challenges we face.
Gerda Lerner was a radical, AND she was pragmatic, objective and realistic and she did not believe in fast changes but in perseverance. She surely voiced her views, and she also let them be changed if needed. Yet she never let go of the ideals and of the faith in radical change. To wear such a coat is honourable. Let’s be brave and pick it up and wear it diligently. Wishing you all a very rooted and idealistic year.