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Loving Someone In A World Of Profound Alienation

 

Love. How many poems have been written, how many pieces of art have been created, how much ink has been spilt for love? It is for a reason that humankind has, since time immemorial, tried to figure out the secret and magic behind love. At the same time, the meaning and substance of love somehow still remain a mystery.

Today, we come across many different definitions of love. Sometimes, it is said that love can save us all, sometimes, we are told that love is blind. Sometimes, love hurts, sometimes, love means healing. But what kind of love are we talking about and under what conditions is love meaningful and free?

When talking and thinking about love, we have to consider the social and political conditions of our time. In a society that is shaped by capitalism, egoism, sexism and (self-)alienation, the meaning and substance of love becomes more and more unclear and inscrutable. We can barely grasp and experience love anymore. What does it mean to love amid the overstraining mess in which one finds themselves locked between anonymity, excessive consumption, exploitation and war?

It’s often the case, and perhaps even understandable, that our very concept of love is developed to escape social life and build a small, safe bubble of love in the midst of a violent, selfish society. But this kind of approach to love will, sooner or later, lead to frustration and disappointment.

Not only romantic relationships, but also relationship between parents and children, between humans and nature, and between an individual and society have to be analysed and revolutionised in order to free ourselves from the shackles of the capitalist system and make true love possible. When mainstream society talks about love, they usually mean a monogamous, heterosexual relationship between a woman and a man.

love

And yet, more often than not, those are the ones that are farthest from love. Subtle sexism and violence, dressed up as love, are part of the reality of many so-called ‘romantic relationships’. Mainstream media and literature often romanticise and idealise stalking, harassment, sexual assaults and gender roles. Therefore, love has to be analysed while considering the mechanisms of sexism, which takes love away from all of us.

The rivalry between women and their isolation from one another is one of the oldest and strongest tools of patriarchy. The fight against sexism requires a fight against the culture of shaming women, which stands in the way of a feminist movement built on solidarity amongst women. In this context, social media has been playing an important role over the last few years. Many feminist authors, journalists, bloggers and activists have been able to influence the development of an unfolding feminist awareness.

The variety of issues discussed — also including queer, anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-capitalist perspectives on feminism — have been made more available through social media and provided us with a big opportunity to connect and organise globally. Instead of intensifying the excessive focus on physical beauty and consumption, the potential of social media can be directed towards empowerment and solidarity, in order to make revolutionary love emerge and grow.

But above all, it is the patriarch who has to relearn love and experience an inner revolution. The social norms that have been imposed on men must be rejected and fought against. To truly love and respect someone, no matter in which way, the patriarch has to be destroyed. Of course, this does not mean that men should die; rather, it means that sexist, hegemonic masculinity and personality must be combatted. To love in a meaningful way, the desire to control and to be in power has to be abandoned forever.

The dominant patriarchal traditions and mentalities must be broken. ‘Romantic relationships’, which are often far away from love, are in many cases based on gender roles, power fights and violence of all kinds. Marriage is often seen as an event in life that brings safety and love. Yet, marriage is one of the most important means of oppression against women*, society and the youth. Due to the romanticisation of marriage, many people do not know about the patriarchal roots of this institution.

Many of us are not aware enough of the fact that marriage is a tool of patriarchy and capitalism that forces women* to play their role as a reproducer of the household, a form of unpaid labour. No matter how liberal and democratic a wedding might be, marriage remains an institution of the patriarchal system. Yet, love can never be institutionalised, especially not in the state of capitalist modernity. Leaving this aside, we can see violence in many relationships and marriages. The sexist socialisation of people often leads to men believing that it is normal to be violent and abusive towards women. On the other side, it leads to women* thinking that they have to endure sexual, physical and verbal violence and abuse. And that is only one of the many problems.

Another reality that has been shaping the industrialised society for over a century now is the increasing anonymity and alienation among people. The fascinating poems and artworks of the period of Expressionism in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century shows us how a whole generation of artists and poets felt threatened by life in big cities, which is shaped by self-disintegration, isolation, fear and the sense that the world is going to end.

 

Today, the anonymous life in big cities is a reality for many of us. Only lately, a comrade told me: “In a capitalist world, you could die in your home and nobody would notice for months.” There is much truth in these words. Often, we are comfortable with the experience of isolation and loneliness, because nobody will intervene in your life or stand in your way, nobody will demand anything from you. You can even die in your home and nobody would care. But the emptiness and meaninglessness sooner or later takes over. One loses sight of the meaning of their own existence and life. And the more one moves away from society and social life, the unhappier one gets, and the more meaningless life and the existence of everything appears.

Love, understood as a free and courageous energy of warmth and solidarity, gives meaning. The ones who get to know love, the ones who get in touch with the magic of love, will no longer seek any higher sense in life. Not in money, wealth and profit, but in love do we find life and freedom. That might be the reason why so many people set their hope on dragging another person into their isolation. But it does not matter whether there are one or two persons involved, isolation will be isolation.

Love cannot thrive in isolation. Not being connected to collective life or communities leads to frustration and dissatisfaction. This can be observed when looking at the relationship between parents and children. When parents keep trying to take possession of their child, keeping them away from society, it is likely that the child will have fears and maintain distance from society while not being able to develop their autonomy. However, a child that grows up in a loving and caring community will learn about the worth of love, collective life and solidarity.

When people love each other, they must not see each other as an escape from their own loneliness. They must not consume each other, for love is not consumption. We are used to consumption, whether we admit it or not. Capitalism trains us to calculate everything, that’s why we have also started charging and calculating when it comes to friendship and love. When somebody disappoints or hurts us, or does not ‘meet our expectations’, we tend to treat that person as a waste.

We are angry with ourselves for having ‘invested’ time, trust and love, as if our love had some kind of market value or our love was limited. But love does not mean finding a possession to own, put on makeup, dress as we like and throw away as soon as it does not please us anymore. Love means fighting, which is not only fighting against but fighting for something in the first place. Love has to fight to fulfil itself. And that does not only apply to romantic relationships ,but for all kinds of relations.

We tend to flee as soon as something does not work out the way we want it to. Anonymity and the option of isolating ourselves give us the comfort to draw back and escape from the problems. While doing this, we tend to think highly of ourselves, which is why we put ourselves out of the ‘social danger’ of being criticised. Because after all, there is a sole and safe bubble that we can crawl back into. This kind of fears often keep us away from true, deep love.

Although it is a difficult task to overcome isolation and alienation within capitalism and the 5,000-year-old patriarchal mentality, it is possible to abandon old habits, behaviour and beliefs, in order to renew oneself and revolutionise our heart. The youth is, as the imprisoned activist of the Black Panther Movement Mumia Abu-Jamal writes, the natural carrier of revolutionary energy. They are capable of changing themselves in the face of overwhelming forces, use their bodies — seething with revolutionary transformation —  to change their environments and enact social change.

If the youth fulfils this radical change, it will carry along the whole world and bear the birth of a new society built upon truly revolutionary love. To realise love between two people, it is not only essential that every one of them undergoes change. A collective rebellion has to emerge as well. Sometimes, this can also mean fighting against each other. Fighting against each other does not imply hating each other, but fighting against internalised sexism through (self-)criticism.

The conditions that make love almost impossible must not be accepted. Our comrade Mehmet Aksoy (Fîraz Dag) left behind some powerful words: “Don’t surrender to capitalism, don’t surrender to materialism, ugly relationships, lovelessness, disrespect, degeneration and inequality. Don’t surrender.” Someone who truly loves must fight against all those mechanisms, standing in the way of love. Unlocking these mechanisms and rebelling against them is one of our responsibilities as revolutionary young people. The ideals of a free society have to be sought and realised collectively. Everything else cannot be accepted if we want to give love a meaning.

Love is similar to a revolution. Both are often subject to misconceptions. Just as a revolution must never end at a certain point, love should not end at a certain time either. Many people think that a revolution is an incident, a single moment where everything changes. But history and even our current revolutionary movements teach us that a revolution is more of a process than an incident. A revolution, as we can see in Rojava (North Syria), must be a permanent process that includes all parts of life and society, so that the ideals that have been fought for continue to be vivid and meaningful.

The same applies to love. Love is not an incident, not an event. When talking about romantic love, for example, love does not mean falling in love once and then resting on this single ‘event’. Love is not static. Love involves activity, love is flowing energy. Love means being able to meet new situations and challenges, for love gives us the strength needed. Truly loving someone means mutual support and respect, it means being courageous and honest, it means carrying out the love into the world and also nurturing and loving the community at the same time. As philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm puts it: “If I truly love one person, I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say, “I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.”

We are far from having said everything there is to say about love. Though to begin with, we should understand that loving requires awareness, morale and the will to change oneself and society. In a society that is characterised by egoism, rivalry and fear, love cannot blossom. The one who fights for love knows no fears anymore and gets the required strength to pave the way for a free, socialist society.

Love is a stronger force than anger, fear or hate. Building something might be more difficult, but it is much stronger than destroying something. And this might be one of the most beautiful things we can learn from the Kurdish movement. One slogan of the Kurdish movement says: If you want to live, live in freedom!

In the same way we as youth, feminists, philosophers, artists and revolutionaries, can say: If you want to love, love in freedom!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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