Can a Woman Make Sense of the Way She’s For & Against a Man, the World, Herself?

Wangari Maathai speaking to women in a village
Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011) speaking to women in a Kenyan village. Illustration from “Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai” by Claire A. Nivola

I presented this paper, which includes aspects of the courageous life & work of Nobel prize-winner Wangari Maathai,  as part of a public seminar in 2010, a year before her tragic death from cancer. — Nancy Huntting.

In an issue of the international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Ellen Reiss explains why I and women and men everywhere have been painfully mixed up in love: “People don’t know that they way they are for and against other human beings arises from how they are for and against the world itself.”  Aesthetic Realism shows, she continues, that:

there is an actual hope in a person to be against the world, despise it, see it as unworthy of oneself….Aesthetic Realism is the study of how to put for and against truly together: to oppose what is unjust in a person out of respect for that person; to be terrifically against what is ugly in the world out of love for that world.

. . . . The Green Belt Movement encouraged in people who’d felt powerless an active interest in justice, in fighting for what they and the environment deserve and against “land grab­bing” and exploiting of natural resources.

There was a deep care for the land and people of Africa in Wangari Maathai which enabled her to persist against formidable opponents—corrupt government officials and corporations, being lied-about and jailed. Unbowed is the title of her 2006 memoir. Meanwhile, she had the question of how to see the very people she was encouraging—how to make sense of ways she was for them and against them.

Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in the central highlands of Kenya, the third of six children, and grew up in a traditional dwelling of earthen walls and thatched roof in her family’s compound, on land that belonged to a British wheat farmer for whom her father worked as a multi-lingual driver and skilled mechanic…Read more