Marlena and President Brent came into the medical unit. There were puzzled looks on their faces as they saw everyone gathered there as well. Argus came forward to greet them. He said, "Thank you for coming."
Marlena asked, "You wished to see us about something?"
Argus said, "We had some questions to ask you."
Marlena's face was friendly and open. She exuded an air of calm warmth. "I will endeavour to answer them to the best of my knowledge."
Argus's manner was also friendly but he wanted answers. "Your daughter mentioned that the Tellar Union is a matriarchy?"
"Yes, it is." Marlena's gaze was direct and penetrating as she studied Argus. She was not unaware that there was great interest in this conversation from the various people gathered in the medical unit. Ears were alert or they leaned forward slightly. Her face never lost its calm openness.
Cally noticed that Brent had become stiff and wary, uncertain of what was going on. She said to them, "Don't be concerned. This is not meant to be an inquisition."
Argus reassured them, "Cally is right. We have no negative intentions, we just have some concerns."
Marlena said, "I don't take any offense." She glanced at Brent briefly, a slight but fond smile appeared on her face. "I understand that it can be an alarming idea to some."
There was a quick flash of discomfiture on Brent's face and then a wry expression. "Not anymore."
Marlena asked, "What are your concerns?"
Argus had Avon explain what they knew about matriarchies.
Afterwards Marlena nodded. "That's a good basic understanding of the foundation of a matriarchy."
Avon said with a faint air of cynicism, "I imagine that it is a matriarchy in principle but not entirely in practice?"
Marlena turned to him. There was no hostility on Avon's face, just a man who no longer believed in much of anything other than the fallibility of the human race.
There was compassion in Marlena's eyes. "No, Avon. It is very much a matriarchy, even in practice."
Avon said with scepticism, "That's hard to believe."
Sester asked, "Assuming that it is a functional matriarchy, how did you make it work in such a hostile environment. Yours may not be an aggressive and dominating culture but that doesn't stop ones that are from attacking you or taking you over. But obviously that hasn't happened."
Argus said, "You mentioned before that the Chandarans set traps for your people in order to capture you? How do you stop them?"
There was a relaxed gentleness to Marlena's manner, a quiet peace that was more like a bulwark against a storm. She said, "There are some things you need to understand about a matriarchy. We may not be a dominating culture but that does not mean that we do not defend ourselves or are not capable of it. We are a culture of peace, we will not initiate aggressive action, but we can and we will fight if we cannot find another solution. And it may surprise you to know that we are very good at fighting, even though it is not our preferred option."
Cally asked, "So you are capable of violence."
Marlena said, "No, not of violence, defence."
"That sounds like a fine distinction," said Avon who was still sceptical.
The compassionate look that Marlena seemed to have whenever she looked at Avon was making him uncomfortable. She looked at him enquiringly and asked, "Do you not believe what I'm saying, Avon or are you afraid of being disappointed?"
Avon stared at her. "Show me a person who believes in anything and I will show you a fool."
Marlena said, "Those are harsh words."
"I'm a realist," said Avon.
The way she looked at him made Avon feel as if she could reach into his mind and know what truly motivated him. His mental and emotional walls went up even higher.
Cally looked over at Avon with a worried question in her eyes but he was too focused on his interaction with Marlena.
Marlena said gently, "You're a man who has been hurt too much to be able to believe."
Avon said coldly, "You don't know what you're talking about."
Marlena glanced at Cally and then she said to Avon, "My apologies. It makes you uncomfortable to speak of this."
Avon's body tensed. "You are mistaken. It has no significance."
Marlena said, "We will return to the main topic then."
The tension seemed to have be released from the room as she said this. Everyone exhaled a breath that they hadn't realized they had been holding during the near confrontation.
Sester asked, "What did you mean when you said that the Tellarians are capable of defence but not violence. I agree with Avon, it does appear to be a fine distinction."
Reya spoke up, "Defensive fighting is different from offensive fighting."
Marlena turned to her and acknowledged, "Yes. The way that you fought is a very good example."
Argus said, "It's the difference between initiating violence and just reacting to it?"
Marlena smiled, "Not only that. We do not strike to kill, only to disable or incapacitate."
For a man of war and violence, the idea of leaving an enemy alive so that he could continue to hurt you was an alien one. Argus said, "You are giving yourself a great disadvantage. I can't see how you could possibly survive. People who are aggressive tend to prey on the weak, they won't let you go. It's in their nature. You yourself have said that the Chandarans deliberately target your people."
Marlena's eyes swept the room slowly. There was a look of appreciation on her face. "Thank you for being concerned for Tellar but you needn't be. We are very capable of taking care of ourselves. We have survived and flourished for over a millennium while worlds have fallen around us."
Reya asked, "You said that your people are very good at fighting?"
When Marlena regarded Reya, there was a look of soft respect in her eyes. "You wish to know how we have survived?"
Marlena said with understanding, "You want to believe that there is another way besides violence, even in this day and age?" She looked at all of them again. Attention was high in this room and everyone's eyes were fixed on her, almost without blinking, as if they were afraid they might miss something if they did.
She continued with care. "As I had indicated earlier, we are very good at fighting. Every citizen of Tellar is responsible for the defence of Tellar. We are all taught from a very young age on fighting techniques and throughout our lives we coordinate into defensive units for periodic training and practice. But we are truly defensive and not offensive. Our focus is to protect only."
Sester pointed out, "That's still not enough to prevent you from being wiped out."
Marlena said, "You're right. It's not."
Cally said, "Then there must be something else."
"Yes, there is. In Tellar culture, there is great importance attached to the advancement of knowledge and understanding."
Sester nodded. "You have developed superior scientific and technical abilities? Enough to protect yourselves?"
Marlena said, "Yes. Our defensive technology as well as our weapons technology is far advanced to anyone in this sector. They cannot touch us."
Avon had been silent since the almost confrontation between them but now he spoke, "Unless they set a trap?"
Marlena faced him. "Yes. It's the only way they can defeat us. They know that we help those in need so they deliberately fake distress calls or urgent situations."
Sester had been watching Marlena closely as she interacted with them and he had been listening carefully. Marlena's tone made him ask, "You deliberately seek out people in need?"
Marlena inclined her head in acknowledgement. "Yes. That is one of our mandates in this region. There are constant wars and fighting between the various alliances and worlds. In the aftermath of battles, we come to the assistance of those who are injured or require help."
Avon asked, "Why? I would hardly think that they would thank you or that they would see you more favourably."
Marlena turned to face him again, her eyes searched his face. "Is that the reason why you would help Cally if she needed your help?"
Avon bristled. "They are not Cally. The situation is completely different."
Her eyes held his with understanding and warm compassion, as if she wanted to still his defensiveness. "The situation is different, but not the reasoning. When you help those you care about, it is not because you want or expect anything. You do it because you care."
Avon scoffed, "You care about the Chandarans, even after all of the things they must have done to you? They would see you all destroyed if they could."
"Yes, I know. It is because of that, that they need our help the most. Tellarians value life, regardless of who's it is. It is one of the foundations of a matriarchy. That is why I chose to stay here even though I had an opportunity to escape."
Brent had been quiet until now. "That's true. I wanted to return Marlena to her own people but she chose to stay because she thought she might be able to do some good here." He looked at her. "She thought I was worth saving."
There was a soft smile of affection on Marlena's face as she said, "You were always worth saving."
Reya told her, "We thought that we might need to protect you."
Cally finished for her, "But it appears that we may need your help more than you would ever need ours. This galaxy needs more people like yours."
Marlena said, "We all have much to learn from each other. You have been fighting the darkness as much as we have. You take more proactive action."
Reya said, "You mean, more offensive action?"
Marlena smiled, "Unfortunately in our culture, we are not inclined to take such direct actions."
Sester said, "If you did, it would be a fundamental change that would eventually destroy it?"
Marlena said, "No. That is not the reason. We have in the past taken offensive actions. But it is rare and it only after great deliberation and care. The Council of Mothers…"
Vila had also been keeping quiet until now. "Council of Mothers?"
Marlena turned to him for the first time. For some reason, the way she looked at him, with intensity and curiosity, Vila felt almost naked. Which really was very awkward since she was Corinne's mother.
Marlena said, "Yes. There is one imbalance in a matriarchy."
Avon's lips curled when she said this. Cynicism emanated from him even though he had not said anything.
Marlena continued, "It's a regrettable but unavoidable fact that males are more inclined towards aggression. Tellarian society was not always a matriarchy. Violence and war nearly destroyed us. We were on the verge of extinction because of our own actions and there were very few men left. When you are faced with the survival of your race, some things no longer seem as important. At least, not if you want to continue surviving."
Reya asked, "What did you do?"
"We re-evaluated our society."
Avon's eyes narrowed. "You took a rational approach?"
Marlena directed a warm smile towards him. "Yes, Avon. We may have been a violent society but we were also an intellectual one. We analyzed our own worlds and how they worked. Or rather, how they didn't work. We knew that if things did not change, we would be destroyed within one generation, two at the most. There was a fact that could not be ignored when studying the nature of violence, that males are more predisposed to it than females. In the commission of capital crimes, the vast majority are committed by men. In the order of five to one between males and females. Seven to one in some cases. In non-capital crimes, the percentages drop but males still commit them at the rate of three to one. This was something that we could not ignore."
Avon asked, "So you took power away from the men. Which was much easier since, as you said, there were few men left."
Marlena said, "It may be hard for you to believe, Avon, but that is not the nature of a matriarchy. For the first time, because there were considerably more females than males, we finally had a say in the running and direction of our society. We chose balance. We recognized that the strengths of both men and women were required in order to survive. As we were in such dire straits, the men also recognized this. They couldn't deny it since violence, instigated by their aggression and pride, was about to destroy our people. We had a vote and it was decided that for the sake of survival, our society had to change. We chose balance and the honouring of life. Cooperation rather than competition. Both men and women chose this. In order to save our existence."
Vila asked, "But you said there was one imbalance? The Council of Mothers?"
Marlena gave him a warm smile. "Yes, Vila. Because of the nature of males, we recognized that we needed a group that would safeguard our newfound society. In all matters regarding offensive actions, such as going to war or anything which involves violence or the harming of life, the Council of Mothers have the final say. In all other things there is a balance between males and females, young and old. Only in this one thing there is not."
Reya asked, "This society works?"
Marlena said, "Yes, Reya. We have not had war in over five hundred years. After awhile, it became part of our nature and our society to seek non-violent solutions for all things."
Sester said, "When you were captured, you saw a non-violent opportunity. That is why you decided to stay." It was not a question.
Marlena nodded her head in acknowledgement. "You are perceptive."
Argus noticed that Reya was deep in thought. He asked her, "Reya, what are you thinking?"
"I want to see this society."
Argus said, "We're going to. We'll be going there."
She turned towards him, "I want to really see it."
"My brother gave me a planet. I'd never really thought about it before other than as a gift and an administrative responsibility."
Argus sounded sceptical, "You're thinking of changing it into a matriarchy? I doubt if it'll work. From the sounds of it, people have to want it this type of society. You can't force it on them. How are you going to make it work?"
"That's why I want to talk to the Tellarians. They specialize in non-violent solutions. If I could change even a few things, or introduce some new ideas, I think it would be worth it."
Marlena said to her, "You are welcome to our help, Reya Reeve."
Just an author's note:
I've finally reached the chapter that is the ultimate heart of this story. I hope the details that Marlena presented were not too boring, I am aware that I may have gone a bit too much into detail.
For this story, it was my intention to explore several ideas, one of a matriarchy and the other was criminal statistics when looked at from a gender perspective. The numbers given by Marlena are real statistics that come from various sources and are fairly consistent over the years and between different cultures. The description she gives about how a matriarchy works are mainly taken from how existing matriarchies work, with a few of my own added to flesh out some details.
I've always wondered what a society would be like if women had an equal say and equal power in everything. Not to say that women are better than men or that all men are more violent than women, but generally, each sex has different weaknesses and strengths. What if each one's strengths were used in the right ways? Could we build a much better society?
In terms of matriarchies, there have been about a dozen, some of which still exist. Even in the definition of a matriarchy, it has been done very much in a male-oriented fashion. There are many who say there are no such things. But they only look at it from a male perspective. They assume that since a patriarchy means rulership by men, then a matriarchy means rulership by women. And in honesty, using this definition, it's true, there have been no matriarchies in history. There are no societies ruled soley by women. But as other researchers have pointed out, by nature, a matriarchy would reflect the character of women, not of men. And that would mean that dominance would not be the main characteristic. It would be one where there is balance and equality, where all are equally valued but women would have a larger say in some things, such as the nomination of leaders and removal of leaders. The women are the keepers of tradition and life in these societies. These are all peaceful cultures that do not engage in warlike behavior.