Pillars of Caring: How Communities Respond to a Global Care Crisis

The moral imperative of holistic health practitioners to answer social ills can be seen as part of a larger proposed transition within economics–Eisler forecasts “the caring revolution” which incorporates partnership, as opposed to domination, and that will forge “a caring economics” (2007). The idea of caring is also present in the nonprofit sector, which is moving away from depersonalized transactional programs, and towards a more feminist epistemology of caring which is based on ideas concerning feminist ethics that have been produced by women and/or feminists over the past forty years. Mahon and Robinson (2011) look at two aspects of care, one being those activities and labor associated with child care, elder care, care for the sick and those with disabilities, and other forms of household and domestic labor.

The second meaning of care is that in which care is the basis for a system of ethics, including nurturance as well as other “socially reproductive activities” which may not be face-to-face caring practices. There is a connection to the ethics of Yoga and compassionate care with which teachers use Yoga as a base to build caring relations with students and community members with whom they have regular contact, both inside class and at outside social activities. The authors believe “an ethics of care that is political and critical must be grounded in the concrete activities of real people in the context of webs of social relations. In turn, these webs are affected by politics and the structure of social policies” (2). Yoga in the community is a form of meeting the needs of individuals, transitioning to a future care-based economy and sustainable communities.

Mahon and Robinson cite a growth in what they term “global care chains” due to the “defamilialization” of care. There is a growing care crisis “arising from inadequate political responses to the defamilialization of care” (11), meaning less family input and cooperation and more professionalized understanding of who does care work. They cite the flow of women from poorer countries to fulfill this gap: “The flow of (mainly women) caregivers from poorer countries to wealthier countries offers a low-wage solution to the dilemma posed by the trade-off between affordability and fair wages for caregivers and the failure to get men to share care responsibilities” (11).

This leads to another question: Are we failing as communities to care for one another? If we are in agreement that the hopes of “the welfare state” are very difficult to achieve in reality, then what are our options? What does self-care have to do with this? Is there a role for communal self-care, including medical and psychosocial? And if so, what does that look like? Yoga and other complementary and alternative medicines could be one of the missing links for communities seeking to re-establish routines of care. Mahon and Robinson describe what this scenario could look like:

Rather than idealizing caring relations, a contemporary political ethics of care must address the moral and political implications of the global care crises as they are manifested both globally and locally. Ad hoc, exploitative crises as they are manifested both globally and locally, and excessively privatized solutions to the question of how we will care for each other are woefully inadequate in the current social, economic, and demographic contexts. Care ethics can serve as a lens through which to focus and organize our thinking about ways in which care is delivered at the local, national, and global levels. To do so effectively, however, it must confront head on the realities of human vulnerability and dependence, and of our embodied, fragile, interdependent selves (16).

The ultimate premise of Yoga is blatantly utopian in the sense that the possibility of peace, coexistence, and tolerance across human society is just another social proposition. But in Yoga, these values are turned upon the self first, which makes it an interesting model for how social change occurs. By empowering the individual woman, to be physically and mentally healthy, Yoga creates “pillars of caring” which can be relied upon for families and communities. In looking at the values of Yoga communities, we can not only see that the values–of nonviolence, non-possessiveness, and truth–are there, but that a core group of several thousand Yoga teachers spread throughout the culture are struggling with, and activating, these principles not only in their own lives, but in communities that form around them and with whom they form bridges to larger groups within the culture.

The way that Yoga teachers articulate their ethics against larger social systems is customized and complex, due to the depth of global problems, ignorance on certain social realities, and tending to focus on local problems. But, understood within the context of the decline of religion and social capital in the US, there is a certain robust force of strength and union rising from this community. Yoga teachers have disciplined their bodies, befriended their minds, and opened their hearts to persons and communities in need. Through the idea and field of practice, they have reprised Yoga’s values in a systematic way, slowly building a foundation for activating these principles through remembering the self/Self. Not only have individual lives changed, but this must be seen as part of a larger movement of small, living changes in society in order to bring forth a healthy, ethical ideal which helps evolve industrialized civilization.

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