Saturday, 30 October 2010

Two Poles of Society, everything in between, and how we got here..... and where next?

There are, in this brief outline, two poles, two ends of a spectrum of the kinds of societies of human beings that have emerged, with a wide spectrum of variation between the two.

For the purpose of this article, I will describe the poles as Egalitarian and Hierarchically Violent.

These are trends, characteristics rather specifics. History is littered with the specifics, and standing back from the present to look at the whole allows one to observe the patterns that emerge.

I am trying to get under the social institutional reality-as-it-is-ness, face value assumptions, to peer into its inner core, the bio-psycho-social mind of culture, if you will.

These two pages that follow are of a survey of behavioural characteristics of different modes of society - egalitarian at one end, hierarchically violent at the other. The rest of this essay is an exploration of what I think these comparisons reveal.

source :

These Societal variations are to a very large degree confirmed by evidence and research emerging from the sciences of Anthropology, Neurology, Neuro-Chemistry, Biology, History and Developmental Psychology.

To be more precise : there exists a spectrum of societal behavioural characteristics, from Egalitarian to Hierarchically Violent, expressed by different societies, in different times, locations and times, all over our Earth.

I will speak in present tense because the data emerging from known Aboriginal cultures still with us, c.350 million peoples in all, confirms much of what the vast bulk of first contact data consistently described in their meetings; societies that were apparently power balanced, non-hierarchical, peaceful peoples in the majority of  the recorded observations.

What has been found is that there was a wide range of social and organisational activity such that 'hunter gatherer' is no long considered a viable generic descriptive term for egalitarian societies.

There is evidence of formal and informal agricultural activity, as much as there is evidence of nomads, traders, season followers, herd/swarm/food followers, mixtures of all these and more, organised from small bands to large sedentary living groups.

The picture emerges of a diversity of language identity based social groups who thrived, and exchanged goods and words, who intermarried at the edges, and who were stable for millennia.

This not a picture of a struggle for survival.

That said, the first contacts also met a few openly hostile and some profoundly violent societies as well. It's not all a Garden of Eden out there.

The egalitarian society is the biological normal, the healthy normal for the  majority of our existence as a species.

The healthy society nurtures the whole, together .

The Healthy Society tends towards co-operation. These societies do not tell their children what to think or do, they do not use reward/punishment as a way to 'teach' children, and they tend towards less religiosity, more often expressing a sense of alive-ness in everything we the civilised always mistake for Spirituality, a sensitivity that is individually experienced.

These societies seem to understand or sense deeply, in a pre-verbal and verbalised manner, that the lived experience of each person, each being, is unique and each child is already a person to be trusted, and that trust of the innate natural intelligence of children results in adults who craft societies that are stable, happy and sustainable.

There are fewer rules required when innate empathy is functioning.

The healthy culture tend towards attachment parenting as the most natural and nurturing care of children. This is critical in developing the core biology of self regulation, awareness and mastery of one's emotions. They are able to deal with a wide variation of behaviours, for they give space to the diversity inherent in those variations. They tend towards non hierarchical communities.

Mothering is natural, and permeates the society, informing its wisdom and practices at every level, without being authoritarian, and yet holding authority. It is generally considered that being the birthers of the society, mothers, and their sisters, have a certain sense of nurturance that brings balance to their society, and that this is well understood. That is to say it is also a rational choice.

When they are faced with anger, frustration, misunderstanding etc within their own communities they tend towards conflict resolution. Healthy cultures tend to ritualise violence when the feelings run very high, as and when any issues arise, as a way to de-escalate and defuse.

However these kinds of societies are vulnerable. They have great difficulty in dealing with the other variation of society, (see below) because they are innately non-violent.

Of course it's all too easy for critics to claim it's simply 'noble savage' romanticism. It's not that at all.

We estimate that a total of 1 billion Australian Aboriginal people lived and died in the 60,000 years of their continued sustained healthy society. That's a lot of happiness.

At present there are about 350 million people of these pre-industrial societies alive, and much is being learned about their cultures from their point of view.

Among them are whole survivor nations, comprising many hundred of thousands of individuals, in families, clans groups, whose stories are being heard, perhaps for the first time, in the wider Euro-American conquest culture, and whose truth telling is blowing apart old comforts such as un-examined assumptions, false premises, historical lies, propaganda about savage and primitive societies and people....

Across the Euro-American culture the stories of abuse of native children, as part of a deliberate colonial cultural destruction project, emerging from within the State, under the operational control of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, is part of that story too.

Survivors are a potent voice, and must be listened to, and to be felt to have been heard and understood as part of a greater integration of the meaning of the lived experience.

And those peaceful cultures, they embody a lived natural logic, one that is purely crafted from the biology, the natural world with the human organism as one of its many expressions. 

It has to be recognised, not to be marketed. It's a question of heart. Empathy is the innate ability of any biological organism to 'read' or sense the elements within its habitat, the environment with some degree of accuracy.

The other pole, Hierarchically Violent.

When any Society endures a trauma, and is for whatever reason, unable to resolve or metabolise (process) the experience and their feelings about what took place, there is a strong tendency to engage in controlling behaviours which emerges, unconsciously, as a  coping mechanism, a survival strategy that becomes institutionalised over time.

Just the same dynamic can happen for a person, a family, an extended family....

This is one of the many learning’s that has emerged out of the survivor’s stories, their lived experience.

If unresolved, those behaviours will be passed on, through inter-generational trauma patterning.

Rapid Climate Change

There is evidence that correlates the emergence of hierarchy cultures around the timing of rapid climate shifts in different parts of Earth's habitats, and at different times.

This list of such events is of interest. Other trauma events could be Volcanoes, Earth Quakes, Floods and infectious diseases that harm entire groups.

What is also of equal interest to me is that we know that the Australian people's thrived for 66,000 years as egalitarian cultures, with 250 or more distinct language groups existing when the first Europeans arrived as an invasive culture. We know, from the genetic record, that they lived through at least two major rapid climate shifts without a major loss of population or a reduction in genetic diversity.

Indeed as the European conquest spread out across Earth's continents in the 1400s onwards, they met mostly egalitarian cultures which all suffered terribly from that contact. Pre-conquest cultures being largely peaceful, were and remain vulnerable, and it is not just down to technical prowess of weapons - it is more due to the willingness to deploy weapons against an entire people, often justified by Religious or Ideological bias and discrimination. 

Parents are not the problem.

Most certainly, it's not that the parents are malignant, it's that this is what can happen when a person, or a community, is traumatised; the controlling behaviour patterns acquired in a moment of trauma remain, the body systems remain in fight or flight reactive mode.

Thus the feelings of threat and need for security are passed on, because their children will have only that psychology of their parents to work with, and the parents are in truth not the problem - the social setting that blocks recovery is the larger problem.

The child will attempt to explore and express him or herself.  The natural desire to learn, the impulse to be part of the family ensures that.

If the parents attention is distracted, if the child's needs are not met, due to external stress, then that can set up insecurity in the child.

With the limited power at their disposal, a child can develop attention gaining behaviours, where the power disparity between adult and child is so great, and the relationship can become a hard battle of wills. Not every child responds or reacts exactly the same way. This is how unhappy children learn about life the hard way, beneath cognition. Day by day habituation.

Thus, at some stage, some time, somewhere it has happened that changing conditions affect the natural parenting processes within that culture or community such that the natural child mother bonding process begins to break down.

This is the driver; an emergent lack of empathy that will turn a community or society ever more hierarchical, rigid, rule based, punitive, and ultimately violent over generations.

A healthy society is traumatised, and unable to resolve the trauma, and enters into a collective cPTSD mode of survival.

In time that leads to hierarchy of power relationships normalised.

Being insecure, and building the repetition of that insecurity into the child rearing will lead to for example, the development of tools to enhance control, driven not by 'innovation' but by the 'need to control'. If it was the latter, that need being unconscious learned neuro-pathways, it would always want to expand.

To put it simply, a tool making animal that feels insecure will make tools to create a sense of security. That's the Nuclear bomb in a nutshell. It's also the basis for the current economic system.

There are those societies that do not trust the innate intelligence of children, and the adults, who themselves were dominated as children and therefore 'adjusted' to that society, seek to control or dominate their children so as to 'form' them in their own image as extensions of themselves.

Children are seen as extensions of the adults, and are often treated as possessions. These kinds of societies are typified by a lack of empathy, a justification for coercion and violence and a generalised emotional blindness. They tend towards rigid structured hierarchies. They tend towards religiosity. They tend towards competition.

They tend towards hoarding great wealth and building huge structures to reflect their sense of power. They tend to fear nature, and seek to dominate nature. They actively suppress any children whose innate intelligence resists that domination. These societies are trauma based, in that they are unable to metabolise their trauma and thus the PTSD is transmitted from generation to generation. This is the unresolved trauma society. This kind of society is the current dominant society, because they have been willing to cause harm to build and expand.

What is happening now, and has been brewing for a long, long time (well over due and absolutely critical NOW!) and what this piece is a small part of, is a recognition that these two streams or variants (and of course there's a wide spectrum between both these stereotypical descriptions) of human society have their roots in child 'rearing' practices within a given Society.

As such there are neither good nor evil forces, but rather the outcomes of unresolved trauma. And there are some very evil people. They must be confronted. By all those who are not.

We can choose, firstly as individuals, then as communities, and beyond, to work through the trauma, to metabolise those experiences, and, by locating attachment parenting at the centre of societies response abilities,  by having the natural wisdom of mothering inform society, as one of it's pillars, to build a future for all children, one that is a co-operative effort, engaged in without the need for excessive control, or we can choose to ignore the unresolved trauma and continue as we are, with more wars, more harm to the environment, and more excessive control being exercised over people and habitat and all that dwell there. And those who are vulnerable will go to the wall. That is inevitable.

Those who choose the later path will manipulate everything and anything the can to stay on that path.

It has to be understood that Nature is absolutely founded on co-operation, that the twin concepts of 'survival of the fittest' and 'competition for resources' are projections of the Dominant Culture's psychology and perspective, the viewpoint of society gazing upon Nature, which is easily carried off as we can see that all living beings eat; plants eat sunlight and raw materials and metabolise them into new materials that other living beings also eat, and many animals eat other animals; yet nor single 'predator' eats the entirety of the 'prey species; in fact most species live full lives, into maturity. Predators function in ways that work to ensure the continuation of their prey species in thriving numbers.

There are natural boundaries in all natural relationships. They are best observed.

In nature the core biological function, in terms of effects, that is to say, the actualised material results of natural living processes, of all living beings, is to improve the habitat for all life, each by being their natural selves. Sometimes that means changing, learning, evolving. Those societies who trust their children's innate nature are closest to the biological function I have described. The return of nutrient to the habitat as a fundamental material reality. They nurture their nature.

Everything I have written is factual, supported by Scientific Evidence across a range of disciplines. Not to mention experience and feeling, which Scientists and Ideologues all too often refuse to admit as data.

It is also crucial to understand that the damage to the developing brain of a human being, the natural child, that occurs in dysfunctional child rearing practices, be they subtle or gross, can be very long lasting as they can hard wire that brain for 'survival' in an near permanent anxious state, the state a child so treated grows into.

This damage can, with care and support,  in most cases be attenuated. There are known pathways towards recovery for survivors.

Obviously, it's a better option to avoid causing the damage in the first place.  But we're not there, we're here. That leads me to identify two tasks.

Stop the abuse, help the survivor to honestly metabolise the experience.

The first might well occur across society, silently, as we as people learn to understand the trauma-society dynamic in ways we can test, verify and articulate.

As we step away from Power Relationships, we will inhibit the psychology of power relationships at home. We will decolonise in our hearts and minds, our bodies, our streets, amongst our neighbours, long before we permeate the power structures of the Dominant Culture. We have to.

We have to, because we must be clear that we cannot allow any co-opting influence succeed.

Much of the learning is coming from survivors, and whole survivor communities, survivor societies (of these many generations) and from many the independent academic researchers in a wide range of the sciences.

Survivors speak up, not out of a desire for revenge, but to see that the abuse does not continue; we know it continues because of the missing information; what lay behind our silence for so many years is now being told, now that our chains of shame, fear , confusion, loathing are disintegrating.

We know this: it will take whatever it takes.

Please do some researchm  check what I cite as evidence, and check that my take on that evidence and it's meaning is accurate, or an error, and do so for yourselves...

Kindest regards


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Anonymous said...

Thank you

corneilius said...

thank you for the compliment...

I hope this can help in our understanding of the way in which hierarchical violence determines and indeed alters the development environment of human beings.... away from the egalitarian center, which the evidence suggests is our optimal state of species health.

Rather than a revolution (a rotation of who is in power) or an evolution (a random mutation, or worse a deliberate mutation) it is a question of healing and recovery.

Paola said...

Really interesting. I'm interested in this topics in so many ways. How do ancestrally "egalitarans" fit in our society? What about brain structure? And which role did play food in all this? So many questions..

corneilius said...

Paola. Those are great questions.

Egalitarians don't fit into this culture, precisely because they are Egalitarian, and this culture has destroyed almost every egalitarian culture it has had prolonged contact with.

Nobody has done any studies - MRI, EEG, etc of these cultures so we are missing a large swathe of data on this. We cannot claim to have studied 'human species' - we have only studied us, the hierarchy cultures. We know that trauma and chronic stress change how the brain fundtions. We have no idea of what the naturally healthy cultural brain might be like...

As to food, the egalitarians lived in a world full of food, plentiful in supply...