This is a follow-up on my previous piece, “From Civilization to a Circle of Equals”, where I put forward a view that human civilization, since its flowering 5000 years ago with the invention of literacy, appears to have been built around the control of the majority of people within its purview by a minority elite. This piece focuses on some of the specific mechanisms of control, some developed in ancient times but continuing today, and others that are more recent “innovations”.
I think it is critical that progressive people understand this history and these continuing mechanisms of control, so we have more of a chance to rise above these manipulations by controlling elites. It is equally critical that we avoid advocating for these manipulations ourselves, in our efforts to create a more egalitarian narrative for human society going forward into the future. Control, even by the forces of egalitarian ends, is still control, and diminishes the natural human spirit to control ones own destiny.
So here’s my list of such mechanisms, certainly not a comprehensive one, but some of the obvious bigees and a few others you might not have thought of.
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For the first 200,000 years of the human species we were all hunter-gatherers, nomadic tribes of people scattered about the Earth living in sync with the natural ecology of our bountiful planet. It is only in the past 10,000 years, with our development of agriculture and herding, that we developed what we like to call “civilization”, which according to Wikipedia is…
A sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally hierarchical and urbanized. In a classical context, people were called “civilized” to set them apart from barbarians, savages, and primitive peoples while in a modern-day context, “civilized peoples” have been contrasted with indigenous peoples or tribal societies.
Though hunter-gatherer societies (the “indigenous peoples” and “tribal societies” of the above definition) still exist in parts of the world today, the overwhelming majority of we humans live in more complex “civilized” societies, where we generally consider ourselves to have progressed and to be better off than our “primitive” kin. That judgement of being better off has come into some question in the past 100 years with our legacy of devastating world wars, genocides, environmental degradation, and a continuing unequal distribution of resources leading to many of us having way more than we need and many of the rest of us having too little.
Others who have researched what life is really like in hunter-gatherer societies (based on archeology and studying those societies that still exist today) have made some surprising and perhaps uncomfortable observations. These include that people generally spend less time working and are happier than in civilized societies. It begs the question, what is the whole point of civilization?
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