My two recent essays in this space, here and here, contemplated the idea of ownership. I’d be hard pressed to find a worse idea than ownership, an idea that lies at the root of our myriad predicaments. In this brief essay, I follow ownership to its logical conclusion: human behavior.
I can already hear the cries of protest. Please, bear with me. Try to listen beyond the frantic, self-indulgent voices of relatively wealthy, heterosexual, Caucasian men.
Once we accept the slippery slope of ownership, boundaries cease to exist. We ignore, hate, and enslave those we view as “other.” And we’re easily manipulated into seeing the “other” beyond our own self-identified selves. Witness the Great Lie known as American exceptionalism.
Nearly everybody readily capitulates to a system that provides enormous benefits to a few, ample benefits to many, a few benefits to the majority, and horrifying conditions for the remainder. The system has embedded within it a monetary system designed by the few to benefit the same few at the apex of the system. These few are called patriarchs. The system is called patriarchy.
Contrary to prevailing opinion, it is not men who make up patriarchy. Not all men rule, and most men are exploited. Patri- (from pater) means “father” in Latin and Greek and can be traced to the Indo-European languages where it first appeared with the emergence of patriarchy, about 7,000 years ago.
In pre-patriarchal societies the word father did not exist separate from “mother” (one of the oldest words in all regions of the world). From the time “father” was separated from “mother,” the former word represented the image of ruler-ship, consistent with its current meaning.
The current meaning of father (aka, ruler) is normal only in the sense that civilization is normal. Of course it’s all we’ve ever known, and it’s the source of the written record of humans. But to claim civilization is normal is to deny the initial couple million years of the human experience (more than 99.7% of our existence).
Accepting patriarchy as “normal” allows us to accept the horrors of civilization as normal. These horrors include destruction, violence, and oppression. For the most part, we turn away, thus becoming willing participants in the horrors of imperialism.
And why not? To accept responsibility implies alternative action. Accepting responsibility is painful. Acting on that responsibility is tortuous, for the willing few.
Accepting reality leads to difficult introspection and, in some cases, even more difficult personal choices. It also might lead to counter-cultural acts. Acting beyond the dominant paradigm, which those in the dominant culture claim to support but actually punish, could lead — and has led — to incarceration, torture, and early death. Supporting the dominant paradigm supports destruction, violence, and oppression. For most people, the decision to support the dominant paradigm is easy.
At this late date in the history of Homo sapiens, patriarchy is the only game in the “civilized” world. It dominants every aspect of life on Earth, including our private, personal lives. Consider, for example, our closest relationships.
During my early days of teaching college classes, I had a student proudly proclaim that homosexuality was a horrible act, conducted by horrible people. Whether you believe in god or evolution, he said, you have to believe there is no purpose to homosexuality. Ergo, it is wrong.
The student was adamantly expressing his entrenched understanding of the dominant culture. Heterosexual monogamy is good. Every other sexual act is bad. Indeed, every other type of relationship is bad.
Much later, when I was teaching at a small, state-funded university in southern Utah, I stumbled across a similar tragedy. When asked for three sources to support their written perspectives in scientific analyses, students routinely cited the Christian bible and their fathers as two of the three sources. Patriarchy rocks, dude.
There is expansive evidence for homosexuality in non-human species. There is no evidence of purpose in the entire universe beyond the purposes we assign to our own insignificant lives. The entire concept of divinity is rife with assumptions unsupported by evidence. The assignation of evil to human acts beyond imperialism is ludicrous.
The marriage-industrial complex is a product of civilization. It has become embedded within dominant religions, which are uniformly characterized by the “golden rule.” Marriage, like gold and the associated rule, is part and parcel of imperialism. Men own their women, and also their children. Non-monogamous relationships are weird to the point of being dangerous.
The bottom line, as always: There is only one proper way to live. Attempting to live differently warrants punishment.
New in the CLASSIFIEDS: Hello from New Zealand, 20 some yrs ago I moved to NZ worried about the state of the planet and the politics of war and waste. I set out buying a large piece of property and making part of it into a bread basket, planting thousands of trees of all sort. Things are now flourishing. I’m on my own micro hydro, and have an extensive library. I also have a container full of food making and preserving implements. I’m 72, I need serious mature people who have rural skills and experience to take over so I can pass the property on for as long as things last. Contact me via email: email@example.com
My work is mentioned frequently and favorably in an essay published 16 January 2015 at The Daily Impact. It’s titled, “Scientists to Earth: Prepare to Abandon Planet,” and it’s linked here.
Catch Nature Bats Last on the radio with Mike Sliwa and Guy McPherson. Tune in every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, or catch up in the archives here. If you prefer the iTunes version, including the option to subscribe, you can click here.
This week’s show features an extended interview with award-winning poet Cameron Conaway.
McPherson’s latest book is co-authored by Carolyn Baker. Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind is available.
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