Flattening the Pyramids
Note: Excerpts of my manuscript, Flattening the Pyramids: A Treatise on Hierarchy and Community, have been posted on the Ideas and Commentary section of this site but readers may prefer to read the book in sequence without other posts breaking it up. The book is still a work in progress and I’ll continue to add to it both in the excerpt posts and here, so you can read it as you prefer. As always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated.
All hierarchical social structures have a fundamental design flaw- they are designed such that a privileged minority at the top of the hierarchy will, inevitably, exploit and oppress the majority below, within the given structure. Exploitation and oppression invariably give rise to unrest, rebellion, and, eventually, large-scale destruction. Civilization, by and large, is considered good and right, regardless of the inequities that are, by definition and design, inherent to the model, as it is structurally hierarchical. Attempts to significantly address oppressive and exploitative outcomes within the context of structural inequality are ineffective unless and until the structures themselves are dismantled and replaced with egalitarian alternatives.
Such alternatives include creating self-sufficient communities in which all members are equally valued and power is shared based on the skills and aptitudes of each member. Human organizational history (anthropology) provides us with ample evidence that indigenous cultures lived in harmony with each other and nature, prior to the advent of state societies, or civilization. Tribal groups maintained balance for hundreds of thousands of years, maintaining sustainable populations and subsisting without destructively exploiting natural resources or engaging in large-scale conflict. Scarcity and need were not significant social issues until humans began hoarding food and requiring forced labor by the underclasses for the benefit of the ruling classes. This began roughly 10-12 thousand years ago in several locations around the world- the most commonly-known site being the “Fertile Crescent,” also known as the “Cradle of Civilization.”
The assumption contained in modern stories about the development of hierarchical civilization is that humans are meant to be civilized- that hierarchy is the most advanced and correct way to organize ourselves, regardless of the clear and ever-present detrimental impacts of this type of organization. War, famine, epidemic and pandemic disease, mental illness, isolation, poverty, environmental degradation, overpopulation, racism, sexism, (all the –isms)., are inevitable byproducts of civilization but most accept these as products of ‘human nature,’ rather than outcomes of our dominant organizational structure. Narratives, or stories, are the primary means by which human individuals within any community learn about their roles, responsibilities, values, and potential future opportunities. It is not sufficient to unlearn harmful stories; we must convey alternative narratives that support authentic cultural transformation.