The emblem for this series is the Sword of Damocles piercing a crown, symbolizing the idea that the powerful are not invulnerable. The name of the series derives from Tiberius Gracchus, one of Ancient Rome’s greatest reformers, who was tragically martyred for his efforts.
Right now I’m watching Zeitgeist 3—I know those movies are rightly derided for skewing the facts in some cases and putting forth speculation as truth in others. But one thing this installment got right at least is the relative peace, egalitarianism and happiness we as humans enjoyed in the Hunter-gatherer age. It seems to be a common viewpoint that humanity’s happiness and prospects only got better and better as time has gone on. This is not so; our fortunes have risen and fell many times over the course of history. Rather than looking down our noses at men of the past, perhaps we ought to give credit where it’s due and acknowledge what we’ve lost.
There is evidence that in the Hunter-Gatherer Age, women were not oppressed, that violence among the tribe was rare if it happened at all, and without money people did things for the survival and mutual benefit of their tribe rather than to accrue wealth. Instead of making close friends in grade school and losing them if they moved, or at graduation, only to make a whole set of new friends to lose all over again, you spent your whole life with your family/tribe. Instead of being separated due to long distances and jobs taking up all our time, extended families stayed together.
Early humans didn’t throw a hundred kids into a grade, bombard them with tedious homework, and disrupt their sleep schedules. Neither did they put massive amounts of pressure on those kids to succeed, while turning a blind eye when the students bullied each other. Neither did early humans shrug it off as a fluke when the insanity drove some kids to shoot up the school, kill themselves, drop out, turn to drugs or become criminals. Instead, the children were raised among their kin, and with a group of peers whom they trusted and relied on for survival. There were no warring cliques, there was no pressure to dress a certain way or like a certain band/media. Everyone was one homogeneous tribe who experienced and reacted to the world together.
It was a world of coexistence among equals, with nature as opposed to the trappings of consumerism, poverty, selfishness or greed. Sure, you didn’t have the nice luxuries of phones and computers—but you did have a stronger bond with those around you as a result. Imagine no distractions, nowhere better to be than with those right in front of you. Our ancestors didn’t have sugary addictive soda, instead they had something better: Thanksgiving every time the tribe killed a mammoth together. (Not to mention everyone comforted one another through the nights of hardship in between.) Golden Age Man didn’t have fancy designer clothes, however the human nipple, butt and genitals were not demonized as awful, shameful taboo objects that needed to be covered up in the first place. We acknowledged and celebrated our own natural beauty.
This isn’t to say the caveman life wasn’t without its hardships, and I know I’m romanticizing it, but in many ways it was truly more fulfilling on a basic emotional level. The bond between people was strong and lasted a lifetime. You lived in a new, unexplainable, stimulating world traveling it together with loved ones. At night, someone would tell stories of the inexplicable wonders they’d seen to entertain each other. This was the height of unhampered imagination, where the Heavens themselves, from constellations to natural phenomena were wide open for interpretation. It was the age of egalitarian love and bonding. While I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to living in caves, eating nuts and berries for every meal, it’s a shame we lost those endearing attributes in the process of civilization. We should acknowledge that loss, and try to get the best of both worlds going forward.
I mean, compare that hunter-gatherer life to the dull, soul-sucking corporate slog in a 9-5 we have now.
I’ll wager most of you reading are spending all day interacting with strangers who often don’t respect you as a human being because you work food service or retail. If not ungrateful customers like them, you’re spending most of your day with coworkers who would gladly stab you in the back for a promotion even if it meant you lost your own job. Maybe your manager is insecure, or getting shit on by their own boss, but they belittle you in front of coworkers or customers and destroy your self-esteem on a semi-regular basis. All the while, the fruits of your labor largely benefit some obscenely wealthy neo-aristocrat or trust fund baby who doesn’t know your name, schemes his way out of paying taxes to help fund your child’s education and would gladly pay pennies on the hour if he could.
You don’t journey through an exciting new world; you sit in a cubicle or stand behind a register all day, looking at a screen. The company you work for pollutes the local water supply because it’s cheaper to pay the fine than be environmentally conscious. Christmas bonuses are cut for the third year in a row to inflate the quarterly reports to shareholders. They fired the hardworking single mom who was late a few times because she’s been having trouble getting a sitter. The CEO of your company has publicly condemned LGBT people, making you feel like you’re serving the devil, yet you can’t quit or else you’d be out on the street. The car you drive, that you need to drive to get to this job, is ensuring the world your children inherit will be an absolute hellhole.
You don’t get to see your kids until 6 PM—unless your boss wants you to work unpaid last-minute overtime, you’re on-call all the time, or you have a long commute. You notice your daughter, the sweet rambunctious free spirit who brightened your life, who was so happy and curious about the world, is slowly becoming more withdrawn and insecure since starting school. But you’re too tired to do much about that, so you just tell her to smile more. The woman you love can’t get the medicine she needs because of her employer’s “deeply held religious beliefs” (read: unhampered greed) and she was catcalled or groped by some brutish lowlifes on the way home. Defending her honor with your own hands would land you in jail and ruin your family; going to the cops like a good little boy ensures nothing gets done (except, depending on their mood, maybe they shoot your beloved family dog for no reason, or raid the house for the harmless marijuana stash you use to get through a stressful week. Maybe they throw a flashbang grenade into your baby’s crib for good measure.)
I’ve said it multiple times in my day-to-day life: this is not the way humanity was meant to live. And I genuinely believe this lifestyle is slowly killing us all. What we do about it I don’t entirely know, but recognizing the cause may be a useful first step. Personally, I think when man settled, when he chose a spot and called it “my land” is when the rot first set in, however slight it was at first. We stopped appreciating the struggle, our kin, our animal cousins, and tried to dominate the world around us rather than live in harmony with it. We claimed ownership of all the land and every living thing we could, for no other reason than because we could. We were too successful for our own good–we were smart enough to turn the thrilling hunt of an elk into the routine death-camps of factory farming, but not wise enough to consider the long term ramifications of doing so.
Once civilization happened, you started to see most of the ills of the modern world take hold—social inequality between men and women, income inequality, shaming people for doing jobs that are necessary to insure the survival of the city. But worst of all, one (or a small group of men) solidified control over all others, exploiting mankind, animals and the Earth itself for profit and ego. The people who drew the short end of the stick—the peasants, the slaves, the dalits, the cobblers and street cleaners—they submitted to their lot in life because they saw relative comfort and security as preferable over the unknown fate of the wilderness man once called “home.” These unfortunate ones mistook the new artificial prison mankind had built for himself as preferable to nature’s bounty. These poor city-dwellers lived in shame because they could not provide nice things for their wives and knew their children would grow up just as poor, degraded and miserable.
And now, humanity’s lived for so long behind bars that we have lost sight of what it’s like to be on the outside at all. We’ve forgotten how to be free from the subtle enslavement of our modern profit-driven materialist machine. Inertia, the accumulated hard and soft power of the masters up top, and ignorance to any alternative means we continue to submit to our fate. And now we have done so much damage to the environment that we cannot escape anywhere even if we should wish to. We’ve also preemptively buried these last two generations in so much student debt that they are bound by the system before they even have a chance to consider an alternative way.
God-forbid you point any of this out, or you will get called “edgy,” or mocked for your attempt at “being deep.” Someone will use the fact that you live in this nightmare world as evidence of your apparent support for it, despite having no other choice and never wishing to be born at all in the first place. Someone will presumptuously claim “everything good in your life you owe to America and/or Capitalism-Consumerism” (someone actually did say that to me once, almost word for word) as if somehow family, friends and mushrooms don’t exist. Somehow complete and unquestioning submission to the system is the only way to be perceived as “normal” by the masses despite the fact that, individually, everyone but the top aristocrats benefiting from this mass-subjugation has had their own problems with the way things are. The masters we serve have trained us to blame our problems on the most vulnerable and helpless–the poor. They’ve trained us to dismiss criticism or skepticism as lunacy. Now they’ve trained us to be cynical and callous to anyone who believes in genuine progress or new societal models.
The tools of mind expansion Mother Nature left for us, which help us to see outside this box we’ve trapped ourselves in—cannabis, psilocybin, LSD, DMT, peyote, salvia—are made illegal. Criticism of our economic and political structures, expressed on the artificial tools we supposedly built for our own benefit—phones, PCs, internet—is monitored, collected, analyzed and used to build a profile for potential dissenters. The vast majority of people would prefer to believe in a guiding morality or wisdom of those at the top, so troubling evidence such as this essay are ignored, ridiculed, forcibly silenced. Failing that, the media conglomerates (six corporations own almost all media outlets) distract the masses with a dog and pony show of some kind.
I’ll bet at least a few people saw this post and rolled their eyes at me in absentia.
I’ve lost a lot of friends the last five years for daring to criticize America, capitalism-consumerism, the police and other authority figures. Rather than acknowledge any criticisms, or try to understand said critics and prove them wrong, we have collectively taken such pride in our own prison that we would rather shut out any dissent that might force us to question why we live the way we do in the first place. Alternative social models like Marxism, Environmentalism, Geoism, Mutualism, Workplace Democracy, Left-Libertarianism or Anarchism are derided if not forcefully snuffed out and spit on. The masses claim to love their free speech and political choices, yet anyone utilizing free speech for its intended purpose–critiquing and ultimately reforming the government–are mocked, marginalized and misquoted.
Mankind’s temptation to build monuments to his own ego, to exploit nature, to put himself over all, will be his ultimate downfall if we don’t stop it now. Forces bigger than us will rectify the plague upon nature that we became some 10,000 years ago. We have too many egos trying to etch their mark in history by accumulating the most wealth, building the biggest tower, conquering the most land and industrializing without regard to the social or environmental consequences. The paradox is, in the grand scheme of things none of it matters—it all goes back in the box, everyone dies, every species goes extinct, every star burns out, and in the end the universe will be a great void of entropy. We were not meant to leave legacies, especially at the expense of others. We were meant to be one single fluid existence, a chemical reaction, a series of back and forth mutations in the story of Earthly evolution, (which is itself only a footnote in the greater epic of Universal expansion.) The ultimate destiny of mankind was ego-death and acceptance that all things must pass, but we refused to believe it and strove to find an answer that would satiate our inflated sense of importance.
The great irony is, we were made with the capacity for knowledge but we lacked the wisdom to understand the value in what we had all along. Learning about the universe only made us realize our insignificance, building empires only saw them crumble into ruin, studying our own psychology only revealed how our modern way of life is making us all fundamentally unhappy. They did not know how correct they would prove to be at the time, but the ancient writers who described man’s best days—the Golden Age, the Garden of Eden, etc—in the past were right all along.
We should not have asked questions we might not have wanted to know the answer to. We should not have created legacies we did not care to see destroyed and forgotten. Most of all, we should not have taken for granted what we could never create ourselves—trees, animals, flowers–all of Gaia’s children. We will miss them all terribly when they’re gone if we don’t save what we can now.
That is where this series of essays come in. I would like to propose a paradigm shift in how man lives and how our society is organized. This policy platform is named in honor of Tiberius Gracchus, the great reformer of the Roman Republic, and shall serve as a companion piece to my earlier Gaian Constitution.
Cassandra, good ideas, well presented. From studying anthropology I seem to rember that the largest social unit for Hunter gatherers was a family or small clan. Hunter gatherers groups could not sustain a larger population. As I remember it was the development of agriculture and domestication of animals that enabled the development of tribes which are much larger social units than clans or families. Human population growth grew from the Neolithic revolution and development of agriculture and property rights large enough to eventual reach city States and eventually nation states from agricultural societies. But the high advancement in human populations gree substantially with the recognition of individual liberty that led to capitalism and the industrial revolution.The family is still the key social unit so a system that restores family unity and family values is obviously a step in the right direction. But that seems like a very right wing and conservative platform. But I don’t think that is what you have in mind.
Actually economic studies show that the best way to protect animals a the environment is to have things privately owned. The overuse of public resources is known in economics as the tragidy of the commons studies show that the distraction of the prairie in the US was largly due to the Government’s open range policy that encouraged slaughter of the buffalo and over grazing of the unowned graasslllanxs by sheep and cattle. This is what distroved much of the prairie and created the situation known as the dust bowle in the early 20th century. It is actually communal ownership rather than private property that is most distructive to mother Earth.