“For millennia, humans have imagined a peaceful and just
world,” say Riane Eisler and Douglas Fry, in their monumental book, Nurturing
Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and
Future. “Sometimes we only imagined this world in an afterlife. But over
the last centuries, many of us have imagined it right here on Earth. Not a
utopia, not a perfect world. But a world where peace is more than just an
interval between wars, where dire poverty, brutal oppression, insensitivity, cruelty,
and despair are no longer ‘just the way things are.’”
In my recent article, “The Ship of
Civilization is Sinking: Do Not Lose Hope. Find Your Tribe,” I shared
the vision of our future world I was given in a sweat lodge ceremony in 1995
and four truths revealed by the vision:
- “Civilization” is a misnomer. Its proper name is
the “Dominator culture.”
- There is a better world beyond civilization.
- Do not lose hope. We were made for these times.
- Find your tribe outside the confines of the
Here, I’ll share four more truths that can guide those who
are ready to reclaim “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” as
my colleague Charles Eisenstein puts it.
1. Partnership cultures flourished for two million years.
Riane Eisler is a systems scientist, cultural historian, and
President of the Center for Partnership Studies. Douglas P. Fry, is
internationally renowned as a peace anthropologist. In the chapter on “The
Original Partnership Societies” they say, “The nomadic forager lifeway
approximates conditions under which the genus Homo appeared about two
million years ago and more recently under which modern Homo sapiens emerged
roughly 40,000 or 50,000 years ago.”
2. The Partnership way of life was the most successful
period we’ve ever experienced.
After a lifetime of studying nomadic foragers throughout the
world, the anthropologist Richard Lee concluded, “This way of life has been the
most successful and persistent adaptation man has ever achieved. If, as many
theorists think, true affluence is measured by the absence of need and
the enjoyment of extensive leisure time, then the hunger-gatherers
are, in the words of anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, “the original affluent
In The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game, biologist
Paul Shepard concludes, “Although it has long been fashionable to describe it
so, the world of the hunting and gathering people is not a vale of constant
demonic threat and untold fears. It is a life of risk gladly taken, of very few
wants, leisurely and communal, intellectual in ways that are simultaneously
practical and esthetic. Most pertinent to our time, it is a life founded on the
integrity of solitude and human sparseness, in which humans do not become a
disease on their environment but live in harmony with each other and with
3. The Dominator Culture will be seen as short, dead-end,
aberration that lasted for less than 1% of human history.
Biologist and author Jared Diamond suggests that the
beginning of agricultural revolution which began around 10,000 years ago and
our march towards civilization may have been “the worst mistake in the history
of the human race.” He goes on to say, “With the advent of agriculture the
elite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of
swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it
was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls.”
One interesting theory of how we got trapped was formulated
by natural scientist James DeMeo, PhD. In his twenty-year study culminating in
his encyclopedic, yet readable, book, Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of
Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the
DeMeo presents substantial proof that our ancient ancestors were
non-violent, and far more social and loving than are most humans today.
Moreover, the study points to a dramatic climate change in the Old World, the
drying up of the vast Sahara and Asian Deserts, with attending famine,
starvation and forced migrations which pushed the earliest humans into violent
social patterns, a trauma from which we have not yet recovered in over 6,000 years.
If he is right, the reason we got trapped in an
unsustainable way of life was the result of environmental trauma that resulted
in depressed and angry humans who operated from fear and aggression. It’s clear
to me that what may have begun 6,000 years ago as a “natural” environmental
crisis is now being fed by man-made causes that humans can, and must, address
if we are going to survive and thrive on planet Earth.
4. We can’t rely on the Dominator Culture to fix our
problems. Our only hope is a return to our partnership roots.
“We don’t really worry about climate change because it’s too
overwhelming and we’re already in too deep. It’s like if you owe your bookie
$1,000, you’re like, ‘OK, I’ve got to pay this dude back.’ But if you owe your
bookie $1,000,000, you’re like, ‘I guess I’m just going to die.’” — Colin Jost, Saturday Night
The above quote is from a Saturday Night Live skit on the
weekend following release of a report from the United Nation’s
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report was one of the most
dramatic ones yet, predicting that some of the most severe social and economic
damage from the rise in global temperatures could come as soon at 2040.
One of the characteristics of the Dominator Culture is that
it is violent and self-destructive. In modern form, it is addicted to power and
money. Leaders of the Dominator Culture would rather die than pay to clean up
the mess they’ve created.
One of the characteristics of the Partnership Culture is
based on the power of people to solve big problems when we all work together.
The monetary costs are less important when the survival of our children,
grandchildren, and future generations is at stake.
For those who believe the real Partnership is impossible in
today’s world, I suggest you are viewing the world through Dominator
John Seed, the Australian founder of the Rainforest
Information Centre, tells of a meeting he had with a group of Australian
Aborigines in Sydney. After the meeting, they stepped outside into the night
air. The great city spread out before them. One of the native Australians
asked, “What do you see? What do you see out there?”
John looked at the pulsating freeways, towers of anodized
glass and steel, ships in the harbor, and replied, “I see a city, lights,
The native Australian said quietly, “We still see the land.
Beneath the concrete, we know where the forest grows, where the kangaroos
graze. We see where the platypus digs her den, where the streams flow. That
city there…it’s just a scab. The land remains alive beneath it.”
The believe the Partnership culture remains alive and well
underneath the scab of civilization. Indigenous peoples have not forgotten and
most of us, deep down inside, remember our roots in the Partnership Culture.
There are many individuals and organizations that are helping us return home
and bringing us back to the future. One I admire greatly is Riane Eisler’s
Center for Partnership Studies.
Another is the work of Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman. In
their book Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (And a Way to Get
There From Here), they offer a similar vision to the one I had in 1995 in
the Sweat Lodge. “To paraphrase American revolutionary Tom Paine, these are
soul-trying times,” they say, “Madness and dysfunction seem inescapable.”
One view is that the Ship is sinking and we are all doomed. Another is that the
Dominator culture is going under and new lifeboats are connecting and bringing
us back to a new Partnership Culture. “If you find it hard to imagine that we
can ever get from the crises that we are facing now to a more loving and
functional world, consider the tale of another world in transition,” they
“Imagine you are a single cell among millions that comprise
a growing caterpillar. The structure around you has been operating like a
well-oiled machine, and the larva world has been creeping along predictably.
Then one day, the machine begins to shudder and shake. The system begins to
fail. Cells begin to commit suicide. There is a sense of darkness and impending
doom. From within the dying population, a new breed of cells begins to emerge,
called imaginal cells. Clustering in community, they devise a plan to
create something entirely new from the wreckage. Out of the decay arises a great
flying machine—a butterfly—that enables the survivor cells to escape from the
ashes and experience a beautiful world, far beyond the imagination.”
If you’re reading this article, you are likely one of those
imaginal cells who care ready to shift your belief system towards creating “the
more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” And you’re not alone. There
are millions of others, but you won’t learn about them from the mainstream
You can learn more about the work of Steve
Bhaerman and Bruce Lipton, here.
You can learn more about the Riane Eisler’s Center for Partnership
Studies, here. You can learn about my own Diamond-Tribe
Community, here. You can read and comment on my articles by visiting my blog. I’d love to hear from