In this post, promised a long time ago, I will write about the development of stratification in Human society and its consequences, both physical and mental.
By now, it is well known that the humans or Homo Sapiens, since its inception in the Paleolithic era, lived in small, egalitarian, matrilineal hunter/gatherers groups. The reasons why they abandon violent, patriarchal social structures of their direct predecessors the great apes remains a mystery. Perhaps it is some, yet unknown, aspect of our brain, which made possible replacing competition by cooperation? One way or another, they survived the thousands of years of the Last Great Glacier period during which all other hominids, including Neanderthal, perished.
During over 100,000 years of their existence, our ancestors have accomplished colossal intellectual, technological and artistic progress. It is often severely underappreciated, while their social structure is called primitive. At the beginning of the new Neolithic era, they invented agriculture and pastoralism. For some time, they were able to maintain their egalitarian structure (more about it is presented in the preceding article called “Our egalitarian past).” Still, soon, the possibility to individually own a piece of agricultural land or a herd of grazing animals started destroying their egalitarianism, gradually replacing it with the economic and social stratification.
However, the egalitarian structure continued in agricultural societies for some time. The good examples of that are longhouses in Linear pottery culture (circa 5,500 – 4000 BC) in north-central Europe. Such houses could reach over 700 m2 surface. There were also similar sized courtyard houses in Yarmoukian culture in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East (5,000 – 3,500 BC ). We can reasonably assume that such buildings could accommodate the small egalitarian community. Furthermore, there is no evidence of the foundation of large individual houses, which, according to archeology, indicates some form of stratification
The early form of stratification and its maturation
A few words about the meaning of the term economic and social stratification. The first implies that some people have more private property than others that makes their life more pleasurable. The second means that some people have a higher social position that permits them to dominate others. Often, those two forms of stratification combined inspires the expression: “rich and powerful.”
In the beginning, the stratification had relatively mild form. Though economic and social inequality existed, still the social status of women and men continued to be more or less equal. The religious beliefs were still based on the feminine principle, slavery was rather sporadic. It can be observed in many cultures, like the Indus Valley or Trypillian-Cucuteni, where still religious feminine figurines predominate while phallic symbols associated with patriarchy were absent.
It all changed when nomadic, pastoral tribes from the steppes of present Russia and the Arabian peninsula began to invade the agricultural societies. They were equipped with iron weapons and used horses as a means of fast transportations. They were violent, ruthless and fiercely patriarchal. Pastoralists quickly conquered, relatively peaceful and unaccustomed to war agriculturalists, often killing the men and taking women slaves to produce future slaves. At that time, the stratified society “matures” in brutal, horrific form. I used the expression “horrific” purposely to point out the phenomena, which have not existed before: slavery, patriarchy and wars.
The religious indoctrination
For us, patriarchy and wars or even some form of slavery is nothing especially horrific. We still strongly believe that wars are as old as humanity, that the idea that it could be different is viewed as fairy tales about Atlantis or the Golden Age. We consciously or not assume that the vast majority of people are stupid, cruel and violent, so they have to be ruled by those who are clever, better educated and successful. We believe that the right to possess and inherit private property is natural, and taking it away is a criminal act. We officially do not support patriarchy but, deep down, believe in the intellectual superiority of men. The depth in which the patriarchal world’s view is embedded in our psyche is reflected in the language. Such words as manpower, patriotism, patrimony or brotherhood, consciously and subconsciously reinforce the belief in the superiority of man.
These beliefs have not arisen accidentally: they are the result of many thousand years of systematic brainwashing. This brainwashing was not done so obviously and deliberately as Hitler or Stalin’s propaganda. It has to justify both to the conquered and also to the conquerors that the new Orwellian world of stratification is natural and moral. It was not simple; it required brainwashing humanity so hundreds of thousands of years the social and economic egalitarianism had to be replaced by stratification. Of course, terror and suppression were used very often, but a more lasting solution was to convince humans that the new world is something natural existing from the beginning of time.
And this process of brainwashing is entirely successful. The first and foremost tool was the new patriarchal religions. The most important and still continuing were created and imposed by the victorious invaders. Those coming from the Russian steppes created polytheistic religions of Europe and the northern and middle parts of the Indian peninsula. Judaism was originally a minor religion of a small nomadic Semitic tribe, but the concept of invisible but all-powerful single God, in the long run, was incredibly successful. The Old Testimony describes vividly the ruthlessness of its creators;, emphasise an unending string of punishments which God inflicted on his “children”. By giving birth to Christianity and Islam, which spread all over the world, and are the dominant religions of the whole of humanity. The monotheistic religions, as a rule, were more violent and dogmatic than polytheistic. To make them more appealing, some absorbed elements of the older cults of femininity represented by feminine polytheistic deities and the Virgin Mary in Christianity.
The religions have been crafted by their priests to support the stratified socio-economic structure and, of course, their own privileged position. They became a class often even more powerful than big owners of land or military leaders. The best examples are the Brahmins in Hinduism and the high-level clergy of Christianity. For a long time, Christian and Muslim priests controlled education and indoctrinated faithful during frequent ceremonies, prayers, confessions and so on; the predictable results are still vivid.
I would like to emphasize that what I have written is not an objective description of the role of religions in the development of humanity. It was far more complex, often promoting altruism and cooperation. The purpose here is only to show how they were the indispensable tool of stratification. Furthermore, it does not apply to all religions. For example, the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha (circa 2,500 ago) was utterly nontheistic and, as its result, has been to create a society of monks free from aggression and greed. Unfortunately, this approach could not affect the overall stratification, which eventually penetrated and perverted the original version of Buddhism.
Historical background for ideological indoctrination
After a while, when humanity progressed, the stratification indoctrination expanded its scope beyond religions. The instrumental to it was the emergence of symbolic writing, which was initially used for religious, political and economic purposes. It made it possible to express and preserve oral traditions describing the history, which previously was based only on oral transmission. It was also used to formulate the religious dogmas. There were created the Hindu Vedas, Judaistic Bible and Greek Iliad and Odyssey. They added a new tool to stratification propaganda glorifying wars and its heroes and adding to it some moral dressings like heroism and patriotism.
The progress of humanity was accompanied by the developed science, particularly astronomy, physics and mathematics. They were indispensable for the construction of large buildings, bridges, creating a variety of devices for measuring the time and production of a calendar. Also emerged arithmetics and geometry, which initially were needed to assist in economic transactions and measure the land, but, later on, they went far beyond this kind of pragmatic application.
However, human creativity could not be stopped. Around 2,500 years ago in Athens, Greece, the development of science and literature became accompanied by the development of a variety of ideas concerning humans and their relation with the world called philosophy. They differ among themselves very strongly but mostly accepted beliefs that stratification is something natural. However, some of them, like the Cynics, rebelled against the excesses of richness and propagated an extremely modest lifestyle. On the other hand Aristotle said: “proper wife should be as obedient as a slave”. In a similar period about 2,500 years ago in China lived Confucius, another supremely influential philosopher who propagated obedience to authorities even if their actions were far from decent.
The philosophy developed and continues until today, mostly explicitly or implicitly accepting, and even justifying the stratification. There are, however, notable exceptions like Jean-Jaques Rousseau or Karl Marx and his benefactor and friend Frederic Engels.
However, the influence of philosophy (except for Marx and Engels) had not provided proper mass indoctrination. Far more successful were and are various forms of political ideologies. After the slow decline of slavery, which was most evident and brutal form stratification, emerged feudalism. Despite generally accepted positive views, the changes were superficial and sometimes negative, due to increasing the power of religions. The fact that slaves became serfs has not much improved their status. In Europe, the Roman culture and civilization were destroyed and, for a long time, the continent has experienced the period of the Dark Ages. For several hundred years, the dominant Catholic and Orthodox churches propagated the view that stratification is a God’s rule and gift to humanity.
The more profound changes took place in the 18th century when, in France, emerged the philosophy of so-called Enlightenment. It undermined many dogmas imposed by the church and feudalist ideologies. It contributed to numerous significant political changes: the War for independence in America, the Great Revolution in France and the introduction of the new, more democratic constitution in Poland. The feudalism never recovered, and persisting monarchies from the 20th century onward became insignificant decorations.
All of that and progress in technology gave birth to the new era of democratic capitalism. The democracy was not new: already between the 5th and 4th centuries, it existed in Athens and a few other Greek city-states. It was really a patriarchal mockery of “people’s power”: the people who were allowed to participate had to be males citizens of Athen and owners of a property. This democracy was plagued by infighting and returned to preceding its oligarchy, which continued until Sparta conquered Athens.
The form of democracy, which restarted in the 18th century, was not much different: the woman, non-citizens and slaves were excluded from voting. It continued with the only modification that women, after a long struggle, were permitted to vote and the slavery, at least officially, disappeared.
The present form of democracy is inseparable from capitalism, which existed earlier. But thanks to the democracy serfs were liberated to become urgently needed factory workers. In the 20th century, there were serious attempts to abolish both democracy and capitalism in Russia, and later in China, by violent revolutions inspired by Marx and Engel’s somewhat utopian vision of communism.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was used as proof that communism is unworkable. Consequently, democratic capitalism has been universally proclaimed as the best form of the socio-economic system, and this view continues without any serious challenge until now.
Modern forms of brainwashing
The emergence of television gave birth to the newest form of brainwashing: consumerism. Of course, buying property and objects to elevate one’s social and economic status was continuing for several thousand years. Still, it was mostly the domain of the upper and upper-middle class. After the 2nd World War, thanks to television advertisements and programs showing the luxury of the rich, the Millennials soon became the most ferocious consumers. Later it was continued by the next generation of yuppies. Both were also trying to increase their fortunes by buying shares and bonds of large financial, service and manufacturing enterprises.
But it is not the end: in the 21st century, the already existing internet became the dominant tool for the development of consumerism. The beginning was relatively modest, but now the internet strategies and power of promoting goods and services pale the television by far. At the moment when I write this article, there is a temporary slowdown due to the COVID-19 panic, though, unquestionably, consumerism soon will resume with full force. The internet also provides the possibility of colossal business of on-line shopping, which is additionally increased during COVID times.
There remains a question of why consumerism contributes to the strengthening of the stratification. It creates the illusion that we elevate our socio-economic position by owning more gadgets, better lawnmower or taking an excursion to some overcrowded resort to take a few photos and post them on Facebook or Instagram. I may sound silly, but already existing indoctrination plus merciless propaganda of hundreds of thousands of internet sites forces us to do silly things.
But consumerism is not the only major actor in the tsunami of stratification propaganda: there are also politics and religion of expertise. The current politics is based on more or less evident oligarchy disguised as democracy. By the way, oligarchy etymologically does not mean the power of the rich as it is often understood – it is the power of few. From its very beginning, democracy has been a form of oligarchy. The only difference is that those on the top are, more or less, democratically elected by people who are seduced by their promises or charisma. The most evident, present example of such a mechanism are dangerous sociopaths such as the presidents of the USA and Brasil: Trump and Bolsanero. Others use democracy as the cover: Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China. To be objective, there are a few exceptions, such as Jasinda Ahern in New Zealand or Katrin Jakobserdottir of Iceland.
Ironically a vast majority of people believe that democracy is the best possible political system. This deeply rooted belief, which is the fruition of millennia of continual intensive indoctrination, is the current mainstay form of stratification.
The last method of indoctrination is expertise. The growth of popularity of the internet is accompanied by the proliferation of expert knowledge proclaimed by innumerable think tanks, gurus and a variety of self-proclaimed sages. There are also media personalities talking about scientific “discoveries” and scientists themselves. The language of all that becomes more and more incomprehensible. As a result, the so-called regular people are left with the feeling of their inferiority, which adds another form of stratification.
As I mentioned already, the effect of our beliefs in various forms of stratification is often unnoticed, or at best, underappreciated. That is one of the reasons why communist ideas of Marks or anarchism of Bakunin could not be realized. Since explicit or implicit beliefs in unavoidability of stratification deeply penetrate the ways we perceive the world, our rational attempts to counteract it are never fully successful. Often they produce additional complicated concepts, which contribute to the belief in intellectual stratification: the knowledgeable ones and the dumb rest.
Furthermore, if one tries to avoid it, by using violent language and appealing to emotions, the favourite method of activists, radicals and populists, the results only increase social divisions and animosity. That also creates another form of stratification: the leaders and the populus who follow them.
Consequently, to eradicate indoctrination produced by stratification, the intellectual demonstration of its roots and its historical development has to be accompanied by some direct, experiential techniques which penetrated deeper than intellect alone.
One of such methods is reducing the proliferation of useless thoughts, which obscure our innate wisdom. This approach sharpens our ability to discriminate and rediscover our innate wisdom. Unfortunately, most of such methods are often based on complex practices, which require lots of time and a restricted lifestyle. Those shortcomings inspired me to adapt some traditional approaches so they can be fused with our modern lifestyle. Its approach is to gradually “clean” our minds from beliefs embedded by millennia of stratification and rekindle our natural, innate wisdom.