Friday, April 09, 2010

Answering WILLIAM

Today, William left the following on an older post :
“I have read your book, Switching to Goddess and very much liked the first half of it. But i have to say, i have real problems with the theory that famine and starvation caused the rise of patriarchy.

“People starving to death still happens today. And the problem of starvation is not that people turn into savages, Reports from charity organizations is that people who are starving become very lethargic and don't do much to help themselves.

“Also i think in desperate conditions a matriarchal tribe is far more likely to survive than a patriarchal tribe. This is because in a patriarchal tribe it will be the men who will commandeer what little food they have and the women and children won't have anything....” MORE>>>>


Dear William,

First, thank you for reading Switching to Goddess. I’m glad you agree with the book’s general premise; hopefully you can introduce it to one degree or another to those in your sphere of influence.

For humans, religion is like speech, upright posture, and the incest taboo – all human groups have it. The most important job ahead of us now is not to banish religion (which would be impossible), but to banish war religions, and replace them with something healthy. Healthy mothers love us equally, whether we’re rich, poor, male, female, pretty or plug ugly, so I think they make the perfect role model for us.

Evidence suggests that before roughly 4000 BC, many groups around the world were guided by this kind of mother love. What happened to change that isn’t as important as just switching back to this "mother mode" of interacting with each other and the world. On the other hand, if we can figure out what caused the change, it might help us shove the gears into reverse and ride back home to the “good old days.”

I think you make a good point when you say matriarchal versus patriarchal tribes are more likely to survive disastrous conditions. Your reasoning makes sense. However, I think what happened around 4000 BC was not your everyday garden-variety disaster, but disaster on a scale rarely seen on the planet. Evidence suggests that a good quarter of the earth dried up and left millions to starve to death. This was “Saharasia,” a giant strip of land stretching from the Atlantic across Africa and Asia and all the way to the Pacific.

Read Colin Turnbull’s The Mountain People (1972) for insight into what long-term starvation does to a group. It’s an eye-opener. Turnbull lived for a few years among a large group of starving, isolated Africans, the Ik, who had been barely surviving famine for several generations. I can’t even begin to describe the deep-down horror these people lived with. You wouldn’t even recognize them as human – either the men or the women.

But today’s starving people are surrounded by groups who aren’t starving, and so any barbaric mode of living they might develop is sooner or later swamped out by the rest of us leading relatively normal lives. Not so in 4000 BC Saharasia. There were no “normal” people to swamp out the behavior of the Ik-like groups that managed to hang on to survival in this humongous expanse of land.

And here’s what haunts me, William. Anthropologists can see a difference between modern indigenous cultures living in or near Saharasia, versus those living outside it. Saharasians have harsher child-rearing methods, harsher coming-of-age ceremonies, and to one extent or another, violence pervades much of what they do. What’s more, there’s a direct correlation between how violent an indigenous culture is, and how close to Saharasia it’s located.

All my best,
Jeri Studebaker


william said...

Hi Athana,

I very much agree with you it is very important to work out how and why we changed from matriarchy to patriarchy. But i have to say, i personally think the Saharasia theory is not the reason, and will lead us astray.

Yes, the Sahara region turning into a desert was a major disaster but it is doubtful if it happened overnight. The fact is that this is still going on today. The Sahara desert is still moving south at an alarming rate, in the 21 century.

Different people in different tribes have reacted to starvation in different ways. For instance the Berber people live in the Sahara and were once Matriarchal, but they adapted to the desert conditions.

I think if a tribe is already patriarchal then they will become more violent and brutal in harsh conditions. But if the tribe is matriarchal then they are more likely to adapt and collectedly work together for their survival.

I personally think that patriarchy and matriarchy has more to do with social conditioning. And we can understand this by looking at recent history. If we look at Western society over the last 150 years why has it happened that women have suddenly become empowered? I think the reason is to do with the decline of the Christian Church.

In the 19th century the Church was the major reason for the oppression of women. But then it had a major competitor in science, for the hearts and minds of the people, which disagreed with church doctrine.

When Darwin published his theory of evolution, it strongly influenced the people in power who began to believe in the concept of 'the survival of the fittest'. Because of this, the men in power couldn't see any good reason to continue to suppress women, as they assumed that men were more fitter to rule, than women. So women were allowed education and later on to have equal rights. As logically there was no reason to deny women this.

But women are still being oppressed on Islamic countries because the Islamic religion is still very strong and retains its grip on the minds of it's people. So it is very clear that patriarchal religions and beliefs are a major reason why we have had patriarchy over the last five thousand years.

I think we will learn far more by looking at the way we seem to be changing from patriarchy to matriarchy today. Than looking back into prehistory when we don't have any written records of what happened then.

Athana said...


I agree with much of what you’ve said: Saharasia did *not* appear overnight (it took centuries of slow and painful change); different people react to starvation in different ways; if a tribe is already patriarchal it will become more violent in harsh conditions; patriarchal/matriarchal behavior comes from social conditioning.

Go back and do a careful reading of pages 190-206 in Switching to Goddess, and you’ll see that I cover each of the above points.

What I wholeheartedly disagree with is this: “I think we will learn far more by looking at the way we seem to be changing from patriarchy to matriarchy today than by looking back into prehistory….”

You say, “why has it happened that women have suddenly become empowered? I think the reason is to do with the decline of the Christian Church….”

This is micro-change. When we speak about the switch from matriarchy to patriarchy over wide swaths of the earth, we’re talking about macro-change. The position of women will rise and fall in patriarchal cultures, but will never equal that of men as long as the culture remains patriarchal.

Go back and read the section in STG on the nature of culture (pp 195 ff). Most people don’t understand how incredibly important culture is. But it’s impossible to understand macro-change until you understand culture.

william said...

Hi Athana,

I feel a bit embarrassed disagreeing with you, as I think we are basically on the same side, and we agree far more than we disagree. The problem is I really do not like the Saharasia theory, but people are now quoting it to me as a fact, so I think I have to make my opinions very clear on this.

A book, influences you showing how people are dehumanised by starvation, but I would also say that these people were dehumanised by patriarchy first. Starvation only compounded the problem. It is basically a chicken and egg argument, about which came first.

I am influenced by a book called "Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt", by Paul Vallely. He was a British journalist who was in North Africa during the great famine of 1984-85, and what he witnessed appalled him. Whenever he saw food aid being delivered, it hardly never got to the people it was intended, because of corrupt officials who took it for themselves. Yet even when it got to the starving people, the local men would arm themselves and through intimidation and violence take control of the aid. The possession of this food would then give them great power, which they exploited for their own benefit.

This is what he witnessed most of the time until he came to a community in Chad. In this community most of the men had either been killed fighting in wars or were off somewhere else fighting a war. This then allowed the women to take control of the community, and so it was the women who shared out the small amount of food aid that reached them. This food was given only to their children; they themselves still ate desert plants, which they foraged from the surrounding desert. What he saw in this village amazed Paul Vallely as it was in total contrast to everything else he witnessed during this famine. Food aid was actually given to the people who needed it most and the whole village was organized for the benefit for everyone, and not for the few rulers.

Reports like this hasn’t only come from Paul Vallely, I once saw a film on a later famine in North Africa and again the same thing was witnessed. When the men had killed each other or had gone off to find work in the cities, the women were left to fend for themselves. Then without the men around, they did a lot better, and the women become very resourceful. They were far freer to forage for desert plants and if they could find water, like digging it out of dried up riverbeds, they would use this water to grow plants for themselves.

Yes, I am sure women will eat their own children when they are brutalised by men. In some of these patriarchal societies, husbands beat their wives every day. If you are beaten so often, and made to feel totally worthless and powerless, then off course you become impervious to pain and suffering of yourself and others.

This is why I see the problems of patriarchy as a sociological problem. I don’t believe a society put under great stress will automatically become patriarchal. Look at all strict patriarchal societies and you find that the male rulers put a lot of effort in keeping women powerless. Men are not only encouraged to use violence against women, they are also encouraged to verbally abuse them as well, to undermine women’s confidence in themselves. As well as having many customs that restrict women’s power and independence.

As we have seen in Western countries over the last hundred years, take away these restrictive patriarchal customs and make it socially unacceptable for men to use violence against women, and the whole society changes for the better.

william said...

Part 2

I agree with the basis Saharasia theory premise, that it is not natural for human beings to be violent, and I totally agree that patriarchy not only brutalises women but men as well. This is very well explained in the book, “On Killing; The Psychological Cost Of Learning To Kill in War and Society”, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. This book explains that men do not like violence and the military has to train soldiers how to kill in warfare. They do this either by brutalising their troops, or nowadays, by using behaviourist psychology. He also explains in this book that a lot of the techniques used to teach soldiers to be violent, are also being used in our society. The violent films and video games boys watch, are training them for violence, and so successful are these techniques, in programming boys to kill, we are seeing increasing cases of school massacres, and serial killings.

In the past, in Western countries and in Islamic countries today, they simply brutalise the boys by beating them regularly. As they use to say, “spare the rod and spoil the child”. This is very well explained in the books of Alice Miller, like, - “For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence”. Boys learn violence from their fathers, whom pass on this knowledge to their children. What would be normal child rearing in the 19th century, would be seen as child abuse today.

So this is why I see it as a purely sociological problem. Patriarchy didn’t come about by accident; it came about through men organizing themselves to oppress women. Men are naturally competitive, they like competitive games, and we see this is sport, politics, business and warfare. The trouble is that men will also compete against women for power, and if women are not aware or alert to this, men take over and we have a patriarchal society.

Then when men to get into power without women restraining or controlling them, then their competitive instincts lead them into violence, warfare, hatred and genocide. Intelligent men can see the total insanity of warfare but are totally helpless to prevent it happening, because men’s competitive instincts push men into this direction.

The only way we can overcome warfare, violence and poverty is to allow women to rule instead, but to do this, women have to wake up to what men are like. If women want power, they have to compete against men for power and organize themselves to gain it. And if they do this many men, like me, will support them because a lot of men realise that the patriarchal society oppresses men, as well as women.

How this works, is seen in the Maldive islands in the Indian Ocean. These island where once matriarchal, but then through the influence of Islamic traders they were slowly converted to Islam and become patriarchal. So how did these Islamic traders achieve this? As clearly they didn’t invade the Maldives.

Simply teaching the Maldives men the techniques of how to dominate women. They probably taught the men how to subtly undermine the confidence of their women, then to verbally abuse them, then to degrade them more through physical violence and finally to change to customs of the islands to favour male dominance. If the women were unaware of this campaign of domination, they wouldn’t resist, as they would be unaware of what was happening to them. This was probably done over many generations and the men followed through with this because the Islamic traders were encouraging them, but they also saw it as a competitive game in which they were winning.

The same thing it seems probably happened in Indonesia. Where again Islamic traders changed the whole culture from Hinduism to Islam, but in West Sumatra it seems the Minangkabau women caught on to what was going on and organized resistance to the growing power of patriarchy. Although they were forced to convert to Islam, the women stuck together and managed to retain many of their matriarchal customs.

william said...

Part 3

It means that the Maldives and Indonesia didn’t become patriarchal through bad luck or a freak of nature, in happened because of social engineering. Likewise the people of Minangkabau people retained many of their matriarchal customs because they woke up to what was going on and organized resistance to it.

And the same thing happened with the change in female empowerment in the 20th century. The changing status of women didn’t happen by accident, but because many brave women were willing to challenge many of the patriarchal customs and demand equal rights. Admittedly society had changed to allow this to happen, Feminist women in Islamic countries are beaten up, whipped, put into jail, stoned to death or executed. In the middle ages the Church were able to torture and execute millions of women whom they condemned as witches, but this would have been unacceptable to the general public in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Patriarchal has kept its power, not only through violence against women but through propaganda. As the Jesuits once boasted, “give us the child for the first seven years and we will have him for life”. The Church deliberately set out to brainwash and indoctrinate children to believe in male superiority, so people believed it was ‘god’s will’ or a law of nature, that men should rule our world.

The point is that men in the past studied the psychology of women and looked for weaknesses. In much the same way as a general will look for the weakness in an opposing general or a coach would look for weaknesses in an opposing football team. Then once finding these weaknesses, exploit them to win the war or game. And the reason why patriarchy was so successful is because women were unaware they were playing in a competitive power game.

When we look at the prehistoric past we will have very little knowledge about the sociological conditions that existed then, unless we find a lot of ancient writings we can translate. So archaeologists tend to look for other reasons why ancient societies change, because they have very little to say about the social conditions. This is why we end up with theories like the Saharasia theory, but I don’t think it is valid and will lead us away from what is really going on, in sexual politics.

This is why I feel it is important to challenge the Saharasia theory, because I think the main reason for both patriarchy and matriarchal are social and have very little to do with changing environments.

Bridget's Fire said...

What a fascinating conversation. I'm not sure I know enough about the topic, but as a mom to 3 children of color I do worry when any part of the planet is blamed for massive social problems. Especially given how prevalent anti-Islamic sentiment is today. (I am not accusing anyone here of racism!!!! I am saying we need to always address it!!!)

Are there no matriarchal Saharasia cultures? And didn't Goddess worship in the area continue well into Common Era times?

I think exploring the complexities is important.

And coming to Theaology is important as well.

Athana said...

Hi, William,


First, let me say I know you’re right – we’re both on the same page, here! And that’s great to know. Thanks much for your willingness to support an end to patriarchy. Also, I can see that you’ve read widely, and have read some very good and valuable sources.

My guess is that Vallely saw only patriarchal men in patriarchal cultures? Read anything about the Semai of Southeast Asia. IMO, men can be taught to be anything we want them to be. The Semai are totally non-violent. I still don’t think we can understand human beings simply by looking at them in modern patriarchal nations/cultures.

The deep issue is, how did pre-patriarchal men – who, like Semai men, were taught to be non-violent down to the very tips of their toes – morph into monsters?

It is definitely not true that “women will eat their own children when they are brutalised by men.” I believe only women who’ve gone loony-tunes psychotic would eat their children.

It would be nice if we could explain everything simply – using only a simple sociological model. But life isn’t simple. It’s messy. To understand a shift as monumental as our shift into patriarchy, requires, I believe, an understanding of sociological, anthropological, archaeological, historical, psychological, biological, chemical and other kinds of forces. And how these mesh.

A large part of my origin-of-patriarchy thesis rests on a combination of psychological, historical and anthropological forces, i.e., on the phenomena of mental health/illness, vast expanses of time, and human culture.

It’s a fact that long-term starvation damages mental health. For a period of time, I worked with psychotic individuals. Psychotic individuals lack the ability to follow cultural rules. But we humans depend on culture for our very survival. Unlike other animals, we aren’t born with instincts to guide us.

I think you and I agree that the first patriarchal society came from a matriarchal society. But how?!? You put it well: “I don’t believe a society put under great stress will automatically become patriarchal.” I don’t either. I think the only way this could happen is if a society lost culture altogether – due to something like starvation-induced pyschosis – and then somehow managed to develop a new – and dramatically altered culture – before it died out. This new culture would be on BASED ON PSYCHOSIS and psychotic behavior.

This society would be as rare as a surviving genetic mutation. You know this about mutations, right? They almost always cause their bearers to die? It’s only one in a million that makes its bearer more fit to live in that individual’s particular environment, such that the individual survives.

Same is true of the first patriarchal society, IMO – hundreds of thousands of matriarchal societies around 4000 BC died out, due to starvation and isolation on a gradually forming and monumentally large desert. It would have been only “one in a million” that would have survived. Due to exceptional situations like the ones I describe in Switching to Goddess. Unfortunately for us.

Then, as you show through your Maldive example, this new “psychotic” way of life is easy to foist onto any human group. Why? Because its bearers are not only allowed, but actually encouraged, to use any trick in the book to get what they want. The main cultural rule is, “The good guy is the one who can fool and trick the best, who can grab the most power – even if it takes murdering and maiming his own grandmother to do it.”

Athana said...

To William, PART II

You say, “The only way we can overcome warfare, violence and poverty is to allow women to rule ….”

I hesitate to say women should "rule," since I think – as you’ve pointed out – women don’t naturally “take” power, they naturally “share” power. “Matriarchy” is not the reverse of patriarchy, not a women-over-men kind of thing. You might know all of this. Some don’t even like using the word “matriarchy.”

On the other hand, IMO we’re living in a world based on looney-tunes psychosis, with the looney-tunes psychotics (patriarchals) in total control. And it’s getting worse, getting to be a small world.

I think the answer is just to get the world to see all of the above. If people really understood that most of us live in cultures (ways of life) based on looney-tunes craziness, then we’d all be shocked into looking at the alternatives – at cultures not tainted yet, at the evidence provided by untainted prehistoric cultures.

The evidence is staring you in the face, William. We patriarchals act suspiciously like long-starving people, even though most of us aren’t starving. We horde (money). We eat like food is going out of style. We are overweight. And if we’re not overweight, we’re fighting to stay that way. Deadbeat Dads often leave wives and babies to fend for themselves. On a regular basis, men go off to war -- leaving women and children to fend for themselves. Child-, wife- and elder-abuse is rampant (in long-starving societies, the strongest beat up on the physically weakest). Long-starving people lose interest in the pleasures of life (except for eating); our religions say pleasure is sinful, and we talk constantly about “no pain, no gain.” I could go on.

And then the other evidence comes from the relation between modern Saharasia and the distribution of modern patriarchal cultures that I outlined earlier, as shown in the Human Relations Area Files (a primary anthropological tool).


Athana said...

Hi, Bridget’s Fire,

Welcome to RGT!

No, we cannot and must not blame the people living in Saharasia for anything! They’re victims of patriarchy just like the rest of us.

As I’ve said often on this blog, I don’t dislike Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or any others following patriarchal religions. What I dislike are the religions themselves.

I don’t know of any non-patriarchal cultures in modern Saharasia (although relatively pure non-patriarchal cultures are hard to come by these days -- anywhere you look).

Outside the Abrahamaic religions, most patriarchal cultures have worshipped goddesses – goddesses who are battered, raped, and otherwise abused by the gods. Athena, Hera – all of the Greek goddesses, for example, fit this mold.

william said...

Hi Athana,

Like i said, we are mostly in agreement on many things. I think the main area we disagree is the actual way patriarchal got started. You seem to think it would have to be something really horrendous, like the Sahara drying up, to turn men into monsters. Whereas i think that men can be trained at any time to become psychopaths.

The main difference i see in men and women is that women have a powerful maternal or nurturing instinct, and because of this, most women are hardwired to be loving people. So that even in a patriarchal society where women are told that their loving and nurturing behaviour is a 'weakness', they will still love others. Even when men take advantage of their love and abuse them. It is true some women can resist their nurturing instincts but they really have to work at it.

Men on the other hand, can be trained either to love or to hate. In the military, men are taught how to hate, so they are able to kill other men on the battlefield. Yet men can also be taught by women how to love others as well.

It is noticeable in many stone age cultures like, Africa, New Guinea, South America, women end up doing all the work. Like building huts, gathering the food and looking after the children, while the men end up doing nothing. With a lot of leisure time on their hands these men get bored and do what they normally do, and that is to compete against each other. This can start tribal wars.

Now some tribal wars are not too serious. For instance anthropologists witness a tribal battle in New Guinea, that was called off because it started to rain! The rain apparently smeared their warpaint. But in other parts of the world, these tribal wars were far more brutal. In some tribes a boy could not become a man unless he killed another person from another tribe. While in other parts of the world there was ritual headhunting and cannibalism.

Once violence becomes part of the culture, then men also become violent with women. As they find it easy to dominate women through violence.

The trouble is that when men start being competitive with each other through violence, then the most extreme violent men become the winners. There are many cases in military history where a small army of men have defeated an army much larger then themselves. This is because the small army was a army of psychopaths, who could kill without mercy, while the men in the larger army were ordinary men who had qualms about killing others. This means that to be a success in war, you need to train soldiers to be ruthless killers.

This then is the problem with the patriarchal society. If men become the rulers they compete with each other, which leads to warfare. Then to be a success in this competitive game, men have to be trained to kill.

This is why it makes far more sense for women to rule society. Women do not have the same desire to compete with each other, and have little interest in warfare. So they are going to be less interest in brutalizing men and training them to kill. Put women in charge and they will be more interest in teaching boys from a early age how to love others. For this reason a matriarchal society will benefit men as well as women.

Personally i do not like the Saharasia theory and i am more in agreement with Peggy Reeves Sanday and Max Dashu opinions on it. But even though we might disagree on this, i think we can agree on how patriarchy has been perpetuated over these last few thousand years.

Athana said...

Dear William,

“You seem to think it would have to be something really horrendous … to turn men into monsters. Whereas i think that men can be trained at any time to become psychopaths.”

William, if all societies before circa 4000 BC were primarily “matriarchal, they would have been relatively peaceful, egalitarian and healthy, right?

And so all men on the planet would be primarily peaceful, egalitarian and healthy, true?

So who is there to train *all* the men in any particular society to become violent, ugly and self-centered?

It *would* take something “really horrendous” to make the switch into patriarchy, wouldn’t it?

Furthermore, how do you explain the fact that the violent, ugly and self-centered indigenous societies cluster today in and around Saharasia (and Saharasia is *not* the Sahara Desert as Max Dashu thinks it is – it’s the desertified lands that stretch all the way to the Pacific).

And why do the indigenous people in those societies behave like long-starving people? (See my earlier reply to you.)

Most telling of all: why do the first patriarchal nightmares – The Egyptians and the Sumerians/Babylonians -- complete with the world’s first large-scale institutionalized warfare and institutionalized caste systems – arise at the end of the formation of Saharasia, and smack inside of the land mass that is Saharasia?

Any worthy theory has to account for the facts.

As for Peggy Reeves Sanday and Max Dashu, neither seems to have any academic background in archaeology. What’s more, although Dashu blasts DeMeo’s theory, she admits she hasn’t read his book, and I doubt Sanday has either (but I don’t know). Dashu mixes up Saharasia with the Sahara Desert. She blasts the Sahrasian theory – but like most who are good at criticism, she comes up with no theory of her own.

william said...

Hi Athana,

The facts of the matter are very few, when we speculate about pre-history. Humans have been on this planet between one million to four million years, (depending how you define what humans are) and in that time we only know about what happened in the last five thousand years.

Yes, archeological evidence from the Neolithic age suggests that the first civilizations were peaceful, but we hardly know anything about human society before then. For all we know humans have been switching from patriarchy to matriarchy and back again for hundreds of thousands of years.

Unlike other animals we can override our instincts and create the type of society we want. So we have a greater choice about what type of society we want to live in, than other animals. For the last five thousand years the choice has been made by our rulers that men rule our societies, but it doesn't have to be like this. It is possible to create a revolution where women can rule instead.

I think we have the choice of living in a chimpanzee type of society where the most aggressive and competitive males rule. Or a bonobo type of society where the females create a strong sisterhood to resist the aggression of males.

Back in the Neolithic times women probably did then work together to form a strong sisterhood. But then in the bronze age the sisterhood broke down and men were allowed to dominate.

My personal opinion is that this happened because of sociological changes, women got careless and didn't see men as a danger. So somewhere they allowed men too much freedom and men formed gangs and started to become violent. Then once men took control of one community and dominated women through violence, they began to impose patriarchy onto their matriarchal neighbours through violence. This then spread like a plague throughout the world.

If you wish to believe in the Saharasia theory then it is up to you, but i personally don't find it very convincing. Human beings are very adaptable and can adapt to changing conditions faster than any other animal. Anyway this is not the first disaster to happen to us, if we accept the Saharasia theory then someone will invent a Ice-age theory, claiming that the Ice-age was the cause of patriarchy. Then we might have the global warming theory, where people will claim that a global warming disaster in the future will bring back extreme patriarchy to the western world.

I personally see the Saharasia theory as a bit of a Trojan horse that has been dragged into the matriarchal community.

Athana said...

“We know about what happened only in the last five thousand years.”

Not true, William. Archaeologists, physical anthropologists and paleontologists can tell you reams about humans before 3000 BC. Conversely, written historical records are *not* always trustworthy.

“For all we know humans have been switching from patriarchy to matriarchy and back again for hundreds of thousands of years.”

Perhaps. But I’m interested in what happened around 4000 BC to create the first ugly, war-ridden, caste-based “civilizations” in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

“Unlike other animals we can override our instincts and create the type of society we want…. For the last five thousand years the choice has been made by our rulers that men rule….”

These two sentences are contradictory. If “we can … create the type of society we want,” then why have men, warfare, and social violence brutally ruled for millennia?

“I think we have the choice of living in a chimpanzee type of society, [o]r a bonobo type.”

Only if we understand precisely why and how most of us today got dealt the chimp card….

You seem to feel the answer lies in women just rising up and resisting men. But if this were true, why, over the past several millennia, haven’t women done that? Because there are forces holding them back. If you pooh-pooh my Starvation-Culture theory, you need to answer that question – with supportive evidence to back your theory – and answer all the other questions my theory answers.

“… the Saharasia theory … i personally don't find it very convincing. Human beings are very adaptable and can adapt to changing conditions ….”

This is usually true. However, humans without water die in a few days. Humans without food last a little longer. Humans with too little food go bananas after a while. The first two are not adaptation; the third is very, very poor adaptation.

“if we accept the Saharasia theory then someone will invent an Ice-age theory….”

Yes, they could. In science, anyone is allowed to propose any number of theories. But all theories are tested – by others -- against the evidence. Those that test well are “kept.” Those that don’t, aren’t. The Saharasia theory tests well against the evidence I’ve outlined previously.

william said...

Hi Athana,

I don’t really want to continue this debate as I probably agree with you in many other areas and all we are doing is discussing where we do disagree. I just wanted to register my protest that the Matriarchal community has taken this awful theory seriously. So I will just sum up my opposition and take my protest elsewhere.

As I previously mentioned, in times of starvation a matriarchal tribe is far more likely to survive than patriarchal one. This is because in a patriarchal tribe only the alpha men will get fed and the women and children will more likely to die. So that when food does become available, without women, the tribe will be unable to reproduce itself. Whereas in a matriarchal tribe when they are starving the mothers and their children will be fed first, so even if most of the men die of starvation, its not a problem as one man can fertilise hundreds of women. Which means the tribe will be able to survive when food becomes available.

I have to say the Saharasia theory does sound like 19th century Darwinism of, “nature red in tooth and claw”. Where male scientists in their “survival of the fittest” theories only considered the survival of men and never even thought about the survival of women and children. This is very clear in the Savannah, or ‘killer ape’ theory, where all the credit for the evolution from ape to ‘man’ is given only to men, while women and children are hardly mentioned at all. So the Saharasia theory perpetuates this myth, that when times are hard, it will be only the tough macho men that will save ‘mankind’.

Even today male scientists are still blind to the role of women and children, and still play down the role of women in all their evolution theories. Whereas in the survival of any species, it is the role of the female and how well she can care for her young, that is by far the most important factor in the survival of the species.

There is an enormous amount of evidence that patriarchal keeps itself going through propaganda, laws, customs and violence. As we have seen in the western world, undermine and question patriarchal propaganda and customs and make violence against women unlawful, then women become more powerful. Whereas in Islamic countries, where all the patriarchal tools for oppressing women are still in place, then women still remain powerless.

So we don’t need any fantastic theory to explain patriarchy, we only have to look at the methods patriarchy has been using for thousands of years, to oppress women.

Anyway that is all I have to say, and will voice my concerns about this theory elsewhere.

Athana said...

Dear STG Readers: I appreciate William’s comments even though he and I don’t agree on every detail of the broader issue. I can’t help but think, however, that he doesn’t have all the facts when it comes to the “starvation-culture” theory I outline in Switching to Goddess.

He says that “in times of starvation a matriarchal tribe is far more likely to survive than patriarchal one … because in a patriarchal tribe only the alpha men will get fed ….”

This sounds good in theory, but the evidence doesn’t back it -- not for long-term starvation at any rate. The Saharasia theory is based on *long-term*, not short-term starvation – starvation that lasts over several generations. This is a very important part of the theory, and I’m not at all convinced William is taking it into account.

One of the best known examples of generational starvation are the Teuso, or Ik, of northeastern Uganda. After the Teuso experienced severe starvation for several generations,

1. There were no more Teuso men alive than Teuso women.
2. Sexual Intercourse: Teuso women survived by having intercourse with men in neighboring areas (the Teuso men weren’t interested in sex, only food. The women weren’t interested in sex either, and had sex only to GET food). To both sexes, “sex was … openly referred to as a necessary chore and mildly pleasurable, like defecation” (Colin Turnbull, The Mountain People, Touchstone, 1972, page 253). Turnbull witnessed two people mutually masturbating while at the same time searching the horizon for food; it was food and food only that turned them on.
3. WOMEN MONSTERS: Women were so physiologically brain-impaired from lack of food that they too became monsters, locking their children in rooms to die (so they wouldn’t have to hear them begging and “nagging” for food); “delighted” when their children were carried off by wild animals: “then she goes about her business, leaving the child there, almost hoping that some predator will come along and carry it off. This happened once while I was there – once that I know of, anyway – and the mother was delighted. She was rid of the child and no longer had to carry it about and feed it, and still further this meant that a leopard was in the vicinity and would be sleeping the child off and thus be an easy kill. The men set off and found the leopard, which had consumed all of the child except part of the skull; they killed the leopard and cooked it and ate it, child and all….” (p. 136). Colin Turnbull witnessed mothers laughing when their babies were hurt (p. 135).

I need to say right up front that the Teuso cannot be blamed for this behavior, anymore than psychotic individuals can be blamed for crimes they might commit. Any group of people, no matter what their race, culture, or world location would react similarly to generations of denying the brain nutrients necessary for proper functioning.

And, compared to most indigenous cultures, we *behave* like the Teuso: we hoard; we overeat; we rape and abuse children, women and the elderly; men abandon their families; we use the same words for “to hurt” as for “sexual intercourse” (to fuck). We behave like the Teuso because our ancestors long ago adopted the starvation-sick behavior as a permanent way of life -- one that lasts even when food becomes plentiful again.

And then there’s the culture-trait distribution evidence: the closer to Saharasia you get, the more patriarchal the (indigenous!) societies become.

AnnaPerenna said...

Hello dear Athana and others.

I am kind of leaning to agree with William here. The Sahara-starvation theory being quite interesting and all, but I don't think there is always a need for a horrible famine for patriarchy to rise. I think the rise and continous grip of patriarchy that we see today is the result of that a brutal and violent group will always "win" over a peaceful and friendly community. It's always much easier to destroy than to cultivate..
I have read other theories that the rise of patriarchy over the world coincides with the invention of metal-working (bronze), taming of the horse, invention of war-chariots for war purposes. This means violent groups of men with new and more deadly weapons could now move really fast over vast areas and invade them. This new technology meant violent people could spread in ways unseen before and take over peaceful territories over night.
Peaceful societies that didn't have a military and couldn't fight against bronze and horse were unfortunately crushed and subdued and violent jerks have ruled since then till today. Like the peaceful matriarchies in Europe didn't have a chance in front of a hoard of armed men high on their horses invading from East. And later, indigenous people of Americas, Africa or Australasia didn't have a chance against white men with guns, horses and now tanks and helicopters. I think when violent people arise, they will always reach for power and keep it unless they are fought from the start with equally great power. So I think matriarchy must rule over men to some extent - and keep violent men down at all times because otherwise the violent men will always steal the power. Like what happened in Chile - a peaceful and democratic election was held, but the violent military got help from violent USA and the militant dictatorship arose with ease. So I'm afraid matriarchy must have some sort of strong, defensive military in order to be able to keep violent armies of men from taking over - and a strong police to keep violent men down in peaceful times - have you been to a soccer match with hooligans in Europe? Give men enough alcohol and enough excitement for 2 hours and they become violent chimpanzees, vandalising everything on their way until police stops them. I think the female sisterhood must always be as strong and cunning as male cliques in order to outwit them - and to be constantly aware of that a lot of men really don't need much to become violent and dominant. An unfortunate lot of men must be dominated otherwise they will dominate.

that's my 2 cents :-)

william said...

Thank you AnnaPerenna for your support. I agree, most male animals are competitive and aggressive with each other, and human males are the same and they are also competitive with females. If women want to understand men then they have to understand that the masculine mind does see life in terms of winners and losers or dominance and submission. We can see this clearly in the patriarchal society created by men. In democracy we have political parties competing with each other for power. In capitalism we have companies competing with each other for market share. And we have countries competing with each other through warfare. At the same time every patriarchal society is run on the hierarchical system, where everyone learns their place in the pecking order. And there is a big gap between the rich and poor and the powerful and powerless, in all patriarchal countries.

This is why it is so important that women have to understand male mentality. If women allow themselves to be below men in the pecking order, men will see them as losers and abuse them. Whereas if women present themselves as being above men in the pecking order, men will treat them with respect and even worship them. Equality is not an option to the competitive masculine mind.

I agree that if a patriarchal society is under great stress through famine or warfare it becomes extremely brutal. But I don't agree that famine no matter how long it is, will change a matriarchal society into a patriarchal society. This is because a matriarchal society is better equipped to survive long periods of famine than a patriarchal society.

AnnaPerenna said...

William, I agree with you that a lot of men will never function properly in a democracy - even when women are equal to men, those competitive men will still seek to dominate everybody. So, like William, I think women must dominate the society otherwise violent and competitive men will abuse women and non-competitive men. Competitive people don't understand equality and will always seek to abuse it - competitive people will always treat those below them as "losers" and only worship those who prove stronger than them. This goes for competitive and violent females as well (yes.. they exist too :)
So women must dominate in order for competitive men worship them again!

Now, for Athana's theory about the famine - I agree that a famine will make violence arise, and possibly the huge famine that Athana speaks of could be the factor that made herds of hungry and greedy shepherd people invade other, peaceful and wealthy communities, like what happened in continental Greece.. during Bronze Age.
BUT - violence doesn't need to rise from famine. My point is violence arises constantly in peaceful times and in wealthy people too! - from egoism, competition and greed.
So I think patriarchy arose from militant men stealing the power of peaceful communities they were a part of (egoists) - or from invading other, peaceful communities (violent competition paired with lethal technologies). The Egypt and Mesopotamia cultures were not based on the desert and famine Athana speaks of. Egypt and Mesopotamia were peaceful and WEALTHY river cultures, where militant men stole the power and begun patriarchy (the Egyptian patriarchy and religion was still very nice to women, much nicer than other patriarchies around). Same thing in the Americas - a lot of violent patriarchy arose in wealthy rain forest cultures - like the Aztecs and Mayas. They were not desert people and they had plenty of food.
My theory is greed, competition and militant patriarchy arose from the time humanity invented agriculture. Agriculture now required people taking control over the land and nature (competition and greed) and hoarding wealth (greed and egoism). But violence was present already in the earlier hunter-gatherer and shepherd cultures - I think agriculture just established greed and violence as a mean to take over other people's land and wealth.

AnnaPerenna said...

Now, to come back to religion, the theme of this blog.
We have now a world ruled and abused by violent and greedy patriarchy, of which some people worship male religions that reinforce violence and domination. I think Athana's mission of switching the world religions to worshipping peaceful females would be a really great shortcut for us all - but I'm afraid that's not enough. There will still be competitive dominance present, which can only be kept in check with bigger dominance (here I want women to dominate and I see no other way). And there will still be greed and competition even when all world religions switch to the Goddess - a lot of competitive people today are atheists (a lot of educated people who understand science will not be religious no matter if there is a goddess or a god). And the capitalism greed is not really a religion (though also worshipped). Peaceful sharing can only topple the violent greed by dominating the greedy. So my opinion is we need both Athana's peaceful religion for switching over the violent religious people - AND some sort of female military and female police to take the power and dominate the violent and greedy men (and all those who are not religious).

In old times it was the violent male religions that initiated a lot of wars and helped a lot of the world to be taken over by violent militant men. But today the christian male religion has practically lost the power over the military (however men of power still flirt with christianity), so it's not enough to just take over religion in the christian dominated world. And the islamic violent religion that still has control over certain militaries will not give up it's power to any peaceful goddess.
To take over the male militaries a powerful and smart female military is needed. And later, an all powerful female police would be needed to keep violent and competitive men in check at all times. Only later can we all worship Mother Nature and obey her laws.

william said...

Hi Everyone

I think the paradox of men is that although they have become to dominant sex, men have done this through being very submissive to authority. Men cannot work together without having a leader who tells them what to do, and once the leader has been established, men are totally obedient to this leader. This has been shown in the military, where if an officer orders his men to face extreme danger the men will obey without question. The Japanese military took this a stage further in the Second World War and ordered their airmen to commit suicide in Kamikaze attacks on enemy shipping. I suppose this mentality is summed up in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” written during the Crimea war.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Even though a blunder had been made and the wrong order had been given, the soldiers still blindly followed orders and made a suicide attack charging Russian guns. Which clearly demonstrates how passive men are, as they will always obey people in authority.

Every patriarchal society is a hierarchal system and men on the whole will always obey other men whom they see as being higher than them in the pecking order. So for women to take over, requires them to be seen by men as the dominant sex. In the patriarchal society men obey alpha men, and in a matriarchal society women have to replace alpha men as rulers of our world, and men will willing obey them.

AnnaPerenna said...

P.S. sorry for the spam, dear Athana!

But I think I need to correct myself - I don't mean violence emerged with agriculture, just more greed and hoarding and need for stationary territories.
Violence, greed and dominance has always been present in humanity (with hunters violence was necessairy to survive and they have invented the first weapons). And in every group of people, be it today or thousands years ago there are always dominant and competitive people. Today, dominant males rule and rape everything - so I wish only females were dominant instead, as they are less prone to rape of others as well as our ressources.
I also think dominant hierarchies that we have today have emerged even earlier than agri - when some hunter-gatherers became shepherd cultures, following and taming grazing animals - thus small elites of humans started to control big flocks of other animals. With agriculture, shepherds and hunters have just become stationary and the shepherd dominance - elites dominant over flocks of others - have florished since then.

william said...

Hi Anna

I think this dominance and submission mentality is very ancient. You see it in male animals like stags, bulls, rams, lions, where the males fight each other for dominance. And men are not much different.

I agree, men see women in the same way, they either have to dominate women or have women dominate them. Equality is not an option. All it requires is for women to play the alpha or dominant role with men and men will be happy to submit.

The bonobo ape shows us how it is done, and women need to learn from them and form a powerful sisterhood.

Athana said...

Can't say that I agree with the two of you, but I'm delighted to see such a lively discussion!

william said...

Hi Athana,

I'm glad you like my discussion with Anna. I suppose if we could keep away from the Saharasia theory there might have a lot of things we can agree with.

I agree with the concept that violence, warfare is not natural for human beings. People have to taught to hate to want to hurt or kill other people.

Like you, i have a interest in the Neolithic civilizations. If people could live in peace back in the Neolithic age then there is no reason why we cannot do this today.

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Athana said...

Dear William and AnnaPerenna,

In reading over your posts again, I’ve noticed that you both seem to be basing your arguments on the assumption that humans are naturally, and have always been violent:


“Violence, greed and dominance has always been present in humanity (with hunters violence was necessary to survive and they have invented the first weapons). And in every group of people, be it today or thousands years ago there are always dominant and competitive people.”


“the masculine mind does see life in terms of winners and losers or dominance and submission.”

“Equality is not an option to the competitive masculine mind.”

This is an old theory, out of favor now, and unsupported by the latest data.

william said...

Hi Athana,

If you are trying to say men are not competitive then how do you explain men's interest in sport, warfare, the capitialist system or even democracy, of political parties competiting with each other?

I don't now what data you can produce to say these things are not happening.

I would certainly agree that men can be brought up not to be violent. After all the military have to train soldiers to kill, as most men won't do it naturally. So it is possible to greatly decrease the violence in men's competitive behaviour. Which would mean it is possible to create a non-violent world if we allow women to rule our world.

William bond