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