Last week we introduced a new Saturday serial, Paul Rosenberg's Production Versus Plunder: The Ancient War that Is Destroying the West. Today, Part 2 …
THREE GROUPS FORM
We have no good way of knowing how the few and scattered humans on earth migrated at the end of the ice age. We have only a limited and fuzzy idea of where they came from and how they moved. What can be deduced from the available information is that three general groups began to form in the greater Middle East – in the area from Arabia to the steppe of southwestern Asia. We know precious little about these groups, but we do know enough to understand their general characteristics. The figure below shows the general distribution of these groups. This particular distribution is from a later time, but it does show the general pattern we are discussing.
When discussing these groups, it is important to repeat what we have previously mentioned: That there were very few of them, that they were widely scattered, and that there was very little interaction. These groups were in radically different geographic areas and almost certainly had migrated from different places. In all likelihood they were completely ignorant of each other for some time.
Following the end of the ice age1, there were several thousand years of quiet time: Not many humans and precious little interaction between them. During such times, groups of humans tend to build specific characteristics. We tend to call these groups-with-characteristics "societies" or "cultures."
Over time, three early groups developed their own cultures – cultures that informed their ways not only of daily life, but of looking at the world. More importantly, over time – and this was thousands of years – manner of living guides the development of human character. Indeed, the historic nature/nurture arguments2 are moot in such a case – both nature and nurture are operating. Specific types of nurture become normal within the group and are passed down from generation to generation. And, since the group is more or less isolated and closed, the gene pool is refined and passed down as a fairly consistent set of genes. These groups formed slowly and there were multiple generations' worth of time.3 With both isolation and time, groups of humans, such as these first three, produce distinct societal structures, including structures of cooperation and/or rulership, and of gods and worship.
These three groups are of two primary types: Farmers and nomads. Again, over time, different styles of living teach different lessons to men. In particular, farming leads to a cooperative model of thinking and living, while nomadic hunting and herding lead to a warfare and domination model of living and thinking.
Farmers learn to rely upon their neighbors. They help build each other's barns, share tools, lend their expertise for repairing their neighbor's equipment, and so on. They also respect each other's property lines. So, in farming, there are long histories of mutual help and respect for property.
Herdsmen, on the other hand, tend to mistrust their neighbors and to hide information from them. When the nomadic herdsman finds good grazing land, he does not share that knowledge with another herdsman. If one finds a hidden water hole, he does not disclose the location. So, the overall balance is much more toward not helping a neighbor. Similarly, property is less respected in nomadic cultures. And, of course, they developed different methods of warfare.
But, beneath all the details there are two different sets of assumptions regarding the world and human existence. The farmers developed what economists now call a positive-sum view of existence and the nomads developed more of what we call a zero-sum understanding of existence.
Briefly, a zero-sum assumption is that there is a fixed pool of any specific good and that in order for you to have more, someone else has to accept less. This is the essence of the common slogan, "there are only so many pieces of pie." If you want an extra slice, someone else has to accept one less. A positive-sum assumption, on the other hand, assumes that the pool of assets can be expanded. In other words, if there are not enough slices of pie for your liking, you can make a new pie for yourself.
The important thing about zero-sum and positive-sum assumptions is that they form a mental pattern, an analysis program in our brains. This is one of the human software routines we discussed earlier. Positive- or zero-sum routines form in human minds and – if not analyzed and adjusted – color wide areas of thought. This affects all sorts of opinions and judgments. People take these basic views of the world as givens: things they don't need to waste time examining; things that are considered to be known. This built great differences in the thoughts of the farmers and the nomads.4
Young nomads were instructed to take, from a world of limited resources.
Young farmers were instructed to use the world intelligently and to create food.
These early farmers, for the first time we know of, discovered a post-parasitic way of living on earth. They did not feed off of what already existed, as do parasites. Instead, they became actors in cooperation with the earth, and made it produce food for them.
Of course, animal husbandry does ride the line between the parasitic and the creative, but it never fully crosses it. The farmers did cross it, firmly and permanently.
THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN NOMADS
The northern nomads lived in the flatlands above the Black and Caspian Seas, in what are now southwestern Russia, Ukraine, and western Kazakhstan. They tended to be taller and with longer rather than rounder heads. They were pastoral, war-like, patriarchal, and worshiped sky gods.
The southern nomads lived in the flatlands of Arabia. They tended to be slight-boned, had long heads, were pastoral, war-like, patriarchic, and worshipped storm gods.
It is difficult for modern westerners to understand the structure and incentives of such societies. Most westerners expect cooperation in life. Most of the time, the storekeeper does not try to cheat us, we don't steal metal exposed on the sides of buildings, and so on. In short, we expect people to "play nice" because of the programming in their brains, not because they are forced to do so. We complain bitterly about the stupid criminals that do arise.
This assumption of cooperation did not exist in these groups of nomads. They were not the same as us in their assumptions regarding life upon earth. We Westerners derive (more or less) from farmers who presumed cooperation and creativity. These nomads assumed dominance and scarcity.
The nomad existence was based upon a plunder model, placed on top of a clan model. At the base was the family clan. In these small groupings, there would have been a good deal of sharing and cooperative decision-making, but the final and large decisions would have been made by the senior male. For these clan groups to join together and form a larger group, a central dominator was always required.
What these people saw as "normal" was a dominator in charge, with a structure below him. Each clan, of course, would have a protected place within that structure, along with certain privileges and allowances.
The rigidity of these structures led to hatreds that could endure for centuries. When an outside group forcibly alters one of these societal hierarchies, the occupants live with tilted floors, so to speak, until the structure is righted.
The rigidity of this structure derives from the fact that it is a collection of clans, and the clans nearly always remain for centuries. Added to this, clans tend to constantly compare themselves with the other clans, and oppose any changes in status between them5. Because of these status-conscious and enduring bonds, the structure is not permitted to modify. Thus, the inconvenience and the humiliation of altered hierarchy endures.
Nikolay N. Kradin, in his paper, Nomadism, Evolution and World-Systems: Pastoral Societies in Theories of Historical Development, explains that the nomadic empire is organized on the military-hierarchical principle, and survives by exploiting the nearby territories. He goes on to say:
The most interesting and novel feature of the steppe empires was their dual structure. From outside they appeared to be despotic aggressive state-like societies because they were formed to extract surplus product from outside the steppe. But from within, the nomadic empires remained based on the tribal relations without the establishment of taxation and exploitation.
So, this structure is based upon clan relations at the base, and upon plunder in the overall. This is more or less as one would imagine it to develop, given enough information.
James DeMeo argues6, with much evidence, that physiological damage due to drought and starvation contributed to or caused a variety of cultural and character traits among the southern groups of nomads. DeMeo finds that the root cause was the spreading of deserts (and subsequent starvation, devaluing and mal-treatment of children) at approximately 4000 B.C.
THE CENTRAL FARMERS
The central farmers tended to be shorter, stocky, with round heads, short hair, no beards, and worshipped a fertility goddess. This group lived in the highland area of what is traditionally Armenia, extending into the Lake Van area of what is now eastern Turkey7. Settlements at several locations in the Alznik province of Armenia date to 10,000 B.C., before the ice age had fully ended8.
The most likely structure of their "society" would have been a decentralized farming structure, similar to later farming groups that functioned beyond the edges of state control, such as in the early American colonies. (No state had ever existed at this early time.) The natural clan group certainly would have formed some sort of base for these people, but since farming scatters and moves people across landscapes, this clan structure would have been dispersed9, reducing the strength and effects of the clan.
It seems that these farming groups kept an older forager tradition to gather in much larger groups for a few weeks every year. At these gatherings, they would conduct ceremonies and festivals, make marriage arrangements and trade goods. A standing monolith and building, dated to approximately 8,000 B.C. at Nevali Cori in western Armenia, was probably one of these ancient meeting places. It was located only three kilometers from the southern bank of the Euphrates River, a convenient meeting place.
These gatherings would have been very much like the religious camp meetings of strict sects such as Methodists in the 18th and 19th centuries or of various Pentecostal groups in more recent times. Obviously the pretext for such modern gatherings differs from ancient tribal meetings, but many aspects, such as ceremonies and marriage arrangements, would have been almost the same. Again, these people were the same as us, only with less information. We should expect their behavior to resemble that of modern people.
MALE AND FEMALE GODS
As mentioned earlier, these early humans had a very limited amount of knowledge of science and the forces that shaped the natural world in which they lived. But, they did have powerful minds and creative imaginations. So, they tried to imagine what made the world work, just as we would in the same situation. Over centuries, ideas such as these tend to shape themselves into forms that are easily repeated. This is no less a problem in our time than it was at the end of the ice age.
For example: Our common story of Adam and Eve's fall from paradise is supposedly based upon the Bible. But the ubiquitous form of this story – eating an apple – is nowhere to be found in the Bible; no apple is ever mentioned. Yet the story is repeated endlessly, merely because it is easy to draw and because "everyone else" seems to do it. Precisely the same thing happened to the myths of the ancients.
The gods of the ancients tell us a great deal about the central assumptions they made about the world. The nomads, as mentioned above, saw the world as a place of scarcity and struggle against other men. They developed war gods and patriarchal structures.
"Patriarchal" is a term much abused in modern times, as if to imply that there is something evil in maleness itself. But the issue is not maleness per se, but dominance and submission. The problem arises when instincts for expansion are mixed with an ignorance of a creative principle. In such cases, the strongest one – almost always a male – "improves" himself by taking from others. So, "patriarchy" was the personification given to the central principle, being the easiest way to repeat it10.
The farmers, on the other hand, developed female gods and cooperative cultures. Again, this is not because there is some inherently superior value in being female, but because of the creative principle – the opposite of scarcity. Female gods were developed because the female embodies creation and productivity: Her body literally brings forth new human beings.
For reasons that we will explain later, modern gods tend to be of the dominator type. For this reason, female gods are seen by some moderns as a dominator with a female face. This is not what female gods were to the earliest farmers. The female god was not a dominator, she was a catalyst – not striking from above, but working with. They were magic embodiments of the creative/productive principle.
Inanna may have been the first goddess (she was most certainly among the first) and the name itself indicates that it may have originated in the pre-Sumerian language of the Armenian farmers. She was, as mentioned above, the personification of the creative principle. Accordingly, her male consort was characterized as the force in the grain and as her priestly lover.
We will close this chapter with some passages from Inanna's myth-poetry. In them you will notice the glorification of creation and production in many forms: The production of the female body, the production of the grain in the fields and the production of the herds. You will note the erotic aspects as well, which are odd and even troubling to many modern people, but were entirely sensible and laudable to the most-ancient farmers. After all, they were fundamental to the magical process of creation. Sex made them partners with the gods. It was glorious, not shameful.
Last night as I, the Queen of Heaven, was shining bright,
As I was shining bright and dancing,
Singing praises at the coming of the night.
He met me – He met me!
My lord Dumuzi met me.
He put his hand into my hand.
He pressed his neck close against mine.
My High Priest is ready for the holy loins.
My lord Dumuzi is ready for the holy loins.
The plants and herbs in his field are ripe.
O Dumuzi! Your fullness is my delight!
I bathed for the Shepherd Dumuzi,
I perfumed my sides with ointment,
I coated my mouth with sweet-smelling amber,
I painted my eyes with kohl.
He shaped my loins with his fair hands,
The Shepherd Dumuzi filled my lap with cream and milk,
He stroked my pubic hair,
He watered my womb.
He laid his hands on my holy vulva,
He smoothed my black boat with cream,
He quickened my narrow boat with milk,
He caressed me on the bed.
Now I will caress my high priest on the bed,
I will caress the faithful shepherd Dumuzi,
I will caress his loins,
I will decree a sweet fate for him.
As the farmer, let him make the fields fertile,
As the shepherd, let him make the sheepfolds multiply,
Under his reign let there be vegetation,
Under his reign let there be rich grain.
The King went with lifted head to the holy loins.
He went with lifted head to the loins of Inanna.
He went to the Queen with lifted head.
He opened wide his arms to the Holy Priestess of Heaven …
1I am discussing the ice age as if it ended quickly at 8000 B.C., which is not true; the ice receded for several thousand years, then stopped receding at about 10,000 years before the present time. So, there is a certain amount of simplification built into this discourse.
2The argument as to whether human character is the result of heredity (nature) or experience (nurture). In actuality, it is both, with a third factor added: Previous choices. The major choices humans make have enduring effects both within and upon them, which are encoded into their characters to one extent or another.
3There is also a strong possibility that these groups had been separate and isolated from each other well back into the ice age, which means that they could have developed separately many times longer than humans have developed in all the years since the ice age. However, this is all conjecture – we simply do not know.
4Again, I am simplifying. There were certainly individuals in each group that differed from the descriptions I am attaching to them. Furthermore, such characteristics among groups of humans are constantly varying and competing. So, while I firmly believe what I write here is accurate, it is only a general statement and certainly varied greatly among individuals and between sub-groups.
5Again, this status consciousness is related to a zero-sum understanding of life. If what one wants is scarce, it must be grasped firmly, and re-taken if ever removed. A human with a positive-sum view of life might rather mourn the loss briefly, then go out to replace it.
6In his book, Saharasia
7Interestingly, this is the same area that Genesis points to as the landing-place of Noah's Ark.
8Some of the more important finds were made in about 1980 by the archaeologist Hans Georg Gebel.
9As we will examine in the next chapter, these farmers had not yet invented crop rotation, and were required to abandon their fields every several years and move to the next fertile area.
10And, so that the female half of humanity takes their fair share of blame, we should add that females tended to reward such behavior by seeking a strong male. Scarcity tends to create poor characteristics in all humans.
* * * * *
To be continued…
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