Despite the prevailing philosophy of the last couple millennia, humans are far more of a social organism than a collection of individuals. Our knowledge is handed down and shared, not instinctive. No baby can raise themselves and no child can educate themselves to normative intelligence without social surroundings. The elderly cannot survive without the assistance of the young and the young cannot evolve without the experiences of their elders. The more knowledge and cultures are shared, the stronger each society becomes. Personal autonomy is only a relative degree of freedom in an individual’s reactions and interactions with society.
For societies to reach their full potential they must encourage the largest amount of individuals to achieve their full potential. This would require a balance between autonomy, diversity and society which we have so far never attained. Instead we have swung from extreme importance placed on society to extreme importance on personal autonomy and individualism. Diversity has been either eradicated or supported to the point of extreme sectarianism.
Societies are created through acceptance and shunning, the two primary methods of auto-coercion used to create a cohesive group of people with common social norms and understanding. If a society is small and intolerant, diversity and individual autonomy is shunned and the society provides fulfillment and acceptance for only a very narrow and homogenous group. Diversity has no room to express itself without supportive social structures. It is impossible to reach fulfillment or attain our highest potential without a supportive network of relationships to receive and reciprocate our thoughts and achievements. Diversity and movement between societies and stratification of societies has historically been necessary for individual diversity to thrive and for any individual autonomy.
The social structures and the continuum of dependencies that make up our societies have gone through three very distinct evolutions. The first tribal nations, barely removed from families, were the least abstract nations. They were real communities which provided for all of our social needs. Those tribes have achievements ranging from monumental architecture in complex societies to global exploration to achieving elite levels of specialized knowledge and passing oral history accurately through hundreds or thousands of years. Their social and cooperative strengths were unsurpassed but with few people to fill basic roles of survival there was limited room for diversity and extreme shunning or demands for conformity were typical. Personal autonomy was almost non-existent, but tribal autonomy was at its peak.
For hundreds of thousands of years, people lived in these autonomous and complete societies but also occasionally networked with each other. Every nation, including even those of archaic tribes such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans, was in continual or periodic contact with others and exchanged knowledge, goods, and DNA. Many tribes had periodic meetups where they would share knowledge and goods (and DNA). These tribes could be cruel or lethal to any in their societies they chose to shun but people shunned by one tribe were sometimes accepted into another. There were also people who moved from one group to another because of marriage, slavery, exchange, or war reparations. The Iroquois nations are famous for their adoption practices but these exchanges were not uncommon in most parts of the world. DNA analysis is finally proving that as people took divergent and separate paths to settle far away places, they continued to reconnect and network with each other. While the tribes people lived in were unmistakeably an ingroup, they were not invariably hostile to outgroups.
These earliest autonomous nations were typically governed by elders or councils. As they grew, they sometimes formed federations, complex societies and even multinational empires which ruled by controlling resources. As soon as populations grew to a critical mass, complex societies began to rise and fall all over the world. They completed huge collaborative projects, established agricultural advances, and allowed far more diversity of roles, wider perspectives and social circles and greater security while retaining some tribal social benefits. Freedom to reach their full potential was greater for some under a system with stratified jobs, greater leisure and larger specialized circles for knowledge sharing. Social fulfillment was also more likely for some within expanded social circles. Shunning and inclusion expanded to social stratas as ingroups and outgroups were created within each society.
Empires frequently promised protection and aid from dangers such as famine, enemy attacks and natural disaster. The price of imperial protection was submission. Empires and other hierarchical societies cost us our tribal autonomy, often forced stratification of jobs and society, and greatly increased authoritarian governance. Formerly autonomous nations traded their freedom for a child-like dependency on authoritarian figures. Societal coercion was replaced by hostile external coercion in the form of a military, religious or political authority. Centralized bureaucratic structures removed community authority over decisions such as food allocation, interrupting the direct dependencies between people and beginning the dissociation of relationships. With stratification, some roles such as lifegiving and caregiving were increasingly removed from the political and commercial power of society and the people who fulfilled those roles had their status and their access to power reduced.
Societal hierarchy was greatly increased with stratification and less dependent on age or skill. Centralization and stratification allowed specialized knowledge to be kept within certain groups, increasing powerful guilds and classes in society and contributing to the loss of knowledge whenever these societies collapsed. Hereditary and other secret knowledge was used to create elite classes instead of just elite individuals. Knowledge became a commodity to be hoarded and traded, both within communities and internationally.
The most powerful empires were those who became wealthy from trade. Goods had exchanged hands between tribes for as long as humanity existed and this is frequently referred to as trade, but it probably was usually just sharing. The tradition of state visitors bearing gifts is so long standing and wide spread it was probably present in our earliest societies. We know sharing was the only method of exchange between some tribes and it is hard to imagine most other early tribes conducting trades over their limited goods. Sharing is a social trait common to all people and it would have been easier to communicate and more effective than trade for meeting socially. No human would have grown to adulthood without a mother sharing with them, not as an exchange but as a gift. Since the elderly and weak would also not have survived without sharing, it can be surmised that this was learned behaviour practiced between all people, not just the parent – child relationship it has been reduced to today. Trade or reciprocal sharing did develop between neighbouring tribes with regular contact however, and this usually increased dramatically with stratified and hierarchical society.
Once hierarchical societies established centralized authority or ownership over commons property and resources, this resource hoarding could be used to create trade empires. Government by laws and institutions instead of tribal councils was used to enforce new rights to advantage only the higher stratas of society which made the laws. Permission to take goods from the community commons and trade them for personal profit was given to the upper stratas. The surplus goods people began creating for their own rulers were increasingly used to trade over long distances with the rulers of other societies, greatly expanding the occasional tribal exchanges. Because of the high cost of transportation, most long distance trade was for high priced luxury goods which increased wealth disparity and authoritarian power. Trade empires directed people to work for trade to the wealthy and those outside their communities instead of working for the needs of their communities and themselves. Eventually, trade led to the creation of currency and replaced dependency on society with dependency on currency. Freedom, autonomy and social approval were all now represented by the currency which could buy them all.
Trade empires created a new powerful merchant class which stood between artisans and the upper stratas who owned property and those buying their products and made vast profits from their parasitic trade. These merchants had access to foreign knowledge and access to those who controlled power and wealth in more than one empire. The widespread adoption of currency provided them with dissociated membership in multiple societies and access to all the privileges of membership. They also had their own networks within the merchant strata of many nations. They even frequently had their own international language. They were the first extranational class and the new societal structure they created became the second age of nations.
In time, the merchants grew so powerful and their extranational society so networked, they controlled the states. The merchant class created a higher supranational form of governance and law in the form of trade agreements and treaties which states obeyed. This is today’s sociopathic and fully dissociated global structure and the third age of nations. The higher authority allowed empires to continue without direct imperial control from any one state and gave the illusion of autonomy to formerly openly occupied states. This removal of authority was largely unnoticed because governance, law and resource ownership had already been removed from the people by states and was only available to the upper stratas who were all part of the new supranational class. Once governance and resource allocation had been taken from tribal councils and given to one strata of society, and governments were permitted to both represent a whole society and dispose of its property at will, this self-pillage was inevitable.
With the progression of our dissociation, wealth no longer follows tribal or imperial leadership, resources or even trade in resources. The basis for entrance to the elite supranational classes now is existing wealth, celebrity or power, in any form. The ability to write laws and treaties, control knowledge or manipulate the public is rapidly replacing the ability to directly control resources as the primary source of power. Tribal knowledge which was once hoarded by guilds is now copyrighted, patented and kept in the upper stratas, defended by lawyers and laws protecting rights which are unrelated to creation. Unlike power under the elite of the second age, the supranational class at the top of today’s global empire does not need to govern or be involved in any way with the divided state-societies below them. Power has become completely dissociated from governance or the well being of the people of the world. It exists simply to accumulate the currency which purchases dissociated entrance to any society. The supranational class is its own nation. Everyone not in their strata is their outgroup who they spare no empathy towards.
Autonomy is only possible as a whole society and as we have no more societies we are farther than ever from autonomy. There is no diversity under one grey, global empire. The prevailing culture around the world, in fashion, in music, in architecture and in lifestyle, is mass produced corporate ugliness, not evolved from any regional culture. We are educated in the same way for the same jobs and coerced by the same news and celebrities. We are all under the same empire but we have no great collaborative projects or joint plans for the future. We have lost our tribal societies but instead of receiving protection from outside plunder, the current empire has convinced us to plunder ourselves, to destroy our own homes and poison our own children and walk willingly into lifelong slavery with no chains. The global elite have no basis of authority but with no existing societies or system of collaboration that is not based on the trade economy, most feel helpless to change the underlying structure.
In the last decades, just as the third age of supranational power has become most invincible, we have seen the beginnings of a fourth age of nations. We have a new powerful technical ability to assist our still overwhelming human need to create societies and networks. Shunning and inclusion, our two most powerful social tools, used for millennia to create all of our societies, are currently up for grabs. The extreme dissociation that permitted our governance by a foreign strata of people has provided a structure that can be seized by anyone who can control currency, media or other forms of coercion. It is urgent that we all realize the power struggle happening over this control, the effects it will have on our societies and how, if we wish, we can collectively seize control of this power to create the new societal norms and structures we choose.
It is both possible and very necessary that we create a new framework for society building, more diverse, flexible and mutually supportive than the first tribal one and more rewarding and globally beneficial than the third parasitical, supranational one. This time, we must plan our framework and leave it flexible enough to provide many variations and iterations so we are never again trapped in one failed system. A fourth model for nations must meet both our social needs and our need to develop to our full potential, ensure local autonomy but protect global commons, and put social responsibility back in communities but provide a global safety net for those shunned or harmed locally.
We need nations which provide us with a balance of autonomy, diversity and society.
Excerpted from Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Citations will be transferred when I get a minute.