For me I think that deep down I’m a simple aboriginal (or hunter gatherer). I’d go walkabout if I were not interested in the social aspect of living among a small band. Fishing and hunting, gathering wild plants or even growing crops to bring back and share by a campfire.
In me is a sense of loss for that kind of life and a yearning for it even though it can’t completely be had. I catch glimpses of it here and there. Do you also feel the same pull? That something important has been lost?
That we live among material wealth however we are missing something very important? Something difficult to explain and pinpoint exactly?
From my research, I have come to understand that our biology was naturally selected during the extended period during which we lived as hunter-gatherers.
During this time we lived in egalitarian bands where social customs limited differences of power and ensured a very egalitarian way of life steeped in sharing and community spirit.
Competition was frowned upon and respect was gained through being very giving. Those who sought power over others were criticised, excluded or sometimes (although not frequently) even killed.
All of this is very well detailed in the book Hierarchy in the Forest by anthropologist Christopher Boehm.
And so it is my view that we have within us this guidance that steers us back towards that kind of world and that on some level we all yearn for it.
I think that the more we free ourselves from the conditioning that we receive from the wider world, the more we will desire this return.
We yearn for it because our psychology is hard-wired to reward us when we align with those community-oriented behaviours. We experience a deep sense of pleasure that we cannot get any other way.
Going forward as a society, I think we will manage to keep the best of what the era of hierarchy and separation brought us (technology) and use it in different ways.
Socially, hopefully we return to some sort of community feeling steeped in cooperation and togetherness rather than separation and competition.
These ways of behaving have to change because in a technologically advanced society, the destructive power at our fingertips could at any moment destroy civilisation as we know it.
It is in the long-term an unsustainable situation. So either this changes or the chances are we will be returned to the stone age.
This will take time, maybe hundreds of years of gradual change. I don’t think anything will change in a revolutionary way and it’s better this way.
And the economic and monetary systems will need to change as well because they currently encourage competition.
All of this however is dependent on you and me. We are the ones who need to make this change. Firstly within ourselves, and then to seek out one another and together call for systemic change.
Power as Noam Chomsky reminds us resides where it has always resided – with the people. However it does require our coming together, putting differences aside, and realising that we are all united by a desire to live in a better world. And a better world requires more democracy, less hierarchy and less power and money in the hands of the few.
The change we seek will not be brought about or called for by the elite of the world. It is up to us to call for change. And our voice is stronger when we band together. And this is the gift that technology enables.
Let me know your thoughts.
Edward Kowalski is a researcher investigating how our society works in order to find ways in which to improve it for the well being of all. He is currently working on developing a startup idea to empower citizens to have their voice heard by our politicians. You can get in touch by joining this Facebook group.