origins of violence

The Origin of Human Violence and How to End It

Last night, my wife, Carlin, and I saw the movie Jo Jo Rabbit. It was moving and quirky and reminds me both of the horrors of the totalitarian/Dominator way in the world and our hope for a better future. I’ve recently written two articles on how we can create “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” as my colleague Charles Eisenstein so beautifully puts it. The first was “The Ship of Civilization is Sinking: Do Not Lose Hope. Find Your Tribe.” The second was “Back to the Future: Reclaiming Our Partnership Culture.” 

Today, I want to delve more deeply into the origin of human violence. Many people believe that humans are inherently violent and wars are inevitable. They believe that violence is built into our genes and there is little hope of changing who we are. Another view is that wars and violence are part of the modern Civilization and emerged with the beginnings of agriculture in various parts of the world about 10,000 years ago. Either view is rather pessimistic about creating a more humane and peaceful world.

I’d like to suggest a third view–Widespread human violence was the result of trauma and began 6,000 years ago in a specific location and has spread throughout the world. This view also offers a specific plan on how we can heal the wounds that lead to violence. 

I first heard about this from Dr. James DeMeo at a conference I attended in 1998. He had just completed his extensive research and published his surprising findings in his monumental book, Saharsia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World. The book presents the first cross-cultural, anthropological, archaeological and historical survey of human family and social institutions, tracing human violence back in time to specific times and places of first-origin. His research is consistent with my own and I suggest you check out his work. I’ll summarize his findings here:

  • With very few exceptions, there is no clear and unambiguous evidence for warfare or social violence on our planet Earth prior to around 4,000 BCE.
  • A massive climate crisis shook the ancient world, when approximately 6,000 years ago vast areas of lush grassland and forest in the Old World (now including modern states of Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey) began to quickly dry out and convert into harsh desert. 
  • The severe climate crisis in this area, which DeMeo calls Saharasia, created social and emotional havoc among the people living in the area. Imagine going from a time when things were green and abundant to dust-bowl conditions that lasted for generations. 
  • Famine and starvation is a severe trauma from which survivors rarely escape unscathed. A lot of people die, families are split apart, and babies and children are often abandoned, and suffer enormously.
  • Starvation affects surviving children in an emotionally severe manner. Even if such starved children later get all the food and water they want, they are deeply scarred in an emotional-neurological manner which forever changes their behavior.
  • There is an implanted inhibition of any impulse of a pleasure-seeking, outward-reaching nature, and a discomfort with deeper forms of body-pleasure, in both maternal-infant and later adolescent and adult sexual expressions.
  • Physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich believed that humans became violent from two major causes: Firstly, from abusive and neglectful treatment of infants and children, and secondly from the repression of adolescent sexual feelings. Both causes were present in Saharasia following the severe droughts and desertification. 
  • Our young people should be warmly romancing each other, dancing and singing together, making love and enjoying what should be the happiest time of their lives. Instead, we start our children off with a lot of hidden cruelty in the hospital birth, with incubator-isolation, denial of the mother’s breast, time-table feedings, circumcision and so forth. Later, it is compulsory schooling, obedience-training and so-called “tough love.” 
  • Pre-marital, adolescent sexual romance is normal among the most peaceful cultures, but is always repressed in violent warlike cultures. It is an even more precise predictor of social and individual violence than is child-abuse.
  • The cross-cultural evidence is very clear about this: the most violent human societies are those which treat their children in a neglectful and punitive manner, and which also demand sexual abstinence from their young unmarried people. Such cultures also emphasize highly compulsive forms of marriage, with a reduced status for women, and a lot of strong-man political or religious bosses who order everyone around at the point of a spear.
  • Dr. DeMeo calls these more violent, sex-negative, cultures patrist and contrasts them with the more peaceful, sex-positive matrist cultures. These two groups are similar to what Riane Eisler describes as Dominator and Partnership societies and Daniel Quinn calls Takers and Leavers.
  • Although Dominator cultures began this area of the Middle East and North Africa they began to spread throughout the world wiping out and changing Partnership societies as they spread. We still see these more violent-sex negative-fearful-of-females groups present in the Middle East.
  • Americans are not as violent as the most extremely violent cultures around the world, but we certainly are not as peaceful as the most peaceful societies. Unfortunately, our culture appears to be going towards increased social violence at this time.
  • The problems of violence in the world are that Dominator cultures tend to wipe out Partnership cultures such as indigenous native populations and other peace-loving peoples. Or in trying to fight the Dominator cultures, societies become Dominator cultures themselves. The key is to be peaceful and strong and demonstrate the value of Partnership practices for everyone.

How to End Violence in the World

  1. Treat the Earth and all life with kindness and respect.
  2. Treat women and children with kindness and respect. End child abuse and physical punishment. Hug, touch, and hold our children from birth and throughout their lives. 
  3. Treat men, even those who are wounded, angry, and violent, with kindness and respect. We must protect ourselves against these men, but we can also help to heal them.
  4. Commit to true equality between men and women.  Understand that equality doesn’t mean sameness. Differences between the sexes should be celebrated while ensuring equality and breaking down restrictive sex roles.
  5. Recognize that pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure, is healthy and should be celebrated from birth through old age.
  6. Encourage healthy sexuality between teenagers. Just as its healthy for children to play, its healthy for teens to learn about sexual pleasure and intimacy by playing with each other.
  7. Recognize the connection between what we do to the Earth and what we do to ourselves. We must stop our practices that continue to heat the planet and damage the human soul. Wilhelm Reich articulated an observable connection between environmental practices that create deserts and Dominator practices that produce emotional deserts within humans. As we heal the Earth, we can heal ourselves and as we heal ourselves, we can heal the Earth. 

If you appreciate reading articles like this, there are a few things you can do. If you feel so moved, leave a comment or a “like.” Feedback is my payback for taking time to research and write articles I feel will be helpful to you and others. You can also check out my blog and if you don’t already, subscribe to my regular articles if you want to read more articles that help us survive and thrive during these transition times. 

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

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