Thinking in the Dawn of Everything – OpEd – Eurasia Review

Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity of David Graeber and David Wengrow is, I think, a tremendous contribution to human knowledge and a guide to pursuing more of it – as well as a notable achievement for the Davids of the world, who may have been running short of these. time. Here are some of the points he documents and persuades:

Neither Hobbes nor Rousseau was right, nor ever claimed to be right, not in the sense of describing real people and events.

There is no model of human societies progressing in stages from small nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers too stupid to have a system of government, to urban farmers inevitably installed under the boots of tyrants, to practically white industrialists, to democrats apart. whole and NATO. members eager to devastate ecosystems and stockpile nuclear weapons.

On the contrary, mankind has created democratic participatory governments for millennia in a wide variety of forms on all continents, as well as monarchies without cities or in large numbers, cities without monarchy, large corporations and public works and cities without agriculture, agriculture without cities or private property, private property without agriculture, democracy in large urban populations, agriculture and bureaucracy without rulers, etc.

Humans have also deliberately chosen to move from rural to urban, from urban to rural, from popular governance to kingdoms of all kinds, from slave kingdoms and states to popular democratic councils, from the agriculture foraging, foraging, or farming to a combination of the two, and all other possible directions and permutations.

And not just all the variations, but all the mixes. Homo Sapiens created symbolic kings without power, seasonal changes from dictatorship to anarchism and vice versa, societies without rank or punishment or law or conflict, societies without these things but using murder, torture and cannibalism against foreigners, societies fully embracing foreigners, and clan affiliations that carry rights and responsibilities in many disparate societies and languages.

Just as no one can plausibly make sense of government policies on Earth in 2021 as rationally reasonable and purely economic, applying such assumptions to societies of the past, even imagining their residents as subhumans, will not get you very much. far. Societies have made trade-offs between wealth and freedom, agriculture for ease, more nutritious crops for easier (or more difficult) favorites, and the domestication of animals to keep them available for hunting. People have shaped their cultures explicitly to differentiate themselves from other cultures, to please the gods, and to honor the dead – all of this upsets anthropologists’ notions of maximizing calories or heading into the modern militarized bureaucratic state with approved elections. by businesses. .

People traveled much more and much further in the past millennia. Immigrants were much more integrated into societies (pleasantly or violently) in the past millennia. The trend has been towards a bigger and more isolated world, despite the arrival of Columbus and the invention of the plane and the Internet.

The times and places that have not left us with giant stone monuments are the first places to seek greater freedom and human rights. But even in many places that left giant structures behind, it lacked the notion that anyone should obey someone else’s command.

There may have been more democratic participation in governance in some cities of Mesopotamia 6,000 years ago than anywhere on Earth in the 21st century, when the spread of democracy became a justification for bombing the place.

There is no real evidence for claims by people like Hobbes, Ian Morris or Steven Pinker that the world is inevitably full of violence and misery unless the violence of the Leviathan State is used to appease everyone. .

When Europeans discovered the Amerindians, they also learned directly from them, through debates and discussions, writings and exchanges, public and private seminars, both in the Americas and in Europe. Indigenous criticism of European society included its lack of freedom, equality or brotherhood, its shocking willingness to leave people poor and suffering, and its obsession with wealth at the expense of time and leisure. This criticism was at the origin of a great current of thought in the European “Enlightenment”, to which a major response was the Rousseauhobbesian infantilization of the people who had just made a wise, coherent and articulate criticism, as well as the invention of false claims of the need to sacrifice freedom for security, of the alleged decrease rather than increase in hours worked to switch to a European way of life, etc.

Before the criticism made by the inhabitants of Turtle Island, European intellectuals did not bother to excuse inequality as an inevitable sign of progress, for the idea that there was something wrong with it inequality had not occurred to them. Many of the societies that were largely wiped out for the creation of the United States have been mutually recognized by themselves and by Europeans as free from Europe and its colonies; the only dispute was whether freedom was a good thing or not. Today, Native Americans have fundamentally won the rhetorical debate, while Europeans have won the lived reality. Everyone loves freedom; few have it. Although if you pronounce the phrase “finance the police,” you may discover living remains of those Jesuits who admitted that the Wendat had far fewer conflicts than there was in France despite the fact that ‘they did not have to obey any law, but denounced this success as a matter of principle.

“The freedom to abandon one’s community knowing that one will be welcomed in distant lands; the freedom to come and go between social structures, depending on the time of year; the freedom to disobey authorities without consequence – all seems to have been simply assumed among our distant ancestors, although most people find them barely conceivable today.

But I bet most people find them desirable exactly to the extent that they can conceive of them. In case anyone needs to point out, individuals in the documented cases having the option to choose between living with Native Americans and living with European settlers have overwhelmingly opted for the former, the opposite of which the imaginary people in Rousseau’s or Pinker’s tales simply have to do.

In case anyone is unclear, humans have not changed significantly in biological evolution over the course of a few centuries, and the biological differences between groups of humans across the world are extremely insignificant. For much of human and pre-human existence, people have lived on this planet with other species of people and human primates. But those differences were long gone before anyone invented modern racism. Non-Europeans have the same brains as Europeans. Thus, not only is there a problem in claiming that cultural differences are stages on a certain path of cultural evolution (which is seldom taken and is not clearly a path to a more desirable state), but there is a really ridiculous problem in imagining that cultural evolution for somehow equates to biological evolution. One of the results of this stupidity is to imagine that Europeans choose their system of government, while others stumble off the top of a cliff and land in theirs. In fact, many non-agricultural societies were in fact anti-agricultural societies, many societies without kings were societies that willingly gave up on the idea of ​​kings, and so on. Prehistoric “egalitarian” cultures were not too stupid to create hierarchies; quite the contrary. The success of anthropologists in qualifying prehistoric societies with more freedoms and those with less “complexes” as “simple” would make any war propagandist mad with jealousy.

Cultures that have created some sort of hierarchy in one season and destroyed it in another, each year, cannot help but be as aware of the possibilities and public policy choices as some. Amerindians who were born after the arrival of the Europeans. Seasonal festivals in much of the world may be remnants of larger seasonal shifts in political power, but in this case, the ability to conceive of what they once meant has faded.

War is an element of contemporary Western society selfishly promoted as permanent and inevitable. But Earth had never seen anything like today’s wars until very recently, and has seen societies of all kinds living for long periods with and without war. There is no such thing as primitive human or “human nature” from which to derive the real answer as to whether humans really do wage war or not. People are not chimpanzees and neither are they bonobos; they are not even people, where it is taken to specify a particular mode of behavior. All we have is the fact that most of the people who engage in war suffer horribly, while documented cases throughout history of suffering from total war deprivation are nonexistent. Societies have outlawed war, demanded that war winners pay compensation for each victim, thereby discouraging war, created alliances of peace, created peacekeepers, made war a subject of mockery rather than of glory, treated war as an acceptable pastime only at a certain season of the year, treated war more as a game or spectacle with little or no fatalities – and, of course, also made the reverse of all these things. The choice is ours.

The Spanish conquistadors, like others around the world, discovered that societies that were difficult to conquer were those without a ruler, those with people who were not used to obedience, people who would have laughed or revolted at the idea of ​​pledging allegiance to a flag. The best defense against tyranny and occupation is actually not technological or murderous, but rebellious.

David Graeber and David Wengrow believe the evidence shows that war has been rare or non-existent for most of humanity’s existence, although it certainly has existed with and without the large urban agricultural corporations.

Much of the above may seem obvious, perhaps especially since one has not had formal education. If some parts seem the obvious opposite, then the extremely well researched book, The dawn of everything, can help with that. But is it really necessary? Do we really have to know that something has already been done to do it? Our efforts to prove that even if there is nothing new under the sun, we can still have a better society than the one we have now, as in this book, end up being chronicled endlessly. new things appearing under the sun.

Comments are closed.