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Gregory Bateson

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From Dominator to Partner

Dave Ewoldt, July 2005

   We live today in a time of crisis, but it's also a time of great opportunity.

   Our story as humans is neither as limiting nor as negative as we've been told. The chronic tensions, miseries, and bloodbaths of the past 10,000 years are not due to human nature but to a dominator detour of cultural evolution. As we re-examine patterns of thinking and living that not too long ago were taken to be just the way things are, we're discovering that we can create for ourselves safer, saner, more satisfying lives. We can shift from a dominator to a partnership society.

   Fundamental change comes not from the dictates of government or from great battles, but from vast numbers of people changing their minds and making new choices. Our institutions persist because they have legitimacy, which comes from the perceptions of people. People give legitimacy, and they can take it away. This is probably the most powerful force for change that exists.

   A cultural paradigm is a body of knowledge and cultural stories that make up our socially accepted world view. What I am presenting is a rediscovered paradigm that has the potential to shape our world in a powerful, positive way.

   Our current dominator paradigm consists of pain, fear, and tension. It's based on physical and psychological control; control is the basis of domination. At its core, the dominator paradigm is based on force-based ranking hierarchies, where men are ranked over women or in the case of matriarchal societies, women over men, where humans are ranked over nature, where one culture or racial type is ranked over others. These ranking hierarchies control through fear and force or the threat of force. This is the model we're both familiar with and starting to question -- the necessity for war, the conquest of Nature, the dysfunctional family based on domination and submission that causes tension, loneliness, and pain.

   The rediscovered partnership paradigm is harder to define and recognize. It's not taught in school or presented in the media. It is based on links of mutuality, not chains of domination and subservience. Partnership is an alternative to both patriarchy and matriarchy, and is based on mutual respect and empowerment. The partnership concept covers all relationships -- between men and women, parents and children, between organizations, communities, and nations, as well as within ourselves in the body, mind, and spirit relationship. Perhaps most importantly in regard to positive change, is our life supportive partnership through our multiplicity of attraction relationships with Nature.

   But in light of all these naturally occurring relationships, that tend to self-organize to mutually support the process of life, what tilts us toward brutality instead of kindness, war instead of peace, destruction rather than actualization? Does the oft-heard call for a simpler more religious way of life make sense? The routine slaughters by Huns, Romans, Vikings, and the Christian Crusades and Inquisition show there was even more violence and injustice in preindustrial societies. Since going backward is not the answer, how do we move forward?

   Weaving art, archaeology, religion, social science, and history, Riane Eisler researched and wrote _The Chalice and the Blade_ in 1985 in order to provide an answer to these questions. It tells a new story of human culture and shows that war and the war of the sexes are neither divinely ordained nor a biological given. This story provides verification that a better future is possible by examining what actually happened in our past.

   From 7000 to 3500 BC, Neolithic societies had advanced art forms and technologies, which after they were overrun by pastoralists were not to be seen again for over 2000 years. This early art had no depictions of war, brutality, or slavery. This was a time of peace and prosperity spanning thousands of years, where differences did not equate to superiority or inferiority, and there's no evidence of the sexual inequality we've been taught is human nature. The theme of the unity of all things in nature permeate Neolithic art. This theme is reemerging today as a prerequisite for ecological survival.

   About 7000 years ago we begin to see a pattern of disruption in the Neolithic cultures of the Near East. Societies that worshiped the life-generating and nurturing powers of the universe--symbolized by the chalice or grail--were overrun by societies who worshiped the lethal power of the blade--the power to take rather than give life--which is the ultimate power to establish and enforce domination.

   Nomadic bands of herders who lived in the less desirable fringe areas began invading the prosperous, peaceful, and fertile heartlands. These nomadic invaders, ruled by powerful priests and warriors with their male gods of war and mountains, conquered central Europe, India, and the Middle East. These nomadic tribes included the Aryans, Kurgans, Achaeans, and the Semitic people we call Hebrews. These tribes all imposed their ideologies and way of life on the people and lands they conquered. While they may not have had a common bloodline, they did hold in common a dominator model of social organization--male dominance, male violence, and an authoritarian control hierarchy. They also didn't develop technologies of production in order to create material wealth, but used technologies of destruction to steal and control it. Fast-forward to the Twentieth Century and American foreign policy of enforcing corporate takings of Central and South American resources.

   What lies at the core of this dominator detour is placing a higher value on taking, rather than giving life; of power over instead of power with. The power to dominate and destroy starts to supplant the view of power as the capacity to support and nurture life. The social structure becomes more hierarchic and authoritarian. Women, who are closely identified with the old view of life-giving power, gradually become reduced to the status they now hold--male controlled technologies of production and reproduction. The Goddess became the wife or consort of the male deities.

   We're again approaching a shift in cultural paradigms, from a dominator to an advanced partnership society. We need to understand everything we can about this lost piece of our past. This knowledge of our past contradicts everything we've been taught for centuries. This knowledge needs reinforcement from other sources, because it is of paramount importance that we remember this past, and make the knowledge of it our own.

   The new physics and chaos theory provide one new source. Systems science shows not only that we're all interconnected, but that systems can and do change. Whether we have a ranking or a linking social system will guide our uses of technology and our cultural evolution. The model we choose affects our direction.

   Civilization and cultural advancement do not require war. Pentagon theorists like to assume that a peaceful society would lack the motivation to innovate or produce anything of lasting value. However, the data shows that the best kept secret in history is that all the fundamental social and material technologies civilization is based upon were developed before the imposition of dominator society. The principles of food growing; construction, container, and clothing technology; uses of wood, fiber, leather, and metal in manufacturing; law, government, religion, dance, ritual, drama, and folk literature; art, architecture, and town planning; sea and land trade, administration, education, and forecasting for the future; these gifts of civilization are all from a peaceful Goddess. As Ervin Laszlo, the father of modern systems science points out, the ills of the world began when the Earth Goddess became subjugated to the Sky Gods.

   This new view of the past sets up conflict between the old and the new in our minds. The old view is that human and economic relationships developed from men hunting and killing. The new view is that the foundations for our society come from mothers and children sharing, from women and men using our unique human faculties to support and enhance life. In the new view of cultural evolution, domination, violence, and authoritarianism are not inevitable, eternal givens. A more peaceful and equalitarian world is not just a utopian dream, it is a genetic memory, and a real possibility for our future.

   It's hard to argue that these prehistoric societies were less civilized than we are today. The technologies they employed were used to make life more pleasurable rather than to dominate and destroy, while today millions of children starve while we create better nuclear weapons and force economic restructuring on developing nations to further swell the bank accounts of multinational corporations. But what so many people are searching for today is not a return to a lost innocence; what they are looking for is the mystical wisdom and spirituality of a partnership society; a recognition of our oneness with nature. Ecologists today recognize that this quality of mind is much more advanced than our current environmentally destructive ideology. Nature balanced Goddess cultures intuited the interconnected nature of reality and lived as part of a system before systems science was an accepted academic discipline.

   We almost had a cultural revolution 2000 years ago that threatened to break free of a system mired in barbarity and repression, but the early fathers of the Christian Church made sure it didn't take hold. Jesus denounced the ruling classes of his time, both religious and state, for exploiting and oppressing the people of Palestine. He preached universal love, that the meek and humble would inherit the earth, rejected the subservient and separate position of women, and proclaimed the spiritual equality of all. Not surprisingly, he was considered a dangerous revolutionary whose radical ideas had to be silenced at all cost.

   The values of compassion, nurturance, and social altruism associated with a partnership culture are part of an ideology that stresses creation rather than destruction. From the Neolithic era to England's Elizabethan age, social eras that tend toward more partnership styles also tend toward greater cultural creativity. The partnership definition of power is enabling; it is the power to give and create; it encompasses the responsibility to help develop talents and abilities in everyone.

   I think it's important to realize that there is an alternative to the competitive, aggressive, destructive social structures of the world today. This alternative is a fundamental and natural part of who we are; it is a biological inheritance. We're not exclusively hard-wired to be dominators. We have a choice to work with, instead of against, the life-affirmimg, creative principles of the universe that are an intimate aspect of who we are.

   In order to save ourselves and our world, we must learn to see and feel the connections between the personal and the planetary. We must discover that our individual work has a collective significance. Only by doing what makes us come alive can we find natural fulfillment in what really matters. What we truly love is what we will fight to save.

   The shift from an industrial growth society of exploitation and domination to a just, equitable, and sustainable partnership culture based on attraction relationships constitutes the intellectual and spiritual challenge of our time.

   By finding the inspiration--by remembering our natural ability to actively participate in cocreation--we become aware that it is more than just possible to be successful. It is actually the natural order. We have the life-giving creative energy of the universe working with us.

   If you would like to schedule an introductory consultation session or arrange a presentation or workshop for your group, please contact or give Dave or Allison, co-founders of Attraction Retreat, a call at (360) 756-7998.


"You didn't come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here."
Alan Watts


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