Milestones from a culture of freedom and equality to one almost entirely subjugated by dominance hierarchy

January 26, 2024 by Joshua
in Freedom

The more history and anthropology I learn, the more I learn the alternative to continuing our cultural path is not the Stone Age or a Mad Max apocalypse. For a good 250,000 years of human existence, our ancestors enjoyed more freedom and equality than we do. That’s why indigenous cultures still exist. When they look at ours, they see our airplanes and medicine but also our lack of freedom and equality compared to theirs and don’t want to give it up.

My upcoming book describes why we’ve convinced ourselves that their cultures are disasters—briefly, it helps us rationalize and justify what our culture does to them, including taking their land, enslaving them, genocide, and so on.

You might ask: if people prefer their culture, why has ours defeated theirs? I answer that question in the book too, but here’s a timeline of select key steps in the path from an egalitarian past to the one we live in lacking freedom and equality. Each step made sense at the time to those taking those steps. That sense doesn’t change that we don’t have the freedom to walk away from those subjugating us.

12,000 years agoClimate warms and stabilizes (Holocene begins)Agriculture, food surpluses Unsustainability Dominance hierarchies
Next few thousand yearsEmpires growImperialism, colonialism, and slavery increase Freedom, equality and democracy decline
Third century BCEQin Dynasty in China Maurya Empire in India Punic Wars in MediterraneanEmpires dominate
1492Europeans find North and South AmericaBelief in infinite land
1500–1600England’s deforestation leads to burning coalBelief in infinite energy
1680–1780Kondiaronk criticizes Europeans Hector de Crèvecoeur and Benjamin Franklin observe preference for Sustainable Free Abundant cultureEuropeans see people practicing what become Enlightenment values (not the only sources)
1688Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery (first colonial abolitionist protest)Enlightenment values oppose tyranny
1776Declaration of IndependenceEnlightenment values oppose tyranny
James Watt’s steam engineEfficiency accelerates pollution and depletion
Adam Smith’s Wealth of NationsProxy of growth for good Decreasing stewardship Increasing social isolation
1793Eli Whitney’s cotton ginTechnology designed for efficiency and decreasing labor augments slavery Largest slave power in history
1808England bans slave tradeEnlightenment values oppose tyranny Shows falseness of “if we don’t, they will” and “economy will collapse”
1865Thirteenth AmendmentEnlightenment values oppose tyranny
1896First doof (Cracker Jacks, marketed with: “The More You Eat The More You Want”)Marketing addiction disguised as food
1897Heroin synthesizedMilestone in product marketed as “non-addictive morphine substitute” that is more addictive
1929Edward Bernays’s Torches of Freedom campaign promoting cigarettes as female empowermentMilestone of changing from marketing needs to wants
Twentieth and Twenty-first centuriesSocial media, fast fashion, OxyContin, etcAddiction and marketing to wants milestones
Affluence Without Abundance, by James Suzman
Affluence Without Abundance, by James Suzman

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