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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Treat the Earth and all life with kindness and
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Recognize that pleasure, particularly sexual
pleasure, is healthy and should be celebrated from birth through old age.
- 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.
- 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
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This article first appeared on Jed’s