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April 16, 2021

Egalitarianism versus libertarianism

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The beginnings of civilisation with the Neolithic revolution can be seen as a vast mistake rather than a sign of Homo sapiens coming into its own.

The signature of the revolution was ploughing and animal husbandry. Science has since found humans are able to eat healthily without animal products and ploughing has been one step forward, two steps back.

Moreover, egalitarianism, or the understanding one human is worth no more than another, was mostly continued by tribal, pre-literate peoples. The civilised instead regressed to hierarchical social structures. ‘Regressed’ because hierarchical structures are part of the hominid world, whereas civilisation was supposed to be an advance from the limitations of human hominid origins.

The growth of narcissism in western society can be seen as children reaching adulthood without successfully negotiating the personal growth stages where the ‘me’ of childhood naturally metamorphoses to ‘us’. Idealistic young adults are one of the symptoms of successful negotiation of childhood where they look outward and attempt to aid the whole rather than particularly themselves.

The political movement of libertarianism, on the other hand, can be seen as narcissism operating as encouragement of a current dysfunctional competitive rather than cooperative (or reciprocal) economic system. Libertarianism can be conceived to be based in ‘me’ rather than ‘us’, in the immature rather than the grown human, in the law of the jungle rather than compassion.

Civilisation has been mostly a process of causing humans to turn their backs on humanness.


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  1. Geoff, you are sort of on the right track there but your timelines are way out – might I suggest you read a good introductory text on anthropology. Modern humans have long been omnivorous, and have lived in small groups that both hunted and gathered for many tens of thousands of years – traditional indigenous Australian life is a good example. Basic small scale swidden agriculture followed much later as did more complex animal husbandry. A more belligerent cultural pattern accompanied the move to closer settlement with the growth of more powerful individuals, but not hereditary classes. Traditional Papua New Guinean life is a classic example. More recently more intense sedentary agriculture accompanied the growth of hierarchical classes – Bali and Java are the best nearby examples. None of this has related to genetic changes. Modern humans live today in all three of the historic food gatheing/production forms, as well as in our industrial and post-industrial economies – and often in mixes of these (some indigenous Australians still hunt and gather but move around their country in Falcons and Commodores). I think your description of the growth of narcissism is good. I myself believe the reason is that we have not created a credible and widely accepted belief framework that enables people to grow to adulthood – Indonesians refer to that sort of selfless maturity as “jadi orang” – to become a human. I believe we can create a new understanding of our place in the realm – a new religion if you will – and though they might not call it as such many people on the North Coast are struggling to do that, with a concern for the environment and fairness to others that is exemplary in regional Australia. Spend some time around more liberal – not libertarian – churches like the Uniting Church and you will find people trying to relate their understanding of Jesus and his humanity to creating a sustainable, meaningful and not self-centred life in a post-industrial world.


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