(This isn’t a rant about being anti-male, anti-men, so get that out of your system right now and I’m not here to suggest that Matriarchy is the answer.)
Patriarchy: A cultural structure that is male-dominated and patrilineal (inheritance through male lines) which appears to be predisposed to run in an hierarchical system.
Hierarchy: a system that bases all movement through series of tiers. It is not self-damaging in and of itself. It depends on the method it uses in order to run smoothly, without corruption.
Nature is automatically hierarchical, but it’s not naturally patriarchal. Within it, all systems are hierarchical. However, nature’s system is different in that all of its tiers are interdependent. They rely on each to survive. Take one tier out and the entire system collapses. I’d say it’s like a house of cards except the top cards don’t collapse the system when they’re taken away.
Let’s use a wolf pack as an example of natural, and perfectly run, hierarchy. The alpha wolf pair rules. Or ‘dominates’ the pack. Notice I said pair. Not male, not female. Pair. There are beta wolves and delta wolves. All are required for the pack to exist as a cohesive unit. For example, the delta’s role in the pack is “play”. The delta initiates it, creating a “destresser”, if you will. For a human, you could call them the comedian or class clown, except that they don’t get punished for “cutting up”.
Lone wolves are unnatural, but they exist. Why? Because the lone wolf is nature’s way of creating new packs or as a means to eliminate an unnatural threat. They’re usually the loser of an alpha challenge that has dispatched the former alpha. If they stay a lone wolf, they don’t survive long. If a wolf pack kicks them out of the pack, the wolf tries to join another. If another pack doesn’t accept them, they might be killed. Or it will join with another lone wolf and eventually gather up more until they’ve formed their own pack.
Alpha males are constantly being challenged. Not threatened. Challenged. This is to ensure the stability of the pack. If they become too aggressive toward the entire pack, the alpha male is taken out and replaced, thereby ensuring the stability. In a lesser way, dogs do this with their owners. Smart owners understand (without cognitively recognizing it) this and they frequently reestablish dominance by letting their dogs know who’s the leader of the pack. Like a wolf pack, this is done through non-damaging, non-lethal punishment.
In the wolf pack, you may have seen what looks like fighting. This is “challenging” behavior. When an alpha is challenged, the usual response is to firmly bite, but not puncture, the challenger’s muzzle and to hold them until the challenger meekly accepts the subservient role. When the alpha becomes weak (by personality, not strength) and is no longer able to subdue the challenger, then the challenger wins and becomes the alpha. When you have a dog that you allow to run the household (when you spoil it rotten, and that holds for children, too), then you as alpha are no longer pack leader.
This rarely happens to the female alpha. She is the pack breeder. The pack mother. To maintain the equilibrium of the pack, only the alpha pair can breed. This is to ensure that the pack doesn’t over-populate. Over-population kills an ecological (and economical) system faster than sickness or disaster. (This is why humans are a threat to this planet, by the way, but *only* due to religion. Religion sets a “go forth and multiply” approach and that’s dangerous.) And sickness and disaster are also nature’s means to thin the herd. Or pack, in this case. There are times when too many litters grow the pack too large and many of them may be booted out to form their own pack. Most simply choose to leave to form their own packs. There is no “allowance”. The alpha pair just accept the migration.
As for patriarchy, the wolf pack isn’t patriarchal. There isn’t a lone male wolf at the top of the pack that dictates its wishes down to the others. This system is dysfunctional because it isn’t interdependent. It creates a class system where all others suffer at the behest of the dictator. This is why the wolf pack is run by the alpha pair. All members of the pack have their purpose and sometimes they change roles. A beta wolf can become a delta and vice-versa. Likewise, an alpha can be replaced, but they rarely become a lower wolf within the same pack. They are thrown out of the pack when they are challenged and replaced because the pack is purposely run that way.
Thousands of years ago, humans copied the wolf pack. But that ended when certain types of religion were created that were a combination of patriarchal and hierarchical and they became, for all intents and purposes, a diseased system. Romans were one such example. But so were the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, Sumerians, Akkadians, Celts, Gauls, etc. Their preferred method was aggression. To war with others. To enslave, dominate, subjugate, oppress, and repress. This created a class system that was unbalanced and threatening to all natural systems. There is a reason these nations are extinct. They destroyed themselves.
In a patriarchal hierarchical system, everything becomes dependent on the top tier. Not interdependent. Dependent. Dependency in and of itself is not damaging, but when it is unbalanced, when it is no longer part of the system but a *result* of the system, of the tiers above or below it, then it stagnates. It’s like a pool of water. If there is no natural runoff or replenishment, when the bodies inside it are no longer able to function as part of the whole, it “stagnates”, becomes corrupted, but that corruption stays and isn’t allowed to serve the whole.
It’s like throwing a corpse (of whatever kind of animal) into a pond but the pond isn’t allowed to remove it.
In a natural system, a dead animal infects the entire ecological “society” and the system is forced to attack it until it becomes inert and thus the body has been useful as it has fed the entire system. Take a dead whale at the bottom of the ocean. All surrounding life forms feed off it until it’s nothing but partial bone and eventually, the salt water will reduce that bone to its chemical components, which in turn feeds the entire ocean.
Humanity, in its current form, is a corpse that bloats and infects its surroudings and resists nature’s methods to reduce it to inert materials. No surrounding life forms are able to do their job in bringing back balance.
Hierarchy is part of that imbalance. Let’s use a patriarchal family that uses hierarchy as an example. The father (and/or mother) are the top tier. Their children grow up to be adults, but they are still treated as children, not grown members of the pack, and are dependent–not interdependent–on the teachings of the father no matter how old he gets. The children aren’t taught to be stable members of the pack–society. They’re simply taught to obey the father, to be productive only as the father sees fit. To serve father.
When the father dies, the behavior is still there but passed down. The dysfunction that has been created by the father remains, continues, and for the children, and their descendents after that, they are victims and slaves of a system they don’t understand is killing them.
When this family unit is copied to form a village (city, state, country), hierarchical class systems develop.
Class: People who have been forced to live within the same social, economic, and/or educational status. Upper class, Middle Class, Lower Class.
Class creates imbalance, by its very nature. Periodically, members of other classes rise and fall, in the manner of a wolf pack, but the system itself is imbalanced because it doesn’t support the lower tiers, only the upper. When class members change, the system stays in place, created that way by patriarchal hierarchy.
When that hierarchy is threatened (i.e. challenged by the lower classes), then the upper class members will demonize the attempt and convince the lower classes that their station in life is healthy and needs to stay in place–and they’re threatened to stay put or be destroyed. This is done through misdirection. For example, when the Us versus Them approach is used, and let’s use socialism as an example.
Socialism: 1. A political theory advocating state ownership of industry. 2. An economic system based on state ownership of capital.
Whether we realize it or not, we live in a socialist-based society, but it’s not a balanced form. Only the upper tiers live on the results and the lower tiers are dependent–not interdependent–on the upper tiers *allowing* them to live. The upper tiers are dependent–not interdependent–on the lower tiers staying where they are, using them as slaves to feed the upper tiers.
Socialism itself is not damaging. It can be a healthy system when run correctly. But like the dictator wolf who infects the pack until he is killed or ousted, socialism can become predatory, like it did in the country of Russia, which then spread its form of socialism to China and other nations. The results there were corrupted and so the peoples of other nations automatically assumed socialism was a danger to society. But eventually, some countries adopted it in a more balanced form and are able to run smoothly, creating happy citizens.
Still, “socialism” is a dog-whistle word that scares people–and it scares people who have been lied to about its usefulness, its purpose. All they see instead is Us vs. Them and they have been taught that by the upper class, by those in charge of their lives. Democracy is a form of socialism, whether you understand that or not. But it too, like all societal systems, can be corrupted.
The danger, in its simplest form, is patriarchal hierarchy and religions based on that. They are unbalanced and thus dysfunctional. So what is the answer? Well, basically: the wolf pack.
Until we return to balance as nature requires, we will spiral out of control until we have destroyed ourselves and every living thing around us. We need to change to survive. I don’t expect us to change anytime soon. Societal changes are slow to happen and the 60s decade was a very rare exception. That collapsed because the predators who felt threatened–the upper class–took advantage of several events, large and small. But we have to change our ways or we are just as doomed as the Romans. And the dinosaurs.