On September 11, 2020, as many remember the 2,977 people who died on in the 9-11 attack and aftermath, CNN headlined: The Fires Raging Out West Are Unprecedented. They’re Also a Mere Preview of What Climate Change Has in Store. Coronavirus deaths continue to rise with more than 900,000 deaths being reported world-wide and over 200,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. The fact that U.S. has just over 4% of the world’s population, yet we have more than 22% of deaths. This is an indication of our poor physical and political health.
Like the climate crisis, experts have been warning that humans are the root cause of Covid deaths for many years. Colin Carlson, an ecologist at Georgetown University, says,
“Our species has relentlessly expanded into previously wild spaces. Through intensive agriculture, habitat destruction, and rising temperatures, we have uprooted the planet’s animals, forcing them into new and narrower ranges that are on our own doorsteps. Humanity has squeezed the world’s wildlife in a crushing grip—and viruses have come bursting out.”
An objective observer from another planet might well conclude that the U.S. is in decline and humans have a death wish and are in danger of wiping themselves out. How do we make sense of what is going on in the world and what can we do to survive? Scientist Carl Sagan tells us that “You have to know the past to understand the present.”
So, let us take a quick look back at our history. In their book, The Universe Story cosmologist Brian Swimme and cultural historian Thomas Berry, offer these highlights.
- The universe began as a primordial flaring forth approximately 13 billion years ago.
- First life on earth began 4 billion years ago.
- Mammals evolved 216 million years ago.
- The first humans (Homo habilis, Handy, man) evolved 2 million years ago.
- Domestication of plants and animals, what we have called “Civilization,” began 10,000 years ago.
Those at the top of the hierarchy have viewed our history through a distorted, human-centric, lens and have come to believe that it is their job to dominate and control nature. Further, they imagine that civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement. Finally, that despite the problems that are evident over the last 10,000 years, they believe that human ingenuity and technology will bring about a better and healthier world.
As Gloria Steinem reminds us, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” I offer my own journey to freedom, and pissed-off-ness, in the hopes it will help you find your own path. In looking honestly at humanity at the present time, cultural historian, Thomas Berry, speaks the plain truth, that may be upsetting to some: “We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen, or we will die.”
My own awakening began early. I was five year’s old in November 1949 when my father took an overdose of sleeping pills in response to his increasing depression and despair because he couldn’t make a living to support his family. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, whether it would happen to me, and how I could prevent it from happening to other men and their families. When I held my new-born son, Jemal, in my arms on November 21, 1969, I made a vow that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me, and felt, intuitively, that we could not heal the world until we could heal wounded men.
In 1976, I read psychologist Herb Goldberg’s book, The Hazards of Being Male in which he said,
“The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically, and physically.”
Since there is a clear connection between the emergence of empires in the world and rise of powerful and wounded men, I was not surprised to learn from author, Margaret Wheatley about Sir John Glubb’s 1976 book, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival in which he studied thirteen empires in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe—from Assyria in 859 BCE to modern Britain in 1950. As Wheatley said, in reviewing Glubb’s findings, “It didn’t matter where they were or what technology they had or how they exercised power. They all declined in the same stages, and it took ten generations, about 250 years.”
When the America fought the British and became independent in 1776, the United States emerged as the latest empire. Ten generations have now elapsed, and the time of the American empire is coming to an end. The term “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” has come to be synonymous with doing something trivial and irresponsible in the midst of an emergency. At the end of the American empire in 2020, 246 years since it began, we have Donald Trump tweeting away as the U.S. burns and 1,000 Americans die each day from Covid-19.
In 1987 I met futurist and activist, Riane Eisler, shortly after the publication of her book, The Chalice & the Blade: Our History, Our Future, in which she describes two alternate possibilities for humankind. “The first, which I call the dominator model,” she said, “is what is popularly termed either patriarchy or matriarchy—the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may be best described as a partnership model.”
In 1994, my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, was published. Author and counselor John Bradshaw called it, “The book for our times.” In the book I drew on the work of Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa who recognized the importance of bringing out the warrior spirit on behalf of humanity.
In his book Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, he says,
“Warriorship here does not mean making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”
Warrior Practices to Survive the End of Empire and the Emergence of New Partnership Societies
All empires have a beginning, middle, and end. Likewise, all species evolve, have a life cycle, and die. We know that dinosaurs once ruled the earth and then became extinct. They had a rather good run, approximately 180 million years. Humans have been here about two-million years and more than 99% of that time lived as hunter-gatherers, in what Riane Eisler described as, “The Original Partnership Societies.”
We have only been domesticating plants and animals for ten-thousand years. Many, including biologist and author Jared Diamond, call civilization, “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.” I do not believe our problems were caused by civilization itself, but by the dominator practices that have often accompanied it. But clearly, if we want to survive the next 50 years, not to mention 50 million years or more if we get back in balance with the Earth, we are going to have to change our ways. So, here’s what we can do now:
- Support Partnerism.
“The argument of Capitalism versus Socialism,” says Eisler, “fails to recognize that both are rooted in Domination. This system has caused 6,000+ years of suffering and injustice. There is another way — a socio-economic system that supports mutual respect, non-violence, equality, empowerment, and caring: Partnerism.”
- Bring the masculine and feminine together in true partnership by helping heal men.
Both men and women have suffered within systems of domination, but wounded men have been the major perpetrators and have caused great harm to women, children, other men, and themselves. In my book, 12 Rules for Good Men, I offer guidance to help men heal our wounds and end the cycles of domination including the following:
- Join a men’s group.
- Break free from the Man Box.
- Accept the gift of maleness.
- Recognize our anger towards women.
- Undergo meaningful rites of passage.
- Understand and heal childhood trauma.
- Heal your father wound.
- Train men and women to lead the partnership revolution.
“We need leaders who recognize the harm being done to people and planet through the dominant practices that control, ignore, abuse, and oppress the human spirit,” says Margaret Wheatley, author of Who Do We Choose to Be: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity. “We need leaders who put service over self, stand steadfast in crises and failures, and who display unshakable faith that people can be generous, creative, and kind.”
Wheatley calls these leaders, “Warriors for the human spirit.” She says that “Warriors are armed with only two weapons: Compassion and insight. They are peaceful warriors, vowing to never use aggression or fear to accomplish their ends.” I conduct such trainings which you can learn more about here. Whatever you do, get involved. Sitting back and hoping that our leaders will save us, is naïve at best, and likely suicidal. I look forward to your comments. Come visit me here.
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