Before I begin, I think I should point out I am working from an assumption I may be taking for granted, so I will explain why I make this assumption.
I don’t believe people are naturally intelligent, naturally “good” (whatever that may mean to you), naturally successful, or really anything that may have a positive connotation. If you are a religious person, I can see where people seem civilized, since humanity has only been around for 6,000 years and we have been forming cities for twelve thousand years, so we’ve been working together twice as long as we have existed.
However, I don’t see things this way. I see humanity as having worked together to great success for about twelve thousand years, but for about a half of a million years prior, we were presumably little more than tribal fire users. There are hundreds of thousands of years where the biggest technological developments that the whole of humanity came up with amounted to a couple dozen different spearhead designs.
Compare this to the “Dark Ages” in Europe, where we had a couple hundred years of little more than a handful of improvements to the horse drawn plow. If those were the “Dark Ages,” then pre-civilized human history would be the “Dark Eons.”
So what changed us from transient wanderers into city building societies?
Two things: religion and government.
I’ll pause a minute to let Nikk calm down. Dude, trust me… I won’t let you down on this one.
There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect government came first, but religion probably got big first. Government, as I would define it, would even include the politics of a household. In fact, in pre-history, family politics was very important.
All humans are born hungry, thirsty, crying, and helpless. It is only through the charity of others that any of us are alive today. All of us are children of sacrifice, baby beggars. We have no way of knowing how common it is, but infanticide was likely a common form of birth control, especially given how often it is endorsed throughout early recorded history.
What’s more, none of us are created by a single being. All of us needed two people to come together, and even if only one is there when we are born, this means the one taking care of us does not exist in a vacuum apart from others. So we are not only born needy, we cannot be the result of independent means. Only through coupling can the species have persisted.
While this may mean a woman was raped and a child was born, there is substantial evidence that in most cases, pregnant women were well taken care of, indicating she had to be part of some sort of group.
Family and mates would have constituted the first political systems, reminiscent of our first large governmental systems involving monarchs and nobility transferring power through marriage.
I can’t even begin to hypothesize the organization and development of this, as there is evidence pointing to both matriarchal and patriarchal systems, reverence for the old and rebellion by the young, conflict between those who had more and those who had less… really the same things we struggle with today.
At some point, religion came along. The ideas passed from one generation to the next took on a life of their own, and as people began to adopt better ideas from non-familial sources, the idea of power not necessarily being centered on the family was adopted by the founders of the first religions.
Religion in pre-civilized man was spoken, not written. To aid in memorization, the common assertion that it was likely sung or spoken poetry. Eventually, religion would have asserted itself as superior to the smaller familial group structure, and it would have further benefitted from the collective knowledge and human capital of bringing multiple families together.
Eventually, the two would combine to form the first systems of government as we know them. A Chief and Shaman that worked together undoubtedly had the support of both those who sided with the ruling authority and the cult followers. It was these relationships that succeeded.
Eventually, demagogues turned themselves into demigods, completely fusing religion and government by claiming authority from divine descent, while religions popped up that worshipped heroes, great individuals whose legend grew with each passing generation like a glorified game of telephone.
Each achieved progressively more by borrowing ideas from the other. A sort of cooperative competition arose; those who governed and those who preached succeeded by working together in competition with the rest of us. It is undeniable that these two have worked in tandem throughout history to live better lives than the hoi polloi.
So it went, human beings built up cities and societies. As any architect will tell you, you cannot use the same methods and materials to build the Pantheon are you would to build a mud hut. What’s more, the larger the building project, the harder it is to achieve. Large construction projects have a tendency to buckle and collapse under their own weight.
So it went, human civilizations and religions rose and fell.
Is this it? Is this the best we can expect?
Anarchists would have us believe it would be best without any form of authority, and given the progression of religion, it seems plausible. From many gods to one god to no gods, the progression is not so simple for government. In fact, we have gone in reverse with government: from singular rule to parliamentary representation, to broad sweeping bureaucracies… the next logical step is in fact to imbue every individual with the same equal authority.
So if political authority spawned religious authority, what is the next step? I think we should look to the spawn of government and faith: education.
And I don’t mean sitting through a class called “Social Studies” where you are tested on the date an obscure treaty was signed, or “English” class where you read poetry that is barely recognizable as English. Education may have a bad name in America, but that’s probably because America has a bad education system.
Yet, look at the people who advocate for anarchy: none of them are fools. In fact, the only error I think they’re making is in their misguided belief that most people are like them. Our best and brightest perceive the possibility, and they know what the next step is. They are at the head of the pack… but this has blinded them to just who it is that is following behind them.
Aristotle is reputed to have said, “I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law.” That was over 2000 years ago, and yet Aristotle had already stumbled upon the fact that the pursuit of knowledge is the key to self-rule.
We have become a stupid nation that revels in its anti-intellectualism. If ever there was a people that was not ready for anarchy, it’s America. If you need further convincing, just Google “YouTube.” Maybe at some point, but I am not ready to throw self-rule to a people where about 80% of the population believes in angels and miracles, because I know where those people will turn at the first sign of trouble.