I have come-to-the-conclusion, given my research and experience with ancient cultures, that human beings are naturally social, cooperative and collaborative as a species and that aggression is not an intrinsic part of human nature. So, it belies me to ask the obvious question: why is there so much hostility and violence in the world today?
It is customary for our modern archaeologists and anthropologists to believe that humans have always been warlike and combative. This may be partly true because the world has been antagonistic as far back as we can remember. Thus, we tend to assume that early cultures such as hunters and gatherers were belligerent and prone to assailment as well.
More recent evidence and research by respected researchers indicate that this perception is not so and that hunters and gatherers were actually benevolent, peaceful people that lived together without social stratification and attributed equality to both sexes. Cooperative behavior was valued and negative behavior was dealt with in an attempt to minimize it as much as possible. Paleolithic hunters and gatherers and early Neolithic agricultural societies lived peaceful, egalitarian lives in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for over five-thousands years and had advanced and sophisticated cultures that rivaled our modern lifestyles and innovative technologies.
If we consider the long period of history in which we were hunters and gatherers and lived in harmony with the Earth and with each other, then most of our past was peaceful with limited aggressive behavior and no evidenced account of combativity or significant conflict among the many tribes that roamed the planet. Even if we were only to include Homo sapiens (modern humans) or the last and most developed species of humanity in this discussion, our past would still reflect a lack of disharmony up until the Neolithic period when Old Europe came under attack from peripheral invaders from northern Europe and Asia. The timespan for peaceful existence would be about 50,000 years for Homo sapiens and another 150,000 years or more if we include our earlier ancestors who were also hunters and gatherers such as Homo erectus and the Neanderthals. If we were to include all human species from Homo erectus onward, we would be at 3.5 million years of peaceful hunter and gatherer existence.
So, what has happened in the last ten to fourteen thousand years that has resulted in hostility as a prevalent occurrence in human societies? Exploitive and angry behavior became the unfortunate consequence and companion of modern cultural development along with a dramatic perceptual change in the way men began to perceive and behave towards women and nature.
The History of Patriarchal Development
“Patriarchy is a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family clan or tribe” according to Marija Gimbutas (Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of Old Europe). Although we do find some cultures that are matriarchal today, the majority of modern cultures are patriarchal. The patriarchal model became apparent in the late Neolithic period.
Research indicates two major events that contributed to patriarchal development. The first was the Black Sea flood in 6,600 B.C. and the devastating impact this natural disaster had on the people that lived in close proximity to what was an inland lake at that time. The second major event pertained to the migration of people from the North Pontic-Caspian region that Marija Gimbutas named as the Kurgan culture. The Kurgans, as well as a number of other nomadic clan relocations into southeast Europe, had a tremendous impact on the future development of European cultures and on the attitudes and values that have shaped the modern Western world.
We will now examine the Kurgan culture in particular: their lifestyle, values and attitudes, why they became patriarchal and why they migrated south out of the northern latitudes and into southern Europe. We will look at the interactions between the Kurgans and the agrarian partnership cultures of Europe and what resulted from these cultural collisions.
Events of importance include the Black Sea flood of 6,600 B.C., the first Kurgan invasion of southeastern Europe in 4400-4300 B.C., the second Kurgan invasion of southeastern Europe in 3500 B.C. and the third Kurgan invasion of southeastern Europe in 3000-2500 B.C.
The Kurgan Culture
The Kurgans are thought to have come from a middle stone-age group of people residing in the area between the Don River and the southern Ural Mountains. They are presumed to have been farmers from the Middle East and Anatolia. They came to inhabit the northern European steppes having migrated through Macedonia and Romania. Over time, they began to domesticate animals, especially horses and transitioned into a more nomadic lifestyle and continued to farm as nature allowed. The harsh terrain of the northern latitudes was not suited for extensive grazing so herds had to be relocated frequently and much defoliation occurred. Despite the climatic difficulties, they lived successfully here for a long period of time. Since moving from place to place imposed many logistical and survival problems, these nomads learned to pilfer from neighboring tribes and other cultural groups to gain subsistence needs. These tactics proved successful, so over time, they fostered intimidating behaviors that became increasingly aggressive and finally developed into outright warfare to procure needed natural resources.
The Black Sea Flood
20,000 years ago, the world’s oceans began to rise due to glacial melting in Eurasia and North America. By, 6,600 B.C., the Mediterranean Sea had filled to capacity, overflowed and flooded the Black Sea and all the surrounding land areas, devastating the landscape and driving the local nomadic and agrarian inhabitants (Kurgans) from their homelands. The fleeing clans had to vie for new homesteads on the limited remaining lands and much infighting ensued. Many tribes had to relocate far from their previous habitats and in unfamiliar territories. This event created immense trauma and destabilized the culture.
The Tools of Conquest
The Kurgans were the first people to domesticate the horse and learned how to ride these creatures with great prowess. The horse became a resource that supplied food, power to do work and a dependable and excellent source of transportation. It allowed for migration to distant lands and promoted the nomadic lifestyle. The Kurgans also found the horse to be a deciding factor in their success at warfare. The horses’ speed, dexterity and the high striking position with a long sword created a significant if not overwhelming advantage in battle, especially with enemies that did not have horses at their disposal.
The dietary intake of these creatures being grass also had the negative effect of defoliation and the need to continually be on the move to find adequate pasturelands. This had a destabilizing effect on their society and the ability to make permanent settlement was rendered all but impossible and led to land pilfering and the displacement of other tribes as well.
The other event of significance was the discovery of bronze to manufacture tools and weapons. The Kurgans became attached to their weapons and the power it gave them to loot and threaten others and also influenced the position of the male as a dominant force in their social structure. Men began to see themselves as more valuable than women, due to their stronger anatomies, ability to seek and procure land for settlement, fight off enemies and steal needed resources from others. This perception evolved a hierarchy in which men started to see themselves as more important than women.
Lifestyle, Values and Habitat
The nomadic stockbreeding way of life tends to produce a different response to the environment than that of hunters and gatherers or agriculturalists. That nomads exploit landscapes without regenerating them can be seen as an exploitation of nature and a feeling and sense of disconnection from their habitat. This exploitation and alienation readily turn into the same behavior towards people as well and promotes a dominator attitude that includes stealing, destroying other’s properties and possessions and in some circumstances, the conquest and annihilation of other cultures.
An increased attitude of superiority and detachment from the values of cooperation and collaboration with outsiders infiltrated the Kurgan culture and promoted a competitive and combative ideology that impacted negatively on their own clans and other societies they eventually came in contact with.
Another unfortunate aspect of being nomadic is that the men would be forced to wander long distances and for greater lengths of time in order to find appropriate lands to relocate to while the women would be left to manage all the tasks of tending the village including food gathering and preparation and child rearing. This separation of men and women broke down the bonds of intimacy and family life, created a cleavage between the sexes and women became viewed as having less important roles in the family structure. This notion developed because men began to spend more time searching for grazing lands, trading with other cultures and waging wars to procure needed resources for their families. As men elevated their status, women began to lose all the rights they were naturally entitled to.
In other places in the world, this scenario of male superiority was developing also and over time became a normative feature of many societies and is still prevalent in many cultures today.
A Shift in Religious Beliefs
The Old European cultures that thrived in southern Europe and outlying regions believed in the Goddess that was the source of all life and death and the renewal of all entities in the birth process. We know this information to be accurate from archeological findings, folklore and mythology.
The Kurgans had decidedly different religious beliefs. They worshipped a supreme male sky God, and employed dualistic notions about reality reflected in their attention to opposites: day/night, male/female, strong/weak, etc. The female Goddesses were demoted to being mere beauties and brides of the sky Gods. No particular power, authority or special role in the cosmos was attributed to the Goddess anymore and women lost their power and equality to their male counterparts as well. We must wonder what the precipitants for these radically different religious beliefs were?
The climate in these northern regions began to change with resulting cooler temperatures and more frequent and severe storms as well as other natural disasters such as the Black Sea flood. These climatic changes presented a major challenge to their survival. As nature became harsher, the Kurgans became disgruntled with their habitat, began to see nature as an adversary and developed the idea they had to be strong and fierce to survive. They equated this notion with a deity of great power and ferocity that would need to be exceptionally able and brave to endure. Since they had learned to make bronze weapons, swords and knives that attributed them power, they symbolized their God with the blade and felt that their God would look with favor upon those who would become strong and survive. They also developed an attitude that taking things from others was a positive value equated with being powerful and adept and that receiving was consequently likened to being weak. They equated these values to their sky God as well and believed these ideals of aggressive behavior and conquest to be synonymous with Godliness. This new philosophy promoted increasingly more hostile behavior and the Kurgans continued to become more and warlike.
The Kurgan Invasions into Southeast Europe
Kurgan invasions into southeast Europe came in the form of three major infiltrations that began around 4,400 BC. The first migration from the northern steppe is thought to have been caused by changes in climate: (colder temperatures, drought and harsher weather) and the Black Sea Flood and by the need for subsistence commodities.
As these nomads began to look for more fruitful habitats, they came in contact with the peaceful and advanced agrarian societies that had what seemed like the life of plenty. Trading may have occurred initially between the cultures but over time, disruption of Old Europe was noted in that some settlements were altered from their original lifestyles or abandoned completely. The Kurgans may have envied the riches of the European settlements or maybe felt entitled, but at some point, they decided to pilfer to gain more for themselves and a pillage and plunder philosophy ensued. As they had sophisticated weapons, horses and a fierce warrior mentality, they reasoned they could conquer and dismantle the lavish civilizations and obtain their commodities for themselves. This strategy became so successful that they saw themselves as powerful and Godly and thus, their warrior mentality was immensely reinforced.
The next set of incursions occurred in 3,500 BC and annihilated many European cultures completely. Religious beliefs of the Goddess culture were replaced by the warrior sky Gods and much of the beautiful art, crafts and architecture were destroyed. Kurgan values and attitudes began to permeate the conquered settlements and replace the sophisticated innovations and egalitarian values of the Old European cultures.
The last invasion, thought to be the most extensive, took place between 3,000 BC and 2,800 BC. More populations were dislocated and sent fleeing to neighboring regions to the north and east and the ethnicity of Europe was greatly altered by these migrations and intermingling of different races. In the end, only a few European cultures remained intact: the Minoan, the Etruscan, the Iberian and the Pictish.
Within a few thousand years, the Kurgans had destroyed most of the great peaceful partnership societies and converted them to patriarchal dominator kingdoms. The extent of their radicalness can be seen in the fact that they not only plundered material wealth of their conquests but also annihilated entire populations to decimate their presence in the world. They sometimes kept women to be slaves, concubines or wives’ but tended to kill all the men and children. The Kurgans were purported to be the first of the male dominator cultures. Other aggressive male oriented cultures also developed in Asia and in other regions. They conquered many other peaceful agrarian cultures, as history has revealed, and their collective impact was extensive and devastating.
The Goddess and nature-based religions were quickly replaced by monotheistic beliefs. The remaining believers in the Goddess took to worship in secrecy and were never to be a vibrant entity except later in Eastern cultures. The peaceful civilizations of this Neolithic period never gained prominence again after these disruptions and the stage was set for the continuation of the male dominating society in the modern Western civilizations that we have come to know today.
I must also convey that Marija Gimbutas has been heavily criticized for her view that patriarchy developed due to, in part, various environmental and social stressors as opposed to it being a normative part of societal development or that patriarchy is a normative human phenomenon. I do believe she is correct in her theory that patriarchy is not a normative human characteristic given my extensive investigation into this most important issue.
Jared Diamond has done extensive research on our ancient cultures and reasons that aggression is situational, typically related to resource scarcity or personal conflict and not an intrinsic or genetic part of human nature. He also claims that cooperative, collaborative behavior is also not intrinsic but depends on relationships and personal goals as well as being able to procure the necessary resources for survival and wellbeing. There is still much controversy over the issue of patriarchy being normative or culturally derived but we must take-into-account the peaceful history of hunters and gatherers who were not aggressive or warlike. Settlement and environmental factors did contribute to an increase in aggressive behavior in men. Also, men changed their perception about women’s status as a viable partner to one that needed to be controlled and dominated.
An Inclination Towards Aggression
The Kurgan societies over time became stratified such that men were perceived to have more value than women. A psychology of hostility also developed that resulted in the conquest of Old Europe. In order to understand these changes, we must understand why and how patriarchy began and persisted and why it is so prevalent in the world today.
Joseph Campbell asserts that the ability of women to give birth attributed great power to the female species and was perceived to be synonymous with the birth and death of all entities including the natural world and the universe at large.
Paleolithic humans did not understand the role that men played in the birth process. It was not known, at that time, that semen united with the egg and caused conception. Since farming had not yet been established and they did not understand how plants reproduced, they were unable to relate the importance and contribution of both sexes to the birth process.
This misunderstanding of how life evolved and replicated itself resulted in the development of feelings of deep insecurity and inferiority in the male species that eventually manifest in resentment towards women for the superior role they played in nature as the giver and taker of all life. It also paved the way for the development of false perceptions, the intentional demotion of female attributes and dominating treatment towards women that have negatively impacted the male-female relationship to this day.
Man’s attempt to resolve his inferiority ultimately resulted in the domination of women through the use of his physical strength and perceived importance as a provider and protector. Thus, men took control of social, spiritual, and economic matters and converted the Goddess nature-based religions into monotheistic religions with powerful male sky Gods, thereby elevating their own importance and status in the world.
It is important to understand that women did not see themselves as superior to men and had no intention to dominate or subjugate them. They did understand their important role as the bearers of life but did not usurp their important biological disposition to gain status or power.
Another important aspect of the patriarchal issue is the advent of monotheism. Monotheism asserts that a single entity is supreme and has created everything, thus it is in effect more important than anything else. This framework then disposes of the notion that all entities are important, interrelated and interconnected and thus symbiotic. Nature actually operates in a symbiotic manner so this proclamation that a single God or deity rules over the universe contradicts the way the universe operates.
This dictum also destroyed the partnership relationship between men and women and proclaimed the male species special and elevated in status so men could dominate women and nature.
It appears man’s inferiority complex over women having the special gift of bringing life into the world created the need to demote women to compensate for mans’ perceived lack of importance and this issue has been an ongoing problem for many men and one of the main reasons why patriarchy developed. In most male dominator societies, the chief-religious figure is a masculine God and women play only insignificant roles in most aspects of society.
In the case of the Kurgan culture, belligerent behavior was encouraged revered, justified by the belief that their sky God sanctioned the conquest of others and that such behavior represented courage and power. The difficult conditions and lifestyle in the northern steppes translated into a belief that one had to be strong and aggressive to survive and they attributed this philosophy to their sky God. This value may have also been a justification for their antagonistic actions and behavior or what we call transference in psychology. Nevertheless, the Kurgans evolved a militant cultural norm that left its mark on most of the peaceful kingdoms in Old Europe and laid the foundation for its values to flourish in the modern world.
The Kurgans, having made truculence an integral part of their beliefs, passed on these values to their offspring and thus over time, the Kurgans became formidable warriors that had a distinct advantage over their peaceful neighbors to the south.
Another aspect of patriarchy is that children of aggressive people learn and emulate the values and behaviors they have learned and thus perpetuate the same behaviors with their children so the cycle continues and eventually assimilates the whole population into whatever cultural norms are encouraged. If one sex becomes belligerent as in the case of the Kurgan males, they will eventually dominate the females and cause an imbalance in their social structure.
Male domination of women is not an innate characteristic of the male species. Historically, it has emerged due to misconceptions about women and man-woman relationships, environmental factors such as the ones just mentioned, competition for resources with other cultures, attitudes related to social status and authority, religious beliefs, and unresolved psychological issues.
Men and women also tend to respond differently to stressful situations. These differences are more likely cultural than innate but noticeable and even predictable in many circumstances. Men are more likely to respond to stress angrily while women are more likely to find an amenable solution to a problem.
Also, environmental factors may come into play as in the Black Sea Flood and the displacement of people and the harsher climatic conditions that forced relocation to other lands occupied by different cultures. All these conditions can become stressors that directly or indirectly influence attitudes and behaviors. The way societies respond to environmental conditions and other stressors are not always predictable. A harsh environment may induce an agitated response or survival behavior while a warm, tropical locale may elicit a more peaceful temperament.
The last issue pertains to those cultures that depend primarily on livestock to survive such as the Kurgans. Raising animals for food, clothing, and other needs translates into the domestication and possibly the exploitation of living creatures for the sole benefit of humans. The emotional impact of killing and exploiting living creatures, over time, decreases and can easily become accepted and habitual. This practice can translate into the same type of feelings towards enslaving or even murdering people as well.
Summary: Why Do Certain Peoples Become Narcissistic, Patriarchal, Aggressive and Warlike?
In summary, we see a number of factors comprising environmental conditions and events that can contribute to changes in attitudes, values and behaviors. In this historical example, environmental factors indirectly contributed to cultural stress and a depletion of resources occurred. Stockbreeding caused habitat degradation. Nature being perceived as adversarial promoted the adoption of certain survival values that included taking from others. The male perceiving himself as strong, brave, a protector and a provider, began to entertain the notion that males were more important than females. Men elevated themselves to a Godly status and took over social, religious, political and economic functions and demoted women to domestic endeavors.
Migration to find favorable conditions resulted in contact with other cultures that were sophisticated and possessed plentiful resources and technologies. The desire to procure those commodities promoted trading initially, then stealing to better their own lifestyles and finally conquest to eradicate lifestyles and values they disliked or had ideological issues with. Note the peaceful nature of the partnership cultures may have been perceived to be a weakness that should be eliminated.
Lastly, conquered peoples were denied their rights and beliefs and converted to those of their captors. In some cases, entire cultures were annihilated as well. It appears that the need and desire for the commodities of wellbeing and intolerance of philosophical differences significantly influenced certain peoples to engage in the acts of conflict, aggression and ultimately conquest.
Human Nature: Symbiotic or Aggressive?
Bioregional philosophy sees all humans as equal regardless of sex, race or other genetic characteristics and that cooperation, collaboration and affinity are decidedly inclusive in human nature. There is much evidence for this declaration given our modern knowledge of the Earth’s species’ behaviors that are predominately symbiotic.
Our culturally derived aggressiveness is not a genetic quality of human nature as has been previously thought and fervently articulated in anthropological literature. Despite more recently compelling evidence that early humans were peaceful and egalitarian for most of human history, (over 300,000 years), many professionals from various disciplines (mostly men) still hold that humans are predominately violent and antagonistic. They reason that because humans are combative currently and have been so for approximately ten thousand years, they must always have been this way. Some even think that patriarchy is part of the evolutionary process and therefore progressive. Social evolution has been noted to be non-linear with many growth and regressive periods occurring throughout known history. I think we can conclude that a simplistic view based on recent human behavior is inconclusive evidence that humanity is predominantly aggressive, competitive and selfish.
I have a hunch that this notion promoting hostility as normative has more to do with the fact that men who are aggressive try to maintain an excuse for their dysfunctional behaviors instead of taking responsibility for them. Anger is perceived by many men as a state of power and control, thus a desirable disposition to be in and one in which they think they can be more in control of life’s difficult situations and other people they have problems with. Men who have significant anger issues need to come to grips with their belligerent and domineering behaviors if we are to succeed as a viable species. Much of the violence in the world has been primarily due to the dysfunctional angry behaviors of men. Male domination and exploitation of nature to overcome mans’ insecurities regarding the immensity and power of the natural world is a considerable contributing factor to our ecological crisis.
I also believe men’s perception of women as being inferior to men and metaphorically similar to nature emotionally and intellectually (women perceived to be too emotional and irrational) has considerably damaged male-female relationships and contributes significantly to the instability of our global societies.
In conclusion, the narcissistic, patriarchal, psychology and philosophy that subjugated women, deemed the environment as being adversarial, and venerated conquest, evolved into the thought and behavior that promoted the domination of nature and the exploitation of its natural resources. This development can be seen as a substantial if not primary contributing factor to our present ecological crisis!