There is a disease, which affects the vast majority of humanity. Since it has no name, let us call it simply Disease. It is a kind of mental disorder, but since mind and body are inseparable, it often affects both, and in extreme cases, may be fatal. It may cause behavioural disorder, which leads to the destruction of the social and biological environment.
It does not come from some genetic deficiency, but our genome contains Disease tendencies inherited from our evolutionary predecessors. Unfortunately, there is no known pharmacological medication or surgical procedure to cure it. Also, there is no vaccine to prevent its occurrence. Disease is highly contagious, and some individuals may become super-spreaders.
The danger and power of Disease are because its symptoms are rarely considered as something pathological. On the contrary, many high authorities present them as something desirable and their carriers as a role model. It happens because cases of Desease are so common that, on the surface, these symptoms are not viewed as pathological. On the contrary, they often are hailed as accomplishments.
Disease is not a new condition, it began to spread around 12,000 years ago after over, at least, a hundred thousand years of human existence free from it. But now, due to the development of powerful and sophisticated modern technology, it became extremely dangerous. In the hands of people highly infected, some of these technologies may cause nearly irreparable damage to humanity’s mental and physical health and the whole our planet’s biosphere.
In the following, I will describe the most fundamental symptoms of Disease and the causes of its emergence.
Desire to own
One, the most apparent manifestations of this disease is the compulsive desire to own more than needed. It may be related to territoriality, common among many kinds of animals. However, in the case of humans, it goes far beyond marking and defending one’s territory. For example, people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, despite possessing such enormous fortunes that using it would take more than a lifetime, are continually trying to increase it. No animal would behave in such an absurd way, a dog would not collect bones of Mount Everest’s size. Another example of the severe consequence of this Disease’s symptoms was taking place during the Great Depression, when, after losing their fortunes, some individuals were committing suicide. Those are extreme examples, but a lot of people try to own more than they need. They work hard and are willing to sacrifice most of their life to increase their possession.
The Disease causes the economy to depend on the intensity of desire to own: if people would stop to continue compulsively buying newer and supposedly better products, most industries and services would be out of business.
But we should be careful in distinguishing symptoms of Disease from genuine needs. For example, a person dying of hunger in the sub-Sahara region trying to earn a dollar or two for food cannot be put in the same category as people lining at night to get the newest iPhone model.
However, this Disease does not manifest only as an urge to buy and own something tangible. The affected individuals may want to possess something utterly unrelated to our animal genetic inheritance. Going on an excursion on a cruise ship or collecting Facebook followers has nothing to do with any real need. It is merely a symptom that Disease reached a more advanced level.
Historically, the desire to own appeared as early as around 12,000 years ago when humans learned how to domesticate wild plants like wheat, oats and lentils, and some animals like pigs and chicken. This discovery is often called as the Agricultural Revolution. Until then, people lived as hunters/gatherers in small 20 – 30people groups. This group’s social structure was egalitarian, and her/his mother determined each member’s identity. For that reason, such a system is called matrilineal. More about them can be found in the post Our Egalierian Past.
After the Agricultural revolution, for a while, the social system has not changed. The matrilineal groups usually settled down and build some dwellings which could accommodate the whole group, like early paleolithic longhouses. As before, they continue to live in relatively small groups maintained the collective way of life adapted to this new reality. Together they were clearing the woods to use the land for agriculture, working for producing the crops, which they later stored and, as before, shared between members of the group.
Until that point, the role of private, individual ownership was practical and sensible. It was limited to such objects as their clothing, various tools as knives, axes, harpoons, or baskets to collect plant food and occasionally simple personal ornaments.
However, it has not lasted too long. For reasons difficult to determine, some individuals began to change their communal way of life and established private land ownership. Due to that, they could store more foodstuff than they needed, which they could exchange with others for work. Thus, they could have better individual dwellings, higher quality implements, and even ornaments made of bronze and gold. This way, the hierarchy of wealth has been established.
Desire to dominate
Another symptom of Disease is the desire to dominate. As possessiveness, it also may, to some extent, be inherited from our evolutionary predecessors. Domination is very common among the majority of great apes, to whom we are closely related. The strongest and more skillful male dominate the weaker ones, and all the females belonging to the same herd. However, the genetic inheritance must not be overemphasized in explaining the desire to possess and dominate. In our genome, we contain many genes of organisms from which we evolved, but that does not force us to behave like them. For example, the presence of fish genes does not make us indefinitely swim underwater.
The desire to dominate embraces all social hierarchy levels from the family to the top of our modern social and political systems. The domination takes a multitude of forms: physical, social, intellectual and so on.
The desire to possess and to dominate are very often interdependent. For example, owning a bigger and more expensive house than our neighbour makes us more successful from a social perspective, a form of domination.
When we examine any hierarchy of domination, would it be in business, government institution, politics, and so on, with very rare exception a person who is placed higher in the hierarchy has a better salary than ones below. It is accomplished by a higher salary, more shares, etc.
Domination is often associate with evident or hidden aggression. The dominant individual often tries to defend this or her position, which may provoke mutual aggression. That has happened innumerable times during history on individual, social and political levels.
The aggression may occur on a physical level, mental or both. For example, in an exchange of opinions, one participant may become the winner and intellectually dominates. However, if the dispute becomes very intense, it may lead to physical violence.
Desire to dominate emerged soon after the private property of land created the wealth hierarchy. The wealthy individuals in the community had several advantages over the poor ones. The latter became working for the wealthy, who were becoming their masters and, consequently, their social status was lower.
Such a situation eroded the earlier egalitarian structure of human society. But it did not, as yet, eliminate it entirely, what has happened several thousand years later. Around 5,000 to 4,000 years ago, the nomadic pastoralists from the steppes of present Russia and Semitic tribes from the Arabian Peninsula (at that time, it was not, as yet, a dessert) began to invade agricultural societies in Europe, Middle East and Southern India. The invading pastoralists were far better prepared for warfare, they invented iron weapons and the horse’s use to move the invading troops quickly. As a result, numerous highly cultural societies and states have been conquered. Their men were usually killed or forced to become slaves, while women were raped and kept as additional wives (the nomads were polygamous). These invasions were extremely savage, but only a few documents like Lament of Ur survived to describe their horrors. As a result, slavery and patriarchy became the dominant social systems, where women were treated as lower beings – a form of property of their husbands.
At this point in history, the egalitarian system, which distinguished Homo Sapiens from other great apes and provided the base for humanity’s phenomenal development, was dead and replaced by stratification, which continues until now.
If we look closely at our modern human society, we will discover innumerable wealth and domination hierarchies. They embrace political influence, position in art, science, race, education, and on and on. We may ask: what power can create and maintain such a system?
It is called Indoctrination, the third symptom of Disease. It makes one believe that the two manifestations of Disease, the desire to possess and dominate, are nothing pathological but a natural state of human mentality. These symptoms can not be blamed as a result of genetic inheritance, it is purely human creation because it requires well-developed thinking. It is difficult to say when it appeared because it is not as evident as the other two symptoms.
It manifested as self indoctrination and as a socially imposed. The self-indoctrination keeps happening in the history of humanity many times. Most recently, while individuals were subject to the terror of highly oppressive regimes like Hitlerism, Stalinism or Maoism, they had an extremely difficult choice: to rebel, what most likely would have deadly consequences or accept that the regime’s terror is something natural or even positive. Following the idiom: “misery loves company,” such self-indoctrinated individuals tried to “infect” others.
However, self-indoctrination was not sufficient to prevent society’s lower strata from some form of a rebel. Consequently, society’s upper strata developed numerous tools to spread Disease by indoctrinating the lowers ones to accept their status.
The oldest and most successful were newly created religions. Their authors and developers were priests, who gained very high social status and often considerable wealth. The earliest religions designed to indoctrinate were polytheistic, which presented myths about some form of superior beings, called gods, who ruled over humans and punished them for disobedience. They often embodied a variety of human vices, being cruel, jealous, vengeful and greedy. Such behaviour of gods made it easier to accept the similar behaviour of the upper class. The only polytheistic religions, which continues until now, is Hinduism. It fits ideally to its role being highly patriarchal and supporting the hierarchy of the caste system.
However, many polytheistic religions were still too simplistic as an indoctrination tool. Therefore they were followed by more serious and oppressive monotheistic ones. The earliest was Judaism, which initially was a religion dedicated to the tribal god Jahve. Later it became proclaimed as God the Creator and required total obedience and exclusivity. According to the collection of myths called the Old Testament, most of God’s activity was dedicated to punishing its children for this or that.
However, Judaism was applicable only to the chosen ones: the Jews, so its influence was limited. Much more successful were its offsprings Christianity and Islam. They became spread via a missionary system or imposition on conquered other nations.
The other ancient way to directly control the lower strata of society were laws. Initially, they were built-in into religions, but since Hammurabi’s code, they were developed independently and were more related to states’ administration than religion.
Another form of indoctrination born in ancient Greece were numerous philosophical, moral, social and political ideologies. They often proclaimed humanity’s faults, which provided implicit or explicit justification for the necessity of domination hierarchies to control people’s behaviour, particularly the lower class.
Even the highly acclaimed Athenian democracy gave the power to vote only to men who own property, while women, non-Athenians and, of course, slaves were excluded.
I think that all of that presented above is sufficient to illustrate the logic and early stages of Disease. The following posts, called feuilletons, describe the impact of Disease on our modern world.