It wouldn't taken an "alien" observer very long at all to conclude that the human race (at least on Earth), is an inordinately violent species. In fact, the humans are the *most* violent species on this planet. Some say that this is just our inherent nature -- that we've always been this way (perhaps due to too much testosterone in males, or a "selfish gene"). Steve Taylor sets out to say, "this just ain't so" ('cept he doesn't say "ain't").
First, war is foreign to the rest of the animal kingdom (with the rare exception of some apes, who appear to react with war-like actions after being disrupted by humans -- interesting in and of itself).
Secondly, while we're told that war is "as old as humanity", war is actually a relatively recent development ... "recent" being relative to how long humans have been on the planet (roughly 125,000 years, by some estimates -- the problem is that someone, who shall remain nameless, went and misplaced that first photo-album, so no one knows for sure!).
What's incredibly interesting, and enlightening, is that war began only 4,000 years ago. Now, along with war, there are other main characteristics of human societies throughout the world/history (with a few exceptions that we'll look at later). War, as mentioned, and patriarchy (or male-domination), and social inequality (class status distinctions).
Which brings up another point -- to say that the human race as "always" waged war is only half true. The reality is that only half the human race has done so --the male half. And, further, males have fought against females as well. The past few thousand years have demonstrated a long rampage of brutal oppression of women by men (hang in there, this isn't going to be unabashed male-bashing!).
What's interesting, is that the artwork, the burial sites, and other evidences of life during the early Neolithic (Old Stone Age) societies show a lack of evidence for men dominating women. It seems that women played just as equal a role in those societies as did men. Some were even distinctly matriarchal (which meant women-revered, rather than women-dominating).
But something happened 6,000 years ago (~4,000 BC), that brought about a cataclysmic change -- since that time, patriarchy developed, and the status of women plummeted ... suddenly women could not own property or land ... Assyrian men punished a rapist by turning over his wife to the husband of the victim, so that he could treat her as he desired, in his rage. ritual widow murder/suicide was practiced in many societies ... and to this day, there are cultures in which women are little more than slaves. If an unmarried girl is raped in some areas of the Middle East (even if she's raped by her own relative), there's a strong chance that she'll be murdered by another relative, in order to "save honor" for the family. In Saudi Arabia, a woman can be stoned to death for committing adultery -- while a man is allowed to marry four times. In China, women were subjected to having their feet bound and mutilated, in order to meet a standard of beauty imposed on them (and to keep them unable to get around). Beating of wives has been considered a good and sound practice -- to "keep women in line," since they were considered to be overly emotional and undisciplined -- they needed to be taught self control via violence (this rational is still used by men who abuse women). Females are killed by infanticide FAR more than are males. Female "circumcision" (genital mutilation) is practiced in some countries today ... in order to prevent women from enjoying sex, and to keep them from straying (many have life-long infections, or actually "close up" as they heal ... requiring yet another mutilation prior to marriage). And then we have the Inquisition, and the witch-hunts -- the state-sanctioned, church-approved mass murder of thousands (some say over a million) of women who dared to speak out, to heal the suffering (mid-wives), or, heaven forbid, dared to be too attractive for the comfort of the men who saw them.
But it's not just women who have suffered from patriarchy -- men have dominated and oppressed each other as well. Since 4000 BC, the unfolding story has been of the brutal oppression of "many" by "some". Caste systems were created, land-owners (who lived in luxury) prevailed over the serfs (who lived in utter squalor).
All of this came about because many men didn't consider either women, or most other men, as truly human -- they were sub-human creatures who didn't deserve empathy or equality.
So, what's wrong with humans? What happened? We're so used to violence, oppression, class status, inequalities, that it's hard to imagine how odd and even *insane* all of this would appear to an "alien" (impartial) observer. Is life really meant to be this way?
Are our religious explanations correct? Did we plunge into this darkness due to a choice of rebellion against God? What's interesting is how the very people who have been so brutally oppressed, are the same people who have sought to console their suffering with a religious belief in a rewarding afterlife ...
Beyond the physical suffering, there is also the psychological suffering we humans experience. We struggle to be happy. We seem bent to suffer ... all around us we see depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, psychological disorders ... anxieties, worries, guilt, shame, regret, jealousy and bitterness. We ain't happy campers. Why are so few of us content or joyful?
Interestingly, it appears that our earlier ancestors, those prior to 4,000BC lived more peaceful, content, and satisfied lives than we do. We can see this in "less civilized" cultures today -- i.e., the Native Americans, the Eskimos, the Aborigines of Australia, and the Pygmies of Africa. They don't seem to suffer with as much psychological malaise, as we do in the "more civilized" cultures.
Evidence mounts that something happened ... a giant transformation amongst humans ... an "opening of Pandora's box" that spread ...
Let's look at our current state of "discontent" -- we seem wholly restless, finding it difficult, if not impossible, to *do nothing* -- we seem to need to have something external happening at all times, to distract us from the inner pain and discomfort ... we seem driven to ensure that we are never inactive, and alone with ourselves. We fear going "within." It's even likely that most of us spend so much time watching TV, because it's incredibly effective at keeping our attention focused *outside* of ourselves.
Why are we so driven to *do*, rather than to *be*...?
Why are we afraid of looking within, facing our souls?
Why do unemployed and retired people more prone to depression? Could it be that they cannot stand the lack of distraction that a job offers?
And why are we so driven to own *things*? We spend most of our time earning the means to possess stuff.
Similarly, we're driven to be ea "success" in the eyes of others. We crave status, attention, applause, accolades, respect, admiration. We seem to *need* to become "special and important people." We feel a huge lack within ourselves ... and we're driven to fill it from the outside.
And why, when we accumulate the money, and the stuff, and the respect, and the admiration, why is it that we're NOT satisfied...? Why do we live in a perpetual state of *wanting*...?
According to Steve Taylor, "there seems to be a kind of psychological discord inside us, an inner discontent that continually plagues and torments us ... paying for our talent [and achievements] with psychological imbalance and turmoil."
As the Buddha said, "An enemy cam hurt an enemy, and a man who hates can harm another man; but a man's mind, if wrongly directed, can do him far greater harm."
We have met the enemy, and he is us.
So, what went so wrong, that we're bent on destroying ourselves, each other, and our planet?
Let's hear what Steve Taylor says:
Should we assume that human beings are just naturally violent, sadistic, and discontented, so that there's nothing we can do about it, as the evolutionary psychologists (who tell us that war and patriarchy are the result of natural and sexual selection) and the physicalist scientists (who tell us that they're the result of hormones and brain chemicals) would have us believe? Or, as the myths of a "Fall" which are common to so many of the world's cultures suggest, was there an earlier time of relative harmony, a time when these problems didn't exist, and a point when for some reason a giant change occurred, and we "fell" out of harmony and into social chaos and psychic disorder?
It's my intention in this book to show that this latter scenario is the true one, and that there really was a point in history when something went wrong with human beings.
Something did happen, which brought about not only this incredible malaise, but also gave rise to the incredibly positive advancements in our creativity, our ingenuity, and our technological/scientific achievements.
All of this came about 6,000 years ago, during The Fall -- or, the Ego Explosion.
Next, I'll describe what life was like prior to The Fall -- according to some surprising sources of evidence..!