be angry, and to express anger. It’s a “masculine” thing to do-as it serves to maintain their dominance. Women get all the rest of the emotions. Except anger. So naturally, if you can’t ever express anger, what are you going to do? You internalize it. So here we have this insane system again, crippling both women and men. Men certainly need other emotions, other feelings, “soft” feelings such as compassion and empathy. And women need to be able to assert themselves and to learn to express anger. And men need to learn to listen to women’s anger. I don’t think it’s an issue of women learning from men how to objectify. Education for women, which is what gives us the ability to better use our minds, is so recent that it’s absolutely mind-boggling. Did you know that until the mid-nineteenth century there were no American universities that accepted women. Not one. The few women who had higher education got it through a tutorial system, where a father said, I want my daughter to also be educated. I think women have just as much of a capacity to be intellectual as men, or to be objective. But I don’t think that being objective is the answer. Because we now know that nobody can truly be objective, that we’re all products of our cultures–and that often so-called objectivity is a way for men to detach themselves, to not feel anything when they are examining, for example, war. As in counting how many bombs were dropped, rather than dealing with the human suffering.
DJB: Richard Dawkins’ theory of cultural evolution assumes the existence of what he calls memes- units of cultural information– that seek to replicate themselves by hopping from brain to brain, and like genes, are subject to the laws of natural selection. In this context, dominator and partnership models of society can be viewed as being composed of memes that are competing with one another for the occupation of human brains. Does this view add any further insight into your theory of cultural evolution?
RIANE: I prefer Vilmos Csanyi’s and Humberto Maturana’s views. Csanyi speaks of the replication of ideas, not only the replication of cells. And that’s a very important component in cultural evolution, whether or not it happens, as Rupert Sheldrake proposes, through morphogenetic fields. DAVID L: One reason for the popularity of gene theories is because it’s hard for some people to visualize how all cultural transmission can be through reading books, and teaching, where it’s a transmission of ideas from the printed page tothe eyes, to the mind. They look at the evidence and think there’s more going on there. Jung, for example, came up with the idea of the collective unconscious, that there is transmission through archetypes. Sheldrake’s idea of a giant invisible memory bank is that there is so much evidence of other forms of transmission. A huge amount of so-called psychic research into telepathy, clairvoyance, and that whole realm indicates there are other forms of transmission that enter the replication process which Vilmos Csanyi and Maturana articulate beautifully. I’ve also noticed that the gene-theorists tend to be more basically conservative and traditionalist. Here it may also be interesting to note that, in political psychology studies show a strong positive correlation between liberalism and empathy, and a negative correlation between empathy and conservatism.
RIANE: Let me put that into historical context, in the context of the tension between the partnership and the dominator models. The question of empathy is central here. Because one of the things that you have to do in the dominator system is to find some way to deaden empathy. For example, how in the world is a man supposed to do the kinds of things that he’s supposed to do in war, and have empathy? While we’re on that subject, somebody was telling me of evidence suggesting that when we humans engage in helpful behavior, there is a release of a chemical bodily reward. We feel better for it. And yet in the dominator system that empathic impulse, that helpful impulse, is constantly being suppressed or distorted.
RMN: You have made use of Ralph Abraham’s systems theory which explains the motions of cultural trends in terms of a response to chaotic or periodic attractors. What historical examples have you discovered which fit into this model of cultural evolution?
RIANE: Ralph speaks a great deal about attractors, and I have looked at the partnership and the dominator models as attractors. Using Ralph’s terminology, if we look at prehistory as a basin, then the stable attractor there was the partnership model. I’m talking about the mainstream now, because obviously the attractor on the fringes was the dominator model. Once we get into recorded history it becomes more complex. There are still elements of the partnership model, but they are co-opted and exploited by the dominator system, like women’s nurturing work in the family, which is given no monetary reward and little status. Still, what you also see is what Ralph calls periodicity, periods when the partnership model becomes a stronger attractor. But it never quite makes it. You never see the change, the system’s transformation, where it becomes the primary attractor, and in The Chalice and the Blade, I describe some of these periods. Such as early Christianity. But then the Church allies itself (under the leadership of the so-called church fathers) with the Roman emperor, Constantine. And what happens is that you begin to see again a very hierarchic, completely male dominant structure–no women allowed in the priesthood–and a very violent structure, as manifested in the Crusades and the Inquisition. In other words you’ve got the dominator model again. Let’s now jump to modern times, to the sixties, when women and men were beginning to definitely reject the sexual stereotypes. Women were rejecting their exclusion from leadership and from the so-called public sphere. And men and women were rejecting the equation of masculinity with warfare. Is it really heroic to be a warrior? Wait a minute, they said, no it isn’t. But again you had a regression, the “new conservatism,” the rightist-fundamentalist resurgence. And today what we are continuing to see in the world is a mounting partnership resurgence. But it is against tremendous dominator resistance, as we can see all around us in what’s happening, from the U.S. Supreme Court to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, the stronger the partnership thrust, the greater resistance. Until there is a systems shift–which is where the new consciousness has a major role to play.
DAVID L: This is another reason for the force of Riane’s book, because it puts the challenge of social change within the most forceful context I know of. Those of us who have worked at various stages for civil rights and other causes have certainly had the experience of this massive wall of resistance, the inertia within the system. Much of the evil force of the dominator system is just this inertia. In any kind of system the resistance against change is phenomenal. So we’ve had this idea–and Darwinian theory helped lock it in – that all change has to come slowly. We’ve had the idea that it’s going to take many generations. But ever since 1945 when the bombs went off, people have begun to realize we don’t have time for slow social change. So to the activist, the great excitement about chaos theory is that it shows you can have a system going along, and a little blip appears within it that doesn’t seem to amount to a hill of beans. It may appear and then disappear–but it may also spread with astounding rapidity, and become more and more prevalent until the whole system has changed. This is why the strange attractor phenomena is fascinating, not only to mathematicians such as Ralph Abraham, but to social theorists. Because they see here a model for hope that we may survive, that there may be enough of us creating what, in Prigoginian terms, is called a nucleation, which in dynamic terms is a strange attractor. And chaos theory shows that if there are enough of us, and if luck is with us, we can, in a relatively short amount of time, which is all the time we’ve got, transform the whole system. Ilya Prigogine can show this happening in chemical solutions. Ralph Abraham can show it happening with computer projections. What is exciting about Riane’s book is that she shows this happening on a global scale in prehistory. For these were the dynamics of the Kurgan invasions. The Kurgan invaders acted in effect as a strange attractor. You see the strange attractor at work, coming, going, until within a relatively short period of time the whole system has been taken over by the dominator culture acting as a “peripheral invader,” to use Eldridge and Gould’s term. Because we now at last have the pre-historical data that shows us how this shift happened in a negative and anti-human direction back there, we can now understand how the same kind of rapid shift can happen today–but this time in a pro-human direction. Another implication of chaos theory is extremely important. Just going by the mathematics, or chemistry of chaos theory, one might think that when we move over from natural to social science this remains a random process, and we have to just sit by and hope that we’re part of a strange attractor. But other systems theorists–Ervin Laszlo, for example, who heads the General Evolution Research Group, which Riane and I helped form–are showing the effect of human change agents. We don’t have to just sit back and wait for this mystic scientific process to maybe work in our advantage. We can show that human intervention, through change agents, can definitely make a difference.