The Agony of Patriarchy

David Wojnarowicz, untitled, 1988


The idea that the human animal was uprooted by the patriarchal culture seems to be the only way to appease the internal conflicts that separated man from himself.

“What history relates is in fact only what corresponds to the long, confused and heavy dream of humanity”
(Arthur Schopenhauer).

“The only observable reality is the multitudinous human animal, with its conflicting goals, values, and ways of life”
(John Gray).

Nietzsche said that "man is an animal not yet stabilized". Like him, many other influential philosophers and thinkers, especially those more connected to the field of sociology and anthropology, tried to understand the complexity of human nature. After it was realized that the Christianity that sustained the medieval absolutist regimes proved to be incapable of making viable the continuity of the intractable and tortuous human coexistence, at least three visions have been more recurrent to explain the contradictions and conflicts of human behavior and , at the same time, try to justify the emergence of the State as the last Hegelian synthesis of humanity's improvement and containment of the instabilities inherent to human impulses. Are they:

(1) the idea of ​​Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) that “man is the wolf of man”, a statement derived from the Latin expression “Lupus est homo homini lupus”, created by the Roman playwright Plautus (254-184 BC). For Hobbes, man already comes into the world, just like the supposed predatory nature of the wolf, naturally prone and destined to violence, which can only be contained through the forced maintenance of order, in charge of the sovereign power of the State and its laws;

(2) the notion that “man is a tabula rasa”, a book to be written according to our experience with the world, proposed by John Locke (1632-1704), considered the “father of liberalism”, which softens a Hobbes' vision is little when he proposes that humans are peaceful, being, however, condemned to live in permanent litigation and dispute, to be mediated by the State, the only entity capable of assuring the “natural right” of men to material goods, especially the right to property;

(3) finally, the “noble savage” of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), for whom “human beings are born good, society corrupts them”. In this case, private property seems to be the cause of the inequalities and tragedies that forged our civilization, hence the need for the State to try to guarantee the “general will”, a purpose that has been proving to be more and more unrealizable.

Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau developed these visions from their theoretical constructions – with very peculiar characteristics in each of them and with a good load of theological influence under which they lived – about what is conventionally called “natural state” or “state of nature”. nature”, when man was not yet required to act politically since there was no civil society, that is, there was still no coexistence in polis which requires a series of regulations to put order in human relationships. In this state of nature, individuals would be free and equal, just like other animals.

With the gradual emergence of large human groups, normally forged at the cost of wars and bloody massacres, came the need to establish social contracts to regulate collective life and, in particular, the “natural right” to property, giving rise to what today we know as civil society. In the absence of these regulations, humans would be doomed to live in a permanent, self-destructive war of all against all, and as such, we would probably have already succumbed.

Hobbes' view, that man behaves like a wolf, whose nature is supposedly voracious, predatory, destructive and therefore unreliable, seems to be the most accepted in the current circumstances in which individualism and narcissism guide the system -globalized capitalist world. However, this is a very unfair comparison to the wolf, which was anthropomorphized to justify and legitimize predatory human behavior. The only anthropomorphization that can be considered a faithful representation of human behavior are the institutions created by man, especially religions, the State and the market, which, in an overwhelming symbiosis, are dragging us towards a civilizational collapse in this XNUMXst century.

Only Rousseau's vision seems to offer some chance of hope that one day we will see the human impulse reconciled with its status as a “noble savage”, provided that society and its institutions, which are human constructs, stop demeaning and deforming it. it. In this case, it would be necessary to carry out the Herculean task of trying to regenerate the Hobbesian State, dispelling the fantasy of salvation promised by religions and demystifying the myth of progress that feeds the insane accumulation of capital at the expense of the devastation and depletion of the Earth's ecosystems. , which may already be irreversibly compromised.

The fact is that the human animal behaves in a very different and contradictory way in relation to other animals. These, even having to live in communities much more numerous and apparently more chaotic than humans, never created problems as insoluble and degrading as those observed in human societies. If, then, we seek a complementarity between all the visions already elaborated around human nature, and if we consider, mainly, the current situation of planetary crisis in which humanity finds itself, perhaps it would be more sensible and useful to realize that man is the only animal on the face of the Earth that is uprooted and, for that reason, has been dragging civilization towards an unprecedented perspective of imminent global collapse.

The ongoing political, social and environmental events are unequivocal, and tell us that we are sliding into a deep civilizing agony that will probably make this XNUMXst century intractable, as many specialists have been pointing out, especially those dedicated to the Earth sciences who are investigating the profound changes geophysical changes caused by predatory anthropic activity. But how did this human uprooting occur, which brought us to this emblematic and dystopian scenario?


The great uprooting cultural divide

From this perspective of uprooting, that is, that man has become disconnected from his natural condition, the origins of the serious civilizing crisis we face in contemporary times – in fact, for many historians the course of civilization has been a continuous crisis – is not in the failure of the many models of human coexistence that have already been tried, but in the underlying culture that supported, for millennia, the different ways of living of humans, increasingly uprooting them from their animal nature.

This idea of ​​an uprooted animal is based on the assumption that man, at some point in the Neolithic period, separated himself from his natural condition, a situation in which the biological and cultural dimensions lost their congruence in the animal called Homo sapiens, unlike what happens with other animals that have always maintained a biological-behavioral coherence and, therefore, have always been rooted in the nature of which they are an inseparable and interdependent part. In case of Homo sapiens, there seems to have been a kind of ontological deviation in which, gradually, a growing and dangerous human solipsism took place, in which man placed himself at the center of reality, to which everything must converge. Thus, he gradually distanced himself from the natural condition of the animals that inhabit and coexist in a large network of interdependence that characterizes the dynamics that sustain the terrestrial biosphere. That is, human experience and the entire course of its history were conditioned by the prevalence of a culture that is conventionally called patriarchal culture.

As for this cultural assumption, it is worth making the following clarifications here: (1) the notion of patriarchal culture used here is a way of life that is characterized, according to the studies of the Chilean neurobiologist Humberto Maturana, “by the coordination of actions and emotions that make our everyday life a mode of coexistence that values ​​war, competition, struggle, hierarchies, authority, power, procreation, growth, appropriation of resources and the rational justification of control and domination of others through the appropriation of truth.

(2) the patriarchal culture and the behaviors derived from it, which delimit the different ways of living of humans, are the result of a historical circumstance and not something inherent to human nature. That is, patriarchy is the manifestation of a culture (acquired capabilities, in the anthropological sense of the term), and not an immutable existential condition, as evidenced by archeology, which, according to Maturana, “shows us that pre-patriarchal (matristic) culture ) European was brutally destroyed by patriarchal pastoralist peoples, who today we call Indo-Europeans and who came from the East, about seven or six thousand years ago”. The archaeological findings that support this cultural bifurcation are recorded mainly in the studies of the Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, which were synthesized in the book The Chalice and the Sword: Our History, Our Future (Palas Athena, 2008) by the Austrian writer and sociologist Riane Eisler.

(3) the pre-patriarchal matristic culture was, as could also be inferred from archaeological studies, characterized by “conversations of participation, inclusion, collaboration, understanding, agreement, respect and co-inspiration”, attributes that showed, still according to Maturana, a culture “centered on love and aesthetics, on awareness of the spontaneous harmony of all living and non-living, in their continual flow of intertwined cycles of life and death transformation”.

Hence the urgency of understanding the current civilizing crisis from the human behavior forged in this millenary patriarchal culture, according to the conception proposed by Maturana, and going beyond the common sense that translates patriarchy, as a rule, by sexist behavior, easily observed in the daily lives of women. societies. This understanding, even fed by the academic environment, which tends to reduce it to a system of domination and oppression of men over women. These are just the most visible expressions of patriarchy. The notion of patriarchal culture is much broader and deeper than that. Its opposite would not be matriarchal culture, which in this binary logic of power struggle between man and woman would have the same sense of hierarchy as patriarchy, in this case, the relationship of superiority and domination of the feminine over the masculine.

Indeed, Maturana's studies on patriarchal culture converge in many points with the conception of "voluntary servitude" developed in 1549 by the French philosopher Étienne de La Boétie, for whom "the first reason for voluntary servitude is habit" and that, therefore, , “we have to try to find out how this stubborn desire to serve took root to the point that the love of freedom seems unnatural”. “Voluntary servitude” functions as a kind of psychological mechanism for the reproduction and intergenerational support of patriarchal culture, changing only the hegemonic structures of domination in each historical era. Currently, they are anchored in the symbiosis established between capital and technology. The patriarchal culture is now trying to mold realities according to a techno-merchantist view of the world, which has only increased the malaise of civilization and human distress, as we will see below.


The patriarchal agony, from Freud

One way of understanding that human suffering results from an unfolding of the civilizing process forged in patriarchy can be observed in the priceless legacy left by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the creator of psychoanalysis. Although his investigative interest was more focused on improving treatments for mental disorders, in fact his studies on the drives of the human psyche are very useful for us to understand the dynamics that maintain patriarchal culture and how it has triggered so much human suffering throughout history.

If he lived in our time, Freud would probably add many insights that could further expand their perception of human conflicts and the consequent civilizational malaise generated. Above all, because he would have at his disposal not only the new theoretical contributions that emerged from the second half of the XNUMXth century, but also the experience of observing human behavior in the face of new phenomena that happened in contemporary times, such as overpopulation, consumerism, capitalist hegemony, changes climate change, globalization, algorithmization of life, neoliberalism, among other anthropic disorders. It is important to emphasize this aspect because Freud developed his conception of the world within the Enlightenment, positivist and rationalist thought, in force at his time, in which his training was immersed, and even so, he seems to have captured many aspects of the millennial patriarchal culture, although his object of study was another: that of developing a medical practice that knew how to deal better with the many pathologies associated with the human psyche.

In one of his most studied and revered works, The malaise of civilization (1930), Freud thus summarized the sources of human suffering: “Our possibilities for happiness are restricted by our constitution. It is much less difficult to experience unhappiness. Suffering threatens us from three sides: from the body itself, which, doomed to decline and dissolution, cannot even dispense with pain and fear as warning signs; from the external world, which can fall on us with very powerful, inexorable, destructive forces; and finally, relationships with other human beings.”

Although some conceptions elaborated by Freud, such as that a propensity for unhappiness would be in the constitutive base of human nature, as explained in the passage above, perhaps deserves to be reexamined with more caution, the sources of human suffering identified by him are very useful. to understand the current human condition, when we link it with the idea that the civilizing path was guided by the culture of patriarchal domination, as understood by Humberto Maturana.

One of Freud's premises for unraveling the conflicts of the human psyche lies in the tension between what he calls the "principle of pleasure" and the "principle of reality", the confrontation between the Self and what is located "outside" it, between the inner world and the outer world. According to Freud, “this principle (of pleasure) dominates the performance of the psychic apparatus from the beginning; there is no doubt about its adequacy, but its program is at odds with the whole world, the macrocosm as well as the microcosm.” But what is patriarchal culture if not a useless attempt to decouple the individual from his world, contrary to the pre-patriarchal matristic culture in which, as defined by Maturana, the human animal was coupled to the dynamics of the web of life. The Freudian tension between the “pleasure principle” and the “reality principle” seems to have great equivalence with the clash between patriarchy and the complexity of the real world.

Freud also expressed a difficulty in accepting the idea of ​​an “oceanic feeling” proposed by his friend Romain Rolland, French biographer and musician, Nobel Prize in Literature (1915). Rolland believed that he was the bearer of a feeling that would be associated with the source of religious energy of “being one with the external world as a whole” – religion here is linked to its sense of reconnection (from the Latin religare) rather than domination and submission, an idea more present in monotheistic religions, about which Freud had a very critical position. Freud, perhaps because he did not realize that his intellectual formation was influenced by the beliefs and patriarchal worldviews of his time, recognized this difficulty in accepting the possibility of this existential coupling between the individual and the totality, when he stated: “I myself I can't see that 'oceanic feeling' in me. It is not easy to work scientifically on feelings. … From my own experience I could not convince myself of the primary nature of such a feeling. But that does not entitle me to question its occurrence in others.”

The fact is that this Freudian perspective on the origins of the disturbances that disturb the human psyche seems to reinforce the idea that the man forged in this patriarchal culture is an animal uprooted from his natural condition. That is, over the 350 years of its evolutionary trajectory, it was only in the last six or seven thousand years that, upon becoming "civilized", the Homo sapiens he also saw himself culturally cut off from his biological condition. From the installed patriarchal culture, the human animal starts to deny that it is part of nature, susceptible to entropy and constitutively dependent on others, including all living and non-living beings with which it maintains an inescapable relationship of interdependence. The denial of what links him to nature starts to feed his sources of suffering, as indicated by Freud. From then on, an intractable way of life was in place and a succession of wars, massacres and destruction became part of what we understand by civilization and what is behind human martyrdom.

Thus, the three sources of human suffering, “the fragility of our body”, “the arrogance of nature” and “relationships with others”, identified by Freud, all of which are even more exacerbated today, are basically intertwined phenomena that they come from the same root, the patriarchal culture, and, therefore, they can represent a good diagnosis on how the way of life of this uprooted human animal operates, which has been dragging humanity into darkness. Man, throughout his conflicting civilizing process, by trying in vain to escape each of these sources of human suffering, has only deepened the civilizing agony that marks the present times. Let us see, below, some brief aspects that explain how the sufferings pointed out by Freud unfold from the patriarchy.


The fragility of our body – the obsession with immortality

To live with this alleged misfortune of having to succumb to the inescapable entropy of the physical world, man has never stopped trying to deceive the aging process that culminates in death, seeking refuge mainly in religions. The one that gained greater expression was Christianity, especially during the long and bloody period in which humanity was under the dominion of the Holy Roman Empire (800-1806). The indulgence trade, for example, which dates back to papal edicts as far back as the twelfth century, was the most practiced means of alleviating the suffering caused by the unacceptable prospect of death and an implacable heavenly reckoning generated by religions' encouragement of the feeling of fault.

Even after Charles Darwin, with his proposal of Theory of Evolution of Species (1859), and other thinkers after him – such as Maturana himself –, placed us more and more side by side with our animal relatives, man insisted on continuing to be different from the other species that inhabit our planet, and maintained his obsession with escape from death, through belief systems that embarked on the use of various metaphysical elaborations in an attempt to control reality, as seems to be the case of many monotheistic religions. Many artifices and mystical currents of thought were also created and fed, such as occultism, psychism, cryogenics, and movements such as the “Builders of God” (founded after the failed Russian revolution of 1905, by Maksim Gorki and Anatoli Lunatcharski) to try to dodge death. All these fantasies are reflections of the appropriation of truth that characterizes the millennial patriarchal culture.

Now in contemporary times, man has been increasingly taking refuge in the myth of progress provided by algorithms. The so-called transhumanism, inaugurated in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, bets all its chips on the benefits that technology can offer humans, including immortality from the possibility of transferring the mind (Mind Upload), as predicted by futurists such as the American Ray Kurzweil and the Austrian Hans Moravec, and which Mark Zuckerberg intends to inaugurate soon with his Metaverse. There is even a widely disseminated and accepted narrative, as proposed by Yuval Harari, an Israeli professor of History, that the Homo sapiens would be on the way to becoming homo deus, in which a kind of techno-immortalism could one day free us once and for all from the entropy imposed on our bodies. Apparently, the fantasy of seeking the improvement of humanity and human perfection has no limits.

The arrogance of nature – the illusion of wanting to dominate it

The advent of modern science, starting in the XNUMXth century, made an important contribution to this process of appropriating nature and legitimizing its devastation. The scientific method carried out by Francis Bacon, for example, imposed the idea that “nature must be tortured until it surrenders all its secrets”. The human animal was thus authorized by science, through technique, to promote the extraction of natural resources to ensure the well-being of humanity, a precept that has been rigorously applied to the present day.

By trying to circumvent this inescapable suffering generated by a true crusade against nature, man ended up triggering two phenomena on a planetary scale. The first was speciesism, a term coined by the British psychologist Richard Ryder, which refers to the belief in the superiority of the human species in relation to other species. The second, resulting from speciesism, is the process of mass extinction of life on Earth, which is taking us towards an “age of solitude”, as well observed by biologist Edward O. Wilson, who preferred to call this period of Eremocene supremacy of the human species over other species, widely known as the Anthropocene.

The result of this long process of subordination of nature to patriarchal whims was disastrous. 12 thousand years ago, we had only 4 million inhabitants on the planet. After the agricultural revolution, this number gradually increased. With the consolidation of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe and the United States, from the first half of the XNUMXth century, the growth of the world population began to occur exponentially. In the last forty-six years alone, the number of human beings has doubled over the entire period of human evolution. Homo sapiens, estimated at around 350 years. We went from 4,06 billion in 1975 to 7,9 billion in 2021. Humans and the animals raised by them now occupy 97% of the global area considered ecumene (habitable area), leaving only 3% for wild animals. According to the Living Planet Report (2020), released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), between 1970 and 2016, the populations of these wild vertebrates suffered a 68% reduction, which shows that the human animal triggered a new mass extinction of life on Earth.


Relationships with others – war as a way of life

The best way to validate this Freudian truth, that human suffering stems from difficult human relationships, is by looking at how war has become part of what it means to be human. The British political philosopher John Gray goes so far as to argue that war is part of human entertainment. He quotes a sentence from the pacifist philosopher Bertrand Russell who, after experiencing the hardships of the First World War, reviewed his position in relation to human nature and concluded: “I had imagined that most people liked money more than anything else. something else, but I found they liked the destruction even more.”

In fact, war is so ingrained in our way of life that it has always been part of human entertainment, since the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece. In contemporary times, the film industry, for example, practically relies on projecting what our civilization considers the “art of war” – an expression originating from the military treatise written during the fourth century BC by the Chinese strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu , later reinforced in another seven-volume work, written between 1519-1520, by the Italian Renaissance and political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.

To see how much Russell's perception really matches human behavior, just do a quick query in the vast information base of the collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia. The content already generated on this platform about the expression "war", contrary to its counterpoint, “peace”, is vast. There are 33 typifications for war, distributed in 5 modalities (according to the intensity of the confrontation, the scope of the conflict, the form, the cause of the warlike confrontation and the type of strategic weapons used). And it is still clear that this list does not mention some more recent sophistications of human belligerence, such as the so-called hybrid wars, cyber warfare, lawfare, among others.

The content includes a lot of revealing information about the intimate connection between civilization and barbarism. For example, there are two long lists of wars in chronological order, one between countries and another one of civil war, which cover the period from antiquity to the present day, with 23 of these listed wars currently being in progress. O terrorism, which has been very recurrent in recent decades, is another topic that is also very prominent on the subject. In it there is a record that, in the period from 2000 to 2014 alone, there were 72.135 terrorist attacks, which represents 13 attacks per day. The numbers of mortality generated by wars, from remote times, represent something that dissipates any trace of hope in the human animal.

Already the term "peace" is reduced to a tiny volume of information in which we find only three typifications. Contradictorily, all of them derive from the condition of a state of war that sustains the dynamics of the Nation-State, inaugurated after the turmoil of the French Revolution: the so-called “Eternal Peace” and “Peace by Law”, originated from the Kantian idea of “perpetual peace”, and “Peace by force”, imposed by the authority of the State and its institutions.

As history itself has shown, there is no civilized society outside the perspective of a permanent state of war between men, even if this is justified to ensure some spasms of controlled peace, until the next (and increasingly destructive) war comes. . The tragic twentieth century, in which the Great Game was played twice, confirms this fact. And the new millennium that begins, promising to be marked by climate change, overpopulation, scarcity of natural resources and hypervigilance of algorithms, has everything to reserve us a new phase of unprecedented regression. Finally, Russell and Freud are irrefutable when they note the human inclination towards killing, throughout our conflicting and bloody civilizing process forged by patriarchy.


The Price of Desire to Shape the World: The Perspective of Collapse

Despite humanity having already experienced some changes in historical times, as occurred in the passage from agrarianism, inaugurated about ten thousand years ago, to industrialism (1760-1840), the entire long civilizing process was sustained by the prevalence of patriarchal culture, whose main goal is to want to shape the world in your image. In recent decades, we are once again facing a profound change in historical times, reflected in the acute, progressive and apparently inescapable crisis of civilization. It has manifested itself especially in the accelerated devastation of ecosystems – and, consequently, in irreversible climate changes which, according to more recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are irrefutably an anthropic phenomenon –, in the growing decline of democratic regimes, which is accompanied by the weakening of the idea of ​​the nation-state, and in the manipulation of life and human behavior through algorithmic revolution (better to say involution).

Among the many analyzes and narratives that try to understand and explain the various crises faced by our civilization – and the current one, unlike the previous ones, has generated a vulnerability of planetary reach –, it is not uncommon to attribute its roots to factors external to human impulses, such as it has often occurred in other moments of profound civilizing regression, that is, using metaphysical interpretations about reality, often of a religious nature.

The history of civilization was forged from worldviews supported by systems of thought backed by the belief in supposed entities above the human will, always prevailing myths closer to Thanatos than to Eros – returning here to the formulations about the tensions of the human psyche, so well elaborated by Freud. Practically the entire nebulous course of civilization has been conditioned, up to the present day, by teleological (the idea that history has a purpose) and eschatological (and also an end) visions behind millenarian beliefs – the conviction that time is linear and, therefore, history is governed by a Beginning and an End. This End, which never materializes, would be demarcated, in the case of the religion announced by the Apostle Paul, by the return of a savior Christ. A good deepening on this subject is in the book Black mass – apocalyptic religion and the end of utopias (Record, 2007), by the political philosopher John Gray, a writer unfortunately little known here in Brazil, for whom “the world we live in at the beginning of the new millennium is covered with rubble of utopian projects, which, although structured in secular terms who denied the truth of religion were in fact vehicles for religious myths.

In its permanent search for an environmentally, socially and materially better life, which would provide immunity to the adversities and contingencies inherent in reality, giving it more security, abundance and freedom, what the human animal really achieved was to walk more and more towards contrary to what he intended, that is, towards more insecurity, precariousness and slavery. Today we find ourselves facing a civilizing crisis that has placed us in a situation of global vulnerability never seen before and that has been dragging us ever faster towards collapse. We live in an existential crisis. This is the great open question in this change of historical era, as many biologists, anthropologists, historians and climatologists have been alerting, among which are Jared Diamond, Philippe Descola, David Attenborough, Michael Mann, Gilles Boeuf, James Lovelock, Frédéric Keck, Pablo Servigne, James Hansen, Bruno Latour, Valérie Masson-Delmotte and many others.

Throughout history, countless formulations have been developed by social scientists to try to equate this conflicting and destructive way of human life. Since when absolutist regimes were suffocated by the ascendancy of new political actors – the bourgeoisie of third state – during the French Revolution (1789), the predominant approach to dealing with this issue has boiled down to the ideological dichotomy: modeling the one world by laissez-faire or by planning carried out by the State.

To this day, the polarization prevails around the two great failed metanarratives that disputed hegemony throughout the XNUMXth century, capitalism and real socialism, with the former standing out over the latter, to the point that a large part of the West has believed in the Hegelian idea of End of Story (1989) and, based on this Enlightenment fantasy, having launched itself, under the leadership of the USA, into the foolishness of imposing the ideals of “democratic capitalism” on the rest of the world, under the false imperative of the need to carry out a crusade of “war on terror,” renewing and expanding state-sponsored terror once again. The new geopolitical configurations at the beginning of this millennium, with the entry of China on the board of the new surveillance capitalism, indicate that we will probably still be stuck for a long time to this logic of which ideology offers the best proposal to shape the, now, quite admirable and intoxicating new world high-tech.

Despite the successive and growing geopolitical disarrangements, the permanent regional inequalities, the many genocides already perpetrated and the constant environmental devastation, which have accompanied the entire history of civilization, now exacerbated at the beginning of this millennium, the prevailing approach to understanding the conflicting human coexistence continues to be the same, that of trying to shape the world according to the political-religious ideologies created by the impetus of patriarchal domination. As a result of this long process, capitalism achieved a global hegemony that commodified every nuance of human life. Under the illusion that only through technological progress and economic growth will it be possible to overcome the current planetary crisis, the human animal ends up aggravating it more and more.

Since the world came under the tutelage of Christianity, and even before, this was the prevailing notion of reality that has always overshadowed human perception and fed the most diverse currents of thought, including those still in force today in contemporary politics. This cognitive blindness unfortunately inhabits not only the imagination of common sense and a considerable portion of the academic world, but especially of those who hold greater power to change our trajectory of civilizational collapse, which are our current political leaders, most subordinate to a handful of transnational megacorporations that dictate the course of our predatory and ecocidal capitalist world-system.

If one day human consciousness succeeds in abstracting itself from these cognitive distortions, it will realize that at the heart of all these regressions, both in the past and in the present, today deeply destabilizing, is the conflicted human impulse, whose roots are intimately associated with the anchored way of life. in the patriarchal culture installed since the Neolithic.


Is it possible to take root again, or will we perish in the agony of the patriarchal prison?

In order to understand the causes of the current civilizing impasses, we need an approach that tries to go beyond the political ideologies that made the last century unfeasible. This idea that the human animal was uprooted by the patriarchal culture, as discussed here, seems to be the only way to appease the internal conflicts that separated man from himself. In it perhaps lies the key to understanding human behavior which, contrary to the dynamics of the web of life, has been moved, along the course of civilization, more by a death drive (Thanatos) than by the preservation of life (Eros), as well observed by Freud.

Until the beginning of the second half of the XNUMXth century, although the civilizing process was always anchored in patriarchal culture, it was still possible to observe a considerable portion of humanity that was not completely uprooted. Many peoples, in different parts of the world, lived in communitarian regimes with little or no contact with the hierarchical institutions of the market, the State and the great monotheistic religions, which forged the civil order in the great urban centers. These people managed, according to their circumstances and traditions, to develop and maintain ways of life that were more integrated and adapted to their environmental conditions.

With the arrival of neoliberalism, starting in the 1970s, driven by the myth of economic and technological progress, and the consequent advent of the phenomenon of globalization of capitalist logic, starting to interfere in the most diverse fields of human experience, almost all corners of the planet they were homogenized by the culture of individualism, consumption and the accumulation of goods. Currently, it is still possible to perceive some rooting in those who deal with art, in the few who make a science detached from the primacy of reason, in the original peoples remaining from the many genocides sponsored by the patriarchy and in an insignificant portion of people who did not bend to the fetish of merchandise, spectacle, virtualization, consumption and accumulation.

After this hegemonization of the techno-economist worldview, the only thing left for the human animal was to close in on itself, what the South Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han calls the “tiredness society”, in which the individual came to see himself as the “ entrepreneur of himself”, becoming master and slave, executioner and victim at the same time. Narcissism, consumerism, the society of the spectacle and the cold relationship with algorithms began to (mis)guide atomized human life and further exacerbate physical and mental pathologies. We are experiencing a new configuration of the patriarchal way of life, now globally expanded, with a growing mass of people excluded from the capitalist productive system, living in brutal conditions of inequality and precariousness of life, on a scale never seen in history, which will probably still have to exacerbate in the coming decades.

Our civilizational crisis is also a crisis of perception of reality. Darwin's discoveries dispelled any possibility that we have any evolutionary privilege over other animal species. More recently, the contributions of science to understanding the intertwined dynamics of life, from names such as Einstein (relativity) Heisenberg (uncertainty), Prigogine (neguentropy), Lorenz (chaotic attractors), David Bohm (implicate order), Henri Atlan (self-organization), Mandelbrot (fractals), Morin (complexity), Maturana and Varela (autopoiesis), Jacques Monod (chance and necessity) and many others, demonstrated that we are entangled in a mysterious web of complex adaptive processes. Still, the homo rapiens – as well characterized by the philosopher John Gray –, which emerged in the Neolithic, continues to insist on the purpose of one day managing to forge a reality totally governed by the myths created from its dominating patriarchal illusion, currently translated into progress, reason, individualism and in the algorithms. Gray intuited our crisis of perception well when he said: “Other animals don't need a purpose in life. A contradiction in itself, the human animal cannot do without one. Can we not think of the purpose of life as simply seeing?” Will the human animal be able to recover this simplicity and see again what other animals see?

A reflection that can provide us with some clues to envision this possibility of expanding human perception and recovering our roots, at least on an individual level, is in the work Don Quixote Meditations (1914), written by one of Spain's most notable philosophers, José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), who in one of his passages expresses the human condition in the following terms: “I am very careful not to confuse the big and the small ; affirming at all times the need for hierarchy, without which the cosmos returns to chaos, I consider it urgent that we also direct our reflective attention, our meditation, to what is close to our person. Man yields the maximum of his capacity when he acquires full awareness of his circumstances. Through them he communicates with the universe. (...) I am me and my circumstance, and if I don't save her, I don't save myself.”

If we want to understand the origins of the conflicts that have degenerated the human way of life and that are undermining the future of the next generations, we need to place the human animal at the heart of our reflections in order to better deal with the impasses of our time. The time has come to turn our attention to understanding the human condition, as proposed by Ortega y Gasset, Maturana, Freud, Gray and many others. This is perhaps the great task at the beginning of this century, if we really want to see some possibility of rooting and reintegrating into the complexity of life on Earth, which has been giving clear signs that some sustaining limits of our civilization have already been exceeded..

The crossing of the new millennium has everything to be unbearable. Now we can only believe that the abysmal agony that is approaching, and that threatens human existence, is part of a painful process of reconciliation, in which man will perceive and relearn with the wolf and other animals – who know their nature much better. circumstance – that it is not worth continuing to be uprooted by the absurdity of intending to build a world just like your patriarchal chimera.

May this imponderable reconciliation be possible – and may time still be on our side!

Antonio Sales Rios Neto is a writer and political and cultural activist



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LA BOETIE, Étienne. Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1549). LCC Electronic Publications, 2006.

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