Saturday, August 29, 2009

Evolving Utopia Part 11

Part 11: The Neolithic

About ten thousand years ago we discovered that we could eat the grains of some grassy plants. This had some advantages that we couldn't say "no" to. A farmer could (in the right environment) produce more grain than he, or even his family, could eat. Even more important, grain could be stored in a dry environment so that the tribe could survive through a season of bad crops.

But this created a problem. The more farmers the more surplus, which created a strong motivation for an increased population. If we continued to govern ourselves by mutual conformity this would result in an unstable society. In addition we could not move our crops easily, so that the traditional method of fission and migration was not available.

The method of stabilization we chose still remains active. Our shaman said that we all had to worship his muse, who was a super-shaman like Hermes or Odin. That put us in a Bose-Einstein distribution in behavior space so that our society was stable as long as we had a powerful central religion. The shaman, who represented the tribe to the muse, became a priest who represented the god to the tribe and partook of the god's authority.

This allowed him to take the surplus grain and store it for bad years and also use some of it to support technical specialists like potters and metalsmiths.

Eventually the village had to hire barbarians to guard the reserve grain from raiding barbarians and their leader became the king. The king's muse, a super-warlord like Zeus or Yahweh, took over and became the top god.

Although we retain aspects of the post-Neolithic civilizations such as community religions with a Super-king as the top god and authoritarian priests, in recent years priests have to share authority with secular bureaucrats.

According to Wikipedia: "Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1950) was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, (1934-1961), was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global perspective."

It contained a description of the life-cycle of a [post-Neolithic] civilization in five steps:

(1) The creation of the civilization by a "Creative Minority" meeting a challenge.
(2) When the challenge is met the civilization is taken over by the "Dominant Minority" who rule by coercion.

(3) The "External Proletariat", affected by the civilization but not in it, maintain pressure at the boundaries.

(4) The External Proletariat provides mercenaries to the Dominant Minority to enforce their dominance. When the Dominant Minority gets decadent that Palace Guard takes over ruling the civilization and runs it into the ground.

(5) The "Internal Proletariat", the alienated non-elite of the civilization, seek escape through new religious cults.

The post-Neolithic civilizations were eventually replaced by Western (i.e., euro-american) Civilization whose characteristics were dominated by technological development. We are now experiencing the terminal period of that phase of civilization.

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