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A Bottom-up Exercise in Understanding Top-Down, Hierarchy. Domination and Predators

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From Predators can be pretty, charismatic, charming but still deadly, destructive and hurtful
Predators can be pretty, charismatic, charming but still deadly, destructive and hurtful
(image by Mark Dumont)

I'm doing some exploration, looking for the connection between hierarchy, domination, predators and top-down systems, cultures and biosystems. 

When I say predators, it's pretty obvious when you think of lions and tigers, wolves crocodiles, eagles, sharks and piranha. But then we also have psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. 

The latter group of humans is generally known to lack empathy, to be charismatic, charming, very effective at manipulating others, and to have as a prime motivator, the goal of dominating and controlling others, often, in the process, demeaning them and making them feel bad, often exploiting them. The FBI reports that they cost the USA almost $500 billion dollars a year, in terms of prisons, the judicial system and known damages done. And that's the tip of the iceberg. 
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When this group operates in organizational, corporate or political settings the damage they do has barely been calculated, though some research has shown that corporations with psychopath managers are less profitable.  I believe that the damage to our culture, social and ecological justice and to the planet and to individuals is massive.  Yet, outrageously, it's been estimated that the budget for research on psychopaths is under $20 million a year. 

I've come to believe that we need to engage in a major project, on the scale of the Manhattan and Apollo projects, to study e tiology, neuroscience, identification and prevention of hurt and damage by these predators. (I'm going to refer to the group-- psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists-- as predators.)

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While my interest in sociopaths began several years ago, it really took off last year. I've also been thinking about, writing about and interviewing about what I believe is a bottom-up revolution-- a transition from top-down culture to bottom-up culture, catalyzed by the internet and smart phone technologies.  Bottom-up cultures and behaviors are non-hierarchical, decentralized, interdependent, cooperative, participatory, egalitarian, many-to-many, diverse, non-linear, anti-fragile and grassroots, to name a few of the aspects. 

Recently, some of my readings have begun to tie together psychopathy/socopathy/narcissism, predation, domination, hierarchy, patriarchy, power over and many models of civilization. 

It has raised a number of questions for me. 

Are humans predators? Is predation a natural part of being human? What do we know about the evolutional aspects of predatory behavior in humans? it seems that civilization moved humans from predation to farming and domestication-- from hunting wild creatures to harvesting dominated creatures. 

Where does domination fit in, evolutionally? We've learned that even domination in packs of dogs and herds of horses is more complex, that it is not always or even often the rule of the the strongest. And even among carnivorous predators, how many of the ones closest related to us-- the mammalian ones-- actually prey upon their own?

One researcher did a study showing that narcissistic men (75% of narcissists are men) tend to be more abusive to women. The article reporting the study noted that male narcissism is associated with patriarchy:
" Traditional gender norms may contribute to higher levels of narcissism in men while discouraging narcissism in women.  
...based on the "agency model" of narcissism, narcissists are more agentic (individualistically-oriented, self promoting) than communal (interdependentl-oriented) (Hedgeson 1994)
... many cultures gender scripts masculine prescribe that men be agentic-- pursuing self-benefiting goals such as amassing status, power and competence, while devaluing, as being "feminine," communal goals such as joining with others to build and nurture emotionally intimate relationships.
...Traditional masculine norms prescribe proactive agentic roles for men and receptive, communal roles for women. (Abele 2003) justifying patriarchal expectations that women should subserviently gratify men and affirm mens' self-views of superiority.  
... Heterosexual men look to heterosexual women" to provide sexual pleasure and to tend to housework and other domestic activities and to serve as trophy partners to impress others. For these reasons heterosexual women are key resources and often gatekeepers in heterosexual men's quests for gratification, patriarchal power and status."  

Keep in mind, I'm kind of throwing some random info I've found at you  here, hoping you'll add new light, bring your perspectives and angles to the party. 

Leonard Shlain wrote the book, Alphabet and the Goddess, discussing the theory, also described by Walter Ong,  that the invention of the written word led to a massive change in culture in which women lost power and male, patriarchal power became ascendant. Shlain attributed the change in power to a change in the way people think and perceive catalyzed by the linear thinking that the written word encourages. 

I'm curious if there is any anthropological information on how pre-civilized, indigenous cultures handled gender-related power, if at all. 

Then we have domination. I believe that there can be leadership without domination. Domination grabs, holds and tries to increase and maintain control and power. Since the drive to dominate is also a trait of psychopaths and narcissists, I wonder if the presence of domination as a part of contemporary, industrialized civilized culture is something that has been imposed by these human predators. Is it possible to move the world to a more feminine archetypal culture where the values and rules are more bottom up, where domination is treated as an undesirable, inappropriate, perhaps even illegal behavior or trait, where the bottom-up characteristics described at the beginning of this article are embraced as positive cultural values, mores, even rules. 

Back in the early eighties, when I became interested in Positivity-- an approach to psychology now described as positive psychology-- I worked on exploring a model based on the idea that psychology had been, for over 100 years, primarily focused on identifying and fixing pathology. I asked and explored the question-- How much can you do to help heal people, help to make them stronger and happier and robust, solely by using positive interventions and approaches, teaching positive skills. I never said that using the pathology-based approaches should not be used-- diagnoses, treatment, psychotherapy based on pathology models-- but I wanted to explore the potential that positive approaches could have, on their own or/and combined with the pathological approaches. 

I think the same kind of question can be applied to bottom-up values, practices, behaviors and teachings.  The catalysis of the bottom-up revolution is well under way thanks to the web and smart phones. We see the biggest new corporations based on bottom-up ideas and technologies, and we are seeing revolutions enabled by bottom-up energies and technologies. 

Yet we have inherited a top-down collection of systems, politics, economic models (predatory capitalism) constitutions, histories, governments that are built upon tenets of domination, patriarchy, inequality, hierarchy, centralization and other top-down characteristics. There are top-down power-holders invested in that system. They've inculcated the masses through the mainstream media they own. 

That gives us  a growing plague of unaccountable billionaires and out-of-control corporations buying, with their financial and influence power, whole governments, political groups, heads of state and religious groups. 

I wonder how much of our current civilization exists because of the predators among us and from our past. 

I could go on. I'm writing a book about bottom-up. But I'm hoping some of my readers will have some insightful comments, and perhaps know of or dig up some relevant research and commentary.

BTW, I've also been reading some of the works of James C. Scott, such as Domination and the Arts of Resistance, and John Raven's The Emergence of Hierarchy, Domination, and Centralisation  Reflections on the Work of Murray Bookchin 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the

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Rob, very good research, logic, and 'analogy-thin... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 12:58:23 PM
Best to all the true 99% of Americans in the fast... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:02:04 PM
Thank you. I encourage you to turn this series c... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 9:42:12 AM
Your thesis deserves to be studied by many specia... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:20:14 PM
Just to continue, Rob, about my long and profound... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:24:32 PM
In two articles yesterday in CD Sen. Bernie Sande... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:27:58 PM
WOW --- what clarity of purpose! Now let's tak... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:30:56 PM
When the term "Dark-side" first came out it was m... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:34:34 PM
 --- but until we all THINK about this evide... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:36:10 PM
Best to all the true 99% of Americans in the fast... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 1:36:37 PM
possible resource for "I'm curious if there is any... by Pat Nelson on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 2:17:10 PM
I found this short description of indigenous matri... by Lois Gagnon on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 2:42:26 PM
Great link that opens some new windows Thanks ... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 9:40:51 AM
"Bottom Up" has been the source of my optimism...h... by Theodora B Crawford on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 4:20:48 PM
Rob, have you read Frans De Waal's GOOD NATURED; I... by E. T. SIMON on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 7:32:28 PM
I spent an hour interviewing Frans De Waal last S... by Rob Kall on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:15:06 AM
O:-)  ... I found his book fascinating. ... by E. T. SIMON on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 10:10:12 AM
A meta analysis utilizing climate data along with ... by Paul Krumm on Friday, Apr 4, 2014 at 9:16:35 PM
Thanks. I will definitely check this out. Makes se... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 9:31:59 AM
This dreaded word MONOPOLY - even our own banking... by Lance Ciepiela on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 11:13:42 AM
"Keep in mind, I'm kind of throwing some random i... by Daniel Penisten on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 7:25:45 PM
Rob. You asked:"Are humans predators? Is predation... by Daniel Penisten on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 7:54:53 PM
Click Here. ... by Daniel Penisten on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 8:01:17 PM
Thanks for the tip to Positivity and Positive Psy... by Charles Roll on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 11:10:32 PM
Did I mention my site, by Rob Kall on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:04:38 AM
Thanks for link www.positivepsychology.netI am ma... by Charles Roll on Monday, Apr 7, 2014 at 1:08:49 PM
I wonder if it's such a great idea to closely asso... by Charles Roll on Saturday, Apr 5, 2014 at 11:31:43 PM
The more I learn about narcissists the more danger... by Rob Kall on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:07:39 AM
Here are some essential elements involved in hand... by Joe Miller on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:40:58 AM
With force, you have to mobilize populations and ... by Joe Miller on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:41:32 AM
With knowledge, which I recommend, you have to ge... by Joe Miller on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:41:49 AM
Sorgfelt commented that: "Another part is to expan... by Daniel Penisten on Monday, Apr 7, 2014 at 4:14:43 PM
Love is a loaded word which I believe includes em... by Joe Miller on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:42:07 AM
I believe that teaching Love, at least as an intel... by Daniel Penisten on Monday, Apr 7, 2014 at 4:35:32 PM
Instead of eliminating them, we can remove their ... by Joe Miller on Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 at 8:42:22 AM
Rob, This is great.  I will have to do some ... by Paul Roden on Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 at 8:17:09 AM