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Origins of Violence: Climate Change in the Sahara 7,000 Years Ago

By       Message Allen Heart       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Review of The Origins and Diffusion of Patrism in Saharasia, c. 4000 BCE: Evidence for a Worldwide, Climate-Linked Geographical Pattern in Human Behavior*

In his book, Saharasia, James DeMeo, Ph.D. has shown that violence may have had its origins in a climate change that occurred several thousand years ago in what is now called the Sahara Desert region of Africa. At one time the Sahara was green and luxuriant with rich flora and fauna. Life was much easier and the people who lived there were peaceful and in harmony with their environment and each other. Their culture was mutually nurturing and their social organization was open and functional. Among my people they would be described as living according to the Original Instructions. These Original Instructions were to love, honor and respect ALL Beings in the Web of Life. In this aboriginal setting there was an inner harmony that reflected an outer harmony. His research drew on anthropology, archaeology, climatology, ecology, and psychology to record the shift from an "unarmored" matrist society to an "armored" patrist society. The extremely dry desert belt which stretches across North Africa, through the Near East into Central Asia, which he calls "Saharasia", had cultural evidence of the greatest extreme of repressive, painful, traumatic, and violent behaviors that he identified as armored, patrist social institutions. Such societies are characterized by the disruption of maternal-infant bonds as well as male-female bonds. At that time, the farther away from the Saharasia zone, the more the evidence showed behaviors that were more gentle, peaceful, harmonizing, mutually nurturing, not armored against the bonds that humanize people. Such societies are described as matrist because they support and protect maternal-infant and male-female bonds.

DeMeo writes that after 4000 BCE the climate of the Sahara began to get drier and the ecosystem shifted to savannah and then increasingly to arid desert. Famines changed the physiology of people through a change in their anatomy. Infants born into a struggle for survival failed to develop normally. With the onset of starvation the anatomy of the brain began to change resulting in changed function of the brain. The result most probably effected a change in personality.

Dr. DeMeo systematically analyzed anthropological data from 1170 subsistence cultures and noted their change over time as the ecosystem shifted from lush grasslands and forests to desert. The archaeological and historical materials suggested a marked change in human behavior. This militaristic, man-centered development in human ecology was then traced as "armored" groups migrated out of the arid regions and encountered other, less violent "unarmored" societies.

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Prior to the onset of dry conditions in Saharasia, evidence for matrism is widespread, and evidence for patrism is generally nonexistent. He argues that matrism constitutes the earliest, original, and innate form of human behavior and social organization, while patrism, perpetuated by trauma-inducing social institutions, first developed among Homo Sapiens in Saharasia under the pressures of severe desertification, famine, and forced migrations.

He began to utilize the psychological insights of Wilhelm Reich to provide an understanding of the mechanism by which patrist (armored, violent) behaviors become established and continued long after the initial trauma has passed.

DeMeo's book summarizes the evidence and conclusions of his seven-year geographical study on the worldwide, regional variation in human behavior, and related socio-environmental factors, a study described in his doctoral dissertation (DeMeo 1985, 1986, 1987). In this research, DeMeo specifically focused upon a major complex of traumatic and repressive attitudes, behaviors, social customs and institutions which are correlated with violence and warfare. His study proceeded from clinical and cross-cultural observations on the biological needs of infants, children, and adolescents, the repressive and damaging effects that certain social institutions and classes of harsh natural environment have upon those needs, and the behavioral consequences of such repression and damage.

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This research was made possible by "recent paleoclimatic and archaeological field studies (which revealed previously hidden social and environmental conditions), and by the development of large, global anthropological data bases composed of cultural data from hundreds to thousands of different cultures from around the world." Computer technology allowed easy handling of this data to permit systematic global geographical reviews of human behavior and social institutions. In doing so, Dr. DeMeo uncovered a previously unobserved, but clear-cut global pattern in human behavior.

In comparing matrist and patrist culture it could be seen that the origin of violence was to be found in childhood trauma and sexual-repression. His research was initially aimed at developing a global geographical analysis of social factors related to early childhood trauma and sexual repression, as a test of the sex-economic theory of Wilhelm Reich. Reich's theory, which developed and diverged from psychoanalysis, labeled the destructive aggression and sadistic violence of Homo sapiens a completely abnormal condition, resultant from the traumatically-induced chronic inhibition of respiration, emotional expression, and pleasure-directed impulses. According to this viewpoint, inhibition is made chronic within the individual by specific painful and pleasure-censoring rituals and social institutions, which consciously or unconsciously interfere with maternal-infant and male-female bonds. These rituals and institutions exist among both subsistence-level "primitives" and technologically developed "civilized" societies.

Some examples of patrist rituals and institutions are: unconscious or rationalized infliction of pain upon newborn infants and children through various means; separation and isolation of the infant from its mother; indifference towards the crying, upset infant; immobilizing, round-the-clock swaddling; denial of the breast to, and premature weaning of the infant; cutting of the child's flesh, usually the genitals; traumatic toilet training; and demands to be quiet, uncurious, and obedient, enforced by physical punishment or threats.

Other social institutions aim to control or crush the child's budding sexual interests, such as the female virginity taboo, demanded by every culture worshiping a patriarchal high god, and the punishment- and guilt-enforced arranged or compulsive marriage. Most of these ritual punishments and restraints fall more painfully upon the female, though males are also greatly affected. Demands for pain endurance, emotion-suppression, and uncritical obedience to elder (usually male) authority figures regarding basic life decisions are integral aspects of such social institutions, which extend to control adult behavior as well. These repressive institutions are supported and defended by the average individual within a given society, irrespective of their painful, pleasure-reducing, or life-threatening consequences, and are uncritically viewed as being "good", "character building" experiences, a part of "tradition". Nevertheless, from such a complex of painful and repressive social institutions comes the neurotic, psychotic, self-destructive, and sadistic components of human behavior. These are expressed in a plethora of ways, either disguised and unconscious or blatantly clear and obvious.

The concept of armor derived from Reich's sex-economics can be described as chronic personality shielding that the developing child constructs to protect it from painful trauma.

Biophysical processes which normally lead to full and complete breathing, emotional expression, and sexual discharge during orgasm are chronically blocked by the armor, to a greater or lesser extent, leading to the accumulation of pent-up, undischarged emotional and sexual (bioenergetic) tension. The dammed-up reservoir of internal tension drives the organism to behave in a generally unconscious, distorted, self-destructive, and/or sadistic manner (Reich 1942, 1949). The above processes occur whenever, and only whenever, attempts are made to irrationally deflect or mold human primary biological needs or urges according to the demands of "culture". Examples include the denial of the breast to an infant, the beating of a child for defecation or sexual expression, or the forced marriage of young girls to old men ("child betrothal", "bride price").

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Ritualized pain and the censoring of pleasure by social institutions have been seen in most known cultures. Nevertheless there are a few cultures that neither inflict pain upon infants and children, consciously or otherwise, nor do they repress the sexual interests of children or adults. Significantly these are also "nonviolent societies with stable monogamous family bonds, and congenial, friendly social relations."

Societies which traumatize their infants and children, and repress the emotional expression and sexuality of their adolescents, always exhibit an array of neurotic, self-destructive, and violent behaviors. In contrast, societies which treat infants and children with much physical affection and gentle nurturance, and encourage emotional expression and adolescent sexuality as a good, are by contrast psychically healthy and nonviolent. In fact, cross-cultural research has shown the difficulty, even the impossibility, of finding any disturbed, violent society which does not also traumatize its young and/or sexually repress them.

Using Taylor's terminology, and expanding upon his schema according to Wilhelm Reich's sex-economic findings, these violent, repressive societies are called patrist They differ in many significant aspects from matrist cultures, whose social institutions are designed to protect and enhance the pleasurable maternal-infant and male-female bonds.

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My life came to a watershed in 1988 when I was forced to either teach what was in the selected history text or end my teaching career. I couldn't lie to my students so I ended my teaching career. Today, through my websites, I teach thousands each (more...)

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