Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Dominator Reality

I developed the concept of the dominators several years ago to help me understand how humanity got to the breaking point. What makes it so useful is that it transcends any political or religious point of view, and locates the source of our social evils in a force that crosses cultures and time periods. When we see that our problems are not economic, political, religious, or even philosophical per se, but are human, then we can come together as humans from all across the spectrum of cultures so as to transform the dominator reality and create something else. We will all have our own names for that something else. I call it the Garden Earth.

Let’s begin with a definition of a reality. When I refer to a “reality” I'm referring to a consensual reality or human culture. It is not hyperbole to talk about culture as reality, since human beings can't experience anything at all without the filters and meanings that culture provides. Culture is traditionally considered the expression of human lifeways, our dress, art, and cuisine, our ways and means, but culture also determines what is possible and true, what exists or does not exist, who we humans are and what the meaning of our lives may be. In a practical way, cultures are the realities in which we live, and if there is a reality that exists without culture, humanity will never know.

A dominator culture is any form of reality that is defined by its subjection of humans and nonhumans by a small ruling elite. Humans have created a plurality of cultures, but for the past 5000 years, variations of dominator cultures have steadily increased their hold on human life and now claim hegemony on a global scale.

The ruling elite of dominator cultures are the people I call the dominators. They constitute a wealthy and powerful criminal class that has taken many forms and names over time, assuming such roles as warrior kings, priests, emperors and royal families, corporations, nation-states, churches, and political parties. They use whatever facade is effective in establishing mastery, and also employ a variety of weapons to control human people and plunder the earth’s resources, including terror and threat, weapons of physical violence, and weapons of mental and spiritual control. Some examples of these weapons of mental and spiritual control include church doctrines, threats of hell and damnation, marginalization, assimilation, ridicule, pathologizing, and demeaning, as well as the control of social institutions, mythologies, the sciences, and ultimately, what is acceptable as possible and real.


Dominator cultures are characterized by paradigms of materialism, that is, the disensoulment of matter, and by absolutism and linearity. Hierarchies are maintained by violence and power-over methods rather than by authority, and the values and institutions of culture support the goals of the ruling elite over and above the welfare of people and land. Personal gain and self-interest, for example, have been established as virtues in all dominator cultures, and individualism, an extreme form of humanism, is encouraged. It may be surprising at first to think of humanism as a dominator philosophy, but humanism, after all, is dominator hubris writ large, setting up humanity as the ultimate intelligence and the only ensouled expression of an otherwise mechanical universe.


The origin of dominator cultures is not easy to unearth. For reasons that remain speculative, many cooperative cultures gave way to dominator cultures as far back as 5000 B.C.E. The rise of the dominators may have been a byproduct of times of scarcity or of the tension created by competition between nomadic groups. It may have evolved from expressions of a dominating impulse in human nature. One thing we do know is that the artifacts of civilization, such as cities, writing, and institutionalized religion, seem to have arisen hand-in-hand with dominator hierarchies, although we can show no causal link. We also know that the actions of dominator individuals and groups are unconstrained by concern for the welfare of others. This selfish willingness to hurt has given them the power to control and command throughout the centuries, and to establish their vast wealth, their states and nations, and their churches and corporations.


As the 21st century opens, dominators control the institutions of almost every society on earth. They achieved this hegemony by managing science, religion, politics, technology, economics, medicine, education, food production, and every other human institution to empower themselves and meet their own selfish ends. Today’s dominators have claimed a monopoly on justified violence through a corporate trust of churches, states, and other powerful entities that claim loyalty to and garner ultimate justification from a variety of monotheistic gods.

2 comments:

Aron said...

Hope not to sound overly clueless, but do you get your term of the Dominator reality from Riane Eisler who puts it together with the Partnership reality as an alternative?

Just curious, mainly. What's tough of living differently is getting out of under the foot of such a culture. Similar thinkers like Danil Quinn suggests more tribal living as an alternative in the present day, but how that can be animist is tough for me.

Beyond your visionary art, how do you live as animist? I make attempts like giving offerings to spirits, but it feels often very...puny.

puny human said...

Hi Aron,
Nope. I chose that word myself. I believe we use it in different ways.

I appreciate your comments. Living as an animist is more a way of experiencing the world than living in particular ways, although if one experiences the animal people and green people as intelligent and ensouled, one tends to relate to them differently. So, living as an animist for me means that the cloud people make the snow. I have tree friends. I have greater-than-human friends. Other folks I know have animal friends. Some people don't eat animals because they have soul. . . but since I experience plants as soulful as well, I tend to see all beings as eating one another. The difference? I'm conscious of their gifts to me. I give thanks. I leave offerings. I sing songs. I give back whatever I can give back.

What is tribal living in today's world? We can't go back. I think we have to find our own way to be animist in a contemporary world. To be one human person among the many children of earth. I work in the ordinary dominator world, and sometimes the animist reality seems far away.

My next post will talk about the animist reality a bit more. Best wishes to you! Puny