Our culture denigrates sharing. The recent innovations in “intellectual property” especially have tried to make sharing illegal, and induce in us all a feeling of shame when we share with others. Yet we still believe sharing to be a virtue. In our evolution as band-animals, sharing was not simply nice, it was the cornerstone of survival. The Ju/’Hoansi have no word for “thank you”; to thank someone suggests that their actions were out of the ordinary. Caring for others in band-level society was the expected norm; it was the most selfish act one could come up with. The most effective way to serve oneself was to serve others. Bands very effectively defeated violence, cheating, and other “immorality” not nearly so much by condemning it, as by removing the incentive. Compare this to our own, hierarchical “Cheating Culture.” Our survival does not depend on sharing with our small, close-knit community. Not only do the people around us no longer register as “people,” beyond our 150-person neurological capacity, neither does their survival affect us in any way. In short, there is great incentive to steal, cheat, lie or commit any of the other “immoral” acts which small, egalitarian groups need not concern themselves with. As a result, we must impose laws, to create artificial disincentives against what is otherwise a very clear endorsement of “immorality.” Yet this is an artificial disincentive — laws can be gotten around, police eluded, and so forth. There is no disincentive in the act itself; only in being caught.
Most of our problems today can easily be traced to some manner in which we remain maladapted to our present life — to the struggle of a Pleistocene animal, to adapt to the bizarre, Holocene nightmare we have created. Our social structure is one such example. We evolved as band-animals. Our egalitarianism defines us; it is probably the single most defining trait in humanity. We evolved as egalitarian band-animals in the Pleistocene. Egalitarianism is our natural state, and our birthright. It is what we expect, down to our very bones. Yet today, it has become so rare that many humans doubt its very possibility. We have accepted the evils of hierarchy — the trauma of an animal maladapted to its current environment — as inevitable.
Humans are best adapted to small, egalitarian bands, in the same way that wolves are adapted to packs or bees to hives. Humans flourish in such a social structure, providing us not only with our material needs, but also our universal psychological needs of belonging to such a group, of personal freedom, and of acceptance for ourselves as individuals. Hierarchical society is a social structure we left behind when we became human. It may provide for our material needs, but it fails utterly to provide for any of our psychological needs. So, we invent small, band-like societies — social circles, clubs and the like — to compensate for all the failings of hierarchy. In short, egalitarianism is an essential requirement for healthy human life; hierarchy is an utter rejection of everything that makes us human.
“…egalitarianism is an essential requirement for healthy human life; hierarchy is an utter rejection of everything that makes us human.”