Dominance is a Dead End for Humanity

Sep 4th, 2019 | By | Category: Other Resources

By Geoffrey Holland, guest writer for Transition Earth.

[photo: Suzanne York]

[photo: Suzanne York]

Have you noticed?  For the last several thousands of years, virtually every person historically remembered  – good, bad, or ugly – is of the male gender.  The record shows that for all that time, human life on Earth has been dominated by men.

The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud are all shaped by male dominance; all urge the subjugation of women and the unbridled exploitation of nature.  Bloody conquest has been the rule rather than the exception for thousands of years.  All powerful warrior rulers have used every form of cruelty and violence to conquer and control.

Since the early nineteenth century beginnings of the industrial age, the alpha dominators have been politicians, bankers, and business tycoons – all men – who have used their puffed-up wealth and influence to control public policy and profit in the economic marketplace.

The point is this: as we move through the early part of the 21st century,  the dominator paradigm continues to loom toxically over the human culture.  Yes, we know things have gotten very much better, in so many ways, than they were for our ancestors.  What we see in fact is that history is a succession of advancement followed by periods of regression; politically, economically, and socially.

It Wasn’t Always That Way

The evidence suggests that Homo Sapiens first emerged as a distinct species on the African continent in the late part of the Pleistocene epoch, around 200,000 years ago. For nearly all of the passing years since then, our ancestors lived in small clans, eking out a living as hunter-gatherers.  Cooperation was critical to survival. The sexes functioned largely as equals. In fact, women had a special place in those primitive times because their ability to birth new life was mythically linked to the cycles and rhythms of nature.

If the lifespan of humanity as a distinct species were reduced to a single day, all but about the last hour was lived in the Stone Age. Survival was tenuous in the best of circumstances, and was abetted by cooperation by necessity.

The Neolithic era, when humans began to transition from hunting and gathering to domesticating crops like wheat, barley, lentils, and flax, began about 12,000 years ago. This shift to agriculture also meant living in permanent settlements.

Author Riane Eisler closely examined the anthropological record in her book, The Chalice and the Blade. She reports that initially, as humans made the switch, more and more, from being nomads to farmers, most adhered initially to a lifestyle based on cooperation and gender equality.


[Author Riane Eisler, The Center for Partnership Studies]

[Author Riane Eisler, The Center for Partnership Studies]


However, at the same time, there were some groups of humans living on the margins, who moved away from cooperation to embrace confrontation and violent conquest. Led by strongman warriors, these dominator societies became known for violence, cruelty, and the subjugation of women.

The cultural evolution that resulted in male dominance over virtually every creed, ethnicity, and nationality in every corner of the planet took place over several thousand years.  The evidence suggests that the last bastion of human society based on peaceful cooperation and partnership was on the Mediterranean island of Crete, which finally fell victim to conquest by warrior armies about three thousand years ago.  Ever since, the course of human history over all of the Earth has been shaped substantially by bloody conquest and control by men.

Some will say that competition and the drive to dominate, particularly in the economic arena, have contributed substantially to human advancement.  That is surely true to some degree, though we have no record of how it might have gone had gender equality and cooperation been significant factors in shaping the course of human events.

Where Are We Now?

As a human species, we are navigating perilously close to a planetary scale precipice; a biospheric point of no return.  Why? Because there are nearly eight billion humans on Earth at this moment. That’s double the population that was here just fifty years ago; from four billion to eight billion in just fifty years. We could be at ten or even twelve billion by the turn of the next century.

The human population grows by another seventy-five million every passing year. That’s like adding annually twelve new cities the size of Los Angeles. Every additional human person we add has the same needs as every person that’s already here.  That would be food, water, shelter, personal security, and in the best of worlds, also health care and access to education. The numbers simply do not compute.  There is a severe disconnect between the needs of eight billion humans, and our Earth’s ability to meet those needs. Human demands are now literally sucking the life out of our planet.

pop growth chart

As we approach the third decade of the 21st Century, we are facing an unprecedented range of existential threats to life on Earth.  Our atmosphere is seriously overheated and getting worse. We’ve got weather extremes. We’ve got widespread deforestation, deep aquifer depletion, collapsing ocean fisheries, massive top soil loss, and wildlife populations that are in freefall.

Let’s look at the slug lines from just a few of the environmental news stories from the past few months:

Does anybody seriously think our planet can keep taking hits like this?  We are doing this to ourselves. Humans are rapidly destroying the only common home we have. That is not hyperbole.

Time to Retire the Dominator Paradigm

In the modern era, male dominance has remained the rule. It plays out every day in banking, in business, and in governance.  Dominance encourages indiscriminate competition. Dominance encourages winners take all. Dominance encourages blind greed. Dominance encourages the mindless exploitation of nature. Dominance encourages the relentless plunder of our planet’s resources to the point of exhaustion.  That’s just crazy. Unbridled avarice is a sure ticket to cultural collapse when you have eight billion humans, each demanding a piece of the pie.

The market driven interlace of nations on Earth is firmly entrenched in the dominator way of being.  It cannot continue.  We must make a profound, planetary-scale shift to a new way of being; a way of being that is life-affirming and sustainable; a way of being that gives us the best chance to heal the very serious wounds we have inflicted and continue to inflict on the only home we have.

Achieving a transition of the magnitude required is a seriously tall order.  The biggest impediment are the rich and powerful people, who have become rich and powerful manipulating the current, male dominated human way of being.  Broadly speaking, we’re talking about bankers, billionaires, politicians, and the corporate elite. As ‘business-as-usual’ is currently constructed,  these privileged men are sucking up all the world’s financial wealth and, in the process, are also squeezing the life out of the planet we all depend on.  Every day, the elite use their money and power to buying the tax breaks and the government policy they want, while at same time shamelessly manipulating public perception with every tool for outreach and influence available.

Virtually all of our cultural institutions have been shaped by dominance-driven  neoliberalism, which is in fact a selfish brand of  economics shaped by the powerful, with the aid of craven and corrupt political minions. The richest one percent are applying all of the wealth and power at their disposal to blunt any opposition to their agenda; not just blunt it, crush it before they lose their undue leverage.

When we look at remedies for our deeply destructive ways, we have to direct the spotlight on the dominator paradigm that has ruled the world over for thousands of years.  The fundamental change we need will not happen as long as we accept a dysfunctional culture, with social, political, and economic institutions built on male domination.


[photo credit:]

[photo credit:]

Shifting to a Partnership Way

A core principle of male dominance has long been the subjugation of women. Moving away from the dominator model starts with gender equality across the board.  Everyone must be represented at the tables where our future is being shaped. The good news is, in more and more of the world, discrimination by gender is no longer acceptable.  In North America, Europe, and in many nations in other regions of the world, women are taking leadership roles in politics, business, education, and the arts.

A gender equal, partnership model leads away from confrontation and conquest toward civilization-scale institutions that genuinely serve people and planet. The only way you get that life-affirming brand of institution is through broad-based cooperation.  Achieving the unprecedented levels of trust and commitment that are required demands that all citizens have a fair and equal voice.  We must build new institutions to assertively address the emerging existential threats that are our common enemy.  It can only happen on a gender-equal playing field, with dominance replaced by gender co-equal partnership and cooperation.


Time and time again, our species has escaped existential threats by reinventing ourselves, finding new skills not coded in our genes to survive new challenges not previously encountered.

~David Grinspoon. Astro-Biologist, Author, Earth in Human Hands


We are all citizens of the Earth.  We need to care about our legacy to future generations. We need to embrace our duty to be good planetary stewards. We must meet our obligation to protect and restore the biosphere we all depend on.

The world we know is seriously destabilized.  It’s getting worse.  The point of no return is looming. There is only one worthy path forward; together, caring and cooperating in common purpose.


Geoffrey Holland is the author of The Hydrogen Age, and a regular contributor to the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere –

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.