Residing within the Liminal World of 2020
It is difficult to see the past or the future clearly when you are in the middle of a firestorm. Few would deny that 2020 is a year like no other. In the first ten months alone we experienced the following:
- Devastating forest fires that swept Australia in January 2020.
- The coronavirus is spreading to humans and causing a global pandemic.
- Basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his little daughter Gianna die in a helicopter crash.
- President Donald Trump is indicted.
- The disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault.
- The stock market crashes, suffering its worst one-day drop ever on March 9, 2020.
- The police murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor sparked global protests against Black Lives Matter.
- Forest fires devastate the western United States.
- Ruth Bader Ginsberg dies and Amy Coney Barrett is President Trump’s candidate to replace her.
- Donald Trump denies the existence and effects of the coronavirus, opposes wearing a mask, mocks those who do, becomes infected, is hospitalized and then released.
The world “liminal” comes from the Latin Limen or threshold. It is a time when we are between and between us. I had a vision of an old world that is going down and a new one that was born in a 1993 sweat lodge ceremony at the Wingspan Men’s Leadership Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I described the experience in an article: “The ship of civilization is sinking: do not lose hope. Find your tribe. “In the vision we were all on a huge ship, the ship of civilization. It appeared to be an unsinkable ship that had been strong for 10,000 years. Those on the upper decks who commanded the ship didn’t believe those in the boiler room, saw the waters come in and warned that the ship was going to sink. Eventually, many people escaped the ship, got on lifeboats and rowed away. The commanders and those who believed them claimed to the end that the ship was unsinkable. In the vision saw me a new kind of network that was created by the lifeboats, and a new kind of society that formed as people created a new world.
In the twenty-seven years since experiencing the vision, I have found that a dominator system is in decline and a partnership system is emerging. As long as we subscribe to the myth that “civilization” is the best that humans can achieve, we are doomed to go down with the ship. In The Chalice & the Blade: Our History Our Future, first published in 1987, the internationally recognized scholar and futurist Riane Eisler first introduced us to our long-standing heritage as a partnership culture and our newer dominator culture.
In their recent book Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Affect Our Brains, Lives, and Our Future, written with peace anthropologist Douglas Fry, they show that our ancestors lived with the following partnership practices for more than 99% of human history :
- General egalitarianism.
- Equality, respect and partnership between women and men.
- Non-acceptance of violence, war, abuse, cruelty and exploitation.
- Ethics that support human care and prosocial cooperation.
It was only in the last 10,000 years that people settled in one place, developed surpluses that had to be stored and defended, and “civilization” or more precisely the “dominator culture” spread through violence and war across the world. The anthropologist Stanley Diamond describes our ancestors of hunters and gatherers as “conscripts of civilization, not volunteers”.
As Eisler noted, as opposed to partnership values, dominator practices include the following:
- Top-down authoritarian rule in family and society.
- The subordination of women to men and a stronger appreciation of stereotypical “male” characteristics and activities.
- A high level of institutionalized violence, from beating women and children to war and terrorism, as fear and violence ultimately maintain supremacy.
- The belief that rank and rule are divine or natural and that the threat or use of force to enforce or maintain it is normal and moral.
How to live in the frontier world as we transition to a new paradigm of partnerism
Living in the frontier world, where a 10,000 year old Dominator culture is coming to an end and Donald Trump is President, can be frightening, but it also offers wonderful opportunities for growth and change. In her article “At Home in the Frontier World”, writer Pamela Weintraub quotes Maggi Savin-Baden of Coventry University in the UK: “We have to immerse ourselves in the frontier space in order to master the knowledge that is most useful for our postmodern world of creative Destruction and constant change – so-called “annoying knowledge”, which at first appears strange, counter-intuitive and incoherent and does not make any logical sense. “Here are some things we need to do:
- Realize that the Dominator culture we call “civilization” is disappearing.
Instead of reaching the peak of human achievement, what we call “civilization” is much more problematic than we previously thought. The anthropologist and historian Jared Diamond wrote an essay in 1999 entitled “The Worst Mistake in Human History”. People have broken away from the community and in our addictive arrogance we believe we can work our way up.
Religious historian Thomas Berry spoke eloquently about our separation from earth and the consequences of our failure to remind ourselves that we are only a member of the community. “We never knew enough. We were also not familiar enough with all of our cousins in the great Earth family. Nor could we listen to the different creatures of the earth, each with their own story to tell. However, now is the time when we will listen or die. “
- Partnership culture is the hope for our collective future.
The philosopher and author Daniel Quinn says, “If we carry on as we are, we won’t be around for much longer – a few decades, a century at most. If we are still in about a thousand years, it will be because we stopped going on as we are. “
On their new website, Parternism.org, Riane Eisler and her team say: “We cannot safely build a world of the 21st century on an operating system from the 18th century. The world’s economic and social systems are failing humanity and our planet. “Partnership principles and practices are the hope for our future.
- Partnerism is the silent revolution that takes place behind the scenes.
We are very divided in the USA. The left and the right, Democrats and Republicans, look at different media and there is little in common. We see one view of the world when we watch MSNBC, another when we watch Fox news, and the two of them never meet. But beneath the surface, partnerism brings people together. It is a socio-economic system in which all relationships, institutions, policies and organizations are based on principles of just partnership that support linking rather than ranking and hierarchies of updating rather than hierarchies of domination.
In his book “Blessed Unrest: How the World’s Greatest Movement Was Born and Why Nobody Saw It Coming,” Paul Hawken said: “The beginning of the 21st century saw two remarkable developments in our history: the appearance of systemic problems that were truly global and the growth of a worldwide movement determined to heal the wounds of the earth with the power of passion, commitment, and collective intelligence and wisdom. “
- Men play a unique role in the partnership world of the future.
In the Dominator world, a small number of powerful men did their best to control nature. What they wanted to do to nature, they also tried to do to women and other men who were ignorant, rich and powerful. But more and more men are confronting the powerful elites, breaking out of the man box that keeps us separate and lonely, and joining women and others who have been attacked by the dominator system for control, imprisonment or violence.
In my book 12 Rules for Good Men, I say, “It is time for men to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a man and the benefits of breaking free from the strict requirements of the man box.”
- We need to develop the ability to lovingly live with ambiguity and uncertainty.
Most of us are uncomfortable with the unknown. We long for clarity and security. But if we live in the frontier world, we have to learn to live with change. To do this comfortably, we live in the present and resist the temptation to seek simple solutions or escape into the world of appearances.
One of the great teachers of our time, the Dalai Lama, provides guidance and support for the times in which we live. Here are some of his wisdom words that I rely on:
- “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”
- “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
- “People go different ways to seek fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on the move doesn’t mean they are lost. “
- “Be nice whenever possible. It is always possible. “
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