The ancient Anatolian community of Çatalhöyük (about 10,000 people) lived for nearly 3,000 years in relative peace and equality. To presume that one would do the same things in the same situation (to oppress and marginalize others) is to presume that human beings are not hardwired for cooperation and that they are inherently selfish. Of course, selfishness and competitiveness are human traits, but when they have been fostered in the way that they have been by the current social system, they have blunted other human impulses that are the exact opposite.

I’d like to live in a society that doesn’t excuse selfishness and greed and that encourages the cooperative traits that have been the hallmark of most of our human existence. A lot of hunter-gatherer tribes practice something that is sometimes known as “reverse hierarchy” where the tribe takes down anyone who is getting too big a head or too many ideas about power. They often use ridicule, and if that is not enough, sometimes resort to banishment and sometimes execution. It’s typical for the kin of the offender to be the one to carry out the execution.

I’m not recommending that we shame, banish, or execute the power-mad or the jerks amongst us, but if there was a bit more social pressure against (rather than social reinforcement) of that kind of behavior, we could probably make some progress.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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