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Overview of “Hope for Humanity”

This overview is taken from the Prologue to our book Hope for Humanity

Big questions and the search for answers

Do you ever wonder why civilization is faced with so many crises? Why humans seem unable to live at peace with each other? Why we make so little progress in alleviating poverty and suffering? Why we continue to destroy the living systems that support our existence? Why we seem hell-bent on self-destruction despite being so clever? Why some people become monsters like Hitler or Stalin?

In looking for answers to these questions in our book Hope for Humanity, we have tried to dig down to fundamental causes in human nature and culture. In our view, the problem does not lie in disobedience to God. Nor
does it lie in the modern counterpart of original sin—faulty genes. Nor is it an inevitable outcome of the competitive dynamics of evolution. Rather, we believe the planetary crisis is the result of trauma. Trauma runs as a constant undercurrent beneath our psychological, biological and cultural evolution from the emergence of Homo sapiens, through prehistory and history, to the present.

A brief definition of trauma

A brief definition will suffice for the moment. Trauma is “an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking and which may result in lasting mental and physical effects.” Trauma may distort our personality, it can impair our development and health, and prevent us achieving our potential, both as individuals and as a species. Yet these effects are so commone that we often do not perceive them, and regard our way of being as normal. More information

Trauma in pre-history

Like other animals, early hominins probably suffered little trauma. But stresses accumulated over time as humanity spread across the Earth, the climate changed, and our minds, societies and technologies evolved. Yet despite this potential for trauma, the evidence suggests that we maintained a largely peaceful, cooperative and egalitarian “partnership” culture for tens of thousands of years.

It was not until about 6,000 years ago that human culture changed. At that time, the climate dried dramatically over a huge belt of latitudes stretching around the globe. In its wake came famine, conflict and trauma, followed by an equally dramatic cultural discontinuity that Steve Taylor called The Fall . The ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia that emerged from The Fall were “dominator” cultures: warlike, competitive and hierarchical. Inherently violent, dominator cultures are the product of trauma, and perpetuate themselves by traumatizing their own people as well as their enemies, generation after generation. They gradually displaced partnership cultures around the world, as documented by James DeMeo in Saharasia, and remain the preponderant way of being today.

This diagram from Hope for Humanity illustrates the impact of trauma on human history

Reactions to The Fall

Steve Taylor identified two waves of reaction to dominator culture. First, some 2,500 years ago, came the rise of the great religions which sought release from the sufferings of this life by transcending the individual ego, and seeking solace beyond death. Second, was a flood of empathy and compassion that began a mere 250 years ago, and has brought on-going social reforms including democracy, an end to slavery, and universal human rights. These two waves continue to soften the hard edges of the dominator culture, but resistance is strong and progress is slow. Those who are fortunate enough to be at the top of the dominator hierarchy naturally resist any erosion of their power, wealth or status. And even those at the bottom often resist change, preferring to stick with the devil they know.

Hope for the future

If human civilization is to survive the present crises, we need to move away from the dominator culture, and do so quickly. With the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the acceleration of human induced climate change, peak oil and our voracious consumption of other natural resources, we no longer have the luxury of time. But there is hope for the future. Rapid change is possible if we recognize the problem and take strong, collective action. We can minimize the creation of new trauma, heal existing trauma, and increase resilience to potentially traumatic events. We can consciously push our civilization and species towards a new partnership future in which we transcend the constraints of trauma, and reach towards higher levels of consciousness, universal compassion, and unconditional love for all beings. We can become the possible human.

Outline contents

In Hope for Humanity, we trace the role of trauma through human prehistory and history, and on into the possible future. We start in Part I with a description of the nature, causes and impacts of trauma, mainly from a psychological perspective. This is followed in Part II by a discussion of the characteristics of the human brain and mind that distinguish us from other animals, and make us more vulnerable to trauma. In Part III, we trace key aspects of the evolution of human culture from hunting and gathering to the establishment of agriculture. The events of The Fall are described in Part IV, together with discussion of its causes and consequences, and reactions to it. Part V examines in detail the incidence of trauma in the world today, from before birth to adulthood, and from the individual to whole societies. Finally, in Part VI we set out a strategy for changing the course of history from domination to partnership, and the emergence of the possible human.

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