Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

The Dawn of Everything (A New History of Humanity)

By: David Graeber, David Wengrow

Narrated by: Mark Williams

David Graeber and David Wengrow persuasively reject the view of farming as a critical step leading to tribes, hamlets, villages, cities, and future nation-states. Graber and Wengrow’s archeological research reveal human remains and structures are found in many areas of the world long before any evidence of farming. Their research suggests hunter-gatherer populations created and sustained stable communities with remnants of worship, government rule, and tools for construction, punishment, and defense. These early civilizations knew nothing of or practiced any form of organized farming.

Graeber and Wengrow argue early civilizations did not arrive as a result of organized farming.

The goal of the author’s research is to find an answer to the question of why inequality plagues civilization. They suggest inequality is (in part) created by the myth propounded  by stories like the bibles’ garden of Eden. The myth of original sin and redemption sets many precedents for inequality and redemption through good works. Their archaeological research suggests the plague of inequality has never been cured because history and archaeological evidence shows civilization wobbles between extremes. First, there is the altruism of sharing benefits of life with everyone. Second is the realism of what is mine is mine. Graeber and Wengrow argue there is history and archeological evidence proving both extremes exist but the second prevails more than the first. It would seem the first is more likely to preserve humanity, and the second to end it.

The goal of the author’s research is to find an answer to the question of why inequality plagues civilization.

Graeber and Wengrow offer a story of “sharing” by the American Indian leader Kondiaronk who saved his tribe by playing the Iroquois and French against each other to keep his tribe whole. Kondiaronk becomes an arbitrator for peace between the Iroquois and French. He secures peace for the French, Iroquois, and the Huron tribe of which he is a part.

Kondiaronk (French Canadian depiction.)

Kondiaronk becomes an arbitrator for peace between the Iroquois and French and secures peace for the French, Iroquois, and Huron tribe of which he is a part.

The authors say Kondiaronk is invited to France and finds monarchy a terrible form of government. He considers its hierarchy of wealth and privilege an abomination. His criticism revolves around the “mine is mine” hierarchal structure that impoverishes much of French society. Kondiaronk returns to Canada where he is buried in Montreal’s Notre-Dame church.

The “mine is mine” examples are more numerous than the “sharing” and distributive benefits Kondiaronk endorses. Schizogenesis is a phenomenon identified by Graeber and Wengrow in examination of Chinese, Roman, Persian, and other empires’ remains. Schizogenesis is defined as “creation of division”. It is social behavior of “get everything you can” and don’t worry about anyone else. The authors note archeological remains of most ancient civilizations are schizogenetic. Excerptions are a few North American Indian tribes and some Mesoamerican societies.

If authors’ stories of great empires schizogenesis are not enough, today’s Russian invasion of Ukraine is tomorrow’s archeological reminder of the phenomena.

There seems a slim hope for humanity in the example of Kondiaronk. Global warming is every nation’s problem. Humanity has a choice of “sharing” or continuing to fight each other until there is nothing left to fight over. In the past, many civilizations have fallen because of schizogenesis but now the world is at risk. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Global warming is every nation’s problem. Humanity has a choice of “sharing” or continuing to fight each other until there is nothing left to fight over.

This is a long book. It covers many subject areas that could be books of their own. As an example: the remains of civilization offer evidence that women’s equality, if not superiority, may have been exhibited during the hunter-gather phase of social development. The authors suggest women may have been the scientists of their time by experimenting with farming practices as farms became a part of civilization. Increasing and improving product grown on farms required experimentation. Who tended the farms?  The authors suggest it would have been women while men were hunting and gathering.

Part of the authors story covers America’s Mississippi River Valley and Etowah River area of Georgia to show how communal life grows in parts of what becomes the United States. Both areas leave burial mounds filled with hints of how their civilizations were formed, how they were governed, and why they disappeared. Both are founded on hereditary male leaders with some influence exercised by democratically elected council members. The authors note there is a belief in the importance of dreams that presage Freudian thought and its influence on lived life. It seems both areas grew with hierarchical governance by Tribal chiefs who lived, worked, and died in conflicts with competing tribes. (This is more evidence of schizogenetic life.) Farming is certainly a part of these societies but not as a formative cause of creation.

America’s Mississippi River Valley burial mounds.

The greater chiefs were memorialized by ritual mounds.

This is not light reading or listening, and it remains a speculative story of civilizations’ growth, and organization. It seems a more careful examination of archeological evidence than the farming explanations from different authors like Fukuyama, Diamond, Pinker, and Harari.

Of course, Fukuyama is a political theorist, Diamond and Harari are historians, and Pinker is a cognitive scientist. All are well regarded professionals. What Graeber and Wengrow add is evidence that suggests a different interpretation of the past.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

One thought on “RELIVING THE PAST”

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