Partnership Future

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Riane Eisler explains her ideas , in an interview conducted by Eric Reynolds.

Riane Eisler:

"The Four Cornerstones of a Partnership Future

Eric: In having this perspective of the historical rise and fall of openness to partnership ways of being, where do you see the hope? Where is the work for those of us who do see these patterns?

Riane: We write of building four cornerstones as foundational to a partnership future in in the closing chapterof Nurturing our Humanity. These cornerstones are foundations for either a domination system or a partnership system. They are Childhood, Gender, Economics, and Narratives and Language.

Childhood is the first cornerstone, for obvious reasons. Neuroscience shows what psychology has long been telling us. And you’re quite right, since I wrote Chalice, in the intervening 30 years — I’ve been working on Nurturing Our Humanity for 10 years, by the way — there’s been a lot of new information since then. Neuroscience shows the missing links, if you will, between my theories and how our brains develop, and hence behaviors and policies. I would like to see this book used in universities, in sociology, psychology, political science, economics, etc. Because what we so need… Einstein said it, you can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them.

And yet, as I said, progressives are very difficult to move forward. We are so fragmented. A lot of things are happening that are movement towards partnership, but what’s lacking for us is that coherent frame. That’s what this work provides.

But there is hope. First of all, of course, movement is taking place. There is change in consciousness.

About four years ago, I asked the anthropologist, Douglas P. Fry, to be my co-author in this book, and that’s because he brings what I described in The Chalice and the Blade back millennia, to our foraging days — completely debunking the so-called scientific evolutionary story that we’ve been fed, and are still being fed, of so-called evolutionary imperatives that claim that it’s too bad, but rape, war, they’re just in our genes. That’s the story we have been taught.

Eric: Right.

Riane: Well, it’s nonsense. For millennia we now know, studying contemporary foraging societies, like Doug has, and from many, many other scholars that are cited and quoted in Nurturing Our Humanity that, in reality, that story is completely wrong. Doug calls foraging societies, which is how we lived for millennia, the original partnership societies.

I want to add that some people think partnership is just cooperation. That’s absolutely not so. People cooperate all the time in domination systems. Terrorists cooperate, invading armies cooperate, cartels cooperate, criminal gangs cooperate. What partnership system means is a social configuration.

Think about it. If you don’t include in a social configuration the situation of the majority of humanity, you don’t see the whole social system. Because how can you connect the dots, if you leave these huge dots — childhood and gender — out?

Eric: That, as well as speaking of those foraging societies, of nature and that partnership that’s so necessary of knowing your environment, knowing that forest and knowing what is safe and what is not.

Riane: That’s right. It’s all of one piece. I spoke at the United Nations General Assembly at a session organized by the State of Bolivia on harmony with nature, and I made the point that you can’t just tack on harmony with nature to a fundamentally imbalanced system.

That is why ranking is such a top priority for people who think a domination system of authoritarian, top-down rule in both the family and the state, is right. Especially the rigid gender stereotypes, and the ranking of men over women, the male form over the female form, and then ranking anything stereotypically associated with “real masculinity” such as domination and violence, over anything stereotypically associated with the feminine, like caring, caregiving, non-violence, etc.

Why do these people always have returning to a “traditional” male dominated, punitive family as a top priority? Whether it was Hitler in Germany, Khomeini in Iran, it doesn’t really matter. It’s because children in these families learn two fundamental lessons: one, they learn to equate difference, beginning with the fundamental visible difference in form between male and female in our species, with either superiority or inferiority, dominating or being dominated, being served or serving. They learn this, not only before their brains are fully developed, but before their critical faculties have kicked in at all.

So they have this template for in-group versus out-group thinking, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s racism in the United States, or Shia versus Sunni, or Sunni versus Shia in the Middle East, it’s always this in-group versus out-group thinking.

And in these families children learn another basic lesson to fit into domination systems, which is why childrearing is so punitive. They learn that it is very, very painful to not obey orders, no matter how unjust, no matter how capricious.

And they learn denial, because they’re dependent on the people who take care of them and who also cause them pain. So, they deflect their rage onto an out-group that some authority figure, whether it’s a Hitler, or a Trump, tells them is to blame. They have rigid thinking. Rigid sexual stereotypes, gender stereotypes.

We’re finding out from neuroscience, as we report in this book, in Nurturing Our Humanity, that this actually affects our brains. The part of our brain that helps us change when reality changes is often stuck in people who come out of domination backgrounds. So, no wonder there’s such tremendous susceptibility to climate change denial. When an authority that they believe tells them, this is just fake news, right?

Eric: Yes, and the weather is still working…

Riane: Yes, so they can deny the reality around them. The fields are burning, the droughts, the higher temperatures. No, it’s not happening. But we need to understand this. And we also need to understand that it’s wonderful that gender is becoming part of the mainstream media conversation. Like the MeToo Movement, sexual harassment, sexual assault. That’s very important because what it gets to, I don’t like the term toxic masculinity, because that’s what men are taught, but the truth of the matter is the “traditional socialization” for men is never, never to be like a woman. In other words, the only emotions men get are contempt and anger. But to be real men, they can’t have the soft emotions. You know, vulnerability and the behaviors of caring. But there are many men now who are diapering and feeding babies.

Eric: One of the things I’ve found interesting in the book about the research in the feedback loop between male caregivers and the reduction of testosterone.

Riane: Yes. Isn’t that fascinating?

Eric: Indeed. It goes both ways.

Riane: Well, and you know something else. It’s not only what you mention, but that actually men get so much pleasure from caregiving just like women and that this is reflected in hormonal levels, not only the testosterone, but oxytocin. This book is a wonderful introduction to people, not only to think a different way and therefore to be able to identify what are the most important interventions, but also it’s empowering.

Because if you are fragmented, it does seem hopeless. But it isn’t if we see that we can change from domination to partnership. For example, nations like Sweden, Finland and Norway. These were dirt poor countries at the beginning of the 20th Century, and today, they always not only have the lowest gender gaps according to the World Economic Forum, but they also, according to the World Economic Forum, always rank high in the Global Competitiveness Reports.

And they’re not socialist nations. People define socialism any way that pleases them. Socialism is actually a term Hitler used. It means that the government is involved in the economic system. It could be for terrible things or for good. These nations have a very healthy market economy, but they also have caring social and economic policies." (