Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure

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Comments on Daniel Quinn

Click here for a description of this book. For links to this book through online book stores click here ( ISBN 0-609-80536-3 ).


(on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

This book by Daniel Quinn is challenging us to take a few steps back and look at our own culture from a distance, enough distance to recognize the all pervading stressful and unpleasant characteristics of (our) culture that almost invariably make our days miserable.

Without trying to explain why humanity has ended up in this highly unpleasant situation of collective slavery, he clearly explains and illustrates what is our situation and since when in human history this misery started to dominate our lives. He shows how we are living in our culture, as opposed to how we would wish to live, would we have any chance to do so. As in his previous bestselling books, like "Ishmael", "The Story of B", etc., he points out that since the start of the agricultural revolution, some 10.000 years ago, gradually the "takers" took over from the "leavers", as he calls the 2 basic ways for humans to function in our present world. The "leavers" are the types that have chosen to live according to their primordial preferences and basic emotional make up. The "takers" are the types that live more in accordance with what present day culture requires from us. The latter basically live a life of slavery, in vain seeking compensations for their misery through all sorts of methods that our culture teaches us to find desirable. And they are the vast majority in our present day societies. They are "normalcy". People in general don't have the faintest idea that a different attitude towards life and society could be possible at all. They are dimly aware that lots of people run around that do not fit well into society, but do not know that among those less adapted specimens there are also individuals who have "chosen" to stop following the rules of what society demands from us, the "leavers". Let alone that the notion would break through that those "leavers" try to lead a more pleasant and more "fitting" human life, as was the birthright of us all many millennia back.

This Wiki adds to the books by Daniel Quinn by explaining scientifically "why"(*) this strange and unpleasant situation could develop and what is more, why the emergence of this phase of misery in human evolution never could have been avoided in the first place, why it is a necessary, be it transitory, state in humanity's existence and evolution.

In these pages we will take a small selection of pages of Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure" and explain how his point of view coincides with the contents of this Wiki.

What we will add subsequently is the "how and why" of it all(*). In that way we aim to make Quinn's work more comprehensible and powerful and embed it more firmly in scientific thinking.

The mysterious persistence

(from Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

During our three or four million years on this planet it can hardly be doubted that thousands of cultural experiments have been made among humans. The successes have survived — and the failures have disappeared. People will (ordinarily) put up with being miserable for only so long. It's not the quitters who are extraordinary and mysterious, it's we, who have somehow managed to persuade ourselves that we must persist in our misery whatever the cost and not abandon it even in the face of calamity.

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

In the above text Quinn points out that it is rather remarkable that we, the ordinary and "normal" human beings, keep accepting a life of relative slavery that, we feel, does not fit us well. These ordinary (slavery) type of people he labeled elsewhere as "takers", as opposed to what he labeled as "leavers" or, in this text as "quitters".

This is quite in line with what is described in this Wiki, "takers" are the majority, having been molded into form by the power structures ruling our societies and our lives, whereas the "leavers" are the rare specimens that have escaped from the fetters of our civilization and who insist on living a life they feel more comfortable with.

In this Wiki it is argued that this miserable situation of Homo sapiens is indeed at variance with what would technically be possible for our species, but that this unpleasant situation is only a relatively short phase in our evolution, which phase by now is almost coming to an end.

Basic to this misery is the following. Since just a few thousands of years the fast evolution on the meme level put power structures in the lead of evolution. This has caused us humans to lag hopelessly behind in terms of where our genome has equipped us for and thus what we would prefer to experience as our social and biological environment. The power structures don't care about our preferences, as long as we survive suitably enough to serve as willing carriers of the meme sets of the power structures in charge.

As a result, mankind is emotionally and motivationally squeezed between its slow biological evolution of the genes and the much faster evolution of the memes we carry.

Quinn describes that specifically the emergence of power structures, managing and ruling food supplies and food stocks, act as the trigger and the underlying cause of the emergence and consolidation of slavery.

That painful friction between our hardware (genes) and "our" software (memes) only will come to an end by the time we humans start to understand the evolutionary characteristics of intelligence in general and our own intelligence in particular and we decide to take our unique situation seriously and act accordingly, finally utilizing our intelligent faculties to the full. For some ten thousand years we have been at the mercy of those impersonal meme level power structures, for which our primordial emotional and motivational make up, our wishes and desires, are merely hindrances in the proceeding evolution of ever more effective and competitive power structures.

However, from a purely technical point of view, it would not be necessary that we collectively stay being subjected to the all overruling power of these impersonal meme structures that basically feel "alien" to us. In principle, there is a way out, as is shown on this Wiki (*), and what is more, this way out is most likely unavoidable and will come to pass automatically in due time.

The turn away from tribalism

(from Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

People don't plant crops because it's less work, they plant crops because they want to settle down and live in one place. An area that is only foraged doesn't yield enough human food to sustain a permanent settlement. To build a village, you must grow some crops — and this is what most aboriginal villagers grow: some crops. They don't grow all their food. They don't need to.

Once you begin turning all the land around you into crop-land, you begin to generate enormous food surpluses, which have to be protected from the elements and from other creatures — including other people. Ultimately they have to be locked up. Though it surely isn't recognized at the time, locking up the food spells the end of tribalism and beginning of the hierarchical life we call civilization.

As soon as the storehouse appears, someone must step forward to guard it, and this custodian needs assistants, who depend on him entirely, since they no longer earn a living as farmers. In a single stroke, a figure of power appears on the scene to control the community's wealth, surrounded by a cadre of loyal vassals, ready to evolve into a ruling class of royals and nobles.

This doesn't happen among part-time farmers or among hunter-gatherers (who have no surpluses to lock up). It happens only among people who derive their entire living from agriculture—people like the Maya, the Olmec, the Hohokam, and so on.

And on the role of religion in strengthening the power structures that keep us enslaved, Quinn quotes Karl Marx:

These are the "consolations" that led Karl Marx to call religion "the opium of the people." This opium carries the masses out of their misery and up into the empyrean of tranquil acceptance. More important, from the viewpoint of the ruling class, this opium keeps them quiet and submissive, the promised inheritance of the meek remaining firmly and forever in the future.

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

This also is in line with the postulates of this Wiki. The Wiki explains why religions never can grow and prosper if they would keep working for the uplifting and the welfare of the people. Therefore, in fact because of the dictates of evolutionary forces, religions always do the opposite of what they pretend to bring to the people. Otherwise they would not be able to compete with other religious structures and they would disappear. Any spiritual initiative or movement that would fulfill its promises to its people, would very soon lose its clients because self actualized individuals don not need such support of a "superior" system any longer. They are free and don't obey all the rules any more. Therefore all successful religious systems act as (tools of the) power structures and help keeping the population down, also spiritually.

Therefore, by definition, religions, if successful, never (can) fulfill their promises, they never can uplift their followers to make them enter into the better life they are longing for, they even never can lead them into spiritual and religious realization, for if they would fulfill such promises, they never could be an ESS (evolutionarily stable strategy) and would as a consequence cease to exist, being replaced by religions that would suit the powers structures in charge better, or even are themselves an essential part of those successful power structures.

Opium of the people

(from Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

When Marx made his famous pronouncement; opium itself was not a drug of the people; so what he was getting at is that religion is the public's cheap narcotic. He could not have guessed, perhaps, that opium itself (in one form or another) would eventually become the opium of the people, despite its cost.

As things get worse and worse for us, we're going to need more and more of all the things that give us relief and oblivion and all the things that get us revved up and excited. More religion, more revolution, more drugs, more television channels, more sports, more casinos, more pornography, more lotteries, more access to the Web — more and more and more of it all — to give ourselves the impression that life is nonstop fun. But meanwhile, of course, every morning we must shake off the hangover and forget about fun for eight or ten hours while we drag our quota of stones up the side of the pyramid.

And Quinn continues describing his own struggle with carving a passable life out of the societal conditions he has been living in.

Am I building my own pyramid?

The craft I ply today is the one I plied for the companies I just mentioned. I'm not doing anything different for myself than I did for them. The work is the same . . . but I don't think it has anything to do with building a pyramid.

The test is this. If you had a billion dollars in the bank, would you go on doing the work you do to make a living? Really, honestly truly? I'm sure about ten percent of the people reading this book would say yes—for example, Steven Spielberg and Bill Gates (who already has his billion but still seems to love his work). I too am among that lucky ten percent. If I had a billion in the bank, I'd go right on writing.

There's plenty of room in the world for the ten percent who love their work. My passion is to make a little room in the world for the other ninety percent who don't. I'm not trying to take away the fun that the Spielbergs and Gateses have, I'm trying to open an escape route for the billions who are not having fun, who slog stones up the pyramids not because they love stones or pyramids but because they have no other way to put food on the table. We can give them a break without taking away the break enjoyed by the lucky ten percent—but only if we go beyond this thing called civilization.

Quinn continues explaining how he sees that most civilizations in recorded history, like the Maya, the Olmec, the Hohokam, etc., sooner or later quit with "civilization" and returned to the life we were designed for, tribal life. In his view we are the one exception to that tendency in evolution.

Putting the pieces together

The tribal life and no other is the gift of natural selection to humanity. It is to humanity what pack life is to wolves, pod life is to whales, and hive life is to bees. After three or four million years of human evolution, it alone emerged as the social organization that works for people. People like the tribal organization because it works equally well for all members.

Wherever civilization emerges, tribalism withers and is replaced by hierarchalism. Hierarchalism works very well for the rulers but much less well for the ruled, who make up the mass of the society. For this reason, the few at the top like it very well and the masses at the bottom like it very much less well.

With one exception, the experience of history is that people who make a trial of the hierarchal life ultimately abandon it as unsatisfactory. Some trials were still in progress when we destroyed them, so we can't know how they might have ended otherwise. We're "the one" exception. We're driven to cling to our hierarchical society by a complex of memes that tell us that what we have is unimprovable no matter how much we dislike it, no matter if it devastates the world and results in our own extinction. These memes tell us that what we have is the life humans were meant to have from the beginning and cannot be bettered by any other.

Homo sapiens: at the interface between gene level - and meme level evolution

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

We have a different view than Quinn on the rise and fall of civilizations as have occurred all over the globe during the last 10.000 years or so. In our view Quinn quite accurately describes how the agricultural revolution triggered the dominance of (software) power structures over human life. Thereafter however, the process of software evolution, competition between power structures, started running its own course. Because the software evolution evolves much faster than the evolution at the gene level, there exists in us humans since that time a strong "pull" towards being suitable as carriers of power structure's memes. And as is pointed out elsewhere on this Wiki, this is causing an unpleasant mismatch between on the one hand what we "like", what our evolution has laid down over millions of years in our genetic make up, and on the other hand what the power structures since some thousands of years demand from us in order to fit in as effective carriers of its memes.

So, in our view, our culture is not, as Quinn says, an exception in the sense that most civilizations in human history were sooner or later abandoned by us, its carriers, whereas our own culture has failed to be abandoned by its carriers until the present day.

We think on the contrary that since the time agricultural revolution took off, there has been no chance any more on a significant scale for human beings to keep living in tribal structures. In most places in the world that is simply not any longer an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). Since thousands of years massive military power is an indispensable ingredient for a meme level power structure to be able to survive for long. And that simply cannot coincide with tribal level organization forms.

So, until now we humans did not have any choice as to collectively choose for becoming "leavers" instead of "takers".

That choice only will come as soon as humanity has started to grasp the mechanisms of its own evolution and of the inescapable patterns that the evolution of intelligence is putting on our path. This Wiki is helping to approach that level of understanding.

Quinn gives an example, "Jeffrey", to illustrate and underline the existential emergencies young people can encounter while struggling with the needs of the power structures, the demands that these structures saddle us with and that feel very unnatural to us.


In My Ishmael I recounted the life of a young man named Jeffrey; loosely based on Paul Eppinger, whose journal was published by his father under the title Restless Mind Quiet Thoughts. Jeffrey was attractive, intelligent, personable, and multitalented, but he couldn't find anything he wanted to do, other than hang out with friends, write in his journal, and play the guitar. His friends were forever urging him to find a direction, get some ambition, and care about something, but of course none of these things can be done at will. He came to believe his friends when they told him he was unusual — peculiar even - in his aimlessness. In the end, despairing of finding the purposefulness that seems to come so easily to others, he quietly and without fuss took his own life.

I wasn't surprised to hear from many youngsters who feel exactly like Jeffrey, who know the world is full of things they should want to do — and who imagine that there must be something dreadfully wrong with them for failing to want it. Because I've taken the trouble to study cultures different from our own, I know there's nothing innately human about wanting to "make something" of yourself or to "get ahead" or to have a career, a profession, or a vocation. Notions like these are foreign to most aboriginal peoples, who seem perfectly content to live just the way Jeffrey wanted to live — and why shouldn't they be?

The open tribe

Jeffrey died for lack of a tribe — but not, of course, for lack of an ethnic tribe. Youngsters often tell me they long to run off to join the Yanomami of Brazil or the Alawa of Australia, and I have to explain that tribes like these aren't open to them. Though famously hospitable, they can't afford to take in wide- eyed kids who show up on their doorsteps completely devoid of the skills needed to help the tribe survive.

Throughout his wanderings, Jeffrey stayed with people who were making a living of one kind or another — family friends, ex-college chums, their parents, and so on. But, not surprisingly, none of them were making a living tribally; they had jobs, professions, and careers, but these were held individually, so there was no room for Jeffrey in them. They weren't making a living as a collaborative effort, so there was no way to extend their living to him. He was forever a guest, and guests (however charming) inevitably wear out their welcome.

In a sense, Jeffrey was unable to find anyone who knew how to give him as little as he wanted. Many youngsters want as little, and if they'll work together tribally, they can get it quite easily. Every tribe has the standard of living its members are willing to support.

People like Jeffrey need to live in a world of tribes, and a world of open tribes. And they aren't alone in this. Far from it, I think.

In the text below Quinn rightly points out that our culture has ran out of hand to such an extent, that it now turns much of the global living biomass and irreversably a large part of the world's biodiversity, into ever larger quantities of useless, superfluous human flesh. In that sense the world as a whole appears to be in a very critical stage of illness. The human species, through our civilization, has become a dangerous cancer-like disease for our globe.

However, the emergency situations arising from that condition, may eventually also trigger more human leaders to start using their heads, even for understanding the important issues that underlie the "taker" structures ruling our lives.

But is "less harmful" enough ?

Though it's a good and necessary start, being less harmful is not enough. We're in the midst of a food race that is more deadly to us and to the world around us than the Cold War arms race was. This is a race between food production and population growth. Present-day followers of English economist Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), like those of the past, view producing enough food to feed our population as a "win" just as American Cold Warriors saw producing enough weapons to destroy the Soviet Union as a "win." They fail to see that, just as every American "win" stimulated an answering Soviet "win," every win in food production stimulates an answering "win" in population growth.

Right now our food race is rapidly converting our planet's biomass into human mass. This is what happens when we clear a piece of land of wildlife and replant it with human crops. This land was supporting a biomass comprising hundreds of thousands of species and tens of millions of individuals. Now all the productivity of that land is being turned into human mass, literally into human flesh. Every day all over the world diversity is disappearing as more and more of our planet's biomass is being turned into human mass. This is exactly what the food race is about: every year turning more of our planet's biomass into human mass.

Quinn continues to point out that what he suggests to do is certainly not a return to prehistoric times and structures. Rather, it is applying tribe-like structures of cooperation and working together in the overall context of our complex societies. As an illustration of how such an approach works, he gives the following example from practice.

To distinguish is to know

It's important for me to point out (before others do) that I didn't invent tribal businesses; I just distinguished them from conventional ones and so made them especially visible. Now that you know what they are, you'll probably see them everywhere. In discussion with my seminar, Rennie brought to mind one we know in Portland, Oregon, the Rimskykorsakoffeehouse. This quirky local landmark, the creation of quirky local celebrity Goody Cable, almost has to be experienced to be believed. To take a table is to enter a special world that can really only be adequately described as tribal. When things get especially busy, customers will often be pressed into service to wait tables, and I know of one local author who waits tables one night a week just for the privilege of belonging to the tribe. There are often long lines of people waiting to get in; they like being there because the people working there obviously like being there.

Tribal people get more out of life.

Just think. It's taken me thirty thousand words to make those seven sound plausible.

And in the chapter below he mentions how ordinary citizens tend to regard groups of "leavers" who work together in tribe-like structures, interesting for many of the young, but generally feared by the established adults.

The civilized hate and fear tribal people

People in traveling shows of every kind are viewed as exciting but dangerous people, people to be shunned when they're off-stage. This is part of their allure, especially for the young. In past ages Gypsies were constantly suspected of stealing children, probably because more than a few children in fact succumbed to the lure of Gypsy life. It's long been suspected that the tribalism of the Jews has contributed to their demonization. And certainly no effort has been spared on our part to destroy the tribalism of native peoples wherever we find them. Their tribalism is the very emblem of their "backwardness" and "savagery."

The civilized want people to be dependent on the prevalent hierarchy, not on each other. There's something inherently evil about people making themselves self-sufficient in small groups. This is why the homeless must be rousted wherever they collect. This is why the Branch Davidian community at Waco had to be destroyed; they'd never been charged with any crime, much less convicted — but they had to be doing something very, very nasty in there. The civilized want people to make their living individually, and they want them to live separately, behind locked doors — one family to a house, each house fully stocked with refrigerators, television sets, washing machines, and so on. That's the way decent folks live. Decent folks don't live in tribes, they live in communities.

Yet, oddly enough, as soon as you hold up the tribe as something desirable, decent folks will start insisting they're as tribal as any Bushman or Blackfoot.

In the following brief chapter Quinn addresses the common idea that the general misery of human beings and human society is stemming from certain shortcomings. The idea is that once we manage to overcome the said human faults and mistakes, things should be much better and life should be better bearable, yes, even pleasant for the majority. He points out instead that what is basically wrong is that we collectively adhere to the wrong formula of civilization and that we better had abandon that unwholesome paradigm and return to a more tribal blueprint of living and working together in groups of manageable size.

Why what we've got is unsustainable

It's a fundamental tenet of our cultural mythology that the only thing wrong with us is that humans are not made well enough. We need to be made of finer materials, to some set of better specifications (provided, perhaps, by greened-up versions of our traditional religions). We just need to be made kinder, gentler, sweeter, more loving, less selfish, more far-sighted, and so on, then everything will be fine. Of course, no one succeeded in making us better last year or the year before that or the year before that or the year before that — or indeed any year in recorded history — but maybe this year we'll get lucky... or next year or the year after that.

What I've endeavored to say in all my books is that the flaw in our civilization isn't in the people, it's in the system. It's true that the system has been clanking along for ten thousand years, which is a long time in the timescale of an individual life, but when viewed in the timescale of human history, this episode isn't remarkable for its epic length but for its tragic brevity.

In Ishmael I compared our civilizational contraption to an aircraft that has been in the air for ten thousand years — but in free fall rather than in flight. If we stay with it, we'll crash with it, and soon. But if most of us lighten its load by abandoning it, it can probably stay in the air for a long time (while the rest of us try something that makes better sense).

Let's bail out and go over the wall!

Professor of anthropology James W. Fernandez writes, "Anthropologists, unlike philosophers, find that cultural worlds are brought into being by the performance (enactment) of mixed metaphors." (Emphasis added.) So there. I'm happy to mix a few metaphors in the cause of bringing into being a new cultural world.

After several hours spent discussing the movement beyond civilization to tribal living, one of the members of my seminar said he still couldn't see how it would serve to make human life more sustainable. We've come a ways since the last time I addressed this issue, so I should probably address it again here. It's a valid and important question. The New Tribal Revolution may give people a better life, but if it doesn't serve to perpetuate our species beyond a few decades, what's the point?

Right now there are about six billion of us in what I've called the culture of maximum harm. Only ten percent of these six billion are being maximally harmful — are gobbling up resources at top speed, contributing to global warming at top speed, and so on — but the other ninety percent, having nothing better in sight, want only to be like the ten percent. They envy that ten percent and are convinced that living in a way that is maximally harmful is the best way to live of all.

If we don't give them something better to want, we're doomed.

A systemic change

The New Tribal Revolution is an escape route from the prison of our culture. The walls of that prison are economic. That is, the need to make a living keeps us inside, because there's no way to make a living on the other side. We can't employ the Mayan Solution—we can't disappear into a life of ethnic tribalism. But we can disappear into a life of occupational tribalism.

Will this leave our civilization a smoking ruin? Certainly not. It will diminish it. As more and more people see that going over the wall means getting something better (not "giving up" something), more and more people will abandon the culture of maximum harm — and the more this culture is abandoned, the better. The escape route leads beyond civilization, beyond the thing that, according to our cultural mythology, is humanity's very last invention.

The escape route leads to humanity's next invention.

But even so, will this next invention give us a sustainable lifestyle? Here's how I assess this. Humans living in tribes was as ecologically stable as lions living in prides or baboons living in troops. The tribal life wasn't something humans sat down and figured out. It was the gift of natural selection, a proven success — not perfection but hard to improve on. Hierarchalism, on the other hand, has proven to be not merely imperfect but ultimately catastrophic for the earth and for us.

The Intelligence Boundary

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

Whereas the further contents of this Wiki amply support the idea of Quinn that humanity is in a cultural situation in which it cannot lead happy lives, a situation that causes most of us to be manipulated into a permanent state of neurotic stress and misery, this Wiki attempts to go one step further and uncover the underlying, inevitable causes of this dramatic state of affairs.

On this Wiki it is argued that we humans are the unique carriers of a superior level of intelligence, a capacity to comprehend complex matters.

One of the tenets defended here is that in most phyla in the animal kingdom the development of intelligence is halted once a certain level of intelligence has been achieved. We could call this the ordinary "intelligence boundary".

A further tenet is that intelligence only could rise above that "intelligence boundary", that general ordinary level at which in most phyla in the animal kingdom a further rise of intelligence is blocked, after a special provision had been built in, a provision that blocks the application of the intelligent faculties in any areas pertaining to the own and to each other's behaviours.

The idea is that without such a specific block on the utilization of intelligence, a further evolution and growth of intelligence cannot be an ESS, because in that case clever manipulation of proximate behavioural and motivational mechanisms within the individuals themselves, would undercut the ultimate reasons of the behavioural mechanisms that harbour the very evolutionary reasons of those behavioural systems. And that would exert a negative selection pressure on higher (too high) intelligence levels.

In short, normally, in any other phylum, intelligence cannot rise higher than the "intelligence boundary" because then it would start biting its own tail, producing shortcuts in the proximate mechanisms and thus undercutting the very ultimate reasons for which evolution produced those behavioural reflexes, thus diminishing the relative contribution to the next generations, and thus weeding itself out.

Only in us humans this ordinary upper limit to intelligence, the "intelligence boundary", has been surpassed, but only after specific blocks on the use of such intelligence, i.e. specific sets of blindness and stupidity, had been built in on a genetic level.

We could say that this building in of specific stupidities and blindnesses is The Latest Great Trick of Evolution on this planet Earth.

Apparently, mankind could evolve to this high level of intelligence only because we had become so inbelievably stupid and blind.

This Wiki thus provides an explanation of a series of specific and peculiar, typically human, traits of stupidity and blindness that in itself seem very strange to exist at all. We can design airplanes, we can design rockets that bring us to the moon and back, we can dive into the depths of the oceans, we can harness the enormous forces, hidden in the tiniest of particles, nuclear power. With those powers we could destroy our own and each others lives and the world at that, or we could utilize those powers to generate energy, almost without limits.

However, when faced with a mirror, showing our own personal behaviour or the behaviour of our close partners, our thinking faculties automatically and unavoidably switch into the "moron"-state, a state which even seems an insult to a chimpanzee or an octopus. We can achieve all those said technical performances, but we cannot produce even the simplest intelligent thought about ourselves. It is not so much that we appear to be very stupid regarding such subjects, it is rather that we appear to be completely unconscious in such contexts, as if we were deep asleep. How peculiar !!

Jet lag in human evolution

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

However, in view of the basic evolutionary ways behaviour is organized, this specific blindness can be seen as an unavoidable ingredient in any species that is overcoming the usual and general "intelligence boundary". And, in the case of planet Earth, that species happens to have become Homo sapiens.

Having explained the how and why of this peculiar state of affairs in the application, or rather the "non application", of human intelligence, this Wiki further explains that sooner or later this higher intelligence would also automatically lead to the start of a software-, a meme-evolution. In us humans this explosion of the meme evolution started some 10.000 years ago. First our intelligence had developed upwards for a couple of millions of years, after said intelligence blocks had been built into the behavioural repertoire of our hominid ancestors. Then, some 10.000 years ago, the meme evolution took over the lead. This period of 10.000 years is very short in evolutionary terms. On the other hand, the software evolution, the meme evolution, runs very much faster than does the gene level evolution. And, like it or not, this causes a strong friction within the human behavioural system, our primordial, millions years old genetic basis of our behaviour being pulled by the novel and very recent demands of the meme level evolution, of which we humans are the carriers. We could say that us humans seem to suffer from some sort of "evolutionary jet lag".

What is more, it is shown on this Wiki that the evolutionary competition between sets of meme clusters appears in our society as a struggle between "power structures". These power structures can wield more power by manoeuvring us humans into states of permanent neurotic tension. Those neurotic states do reduce the effective output of each individual involved, but the advantage for the power structures is in the increased malleability of the neurotic subjects. The result is that only neuroticizing, unpleasant patterns of civilization can win the evolutionary battles with competing power structures, precluding the survival of societal structures that would seem "ideal" from a general human perspective.

Point Omega

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

On the other hand it is also shown on this Wiki that this highly unpleasant state of affairs is to be a very temporary phase in the evolution of intelligence. 10.000 years is rather nothing in evolutionary terms. It is argued here that the mechanisms by which our societal systems, our civilization, the power structures ruling our lives, keep us under control, are losing their firm grip on our behaviour and on our lives. Humanity is reaching the point at which intelligence will start to understand itself. Once that happens, intelligence will break loose, the repression systems of the power structures will lose their grip on our emotional (fear) system and many of the societal control systems that we generally take for granted, will collapse for lack of emotional energy being put in by the subjugated neurotic masses.

After all, we humans are the carriers of the meme systems involved and we provide the energy keeping those systems alive. Once intelligence breaks lose, understanding will replace superstition and ignorance and the fuel feeding the power structures that keep us down, will dwindle away by atrophy.

On this Wiki it is also shown that such a transition will inevitably happen rather sudden, because of the way our learning system is working. Learning is based on the acquisition of relevant experiences and the internal processing thereof. This mechanism is regulated through the Reversal System of emotions and motivations. This reversal system implies that there is a very high contageousness within, but also between individuals. That means that there exists a critical mass in the balance between the percentage of neurotic victims in a population and the percentage of escapees from the supressive power systems, who have re-gained for themselves an optimal rhythm of experiences and emotional-motivational reversals, resulting in an optimal learning process. Once such "self-actualizers" have reached a certain critical mass or percentage of the population, the effect of contageousness will trigger an avalanche of escapees, "leavers" in Quinn's words, entering in optimal rhythms of telic-paratelic switches, resulting in optimal learning cycles, resulting in processes of self-actualization, resulting in replacement of suppressive and detrimental societal structures by supportive, wholesome structures, supporting ever more individuals to escape from the fetters of the power structures that have kept us in slavery for the better part of the last 10.000 years. Because of the technical way these mechanisms operate, this process will run like a chain reaction, hence its unexpected speed once that critical mass has been reached. Seen from an evolutionary perspective, that change will appear like a sudden, instantaneous "reversal", humanity all of a sudden being in a totally different world, that is, socially, emotionally and motivationally. Seen from the perspective of an individual however, that change will appear as a time consuming personal struggle or a series of externally triggered personal events. Nevertheless, the chain reaction aspects, with all their unexpected suddenness, will be undeniably present and obvious. On this Wiki we have named that relatively sudden transition point as "Point Omega", after the wording of the archeologist, mystic-priest, philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin.

Giving these technical insights in the processes ruling human personal and social behaviour, this Wiki adds to the books of Quinn a further insight in the "how" and "why" of it all.

The conclusion is that Quinn apparently is not some deranged nuthead with some personal view and belief system that is probably not describing reality in a completely adequate way.

On the contrary, the data on this Wiki support the notion that Quinn is a rare and sharp analyst of the human situation and that we had better take his words and writings seriously, because those ideas of his might very soon prove indispensable ingredients to handle the situations many of us will encounter soon, if not today.

In the page below Quinn once more suggests that humanity has to consider seriously the still existing option to live and work according to the old "tribal" patterns that suit our innate reflexes much better. he also suggests that it is, incidentally, just our one present civilization of "takers" that causes the world to now face pending total disaster and collapse.

But why "humanity's" next great adventure?

In The Story of B and elsewhere I made a great point of establishing the fact that we — the Takers, the people of this culture — are not humanity, and I'll certainly never draw back from that statement. It isn't humanity that is presently converting this planet's biomass into human mass, it's the people of one culture—ours. It isn't humanity that is pressing thousands of species into extinction every year by its expansion, it's the people of one culture — ours.

Why then do I describe the New Tribal Revolution as "humanity's" next great adventure instead of "our" next great adventure? The answer is simple: civilization was not "our" adventure. As I've pointed out again and again in this book, civilization was an adventure that many peoples embarked upon. "We" weren't the only ones; we were just the only ones who stuck with it to the point of self-immolation. And if civilization wasn't just "our" great adventure, how could the next great adventure be just "ours"?

The New Tribal Revolution isn't intended to be ours alone— anyone can join who wants to, after all. But neither is it compulsory. The old tribalism with which humanity became humanity is as good as it ever was. It will never wear out or become obsolete. Landing on the moon was a great achievement for humanity, but that doesn't mean all humans have to do it.

Did we have any choice?

(comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

The articles on this Wiki suggest that Quinn is wrong supposing that our one present culture is an exception in keeping us members trapped for so long and so thoroughly that we are progressively consuming all the earth's resources, destroying the global ecosystem at an unprecedented pace. He suggests that other complex civilizations at some point in time were purposefully "left" by its members, returning back to tribal and more agreeable ways of life.

Contrary to that interpretation by Quinn, this Wiki emphasizes that once the agricultural revolution took place, there was no more a way back, because from that moment on, the meme evolution took over the lead. Experienced happiness of Homo sapiens specimens was not any more the leading force behind evolution, but rather the level of power that meme-power-structures could wield as compared to competing meme-power-structures. From that moment on human happiness and thus the extent to which human society was "fit" for the human emotional make up, was of minor importance as long as the human individuals, the carriers of the ruling meme systems, would not collapse completely in too high percentages.

So, even if we can trace in human history certain civilizations, the members of which appear to have quit their culture at some point in time, the conclusion, according to our Wiki, must be that such voluntary events of bailing out collectively, must have been the exceptions rather than the rule, seen from the perspective of the leading evolution and competition of and between the meme-level-power-structures. Since long, since some 10.000 years, human societies did not any more have the option to back out, if not at best somewhere in the undetected periphery of where the mainstream of human evolution was happening.

Mainstream human evolution by necessity ended up where we are now, the power structures culminating to the point of not only threatening competing power structures, but even the whole of humanity and the whole of life. In fact, life on earth is dwindling away in an unprecedented pace and indeed, as also Quinn emphasizes, we have not much time left any more to come to our senses and consciously choose another direction.

Understanding ourselves: the Truth will set us Free

(Comments on Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure")

Whereas Quinn does not answer the "why" question, this Wiki does, and by doing that it strives to provide an extra set of tools that will enable us to switch to a higher level of understanding of ourselves and of our collective present situation. The presented data underline that up to this point humanity did not have any choice to escape from the "takers"-type of disasters. The power structures in charge and the evolution proceeding on that level, broadly dictated the course of events, including all the misery, mayhem, genocide and other atrocities and sufferings in human historical times. No conscious human choices could have prevented that, also not a "takers" - "leavers" type of decisions on a local level. The "leavers" generally lost the battle because the power structures in charge during these last millennia simply dictated so. They simply did not have any other options.

This Wiki argues however that recent technical developments are presently dissolving the influence of the power structures. Organized ignorance and stupidity are ever more difficult to maintain. That in turn is boosting awareness of a variety of mechanisms on the personal and sociological level that have for ages been covered by the cultural programs that have thus been serving the power structures in charge. And that in turn will reduce the neuroticizing pressure on the masses, giving more space to individual growth and development. That in turn will eventually make us reach certain critical percentages of self-actualizers and escapee "leavers". And that will trigger the Point Omega transition as described on this Wiki, which is the rather sudden chain reaction that also will most likely put an unexpected end to the whole fabric of the present day "takers" civilization.

Technical developments are the driving force behind this development towards Point Omega. But a better understanding of the mechanisms behind this all, as provided on this Wiki, will make it much easier for understanding individuals to blend in into these transition processes and to avoid in a much easier way the useless struggles and battles that come with the replacing of old patterns by new.

One of those old patterns is the "takers" civilization (Quinn's term), to be replaced by "leavers" type of attitudes and structures. The latter can also be labeled as the patterns preferred by "self-actualizers" or enlightened persons. Thus understanding, as provided through these pages, will reduce the pains of the birth woes giving light to the new world, in which the "takers" attitude will mainly be a tale from history.


By way of conclusion of this article about Daniel Quinn's book "Beyond Civilization, humanity's next great adventure" we here quote the last page of his book with some connectives.

The New Tribal Revolution is nothing if not a great educational experiment; and it can only succeed if we share our wisdom, experiences, and discoveries with regard to making a living tribally. Luckily we have a terrific [new] medium for doing exactly this by way of the internet. At you can be in touch with like-minded readers ready for involvement in this next great adventure.

Those who are not online can reach me at Beyond Civilization, P.O. Box 66627, Houston TX 77266-6627. Your letters are gratefully received and will always be read with interest, but please understand that I can't answer each one individually.