Humanity is approaching what may well be the most important watershed of its long history: the replacement of the win-lose model of relations between classes, nations, sexes, religions, competing economic groups, humankind and the environment, by a win-win approach in all areas. The future of our race possibly hinges more on this one change than on any other single factor.
A masculine paradigm
The dominant win-lose, competitive, neo-liberal model is basically a masculine paradigm. For thousands of years this paradigm has dominated human relations and our relations with nature since the advent of urban cultures and of the first classes.
For thousands of years too, given very primitive technologies, extremely slow population growth, almost nonexistent communications, this model seemed to function – and it certainly functioned for those who were in power: the nobility, the ruling classes, the military, the rich, the clergy of all creeds and of course men. In the three monotheistic religions of the Word – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – male dominance reached extremes rarely reached in other religions. From the fundamentalist Jew who thanks God every morning to the Catholic Church hierarchy which does not include a single representative of more than half of humanity, women have been systematically marginalized and often despised. In Europe alone, the Inquisition burned 3-4 million women as witches. The track record is not exactly brilliant.
This win-lose model gave birth to one of the most remarkable and successful scientific paradigms in history, the Darwinian paradigm of the survival of the fittest. For a time, it even gave a veneer of scientific respectability to nascent capitalism, which produced some of the most horrendous forms of human exploitation recorded in history – far worse than slavery. History rarely spawned two stranger bedfellows!
Whether the competitive model was a necessity in the rise of modern civilisation has been an object of considerable speculation. One thing is certain however: it gave birth to some of the worst sufferings and massacres in history. Sixty million indigenous Americans died in the conquest of the Americas (this is one of the more conservative figures). The slave trade (or Maafa, Swahili for holocaust) brutally uprooted 10-12 million Africans. Colonialism subjugated two thirds of the planet to merciless exploitation. And the Industrial Revolution, as Friedrich Engels describes in his great classic The Condition of the Working Class in England, produced some of the most extreme forms of human exploitation and degradation in history.
But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, humanity made a major quantum leap: world population was multiplied by almost seven in two centuries (we are now approaching seven billion), instant communications in real time are worldwide, and the scientific establishment has engendered a host of lethal products, from the atom bomb to pesticides, GMOs to 100,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, rampant in the world environment, to name but a very few. Economic competititon has become furious and totally lopsided: 98% of the 3000 billion dollars exchanged daily are traded for purely speculative reasons. We have reached a level of collective insanity maybe unequalled in history. But as American writer Ernest Becker noted many years ago in his book The Birth and Death of Meaning: ‘If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their sanity and call themselves normal.’
One could say humorously that if you board the wrong train, it is no use running in the corridor in the opposite direction. The win-lose, competitive male model is leading humanity to extinction, and minor adjustments which do not fundamentally alter the paradigm are like simply running in the corridor of the train.
The feminine energy of cooperation
Only a major and rapid change to a holistic win-win model in all areas – which is basically the feminine energy of cooperation, synthesis, intuition and love – can put us back in the right direction. As the French geneticist and biologist Joël de Rosnay once noted:‘The masculine values were necessary to conquer the world. These are warlike values, adapted to the early stages of humanity. Women stayed at home. But in the 21st century, the world no longer needs to be conquered. It has become our home for all. And we need to give top priority to the values which will enable us to organize this home, in other words feminine values: the transmission of knowledge and practices… complementarity, intuition, a more holistic view of the interdependence of the various elements of a whole, harmonisation, coordination and synchronization.’
A quantum jump, to the new ‘win-win’ paradigm
Is it not time we men get over our rather pathetic fear of being called weak or feminine, or of hesitating to express our feminine qualities, which history has taught us so thoroughly to repress? Is it not time we came to acknowledge that the macho he-man is fit for Madame Tussauds, or the prehistory wing of the British Museum – not for the 21st century? It is time for men to become militants of women’s rights, because, despite very significant strides towards greater equality, the inequalities, especially in pre-industrial cultures and most religions, remain totally unacceptable.
And it is time for all who defend the competitive paradigm (including those women who have adopted it) to realize that, in the context of human evolution, they are ultimately fighting against themselves, and as Fred Donaldsen says in his fabulous book Playing by Heart,‘When we fight against ourselves, we lose, even when we win.’ For eons, we men have ‘won’ – or so we believed – at the cost of stunting our better half – not our partner (although we also did that) but our feminine dimension. Today, the hard-nosed realists are those who see clearly that the ONLY hope of mankind is in the feminine, win-win paradigm. The hopeless dreamers are those who still delude themselves into believing our civilisation can survive with losers. As Donaldsen adds, ‘We have not understood that in our quest to conquer each other and the earth, the longer ‘we’ win, the more ‘we’ lose.’ Spiritually and psychologically in the short run, in all ways in the long run.
The changes demanded are immense, and what they imply goes far beyond the limits of a short editorial. Despite numerous alarmist predictions about the future, I have a strong conviction humankind will manage this quantum jump into the win-win paradigm. (As Wayne Dyer once remarked, ‘No one knows enough to be a pessimist.’) But it will demand great inner strength from women, who will need to press insistently for rapid change, and, from we men, a humility we are not accustomed to. And above all, it demands clear vision from both – the vision of the extraordinary world we will build once we have managed to put our hurt egos aside and the common good first.
Pierre’s book The Gentle Art of Blessing, published by Cygnus, illustrates the application of a win-win approach especially in the area of human relationships.