The modern “democratic” systems of state management and organising communities that are used around the world today are almost without exception based on hierarchical frameworks of one type or another.
It is worth explaining what I mean by that. I understand a hierarchy as a system of people organising themselves based on different levels and different roles. The hierarchical framework that I am discussing is about political power, and by its very nature about the way that political power is apportioned differently across different roles and levels. It is, at its very core, a system built with political inequality as both its method and arguably its objective.
One of the problems we are facing is that after millennia of failed social systems governed by political hierarchical frameworks, like theocracies, monarchies, and imperial oligarchies the human race finds itself struggling to accept political systems that are explicitly built on and for the purpose of political inequality. Which is why, as the general population has become increasingly more active in their demands for equality, the beneficiaries of the organisational systems have increasingly camouflaged their systems.
While it is a welcome change that many people feel that they can no longer, with a straight face, openly claim that monarchs are ordained by god, or that rich white men have superior intellects to everyone else, or that the communities practising the abrahamic religions are more civilised than all other belief systems, the problem is that in a practical sense those inequities are still very prevalent in the social systems and processes managing our communities.
To this day the richest 1% globally is still disproportionately white males born into families who for generations have been accumulating vast amounts of wealth. For instance, just take a look at the masters of the universe, the richest 0.0000001%. The top 11of them have a combined net worth of just over $1 trillion. And in terms of the demographics, do an internet image search for a gallery of the richest people on the planet and the persistence of male white and inherited wealth that is thrown back at you is overwhelming.
We might not like to admit it but the representations of race, gender and class in all of the various levels in the power hierarchy haven’t changed that significantly in centuries. There has been some change, but nowhere near enough to argue a ‘golden age’ of civilisation and thinking.
Pick one aspect at random and unpick it. Gender for instance. While we like to pretend that the Suffragette movement changed the gender power inequality significantly in ‘civilised’ societies, the reality of the situation just doesn’t support the argument.
The Representation of the People Act 1918 was the law that allowed women over the age of 30 who ‘met a property qualification” to vote. That same act also reduced the property criteria for men and reduced the male voting age to 21, thereby maintaining an inequality of political representation in the very act that was meant to be addressing it. In fact it wasn’t until the Equal Franchise Act 1928 that women got the same voting rights and restrictions as men.
But before celebrating this, take into consideration that it took another forty-two years to pass the Equal Pay Act 1970, which supposedly enshrined in law gender equality in the workplace. And don’t get the party poppers out yet. You may well ask what has been the impact of this glass-ceiling shattering legislation after fifty years of implementation and enforcement? Well last year, over a century after women got the vote and nearly five decades after the Equal Pay act, across all employment in the UK the gender pay gap still stood at over 17%.
After one hundred years of having the vote, the political system in the UK still does not recognise men and women as equals. It is a patriarchal political framework protecting a misogynistic economy. And these hierarchical frameworks of gender inequity disseminate out from government and the economy into all other aspects of society, both rationalising and reinforcing gender inequalities. In such an oppressive and exploitative environment is it really that surprising that sexual-psychopaths flourish?
So why do we allow this to continue?
The argument for a system based on hierarchy is that a level based system will always seek the most appropriate person for the specific requirements of each level and role. Therefore if a person is at any specific level he/she will be there because the system appointed them based on an impartial, unbiased and purely logical and accurate assessment of their merits.
Rich people with an ounce of intelligence know that they can’t say publicly that they believe they are superior to poor people, just as most men, know that they can’t say that they believe women to be their inferiors, or for that matter white people to openly express feeling superior to people of colour. But the social, political and economic systems that we all routinely accept disproportionately allocates rights, privilege, power and suffering along exactly these lines.
Both the system and the rationalisation of that system is both explicit and implicit through out the social framework of each persons life.
From the moment we are born and at our most vulnerable we are taught to respect our elders and to do as they say as they know what is best and will take care of us. We then go to school where our education is entrusted to the teacher, whose authority we are taught is based on their knowledge and expertise for the lesson being learned in that classroom.
Now arguably, there is a degree of truth to these early stages. We hope that adults look out for and take care of children in their communities. We hope that teachers have a wide and deep understanding of the field that they teach. And more often than not this has been the case. But things become less clear when we mature into adulthood.
For every minute of our lives we are subject to the laws and statutes that the politicians, judges and lawyers maintain and develop, and that the police enforce. And we are reminded on a near constant basis that the politicians, judges and lawyers who maintain and develop the legal scaffolding of society are there because they are the most qualified in their own respective fields to do that job. When the reality is that we know that this simply isn’t the case.
But nevertheless, this then goes hand in hand with the idea that law-enforcement have the knowledge and expertise to know how best to interpret and apply this legal scaffolding on a day-to-day basis on the streets our communities. The problem is, well I think we can all see what the problem with this argument is. It simply isn’t the case.
But it doesn’t stop there. From the very first interview we attend for our first full time job we are constantly reminded that our right to employment lies in the hands of our bosses, who are our superiors based on their greater knowledge and experience. But the fact is that the hierarchical frameworks being used to organise and manage our societies and communities are not populated by people appointed to their varying levels based on merit. In fact it is quite the reverse.
Having enough money to pay for your children to go to fee-paying schools increases the chances of your children getting into higher paying positions and therefore further accumulating and concentrating wealth within those families. Social mobility is extremely limited within the modern hierarchical frameworks. Even our cultural icons, many of the top sports people, actors and musicians, disproportionate to the wider societies that they were born into came from families wealthy enough to put them onto the fast track.
We do not live in a meritocracy. And if voting could change that it already would have done so. However well intentioned the individuals and groups are that are asking the oppressed and the exploited to put their faith in the political system to bring about change are, the history does not support their argument.
The problem is hard wired into the institutions, processes and systems that are the various hierarchical frameworks managing and organising our societies and communities. All inequalities stem from and maintain these overarching hierarchical frameworks. As long as we keep playing by their rules we will keep finding ourselves on the receiving end of the mallet.
We must now try to build new processes and systems that work for everyone, and we will make mistakes along the way. It is very likely to be an iterative process, and there will not be a one-size fits all model for every community and society. But we must all work together to put exploitation, oppression and inequity behind us if we are to stand any chance of surviving the dangers that we now face.