The Hierarchy papers #3

Article #3 it’s so obvious we can’t even see it. Hierarchy rules the globe.

Hierarchy is a global mindset. It is not a meme….it is THE meme. Every country operates on the acceptance that it is normal for some to be on the top and others to be on the bottom. Very quickly a young child knows this — rich over poor, white over black, men over women, etc. This is the ‘water’ in which we swim — and it feels as if we can no more separate ourselves from hierarchy than a fish can separate itself from water.

It’s true that a fish has no choice but to swim in water — minutes separated from it and it will die. But the same is not true of hierarchy. We can live life quite wonderfully when we remove ourselves from the hierarchy pool. In fact, we would thrive more when we climb out of the hierarchy pool. And that’s a cause worth exploring.

Only the few at the top appear to thrive in hierarchy. Everyone else is dog paddling in the pool and hoping not to get knocked down and drown. But what those at the top of hierarchy don’t realize is that they’re dog paddling too. They have to spend a lifetime trying to keep everyone else in their place. It is a very limited way of living. It requires such enormous resources of time, money, and daily life activity to stay on top. It consumes an entire life and results in choices that aren’t good for the one at the top, those below or the planet. And it prevents us from having the time to ask; As a result of being stuck in the hierarchy game, what is not happening that might actually be better?

While it is far more comfortable at the top, it isn’t actually any less anxiety producing than how others lower on the hierarchy rung live. Look at the college admissions scandal. Those at the top dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their kids in the ‘top schools’ for fear that they (parents and children) would lose their coveted place at the top. They were consumed with maintaining their spot. Think of all the time, money and energy they spent doing this.

To swim in the hierarchy pool is to swim in a pool of fear and no one, not even the ones at the top are exempt. How many wealthy white men have we watched drown in the hierarchy pool despite their position at the top? Scandals, drugs, alcohol, bankruptcy, and infidelity — the list goes on and on. The top is no more exempt from the pool of fear of losing the position at the top than it is for those at the bottom trying to claw their way up.

What if we drain the pool? Or at the least, climb out of it by recognizing that hierarchy is not normal, it is not a great way to live life, and you can create a wonderful life without swimming in it.

It’s time to shift our energy to creating a world without hierarchy and discover that it can create a better way for all of us to live. This won’t happen by those at the top as they’re stuck. It will happen — and it is happening — as Gen Z and the Millennials emerge as the next demographic that’s replacing the Boomers and Gen X. They’ve seen the hierarchy pool and aren’t interested in swimming in it. When hierarchy is the norm — social injustice, environmental destruction, anxiety and stress are normal too. They’re beginning to realize there has to be a better pool to swim in than hierarchy!

In 2001 Paul Rey and Sherry Ruth Anderson wrote the book, “The Cultural Creatives: how 50 million people are changing the world.” They are demographers and they saw the emergence of this new group starting around 1985. Cultural Creatives were in many ways ‘outliers’ of the Boomer generation — not conservative or liberal. This group dubbed Cultural Creatives by Ray and Anderson were inclusive, environmentally aware and offered a new view beyond the traditional conservatives and progressives. In 1985 this was a very small group but 35 years in the making, Cultural Creatives are now quite a large group. That because the Millennials and Gen Z are the children of this earlier group. They are emerging as a very visible force that will change hierarchy. They’re building a new pool around wholeness and it includes people and planet. A much healthier pool to swim in all around!

This is the third in a series of articles discussing Hierarchy. Article #1 is here, Article #2 is here.



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Career as a counselor/coach using Whole person framework (Lifepuzzle). Private practice and training. Also involved in local food systems development.