Our story

This is a short history of humankind - not the story of UnTied.

From good to what seemed better (at the time) but in fact (and with a Systems Theory perspective) has actually proved to be worse, in terms of fairness, stability and sustainability. Arguably we lost our dynamic equilibrium around 10,000 years ago.

The Slow Turning - or stuff that sounds great but in effect serves the "entitled" (the established, vested interests) and further enfeebles the disenfranchised - despite all the "opportunities" and routes to "success" that merely serve as lures to work harder.

From egalitarian, stable and sustainable to unequal, unstable and unsustainable.

In rough chronological order

3.4 million years ago - Tools - Man the toolmaker - Archive.org

1.8 million years ago - Hunter-gatherers - Wikipedia

Marshall Sahlins: The Original Affluent Society - Primitivism

James Suzman: Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen - Amazon
Review in New York Times
"Modern San (bushmen - hunter gatherers) struggle to cope in a market economy" Review in The Economist

"Why 'Bushman banter' was crucial to hunter-gatherers' evolutionary success - The Ju/’hoansi people of the Kalahari have always been fiercely egalitarian. They hate inequality or showing off, and shun formal leadership institutions. It’s what made them part of the most successful, sustainable civilisation in human history" - The Guardian

"The real roots of early city states may rip up the textbooks" Review in New Scientist

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: The Harmless People - Amazon

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: The Old Way: A Story of the First People - Amazon
".. the book is also a reminder that we ignore our biology and our environment at our peril. We are, after all, primates who depend on all the systems of the living planet for our survival." Review in The New York Times -

"The concept of trying to control nature belongs to the agricultural peoples, but not necessarily to those of the Old Way." Review in Macrohistory

Agustın Fuentes ONeill Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame: Early humans on the menu - Notre Dame News

How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways - Psychology Today

Hunter-gatherers and the mythology of the market - John Gowdy

800,000 years ago - Fire

Maybe once we had gained control of fire, this allowed us to move to colder climes. Perhaps then the need to store food for the winter prompted the idea of "this is mine and I'll kill to protect it"?

Exploitation and extraction

This stable model was about to end and a more exploitative model was beginning.
We began to compete against each other and against nature in what might be called the post-lapsarian time.

10,000 years ago - Holocene extinctions - It’s interesting to note that (megafauna) extinctions were not so drastic in areas peopled by African Agrarians

9,000–6,000 BCE - Money

6,000 BCE - Use of copper

4,000 BCE - Mining of metals - History World

4,000 -3,000 BCE - Origins of the state - Wikipedia - Robert L. Carneiro PDF

3,800 BCE - Smelting of copper - History World

3,100 BCE - Patriarchy - Wikipedia - The Anarchist Library - Lumen Learning - Sociology Guide

Hierarchy - The Evolutionary Origins of Hierarchy NCBI

Hierarchy is inevitable. - The Pipe Dream of Anarcho-Populism - The Evolution Institute

3,000 - 2,800 BCE - Taxes - Following of Horus, in Ancient Egypt - “when the pharaoh appeared before his people--and collected taxes.” - University of Pennsylvania Almanac: Taxes in the Ancient World

2,800 BCE - Smelting of metals and invention of alloys (the Bronze Age)

1860 BCE - Slavery - Wikipedia - The Economist

1,750 BCE - Usury "The Code of Hammurabi regulates the interest that can be charged on a loan. Historical records indicate that many loans were made below the legal limit." Wikipedia - Americans for fairness in lending - Gettysburg Economic Review - American Monetary Institute

The Glubb "spiral of death"

859 BCE - Empires - History Today: Are all empires bad? - New Statesman: Why Empires Fall

"Assyria 859-612 BCE (247 years) Persia

538-330 BCE (208 years) Greece 331-100 BCE (231 years) Roman Republic

260-27 BCE (233 years) Roman Empire

27 BCE-180 CE (207 years) Arab Empire

634-880 (246 years) Mameluke Empire

1250-1517 (267 years) Ottoman Empire

1320-1570 (250 years) Spain

1500-1750 (250 years) Romanov Russia

1682-1916 (234 years) Britain

1700-1950 (250 years)"


These follow a pattern:

  1. The age of outburst (or pioneers).
  2. The age of conquests.
  3. The age of commerce.
  4. The age of affluence.
  5. The age of intellect.
  6. The age of decadence.
  7. The age of decline and collapse.

An interesting and chillingly familiar observation by Glubb:

"The heroes of declining nations are always the same—the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player, not a statesman, a general, or a literary genius."

Beyond Today: The Life Cycles of Empires

Compare this cycle to Craig Dilworth's Vicious Circle Principle in "Too Smart for our Own Good" p111 Amazon - Extract - Review and analysis

500+ BCE - Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu writes “The Art of War

500 BCE - Patent and Intellectual Property - Wikipedia

509 BCE - Representative democracy - Wikipedia

449 BCE - Roman “property rights” - Wikipedia - The Liberty Story

200 - Original sin - Wikipedia Transgression of social "norms" requires punishment

1235 - Property: Enclosure acts - Wikipedia

1415 - Colonisation - Wikipedia - Beyond Intractability

1513 - Columbus and the Spanish "Requirement" - Wikipedia

1530 - The Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca wrote in his diary of seeing “soft” Native Indian males in Florida tribes dressing and working as women. - Newsmaven.

1532 - Codified political manipulation - Niccolò Machiavelli published The Prince “claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning politics and ethics”

1604 to 1914 - Property: Inclosure acts - Wikipedia

1662 - Last sighting of a dodo - Wikipedia

1710 - Copyright - Wikipedia

1760 - Industrialisation - Wikipedia

1770 and 1788 - Australia (terra nullius) is "discovered" - "One man [Cook], standing on a small island, claimed ownership, for the Crown, of an entire, occupied continent." - Maenjin

1839–1842 and 1856–1860 - Opium wars - Wikipedia

1840 - Property is Theft! - Wikipedia

Commoditisation - Wikipedia

1865 - W S Jevons: The Coal Question - Wikipedia

1877 - Taylorism - Wikipedia

1883 - Mass production - encyclopedia.com

1896 - Climate Change-1 - Svante Arrhenius publishes “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Earth” - Royal Society of Chemistry

1928 - Edward Bernays publishes Propaganda "the first book to discuss the manipulation of the masses and democracy by government spin and propaganda" aka marketing or as Bernays says "the engineering of consent", pre-dating Galbraith's "Synthesis of wants" by some years - Archive.org - The Conversation

1938 - Neoliberalism - Wikipedia

Neoliberal Economics - The Guardian

Chicago boys - Wikipedia

1944 - Karl Polanyi writes The Great Transformation in which he makes the distinction between real and fictitious commodities.

1952 - Synthesis of "wants" - marketing and consumerism - J K Galbraith

1956 - Peak oil (concept) - Wikipedia

1958 - Michael Young publishes "The Rise of the Meritocracy" the first attested coining of the term - University of Chicago Review1 - University of Sheffield Review2

Meritocracy - Wikipedia

Opportunities - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Equality of Opportunity

Success - Competition is for failures - Huffington Post

A L Kennedy - Winning - "Winning - isn't it great?" asks A.L. Kennedy. But she argues that our "winner takes all" mentality is suffocating democracy. "On both sides of the Atlantic, in regimes around the world", she writes, "we can watch the chaotic dissolution of administrations based on winning at any price". " The BBC R4

Infantilisation - Umair Haque: Medium c.f. Transactional Analysis: Parent - Child - Adult - Wikipedia

1967 and 1970 - Lewis Mumford publishes "The Myth of the Machine" - Wikipedia - in which he coined the term the Megamachine - The second volume, The Pentagon of Power highlights the 5 facets of the pentagon as:

  • Politics
  • Power (in the sense of physical energy)
  • Productivity
  • Profit
  • Publicity


1972 - Climate Change-2 - John Sawyer published “Man-made Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect” Nature

1973 - Stockholm Syndrome - Wikipedia

1979 - Thatcher/Reagan-ism - The Economist

Milton Friedman - The Guardian - Investopedia

2014 - Ben Whitham writes The Neoliberal Way of War: A Critical Analysis of Contemporary British Security in Policy and Practice - Reading University

2016 - Peak stuff (concept and actual) - The Guardian 1 - The Guardian 2

2018-06-22 - Cuba recognizes the right to own private property - The Star

What next?

Really want to know how bad it is? Margaret E. Atwood: It's not Climate Change - it's Everything Change

The World is Running Out of Sand - The Smithsonian

Flying insects - Science - The Smithsonian - Science Alert

The next big crash - Market Watch


Air - The Guardian

Plastic - The Guardian

Global Warming - Union of Concerned Scientists  - National Geographic

Loss of biodiversity - End Times Prophesy

Then there is also of course - Rising inequality - The Guardian

The traditional model for progress and success is clearly laid out in Glubb's The Fate of Empires and Search for survival - see above. In essence Rape, Pillage, Occupation, Subjugation, Exploitation, Enrichment (for the few), Decadence, Exhaustion - Repeat.

This approach worked when there was somewhere else to colonise. Today we don't have that luxury, so we need a reset. Looking through the above list, where did it all start to go awry? Given that we have not changed, psychologically, since the Stone Age, we cannot expect to change much now. We can only draw on ways of behaving that have worked in the past and try to learn the lessons.

What will our descendants think?

The BBC: How our descendants will hate us

AEON: What will our descendants judge as our greatest sin?

Ways out

Ways of working together in a fairer more human way - Reinventing Organisations

Debunk the "Tragedy of the Commons" - P2P

Theory Y not X - Wikipedia

Ways of making the best (most sustainable) use of our finite resources - Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Circular Economy and its variants.

Restoration/regeneration of land and sea - Water Paradigm

Learn from the Hunter Gatherer ethos - see above

Ways of social organising on a large scale - distributed, networked, collaborative - UnTied Nations and SOS