The default male verbs: Kill, Control, Coopt & Quiet.
For so long, that just seemed sensible.
I was conceived the month after Pearl Harbor, when the dominant males who ran the world required conformity to their proclamations, rather than requesting comments. Raised by my father from the age of eight, I attended all-male schools after eighth grade and went directly into the all-male world of military aviation. Nothing in my origin or experience before 1971–when the USAF released me into the wild–prepared me for a world where males didn’t dominate.
Little did I know that two years earlier, RFCs—the deferentially titled Request For Comments (RFC) method of achieving consensus—had been conceived, had defined the Internet and would redefine my life.
Some books are like revelations, they open the spirit to unimaginable possibilities. The Chalice and the Blade is one of those magnificent key books that can transform us and…initiate fundamental changes in the world. With the most passionate eloquence, Riane Eisler proves that the dream of peace is not an impossible utopia.
Anthropologist Eisler reports that, before ~5,000 BCE, most of Europe lived in peaceful, undefended villages. That ended after 3 waves of invasions by violent horsemen from the area of the Caucasus mountains between 4300–2900 BCE. Before the invasions, as far back as the archeological record reveals, these societies were “matriarchies”. More accurately, they were matrilineal cultures where property passed from mothers to daughters. In a hunter-gatherer society, this makes sense.
Our patriarchal lens causes us to assume that a matriarchy’s ‘rules’ are to dominate, like a patriarchy’s, a rigid hierarchy of female rulers subverting all lesser people & genders to their iron will. In fact, a matrilineal culture emphasizes partnership behaviors, a distinction described by Jordan Bates in his 2015 post, “Dominator” vs. “Partnership” Cultures: A Profound Re-Telling of Human History, quoting Eisler’s conclusions:
In the domination system, somebody has to be on top and somebody has to be on the bottom. People learn, starting in early childhood, to obey orders without question. They learn to carry a harsh voice in their heads telling them they’re no good, they don’t deserve love, they need to be punished. Families and societies are based on control that is explicitly or implicitly backed up by guilt, fear, and force. The world is divided into in-groups and out-groups, with those who are different seen as enemies to be conquered or destroyed.
In contrast, the partnership system supports mutually respectful and caring relations. Because there is no need to maintain rigid rankings of control, there is also no built-in need for abuse and violence. Partnership relations free our innate capacity to feel joy, to play. They enable us to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This is true for individuals, families, and whole societies. Conflict is an opportunity to learn and to be creative, and power is exercised in ways that empower rather than disempower others.
Bates is optimistic, seeming to resonate with MLK’s optimistic arc of the moral universe:
If you pause and reflect, you’ll note that in a little over 150 years, the United States has seen the end of slavery, the attainment of suffrage for all citizens, legislated equality for all genders and races/ethnicities, major strides toward legislated equality for all sexual orientations, paradigm-shattering environmental initiatives, and major steps toward the legalization of cannabis and a saner drug policy generally. The Occupy Movements have challenged systemic economic and social inequality worldwide, and in many places ideas such as universal health care, free higher education, and a Standard Basic Income have been implemented or are taking hold. I take these facts to be indications that a renaissance of partnership values is presently occurring on this planet — that the human race has begun collectively to realize that it now faces an ultimatum: cooperate with each other and the planet, or self-destruct.
Is TCP/IP a feminine architecture?
Like Bates, I’m a cheerleader for the partnership model, so perhaps I see it where I want to. In my Chalice’s Restorant post in 2008, I concluded that a woman-led partnership model is an idea whose time has surely come:
How do we know its time has come?
- TCP/IP is a feminine, non-hierarchical, P2P protocol.
- We’ve tried every other idea and none of them work
But I’ve been corresponding with some leaders of the early Internet, a couple of whom pushed back against my characterization.
1️⃣ I’m afraid it strikes me as weird to try to assign a gender to TCP/IP or any other protocol. Moreover, I think it’s pretty hard to distinguish women vs men in terms of properties like hierarchy vs peer structure, competition vs cooperation, empathy, etc.
2️⃣ I think it should be treated as neutral.
Weird, yes, but is there a point to be taken? Maybe it just sounds sexist or too much like identity politics to easily embrace. I’m not the expert here.
However, Before Steve Crocker’s RFC-1, I doubt any group of white male experts ever decided on a new industry standard in terms as deferential and egalitarian as a request for comments. When Steve was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, he said,
So we designed both the architecture and the processes surrounding the architecture, our social processes, to be open as opposed to closed architecture.
Thin layers that were there as a helpmate if you needed them and you could go around them if you wanted to build something else.
Open publication of design notes that we tried not to take too seriously and hence the little linguistic device of calling them Requests For Comments.
Deliberately making them available absolutely for free around the world anytime for anybody.
Processes by which anybody could contribute with no restrictions and that tradition has progressed essentially unbroken for the entire 40+ year period.
We now have the internet Engineering Task Force and [people are] trying to find what the admission criteria is and what the enfranchisement criteria is and it’s hard to understand there’s no voting, there’s no membership, there’s no fees.
There it is: Protocol as “Helpmate”. I rest my case.
And you could go around them if you wanted to build something else.
What could be more forgiving and nurturing? So I’m wedded to the view that the arc of the moral universe is bending away from institutionalized patriarchy even as deeply as the protocol level.
That’s as optimistic as Dr. Lewis Thomas’ 1974 declaration in Lives of a Cell:
We have language… We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a ‘common goal’ of nature as I can guess at.