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Preserving “The Pyramid” – the reason things are the way they are…

“Things are the way they are because they have been designed to be this way,” a friend of mine said. “It’s all about preserving The Pyramid.”

What’s The Pyramid? Let me tell you…

“The Pyramid” (according to my friend) is a method of social, economic and political organisation that is at the core of every human civilisation from the Egyptians to Hindus to Monarchies to Capitalism.

All the big political conflicts come down to one thing: The Pyramid.

Conflicts are either initiated by people on top pulling strings to preserve or expand the present Pyramid; or conflicts are initiated by revolutionaries who disagree with the structure and seek to turn The Pyramid up-side-down.

As I thought through history, I realised my friend was right. The English and Spanish Conquest of the Americas, India, China… We seize land to expand our pyramid. We seize resources to secure our pyramid. We take down any leaders who don’t agree to it’s rules. We call anyone who challenges the Pyramid a “terrorist” and “national threat”. Why? Because they really are a threat to this hierarchy – and the people at the top do not like that.

From the Egyptians:

To the Hindu caste system:

To Capitalism today…

Globalisation has seen the pyramids of once isolated civilisations join together to create an even bigger pyramid. And as the upper and middle class grows, so does the lower class, hence as our global population rapidly expands, so does The Pyramid. The rich get richer as  the poor get poorer.

In the global pyramid, the top 0.5 billion earning over $20,000 a year (of which many earn far more, and a small number earning far far more than that) while 60% of the world’s population live on less than $2 a day.

The pyramid of wealth distribution looked at in another way shows the top 1% taking 2/3rds of the US national income…

How is such inequality allowed to persist?

Through a carefully constructed system that involves a “social distribution of knowledge” [1]. We educate some (the children of the monetarily rich) to make the system work for them, and educate others (the children of the not-so-money-rich) to work for the system.

Those in power know the formula: give people a reason to live (eg through career path or religion or an ideology) and educate them enough for their societal roles. No more, no less.

The system teaches people to obey authority, not to question it. It encourages conformity, a docile acceptance of the status quo.

According to my friend’s theory, all the “evils” of the world are there for a reason: to maintain The Pyramid. This includes:

  • Poverty is there because a massive base is needed to support the weight of the top.
  • War is there because it secures the resources required to make weapons and keep the system running as those at the top require.
  • Lack-of-education is there because in the social distribution of knowledge, not everyone needs to know stuff. All you need to know is what your role requires you to know, no more, no less.
  • Religion is there because it gives people a purpose. It explains the unknowns, it controls the masses, and it gives people hope for a better life next time round – be it up in heaven or in one’s reincarnation.
  • Debt is there because it contracts a permanent slave of those people and countries who work to repay it.

The destructive cycle is this: (1) as we seek to join the upper class  or move up the middle classes (a good thing), we inadvertently (2) increase the lower class – not such a good thing if this means 12 hour work days behind a sewing machine. Then, (3) as the base of the pyramid increases, so does poverty (families have less food and less land to provide), and (4) as poverty increases, education decreases and people have more babies, causing (5) the global population continues to explode and (6) as the earth’s resources recede it seems inevitable that, at some point in the future, billions of people’s lives  are going to be lost.

Should we challenge The Pyramid? Maybe. But to be honest I’m not sure that we can.

What happens when someone challenges the authority of The Pyramid? They get taken down. Just look what they are doing to Julian Assange!

History has shown Animal Farm scenarios time and time again: revolution upon revolution. When oppressive humans are kicked off the planet and animals declare themselves equal, it’s only a matter of time before pigs (or some other animal) will rise up and become the new oppressor.

The Pyramid has been torn down and built back up by a numerous groups who then take the place of the new rich and powerful. Whoever wins the battle replicates the model’s inequalities, and rewrites history to produce a new “social distribution of knowledge.” It’s an endless cycle.

Geez this is depressing. Where’s my Christmas spirit? Don’t get me started on Christmas… the capitalistic “Christian” tradition that is based on a pagan holiday inadvertently idolizing the “God” that declared “He” never wanted to be idolised. Ah sorry, I shouldn’t write it off like this. It is a lovely family time. I’ll try to uplift my words from here on…

If we can’t fight The Pyramid, should we embrace it? Maybe. Maybe there are ways of making it work without the above evils, I’m not sure.

Is inequality ok? Maybe. It’s impossible for everyone to be equal. And unappealing – diversity makes the world a more interesting place. And whose to say that the rich people are “rich”? Are those at the top of the pyramid “better off” than the people at the bottom? Life can be pretty boring if you have everything without the challenge. The poor might be much richer in different ways…

But it can’t be denied that it’s pretty shit that two-thirds of the world have no place to shit.

Maybe it’s best to live one’s life somewhere in the middle. Probably myself and most of you think of ourselves as somewhere in the middle (although earning more than $20k pa places us in the upper).

Even in the top segment of the pyramid if you have a mortgage and particularly if you have children, then choices become even more limited – we are culturally molded to work for the system. I wonder how many people at the very very top of The Pyramid are even consciously aware that they are creating or perpetuating it?

Is there anything wrong with being a cog in this wheel? No. I guess not – as long as you are happy. What if this happiness is just an illusion? Maybe living in an illusion is the best place to be. Should we be putting our efforts into finding ways to make the pyramid work for us? Maybe. But maybe not. Alternatives may exist, I’m not yet sure.

In sum, things are the way they are because they have been designed this way. Poverty, religion, education systems, health-related issues – all of our problems are (at least in part) designed to serve the powerful and preserve The Pyramid. If you want to address these problems in a way that is real and sustainable, then it will be useful for you to consider the power hierarchies within The Pyramid, and engage with those in decision-making positions to make changes toward more just institutions and hence a more just world.

When my friend first shared this theory I protested, now I’m coming around.

More on The Pyramid? Check out the sequel blog post Rethinking “The Pyramid” – do alternatives exist? and blog entries tagged “The Pyramid“.


I have a habit of grabbing pictures off Google Images and not recording the copyrights… if anyone would like me to acknowledge their work where I haven’t please do let me know.


[1] The Social Construction of Reality, Berger and Luckmann 1966


Sex or chess? Peace, the world’s trump card

So yesterday I enjoyed a little rant about the game our governments, supported by the people’s consumer-driven values, are playing with military pawns, strategically placed towers, and other oil-powered weaponry. We established the difficulty in knowing what sources we can trust, but decided that either way whatever moral and immoral tactics the governments are using with their present day “war of wants”, it is the westerners that gain the lifestyle benefits of cheap clothes and food and transport and travel. I am absolutely a beneficiary of this, and I must say I’m glad to be on my side of the fence. But we also established that our state of being is temporary. One day, if we keep playing this zero-sum game, someone else will be the winner and we will be the losers. I left you with a hint of hope: is there another way?

I believe there is a trump card. And that trump card is PEACE.

Ok, ok, don’t close down your browser just yet. I know it’s cliché. And I’m getting to the sex bit.

I think that there’s a difference lifestyle and world system out there that is more satisfying for each of us both mentally, physically and spiritually. What I am talking about is a world system not based on consumption and capital acquisition and an excessive usage of our world’s resources. It’s NOT based on competition, win-lose, on war and violence. What I’m talking about is a PARADIGM SHIFT. A change of game.

A shift from win-lose to win-win; a shift from competition to cooperation; a shift from a world based on limited supply to a world based on infinite creativity. It is crazy that people in the developing world die from hunger while people in the developed world die from obesity. One party has too much, the other has too little. Over the last couple of hundred years or so we have quite ironically and erratically set ourselves up in a lose-lose situation.

It is ridiculous that people in the developed world suffer from self-imposed stress-related illness and depression, and the developing world suffer from lack of self-determination that comes as a consequence of our material and superficial values. They work 17-hour days behind a sewing machine to provide us with more clothes we do not need. They work 17-hour days producing wheat and sugar, to create more unhealthy “foods” to make us fat. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?

There are hundreds of ways that this absurd system can be fixed. And everyone has a part to play.

Governments: shift the billions of dollars from defence budgets, stop filling up your troops with McDonalds style BBQ foods, and invest in addressing the roots of the conflicts – invest in sustainable cradle-to-cradle designs of products, houses and transport facilities. Be transparent. Create a true democracy.

Voters: vote for governments who put their money where there mouth is, that support the long-term future of humanity. Write letters to your representatives, tell them what you want.

Consumers: spend the extra on the products and services that are sustainable and buy less of the products that are not. Buy fair trade where you can. Write letters to companies and tell them what you want.

Shareholders: you are accountable for your investments. Your money has a consequence not only on the profit you receive in your profit, but also on the social and environment and political situation of your country, of the countries involved in the trade process – which will have an affect on you and your children. Tell the CEOs and MDs of the companies you are invested in what you want them to do with that money.

Bank account holders: your money you put in the bank is then invested in shares – so find out where your money is and make sure your bank knows your values.

Business decision makers: look at the outcome of your company’s actions and your decisions – not only in terms of profit for shareholders, but in terms of people and our planet. Where are your Inputs coming from? Where, after purchase and consumptions, are the remnants of your Outputs (including packaging) being disposed of? How could your product be designed better, so that it’s materials can be not only recycled but are “up-cycled” and used infinitely in the biological and industrial metabolisms? The aim is ZERO waste.[1]

Rich people: did you know that the 225 richest people in the world could provide the $40 billion needed to create a world where everyone has access to food, shelter, education, safe water, sanitation and healthcare [2]? So get off your ass and encourage mates to do so too. Invest in “social businesses” aimed purely at achieving a social or ecological objective. Your money alone can change the world!!!

Workers: look at the company you work for – what product are they creating? Is it good for the environment? Good for people? Where do they get their inputs? What toll does this have on people and the planet? Communicate your thoughts with your bosses. Think creatively – how can things be improved?

Media: try to report more than just the violence – tell people about the peace movements, give people the biggest picture you can get. I know it’s tough given your limited sources.

Basically we must THINK GLOBAL ACT LOCAL. We each can make a difference and together we can change the world.

Imagine if we can shift from looking at the world as game of chess, to seeing it more like, hmmm, more like SEX

Imagine if the world was a place of making love – a game where there are only winners, and there are no losers. A game where each party feels more pleasure, the more pleasure they provide to the other. A game where energy is created, and not taken away. A game where the happiness and joy and creativity is infinite. A game of utter satisfaction and never-ending joy and happiness. And with no ecological footprint. Now that’s my kind of world.

Did my peace card trump your defense card? DOES SEX TRUMP CHESS? Is it time to change the game?


[1] William McDonough & Michael Braungart (2002) Cradle To Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, North Point Press.

[2] L. Schirch (2002) “Human Rights and Peacebuilding: Towards Justpeace”. Paper presented to the 43rd Annual International Studies Association Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana, 24-27 March 2002.

Picture Credits:

Dormice® (click to see more of his incredible art) Sawan Yawnghwe A very successful Canadian artist based in Panzano – Florence, Italy. My distant friend.

The world is a game of chess

“War is like a chess game – operated by a few key people, everyone else doing what they are told.” “In war, who is the real enemy? The real enemy is war itself.” War is “preserving democracy, not practicing it.” Crimson Tide

I was talking with some army boys at a party on the weekend. You know, a casual debate about whether or not Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden were once on the CIA payroll. Academic Scholarship vs Military Intelligence. Justice vs Defence. Peace vs Violence. It got just a little bit heated.

It’s crazy when you live in a world where you don’t know which source you can trust. My source was Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned professor from Columbia University in New York. Sachs says the US has:

‘thrown elections though secret CIA financing, put foreign leaders on CIA payrolls, and supported violent leaders who then came back to haunt the United States in a notorious boomerang or “blowback” effect (including Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, both once on the CIA payroll).’[1]

Sach also summarises the historically ‘notorious acts of U.S. unilateralism’ including:

‘The CIA-led overthrows of several governments (Iran, Guyana, Guatemala, South Vietnam, Chile), the assassinations of countless foreign officials, and several disastrous unilateral acts of war (in Central America, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Iraq).[2]

But hey, I suppose even world-renowned scholars may not have access to the same kind of army intelligence… I guess there is no way to know… So much for democracy…

What I really got out of this conversation was a reminder of the widespread approach to world relations that is not unlike a massive game of chess. A couple of powerful humans move groups of humans and weapons in a zero-sum game where the winner gets the oil, power and the money, and the loser and loser’s pieces, become the winner’s slaves.

Thousands of American troops are placed on bases in all the pivotal positions around the world. Massive little American states with thousands of troops and their wives and children, complete with schools, churches and shopping malls. I visited a couple in Japan as my boyfriend at the time was playing gaijin rugby matches there. It was like a mini trip home besides the very disappointing discovery that an American BBQ is nothing like an Aussie one (think McDonald “beef” patties on white starchy buns)…

Oops I got side-tracked. Back to the chess game.

So what I realised (and somehow remembered through my hangover the next day), is that these military bases and weapons, are positioned and used to manipulate the world however those in power so desire. They can use weapons to block off a channel between two countries and prevent their trade. They can use weapons to overpower governments who do not cooperate with their requests. Weapons are power. Money is power. And at the moment the power is on our side.

When looking at the world through a defense-oriented lens it is hard to imagine a world not dominated by subjugation and violence. It’s America’s turn to win a few games, with their pieces (including people in other western countries) the beneficiaries. Does it matter if Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were on the CIA payroll (which really truly the academic world believes to be so)? Does it matter if our governments initiate wars solely to secure oil (and hence weapons and power) and other resources (including human labour)? Would we westerners want it any other way? You see, if our governments do not support these conflicts, our luxurious western lifestyles (complete with stressful jobs, debts, and the perpetual dissatisfaction that materialism and capital acquisition brings) will be under threat. Believe it or not it in a capitalist world it is the consumers and capital acquisitionists who hold the power (if you have a bank account and own a computer, this includes you) – so we must ask ourselves: WHAT DO WE WANT???

Or forget it. Never mind. It’s only the hardest question in the world to answer… maybe it’s better not to think about it.

Playing by the rules of this game, I can imagine that before long China will have improved their chess-playing skills and take over as champion, with America becoming loser and westerners the world’s new slaves. In a world based on power and violence, this is a zero-sum game with winners and losers. So enjoy either we enjoy it while we are on top and await the tables to turn, or??? … Maybe, just maybe, is it possible to change the rules of the game?

I think so, and I’m going to my thoughts on that with you tomorrow.


[1] Jeffrey Sachs, Common Wealth : Economics for a Crowded Planet (London: Allen Lane, 2008). p. 12.

[2] Jeffrey Sachs, Common Wealth : Economics for a Crowded Planet (London: Allen Lane, 2008). pp. 11-12.

Picture credits:

Again one I found on my computer – if anyone knows it’s source please let me know.