Skip to main content

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


Chocolate slavery and the tragic flaw of humanity in the 21st century

Didn’t they abolish slavery a couple of hundred years ago? Well no – it continues… and it continues such to provide the “haves” with what (in my opinion) is the most delicious tasting delightful experience of all my being: chocolate.


In my opinion there is NOTHING worse than physical slavery and nothing better than chocolate, and so I face the greatest polarity in my world: the best and worse wrapped into a block of bitter sweetness.

Can you believe that in today’s day and age some humans are deceiving other humans into leaving their homes, friends and family, imposing work on them by force (including whips), and without payment? I guess sexual slavery is worse than chocolate slavery, but in my opinion neither forms of slavery should be happening in the 21st century.

Why is slavery allowed to exist? It’s quite simple. It’s all because of the stock market.

The stock market? Yes. Because through the stock exchange responsibility for the consequences of a company’s actions are diffused.

This brings me to what I see to be the tragic flaw of human society in the 21st century: the rules of this game we call business. The first thing I learned at UTS when doing my Bachelor of Business was:

1. Investors invest in shares to make profit on their investment. Many investors live off these rewards, and don’t have to work. Many other people have jobs as intermediaries, buying and selling paper, to make profit from paper. People are making money without adding any physical value to the world.

2. CEOs have one most-important responsibility: to make profits for shareholders. For this he or she receives generous financial rewards, even if it involves decreasing the quality of the product for customers, decreasing the pay or conditions for employees, or destroying the planet.

While shareholders most likely value the needs of fellow and future humans and life on earth, the rules of the game dictate that money invested into shares is done to receive that profit.

There is clearly a disconnection between shareholders and the non-monetary outcomes of their investment. Is this a connection we really want to own up to?

I have some shares, (although I think they aren’t worth anything anymore after the stock market collapsed)…  I also have a little money in the bank and a little superannuation, so let’s take the scenario that all of this is actually a great investment of my time, and is something I am relying on for my future – would I really want these shares to earn less money?  No, of course not. With the rules as they stand, I would want my shares to earn as much as they can or else I would invest my money somewhere else.

I have friends (mainly from my business degree) who work in finance. Would I really want to put my friends out of a job? No. No I wouldn’t. What if the consequence of their jobs, earning lots of money from trading paper, are part of the cause of the poverty of people producing the physical goods we enjoy? I still choose my friends over these people I don’t know.

What if the result of my shares and their finance jobs is human slavery? That is where I draw a thick black line.

That’s where I say to my friend that the unhappiness they are causing is not worth the happiness they gain. That’s where I remind my friend that there’s more to life than the long hours they work in front of a computer playing with numbers. Money isn’t everything. That’s where I advise my friend to get rid of their mortgage, quit their job, and live off their savings for the rest of their life in South America. If only it was that easy… it could be, although my friend may not agree.

The present state of affairs is not a pretty one. Changing the system might be messy, it might be hard for some to deal with. The truth may hurt, but it hurts more if laid untold.

This connection between Shareholders, CEOs, Employees and Customers already exists of course, however, it is hidden behind the guise of “The Corporation”. Whoever was the man (I’m pretty sure it would have been a male) who created and legalised corporations to be treated as their own separate entities, with their own identities, privileges and liabilities separate from their members – should be held accountable for the destruction this single rule has caused for the world’s present and future. Whoever has power to change this law… well, I plead that you do – for the sake of your children.

People are working on solutions. I guess part of the solution is to report to shareholders on the “3 P’s” : Profit, People and Planet – of course, this is easier said than done given the problematic nature of measuring one’s impact on the lives of people or the conditions of the planet. At the very least, even without this reporting structure, surely the rules of the game should reflect the wider values of society?

I guess this would involve:

1. Holding shareholders responsible for the non-monetary consequences of their investment. Eg if you invest in a company that buys their chocolate beans on the stock exchange, a third which come from the Ivory Coast of which 90% involve slave labour, you should feel responsible for this. Also, if the company you have money invested in spills oil in the ocean, you should feel responsible for all the fish, dolphins and animals that die as a result of your investment. Maybe it should go further than “feeling responsible” – if warned and company procedures are not changed, investors should feel obligated to withdraw their investment, or else suffer the legal consequences of the inhuman violence their money is causing.

2. Holding CEOs responsible for the non-monetary aspects of the company they are in charge of. At the very least, the company’s impact on people and the planet needs to be recognised as just as important, if not more important, than profit for shareholders.

The thing is, would this work? Would it make a difference?

It could end up just like the greenwashing that so many companies are into today (making out they are good for the environment when they are still the same product in the same plastic packaging, or donating a dollar and saying they are helping fix the problem). Still, even if it’s only in words I guess you have to start somewhere.

Anyway today I got off my ass and did something tangible about these thoughts. I sent the following letter to a few more of the places where I have indulged in chocolate without knowing whether or not this chocolate comes from the slave farms:

1. Max Brenner (who make incredible waffles)

2. San Churro (who make the best hot chocolates I’ve ever tasted – with chilli!)

3. Nestle (just because I haven’t sent them a letter in a while)

Also I looked at Cadbury: At least they seem to be trying.

If you feel like sending whoever your favourite chocolate companies are a letter, feel free to use my wording:

Dear Max Brenner,

I am a very big fan of your hot chocolates, and your extremely delicious chocolate covered waffles.

Unfortunately I recently saw a chocolate documentary exposing the slavery practices behind the cocoa bean industry on the Ivory Coast. And so I now I simply cannot justify buying chocolate from companies who buy their cocoa beans from the stock exchange (as these are most likely connected to the horrific slavery, which I believe should NOT be allowed in today’s day and age).

I am reviewing my favourite chocolate companies for my blog, so can you please tell me where you get your beans?

Are you moving toward some kind of a fair trade supply chain?

Thank you in advance for your time in replying to this email.



Anyway, I’ll let you know if I hear back from any of them. If you have any thoughts on how the roles of The Corporation, The Shareholder and The CEO might be better defined, write a comment for me – or if you don’t agree with what I say at all… either way I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My gorgeous sisters and cousins indulging in chocolate fondue Bennett-style. I think it was fairtrade chocolate, I hope…

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.

Empowering women & the role of men

Empowering women has been said to be the “silver bullet” to ending poverty.

Studies have shown that an increase in the income of women directly correlates with increases in the education and nutrition of children. These children will lead longer and more fulfilling lives, and an upward spiral will begin as they can provide better education and nutrition to their children.

Increases in the income of men have no correlation with children’s education and nutrition, but instead correlate with increases in spending on drugs and alcohol. This is a very sad picture to paint… and I wonder why this is the case?

I suppose the unchangeable fact that men can’t physically give birth could have something to do with it however I do not think this means that fathers are innately less caring about their children than mothers. A child is half the father and half the mother so it makes sense that both have a innate biologically desire for their genes to live on. This is what all life forms, from plants to insects to animals to birds want to do: survive. This is the essence of evolution. This is the essence of life.

It makes me consider what kind of societal conditioning may induce the destructive gender issues around our world today.

I once asked a male friend of mine why men get into fights. He told me it comes down to sexual frustration. That silenced me. What can solve this? Only women. And the more empowered women are the more expectations they have of the man they want to be with… I just hope this does not lead to more sexual frustration and more problems than there were to begin with.

Urgh! It’s so hard. Everything has a ripple effect. The best of intentions can lead to the most disastrous consequences.

Does this mean we should not bother empowering women?

Of course not. Empowering women to earn an income, to make their own choices and have an opinion that counts is extremely important. So too is empowering women to be involved in the top-end leadership of our world. But that’s not everything.

Men must be empowered too, but maybe in a different way to the way our society does today. Pressures on men to compete, to “provide for their families”, pressures to prove their masculinity, and to win the woman that will pass on their genes – these factors are evident in the animal world too. But humanity has developed the unique cabability of FORESIGHT. We can analyse our societal pressures and values, and adjust them in whatever way will allow our society to evolve into a better one.

I don’t really know what point I’m trying to make. I have never felt my femininity hold be back from anything… so all of this is a bit foreign to me. I guess as I learn about gender issues for the first time these issues are playing on my mind. You are reading the babble as my mind tries to make sense of it all.
There is one thing I know beyond doubt and that is that both the male and the female genders have intrinsic, inseparable and invaluable roles to play in life. I suppose it’s just now time to contemplate these roles and how we can structure society in a way that fosters both genders to maximize their potential and provide the most benefit for life on earth as a whole.

Unfortunately I’m sure that is much easier said than done…