The Alphabet vs The Goddess

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh2DOCz0q80&t=3644s

Hard to know how to categorize this one, it covers the history of science and thought as well as politics. I heard of the guy at, of all places, an Ani DiFranco concert. I’ve never heard of this, but he is not exactly fringe. His central theme, which comes around the half hour mark, is that the invention of the alphabet gave a lot of power to those who could used it, and it used the more masculine, linear thinking parts of our brain and this coincides with the rise of male monotheism and misogyny and the destruction of image oriented goddess culture. Sounds a little wacky, I know, but he supports it in the talk and his 486 page book. I have not yet found a scathing negative peer review.

A couple examples, Sparta has no writing, Athens has a lot. Sparta had women in sports, the military and they owned land. Socrates preferred verbal debate, then Plato started writing and by time we get to Aristotle, he’s putting women down. Or, Europe came out of the Dark Ages with images of Mary everywhere, nuns had some power, Troubadours honored them. Then Gutenberg got everyone reading the New Testament and the Protestants were destroying those images. Not only that, for the first time in history, neighbors killed neighbors over differences in interpretation of what they read. This was not tribal warfare where you killed the women of the people over the hill, this was calling your wife a heretic and burning her at the stake. This has always been a difficult phenomenon to explain.

The good news, photography, TV and PCs are bringing back the visual thinking and we are seeing the rise of women’s rights. Check out the montage of famous images around minute 48, and note how each has changed the world. Compare that to Dostoyevsky or some other tome written by a man.

I haven’t watched the video (can’t at work and no time at home), but do you accept his justification for claiming one is the cause of the other?

Your post says that an alphabet leads to different thinking patterns, but is it because of written language? I ask because Chinese has no alphabet and is a form of image based writing, Egyptian hieroglyphics even more picture based, and Incan/Mayan writing further along the spectrum- are they equally guilty even though they don’t have an alphabet, per se?

I’ve come across this idea before, it has a lot of holes in it.

The biggest one is that an image-oriented goddess culture never existed, not to mention widespread literacy is a modern phenomenon and “visual culture” has always been a major factor in society.

Just a few more:

  • Patriarchy is universal.
  • The brain hemisphere differences exist but are considered overrated by modern science.
  • As far as I know most social scientists think feminism is an outgrowth of the social disruption caused by the industrial revolution.
  • The protestant attitude towards Mary and nuns was motivated by their hatred of Catholicism.
  • Sparta had literacy it just wasn't emphasized. Also women did not serve in the military in Sparta, though they did have more rights than other women at that time because the men were usually at war and their mothers and wives had to handle their affairs.
This guy was a doctor who seems to have thought he was more than that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Shlain

 

No doubt I need to do some fact checking. Given your history here, I don’t consider you a good source OneGuy, but you make some good points. I have a couple little visitors, so my time is limited this week, playing Sorry and Fibber is my priority. Couple points:

He traces literacy rates, they fluctuate, and patriarchy has a reverse correlation. However he does focus on Western culture, a common mistake. I wish he wouldn’t use the brain hemisphere trope, but there are parts of the brain, so I’d need some more serious neuroscience to sort that out.

As for patriarchy being universal, the point is, since when? I was just on a reservation in North Dakota. In their culture, the women own the tipis. The Anasazi built complex structures, but they were for everyone, there was no elite. Remnants of earlier “earth mother” culture still can be found in today’s holidays, like Eostre in Easter.

 

In those cultures men were still the ultimate authority.

AFAIK most anthropologists think patriarchy is basically inevitable because of the sex differences between men and women. The burden of reproduction is much heavier for women so that occupies most of their lives, however the burden of securing that reproduction falls entirely on men, which leads to men building and administering society.

A lot of people speculate about a prehistoric matriarchal society but there just isn’t any evidence for it, and the fact that we know human biology at that time was the same as it is today makes it very unlikely.

most anthropologists
I'm going to doubt you know what the consensus is on this. I also assume you are doing some "no true Scotsman" on matriarchal society. There is evidence of higher equality than we have now throughout time. The simplistic assessment of differences in the sexes ignores frail males and strong women, not to mention the many years a woman can be spend NOT raising children or that they could do paperwork while pregnant, so I'm sure they could get an admin job.
I’m going to doubt you know what the consensus is on this. I also assume you are doing some “no true Scotsman” on matriarchal society.
Well that does seem to be the consensus so I don’t know what to tell you.
There is evidence of higher equality than we have now throughout time.
True enough, but not that much higher and definitely not matriarchy.
The simplistic assessment of differences in the sexes ignores frail males and strong women, not to mention the many years a woman can be spend NOT raising children or that they could do paperwork while pregnant, so I’m sure they could get an admin job.
Strong women are still women and frail males are irrelevant because they have never been tolerated by society until now (lucky for you).

Until recently child rearing was a lifelong job in that women took care of their own kids until they became grandmothers and then helped take care of grandkids — biologists think this might be the reason menopause developed. Actually, it’s not that different today.

 

Randomly pulled this up on Amazon Prime last night.

It was the photography part of it that caught my eye, I love those image essay type of documentaries and this one does not disappoint. It pits beautiful scenery against the devastation we are causing to that scenery. Some entertaining philosophers talk about how we got to this place where we all are contributing to our own destruction, but it somehow makes sense on a daily basis. We don’t see the larger system, so we don’t see how flawed it is.

It does not talk about the alphabet, rather, the change was when we could store up excess from agriculture. What we decided to do with that led to the systems we have now.

Strong women are still women and frail males are irrelevant because they have never been tolerated by society until now (lucky for you).
Frail males have not been tolerated? Are you kidding me? They get to be kings if they were the first born of the previous king. They get to be officer in the army if their daddy pays for them to go to training. What meritocracy fantasy are you talking about?

My wife is watching Outlander, where a woman travels back in time to 18th century England. The scene I caught last night is her being interrogated by a skinny officer. He tells a story of whipping a man to death. The man was much stronger, but was chained to a post. After that gruesome story, he starts to show her the way out, then sucker punches her. He orders another man to kick her. He breaks no law in any of this. Weak men like this have been tolerated for a long time.