We are all part of the Hierarchy – Human Society

Are Hierarchies Evil?

A question I have recently wondered is this: is a hierarchy evil?

Definition: a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.

The reason I wonder this is because we have been looking at the past and many actions we consider evil today were done by groups of people and those groups were formed in a hierarchy. People trying to understand where evilness comes from would point to hierarchy as the cause of evil.

The problem with this is I can not think of a single human group that lacks a hierarchy.


Are Hierarchies Natural?

Even the smallest group of humans: the family is set up in an hierarchy. Parents are above children, making decisions for them. Older children are above younger ones because of experience and knowledge and are able to do more and may take on responsibilities of the household.

Hierarchies are found in non-human societies. Social insects, primates, wolves, and many more organize themselves to maximize the survival of the group.


Are we all part of the Hierarchy?

More and more humans are moving towards an integrated global society, whatever shape that may take. We are already in one version of one based on international trade. However one trend in this hierarchy is that the shape is becoming extreme. If a hierarchy is a triangle in the past the triangle was the one on the left. Today because of many reasons the triangle has shifted to the one on the right.


Can you escape the Hierarchy?

When I was younger my goal was to create a successful business. I recognized that businesses were more powerful than politicians. With the power of a large corporation I could focus it on creating change. That view assumes that you can escape the hierarchy, to be more powerful than it. Today I see that I am part of it. There is no escaping it. I see the problem not of destroying the hierarchy or significantly altering it. I see the problem of survival of the hierarchy. Survival of humanity. If the hierarchy wants to continue to exist it must do two things (or find it will move to these two): recognize it is one piece is a larger system (life, nature, earth), and to increase the capacity of adaption (increasing different types of diversity of its members).

I wanted to write this post for two reasons. One to acknowledge that I am part of this hierarchy and always will be. The other is my fear of people believing they can escape all hierarchies. I see members of our society powerful enough to wield power to cause the rules not to apply to them. Storing money in offshore banks or using political power to escape penalties for crimes committed are both examples of individuals of a society trying to escape it.

Recently I think members at the top believe they are better than those on the bottom. It is not better, but different. They play a different role in the hierarchy. Just as the parent is not “better” than the child. The parent takes the role of being a parent. They have both more responsibilities and privileges than the child. I fear members at the top today see the privileges of their role, but do not acknowledge their responsibilities. The scenario I fear is that this lack of responsibility of members at the top will cause the collapse. In this scenario the bottom will become too unstable directly threatening the top.

It is an illusion to believe you, or any individuals can escape all hierarchies. If you leave one hierarchy you enter another. Children grow up and enter a new hierarchy of school. One does not fully escape all hierarchies as long as they are around other sentient beings.