Lord of the Factories

Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel. … Using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island, … the book portrays their descent into savagery. … Left to themselves in a paradisiacal country, far from modern civilization, the well-educated children regress to a primitive state. …

The central theme is the conflicting impulses toward civilization—live by rules, peacefully and in harmony—and towards the will to power. … Jack endeavours to empower himself instead by turning his choir group into “hunters”, who are responsible for hunting for meat and taking care of the fire. … Jack’s tribe gradually becomes more animalistic, emphasising the practice of applying face paint from coloured clay discovered by Samneric and charred remains of trees. The narrative voice in the story reveals to the reader that these painted faces represent the hunters’ masking their more civilized selves in order to liberate their inner “savages”. … The pig head … the “Lord of the Flies” … discloses the truth about itself — that the boys themselves “created” the beast, and that the real beast was inside them all.

This famous novel suggests that it is only our “civilized” rules and culture that keep up from the fate of our “savage” ancestors, who were violent dominating law-less animals.  But though this may be true regarding our distant primate ancestors of six or more million years ago, it is quite unfair slander regarding our face-painting forager ancestors of ten thousand or more years ago.

While our kids are segregated into schools where light monitoring lets them terrorize each other and form dominance hierarchies, forager kids are mixed among forager adults, who enforce their strong social norms against violence and domination.  At school, our kids are rated and ranked far more often than most adults will tolerate, even though this actually slows their learning!

It seems that modern schools function in part to help humans overcome their (genetically and culturally) inherited aversions to hierarchy and dominance.  Modern workplaces require workers who are far more accepting than are foragers of being told what to do when, and of being explicitly ranked, and our schools prepare kids to accept this more primate-like environment.  It is “primitive” social norms that overcame the violent domination of our primate heritage, and our “civilized” schools teach us to repress such prudish forager norms.

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