Super Progressive Ideas from Tlaxcala, Kerala, and Bonobo
Americans aren’t progressive. We love machine guns, we attack abortion, we scoff at public health and democracy. We’re an intolerant oligarchy, perverted by religion, vanity and greed.
Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan — the majority of developed nations are far more progressive than the USA, hooray for them! But still…
Weak imagination and anthropology ignorance is limiting the advance of progressive ideals. To truly create happier lives we should examine all cultures — human, non-human, and extinct — and emulate the positive behaviors.
Here’s three under-studied societies:
TLAXCALA — In The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow, the authors describe the leadership of this indigenous Mesoamerican city-state encountered by Hernan Cortez in 1519. Tlaxcala citizens had no king or “supreme overlord” — instead, they were governed by an elected representative council of 50–200 individuals.
Tlaxcaltecans seeking the office “were required to subordinate themselves to the people of the city… in a spirit of self-deprecation — even shame… each was subject to trials, starting with mandatory exposure to public abuse, regarded as the proper reward of ambition and then — with one’s ego in tatters — a long period of seclusion, in which the aspiring politician suffered ordeals of fasting, sleep deprivation, bloodletting and a strict regime of moral instruction.”
An excellent strategy, in my opinion. Narcissists, sociopaths, and megalomaniacs would be deterred, sniffed out, humiliated, and kept away from the reins of power. Only the humblest, most altruistic candidates would survive.
KERALA — This tropical, heavily-populated, tiny Indian state (35 million people in an area smaller than New Hampshire + Vermont) is the best educated, best-governed region on the subcontinent. It’s also the most progressive. Caste is generally ignored, secularism is accepted, and its the only state in cow-loving India where eating beef is legal. Additionally:
* Political positions in the state are gender-balanced, 50% women 50% men
* The six largest cities rotate the mayor’s office. 1 term for a woman, followed by 1 term for a man. The current mayor of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram is 21-year-old Arya Rajendra.
* Land reform established a maximum ceiling on property owned by a family. Excess land was given to peasants, leasing land became unlawful, and hundreds of thousands of people acquired property.
Imagine that last reform in the USA — where 31 million acres are owned by only 51 families and 110 million people own ZERO.
BONOBO — These matriarchal primates are famous for their altruism, compassion, empathy, kindness and patience. Bonobo communities of 100 are far more peaceful than their close relatives — chimpanzees and the violent Homo sapiens. Females prefer to mate with males who are respectful and easy-going. All bonobos are bisexual and promiscuous — celebrations upon finding a new food source usually include a group sex orgy, to relieve stress and encourage peaceful dining.
Genital-on-genital rubbing is extremely common in all bonobos, to bond socially and form alliances. Observers note female individuals engage in this activity about every two hours.
Obviously, if humans behaved like this, it would disrupt our work schedules and complicate social relations. But eventually, would peace and joy be elevated? The answer seems obvious.