Polemical topics for polytheists (part 15): Equality & Hierarchy

First view: Polytheists should oppose hierarchy because monotheists are so strongly for it

Second view: Polytheists should embrace hierarchy because it brought civilization which in ancient times were polytheistic

Balanced view: Hierarchy is inherent to any society, even that of the Gods, but it ought to have a limit set by tradition, law and necessity

It is interesting to observe, in the first place, that the term hierarchy was once one related to religion and meant “authority of a high priest”. In the early societies of civilization, a ruler often combined religious and political authority, serving as a priest-king. This position of power, besides fulfilling an important function, served to remind people that the natural order of the world was one where certain ranks existed, and there was always a head to rule and carry the burdens of such authority. Indeed, all societies, even the simplest bands of hunter-gatherers, acknowledged the reality of hierarchy; even the Gods acknowledge that it is needed among themselves. Nobody is truly equal to another in regard to wealth or power, and yet all people are equally important for society, regardless of their rank. Hierarchy brings stability and strength, which in turn ensure the well-being and survival of a society, not only within itself, but also among others. Nevertheless, hierarchy operates best when moderation is applied to it, because it is this moderation or limitation that keeps the structure sustainable and healthy. If hierarchy is too rigidly and unjustly expressed, there is risk for grievance and revolt, which could overturn the whole society. This is why tradition and law are needed regulate hierarchy, which is often difficult nowadays because of the exorbitant size of society and power of the state. A hierarchy becomes too complex and imperfect, therefore unjust, when it is applied to millions of people as we see nowadays. Hence, smaller countries are most often happier than larger ones, which can’t fail to remind us about the harmful effects of imperialism, i.e. expansive power and wealth. Nor does this secular, materialistic world take care to counterbalance law with ritual tradition*; there are no priest-kings today who fear a power above them. Polytheism once again can set the world straight, and we certainly should not imitate the Christian Church or the Roman Empire to do so. We need institutions and communities which can accept and apply a moderate measure of hierarchy, just enough to bring our hopeful movement to stability, strength and renown rather than weakness in the face of so many competitors. And if those who are wise, just and pious lead, we will surely please the Gods, consolidate our own ranks, and attract many numbers of disaffected people from monotheism who are tired of the absolutism in their institutions and indeed in their god.

 

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*The same world which produced capitalism and modern colonialism, the most horrid systems of inequality.

6 thoughts on “Polemical topics for polytheists (part 15): Equality & Hierarchy

    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      I think you mean to say that the belief of the Germanics being superior to Celts is foolish. If so, I agree, and apply that notion to all cultures & tradition. Specialization is a good word, but I tend to use “distinction”, precisely because it has a perfect double meaning.

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      1. maartenmijmert

        Sorry, that was not my point, although it is true. I mean more hierarchy in the sense that within a group, some people are in some way ”above” others. This is not something I find at all in conflict with human nature or smart planning. But people are very much predisposed to balk at the very notion.

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      2. Melas the Hellene Post author

        It is I should be sorry! I thought you were responding to my newer post, like several others. Your thoughts about hierarchy are correct, and specialization is a very reasonable term in this context. Yet, I think people tend to dislike it because of past & recent grievances under the Christian and imperialistic hierarchy. But blaming “hierarchy” per se, without specifying which kind, is also a mistake that should be avoided.

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  1. Euphonia from the River

    I am quite familar with debates about the validity of hierarchy as a socialist. Anarchists think all hierarchy is unjust and unnecessary. Yet there are also authoritarian socialists like Leninists and Maoists that have their own very strong class structure to their societies. I reject both of these. Society needs some hierarchy to function. I’m curious about your claim about simple hunter gatherers because leftists often claim that many of them are egalitarian and proof socialism can work.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      I like the hierarchies present in chiefdoms (preferably simpler); they occupy a balance between very complex states and very simple hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherers have a very simple hierarchy that consists of seniority in age, but it isn’t as emphasized as you’ll find it in tribes. It is a valid way of life, but I wouldn’t equate it to socialism, which is a complex system of the state that requires hierarchy. You see, as a rule: the larger the population, the more complex the society and the larger the hierarchy. The following is an estimate based on some reading:

      Band society of hunter-gatherers (30-150 people)
      Tribal society (150-500 people)
      Simple chiefdom (500-5000 people)
      Complex chiefdom (5000-30,000 people)
      Early state (30,000-few millions, partly urbanized people)
      Modern state (many millions of partly or fully urbanized people)

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