24 Mar


dog photo: Silly puppy :) 465243_4616056329092_127507355_o.jpgHierarchy’s a wonderful thing.
Look at it like this. Since time immemorial whenever there’s been a Sunday (or Monday, Tuesday etc) roast dinner there’s been a hierarchy. The man sat at the top end of the table or stone slab or whatever it was, and the rest of the family, subordinate to him, sat on lower seats in a position that would be indistinguishable from grovelling to a passing alien.

The man took pride of place and his woman (who’d prepared, cooked, lovingly tended) the roast whatever it was sat gratefully below him. He’d done very little, of course, unless it had been he that had hunted the dinner in the first place, dragged it back home and slept the effort off on his comfy bed/lounger/smelly skins.

And this hierarchy was based on the big one.

I’m referencing medieval Europe here, but I might be referencing most pre-modern societies based on religious devotion.

At the top of the tree there’s God. He’s at the head of the table, if you like. Everyone’s subservient to him: absolutely, irrefutably everyone. He’s the important dude because he made everything in the first place. But it’s no good being at the top of the table if there’s nobody looking up at you. So you have a hierarchy.

There’s the King of whatever country you’re thinking about. Or the queen, though queens have been almost as rare as hen’s teeth because us males like to believe the fiction that we’re superior. Appointed by God, the king can do little wrong and is entitled to whatever wealth and women he fancies – and if he can’t get them he sacks his deity’s special envoy (the Pope) and sets up in opposition himself.

And because he’s special, appointed by God, he can make decisions about others, like who’s to be wealthy, who’s to say special prayers on his behalf – and consequently who’s got less manual work to do. The King needed playmates whilst he was hunting or playing with his weaponry in make-believe battles, and he gave his favourites the job – and they were his favourites on account of their wealth and the possibility they might challenge his authority and usurp him. Usurping wasn’t unknown.

His main job was to sire an heir. A male one, of course, because God preferred his representatives to have willies. Throughout biblical writings women are very much secondary to men, who have the right to punish/execute them if their breathing displeases them. Anyway, he chooses a wife, showers trinkets on her and when he isn’t cuddling up to one of a tribe of mistresses he tries to impregnate her. If she conceives and has a son she’s done the right thing and isn’t he a clever so-and-so, but if she only manages daughters there’s something wrong with her. She’s most likely displeased God and perhaps has lived a secret, wayward life. It wasn’t unknown for her head to be lopped off as a consequence of her sin, be it real or imagined.

He never questioned the might of his own royal seed, however.

In the times in which kings behaved as though they were really special most of the people lived and toiled on the land, their homesteads being centred in relatively small communities, and there was always a big house with a big man in it – the Lord of the Manor.

Although a great deal lower down in the scheme of things he was still monumental in his own eyes, and had the power of life or death over those who tilled his land, the peasantry. His judicial decisions, sometimes disgracefully unfair, were law and had to be obeyed – or else.

Parallel to this descending hierarchy was the church, and mighty important it was too. At the top of its divine tree was the Pope and at the bottom were nuns, and all of them in their nunneries, and the church had a special hierarchy of its own. The man at the top (he might even be a criminal – there were some popes who were involved in the seamier side of life) was the Pope. Then around and below him were the rest and below them ordinary folk, the peasantry who donated to his coffers, often being pressed to giving what they couldn’t really afford to give.

And if any convincing was called for, religious buildings were created on a grand scale. The size of a medieval cathedral was enough to convince most people that there was something mighty behind it. And those monuments to religious vanity still stand whilst the humble stick and mud homes of their builders have long been swept away by the tide of time.

And for a great part of human history this hierarchical unfairness wrecked the lives and dreams of thinkers, those who by a unique intellectual contribution might have moved societies forwards, to the betterment of those less blessed with true intelligence. But when you’ve got it made, when you’re at the top end of a hierarchy, then you don’t bark yourself but make it quite clear that wrong-doing and non-believing will be punished by a barking dog named God, and that punishment by him will be eternal…

© Peter Rogerson. 24.03.15


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