The Purpose of Patriarchy

Patriarchy as a Response to Natural Disaster and Sudden Population Decline

The Flood by Paul Merwart (1855-1902)

Image: The Flood by Paul Merwart (1855-1902)

In 1900, about 1.6 billion human beings lived on Earth. One hundred years later, the human species nearly quadrupled to 6.1 billion.1 Before the end of 2020, we may pass 8 billion, adding in a single generation’s time what had once taken us thousands of years to achieve. But human populations aren’t evenly distributed across the globe. Different geographies, climates and cultures have allowed for different growth rates and different population densities.

For millennia, Asia has been humanity’s center of gravity, currently housing nearly 60% of the world’s population, despite China’s one-child policy. At the peak of its industrial age, Europeans had once fathered a quarter of all living people, while many more had spilled over to its colonies. But today, aging European and Northern American demographics have long begun their decline, despite immigration.

Europe and Northern America combined now make up no more than 12% of the world’s population, whereas African, Arab and Asian numbers continue to rise explosively. This brings me to several questions. What is causing Western nations to throttle back despite their wealth? What is enabling Third World populations to continue to grow despite a lack of wealth? And what had set off the human population bomb in the first place?

I’d like to try and answer that last question first. One might think advances in technology are what has been driving human population growth, perhaps through increased agricultural productivity and greater economic efficiency. I agree, except for the fact that the earliest and most effective growth technology was not scientific, but Biblical. Two works of early human literature shed some light on this matter: the story of Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.

The Gilgamesh epic is a Sumerian tale preserved from oral tradition, written down on cuneiform clay tablets about 3800 years ago. The epic tells of a wild man named Enkidu who is brought to the city of Uruk (a city whose archaeological remnants were heavily damaged during the Gulf Wars in the 1990s)2. A promiscuous woman introduces Enkidu to urban civilization, which involved “the wearing of clothes and the eating of food that is cultivated (bread and wine)”.3

In Enkidu’s day, women were still considered equal to men.4 Patriarchy had not been invented yet. Thus, in contrast to the Biblical Eve, “woman is viewed as the medium of raising man to a higher level”.5

The story of Enkidu, a tale popular among citizens of ancient Mesopotamia and Babylonia, must have influenced the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, but with a moral twist. Two historians explain, “The [newer] Biblical point of view is that he who drinks wine becomes drunk; the [older] Babylonian says, if you drink wine you become happy.”6 Unsurprisingly, in the story of Adam and Eve, woman is no longer an educator, but “the tempter who brings misfortune to man”.7

By rewriting women’s role from educator to tempter—a crime punishable with children—the Biblical Genesis contains the greatest social innovation in human history: patriarchy. Moses (or the author, or authors, known as Moses) subordinated woman’s child-giving ability to man’s sexual desires, setting in motion a chain of events that have led to today’s overpopulated world. This instruction from Genesis to “be fruitful, and multiply”8 could not have been any clearer.

In a sense, Christianity has become Judaism’s more potent younger brother, namely a social and cultural technology that would secure its followers’ global presence, at least in the West. In return, though, the invention of patriarchy condemned men to carry the burdens of labor and war in order to feed their offspring.

But where did Moses, and others like him, get the idea for patriarchy? From handling livestock. Since the lives of early nomadic tribes depended on maintaining a healthy animal stock, people were naturally educated in dealing with animal disease, famine, natural disaster, or the occasional rain season that flushed away their herds.

There is plenty of first-hand evidence proving that primitive people understood how to multiply animal herds. Inanna, the world’s earliest known female author, wrote almost 5,500 years ago, “As the farmer, let him make the fields fertile, As the shepherd, let him make the sheepfolds multiply”.9 The Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers mentions, “And the cattle which were before him became exceedingly excellent, and they multiplied greatly.”10

Such literary evidence points out that whoever wrote Genesis knew exactly what he was doing: the author was applying lessons learned from animal husbandry to ‘herds’ of humans. Why would he do this? Because, on occasion, natural disasters also hit human populations. It was in the interest of mankind’s survival to convince tribes of people to be “fruitful”, especially after a catastrophe (see the story of Noah’s Ark). Biblical propaganda did the job.

Hence, the invention of patriarchy must be understood in terms of a people’s evolutionary struggle. We may not dismiss patriarchy as merely a way of discriminating against women for the fun of it, but rather as an important social technology that helped prevent human extinction.

By submitting female sexuality to male sex drive, patriarchal societies gained an evolutionary advantage helping them to survive natural catastrophe. Moreover, as a result of at least 5,000 years of cultural selection, we should expect most of today’s societies to be patriarchal. In fact, most are.

Now I can answer the two remaining questions. Why do poor Third World populations continue to multiply despite a lack of wealth? Because they have patriarchal societies that seize every opportunity to reproduce, like Adam and Eve. And why do rich Western nations fail to do the same? Because they have ceased to be patriarchal. Like Enkidu and the whore, Westerners rather spend their money on luxury goods they don’t really need.

If the West chooses not to reverse its course, future historians will say that primitive Islamic, African and Asian societies defeated a technologically superior West by simply populating Europe and Northern America with their own children. In other words, by promoting feminism, liberal leaders have brought Western civilization to the verge of suicide.


1 Population Reference Bureau, “Human Population: Population Growth,” accessed February 14, 2017, http://www.prb.org/Publications/Lesson-Plans/HumanPopulation/PopulationG....
2 Ami Gazin-Schwartz, “What the Islamic State’s Destruction of Antiquities Means to Archaeologists,” New Republic, March 18, 2015, https://newrepublic.com/article/121324/isis-destroys-precious-historical....
3 Morris Jastrow and Albert T. Clay, An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic: On the Basis of Recently Discovered Texts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1920), 44.
4 W.M. Flinders Petrie, Egyptian Tales: Translated from the Papyri (First Series: IVth to XIIth Dynasty), 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co, 1899), 48–49, https://archive.org/details/egyptiantalestr00elligoog.
5 Ibid., 45.
6 Ibid., 45.
7 Jastrow and Clay, An Old Babylonian Version of the Gilgamesh Epic: On the Basis of Recently Discovered Texts, 44–45.
8 Genesis 1:28, King James Bible.
9 Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer, 1st ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 46, https://archive.org/details/input-compressed-2015mar28a29.
10 Petrie, Egyptian Tales: Translated from the Papyri (First Series: IVth to XIIth Dynasty).

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The Purpose of Patriarchy by Mathijs Koenraadt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.