In our earlier piece 1 we suggested the police killings of Black men in the US constituted a practice of human sacrifice.
Joseph Watts of Max Planck Institute has a contribution in Nature reported in The Atlantic to our discussion on human sacrifice:
“Social elites used human sacrifice as a tool to instill fear and show their power,” Joseph Watts of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, says. “As far as tools go, it was a pretty bloody and dramatic one.” 2
Laura Spinney writes: ’Over time, as societies became larger, they also tended to become less egalitarian and more hierarchical. In 2016, the Jena group reported that Pulotu data support the so-called social control theory, according to which human sacrifice stabilized societies as they became more stratified, by legitimating class distinctions and political authority. It is probably no coincidence, Watts says, that the victims were often people who posed a threat to the elites, or who had fallen out of favor with them.’
In fact in the abstract of their report in Nature it says: ‘We find strong support for models in which human sacrifice stabilizes social stratification once stratification has arisen, and a shift to strictly inherited class systems’.3
A proposed counter to this thesis that claims that modern societies ‘do not do that anymore’ is unsubstantiated and frankly mostly wishful thinking. For example, no attempt is made to identify modern forms of ritualised killing even when they stare them in the face. Spinney quotes Whitehouse as saying: ’whereas human sacrifice might have terrorized the members of a smaller, simpler society into obeying their self-styled leader, it could no longer do so in a large and ethnically diverse one. There, it was easier to disobey the ruler, or desert, and evade punishment—and the temptation to do so only grew stronger as societies grew larger..’ This is barely even credible. Just recall the widespread burning of heretics or the continental reach of the Inquisition. Clearly the burning of heretics fulfils all the requirements of a practice of human sacrifice including the highly ritualised proceedings. Turchin’s version of the ‘history’ of religion is highly conventional in a low brow Western sense and is simply grossly inaccurate.
This brings us back to US police killings as ritualised human sacrifice. It appears to tick all the boxes.
- The Atlantic Feb 2018 (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/02/did-human-sacrifice-help-people-form-complex-societies/554327/ )
3. ‘Ritual human sacrifice promoted and sustained the evolution of stratified societies’ By J Watts, et al .. ((https://www.nature.com/articles/nature17159)
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