Yesterday morning I came across an interesting study which shows that the practice of human sacrifice is more prevalent in highly stratified societies. Study on Human Sacrifice
In equal societies people tend to work together for the good of the commune. Where a society develops a ruling class the position of that class is maintained by the labour of the low status individuals. In many societies the position of the ruling class is supported by organised religion. One facet of this religion is the act of human sacrifice.
The victims of sacrifice tend to be those from the lowest strata of society, especially slaves or captives.
There is a positive counter argument to all of this. A highly stratified society is one that can be planned. Specialist workers can be supported by the labour of the peasant class. As a result you can have architects, scribes, taxation etc and build a civilization.
The greatest monuments ever constructed by mankind were the products of civilizations that were highly stratified. Mesopotamian ziggurats, pyramids in Egypt, central America and Cambodia, Harappan step wells etc. In one sense the subjugation of a peasant class was a pre-requisite for the creation of civilization. Human sacrifice as a religious act is simply one mechanism for protecting the position of the ruling class.
It is interesting to look at the modern workplace and observe the stratification that exists. Serfs, peasants and slaves have been replaced with minimum wage workers on zero hours contracts, or unpaid interns. Partners in law and accounting firms and senior medical consultants all earn large salaries by harnessing the work of their juniors. What are the modern equivalents of human sacrifice? Workplace references?
*Spoiler Alert: Walking Dead Season 6 Finale*
Last night in the Walking Dead we were finally introduced to the character called Negan, leader of the Saviours. In his speech to Rick Negan laid out all the elements of the new world order. And it sounds very much like Bronze Age civilization.
The Saviours are a warrior class. Like the Spartans of ancient Greece they specialize in fighting and killing. Like the people of the “Iron Isles” from Game of Thrones their motto could be “we do not sow”.
The Saviours need food to survive, but farming is hard work. So they are outsourcing the farming to a new peasant class. The peasants need only sufficient weapons to protect themselves from the walkers. Negan will round up all their projectile weapons and leave them with only knives and spears.
This further cements the position of the Saviours as the warrior elite, as they become the only ones with guns.
Finally, to cement his position of absolute control, Negan practices Human Sacrifice. It is a raw and powerful demonstration of the mechanism that underlies the academic study into sacrifice in Pacific Island societies. We see them engage in a manhunt with fatal consequences. At the end of the episode Negan practices a highly ritualised form of sacrifice. He has named his weapon, a common feature of bronze age warrior societies. The demonstration of raw power is aimed not at Rick and his group, but rather at the Saviours themselves.
Of course the question everyone is asking……who did he choose? Season 7 bait!