Deception and Delusion

Our society – UK April 2023 – is governed through processes of deception. This could be attributable to recent large-scale growth of information management enabled by advances in technology – mainly improvements in the efficiency of microprocessors. (see CHIP WAR by Chris Miller) Attempts to shore up power through deception and empty demonstrations of control are features of any regime where a group holds power and manages the submission of other groups. The centralised and convoluted ways in which the information is authorised and collected may be furthering a tendency towards delusional behaviours and mentalities that are incident to the decline in the regime’s – the West’s – stability.  This tendency has intensified over the last 20 years but especially during the pandemic. During a period of decline such as the West is suffering now there is an enhanced need for deception in order to resist the consequences of this decline.  This enhanced need is leading to delusional behaviours.  The need for deception is so great that key sectors of the ruling apparatus become delusional. They actually find themselves given to believe in the deception they are perpetrating.

Two tendencies – overproduction of information and collapse of profitability (not necessarily all profits in all sectors) are linked to each other in complex ways. The fall in profitability or productivity (not the same thing but related) is to do with the tendency for technological innovation to have an impact not on production but on distribution. (See Smart Machines and Service Work by Jason E Smith).  Division within the manager-worker relations of production becomes more marked and the owners of the systems are more distant from the operatives.  This is manifest in terms of income, wealth and living conditions as well as in physical terms. This occurs in production as well as in social relations and can make the ‘masters’ delusional. There is a peculiar alchemy of dysfunctional impotence and illusions of omniscience and omnipotence. The latter is particularly the case with the increased capacity for surveillance that has occurred. ( see Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance CapitalismThis is why I am arguing that our political system, based as it is on deception, is liable to being deformed by delusion.

With our free media, democracy and the openness that our social life assures, we believe our society – the society of the West – is able to understand the truth and base our way of life and system of values on it.  This belief is false and it is the basis of the great delusion. A turning point moment in this respect happened 20 years ago when a military invasion of Iraq was undertaken on the basis of lies.  The lies were obvious.  Public relations outfits were hired to sell the policy to the public. Because the attack and mass killing happened, people thought that the lies must be the truth otherwise the launching of the attack and the unleashing of so much violence would be evil.  People believed they were not evil and therefore they believed that lies were the truth. When the ruling elites of the West, undertook the strategy of the ‘War on Terror’ it marked a new stage in the deliberate and programmatic use of deception.  

Is this delusional tendency dangerous to the regimes?  Will it form a negative feedback loop and lead to it all blowing up in their face? Can it possibly do the regimes of the West any harm, for example, to attempt to deceive the public about who carried out the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic? (See Seymour Hersch’s How America took out the Nordstream PipelineWill it be a problem that people who cluster around the US regime believe that the US was not guilty of this action?  We are used to the social media and information management strategies that call any questioning of the authenticity of the West’s official media-approved version of reality ‘conspiracy theory’ and construct other stories of an even more incredible character to associate with these and thus degrade them.  Any information about any event within the conspectus of government is subject to what is called ‘spin’.  However it is because of the huge material resources that are implemented in support of approved ‘information’ that it gains support and belief.  As I have said, one of the biggest ‘information’ events from this point of view was the ‘spin’ campaign around the attack or ‘war’ on Iraq in 2003 when few were persuaded of the maintenance of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ by Iraq but, since the massive movement of resources that the invasion involved, took place, people accepted this story almost in hindsight even though no such weapons were discovered.  It is almost as if the collateral (and perhaps central) objective of the whole enterprise was to gain the submission, not just of the Iraqi population, but of the populations of the countries that joined in with the invasion.  Can a ruling group maintain its rule and continue to lie?  Surely information must be managed in such away that the functionaries of the regime don’t become delusional.  But isn’t this a danger? These delusional behaviours are characterised by the increase in securitisation and the isolation of the ruling group in what can appear to be a preparation for flight.  Their destination of choice resembles a bunker, even if this terminal space looks luxurious, a tax haven or gated securitised community. 

As our regime – the West – with its democracy coating monarchical presidential structures – comes to an end, a part of the strategy to sustain it is increasingly and deliberately to practice deception.  The very brief period that the USA will have been the ‘leader’ of the West started to come to an end with its defeat in Vietnam in 1975.  After that it vastly increased its destructive potential – a major part in this was played by information technology (see Chip War by Chris Miller ) and brought this to bear in First Gulf War in 1991. Its domination of the battlefield was unquestioned but its military goals were unclear.  It was engaging in a display of power as if for publicity or propaganda purposes.  It could not, at this stage of the inauguration of the New World Order, appear to be a conquering army even though it had overwhelming force. It was rather an army of liberation. Its empire from the outset had to be disguised as a freedom project. It could not easily adopt the model of the old European imperialism its destiny was to replace. It needed to proclaim its liberal credentials counterposed to the ‘evil empire’ of the Soviet Union. In its replacement of the older European Empires, it had to appear to be de-colonial or anti-colonial.  A delusion, or at least a deception, was built into its basic project: the empire that brought freedom.

The adoption by the ‘West’ of the ‘war on terror’ strategy as a unifying foreign policy platform really flowered in the second Gulf War.  The invasion of Iraq saw a crystallisation of the imposition of power over the truth. This demonstrated by the introduction of use of widespread torture.  This was not intelligence-gathering. It was primarily an instrument of terror, an enforcer of the ‘lie as truth’.  Many of the torture techniques were designed to destroy the internal structures of resistance, to break the will and sensibility of the ‘tortured’, to gain their fundamental submission. This disintegration of the resistant character was aimed at permeating the social sphere. If someone is holding a gun to your head and telling you that the red colour you are looking at is green, you may begin to see it as green.  Problems proliferate when the person holding the gun starts to see the red colour as green. Torture became an extreme form of salesmanship.

The celebrated quotation from Karl Rove is pertinent and summed up the post- communist new rule. It is said that Rove was talking to a group of journalists or academics who had asserted overly simple ideas about truth: “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The strategies that have characterised the recent decades of declining US power saw a reversal of rational idealist decision-making processes. People argue for a course of action, gain consent to it and then carried it out. This was replaced by the creation of ‘facts on the ground’ a la Rove.  One remarkable example of this is the Israeli government’s colonisation of occupied Palestinian land.  In fact the degree to which the shaping rhetoric of Western foreign policy has been determined by Israeli policy in the ‘war on terror’ period is also remarkable. This of course will have been assiduously denied and consigned to  the bin marked ‘conspiracy theories’.  This will have been to some extent effected through the weaponisation of the accusation of anti-semitism. An extraordinary strategic by-product of this has been the use of anti-semitism to defeat the left in the Labour Party in the UK.  Or maybe it was not a by-product but the singular way in which the neoliberal establishment could continue to deepen its struggle against socialism. The declaration by the Israeli state, after the withdrawal of its colonies and armed forces from within the perimeter of the Gaza Strip in 2006, that it was no longer in occupation of the Gaza Strip was followed by the announcement that Gaza was ‘hostile territory’.  This meant that Israel completely controlled the space of Gaza through material flows, its currency, surveillance, power over its borders, and military control of the air, land and sea but denied occupation and designated the Gaza space as an enemy state.  Do they really believe they are no in occupation? Because foreign policy and domestic policy are contiguous, the implications of the ‘war on terror’ seep into ‘internal security’. The UK government decided to further the stigmatisation of immigrants through harassment calling its policy the creation of a ‘hostile environment’.  The idea that a government should create a hostile environment inside its own territory is a remarkable policy innovation. It extends the work of the Thatcher government in defining aspects of trade union and working class organisation as the ‘enemy within’. 

The processes of deception mean a greater closeness between the ‘intelligence community’, the media and the academy.  These institutions in their interrelatedness appear archaic in their submission to absolute power. (See Tucker Carlson and John Pilger) They can seem, in their doctrinal conformity, to belong to an earlier political epoch, an arcane priesthood, where a unified established religion, christianity was created within the emerging nation-states of the West and used as a combinatory ideology.  The reason why Israel acted as a kind of model for this most recent period of policy development was because it offered a telling and typical story of struggle against fundamentalist islam.  This was presented at a transitional moment for the West. Having accomplished the downfall of the Soviet regime and the apparent defeat of real existing socialism a new ‘enemy’ needed to be found.  The defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan had been effected through the financing and arming of islamic opposition, the warlords amongst whom the Taliban were the most prominent. The dispersal of the foreign fighters and their return to their respective countries offered the pretext to talk up the danger of islamism and this played into the ‘war on terror’ story. For this brief period of domination – before Ukraine was enlisted as the frontline state in the West’s war against the rest of the world – when fundamentalist islam was constructed as the main enemy and Middle East oil was a key commodity – this synergy between Israel and the West was crucial. It is not surprising that as the West turns its attention to more significant real opponents, Russia and China, the Israeli state project is seen to suffer ruptures and internal divisions.  Fissures consequently will occur between it and its main supporter, the USA. Meanwhile with the brokerage of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia begin a process of rapprochement.  And in the foreground is the emergence of the new togetherness of China and Russia bringing together the largest industrial base with the largest source of key raw materials, a powerful combination.  This is especially significant because the receding ice due to global warming has freed up the route to the East via the Arctic thus cutting out the need for transport through Suez i.e. through the routes controlled by the West. An unforeseen consequence of global warming. Although the heyday of Israeli influence is now over we are still left with the legacy of the war strategies they generated and of course Palestinians are in an even more vulnerable position, faced by a vicious genocidal project which is no longer disguising itself as a peace process.

You can’t measure delusions. There is no way of estimating how delusional a given regime or connected series of political spaces might be.  Nor whether it makes the political and intellectual elites and their cadre vulnerable.  Certainly they have been loyally supported by the modern secularised version of the Lords Spiritual, the media and the academy. How is it that the liberal intelligentsia of the West have been such a push over?  Is liberalism such a powerful and convincing ideology?  Have they been fooled into believing that secularisation and democratisation have brought an end in their milieu to the underlying function of established religion in offering support and justification for the aspirations of the expansionist delerium of the military-oriented leading section of the elites? They are the functionaries of that religion. The liberal intelligentsia have been at the core of the generation of delusion.  Journalists programmatically went along with the stories about antisemitism in the Labour Party and failed as an institution to investigate what was going on. They didn’t feel they even needed to appear to be impartial so obvious was it that Corbyn was a usurper, a traitor, a coward, a king of shreds and patches. The search for truth – or just simply the other side of the story – was easily staunched.  In this instance and this may reveal a general truth, it is clear that there is an underlying agenda.  I repeat what I said at the beginning that any ruling group that holds sway over other social groups uses deception as a means of gaining submission.  This is patriarchy.  The group that holds power is a concentrated expression of the institutionalised power of men over women.  Capitalism is a further elaboration and dispersal of this structure.  Men’s power is only power over women, the prioritisation of production (economic growth) over reproduction.  Reproduction is reduced to the production of labour power. The capitalist state has to ensure that this is done as cheaply as possible in order to enhance profitability.  However it cant appear to be doing this.  This is where deception is so important. Of course if men take women’s power it is in their interest that women are powerful so long as this power is already becoming submissive.  This is the control of beauty. The character of the state structures themselves are built to deceive.  They are in themselves deceptive.

The modern capitalist state is a vehicle for patriarchal rule but hides, disguises or ceremonialises and it appears to both display/ritualise and defuse this core value structure. It enacts discourses that lead these values to be internalised or introjected as natural.  This is a consequence of patriarchy’s initial move which was to take control of symbolic power, of ritual, of the symbolic order. Control of knowledge, secrecy, ‘information management’ are an essential part of the domination of society by a group within it. I believe, because of this, that the reform of state structures is necessary, that is, the thorough extension of diverse forms of democracy, the prohibition of hereditary power, the abolition of secrecy and the establishment of transparency in government. 

So what follows is a series of essays on why deception is intrinsic to patriarchy and capitalism. It should be treated with suspicion and I am sure it will give rise to mild ridicule.  What underlies my argument is the perception that the change of which we are feeling the tremors is a species change, a change in the sexual organisation of our species which is an adaptation to environmental change.  The depth and extent of the change is measurable against the protracted and complex process that brought patriarchy into being.  It is this deep and wide.  So the decline of the West is just an echo of this more fundamental change.  Since the West is patriarchy taken to its ultimate degree of development, its instability brought about by its predatory character, its exhaustion of resources and its delusional mentalities we will see here the paradigm begin to shift. It might not be a pretty sight.  Its drive is expressed in modernity and its essence is militarist and genocidal.  As the greatest contemporary thinker about genocide, Daniel Feierstein has recognised: Genocide is endemic to modernity.  

Is deception an essential aspect of patriarchy?  Does this current development of an increased intensity and capacity for deception that seems to have escalated during this period of the system’s decline make apparent something that is a basic characteristic? Deception and the consequent delusion that it produces is deeply connected to the whole ideological carapace of patriarchy.  It is germane to it.  Patriarchy could not have developed without an accompanying system of knowledge control.  This is based on secrecy. This is the use of the control of space. This is what secrecy means.  It relies on the partition or barrier between one space and another. Have a look at The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations by GCHQ. Secrecy accompanies the appropriation of ritual and symbolic power.  This human development, a change in our species organisation, characterised the strategies patriarchal males deployed in order to ensure paternity and patrilineal succession.  It is energised by the need to counter women’s power. In giving birth, the central act of species life, gives women initial control over reproduction. This has been systematically taken away from them. This is one of the fundamental efforts of modern science but of course it is seen to be rooted in the primordial ritual of patriarchy, the witch hunt.  Have a look at the appendix where I have attached a spoof report on a men’s meeting 12,000 years ago.

The evolutionary revolution that brought about the development of the modern human species (homo sapiens sapiens) was based on the suppression and management of alpha male individualistic behaviour traits – those associated with sex-for-food exchanges. The work of coalitions of human females in creating the primary social space of reproduction for the protracted vulnerability of big-brained early-birthed creatures involved the containment and distribution of sexual energy. Women controlled who had sex with whom. After approximately 180,000 years of species development conditions changed and the male ‘takeover’ took place – a complex process of long duration. The element of secrecy and the question of deception arose out of men’s collective experience of wresting control from women.  The development of animal husbandry, crop cultivation and sedentism introduced new conditions making possible the domestication of women.  The subjugation and oppression of women was carried out in different cultural settings and environmental circumstances.  The germ of the use of deception by patriarchy and capitalism is seen in how it became a part of masculinist culture to accuse women of being deceitful. Men will have experienced the ritual power of women in their control of sexual distribution, guarding the young women going through their first menstruation.  The location of this rite of passage may well have been in a menstrual hut from which men were excluded.  Certainly strategies of seclusion and ritual were a part of this original human culture. How men mimicked this sacred space and inverted its function is typical of the processes of ‘take over’. Exerting their control over death and installing the artefacts thereof in their men’s houses formed an integral part of the development of hierarchical forms of organisation and the development of an appropriated and guarded sacredness.  Of course the precise truth of what I’m saying is open to question.   Instances of red ochre body paint used by female coalitions, of menarchal huts, of sacred rituals guarding menstruation, of men’s huts, of initial developments of hierarchy are a part of the ethnographic record. Some of these ideas derive from my inexpert understanding of the precepts developed by the Radical Anthropology Group. The variety of developments in different human groups will always provide rich and contradictory evidence.

As human males came to take over social organisation and place production over reproduction as the social priority, they enforced their rule by incorporating features of the pre-existing cultural order.  They could not exercise their will – based on the new priorities that they were moved to adopt – only by violence and brute force.  They had to recognise the power of the kind of internalised organic community that they saw reason to change.  Recognising how powerful the unknown was over them, they saw and experienced how the power of women depended on their knowledge of their sexual availability and the relationship between this availability and reproduction.  They recognised the power of the protection offered to young menarchal females by the coalitional strength and ‘co-ordination’ capacity of women which was integral to women’s control of the distribution of access to sex.

The initial development of the species involved the collective coalitional influence of women in the first movement of the species in creating society. This was held together by the inherent structures that arose in the course of reproduction and child-rearing. This organisation was organic. This is not to say that these functions were the province of women alone.  On the contrary, the society was centred on the assurance of the continuation of the community through the defence and protection of the young.  The young were not at this point looked upon as a source of human labour capable of being exploited. 

Rule cannot be upheld over a long time by violence.  Control is exerted by threat of violence, the sanctification of violence, but mechanical force is ineffective without the control of symbolic power and symbolic power is gained through deception unless it is organic.  Symbolic power is the knowledge of the code, the ability to elaborate what things mean.  In order to disclose what things mean it is presupposed that there is knowledge that is withheld and then released under circumstances of submission.

A major feature of the mimetic incorporation of women’s culture – or the appropriation and masculinisation of human culture – was how men inverted what they experienced as the power of women at the level of symbolic organisation. This inversion of human culture happens at the level of ritual and of poetry and of mythic narrative. Masculinist culture is constantly referring to the original human culture. Deception as a major component of patriarchy arose in the need to hide the sources of their power as successfully as the sources of women’s power had, in their experience, been hidden from them.  The development of these structures (the sanctification of violence through the exercise of ritual power) of patriarchal society brought forms of rule that depended on external forms of control as well as internalised structures of belief, making the exercise of power appear to be a matter of natural force.

All systems of rule, not to say all forms of social organisation, control populations through deception.  If the rule of one section of society is imposed on another – the first example of this was men’s oppression of women – then control of what the population believe to be the case is essential.  What does this control amount to? What are the methods and technologies involved?  Of course it may be true that there are or have been societies that haven’t needed a state because no group, as a group, or section programmatically exerts control over any other group.  If control is exerted then this control is evident in the submission of the oppressed group.  The submission may seem to the oppressed group to be completely internally motivated.  They even might believe themselves to be an integral part of the oppressor group and see their interests as the same.  They may have been convinced that they gain protection from the oppressor group and therefore submit.  Their submission may be habitual and be interiorised through the experiences that form and shape their behaviour and attitudes.  How much easier it is for the oppressor if the oppressed are not aware of their oppression. 

One of the functional aspects of hierarchies is that the people inhabiting the different hierarchised spaces have the power to permit access at different levels.  This means that people are admitted to spaces from which they have previously been excluded or prohibited and thus they gain access to knowledge and perspectives, even secrets, that they were previously ‘not privy’ to.  So if the keeping of secrets is a function of the ordering of the hierarchy and hierarchies are themselves a primary technology of oppression of one group by another then deception is an intrinsic part of all systems of rule.  Only when a society is held together by an organic internalised non-exclusive process of inherent co-ordination, maybe an internalised rhythm or harmony – can a society dispense with secrecy and deception. The movement towards the restructuring of the state through processes of organic democracy is not fanciful.  People all the time have strong social experiences of love and equality.

The idea that the rulers of a given society ‘know’ things that the population cannot or should not know is contrary to the thorough operation of democracy.  What we witness in the modern capitalist state form is that the hierarchy is shielded and protected by democratic elements. These elements are structured, like concessions permitting the oppressed group to participate in its own oppression and are ways of gaining the population’s consent to the rule of power. In the current instance the appearance that all the participants in a given society are equal is significant insofar as this equality hides the inequality that resides underneath or behind it. I repeat, the modern capitalist state form is itself deceptive.  It is based on the separation of the state from civil society. The outer casework appears to grant access but the inner structures are impenetrable and are made inaccessible by the apparent accessibility of the outer casework.  This means that these democratic elements are oppressively deceptive but also offer footholds for the completion of the democratic process. This access can only become an effective lever of change when society has assembled as a democratic force.

Does this make change impossible?  Everything that is made by human beings can be unmade and made anew. Change of the sort that will break our submission to patriarchy must involve the critical mass of the population.  Millions and millions of people will participate. It must involve a qualitatively different democracy than the concessionary representative sort. Is there a point during this radical participatory democratic process that decisively separates the democratic elements that are a part of the defensive oppressive deceptive structure of the state, the concessionary representative sort, from those that move towards the proliferation of democratic forms, transparent government and the abolition of secrecy? It is public democratic power over the material resources of society that is decisive.  Power over finance and the ability to redistribute wealth has to be accompanied by the abolition of state secrecy.  The structure and institutions of the state have to be thoroughly democratised. If these two measures are not carried out in tandem with each other no movement forward of society can take place.  The forms of the modern capitalist state are operationally incapable of resource redistribution.  Any redistribution of this sort will become liable to corruption and exploitation by groups acting in their own interests. The basic frame of the modern capitalist state will remain in place and this will continue to be a deceptive structure which, through its array of institutions, obscures and disguises its real functions.  

The state form of our regime is built to ensure profitability by reducing the cost of producing and reproducing labour power.  The modern capitalist state institutionalises the division between politics and economics, giving the appearance of political equality in order to maintain economic inequality.

Capitalism is a direct adaptation of patriarchy and this can be seen in the transition from the feudal state to the modern capitalist state.  This transition contains continuities and discontinuities. I have described elsewhere how capitalism is a dispersal and interiorisation of patriarchy.  Its development is founded on the continued oppression of women and the extension of the dominance of production over reproduction. According to Roswitha Scholz ‘Value is male’ and capitalism is ‘patriarchal commodity production’.  If the intrinsic tendency of patriarchy – in its insistent pursuit of the domination of production over reproduction – is to find a way of making into commodities all elements in the social space then knowledge too is bound to be subject to this process – commodification.  A sign of this will be the reduction and quantification of knowledge to information, the rendering of knowledge into data

The change in our species, the reorganisation of humanity by patriarchy – a massive complex process – triggered by multiple factors including population growth and environmental change is now, in our own epoch, disentangling itself.  We are having to change as a species in our organisational life and we are having to make an adaptation to similar factors but at a different stage of development and interrelatedness.  Of course it is not accurate to describe the profound underlying species crisis which is having such a profound impact on our political structures as a reversal though this is how it appears.  Our systems are deeply structured on deceptive and delusional processes. An institutional inability to face the truth and operate in accord with it is widespread. 

Is this our system really under stress?  Where does the stress come from? Why are there moves to dispense with the democratic veneer in this period?  Why are there tendencies towards autocracy? In the period when the West – because it was the initiator of the capitalist industrial development and had a kind of first mover advantage – was for a historic period able to moderate its need to keep ‘wage costs’ down in the ‘metropolitan’/imperialist centre, it could protect itself through the super profits from imperialist expansion.  This capacity no longer exists. As well as the over-exploitation of the earth’s natural resources it has reached the limits of this competitive advantage and is in a period of growing impoverishment.  The reason why the UK is the only advanced economy with a minus growth rate is because this domain above all others has now exhausted the advantages it accrued from empire.  Of course there is residual wealth.  Of course there was a hope to return to the days of this competitive advantage in a UK free from the restraints of the EU, taking full advantage of a renewed deregulation of the financial industry.  This however has been forestalled by the pandemic.  The long term decline proceeds.  It is in the UK that all the features of the West’s decline can be seen writ large. 

The socialist or left opposition restricts itself to making what are effectively economic demands.  The suppression of political thinking is general. There is no doubt in my mind that unless there is a programmatic movement to reform and restructure the state institutions by creating massive democratic pressure to do so then problems of redistribution will not and cannot be solved. 

My basic point remains: if a political system depends for its continuance/existence on deception – in other words, that a major part of its ability to apply the instruments of government depends on making people believe that they are not being governed and that the guiding parametres in which they operate are simply natural forces – then as that system moves into its terminal crisis the deception will become delusional.

It could be that the successful demand for the abolition of state secrecy and for transparency in government may create the first cracks in the current order.  Political demands of this sort are sparse.  Economic demands, even if successful, are bound to reproduce current oppression.

Appendix 1:

Here is a report of a meeting that was held 12,000 years ago at a critical moment of the development of our species.  As we know from our studies of biology even at an elementary level the primary feature of a species is the sexual relations that determine its reproduction:

The men were faced with what appeared to be a problem of awesome proportions.  They had reached a point where they understood that the old system of hunting and gathering had started to come to an end.  The changing conditions had led to the herds being further and further away. Also they were victims of their own success.  Human populations had grown substantially and certain species that they hunted were no longer plentiful.  Also they had developed new ways of controlling the herds of animals that provided food and of cultivating the vegetable food sources that they depended on.  The old pattern of life where the monthly movement of hunting and feasting was more difficult to sustain.  The men were faced with resistance from groups of women to the new systems they wanted – and felt they needed – to implement.  They had to assert their power over women as a group.  They had to make the men’s word and the men’s priorities dominant.  They traditionally had their own space, their own hut where women were forbidden.  Now they gathered there to talk about what to do.  They knew some of their number were true visionaries and leaders and would be coming up with some dazzling ideas about what must be done.  It felt to them that they had physical power; they were stronger than the women and when they worked together there was no force that could resist them.  However they still felt the women were powerful.  The women still determined who should have sex with who.  They had amazing ceremonies when they initiated the girls who were becoming women.  Furthermore, the men couldn’t tell when the women were sexually available.  The women had the power to tell them.  It was true that they controlled the flow of blood from the animals that they killed on the hunt but the women controlled the secret flow of blood that designated a woman as ready for sex.  One man had said that just as he owned his goat herd and just as his spear and his weapon were his when he was hunting he should also own his chosen woman.  Unfortunately everybody found this idea so comical that they couldn’t stop laughing, especially the women.  Even the idea that the tools and weapons that he used were a part of him made people laugh, especially when they started looking for his tools in various parts of his body.  The men when they started talking came to the conclusion that the women were keeping secrets from them.  They began to understand, or so they thought that the women’s power was their ability to deceive them.  Women are deceitful, one of them proclaimed.  This struck a chord.  The women had their secrets but with the men nothing was secret.  For example when they were aroused sexually it showed and it was obvious that their penises had power over them or rather women had power over them through their penises.  In fact, some of them said, the women wanted to take their penises away.  This brought little eddies of cautious laughter amongst the group of men.  One of the visionary leaders exclaimed suddenly that they needed secrets and if they didn’t have any then they would have to create them.  They would create secrets by doing what they were doing now, that is by keeping their talk between themselves.  He suggested that they take an oath of secrecy, a secret oath that they would not tell anyone what they had talked about no matter what it was.  They would even keep secret the fact that they didn’t have any secret to keep!  This was such a brilliant idea that strong intakes of breath could be heard and murmurings of approval.  Just as when they fought their battles over territory with other groups of men they would not let it be known how an attack would take place, the same was true of the women.  Somebody protested that the women were not their enemy and quite a lot of the men groaned with impatience.  Of course not but also women were like enemies if they didn’t do what the men required them to do.  Another quietly spoken but influential man told the group that he believed that as well as having secrets they need to make displays of power, ritual celebrations of their power and make these the dominant events and make them time with the seasons, when the crops were gathered or when the herds gave birth to their young.  Some of the men muttered about the idea that this was women’s stuff.  But most of the men began to see, as the conversation continued, that they needed to take over the rituals that the women organised.  None of this was really new and all the ideas and suggestions were things that they had talked about endlessly but the time had come for action.  They knew that similar processes were happening in other neighbouring communities. Then they started talking about stories and how they should take over the stories from the women or only allow them to be told in certain circumstances.  They needed to keep the basic elements of the stories the same but turn them inside out.  Yes they needed to invert them.  Like this, some clown shouted, taking his garment off and turning it inside out. It’s the same garment! They need to keep the women in the stories and show how powerful they could be but seek different outcomes.  One of the older men said that they wondered whether they would come unstuck when they tried to use deception on the women.  They haven’t come unstuck, another blurted.  No, because they don’t even realise they are being deceitful, another opined.  But what happens if we start to believe our own deceit, said the first.  The truth is what we say it is, said the visionary leader and everybody cheered but this was partly because it was getting late and the men were getting tired and restless.  They wanted to have a drink and do some dancing.

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