photo of people touching each other's hands

Creating a Culture of Partnership Instead of Domination

If you have been following my blog, I think you can easily catch on to my disdain for systems with hierarchical structures. Due to these structures, we slowly kill ourselves as we tend to conform to a dominating power. It kills our autonomy, it kills our creativity, and it kills our sense of self. It’s no surprise that the way we work seems to be a primary cause of this slow death. With my experience, I’ve started to realize why.

I’m reading a wonderful book that I believe everyone should read at least once. It’s called The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. It’s a short read, but pretty powerful. In the book, Riane Eisler eloquently makes the distinction between cultures built in partnership and those built in domination. From our perspective on history, we’ve only known civilizations based on domination because we are only taught about power, conquer, and violence. We are tested on the War of 1812, but never of times of peace. As a result, all of our systems from school to work to the family are built on the masculine ideal of power. Every relationship we participate in holds some form of power dynamic. Eisler goes further into the past to unearth a more feminine civilization that features egalitarianism.


Like we always do at this time, let’s define the difference between a domination culture and a partnership culture. The domination culture assumes that power is needed for civilization to function. There must be a leader and there must be followers to follow that leader. It starts in the family where parents assume leadership over the child and the child is expected to be an unquestioned loyalist. Every relationship further has dominant/submissive roles; older sibling and younger sibling, teacher and student, manager and subordinate, group leader and person trying to fit in.

With these dynamics, few people gain and lose power based on subjectivity like merit and seniority while others are supposed to submit to either their ruling or societal cache. New leaders are then created out of being tired of subjugation, the violence of revolution occurs, and the revolutionary becomes the new oppressor. The cycle continues. If you think I am being overzealous think about the 1970s hippy rebel who has a mortgage to pay today, or the coordinator who consistently complains about leadership only wanting to be promoted into the same system he complains about. In this world, we are consistently divided between people who are like us and those who are not. Someone must be right and someone else is wrong. There’s good and evil with each side believing that they are on the side of good. The struggle between the two lasts forever as both sides see each other as enemies. Power is a scarce resource.


In contrast, a culture of partnership comes with the values of mutual respect and dignity. There is no need for things such as hierarchy or leadership as everyone involved works for the well-being of everyone. There is no need for laws as everyone cares for everyone in a way that safety is prioritized. Any type of control or force is a form of violence because control kills the spirit. It’s no wonder why we suffer in our institutions. In our society, this idea is essentially nonexistent because we don’t have any examples of this type of culture succeeding. We don’t even think this type of society can exist or has existed in our distant past.

It’s kind of wild (or maybe it’s not) that the description of a partnership culture is so short. We only know and are taught a culture of discipline, materialism, and hierarchy. Everywhere we turn in the modern world, this holds. As a consequence of unconsciously conforming to this type of domination, we deal with judgment from peers and those whom we perceive to be higher ranking, inequality, shame, guilt, discrimination, marginalization, and fear of alienation and punishment if we, at some, point decide to plug out of the matrix.

People might say that this is human nature, but I’m of the mindset that masculinity is a learned behavior. Rules, regulations, and hierarchy have to be learned. A baby, regardless of sexual orientation, comes out crying, but it’s up to the parent to teach the boy that it’s unacceptable. It’s up to the parent to teach the child the rules of society. If our customs and norms were human nature, there wouldn’t be a need for anyone to teach “right from wrong.” We wouldn’t need government to enforce human nature. In the book, Eisler goes back in time to reveal that partnership was the norm. We would never know as history is written by the victor. In partnership, there is no winner because there is no competition.

History and Myth

Not to give the full book away, but Eisler argues that there were 30,000 years in which men and women lived and worked in harmony, highlighted by a more female orientation of the idea of God. This might offend the religious people of our day. However, if myth serves as a metaphor for our history then Eisler’s argument seems plausible. Religion during our history has been inherently patriarchal. The dominant religions of our day (Judaism and Christianity) teach that women’s subjugation to men was a curse made as a consequence of the first man and woman’s disobedience. The curse changed the idea of God as a being in partnership with humans, as God was with Adam and Eve, to a ruling old man in the sky sitting on a throne.

It comes as such hypocrisy when it comes to Christianity that if we are truly free from this mistake (the ideology of Jesus Christ as savior), why do we still perpetuate the consequences, especially in the Western world where Christianity tends to be the dominant religion? It seems like the idea of partnership was just as short in time as the amount of words used to reference it in the Bible. It’s no wonder that we’ve forgotten about it. It seems like people use these verses as an excuse to dominate. As we do know, the majority (if not all) of conquerors have been men. The idea of Manifest Destiny, for example, was the idea that it was God’s will for America to conquer the entire continent of North America from east to west. Guess what that led to? If your answer was disharmony in the forms of wars and genocide, you’d be correct. Referencing a monarch, the King of Kings instead of the Being walking with man and woman in a garden of perfection is preferable to the one who wants to dominate.

Where Do We Go From Here?

We know that the culture of domination permeates all of our systems and institutions. These are the systems that revolutionaries rally to break. As we’ve seen throughout history, only new forms of oppression pop up in its place. The only thing we can do is be intentional about creating relationships in which partnership is the intention.

I wish I could say that things could change, but people will still try to control, people will still try to manipulate, and people will still try to shame you into doing the things that benefit them at a cost to you. The programming is deeply engrained and only awareness can unravel it.

We have to give ourselves another way of living. We must provide examples proving that mutual respect and dignity a possible lifestyles. I don’t know about you, but I don’t appreciate it when someone tells me or forces me to do something. I’m much like a teenager trying to understand what kind of authority one has over me, and rebelling because I care not of it. At the same time, I love giving gifts. Gifts are freely given based on my heart. When gifts are expected, they no longer become gifts. This is probably why I deeply loathe the idea of work. I’m expected to do things whereas I’d love to give my experience and knowledge as gifts. If I don’t feel like I’m working with a colleague in partnership, I feel oppressed. Who else can relate?