How Hierarchy Kills Relationships and Community

One of the things that can make parenting tough is the belief that a child is subject and subordinate to the parent without a true sense of mutual accountability.  That I’m the authority in their life and they are subject to my every command, wish, and will, has been the major issue with child rearing philosophy in our culture.  Even though this is the popular view amongst most people, this perspective causes us to miss the point of parenthood.  I see parents as not only responsible for children, but with the delicate and tedious charge of helping them unlock their highest potential.  To give them specific tools and skills that support their unique, individualized purpose as opposed to something cookie cutter just for survival and sustenance.  I really see parenthood as service.

If you talk to any true leader, they will tell you leadership is actually about service. 

It’s a charge to empower the people in your care to succeed through support, guidance, and direction.  Having been a senior manager in Corporate America I can tell you it’s difficult to actually live the service part of leadership without it going to you head.  At the same time, being a subordinate went to my head too, but not in a positive way – in an us versus them kind of way.  It’s easy to get into a divisive mode at work or anywhere when you think in terms of higher versus lower.

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I see family as a circular structure where everyone has a role and responsibility.  The parents are not higher, but simply have a job to do.  All parties benefit equally.  All parties contribute equally (think outside the box on this).  I don’t see higher and lower.  I don’t see hierarchy.

Hierarchy in relationships is at the root of divisiveness in our families and communities.  It’s one of the roots of jealousy, envy, and scheming.  Most people will never be satisfied with being at the bottom of anything.  You’ll never have a cohesive union when one person is given a higher status than someone else, which is precisely what hierarchy does.  The definition of hierarchy is ranking people, one above the other, by status and authority.  The key words are rank and status.  That’s the problem with racism and sexism as thought processes – they actually rank people by skin color, ethnicity, and gender and subsequently assign status accordingly.  If people were racist or bias, but didn’t assign status or rank, those thought processes wouldn’t be a problem at all.  No one would really care.  It would just be how someone views the world, but we all know it doesn’t work that way.

Our communities and the world right now are divided because of hierarchy.  In the dating world, men are constantly ranking women and assigning them status based on superficial criteria like their sexual history, whether they are married or not, divorced or not, have children, hair, external beauty, and education.  The result?  Constant fighting and little trust between women.  How can their be when everyone is always trying to rank up and usually at the expense of someone else.  Women do the same thing with men – ranking them based on financial status, education, looks, etc.  It’s a never ending story.

In the Christian religion, the highest ranking women is the Virgin Mary.  She’s the woman held in the highest regard and there are literally millions of men who measure women based on the standard she supposedly represents – minimal sexual partners, total subservience to the man, and suspension of thoughts and opinions.   


Let’s face it – most married people jump into open relationships after they’ve already been married.  So, doesn’t hierarchy exist when married people are involved?  Doesn’t the wife have the TOP female spot and all other women involved take a number in the order received?  I guess the same goes for the men as well, right?  If a man joins a married couple to become the third member of a triad, shouldn’t he be the #2 man in the union?  He’s basically the side piece, but we love him just the same, kinda, until shit hits the fan and he becomes expendable and the original mono union kicks everyone out the crib until they regroup.  It’s like who gets the lifeboat when the Titanic sinks – the Elite.  The upper crux.  The Creme de la creme.  The original founders.  The ones who cut the check.  The one’s paying the bills.

I guess if that logic made sense, we could apply it to siblings in a family unit.  The oldest is the most important and has the highest status.  If there’s one seat on the lifeboat but two children are stranded, well let’s just take the oldest because they obviously have rank, right?  They are the top in the hierarchy.  Authority.  Status.  Rank.  Make sense?  It works the same way with the male female dynamic.  If two people are on top of the rooftop (one male, one female) of the burning building and there’s only one seat left on the helicopter the woman gets to go right?  Why does she get to go?  Is it because she’s a higher rank?  No, the man is the higher rank and because it’s known and acknowledged that he is stronger, more privileged, and in the authoritative position, he insists the woman gets saved.  It’s his choice and it’s only fair to allow her to have the seat.  Just like any real man would save the weaker children before himself too.  Again, because he’s in an authoritative position, he gets to tell the woman to get on the helicopter.  She really has no say and anything contrary to what he says will be ignored anyway.

So here we are back in our triad with the acknowledgement that the union between two people (the marrieds) is more important than the union between the others.  How do you think that works out?  Well, how does it work out when you tell two of your three children they are the most important and #1 over the third child?  Hmm…I’m sure all three of them are feeling great about that one.  I’m being sarcastic, of course.  The third child will feel like the third child, the step child, the third leg, the outcast, the black sheep of the family.  The thought process is not that complicated and shouldn’t be hard to transfer to three adults in a union.  But here’s the kicker.  We already know hierarchy in marriage and relating doesn’t work because of all the examples we have in ‘monogamy’ and exclusive relating where someone makes themselves the top dog. 

NOTE: The top dog can be either male or female.  I’ve seen tyrants belonging to both genders and it’s ugly no matter what.

Let’s not get roles and responsibilities confused with rank or hierarchy.  I can be the KING or leader in my house without being ranked higher than anyone else.  Me being the KING means it’s my job to take accountability for all activity in the house, to address all issues, and to not make excuses.  Even though the king has been glorified in western culture, in reality his ranking isn’t higher than anyone else.  Only his job description and duties are different.  The same goes for the CEO of a company.  He really shouldn’t be the highest paid, but rather his salary comparable to all other executives and executive salaries should be comparable to blue collar workers.

I’m a believer in equal, but NOT the same – in terms of a workable paradigm and structure.  I believe in the circular family, communal, and business structure.  Everyone is loved and respected equally, but differently.  Everyone contributes equally, but differently.  Everyone gets equal freedoms and privileges, but not the same.  The same number of vacation days.  When you add a third or a fourth person to a union the overall family unit becomes an entity with equal weight to the individual unions that are its parts.  The family unit in totality gets equal consideration to the individual unions making up the family.  They’re all important.

All that said, it’s up to the individuals involved to decide what they want.  If someone wants to be higher in rank and the subordinates are cool, then more power to everyone.  It’s just for me personally, I’ve never understood the concept of having someone in your life or needing someone, but relegating them to a ‘lower’ status, which is essentially like minimizing their importance and value.

One Love,

Rakhem Seku

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