Saturday, June 06, 2009

Lessons from agriculture vs. hunting and gathering

I'm channeling The Ascent of Humanity here:

We learn about the nature of the universe from our experiences. What does a lifestyle of agriculture teach, compared to a lifestyle of hunting and gathering?

AgricultureHunting and Gathering
I get by because of my hard workThe world generously provides me with my needs
There is only as much food as I growThere is as much food as I need, just waiting to be found
Work hard today for results in the futurePlay today; do tomorrow's work tomorrow
Nature is cruelly indifferent, destroying my food without reason or purposeNature is generous and kind, providing my food without asking anything in return
Food (and everything else) is finiteFood (and everything else) is infinite

In conventional discussions of primitive living, our descriptions sound a lot like the first column: The life of uncivilized man was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short"; our pitiful ancestors had to struggle every day just to get by, "let's blast those fuckers back to the Stone Age". However, that's only because we take our precept ion of the universe and project it on to our perception of prehistoric life.

The good news for us isn't just that the second column is possible, but that the second column is true. The universe is inherently generous and kind, and we live in it as it is. Our only mistake is to believe that the first column is the truth.

We live in abundance.


Blue Lass said...

Well, no. Drought and famine happen on both sides of the chart, as do epidemics (affecting both predators and prey.) The universe does not necessarily provide.

Jay Bazuzi said...

From our perspective as an industrialized, competitive culture, we are quick to notice the competition and scarcity in nature. They are real, but not the dominant mode. Cooperation and abundance dominate the universe, but they are harder for us to see through our lens.

Regarding the question in variation in the food supply, I believe that with agriculture the supply changes dramatically with conditions, while wild foods vary more gently. I believe this leads to a radically different experience for the creatures living in those contexts. I will write up my thoughts some time.

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