Friday, July 20, 2007

The Doctor Is In


Remember last year about this time, I did an advice booth at a circus festival? I'm feeling like listening...Ask me anything...something keeping you up at night? Love problems? Decor challenges? Don't know how to save money?

Why The First Earth Conquered The Second...from Our Kind by Marvin Harris.(published in 1989, a decade before Guns, Germs and Steel which won the Pulitzer for the same topic)

On his way to Tenochtitlan after landing in Vera Cruz in 1519, Hernando Cortez traveled through a cultural landscape that was eerily familiar. He passed through cities, towns, and villages that had streets and plazas and houses for the rich and poor; he saw people growing crops in lush, irrigated fields, while others carried baskets of food and craft products such as obsidian knives, well-made pottery, featherwork, and skins and furs. Along the way he met a familiar variety of humble men and women: potentates, aristocratic merchants, bricklayers, stonemasons, judges, priests, soldiers, slaves. Many were dressed in colorful woven garments and were adorned with exquisite jewelry appropriate to their high rank. And he passed palaces, pyramids, and other stone structures whose bulk, height, and symmetry spoke of great architectural and engineering skills. Yet there were certain things that were part of the everyday world of sixteenth century Spain that were strangely absent. The people in the feilds were using sticks and wooden spades. Where were the plows and oxen to pull them? and there was not so much as a single goat or sheep to be seen anywhere. Nor was there any sign of a cart, wagon, or any wheeled vehicle at all. For arms, the soldiers bore darts and spears that had points made out of stone. They knew nothing of steel swords or blunderbusses. And their ignorance of horses was so total that they initially judged animal and rider to be one and the same creature.

Social life on the two earths had evolved along essentially parallel paths, but the pace of change was definitely slower in the Americas. Aggregate human responses tend to be similar when underlying conditions are the similar. But, of course, underlying conditions are seldom exactly alike. The two earths were twins but not identical twins. After the animal extinctions that occured toward the end of the last Ice Age on the second earth, the regions that were well endowed with domesticable plants became poorly endowed with domesticable animals. Nothing like sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, asses, water buffalo, or horses survived to be penned and fed from agricultural surpluses. True, the ancestors of the Inca had llamas and alpacas to domesticate, but they were fragile creatures, adapted to the highest Andean valleys. They could not be milked like sheep, goats, and cows, nor could they carry heavy loads like asses or horses, nor pull wagons or plows like oxen. Nor were guinea pigs an adequate stand-in for swine. Besides, none of the second-earth animals that were suitable for domestication were native to the highland Mexican region in which the progenitors of maize grew wild. I think this explains why the highland Mexicans retained seminomadic ways of life long after they had begun to domesticate their basic food crops. In the Middle East, sedentary villages could have their plants and their animal fat and protein, too, since both plants and animals were domesticated at the same time. Sedentism increased the productivity of the plant domesticates, which increased the commitment to village life. But in highland Mexico, the need to retain animal food in the diet worked against the abandonment of hunting. Hence, in contrast to the Middle East, the development of villages in Highland Mesoamerica did not precede the first phase of cultvation, but following it after a lapse of several thousand years. This, in turn, delayed the appearance of agricultural chiefdoms in the highlands and the appearance of the first highland states in habitats suitable for imperial growth.

The Mexicans ultimately did domesticate the turkey, the Muskovy duck, the honeybee, and hairless dogs bred for meat, but these species were of no significance in the insipient agricultural phase and never did amount to much in later periods.

Some anthropologists have questioned the idea that the paleoIndians confronted a poor choice of domesticable species and want to know why they did not domesticate tapirs, peccaries, antelope, or deer. Tapir and peccaries are lowland jungle species adapted to moist habitats and could scarcely have benefitted the people who domestcated maize and amaranth in the arid highlands valleys. As for deer and antelope, since no one else has succeeded fully indomesticating them, I do not see why the ancinet Mexicans should be expected to have done so. At any rate, they would have made even worse pack, traction, or milk animals than llamas and alpacas.

Not only did the faunal extinctions retard the onset of sedentary agricultural villages on the second earth, but they deprived the second earth of animal-drawn plow agriculture and the ability to develop the full range of agricultural systems that were developed on the first earth. (The Inca actually did use a kind of plow that people pushed and pulled.) Most importantly, perhaps, the lack of traction animals inhibited the development of wheeled vehicles. The Mexicans had no trouble inventing the wheel, but they used it only to make toys for their children. Without traction animals, they had little incentive to build carts. Harnessing people to wagons is not much of an improvement over having them carry cargo on their heads or backs, especially if one includes the cost of building roads that are level enough and wide enough to accomidate a first-earth oxcart. The Inca did build an extensive network of roads, but only for human and llama foot traffic, saving themselves a lot of expense by using steps rather than switchbacks to master steep slopes.

It is a striking fact that the great cities of the second earth were primarily administrative rather than trading centers. Not that they lacked markets, craft specialists, or merchants, but most trade other than in preciosities consisted of food grown within the city itself. Production for export of food or goods in bulk was strictly limited by absence of carts. Symptomatic of the relative underdevelopment of commercial exchange was the absence of all-purpose money. Except for the limited use of cocao beans by merchant castes in Mexico, the second earth lacked a coin of the realm. The lack of long-distance trade in bulk and the absense of coinage severely inhibited the development of the kinds of commercial classes that played an important role in the development of the classical imperial centres of Eurasia.

Lack of interest in wheels inhibited technological change in many other feilds. Without wheels, there could be no pulleys, gears, or cogs, devices that enabled first-earth people to construct machines that milled flour, spun thread, kept time, and helped raise heavy weights, including the anchors and sails on their oceangoing vessels, and that formed the basis of mechanical engineering in the ages of steam and internal combustion engines.

Would second-earth people eventually have developed wheels, cogs, gears, pulleys, and complex machines and gone on to their own industrial revolution? One good reason for answering the affirmative is that they had taken several crucial steps in the field of metallurgy. Having begun like their first-earth counterparts with cold-hammering of copper sheets, they had gone on to smelting and casting copper, gold, silver, and several alloys, including bronze, which they had just begun to use for knives and maceheads when the first Spaniards arrived with steel weapons and armor. An astonishing achievement of second-earth metalurgists specialists was their independant invention of the casting technique known as the lost-wax method. To make a mold for a desired object, they first made a wax model of it. Then they placed the model in a pit, or form, covered it with tightly packed sand, and poured molten metal onto the model through a small opening at the top. The metal instantly vaporized the wax and filled the resulting space with a metal facsimile of the wax model. A people who had gone so far with metalurgical skills must be credited with the likelihood of being able to go still further, perhaps not as rapidly as on the first earth, but in essentially the same direction. Second earth's invention of writing and numerology and its astronomical and mathematical achievements also argue for an eventual convergence of science and technology in the two worlds. Pre-Columbian Mexican calendars were more accurate than their Egyptian counterpart, and the Maya had mastered a crucial step in mathematics that eluded even the Romans and Greeks- a glyph for zero quantity to mark the absence of a base number or its exponents. But none of this changes the fact that the first-earth people had gotten a head start. It was they who possessed oceangoing vessels, gunpowder, muskets, steel swords, and the four-legged equivalent of armored tanks. The Inca and Aztec armies fought bravely, but without a glimmer of hope. Unbeknown to either side, their fates had been sealed long before, when first-earth people had turned away from hunting to domesticate sheep and goats and to settle down in agricultural villages, while second-earth people, bereft of domesticable species, continued to favor hunting for another 5,000 years.

Cortes 1971, Hassig1988, Fagan1984, Hunn1982,Hosler1988, Sanders and Webster1988.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

'Lynch has been dedicated to movies that ask why not use a different world philosophy to structure story? Lynch's movies reject contemporary story structure based on Bible devices instead they are built around Buddhist and Zen ideas of consciousness and existence." ????

where can i learn more about these concepts. how is contemporary story structure based on Bible devices? and what are examples of other kinds of structures?

as i read this paragraph, i saw the implications for my own story world which I have been working with so intensely for a month now. i am wondering if the problems i've been having are related to this very thing. maybe i am trying to force the story into a structure that mutilates its vision? of course it could just be the typical difficulties in translating from the imagination onto the page.

more discussion along these lines would be helpful or point me towards other material.

Candy Minx said...

Let's see, I would suggest that a Biblical story structure would have polarity with themes. To explore philosophy would tend to always use polarities as metaphors. The idea of "discovery" and "retribution" the idea of a "good guy and bad guy", suffering as noble or our destiny, sacrifice played out in a material/emotional reward system as a necessary aspect of being human...and as a reward or virtue.

Of course I believe that much of Christianity is rooted and taken from Buddhism...I believe that Jesus had practiced meditation and Buddhism...but it is often not adopted within many churches. For example the idea of turning the other cheek...is similar to Buddhism and game theory. Where analysing "the game" with one might begin to consider that the only way to "win" the game is not to play and to look for new rules or to tweak the rules of the game of life.The idea that we are able to reject social constructs rather than enforce them and work within existing economies is a Biblically supported concept.

There are tons of resources and websites online that define various doctrines of Buddhism...but ultimately the idea is to live an examined life and that takes practical application of meditation and discussion of experiences. Another difference would be that Christianity follows a sermon based practice where meditiation highlights the personal choices and responsibility for happiness and peace on the individual working within a community.

Nirvana is commonly mistaken as the idea that someone removes themself from society and the world when actually nirvana is realizing that we can walk away from many of the game rules...ignore them or change them.

Frustrated daughter-in-law said...

My Mother-in-law is always telling us one thing but hating her self for other things. She has had a rough child hood and she still carries what happened to her around to this day and I dont think she loves herself because of it and it hard for her to relate to her five children because she isn't happy with her self. Its a rough road with her and things are just going down hill with our relationship with her espesially our children. They ask about her but she doesnt want to be around them for some reason. She also says things like I am not intelligent, or tries to tell us how to do things but in a passive agressive manner.

Candy Minx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candy Minx said...

Hello Frustrated Daughter-in-law, you're lucky it is your mother in law. You have a distance, your support for your partner is valuable because they grew up in that environment...yet delicately because we mustn't judge our partners parents (outloud) but accept that they have a past we don't fully understand...and that it is more of an affect on our partner..

Plato's cave is a timeless metaphor for all of us because we all need to leave the cave in order to see the illusion of our social and emotional constructs.

http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htm

You could first use direct conversation to show her that you hear what she feels about herself. Make sure she knows you understand and take it very very seriously. For instance if she sounds angry or upset say something like “ I am sorry you are not feeling well” Or, “I am sorry this situation has made you angry”. Just an idea, it might open up a great discussion or help her see there are other ways to think, communicate and live...especially knowing that you love her and care for her emotional state and history.

As for her judging you...I suggest if she ever said something like "You are not intelligient" mirror her and simple say "You feel I am not intelligent?"

Or if she said "That is no way to teach or discipline a kid” say to her "You feel I am not dong a good job with the children?"

By repeating back when someone is being abusive can help steer the conversation to an honest clear dialogue and avoid an argument or name-calling. Sometimes this mirroring can show the other person how harsh their style of communication really is...of course, she might carry on...try to find a calm attitude to hear them out...often they will back down because they know you are listening and it humbles them. By saying out loud and repeating ina way, what someone says helps them hear how their comments sound. Often people who have a lot of anger don't hear themselves and can't distance themselves...mirroring what they say helps them hear "tone" or judgements and allows you technique to stay calm.


The best thing you can do is to make sure you are happy in your life and at peace with your issues or past. Perhaps not easy but something that can be ongoing. By focusing your life on the simple pleasures, by facing difficult memories and putting them in context…helps us not use our adult relationships as devices to play out our own unresolved issues. It’s very important to understand the past is the past and we are not written in stone. What happens after that understanding doesn’t have us projecting onto new relationships.

The most important thing for children and for all of us is safety, manners and compassion. If we base our life decisions and communications on those three things...usually relationships can find a place in that logic.

Geo said...

How come I'm not rich?

Lena said...

What can I do to stop being a sports widow?

Red said...

Great idea, Candy! Now let's see...

Should I start a pension plan or hope that I'll be rich/self-sufficient/gone by the time I'm too old to earn a living?

pie said...

Hmmmmmmmmmmm, questions, so many questions.

What is your first thought in the morning?

Oooh, ooh, ooh, can I ask another?

Apart from that.

Have you ever had a funny word appear on that word verification thing with random letters?

Candy Minx said...

Hello Geo...How come you aren't rich? Weeeelll...

What we desire most moves away from us. It is like this with love too. So many people ask me, how do I find true love? Find true love within you first. A needy love starved person scares potential lovers away. A money desperate person scares investors away too.Same with riches. Find the riches you have and offer them to the world. On the other hand...maybe you are a person who did not put money first, but rather others, and your hobbies or past times. Maybe you care more about your emotional life and social life than you did about money. That is fne...but it is best to be balanced. I suspect you are an artist or creative compassionate person. They often get short shift finacially. Now it's time to take care of your self. List your passions and obsess about them and the money will come. But I have a funny feeling you are doing just fine, maybe not rich, but a seeker at heart.

Lena,

One night my friend R compalined she was going to cancel cable because all her husband did with his time is watch sports. I asked why did she care what he did with his spare time. Too many married couples have the illusion that they are responsible for the moral and spiritual well being of their spouse. Another persons spiritual path is none of our business, even our spouses spiritual path. If he or she wants to sit around and stare at the ceiling or a bunch of sweaty boys running around...ignore it. go to your sewing room. go to your book club. Keep your focus on your own goals. Trust me that will inspire a souse. They are just like little kids, they don't want to miss anything.

I understand that it must be very frustrating to watch someone slack around. I think these are mostly phases people go through and being addicted to sports entertainment is a kind of escape for boedom. Keep being your exciting self and they will want to join the party.

Back to my friend R. We had some beer and put on the hockey game while we discussed this trouble of her sorty husband. We talked like this here. Her husband was a t work. Then I left...when he came home, he saw her on the couch with the hockey game on and empty beer bottles. he said, "oh my god, I've never been more turned on!" they have two beautiful boys now and he has an art studio and new house and they lived happily ever after.


Candy Minx said...

Pie, the first thought that appears in my head in the morning?

"coffeeandcigaretteNOW"

Yes, you can ask another, all the questions you like, Pie.

Funny letters and words appear on the word verification? Yes...once it said "handbook to soviet foreign policy since world war I"

And besides that all of the word verifcations are strange. I have dyslexia. I am constantly challenged by the word verifications...I often have to reenter the letters over and over and over. It's a nightmare.

Red, about retirement funds. The mayan calendar is coming to a portentious time frame by 2012. The Mayans believe we have options...either to reconcile our communications as a population and learn to resolve conflicts and finacial stresses peacefully or the opposite and our time will run out. Do I believe the world or human population will superimplode like an event horizon? No, but then some people think I live in Xanadu. 

I think real estate and offshore banking is the ideal way to play with big money. But I also think most of our governments would be fools to mess with our retirement funds and start to charge us taxes when we spend it when we are retired. I feel sure peopel would take up arms if governemnt breached that honour system...so for the time being, I believe programs like government protected retirement savings bonds in Canada, America and the United Kingdom are an okay thing.

I can't save money but I greatly admire those who can. So, if you start buying little remote farm houses in France, cook up some fancy Antiqua banking, and load up on savings you will be greatly admired by me. and then of course, another beautiful way to make money disappear is by buying art. If you start buying art girl you will be the wind beneath my wings.

Love and martinis
Candy

Gardenia said...

I could not find the comment section on your main page.

You busk too? Now I'm thinking you have a wonder woman costume in your closet .....what other talents are you going to come up with....

A Question. Hmmmmmm. I'm sure I will think of one .........coming up!

Candy Minx said...

Hi Gardenia, I turned the comment section off for that post because I have this post set up for"advice" that way I can keep track of questions.

Yes, I have busked here and there over the years. I was doing improv for years...and I see busking as an extension of performance. Doing an advice booth is much like doing improv...you don't know what people are going to ask or request and you need to be able to respond quickly. It's a lot of fun...and often people ask a lot of very serious questions...so you need to be ready and qucik on your feet.

Wonder Woman?...no...just a "people person".

Red said...

I asked a question last year, and I'm going to do the same this year!

We're thinking about sorting out the flooring in the living area. At the moment , we have very badly laid laminates, which are not only not to our taste, but they also bow up in the middle of the floor, creating a rather unappealing bouncing effect in some areas.

The options are: returning to the original floorboards; carpeting the whole room; or some other sort of laminate/wood flooring, laid out by a professional this time.

Bearing in mind that:
a) the living room is the first room in the house, accessed directly from outside (ie, there is no hallway);

b) the living room is above the cellar, which at the moment has no ceiling other than the underside of the floorboards that constitute the floor of the living room;

c) our neighbours are very, VERY noisy

... what would you recommend as the best flooring option? There are pros and cons for each of them, and we just can't decide.

Expectantly,

Undecided from Kent

Candy Minx said...

Hi Red...

Well, first I am dead set against any kind of wall-to-wall carpeting. I think it should be illegal. For a couple of reasons...mites, environmental consequences of manufacturing carpets...and they never really ever "clean" because even if you vaccuum there is always still crap underneath, and carpets are associated with asthma, lowered immune systems and dust.

I would return to the original flooring but then you might have to insulate the floors in the cellar. It sounds like you should consider doing such anywyas as it will help with the cost of heating and save both finacially and environmenatlly with energy use.

Oh wait...are your neighbours below you in this cellar apartment?

Then I do believe especially if that is the case..that you need to insulate that floor downstairs. I hope that isn't too much of an inconvenience...but that sounds more important than even what kind of floor you have.

I do not like laminates. One of the reasons is because I believe design should follow materials...I'm not big on facade based materials. I prefer materials that not only have function but are attractive because of the materials and the function. Hopethat makes sense.

If I haven't answered your querstion, please give me more details and restricitions.

A sound investment and "core" project would be to deal with the insulation and sound/heat of that cellar floor/ceiling....

Red said...

I think that's exactly what I wanted to hear: it has to be an integrated effort starting from the cellar up.

We also hate carpeting (so much!), but I find myself thinking it might be the best option when our neighbours shout so loud, they sound like they're in our house. Then I think that perhaps, carpet might deaden the noise... but is it a good trade-off? It probably isn't, especially since I hate vacuuming. Hate it with a vengeance, I feel sick being behind a vacuum cleaner, the heat, the dust, the smell... ugh.

Because we suspect the original floorboards might not be level, it means that we are probably going to have the same bowing issues with any type of laminates we might go for. So, really, the best option is restoring the original floorboards. I'm a little scared of what we might find under the laminates, I have to be honest. But I guess, in the short term any unsightly bits could be covered up with a rug, and fixed at a later date...

Hmmm... food for thought, but I do think we are on the same page. It's good to hear from a third party. Thank you for your wisdom, Dr Candy!