Friday, March 31, 2006

Food, Money and Ethics

A few bloggers have asked me what does your "gnostic" title imply and what is your deal with food and farming? I believe we need to have food for everybody and that farming may be the only way to accomplish such a project, but it is farming because we have painted ourselves into a corner, not because it is a superior way to feed ourselves. I believe we need to look to ancient science and food production to accomplish meeting our needs today. Thanks to anyone who drops by and who asked me questions. You're probably getting more than you bargained for , ha ha! I think it's best if I defer to more thoughtful writers than myself.........

Romantic notions of farming lifestyle are usually held by people who have never lived and worked on a farm. A lot of my questions about farming developed when our family lived on a ranch in Alberta. As much as I loved it, and I did- horseback riding, fixing fences, herding cattle for artificial insemination...I started feeling something was out of whack in our culture. It wasn't just the grueling work, it was the ghettoization of farmers and then the distribution of the food they produced. It seemed like a lot of work considering food is free. Can you imagine if we started buying water? Oh right, we do. There are a number of working class people who find the concept of buying water pretentious and misguided. Perhaps that is how I feel about growing locking up and selling back food? And the ethics and mindsets that produces. I beleive it is the attitude of over-controlling nature by totalitarian farming that led to economic structures like prostitution, scalping, slavery, pesticides and corporate coruption. The belief that anything is for sale and anything will be bought. Even ethics and culture.

The following is an excerpt from The Other Side Of Eden; Farmers Hunters Gatherers and The Shaping of the World by Hugh Brody

"Throughout the western world, there are men and women who choose low levels of material comfort and small numbers of children to avoid the need for large incomes, thereby pursuing lives in which they may survive without regular jobs and devote themselves instead to creative work and family life. This way of being encompasses a concern about the destruction of the natural world by the ever-growing pressures to reshape it in the interests of surplus and profit. And dissident voices within mainstream culture have long criticised the use of repression and violence both in maintaining social order and raising children. In all these we can hear echoes of hunter-gatherer ideas and practices.

Men and women galloping on horses across the countryside in pursuit of foxes; men with shotguns who fire at pheasants, grouse or partridges driven towards them by a line of beaters; those whose wealth allows them to trawl the seas for game fish in their powerful boats-these people lay claim to represent the hunter-gatherer within us all. Yet their habits and minds are fixed firm to the farming condition. Their hunting, shooting and fishing is evidence of the very characteristics that agricultural development has exaggerated, with the help of capitalist and industrial developments, to an extreme. They are suppressors rather than exemplifiers of the hunter-gatherer. They live by the systems of priviledge and organization that are hallmarks of the agricultural mind.

No: the hunter-gatherers in the heartland of the exiles, living in the nation-states of farmers and in the cities farmers have built, are opponents of the dominant order. They oppose hierarchy and challenge the need to control both other people and the land itself. Consciously or not, they are radicals in their own lives. At the least, they experience the tension in themselves that comes from a longing not to plan and to acquiesce in plans; at most, they use a mixture of knowledge and dreams to express their vision. It is artists, speculative scientists and those whose journeys in life depend on not quite knowing the destination who are close to hunter-gatherers, who rely upon a hunter-gatherer mind.

The visionaries in society are always there, and they are perhaps a part of us all. The agriculturalist mind and its economic order never quite obscure evidence of the hunters. Many people feel the strain of a way of life and a mind-set that disallow all forms of improvisation and intuition. The controlling features of a life that has no place for the hunter-gatherer mind create a longing for spirituality and underpin many forms of protest, from Quaker ideals of equality to the call for deschooling society, from new-age mysticism to concern about rainforests.

There is a common experience of something being wrong that may receive real illumination from a much more direct acknowledgement of rival forms of mind. Rival forms of mind are, of course, reducible to rival forms of society-and, in the end, to the displacement of one kind of economy by another."

To be fair, I should offer a different perspective with this article.

Is farming better? Below excerpt from Primal Seed magazine site article:

We are wrong if we assume that the change from hunter gathering to farming bought an improvement in the quality of the human life or in the humans themselves. Skeletal evidence reveals that hunter gatherers were in fact, taller, better nourished, suffered less disease and lived longer than farmers. The gathering of wild grains produces more calories of food for each calorie of energy invested than any form of agriculture

Hunter-gatherers typically get more of their energy from gathering plant sources, usually done by women, than from hunting. Their diet is extremely diverse and thereby balanced, between 3000 and 5000 plants were gathered as food in North America. Hunter gathering humans had developed superior stone tool making skills, bone needles and fish-hooks, jewellery, art and music over 30,000 years prior to the advent of agriculture. We have discovered from the last remaining hunter-gatherer societies that these people have an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and their uses and names for every species.

No hunter gatherer would voluntarily change to farming. The practice of cultivation developed gradually in settled communities over thousands of years. Migrant mothers have to carry around their children and generally have longer birth intervals and lower birth rates than settled people. Increased population required increased food enforcing more reliance on agriculture. Settled agriculturists can survive at higher population densities estimated to be 10-100 times greater than hunter-gatherers.

Worst mistake we ever made?

And Marshall Sahlins had this to say about "bad science" perspectives on hunter gatherers.

Cultural Materialism and Research

And I believe this discovery of an ancient mound is no mystery. It is an tower for practicing astronomy. One of the biggest arguments farmers have to dismiss hunter and gatherers is that they didn't have "culture" or "science" or "civilization". Pshaw. The entire history of literature, oral and printed, is astronomy. Gnostic belief systems and metaphors built memory grids in myths like Beowul, Rig Veda, Krishna/Christ motif, Gilgamesh to represent astronomical events and cycles. We have forgotten that we studied the stars for food, life and guidance. It's no coinicidence that many constellations are named after animals, and that the birth of many gods are linked to stars and morality. Not only did hunter and gatherers understand astronomy and record it within the incantations and stories of ancient myths, their societies knew how to eat, live and survive throguh communion with each other, the material world and the supernatural world. To feed all of earths population I believe we need to respect, preserve and learn from hunter and gatherers skills.


andysphynx said...

Hi - You guessed right, I DID Google myself, and happily found your blog. I should have known that you of all people would have one! I'd love to re-establish contact beyond the blogosphere, marvellous though it is. As a neophyte who just started his own blog in order to contact you, it may take me a while to figure out how. In the meantime, love from Andrew and Jennifer to you, Tiffany, "plus one" - as they used to say in the NY club world.

Gardenia said...

Again, Wow. My Saturday morning consisted of buying the State's biggest newspaper, sitting down to eggs & coffee, reading and then crying for 3 hours. The crying resulted from all the news, the editorials, the groanings of the earth, we are civilizing ourselves to our own doom. My ancestors (american indian) were mostly hunter gatherers, my particular tribe moved more quickly to farmers - where are they now, I don't know - perhaps thereof comes my desire to pick things from the earth, to know the ways of herbs, to move from place to place - - it is in my genes.

But then so is being lazy - having a machine to wash clothes, a Tassimo to brew capuchinos & lattes, hunting and gathering from an organic fruit market....

Living in Wyoming, so close to wildlife and hunters who hunt, but mostly disdain the "sport" but respect the use of the animal for meat....and food.....

What of those who have lost their green spaces, thus their animals and sit in dusty camps with hollow eyes and dying babies..........

Where are we going

Anonymous said...

And now all the these settlements have blinded us all from seeing the stars above us in the sky save for a few that shime through... the only one I see in Vancouver regularly is the Big Dipper.

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