New Civilization News: General Traits of Humanity’s Dark Age    
 General Traits of Humanity’s Dark Age1 comment
5 May 2008 @ 04:19, by Roberto Massera


The Dark Age started when a few groups of humans, in the Middle-East and China, began to produce their own food as fundamental means of sustenance.
The production of food permits, with a little strain, at least in the beginning, a conspicuous surplus of food supply, and therefore the satisfaction of the fundamental material needs of a high number of people in the same area.



style="color: rgb(153, 153, 153);">General Traits of Humanity’s
Dark Age





The Dark Age started when a few groups of humans, in the Middle-East
and China, began to produce their own food as fundamental means of
sustenance.


The production of food yelds, with a little strain - at least in the
beginning -, a conspicuous surplus of food supply, and therefore the
satisfaction of the fundamental material needs of a high number of
people in the same area.

The sedentary life doesn't require the limitation of newborns imposed
by the recurring changing of places imposed by the semi nomadic hunter
gathering life; at the opposite, the collaboration of a larger number
of people eases the effort required by those activities.
The first effect of agriculture has been the possibility
to feed many more people in the same region, that is, an increase of
the density of human population. The lifestyles and customs of a
people, which determine the birth rate, are always strongly rooted.
Before agriculture those lifestyles permitted a very slow increase of
population. Agriculture has made it possible and useful an increase of
birth rate. Once it has started to grow, it is hard to stop it. The
farmer doesn't have any reason to limit the number of his sons, as the
hunter-gatherers had to. He has settled down, he doesn't have the
problem of little children when moving, nor that of having too many to
be fed; at the opposite, he needs to have many of them to help him and
work the land. If they become too many to stay on the same place, they
always could move somewhere else and occupy new land. At the beginning
of the agricultural revolution, when the farmers were a few, there was
no limit for the possibility of emigration. There was the whole world
to be conquered. (L. Cavalli-Sforza Chi Siamo? p. 199)

The life of the first farmers was certainly pleasant: (there were no
cars!) there was plenty of food and a strong solidarity among the
members of the village; social classes didn’t exist, the division of
labor was still based on sexual and natural differences, and conflict
relationships were reserved for the "external" world.
The village appears everywhere as a small group of
families, from six to sixty, each of them with its own hearth, its own
familiar divinities, relics and sepulchral places. All the families
speak the same language, meet under the same tree or in the shade of
the same rock, walk on the same trail of their herds: any one, in
short, follows the same system of life and participates to the same
works. If a division of labor exists, it is of the most rudimental
kind, determined more by age and strength than by professional skills:
normally, whoever watch at the face of his neighbor sees in it his own
image. Those villages were able to multiply and reply themselves
without feeling the necessity to change their life style. Until
nutrition and reproduction, that is, the pleasure of the belly and the
genitals, were the principal aims of life, the culture of the Neolithic
village satisfied every need. (Lewis Mumford La Città nella
Storia Bompiani p. 30)




In this erotically exuberant life, a new order, a new regularity and a
new safety came about: the availability of provisions was more abundant
than ever, the children were born and survived in a higher quantity
than that that any previous culture was able to maintain if not in
exceptionally favorable circumstances. The soil and the polished tools,
once considered as the principal characters of Neolithic culture,
require a systematic and patient effort very different from that needed
to break Flintstones or hunting. (L. Mumford La Città nella
Storia pp. 25)

The production of food requires a new technology and a series of new
activities, and for this reason is considered as a demonstration of the
"superiority" of the humans over the other animals.
The accepted explanation for the transition from band
life to farming villages used to go like this: Hunter-collectors had to
spend all their time getting enough to eat. They could not produce a
"surplus above subsistence", and so they lived on the edge of
extinction in chronic sickness and hunger. Therefore, it was natural
for them to want and settle down in permanent villages, but the idea of
planting seeds never occurred to them. One day an unknown genius
decided do drop some seeds in a hole, and soon planting was done on a
regular basis. People no longer had to move about constantly in search
of game, and the new leisure gave them time to think. This led to
further and more rapid advances in technology and thus more food - a
"surplus above subsistence" - which eventually made it possible for
some people to turn away from farming and become artisans, priest and
rulers. (M. Harris Cannibals and Kings p. 11 Landmark Book)

Carlo Cipolla, meaningfully author also of style="font-style: italic;">The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity,
furnishes a good example of this way of thinking:
For many thousands of years, man lived as a predatory
animal. Hunting, fishing, gathering of wild fruit and cannibalism were
for long time his only means of sustenance.... In the course of time,
man discovered particular techniques and developed certain abilities,
like shaping stones, the fabrication of weapons, the construction of
rudimental means of transport. But all this remained in the general
framework of a predatory kind of economy. The new techniques only
served him to increase his efficiency in hunting, fishing and killing
people. Man lived in a brutally primitive way, hunting and gathering
fruit and wild herbs, for well the 99% of his whole presumable
existence. (Carlo Cipolla Uomini, Tecniche, Economie Feltrinelli p. 10)




Man spent all his time and energy looking for food, relying on his good
luck and his ability in killing ferocious animals or other men. Hunger
was a constant threat and compelled men to infanticide and cannibalism.
(C. Cipolla Uomini... p. 37)

It can't be denied that the production of food is aimed toward the
satisfaction of wants, nevertheless, it implies an inferior quality of
life: a limited variety of food (also wild animals tend to stay away
from human settlements in proportion of the quantity of the
inhabitants), the loss of the knowledge of the many secrets of nature,
the limitation of geographical and cultural horizons, the decrease of
the physical and mental powers and of the autonomy of people.


Since those activities are unnatural, they require hard work and are
tiring and boring. It is necessary to spend time to deforest, to
plough, to sow, to harvest, to treat and store the crop, to built tools
and structures for these activities, while living by hunting and
gathering it is possible to obtain a better result by simply stretching
a hand out. The increase in quantity results in a decrease of quality.
A cultivated field is not a natural habitat, and in
order to maintain that environment it is necessary the activity of man,
to cultivate, to sow and so on; someone said that with such an effort
of time and energy for the prosperity of the plants man has, in a way,
tamed himself. (Ammerman Cavalli-Sforza The Neolithic Transition... p.
30)

The advent of agriculture, therefore, is generally explained as a
probable answer to a state of natural scarcity, consequence of climatic
changes and of the demographic pressure of the Mesolithic Age, which in
some zones made hunting and gathering insufficient for the necessities
and lifestyle of that period.
The invention of agriculture has probably been a matter
of pure necessity: in the areas where it was originated, hunting and
gathering were no longer sufficient, because of the impoverishment of
the environment and the climatic changes of that period. (L.
Cavalli-Sforza Chi Siamo? p. 213)




Reproductive pressures predisposed our stone age ancestors to resort to
intensification as a response to declining number of big-game animals
caused by climatic changes at the end of the last ice age.
Intensification of the hunting and collecting mode of production in
turn set the stage for the adoption of agriculture, which led in turn
to heightened competition among groups, an increase in warfare, and the
evolution of the State - but I'm getting ahead of the story. (M. Harris
Cannibals and Kings p. 7 Landmark Book)

Agriculture cannot be considered as an invention: the deep knowledge of
nature and of the processes of life is a fundamental characteristic of
the gathering-hunting culture. Agriculture spread all over the planet
not as an idea accepted for its goodness and utility, and it was not
communicated by means of example, words or signs, as it may have been
for the discovery of fire.
His ability as a hunter and his knowledge of the
environment developed extraordinarily during million of years. The
hunter prefers to remain hunter-gatherer because it is a very pleasant
way of living. (L. Cavalli-Sforza Chi Siamo? p. 213)




Hunting was fun! I thought of the contrasts between hunting and
agriculture. Who in his right mind would want to trade such an
invigorating day's work for the drudgery of life in the fields? And
what for? Manioc? Bananas? Hunting gave you meat. And as for gathering
- it was sheer delight. The women strolled through the forest as though
they were in a vast grocery store - only here everything was free. And
each day's hunt was full of little adventures, excitement, moments of
idyllic contemplation or laughter. No two days were the same. (Louis
Sarno Song from the forest p. 70 Penguin)

Thus escaping the natural laws that regulate demographic balance, the
only limit to population growth is determined by the capacity to
increase the quantity of food produced, namely, by the possibility to
increase the extension of cultivated land and the intensify its
exploitation.

The research of Albert J. Ammerman and Luca Cavalli-Sforza on the
genetic pool of populations (The Neolithic Transition and the Genetics
of Populations in Europe), together with the comparison of the
languages and carbon 14 dating of archeological findings, demonstrates
that agriculture started only in a specific limited area of the world,
mid-east and China, and then expanded - slowly if compared to the
modern times, but very quickly when compared to the natural rhythms -
all over the planet.


The globalization of the production of food is the result of a choice
made by only a few, and imposed with persevering violence upon
everything and everyone.
In Europe this transformation didn't take place as a
sudden event, but through processes that took many generations. It is
this the reason why we prefer to talk of Neolithic Transition instead
of referring to this phenomenon in terms of Neolithic Revolution.
(Ammerman Cavalli-Sforza The Neolithic Transition... p. 13)

The Neolithic Transition is the span of time employed by agriculture to
supplant the previous hunting and gathering cultures in all the areas
easily convertible to the production of food. Such expansion is the
result of the migratory activity of the farmers, their sons and
grandchildren, in a process that took about 2.500 years to get from the
Middle East, where the firsts variety of cereals were initially tamed,
to England, advancing at a medium radial speed of about one kilometer
per year.


The dark, materialistic Age can be considered as an unique impressive
demographic explosion by which, in only 10.000 years, in a 1/200th of
its existence, the human population has increased from 5-10 million
(Coale, 1974; Hassan, 1981) to 300 million year zero, 2 billion in
1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 in 1975 and to the present 6 billion and six
hundred and sixtyfive million.
Check the dimension of the world population in this moment here: href="http://www.census.gov/main/www/popcld.html">Dynamic POPClocks





Before the advent of agriculture the inhabitants of the
Earth hardly exceeded 5-10 million. It has been calculated that in
England, for instance, there were probably 5.000, maybe 10.000
inhabitants. The passage to agriculture has determined a demographic
explosion. The world population has increased of thousand times in the
last 10.000 years. (L. Cavalli Sforza Chi Siamo? p. 31)

Agriculture implies a process of increasing disproportion between the
number of people and the natural capacity of the environment to sustain
them, that is, the increase of absolute scarcity, requiring ever
increasing efforts for continually decreasing results; a process
destined to finish with the rapid exhaustion of natural resources.
Once men did not cultivate the field, but the fruits of
the threes and plants were enough to feed everyone. Without working,
there was enough to live, there were a few people and an abundance of
provisions, and therefore people did not fight. In this way, there was
no need of great rewards or severe punishment, and people governed
itself. Today, instead, people doesn't consider large a family with
five kids, and since every son will have five sons, before the dead of
the grand father there will be 25 grandchildren. The result is that
there is a lot of people and the provisions are few, and it is
necessary to work hard for a small remuneration. So people begin to
fight and, even if rewards and punishment are doubled, it is impossible
to escape disorder. (Han Fei-tzu, 3-400 a.C. from Il Libro del Signore
di Shang p. 116)

Expansion of the cultivated land means subjugation and destruction –
direct when necessary, or as a side effect – of whole specie of harmful
or useless animal and plants and other groups of humans and cultures
different from the one in expansion.

The expansion of agriculture has been a process of colonization that
progressively reduced the extension of the environment and the
conditions of life for the hunters, for whom the scarcity, already
severe, become even more serious. With civilization, there also come
into existence the uncivilized savages, the steadily decreasing
remaining foragers, who, in smaller number and materially weaker, are
relegated to the marginal environments, absorbed by the new culture, or
destroyed.


The production of food started a period of constant increase of
exploitation, devastation and confusion; of deforestation,
impoverishment and desertification of the planet. The globalization of
the production of food has been imposed with persevering violence by a
few upon everything and everyone.
" ... There were no alders, no deer, no bunch grass, no
prairie chickens. Civilization in any country meant shifting the
balance in favor of people. That was its business. Where people had to
live, other things had to die. Someday all other forms would be
exterminated, and there would be nothing left anywhere but people. Then
humanity could settle down with a happy sigh to revel in its triumph.
There wouldn't be much of anything else to do." (H. L. Davis "Winds of
Morning" 1952)

The increase of the general malaise is made possible, mystified and
constantly hidden by the control of the relative scarcity, by a
temporary increase of the relative well being, by the abundant
immediate satisfaction of the material needs.


Since the beginning of the production of food, human interventions
always appear as solutions for the existing problems or as an
improvement of the previous situation. However, without ever
considering and acting upon the causes in order to re-establish
balance, in turn they become cause of the constant worsening of the
whole social and ecological situation. That’s how the good works for
the bad.
In the past, irresistible reproductive pressures arising
from the lack of safe and effective means of contraception led
recurrently to the intensification of production. Such intensification
has always led to environmental depletion, which in general results in
new systems of production - each with a characteristic form of
institutionalized violence, drudgery, exploitation, or cruelty. Those
reproductive pressure, intensification, and environmental depletion
would appear to provide the key for understanding the evolution of
family organization, property relations, political economy, and
religious beliefs, including dietary preferences and food taboos. (M.
Harris Cannibals and Kings p. xii)

Even though the production of food is rooted in the natural tendency of
all animal and plants to reproduce and expand themselves, it implies a
radical break with the original culture existing for hundreds of
thousands of years, of the way to conceive the Sense of life, of the
way to relate with nature and to regulate relations between human
beings.


To produce food implies the belief that Nature does not offer what men
need, that she is a hostile entity, so that one feels the right, and
thinks it is "natural", to compel her to produce - other than what she
is willing - larger quantities of what is considered useful, to
detriment of those vegetal, animal and cultural species considered as
harmful or useless.


By producing his own food, man determines what nature can or must
express in the place where he lives, but since we are dealing with
nature, that which seems emancipation from nature in reality is
alienation from nature.


The production of food implies a fearful, violent and shortsighted
mentality, for which the wellbeing of a part implies the malaise of the
whole: of nature, of the other people, of oneself and one’s own
descendants, until the moment of reckon.
It is a relative mentality, as it doesn’t see that an increasing
general malaise is also an increase of the malaise of those who enjoy a
bigger relative wellbeing.
The misfortune has its inner cause in a wrong attitude
toward the world. (R. Wilhelm I CHING p. 100)







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1 comment

14 May 2008 @ 15:23 by jazzolog : An Extremely Important Article
which deserves wide distribution. Well done!  


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