[unrev-II] Re: "Ishmael", Caveman Diet, Garden of Eden

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com)
Date: Fri Jun 02 2000 - 15:51:00 PDT

  • Next message: John \: "[unrev-II] Garden of Eden"

    (long, philosophical)

    Kent wrote:
    > BTW, did you happen to read any of the "Ishamel" books yet?
    In fact, I have. Finished Ishmael. Now working on My Ishmael.
    Very thought-provoking, and very interesting. However, it also
    seems belittle some of the real problems with the hunter/
    gatherer lifestyle.

    It does make good points that synchronize well with the
    "Caveman diet" proposition, however. It was either Ishmael or
    the beyondVegetarianism.com web site that made some excellent
    points regarding the suitability of available land for
    agriculture -- to the effect that 2/3 of all available land is
    *not* suited for agriculture, making herding the only reasonable
    use of the land. Not to mention the damage done by plowing, etc.,
    which would seem to make a herding-based culture much more
    sustainable. The fact that the "Caveman diet" produced by
    eliminating grains produces such extraordinary health and
    energy is, of course, an additional benefit.

    Again, though, there is the issue of the problems with the
    hunter/gatherer lifestyle -- mainly the fact that one can
    find oneself cold, wet, and hungry -- and generally miserable
    a fair amount of the time.

    Now, from reading Ishmael, the solution seems to be to turn
    off the minds that *think* they know the difference between
    good and evil, and willingly submit to the culling of the
    tribe that accompanies hard times. However, that just ain't
    going to happen. So what is the alternative?

    The really desirable alternative, I'm afraid, is climatically
    impossible. In general, I'm a big believer in Garden of Eden/
    Atlantis legends. Somewhere back in remote times, I suspect
    there was a time when the climate was really temperate, food
    readily available, and there was little need for intelligence
    to develop.

    [Side note: I suspect that human aggressiveness developed
     side by side with intelligence, btw. I was watching a nature
     show where the lions rush in and take a zebra. The other
     zebra are all agitated, then they settle down and go back
     to grazing while the lions feast on their kill. I was
     outraged! How can you stand there and take that! Then it
     occurred to me that the rage I felt had a lot of explanatory
     power -- our ancestors felt the same thing. They not only
     banded together, wielding their clubs to beat off the lions,
     but if one was successful, they pursued that critter to the
     ends of the earth to finish it off -- and buried the carcass
     just for spite! "He may have killed one of us before we could
     get there, but he is by god not going to derive one damn
     morsel from it. That aggressiveness -- and the memory capacity
     to hold a grudge -- explains both our burial rituals and the
     fact that there is no animal left on earth that considers
     man as reasonable prey, because we exterminate(d) any animal
     with the genes to think we are... That, too, is an aspect of
     the human condition that Ishmael seems to overlook.]

    Anyway, to get back to the Garden of Eden... I've thought for
    a very long time that if (a) It were warm and (b) food were
    readily available, then there would be very little need for
    the massive civilization we have built. However...

    The climate is *not* warm. That produces the need for housing,
    heating, available water, and plumbing. Personally, I think a
    comet came by and swiped us, and we are still seeing the
    perturbations millions of years later -- including shifting
    continents, weather patterns produced by the rising of the
    Himalayas, the wobble in our orbit, droughts and deserts,
    hurricanes, and all the rest. (I'm thinking that if you smashed
    a billiard ball into a fluid-filled tennis ball, and then slowed
    down the time scale a million times, you would have very similar
    effects. Similarly, if you could speed up the earth's changes
    a million times or so, we would probably recognize the changes
    as continuations of an initial collision.

    Now, the need for housing, plumbing, and all the rest leads to
    the division of labor that produces our civilization. Meanwhile,
    the shifting seasons present the need for food storage, since
    one can starve to death over the course of a long winter.

    Now admittedly, mankind is utterly failing to do it's part to
    *create* a Garden of Eden -- a situation I find utterly
    deplorable. With all the advances in genetic engineering, I have
    not seen so much as *one* project devoted to crossing wild strains
    with domestic strains, in order to produce full, fleshy fruits
    that will thrive virtually anywhere without cultivation. Instead,
    I have seen project after project aimed at producing a tomato
    that can withstand stronger pesticides -- so we can sell more
    poisons and trash our environment even more, while making a better

    Given that we *can't* control the environment, I think it behooves
    us to do as much as we can with what we have. That means coming as
    close to a garden of eden as we can, within extant constraints.

    But we are not doing that. Why? We have the technology to begin
    moving in that direction -- but *all* of our efforts are governed
    by the profit motive. And that motive is very likely to damn us
    all to oblivion, because the quest for profit tends towards short-
    term decision making that can have potentially deadly long term
    consequences. (Example: Ford "gets it" that SUVs are a danger to
    other drivers, to the environment, and to oil supplies. And more
    than most they try to limit the damage. But if they stopped making
    them, they wouldn't be profitable -- someone *else* would make
    them, and their profits would disappear. Now, is that sad, or what?)

    These are areas where government activity seems to me to be the
    only effective vehicle. Governments should be strenuously funding
    truly beneficial genetic engineering. Business just isn't going
    to do it. Governments should be aggressively funding studies of
    herbal remedies, nutritional cures, and disease-prevention through
    nutrition. Business isn't going to do it.

    But guess what? Government programs are *so* widely influenced by
    business, that government isn't doing it either! This leads to my
    basic proposition: The one weak link in our entire civilization,
    the one problem that prevents all the *other* problems from being
    solved, is the lack of separation between business and state.

    The framers of our constitution saw the need to separate church
    and state. In one stroke, they prevented the excessive and abusive
    exercises of power that characterized other nations, and they
    prevented religions from exerting a stranglehold on government
    action. However, they could not have foreseen the rise of the
    industrial civilization that is now exercising a new kind of power,
    frequently in ways that ultimately harmful. (On television last
    night, there were drugs to make you go to sleep, drugs to fix
    your upset stomach, drugs to solve you "social anxiety" problems,
    and drugs for a variety of other conditions. There were also ads
    for cereals, soft drinks, beer, and dozens of other fun but
    so essentially-unhealthy substances that they should be treated
    like cigarettes -- you can sell them, but you can't advertise
    them. When you add up all the harmful things that are being sold
    over the airwaves, it's pretty sickening, really.)

    So how, HOW, does one achieve a separation of business and state?
    What does that mean? What does it translate to in terms of things
    that the government can and cannot do? The question is important,
    because I'm not sure there is any way for culture to begin
    approaching a garden of eden, unless we answer it.

    [Final note: The "back to nature" movement, as appealing as it
    is in some respects, needs some controls, too. I mean, it's nice
    to travel to Ireland. Who on earth would stand behind the ticket
    window and make that possible, were it not for the wage they
    earn in the process? Who would make the guitars I enjoy playing,
    and how would I get to those sessions where I can play them?
    True, we have a lost a lot. But we have also gained a lot. How
    can two such fundamentally different approaches to life ever be
    reconciled, if at all?]

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