I am not Troy Davis

by Anonymous

On the street yesterday in my city I saw signs, held by people of many races, economic backgrounds and political affiliations, that said “Not In My Name” and “I Am Troy Davis”.

I know, without a doubt, that this callous and unjust state execution will not be in my name, but I also know, without a doubt, that I am not Troy Davis. I am not strong enough to claim that name. I do not weather incarceration on Death Row and I do not suffer under an unjust conviction. I do not face death with dignity and love and I do not answer people’s letters with great care and concern, while the state tries methodically and repeatedly to kill me for something I did not do.

I am a white, I am male. I grew up with that privilege I am frantically trying to shed, but I cannot. I fancy myself an ally and a revolutionary, but I am neither of those, either. Not yet.

I admit, I write political prisoners as a hobby, of sorts. It gives me credibility in my mostly white, activist “community”, and it makes me feel better about my privilege, about my inaction and about my cowardice. When I write these brave and resilient men and women, I never discuss their case, nor do I discuss my vanilla, above-ground activism. I never discuss politics, except in passing generalities, and I never mention the prison industrial complex. I feel that the recipients of my insipid letters do not need their attention drawn there, nor do I really know anything of it. They experience it everyday, and it would not only be stupid for me to presume that I have anything to tell them about oppression, their oppression, but an abstraction for me, but it would be rude to waste their time doing so even if I did. Instead, I write them about my life. I am aware that this is equally presumptuous of me, but it is my only truth, and the only thing I can communicate about without feeling disingenuous.

In my desk drawer, there are exactly two and one-third pages of handwriting that belong to Troy. He knew my mother’s maiden name and where I grew up. He knew what seeds I collected and saved this year, and that I like to camp in the mountains. He knew the names of my ducks and he knew about my emotionally tumultuous summer, how bad it hurt, but also how transformative it was for me. He carefully read and responded to my letter detailing what happened, and he gave me support. I’m sure you can imagine how conceited, selfish and undeserving that makes me feel tonight.

Troy’s reality was radically different. Last night, he died by lethal injection. He did not think of the handbuilt beehive I wrote him of, he did not wonder if I have decided to attend this term of school yet, nor did he think of our correspondence at all. He did not think of me, or you, because he could not. He did not think of us because we have failed him and we have forgotten and continue to forget.

Today, every single one of us who claims to care about ending imperialism and oppression have forgotten. Everyday, we fail those who are wrongfully imprisoned, convicted and enslaved in this nation under various systems of incarceration, control and coercion. We fail Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist and former Black Panther, and we fail Leonard Peltier, writer and activist in the American Indiana Movement. In this, our bloated nation of disparity, injustice and shit, we forget Marie Mason and Eric McDavid, incarcerated for nothing but a discussion, and break our word to activist Tim DeChristopher, doomed to ten years in federal prison for making a bid on some land in a last-ditch attempt to halt its destruction. We ignore Lynne Stewart, a lawyer of integrity, convicted for trying to get pertinent information to a client, regarding their defense. We fail them all and we forget them at our own peril.

But these names are mostly names we know, if we pay attention. We also fail the names you do not know, the names we are not allowed to know. We forget Puerto Rican independentistas like Dylcia Pagan, Alejandrina Torres and Carmen Valentin, who were railroaded in sham trials, trying to gain independence and fight U.S. occupation. We fail our Black revolutionary brother Sundiata Acoli, like we lie to our Black revolutionary sister, Janet Holloway Africa, when we call her “sister”.
We also must not forget that we fail the names that we can never know. The people in Guantanamo Bay, and the secret prisons of the CIA, either held abroad in client states of the U.S. or on U.S. warships. We fail those who suffer extraordinary rendition. We forget those under drones strikes in Pakistan, and we fail those under repression in Columbia, corruption in Afghanistan, or starvation in Somalia. All over the world, we fail those who die at the hands of our consumerism and imperialism. We forget.

Last night Troy Davis was scheduled to die by the state of Georgia and he was killed. But if we continue to remain ignorant and forgetful about the dozens, hundreds, and thousands of other unjustly imprisoned and incarcerated everywhere, we are not only decidedly not Troy Davis, and we taint his proud legacy of resistance, but we have forgotten ourselves as well, and we forsake our potential, not only as activists and revolutionaries, but our heritage as people of the earth who live in light, truth and justice and instead become what we are disgusted by. We will become people who deserve no name at all, a people who do not deserve to be remembered, and a people who will die alone and forgotten.

I am not Troy Davis, nor could I ever be. But I can be myself again, and we can all be ourselves again by refusing to abide our criminal and corrupt corporate government and their mechanisms of control, deprivation and death. We can reclaim ourselves and become the activists, dissidents and revolutionaries we want to be, and claim we are, if we just refuse to forget ever again. Refuse to forget the revolutionary sacrifices and executions and refuse to let them keep occurring. Refuse to forget our planet, refuse to forgive the people who kill it with impunity for profit, and refuse to forget one another in this struggle for liberation. We must refuse to let anyone, anywhere suffer alone.

We are not Troy Davis nor can we ever be. But all hope is not lost, because we can be ourselves again, if we refuse to forget. Until then, we will forgo our names and we will not use them. I will be Anonymous and so will you. Join us.

Today we can free Troy Davis, even though he is now already passed. We free him when we free his legacy. We will not forgive and we will not forget. Expect us.

Comments 86

  • Thank you, anonymous, for your most thought-provoking and inspiring letter. I stand with you and w/Troy Davis. Let us move forward in the struggle. Peace, Gayle

  • Sorry. Those who sent him to death and those who cheered are more likely to survive the coming cataclysm than those who sympathized with him.

    They have the money, the arsenal, the stockpile and the media to rally the sheeple.

    The fighters get one defeat, and that’s it. Napoleon never really recovered from the battle of Leipzig, his first real major setback.

    But the kings and queens , even though they are defeated once, twice or thrice, always win in the end since no matter what they might be they are always kings and queens.

    Lenin and Stalin killed millions to get their agenda. But, with all of their opponents and their line died out, Lenin and Stalin are revered as gods. Although Lenin left no descendants, his birthplace renamed in his honor still honors him as the ‘patron saint’ of the city; Stalin’s descendants live like kings in Caucasus.

  • jaime, your defeatist cynicism and your fear has no place here, with us or echoed throughout our tribe. in fact, it makes you an enemy of them that do NOT doubt.

    you expect us, too.

  • It is time for people from all walks of life to come together. This is the only way we will see change for the good. Injustice affects everyone. Black or white, rich or poor.

  • Nicely said Anonymous. Thank you for the insightful essay.

  • Anon, a very thoughtful, moving article. There are more to remember. The farmers in India who are drinking pesticide to kill themselves because they are so in debt for modern seeds and fertilizers. The children sold into slavery, sexual and otherwise, by parents who can no longer feed them. The kids who mine silver in Bolivia. The men who cut cane in Brazil for biodiesel – up to 12 tons a day. The men who mine copper in Chile and have their life expectancy cut because of it. The Native Americans who have had uranium mined on their lands leaving toxic tailings. The people of Appalachia who have their mountain tops removed, coal sludge ponds break and destroy more of the environment, poisoning streams. The answer is in the collapse not reform, collapse of the whole house of cards, global civilization must come down. Luckily capitalists are hard at work making that happen. Not their intent of course, but they are a short sighted bunch.

  • our heritage as people of the earth who live in light, truth and justice

    if we just refuse to forget ever again.

    Indeed, we would be well advised to remember the words of the Declaration of Independence

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,

    and not ascribe later import to them. When this was written, “men” quite clearly did not include women, blacks, reds, browns, etc. Failure to be cognizant of the origins of the undercurrents will lead to inadequate responses. 

  • the u.s. public tv network (pbs) broadcast a very interesting program a few years ago, part of it’s series titled SECRETS OF THE DEAD. don’t recall the name of the episode, or the book title on which much of the program was based, but i recall some of the content and basic plot quite well. the story was broadly based on a transport ship of english convict women enroute to australia, the then prison colony of the english empire in the late 18th century. many of the women were convicted prostitutes, and apparently along the way they were free to ply their trade. as i recall, the ship was poorly provisioned, so it was more or less expected of the women to earn cash and pay for their own provisions. the voyage became notorious for this reason. but what i found particularly fascinating were the personal stories of several of the convicts, some actually children down to the age of 11, and the sociological perspective behind english law i discovered.

    of course this was an era long ago, before national governments had the wealth and p.r. savvy to create welfare programs to keep most of the poorest of the poor from having to resort to criminal activity to survive. there were multitudes of desperate poor sheople in places like 18th century london, having to rely on begging, thievery, prostitiution, and whatever for survival. in lieu of welfare programs to keep them fed and housed, the government relied on a policy of ‘law and order’ to fill it’s dungeonly jails and prisons overflowing with the desperate poor of society. in order to cope with the fact that even though they made these prisoners live in miserable severely overcrowded conditions they still didn’t have enough room for them, they administered the death penalty extremely liberally.

    take the case of an 11 year old girl who was the youngest convict on this sailing brothel. she had been convicted of petty larceny, stealing an article of clothing. her penalty? sentenced to death by hanging!

    however her sentence was commuted so she could be sent on the ship to australia. young women were needed to mate with men to get this new colony established, u see. as it turned out, this young girl went on to a long life. she and her progeny had also been prolific breeders, for by the time of her death, she had an outrageous number of descendents already, if i recall correctly, in the triple digits.

    anyway, the lesson here is that of the historical roots of ‘criminal justice’ inherited by the former british colonies of north america. laws were used as a means of social control, a brutal way of dealing with the desperately poor. PRE-PUBERTAL CHILDREN WERE EXECUTED for petty crimes they were forced to commit to eat/survive. this was an extremely viscious, mean culture. it was class warfare in which the rich win, and the poor pay with their lives.

    this is the heritage of many of us here living in former english colonies. the usa perhaps has taken the lead in perpetuating the sadistic spirit of law makers, enforcers, and prosecutors, and using the criminal ‘justice’ system as a blunt means of social control, ridding itself of some of it’s poorest by imprisonment and execution. it stands out as the only ‘developed’ ‘democracy’ to employ execution. it also stands out as the world’s leading incarcerater, notorious for it’s zealous pursuit of the modern day witch hunt known as ‘the war on drugs’, shredding constitutional rights in the process.

    american ‘authorities’, all propagandistic bs aside, are notoriously vicious. it has been so probably since the republic’s earliest days. it certainly was that way a century ago, when something euphemistically known as ‘the third degree’ was popular, according to wikipedia. simply put, the third degree involved beating/torturing criminal suspects to make them confess, no doubt often to crimes they didn’t commit. i found this out recently when i was researching ‘water boarding’ of recent notoriety as an ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ employed against prisoners of ‘the war on terror’. it turns out that water boarding was also widely used in american jails as part of ‘the third degree’.

    ‘anonymous’ comes across as youthfully idealistic/naive, imo. he sounds as if he believes his generation is special. they’re going to achieve something many previous generations have failed to do: tame the vicious beast known as official ‘justice’.

    ‘Today, every single one of us who claims to care about ending imperialism and oppression have forgotten. Everyday, we fail those who are wrongfully imprisoned, convicted and enslaved’ -anon

    forgotten, or surrendered to surreality? i think u’re being too hard on yourself, anonymous, and by extension, on all of us. i can’t imagine u hate the establishment much more than i do, and i imagine many others reading this share similar sentiments. we’re outraged by the callous cruelty, bigotry, stupidity of ‘authorities’. we mourn over the pain, suffering, and death of innocents caught in the machinery of official ‘justice’. but we surrealize this is nothing new under the sun. it’s probably as old as civilization. there’s just not that much we can do about it. the most we can do is become noble martyrs, but as was noted in the previous thread, we won’t be the first. none of the previous ones have succeeded at their ultimate goal of radical spiritual transformation of society.

    with collapse looming large, mother nature is about to take the struggle for justice out of human hands. just as collapse is the friend of all who long for the termination of ecocidal industrialism, it will ultimately accomplish for the cause of justice what all past and present martyrs couldn’t.

    ‘We will become people who deserve no name at all, a people who do not deserve to be remembered, and a people who will die alone and forgotten.’ -anon

    perhaps this does apply to many/all? of us. whether or not we have any responsibility for officially sanctioned evil, we’re all tainted by it’s proximity, it’s foul odor in our lives, unless we live as hermits closed off from society, or at least officialdom.

    ‘We must refuse to let anyone, anywhere suffer alone.’ -anon

    what u’re basically saying is we must acquire superhuman ability so as to impose our will upon oppressors, become more powerful than them. easier said than done. class warfare is ongoing. while the poor win skirmishes here and there, the rich are always winning the war.

    ‘The answer is in the collapse not reform’ – once again, kc and i are in agreement.

  • TVT:

    Each point well made.

    I hope you are right about the last one, ‘The answer is in the collapse not reform’. The rich think that their money, really only digits in some computer, will somehow protect them from the collapse. Since we see the extreme case coming, then they will be quite surprised when they find themselves on an equal or lesser footing that us.

  • TVT

    Well said. Excellent points. And I somewhat agree with your and KC – ‘The answer is in the collapse not reform’. I differ in that I think justice will be meted out by Nature indiscriminately, rich and poor alike – but justice nonetheless. As for a long-term ‘cure’ for this very human trait, I am not so optimistic, as whoever takes over after the collapse of civilisation has run its course, and whatever system(s) take its place, there will always be these kinds of people waiting in the wings to take every possible advantage of the replacement legal process to kill, torture, rape, pillage and burn the innocent, and even the guilty as well, to inflict the maximum punishment allowed and enjoy every moment of it.

  • Victor [as whoever takes over after the collapse of civilisation has run its course, and whatever system(s) take its place, there will always be these kinds of people waiting in the wings to take every possible advantage of the replacement legal process to kill, torture, rape, pillage and burn the innocent, and even the guilty as well, to inflict the maximum punishment allowed and enjoy every moment of it.]

    That assumes some form of civilization will be built up on the back of this one’s failure. While I can’t say for sure that a post collapse hunter-gatherer society will be different, I think its structure is so radically different that humans behave differently. The hunter-gatherers of the future will live on a very depleted planet. I am not saying that the humans born will have some miraculously different genes, but rather that nature will be calling the shots. What that will look like we really can’t say because our contact with hunter-gatherers is always by the fact that we have made contact, post contact behavior. It will at least be the environment we evolved to live in, free of the self imposed cages. Our programs will be geared for that way of life, instead of as now malfunctioning do to be designed for a different way of life.

    TVT – thanks for the compliment on the last discussion. By and large this blog attracts special people. Not necessarily in the same ways, but special because we are more aware, not stuck in denial about the state of the world.

  • The German study maintains that all countries on earth will sooner or later be faced with the problem of transitioning to a post-fossil fuel age. As such a transition has never happened before, there are no guidelines for how it is to be accomplished. Of great significance is the willingness of nations to implement the economic policies necessary to effect the transformation to the post fossil fuel age. Forms of government will be sorely tested. The Germans who have much experience in these matters note that only continuous improvement in individual living conditions forms the basis for tolerant and open societies. Given the widespread unemployment and high mobility costs that are almost certain to accompany the transition to a post fossil fuel world, democratic forms of government are likely to face severe challenges. We all remember the Weimar Republic. Also of note are recent studies within the OECD that show that voting for extremist and nationalist political parties tends to increase with economic setbacks.
    From a German study on peak oil
    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-09-22/peak-oil-crisis-german-army-report
    I think the bolded statement pretty much supports TVT’s points which are well made as Curtis notes. On the way down all the improvements in justice and fairness made on the way up will disappear and the way down will look like the way up, only hopefully faster. We can hope that we whiz right by the Race riots, race war, slavery, the Inquisition etc. Here in AL I already hear hints of race war. In our jails, especially our privatized jails, the modern version of the chain gang is being created as jails hire out prisoners to other companies for labor. On the way to town I saw a new sight two days ago. A road improvement project was in the works and prisoners were doing some of the jobs that formerly hired people did, managing machines, directing traffic. All were white prisoners. Farther down the road some black prisoners were doing other, more menial jobs. While I am used to seeing prisoners picking up trash on the side of the road, this was the first time I saw them working on a highway project.

    Let us hope the collapse is soon and comes with a very steep decline. Yes that will be hard, very hard. I don’t expect to survive it. But civilization is a failed and evil model for human life.

  • Kathy

    True. H-Gs will live under a different set of rules. But the ‘tribe’ (I of course am making an assumption here) will still have a social structure, as all human societies do. That social structure will have rules, and consequences for breaking those rules. Different tribes, different rules, perhaps, but rules nonetheless.

    And my point being that there will always be people there who will encourage, as much as they can, severe punishment over enlightened discipline for those who break the rules. It is a part of our nature, like a need to expel or destroy or punish that which is perceived dangerous to the social organism.

  • Victor, in small tribes every member is important. If you have one best tracker, one best at aiming arrows, one best at chipping flint, one best at finding mushrooms, you cannot have the most severe punishment, death or expulsion. In most cases punishment has to be enlightened discipline because you need all your adult members. Exclusion or death would be for the most severe of departures from the rules. I am not saying they have a different mind, just a situation where cooperation within the tribe IS the best strategy for survival for each member. Smaller the tribe and more difficult the environs the more that would be true it would seem. I suspect that the individual that pushes the harshest of punishments would likely be seen as a divisive force and be expelled from the group.

  • Kathy

    I think you are idealising just a tad. Whilst some of what you say is certainly true (all things being perfect), you seem to ignore the human element – no human society is without deceit, vengeance, jealousy, etc. These traits have a way of infiltrating the lives not only of individuals, but of the communities in which they live. People do not always look out for the welfare of the community. Often they act in darkness to improve their influence or gain some advantage.

  • The only real law is the law of the Caudillos.

    The Caudillo will kill whoever which crosses his eyes. One can invent excuses later.

    The meek never inherits the world. It’s the cunning, the well-armed and the well-provisioned which inherits the world.

    The last chapter of Stephen King’s The Stand tells the story. When the ‘good guys’ who came to get rid of Randall Flagg came back, the town was taken by a former Police Chief, who introduces Martial Law. The police chief was already harassing the idiot (who was in the ‘good guys’) before the book ends, and it is implied that he will be the new Emperor of the new world.

    And on the movie “2012”, the Oliver Platt character becomes the new ruler of the new “USA”. The movie is silent on what would happen to the new regime, but I don’t think Platt would spare the african scientist (can’t recall his difficult name) who crossed him all the time.

    Even if the current Establishment is defeated , there will be a new one, by those who have not forgotten the method of this world.

  • I think it is much harder to commit the same level of violence and oppression against members of your own tribe and community. So while I share the pessimism of a lot of people about human nature, I think the structure of primitive living makes it less likely that humans will be quite as evil as they are now. (I realize that there is a lot of violence inside American households, but I doubt that would be as common when people aren’t isolated into nuclear family units).

    Anyone here notice the interesting irony in the news? At the same time that Troy Davis was executed, the three American prisoners in Iraq were freed. The media spent a lot more time worrying about these privileged white kids than they did about Troy. Or about Bradley Manning, or a million other injustices in our own (USA) country.

  • Victor, you are forgetting kin selection. Tribal groups would have much stronger kin relatedness not to mention having grown up their whole life in the group. I never said that I thought humans in hunter-gatherer tribes had any better genetic programs or were nicer people. It just that when you are obviously dependent on the group you are in for your survival there are stronger motivations to get along. That would come both from not being extreme in punishment and not being extreme in aberrant behavior. That does not mean that such groups would act the same to other groups.

    I can’t say anything for sure and neither can anyone else as we cannot observe a stone age hunter-gatherer group. Certainly their is evidence for murder of humans by humans, be we can’t know if that was intertribal or murder of humans outside the tribe. I am suggesting that the game theory for small kin related groups who require a high degree of cooperation to survive is likely to be quite different from modern human life. If you have to watch your back in tribal life how could a group go on a hunt together. They need to trust that at least during the hunt no one is going to stab them or how can they focus their attention on the hunt.

    But maybe you are right and we are no different in different environs, in which case I hope we do extinct ourselves.

  • I think it is much harder to commit the same level of violence and oppression against members of your own tribe and community.

    James
    This is true. And certainly the small unit of community that the tribe represents is much more capable of keeping such behaviour in check. And as Kathy notes, it might well be an entirely different situation for inter-tribal relations, which could be quite brutal.

    Indeed in North America, among the Native American tribes, the Six Nations Confederation was formed in order to bring peace after many years of brutal inter-tribal warfare. It was from this agreement that a significant portion of the United States Constitution was taken, so impressed were the founding fathers with it. Of course it also has to be noted that whilst the founding fathers stood in great admiration of the Native Americans, still business is business, and the Native Americans had to go. America was never never the land of the free, even from its inception, and it has never shed the philosophy of ‘bringing freedom’ to others.

  • Wow. Moved me to tears.

    Sometimes I’m ashamed to have abandoned the US for a country that has no death penalty and that assures everyone a certain level of health care.

    But that feeling quickly passes when something like this happens, while Canada is only willing to co-operate on a murder trial in China if the death penalty is taken off the table.

    Do what you can, where you can, but if you can’t do enough, get the hell out of there!

  • I do not face death with dignity

    Turboguy!’s trademark, hopefully used with permission.

  • My first Hospice patient faced death with great dignity and courage. I imagine in her life she was probably an unremarkable woman. But of all my Hospice patients she was the most remarkable.

    We are all dead men walking from the day of our birth.

  • Anonymous

    Reading your article – this “universal” feeling of pain – in solidarity with the suppressed, well known over here.

    You also say: “But all hope is not lost, because we can be ourselves again, if we refuse to forget. Until then, we will forgo our names and we will not use them. I will be Anonymous and so will you. Join us.”

    What is this supposed to accomplish? I truly do not understand this “movement” of the “anonymous”. How are people going to get aware of – whatever the issue is, if there are no people to connect to, no faces to be seen and recognised. It does remind me of a mystical movement and I’m not sure if any mystical movement has done any good in the long run ever. I for my part prefer to be NOT anonymous, whatever I have to say I want to say it in my name, in my story and show my face.
    So, whatever one wants to say or do, do this anonymous?

  • TVT, excellent points. Throughout human history there are more examples of atrocity against other humans than can ever be recorded. Our capacity for cruelty is truly astounding. It starts in very early childhood and continues through to our deaths. To my knowledge, that is one of the few characteristics which sets humans apart from the other animals (although, I think there are some indications that dolphins can be cruel to one another in certain settings).

    I don’t see us somehow losing our penchant for cruelty and injustice simply because our society collapses. While I do agree that some forms of violence will be less common post-collapse due to the smaller communities/tribes, it’s important to remember that today, the overwhelming percentage of murders in the U.S. are committed by someone close to the victim – usually a family member. I’ll concede that many of those murders are triggered by the stresses of modern society, but I’m not convinced that those won’t be replaced by similarly difficult and powerful stressors.

  • power and greed go hand in hand, dr. house. with civilization largely destroyed/abandoned, the ability to acquire wealth and power is gone. i believe civilization brings out the absolute worst in human nature, which is highly malleable within different cultural contexts. i like and tend to agree with kathy’s idea that ‘primitive’ hg type tribal cultures may bring out the best in us. much better to live in accordance with natural desires and intelligence unconstrained by puritan dogma/edict. much better to live without official ‘authorities’. the vast majority of violence/oppression today is the result of powerful entrenched institutions/traditions, governments and religions, imo.

  • VT I would say rather that being a H-G brings out our natural programs. Natural programs are not necessarily “nice” just successful for the species. Perhaps why we view cooperation as “nice” is because it is natural for our sort of social creature. If parasitic wasps had brains like ours they might thing that what they do to their victims is “nice”.

    The sinister nature of this practice won’t surprise anyone familiar with parasitic wasps. Some turn their victims into mindless zombies, left only barely alive until the wasp eggs hatch.

    Yet another species keeps fly larvae alive long enough so it can survive the winter, thanks to an antifreeze compound made by the flies.

    Charles Darwin even used one family of parasitic wasps as evidence for natural selection, writing to a colleague: “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.”
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16597-ancient-virus-gave-wasps-power-over-caterpillar-dna.html

    I don’t know the answer to all this, I just suspect humans feel more “right” as Hunter-Gatherers because that is what they are programmed to be, just as pigs feel more right with mud to wallow in than a clean air conditioned cage. The wallow is to cool them and kill parasites, but even if the pig is cool and has no parasites I bet they still love to wallow.

  • Kathy C and Victor, I feel uneasy when terms like “hunter gatherers” are used. I think scholars are a little too eager to stuff everything into categories and stick labels on them. Hunting/fishing/gathering is a subsistence strategy. To use it as a label for a kind of people is misleading.
    For example, Victor, you mentioned the Iroquois confederacy. Should we label them (pre-contact) as hunter gatherers? If not, what category do they fit in?

    I spent a winter among the Nisga’a people in British Columbia. They derived most of their livelihood from hunting/fishing/gathering, yet their culture was proto-feudal, stratified, they had “noble” families who were sovereign over certain territories. I’ve attended naming ceremonies in which an individual received the name of an area (much like ‘Duke of Kent’) and henceforth people had to ask permission of him to use resources from that area.

    Some of the families in the village were of low social status because they descended from slaves.

    I just think we should look at aggression and population growth as problems rather than focusing on subsistence strategies.

  • i found a link to the video of the episode of SECRETS OF THE DEAD pertaining to the transport of british female convicts to australia in 1789 i mentioned in my long post a couple of days ago. it’s 55 minutes long, with much interesting historical detail:

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/episodes/voyage-of-the-courtesans/159/

  • Tamnaa, I understand what you are saying. Yet humans use language which names things. We name our chickens because talking about the blue bird with the gold hackle in the brood Hera raised is much more time consuming than saying Gigi. But of course when we name groups we loose some detail and can loose sight of the individuality. And names can take on negative connotations. There has been a movement to improve on group names of people, so garbage men, are sanitation men are sanitation workers. Etc.

    I am well aware that when I use the term Hunter gatherer that it is a broad brush that encompasses a very diverse group. And who is in that group and how they behave can vary, I believe because of circumstance rather than basic genetic differences. Some only hunt and gather, some do a bit of farming, some migrate to lands unsettled previously by humans and get rich on the easily found resources and then keep slaves (Northwest Native Americans in the US and Canada) and some do the same and hunt to extinction all the large animals (native Australians). I would say that both hit the energy jackpot and went a bit insane. Oil was a bigger energy jackpot and thus has greater insanity.

    But can you imagine the !Kung people of the Kalahari in their native state keeping slaves or running jails or taking out the eyes of one of their own tribe for punishment. They have to move a lot so the former would be impossible and they being small they would hardly ever have the luxury of a punishment that makes one of their own unable to hunt or gather. They are united by necessity. The reports of people who have studied them (who may be biased) are that they are happy people.

    Louis Sarno studied the Bayaka people, people living on the edge of H-G life and civilization. (Bayaka: The Extraordinary Music of the Babenzele Pygmies and Sounds of Their Forest Home and some on line listening at http://www.baka.co.uk/ ) He recorded their music (which is beautiful) and married into the tribe. He notes that they are unhappy when living out of the forest in civilization, but come alive as they enter the forest.

    Do these stories prove anything, maybe, maybe not.

    Wild animals seldom seem happy in cages which is why some zoos have tried to create more natural places for them to live. We are 10,000 years into the agriculture/civilization experiment, 200,000 living in the wild. Maybe I should say wild humans as opposed to self domesticated humans. We have hardly had time to evolve new brain programs for this new way of living, but of course we have evolved memes to try to make up for that lack of brain programs.

    Perhaps I should substitute wild humans for H-G. As you note Hunting and Gathering is a strategy for getting food and even that can go wrong when humans get lucky and hit the jackpot. We are programmed it would seem for energy scarcity and often do poorly when we can easily have all the food and other energy we want.

    I note that Thailand has had monarchs far back in its history. Fairly recently statutes and large buildings from the past have been discovered. Such architecture would mean that the working people are having to turn over any excess and sometimes more to the rulers to feed those who work in non-food raising capacities. This is rarely done fairly and without some extreme punishments for non-compliance. the !kung are not known to put any food energy into buildings and kings.

  • Kathy C; I think you and I agree about the huge blunder humans make when driven by the urge to dominate the world around them, including each other. For me, it is that urge to dominate which creates the problem, along with failure to control population expansion.

    The !kung bushmen and the Bayaka are admirable people. I would say that they are sane. The stories about them indicate to me that humans have the potential for sanity. Maybe I am naive in accepting the story of the Hopi, a peace-loving, mainly agrarian people, as I understand it. They also seem sane to me. Is that story just a romanticized distortion?

    As we spiral down into the crash of so-called civilization, how can we realistically expect the survivors to abstain voluntarily from settling in favorable areas and going about improving their habitat to their own advantage? If humans do have the potential to control their actions in such a radical way, why is it impossible for them to control their aggressive impulses and their reproduction rate? Maybe we should work on that.

    To argue that agriculture inevitably leads to civilization (because it did), while refusing to grapple with the fact that foraging inevitably leads to agriculture (because that also did happen) leaves me very puzzled. Am I failing to understand this academic doctrine?

    Early in my life, I spent a few years living quite deep in the wilderness of northern British Columbia, during which time I did a lot of hunting and fishing. It was honestly part of my subsistence at that time, but I learned that I, personally, don’t want to destroy the lives of beautiful wild animals so that I may continue to live. It’s just not a valuable exchange.

    Instead of “Kill animals”, I would say “Plant trees!”. Humans have the potential to take a nurturing role in the regeneration of life and balance in the world.

  • Hierarchial societies can only be built when the excess product of human effort can be stored and traded. With nomadic peoples, who have to carry everything they claim to own, the options for building a hierarchy or even a sizeable community are rather limited.

    Any societies that were big enough to be hierarchial had to have an anchor in the real estate. The first such anchor was when someone intentionally strewed some seed and claimed the exclusive right to harvest the resultant plants in that area: the start of agriculture.

  • Robin Datta, wouldn’t you agree that a wolf pack is hierarchical? Of course, you were referring to human societies, but it seems pretty clear that hierarchy exists in most social animals and insects and even the most basic human groups. In the family unit, the father typically is the leader/master/lord while the mother is the subordinate leader, followed by the male children in birth order, then females in birth order. When the oldest son is “of age”, then he overtakes his mother in status. If two or three families come together to increase their chances of survival, e.g. three grown men hunting a large animal as opposed to one, anthropologic studies seem to support that a loose hierarchy is formed. While I know that not all cultures follow this structure, it is a very common and ancient one. I suspect that it is the structure that has served humans since before we became human. More complex communities are simply variations on this theme.

    As to “an anchor in real estate”, again, some wild animals do the same thing – particularly carnivorous animals. They frequently mark their territory. Some of this is for the purposes of mating, but some of it seems to be to warn others of their species that the area is claimed by some other of their ilk.

    I don’t mean to quibble, but I think it’s important to realize that the human characteristics we see in action today and throughout history are not some sort of invention by modern humans, but quite the opposite, these actions are deep in our genetic memory. We are just being the animals we’ve always been. The difference is that our brains have evolved enough to let us figure out how to manipulate our environment. Unfortunately, for many it hasn’t evolved enough to let us see the consequences of that manipulation.

  • Most tribes of (human) hunter-gatherers do recognize a “range” for their activities, and boundaries beyond which are the ranges of adjacent tribes. There is usually no exclusive claim to the plants growing on a particular area of land. Felids and canids are also territorial in a similar manner, and the results of the hunt are shared according to their hierarchy.

    Animal hierarchies are based upon demonstrated abilities within the group, such as arbitration, peacemaking, or even sheer physical dominance, or on the basis of skills at interacting with the environment, as in hunting. 

    Animal hierarchies are not based on emergy (energy embodied/invested as in buildings, machines, etc.) or on the claim / access to existing or future supplies of energy. If animals have a better access to energy sources (a “pecking order”) the pecking order is a result of their hierarchical status, not the other way around. In human societies the claim to resources based on wealth (the pecking order) often determines the hierarchical status. While it is true that the skills at manipulating the system may account for the accumulation of extensive claims to resources amongst humans, such skills do not necessarily transfer into the skills that enhance the production of the items actually used by society. 

    This degree of a claim to resources would not be possible among nomadic peoples whose ability to carry claimed emergy and energy would be severely limited.

  • Today in the garden I decided that yes, humans can act in evil ways in even their natural environment. Wasps lay eggs on living caterpillars to hijack their bodies to raise their young. Foxes eat rabbits, chickens eat bugs, bugs eat other bugs, etc etc etc. I think it will be best if we have all out nuclear war, blow the planet to smithereens and kill all life in this neck of the galaxy. I had some hope that maybe wild humans could be some cut above domestic humans but whenever I argue that someone always argues against it. That was the only hope I had for humanity. And so on further reflection I decided, what insanity to think that any self replicating creature on a limited planet will not resort to using some other self replicating creature to benefit itself at the other’s expense. I yield. Life is bad. Luckily it looks like humans are on the path to destroying life itself. Perhaps that is our function, our meaning, to destroy this endless cycle of living things eating each other.

  • Kathy Cassandra

    Sounds like not a too good day 😉 The chances the prophecy that humans might just destroy life altogether are quite high, very high I’d say.
    Perhaps – that is our function, although I’d prefer a different one, or no function at all, living a meaningless life in a meaningless world, just for the joy of being for some time.

    Living things eating one another to survive (and be “eaten” somehow by something at the end of the day) that is how life works. All life works like this, has to (maybe except some – considered_ “low” levels of life).

    Just an experience from last year, might sound strange, I’ll give it a try. In the Peruvian jungle, going through schamanic processes (and sometimes quite frightening ones) – one of the most inspiring was the vision of myself dying. It was strange to watch the scene, seeing myself going through this process of being eaten by snakelike/eellike
    animals. In fact it was so interesting that I could “go back” to see the scenery once again. There was this wild, really wild, tearing between all those animals, I myself was most astonished how they could do their work without hurting each other.
    Here I tried to tell that experience in a gentle way – as the actual experience was quite violent.
    But then, there was no fear at all, just curiosity and the deep understanding that death is just changeover, eliminating the individual on the way, but what ever substance there is, is going to be transformed and used and reused,.. .
    Reconciliation with death possibly.
    Nukes. Had a talk to people at IAEA in Vienna last week, one more tomorrow, somehow excited on how this is going to develop.
    Btw.1 Like the idea of “wild” humans, at least some shaman(or alike) people have a understanding of the world and life, that is beyond the reach of “our” day to day experience, the perception trained, I think some of the “not wild” can also “regain” some of this so deeply connecting experience.

  • Kathy C, I suspect that philosophers have been arguing similarly since we developed the ability for speech. At issue, I believe, is how we define good and bad. (Wow! This is actually on topic :-).

    Animals, to our knowledge, don’t think about killing some other animal as good or bad, but rather that they were hungry and now they aren’t. They have a need and they take action to fulfill that need. It can be boiled down to simple chemical responses to other chemical stimuli. It’s all part of the cycle of life.

    In the same way, as we’ve evolved, our big brains have allowed us to follow this concept to its natural progression. We’ve taken that same approach and applied it to other needs/wants. If I need another man’s food, how much of a stretch is it to go from killing an animal to eat, to killing another man to get his food? If I “need” to rule the world, what does it matter if I wipe out entire populations of other humans (or other creatures) in the process?

    As you have noted many times, nobody gets out of life alive. Neither do any other species. So in the grand scheme of things, it’s all about perspective. We define what is good and bad, what is cruel or unjust. Nature could care less.

  • That is right Dr H, we define what is good and bad with our big brain. But what was natural for humans for 200,000 years was to live wild. I don’t suggest anyone try to become a hunter-gatherer. I don’t suggest that hunter-gatherers are “better”, just that they probably feel more right than any farmer has and the indications from some H-G groups studied is that they are far less hierarchical than civilized humans or wolves. No doubt those who live like the folks of Tamnaa’s world, gathering, hunting as well as growing food feel far more comfortable in their world than do Wall Street bankers or feudal serfs.

    No hunter-gatherer tribe that I know of has put a cast of millions to work building a pyramid (cathedral, tibetan monastary, etc). They leave us a few tools and their bones to study. On the days I hope humanity makes it I will still put my hopes on that lifestyle that lived more lightly on the earth (millions not billions).

  • On the days I hope humanity makes it I will still put my hopes on that lifestyle that lived more lightly on the earth (millions not billions).

    Kathy

    Yes, ‘lightly on the earth’ is the key concept here. In the future, if any survive, humans will be less likely to cause further widespread damage nor inflict global ecological disaster upon the natural world. We will live in harmony with nature because, as you say, we will have little choice. Will there be evil or bad behaving humans among us then? Of course. There always will be. But not so much, and at far less cost.

    So bring it on. Bring on Collapse, and let us be done with it.

  • You’re right, of course, Kathy. I believe one of the main reasons that we have so much depression and anxiety in the world (clinically speaking) is because we’ve lost touch with the natural world. Everyone thinks they have to be sanitized and sterilized less they become “infected”. The whole “Bugs are bad! They must be killed!!” mentality. I don’t disagree with you at all about that.

    I also agree totally with you that the H-G culture was/is much more in harmony with nature, certainly with respect to their impact on it.

    What got me involved in this particular discussion was the suggestion (I think someone suggested it anyway) that it is civilization which leads us toward cruelty, atrocities, etc. I don’t buy that. I think fundamentally we are unchanged from those earlier times. I don’t have any specific data to support my claim, but based on what I’ve read and studied, I feel comfortable with that belief. H-G’s are our ancestors. We are them multiple generations removed.

    To Robin’s point, civilization has given us emergy which allows us to be distracted from day to day survival and exact our cruelty/power lust/genocide on a large scale. On the other hand, that same emergy allows us to do many wonderful and great things such as create art, help those who are hurting halfway around the world, build shelters, etc.

    One of the conundrums with which I struggle is the whole idea that somehow one existence is better than another one. H-G’s live simply. But for some people, the thought of living like that is abhorrent. Is one way better? Who’s to say? A wild animal doesn’t have any choice how she lives – but we humans do. We CAN create a different world if we’re not happy with our current one. That power to create and change our world has allowed us to do amazingly marvelous things but ultimately has led us to destroy ourselves.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m conflicted about collapse. On one hand I long for the end of our relentless destruction of the planet. On the other hand, I will miss so many of the wonderful aspects of our existence. It breaks my heart to know that so much of what we’ve accomplished, if not all, will fade away, rust, and crumble.

  • When I see Robin Datta saying; ” With nomadic peoples, who have to carry everything they claim to own, the options for building a hierarchy or even a sizeable community are rather limited.

    Any societies that were big enough to be hierarchial had to have an anchor in the real estate. The first such anchor was when someone intentionally strewed some seed and claimed the exclusive right to harvest the resultant plants in that area: the start of agriculture.”

    ….it seems a perfect example of the kind of scholarly dogma that gets passed along in the educational system with little or no regard for observable facts or use of critical thinking.
    There are ample obvious examples of nomadic cultures which have historically displayed both hierarchy and aggression. The Mongols, the Bedouin, the Tauregs, the Fulani, are just a few which come to mind.
    Nomadic herding cultures have often grown large and powerful through raiding and outright conquest. Such people are inclined to look down on sedentary strewers of seed as inferior to themselves, preferring warrior values and mobility.

    Hunting and gathering can be done lightly, as the !kung and others show, or heavily, as when North American hunters drove herds of bison over cliffs; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_jump. Modern examples would be drift-net fishing, whaling, the Newfoundland seal-hunt.
    Nomadic herding, too, can be done in a peaceful, sustainable manner. As far as I know, northern nomads who herd reindeer show little or no tendency to aggression and hierarchy. It can also be part of a warrior culture of accumulation, plunder and conquest. It’s interesting to note that the words “chattel” and “capital” refer to cattle ownership.

    I still don’t see any reason why small, sustainable, agrarian communities can’t be developed, based on wisdom learned through painful experience. Clearly, we must voluntarily limit ourselves to maintain stability and to avoid abusing nature.
    It could be argued that learning from experience is genetically hardwired in our make-up. When a child touches a hot stove, the pain teaches him to be careful never to repeat that mistake. Can we learn collectively, as a species? Nobody knows for certain that it is impossible. Time will tell. We haven’t even begun to feel the pain yet.

  • GEOMAGNETIC STORM WARNING:
    GEOMAGNETIC STORM WARNING: A pair of closely-spaced CMEs propelled by explosions of sunspot AR1302 on Sept. 24th are heading not-quite directly toward Earth. A significant glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field is possible on Sept. 26th around 14:00 UT (+/- 7 hours). NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of strong geomagnetic storms when the clouds arrive. [CME forecast track] Aurora alerts: text, voice.

    STRONG SOLAR ACTIVITY: Having already unleashed two X-flares since Sept. 22nd, sunspot AR1302 appears ready for more. The active region has a complex “beta-gamma-delta” magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M- and X-class eruptions. Flares from AR1302 will become increasingly geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward Earth in the days ahead.
    http://spaceweather.com/

  • Groups that exhibited militarism and sought conquest had bases of operations even when significant portions of their populations were nomadic. When on the march, they had already been equipped and provisioned, even when they resorted to plunder along the way to sustain themselves. The size and scope of the military operations were related to the size and ability of their bases to equip, train and provision such military forces. 

    The largest mobile stores of (low-tech) energy were indeed cattle, and as a result nomadic cultures that relied on livestock (pastoralist nomads) could develop some complexity, more than nomads without livestock (hunter-gatherers and peripatetic nomads). 

  • ‘One of the conundrums with which I struggle is the whole idea that somehow one existence is better than another one.’ – tsdh

    foe me, it comes down to what kathy says about how we civilized sheople live in cages of a sort. cages mostly of a psychological nature, related to our upbringing, schooling, etc. cages of the mind/spirit. uncivilized people are wilder, free-er, and no doubt happier when their basic survival needs are being met, than we are, imo.

  • I find it interesting – and fascinating – the struggle for survival.It is the clinging to the life we know – and the temporal physical body we posess – along with it’s needs and requirements. It’s NOT good to be dead – yet all of us shall experience it – it is inevitable, and while we can recognize, or perhaps be disturbed by suicide, the ultimate rejection of life, we are all on a path to death. If you are born… you must, eventually age and die. YUCCHYYY!!!!.

    It’s like, you first, you die, then tell me what it is like.

    What I know: We are beings, born on a Planet, controlled by forces we cannot control, we modify forces within our sphere of knowledge/control in an attempt to extend our lives and create an environment that is agreeable to us, then we prosper until we hit the next wall of forces that need to be tamed. Does this sound reasonable? Of course, one day we will encounter insurmontiable forces, and be rendered extinct. But, I believe that is part of nature.

    Virgin Terry brings me back to the Garden Of Eden – Original Man, knowing no right or wrong – was free of sin. in Civilization, Knowledge of right and wrong, along with the capacity to do it, became knowkedge, and thus unhappiness was born. So we therefore yearn for more innocent days.

    Cages are neither evil – or good – but they must be constructed for a functional society to exist. Rules for the civilized are a good thing – within reason. Perhaps viewed in a different light – what is a positive limit for one – Thou Shall Not Commit Murder – Is a negative limit for another. Perhaps this is why certain aspects of Law are ascribed to a “Higher Law” – or in other words, for the Common Good.

    In all situations, it is better to be a friend, and help those around you – but when they pay you back in evil – or block your altruistic efforts – it is imperative to re-evaluate the situation – and consider …. well. wliminating them, for the common good. Just a thought. What do you think?

  • Just a thought. What do you think?

    (Pardon the spewing of more rhetoric.)
    It has been given substantial thought:
    Game theory

  • Can we learn collectively, as a species? Nobody knows for certain that it is impossible.

    Perhaps, but history does not support such a notion. We are, as a species, excellent at adapting to whatever environment we are faced with (to a degree, of course), but utter failures at placing long-term or short-term advantages.

  • In all situations, it is better to be a friend, and help those around you – but when they pay you back in evil – or block your altruistic efforts – it is imperative to re-evaluate the situation – and consider …. well. wliminating them, for the common good.

    I’m afraid we have done this since the beginning. Seems to me that we have been ‘eliminating’ ‘friends’ throughout history. It is entirely a matter of perspective, I think. There are questions that need to be asked. Who are you? What does it mean to be your ‘friend’? Who is your friend? What does being a friend mean to your friend? Why did your ‘friend’, in your mind, repay in evil? What is evil to you? What is evil to your friend? What is the common good? Who defines that? You? Your friend? Others? All of you?

    Life and living in community is complex, and not so easily a ‘black-and-white’ situation.

  • Yuck day today. The rains returned about 2 this morning. Summer drought lasted 69 days … not the longest by any means, but not the shortest either.

    Michael:

    Yikes! Already an overnight low of 28 F! Surely I have another month …

    I hope you turned some of those black currants you harvested this summer into a jug of liqueur. The absolute best for nippy nights, especially if aged a couple years.

    Tamnaa:

    Sorry for the lateness of this response.

    Re: hand threshing wheat. You can actually thresh wheat any number of ways. It can be “banged” (as you do with your rice), “flailed” (with a bat or similar implement), “trampled” (in a tub or box) or “drummed” if you have a drum thresher available. My preference is the stomp method because it’s simple, quick, and keeps the chaff contained.

    I purchased a 100-gallon water trough some years ago for messing with grains. I don’t like to inter-mingle livestock and food, so the trough is only used for that purpose. Its walls are deep (kernels fall to the bottom) and it’s easy to gather up empty stalks to toss to the chickens. When wheat is ripe, its grain readily shatters from the heads. Then it’s just a matter of winnowing and grinding.

    Re: “skills needed to sharpen and set handsaws properly have been largely forgotten.” This has not been my experience. Of course, I reside in the Northwest. We still live among trees. Knowing how to sharpen one’s tools is part of that life.

    I’m not a professional saw filer by any stretch, although my father was. He sharpened everything by hand for years until he eventually switched over to mechanized equipment. Even after that, he still did a lot by hand.

    You ask how long a handsaw file lasts. They’re triangular shaped. You dull one side; you flip to another. Each side can touch-up a couple saws. Of course, an old rusted abused saw will eat up several files. The goal is to avoid that scenario by taking proper care of your saws AND using the right saw for the job.

    Handsaw files come in different sizes (regulars, tapers, slim tapers, extra slim tapers) and (usually) a dozen to a box. I have a lug box full of boxes of files, which is perhaps why I’m not particularly worried about running out any time soon.

    So I checked with others who hand sharpen their tools as well. Most rolled their eyes. Turns out they’re not particularly worried either. The concept of files has been around for hundreds of years. Once humans figured out how to create cutting tools, they also figured out how to sharpen them. (For a book on the history of files, see “The File: it’s History, Making, and Uses” by Henry Disston and Sons, 1920.)

    BTW… as an extension of craft, many forgers also transform old saw files and blades into knives, hatchets, etc. It’s not an interest of mine, although I’ll admit to being impressed with what they’re capable of turning out.

    I wouldn’t consider hand sharpening a dead skill.

  • Resa, thanks for your answers. Very encouraging. It sounds as though you would advise people to stock up on appropriate files (and perhaps sharpening stones?)

    I think you show very clearly how valuable practical skills and real knowledge are. Its important to keep these things alive.

  • Just a reminder, if you think you need to stock up on anything, then you also need to think about what to do when that stock runs out. Anything you are stocking up on is probably something you are not expecting to be available post collapse. For instance I have a stock of matches but sometime they will run out so I should know how to make a fire without matches, ditto soap (make it myself or do without). Ditto bow saw blades that can’t be sharpened and files for sharpening those that can.

  • Tamnaa:

    RE: “It sounds as though you would advise people to stock up on appropriate files (and perhaps sharpening stones?)”

    Well, no, that’s not what I’m advising at all. My advise would run more along “Give a man a fish and he lives a day. Teach a man to fish and he lives a lifetime.”

    Again, the concept of making files has been around for hundreds of years. Our ancestors didn’t design disposable cutting tools. They figured out how to sharpen them as well.

    Certainly stock up on an item if it’s available and convenient. I do. But then I’m lazy. I hate running into town to get something I’m out of.

  • More on our humble police officers from Lawrence O’Donnell:

    Notice how the bullies immediately form a circle around their victims like a pack of wolves going for the kill of helpless prey. You see this type of pack behaviour so often. As O’Donnell says, they do it because they CAN do it and KNOW that they won’t be punished. They do it because the police department will defend them every time. This time it was pepper spray. Next time it will be a helpless person beat to death for “resisting arrest”.

    Unlike Troy Davis who likely did nothing to deserve his execution, these and so many others will never taste discipline for something they DID do. So tell me, who is supposed to “Serve and Protect” whom?

  • Terry, I look forward to watching, “Secrets of the Dead.”

    Bernard,

    Thank you for your “just an experience from last year… In the Peruvian jungle…”. The whole story was interesting but this in particular:

    “… death is just changeover, eliminating the individual on the way, but what ever substance there is, is going to be transformed and used and reused,.. .

    That rings very true with me from the purely physical-based view of the universe. Just energy flowing down-hill, with “life” of any and all possible forms appearing and disappearing along the way.

  • Resa, I expect on the way down you will find that the way down will be quite unlike the way up. Every invention was an advance on the way up. If it didn’t get invented things went on as usual. On the way down, as people keep adjusting to less and less it may be quite difficult to learn new (old) skills. I have not heard of people making hand forged files. Maybe someone somewhere does. But people are going to be hard pressed to re-learn these things or reinvent them when living in chaos.

    Of course you and I have different views on how collapse will look. I hope your view of a gentle collapse where people just have to make do with a little less, rely on local community and re-learn old skills turns out OK. I just can’t see how collapse is anything but sudden, steep and violent.

    Maybe Saint Leibowitz will save some file making instructions for any remnant communities. For anyone not understanding the reference I refer to the book Canticle for Leibowitz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

  • Sorry for the off-topic post, but I need to tap into the collective wisdom of the NBL community . . .

    I have lost all my seed stock. Of the 60 or so species that I put into the ground this year, I attempted to save seeds from about 8 different crops. I really didn’t expect to get away with not buying seeds next spring, but rather was hoping to learn more about how to carry on once buying seeds is no longer possible. And learn I have! Unfortunately, I’ve learned that there is only one bad event between feast and famine.

    After drying all my seeds, I put them into containers. When I checked on them a few weeks later, I discovered that each of the various seed types were harboring bugs. Left alone, the pests did what they do – they ate. And ate. And ate. Now I have nothing left.

    Short of pesticides, any suggestions to make sure that I don’t have this problem next year? Did I do something wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Dr. House, we live in the same general area. I have never lost any seeds I have saved to bugs but I haven’t saved from every variety I grow. Most of my seeds that I saved I put in envelopes (larger seeds in jars or pill bottles), and store outside (in a defunct refrigerator). Do you have the Seed Savers Handbook – I don’t but I have heard it is good – might be a good investment http://www.seedsavers.net/resources/seed-savers-handbook – on my beans and peas I do check those I am saving for bugs, nicks, any kind of damage and only save those with no damage. Smaller seeds I don’t check.

    Hope someone else has an answer for you (and the rest of us) for as you note this could be the difference between feast and famine.

  • Kathy:

    RE: “I haven’t heard of people making hand forged files.” Here’s a YouTube of someone cutting a file: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XBmJrhoK1g

    A handmade file is made from a steel blank forged to the desired shape. The blank is annealed and leveled then oiled and the burrs cut in with a chisel and heavy hammer. It’s straightened and hardened to finish. It’s not a task I would want to do.

    Modern manufactured files are tempered in such a way that they’re impractical to re-sharpen, thus we throw them away once worn; however, handmade files can be drawn, re-flattened and re-cut as necessary.

    Files were handmade well into the 1900s and survived in the US as a cottage industry until the 1960s.

    RE: “I expect you will find that the way down will be quite unlike the way up.” I fully expect so. Our landscape has changed. Our infrastructure has changed. Our behavior has changed. I don’t see how it could be any other way but different.

    RE: “Every invention was an advance on the way up.” It’ll be the same on the way down. And not simply a rekindling of “new (old) skills,” but a paradigm shift, one that’s already in progress. It’ll be a mix of new and old. The knowledge we possess today won’t disappear over night.

    RE: “I hope your view of a gentle collapse where people just have to make do with a little less, rely on local community and re-learn old skills turns out OK.” I don’t recall ever stipulating a gentle collapse. I do recall stating that any number of scenarios could happen, including the possibility of complex systems absorbing our inflictions. You’re the one set on ending everything tomorrow. I honestly have no clue (with certainty) how everything will unfold, and I’ve stated such previously.

    The REAL Doctor House:

    What kind of seeds were you saving? Did you dry them all in the same location at the same time under the same conditions? Did the same kind of bug get into all of them?

  • Resa, I am a disciple of the prophet Richard Duncan and he says we will be back in the Stone Age in 2030. So not tomorrow but a pretty sharp decline. http://www.oilcrisis.com/duncan/OlduvaiTheorySocialContract.pdf He posits that the end of the electric grid will send us catapulting back. “The second goal is threefold: 1) electrical power
    is crucial end-use energy for industrial civilization;
    2)the big blackouts are inevitable; and 3) the proximate
    cause of the collapse of industrial civilization, if and
    when it occurs, will be that the electric power grids go
    down and never come back up.”

    I note in the vid that a special hammer is used that I have never seen before. Presumably one could use some other heavy hammer but that seems to be shaped for the task. So there would perhaps be the need to forge that type of hammer. I see some type of guide so that would have to be forged too. I am not listening to sound as it is 4 AM and I don’t want to wake up my husband just because I am having a sleepless night.

    You may not stipulate a gentle collapse but many of the things you suggest would happen seem unlikely to happen unless the collapse is gentle. IMHO of course.

    OTOH I don’t recall ever saying everything would collapse tomorrow. Very likely I think collapse will start soon, and I think it will surprise everyone with how quickly it picks up speed. But until it starts precious few will make preparations, and after it does the failure to make preparations will increase the speed of collapse. Thus if it starts tomorrow or starts 20 years from now will make little difference in how it proceeds. Well actually it if starts 20 years from now it will probably be a steeper quicker collapse due to climate change having progressed and depletion increased.

    The best bet for some humans surviving is of course a fast collapse that happens as soon as possible. That has been discussed many times here. We may be in runaway climate change already but if we are not, each day that collapse is forestalled is one more day closer to positive feedbacks that will not be able to be stopped.

    I don’t know if it will happen in the next couple of years, much less tomorrow, but the best possible future for humans would be if it starts tomorrow and proceeds so quickly that no one gets around to firing the nukes. So I take back my words that I hope for a gentle collapse. I remind myself that what the planet needs is a fast collapse SOON.

  • Dr. House – perhaps you could grow pennyroyal or catnip and dry and crumble it to put it in with your seed. Catnip grows well for me, self seeding all over the garden, but easy to weed out and not growing invasively from roots like other mints. Pennyroyal grows well if we don’t have a drought. This site mentions catnip and bay leaves as repelling weevils.
    http://www.homeandgardensite.com/companion_planting.htm

  • A hunter-gatherer finds sticks on the ground, makes a fire, cooks his food. We have to make a oven and stove pipe, make a saw and handle, make a file, make a hammer with handle and a chisel to make a file, make a forge and anvil and bellows, and after all that then we finally get to cut our wood to make our fire.

    No wonder the average amount of work a Hunter-gatherer did is estimated to be 4 hours a day. I would be surprised if any agricultural people put in less than 8 hours a day. Perhaps meeting our wants is in the end not worth the time it takes to do so. As a friend told me once “I used to try to figure out how to get all my wants, then I realized I needed to get my wanter fixed”.

  • Kathy

    I am also a follower of Duncan and agree that his scenario makes the most practical, realistic and rational sense of a collapse in modern human civilisation. I do not believe the actual collapse will be gentle by any means as when the grid goes down, it will take everything with it immediately. But the grid will not likely go down all at once in all countries, but rather in waves. But for those immediately affected, it will be instant Stone Age.

    I suspect your hope for a nuclear free collapse will be in vain, as we will for certain see countries grabbing for all the resources they can using whatever means is left available – that means, nukes, biological and chemical weapons and any other nasty thing they can dream up.

    The only thing that might prevent that is a large enough CME from the sun in the next couple years which would produce a large enough EMP to fry most satellites, modern electronic circuitry and destroy difficult-to-replace grid transformers. This would in all likelihood remove a large portion of modern military capability.

  • A naturally occuring and non-toxic insecticide is Diatomaceous earth, which is the tiny exoskeletons of algae, composed of hydrated silica, being basically the same material as in sand, glass, sandstone and quartz. It can even be safely ingested by humans and livestock.

  • Food grade diatomaceous earth is available in many places, including online sites such as this one:

    Wolf Creek Ranch

  • Robin, right about diatomaceous earth, but where will Dr. House get it post collapse. Catnip and pennyroyal he can grow.

  • Victor, right about the EMP – might save us from the nuclear bombs, but not from the nuclear power plants having problems eh?
    Our latest brush with a geomagnetic storm didn’t get us but did give some great auroras
    http://spaceweather.com/aurora/gallery_01sep11_page4.htm?PHPSESSID=v5ipcb0ug0d0ad70rlt4v5mo93

  • Kathy C and Victor; I really don’t have the patience to read through long dissertations in which nearly every line contains nonsense, but I did my best. Duncan and the “eminent scholars” that he cites are evidently ignorant of the fact that most of the people in this world are not dependent on fossil fuels or on electricity. They don’t have to drive their cars to work, or have elevators haul them up to their offices where they spend their days working at computers so that they can obtain money with which to buy everything they need at Walmart.
    There is another energy source available, you know. It’s called the sun. There are also marvelous devices which are totally solar powered, and automatically produce nutritious food, fiber, building materials and even medicines. They use elements from the soil air and water around them. They are called plants. I think someone should have notified Mr. Duncan about these amazing things. Reading the linked article brought Ayn Rand to mind.

    Hubbert says…”society could permanently collapse back to the
    agrarian level of existence” Yes, where we belong. If you put more and more people out on a tree limb it will eventually break and those people may indeed be injured.

    Hubbert et al are TECHNO-crats. They have very little grasp of what it means to be truly human. Picture Gautama after enlightenment. Picture Lao Tzu or Francis of Assisi or even Thoreau at Walden. What was their “quantity of energy expended per capita” ? Energy expenditure does not equal happiness, as we know from experience in the industrially developed parts of the world.
    If you go here: http://dieoff.org/page125.htm
    and just look at the diagram you’ll see the naked guy with the stone-tipped spear as their depiction of life without petroleum or electricity. He says; “…’Olduvai theory’ is a metaphor. It suggests our impending return to a Stone Age way-of-life” Boom! Everything we know about X0,000 years of human existence completely ignored. Later, Duncan says; “Industrial Civilization has disintegrated into farming villages, kinship tribes and rogue bands. The surviving population will have “achieved” permanent sustainability—at the subsistence level” Good! Subsistence is the right level. We never needed more than that. What happened to the naked guy?

    It’s very hard for me to accept that Duncan’s assertions are ingenuous. I suspect this sort of stuff is an inept attempt at scare tactics in support of some sort of play for power which we may see in the coming years.

  • http://www.zerohedge.com/news/step-aside-bbc-trader-head-unicredit-securities-predicts-imminent-end-eurozone-and-global-finan#comments

    There is post in there about bankers mocking the protestors now in NY. I don’t think that will end well

  • Tamnaa, re: Duncan and the “eminent scholars” that he cites are evidently ignorant of the fact that most of the people in this world are not dependent on fossil fuels or on electricity.

    With all due respect to someone living in an area that is much more closely connected to nature than where I live, I’ve gathered some data on population:

    Population of Thailand is 70,000,000 currently – in 1961 it was 27,000,000 – in an area roughly the size of California. The two largest cities in Thailand are Bangkok with 10,000,000 and Nonthaburi with almost 4,000,000. I’ve not been there, but I suspect that most of those 14,000,000 people are dependent on electricity and fossil fuels.

    Tokyo has almost 40,000,000 people in it. Everyone there is dependent on electricity and fossil fuels.

    The top 10 largest urban areas in the world collectively hold a quarter of a billion people! I suspect all of those are dependent on electricity and fossil fuels.

    There are over 200 urban areas on the planet with more than 2,000,000 people in them. I would venture to say that pretty much all of those people are dependent on electricity and fossil fuels.

    According to the U.N., as of 2007, more than half of the world’s population was living in cities (the term “cities” does not include towns and villages). The percentage is increasing yearly. Granted, a huge number live in slums and so don’t rely on electricity directly. But, they do rely on those living around them to provide them with what meager food, water, and shelter that they do have. And those people rely on electricity and fossil fuels.

    Here’s an interesting graphic showing the cities with more than 1,000,000 in population:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/2006megacities.PNG

    I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but I just wanted to demonstrate that when the electric grid fails, billions of people – probably 5 to 6 billion – will be adversely affected. Most of those will die. Their cause of death, assuming nuclear war doesn’t get them first, will be lack of water. It takes about 7 days for a human to die from water deprivation. As virtually all urban water systems are dependent on electricity and diesel for powering the pumps, water supply will be the most critical major system to cause widespread death when it fails. While it’s true that a large number of urban areas are centered on rivers, I’m sure you can appreciate the absurdity of the 40,000,000 inhabitants of Tokyo trying to get water from a river that is almost certainly polluted.

    Here’s an example closer to my home of how unreliable it is to think that rivers will be able to provide adequate drinking water when the grid fails. The Colorado river which has a watershed of almost 700,000 square kilometers and in the past had a discharge rate of almost 700 cubic meters per second, now discharges almost no water into the Gulf of California. It has been dammed and diverted so much upstream that frequently there just isn’t any water flowing at the end of the river.

    In one of your previous posts you mentioned that in your part of the world, many urban dwellers still have ties to rural areas with family there. While I can see people migrating out of the cities when everything collapses, I just find it difficult to imagine how the 70,000,000 people of Thailand would all be able to return to the countryside and still be able to feed themselves.

    Of course, this is just one possible scenario. There are so many ways for this to all unfold. Maybe we really will “transition” into a more peaceful pastoral way of life. But, I don’t think so. I really suspect that things are going to get really really messy. Really really quickly.

  • Picture Gautama after enlightenment.

    (I prefer not to use the word enlightenment, as it implies something to be acquired. The word nirvana in Sanskrit (nibbana in Pali and modern Bengali) means extinguishing: the extinguishing of the “I-ness”.)

    One continues with one’s lot in life, but action is non-volitional. As Aitken Roshi had described it in his book of that title, it is like The Mind of Clover. Clover grows and acts appropriately for the conditions under which it exists. So too does the fully aware person, whose mind also acts appropriately, non-volitionally. Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

    If the person happens to be working in some sophisticated niche of “industrial civilization” that person for the moment will continue to act appropriately for that position; the effects of non-volition may become manifest in a longer term change in course.

    Plants convert solar energy into useful items, and plants are the primary producers. Even all fossil fuels are derived from plants of the distant past. The difference is that fossil fuels have concentrated energy, and therefore more power (work per unit time). The edifice of “industrial civilization” is built and sustained on fossil fuels. Plants can, have been, are, and will be a source of sustenance and even prosperity for humans, but they cannot sustain industrial civilization.

    Those cultures least dependent on fossil fuels will be best off as the decline in availibility of fossil fuels progresses. However, persons like Marion King Hubbert, a petroleum geologist, and Richard Duncan, an electrical engineer, will see things from their perspectives: the impacts on industrial civilization are their focus. Those who do without electricity today will continue to do so when grid failure makes blackouts permanent. However those people are not the object of prognostications about industrial civilization.

    With the despoilation of the environment, even the level of pre-industrial societies may be difficult to sustain in the absence of fossil fuels. Extracting metals from the remaining ores (of much lower grade) may be problematic: salvage may tide societies over for a while. Depletion of other natural resources will have similarly adverse consequences. Those fortunate to live in regions that have mostly escaped such despoilation may suffer less. It would however be well nigh impossible to provide such habitats for seven billion of us on this one planet.

  • The predicted declines in this article are incredible:

    http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/sep/28/appalachia-faces-steep-coal-decline/

    I recently read that China became a net importer of coal in 09. They doubled their imports in 10 and are predicted to double again in 11. At this rate by 13, they will need all the coal that is currently exported for the entire world.

  • Some years back my ex and I lived and worked for a short time at a place that was (supposedly) teaching low level technology to people who were subsistence farmers in various parts of the world. While we were there they brought two men up from Bolivia. We lived with them and some others in a dorm. They were remarkable men and I greatly respected them (and didn’t think they had anything to learn from us). Their families had lived in the Alto Plano (high, very high plains) but had been relocated by the government to the Jungle because there was overpopulation on the plains. Many who were relocated died, but these men made it and were supporting their (somewhat large) families with subsistence agriculture. What is never said of course is that they were taking land from hunter-gatherers, who don’t have deeds but need much larger areas to support their families. The relocation to the jungles continued and I don’t know how many hunter-gatherers in Boliva, or Brazil etc remain. They are ignored by all because of course the judgment has been made that these wild humans have no land rights and should be killed if they can’t be brought into civilization and made into farmers or other type laborers.

    I cannot imagine learning how to be a hunter-gatherer, but I do not believe their life is unbearable. Just because we can’t envision going that far backwards doesn’t mean that it is an awful way to live. If it is an awful way to live then I guess all the civilizing of the savages was a good thing. I believe whales should live in the ocean as they have always lived. I believe this is how they evolved to live and no matter how big an aquarium you make, they feel right in the ocean and wrong in a pool. Ditto for all wild creatures including humans. I believe humans feel more right as wild humans and while we may never become hunter-gatherers, we should not look on that possible fate for humans as something to abhor so much we cannot even consider it might happen.

  • Robin exactly with the addition of the difficulties that will come for both the industrial and non-industrial socities with increasing climate instability and change.

    A note, I have a sense of humor that often doesn’t come across well in written exchanges – when I called Richard Duncan the prophet I was following, that was a joke. I don’t follow any prophets. I just think he latched on to the most important measurement regarding energy, which is energy per capita. That pulls together both the quantity of fuels as well as the human usage and it has been steady since the 70’s because while population rose, fuel extraction rose. Now we are at the point where fuel extraction is holding even while population rises and that means the per capita figure for energy available declines ahead of the actual energy we can mine. Add in declining ERoEI and the steep decline has already begun, largely covered by not maintaining our infrastructure.

  • most of the people in this world are not dependent on fossil fuels or on electricity.

    Tamnaa

    Not true at all. This present earth probably supports less than 1 billion souls without fossil fuels which provide fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, electricity, water from mains, medical equipment and accessaries, plastics of all kinds, computers, automobiles…well…you get the point. And where are the great majority of these people who rely on these things? In the cities, including Thailand, as Dr House has pointed out.

    And many, many more rural folks rely heavily upon tractors, diesel fuel for irrigation, factory formed tools, medical care, food from industrial farms, clothing, etc. Your people are of the 1 billion, perhaps, who might survive without these things, but most aren’t.

    As for Duncan, he is an honourable man and gives an honest opinion based upon his analysis of global per capita energy use. He has no ulterior motives, I assure you, other than to be heard. He is not putting down simple living at all. He is simply stating facts when he says that we will soon be living in the Stone Age again. I have never heard him put down anyone for their lifestyle – indeed, if anything, he is warning against overpopulation and over-consumption.

    Sorry to hear that his analysis did not fit your concept of where we are in the world today. I’m almost certain he would find your style of life admirable.

    The fact is that solar, wind or other alternatives energy sources will not be implemented in a large way for the same reasons the infrastructure is falling apart – not enough political will and not enough investment. This is just the way things are, like it or not. “If we did this…”, or “We COULD do this….” aren’t enough. We have to do them. And that won’t happen.

  • Kathy:

    RE: “I note in the vid that a special hammer is used that I have never seen before.” Yes, that’s a special hammer that the file-cutter in the video made. If you’ve ever been around forgers, you quickly learn they love to make tools. Lots of them. All kinds.

    RE: “I have a sense of humor that often doesn’t come across well in written exchanges – when I called Richard Duncan the prophet I was following, that was a joke. I don’t follow any prophets.” I appreciate you clearing that up. I don’t follow any prophets either.

    RE: “I cannot imagine learning how to be a hunter-gatherer, but I do not believe their life is unbearable. Just because we can’t envision going that far backwards doesn’t mean that it is an awful way to live. If it is an awful way to live then I guess all the civilizing of the savages was a good thing.”

    I suppose one’s perception of being a hunter-gatherer depends upon who’s gathering the food. The following excerpt is from “Throwim Way Leg,” a memoir by Australian mammologist Tim Flannery who conducted expeditions into unexplored regions of New Guinea between 1981 and 1996.

    He writes: “On the lonely nights we spent together on the mountain, Anaru told me of [hunting] raids he had taken part in as a young man. The first step towards making a successful raid, he said, was for a big man to ‘make ropes’. By this he meant that a warrior who wished to stage a successful raid must create a network of social obligations among the scattered Miyanmin communities, so that enough adult males could be gathered together to undertake a successful raid … Once the strategic alliances had been forged, the work of planning the raid could begin … An appropriate village must be located and scouted. It should be a little isolated, containing perhaps forty or fifty people. It was of crucial importance that every one of the inhabitants be killed or captured in the raid, as one escapee could alarm neighbouring villages … Anaru described how the village would be surrounded at night. The attack often took place near dawn, then the huts were rushed. The killing had to be quick and total. The men and older women were usually dispatched by being grabbed from behind, and a sharpened cassowary leg bone thrust violently downwards into the gap between collar bone and shoulder blade, so as to pierce the lungs. Anaru mimed a demonstration using an old blood-stained dagger, with me as a mock victim … The bodies had then to be butchered, again quickly and efficiently. The head, arms and legs were detached from the torso using bamboo knives. Then the torso would be gutted, and tied, much like a backpack, to the back of the man who was to carry it. The head was carefully wrapped in a package of palm leaves and carried slung from a looped cane handle. A leg and an arm would be thrown over each shoulder, to be grasped in pairs by the wrist and ankle. The bearer would then begin the long trek back to his village. The community would eat well in the next few days.”

  • Gee Resa, I had no idea hunter-gatherers would have to prove their manhood by killing other humans. I just finished watching Deacons for the Defense (based on actual events) about some black people in Bogalusa LA who finally took up arms against the white Klan. The leader of had seen as a child a black man lynched by the whites. They overcame the fear they had lived with all their life and fought back. Many had served in WWII and Korea and noted that while they were praised for killing white men during the war, they were forbidden to raise arms to protect themselves once back in the US. Most lynchings didn’t even involve secrecy and hanging as done in lynching is not quick unlike the long drop done in many official hangings. It is a slow strangling. I suppose you haven’t been reading about the American troops in Afganistan who started killing civilians and carrying around bones and body parts. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2040916/Thrill-killing-soldier-admits-shooting-Afghan-civilians-keeping-finger-bone-victim.html Thrill killing they called it. I suppose you haven’t read about Gitmo where the killing is not at all quick. 10 years now some have been held and tortured without a trial and some have already died from the torture? Many were just sold to the US Army by bounty hunters, not guilty of anything at all. Nice folks eh, those who sold, those who bought, those who tortured. The point, it would seem, was not to get the guilty but to let the whole world know the US could and would grab anyone, anywhere in the world and hold them and torture them as long as they want. Our government terrorizes the world so we don’t have to have individual manhood rites like you describe. Need I mention the inquisition, slavery, etc.

    You have not proved that hunter-gatherers are more savage than “civilized” humans. I have never said that hunter-gatherers were better, I just said they lived in the natural way they evolved to live, which for humans seems to always include murder and mayhem. But are they worse than civilized man?

    I will be forever haunted by the postcards sent from the south of women and even young children watching a lynching of black men, smiling and milling around like at a party. They bought those photos and sent them to friends. I will also be haunted by the other things made by humans for the Inquisition. Racks to stretch people on, special devices for impaling them from anus to mouth (also used by Vlad the Impaler). I read one description of putting a rat on a man’s belly and a metal bowl over the rat. Then coals are applied to the top of the bowl. The rat seeking escape eats into the man’s belly(may have originated in China). There was the iron maiden These things were done by the CHURCH. I wonder how long it takes to die tied to a stake and burning? I wonder how it feels. In England per wiki “Convicts were fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces). Their remains were often displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burnt at the stake.” The description you give sounds quite merciful in comparison.

    Chimps kill other chimps, even ripping off their testicles. But I would rather see a chimp with occasional raiding parties living in the wild than trapped in a cage in some zoo.

  • Gee, Kathy, I had no idea “civilized” man would have to prove their manhood by killing other humans.

    RE: “You have not proven that hunter-gatherers are more savage than “civilized” humans.”

    Oops, was I supposed to?

    I was discussing “Just because we can’t envision going that far backwards doesn’t mean that it is an awful way to live.”

    Point made. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between then and now.

    So, what’s your point?

  • Sorry Resa, I thought your point in copying the long story of by Flannery was to show how violent hunter-gatherers were. Guess I just missed your point. So what’s your point in relating this story?

  • Prior to civilization there may have been acts of cruelty amongst humans, but at least they weren’t able to destroy the ability of the land to support other forms of life. Look at the mass extinctions in modern times and the degradation of the land – that goes far beyond what any primitive humans were ever guilty of. If modern civilization does not collapse in time, it has the ability to damage the biosphere so severely that there will be no future humans. THAT IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE!

  • Resa, my point has gotten lost in all of this. The projections by some that we will return to stone age hunter-gathering meets a lot of resistance. I am suggesting that some of that resistance is from a perception that life as a hunter-gatherer would be awful. I therefore and giving my opinion that we humans evolved as wild animals and only have been living differently for 10,000 years. I think therefore that just like any other wild animal seems happier in the wild, it is quite possible that humans would also be happier living wild. I note that making a fire to cook for current humans if we no longer have gas stoves will take making a saw, saw handle, file, guide, hammer, hammer handle, forge, bellows and possible some form of splitter. For a hunter-gatherer it only takes picking up dead wood and starting a fire from two sticks. Thus the studies that show H-g’s work far less hours than modern humans seems likely to be correct. Everything we do even as simple living modern humans takes creation of a whole infrastructure. While H-G’s may be as violent as modern humans I doubt they are more violent.

    Thus the case for H-G is that they live in the natural world we so admire and want other creatures to be able to live in and it takes less work but provides less comfort.

    My conclusion is that living as a H-G the negatives may be outweighed by the positives and we should not discount it as a viable way for humans to survive going forward. I cannot provide proof that this is so because none of us have lived as H-G in small tribes so how can we know if the benefits out weigh the negatives. Nor can proof to the other side be made for the same reason. But if we believe that wild animals are happier in the environs they evolved in, perhaps we can consider the possibility that humans would happier as well if the returned to the wild.

  • Kathy:

    Exactly as I stated in my original comment, regarding your “Just because we can’t envision going that far backwards doesn’t mean that it is an awful way to live.”

    I suppose one’s perception of being a hunter-gatherer depends upon who’s gathering the food. In other words, which side of the dinner plate you’re on.

  • Kathy:

    Re: “Thus the studies that show H-g’s work far less hours than modern humans seems likely to be correct.”

    I concur. From my uncle’s papers (he did missionary work among first-contact New Guinean H-Gs in the late 1950s): “The skin on an xxxx’s rump, I found, serves not only as covering for the muscles within; it serves also as his shorts and trousers; it serves also as his raincoat in wet weather and as his umbrella in the hot sun; it serves also as the cushion on which he sits (and the normal xxxx does a lot of sitting!). That skin has developed, therefore, a stern resistance to external interference with internal affairs. To puncture that skin is something like manually pushing a spike into a 2″x4″, except that, as a last resort, a hammer can be used on the spike!!”

    The above description is in regards to administering antibiotics via a needle to the rump.

    Re: “While H-G’s may be as violent as modern humans I doubt they are more violent.” I won’t argue that point. Everything I’ve read indicates the H-G lifestyle was at least as violent as what we have today. Seems we haven’t changed our “natural” ways.

    Re: “I think therefore that just like any other wild animal seems happier in the wild, it is quite possible that humans would also be happier living wild.” Alas, I’ve never felt the slightest inclination to live wild. Un-pestered, yes. Unfettered, yes. But wild, no. Must have skipped a generation.

  • This discussion seems on the surface an attempt to justify or not a return to H-G lifestyles and whether that would have an impact upon human violent behaviour.

    I would suggest that it does not matter your preference for lifestyle in the least. Modern human civilisation is collapsing, and what will come out of that will be no choice of our own to make. I do not idealise the H-G lifestyle, nor do I demonise it. In different places with different people it will vary between those extremes. But to me it all comes down to the supposition that human life will, if not driven to extinction, be forever changed and modernity will fall into forgotten history to be remembered at best in tales of myth and legend among people who are likely to be forced into a migratory lifestyle of some kind as a result of pollution and global warming.

    If there are people left after collapse, and it might take a hundred years or so after to realise this, they will still be people – some honourable and of good report, others mean-spirited and bitter. There will still be violence. But there will also be sacrifice, and love.

  • Victor, yes, it doesn’t matter.

    As Kevin wrote “The most important lesson of history is that the lessons of history are not learned.” Since that seems to be true it would follow that “what will be will be”

  • A new post is up, with video, here

  • Dr. House,

    Thank you for your posting on populations… what an eye-opener. When the bottom falls out of the world economy and the dominoes really begin to tumble… (maybe later this winter, as the last incredible gasps in europe fail ?).

    Re. Japan – Asha Ameniya, who lives in the mountains there, says: “But, if everyone were to come out to the countryside, it’d be a hell of a problem for us. We’d hav eto kick them all out! (she laughs)… it might be impossible for them (city folk)! I mean, they have that “it’s so convenient lifestyle…”

    Resa,

    Regarding your “uncle’s papers (he did missionary work among first-contact New Guinean H-Gs in the late 1950s): “The skin on an xxxx’s rump,…”

    I think “civilized” humans are sort of like cave creatures – we are on our way to becoming transparent and eye-less in our little world of “convenience.”