Pissing innsmouth off: Hunters & Gatherers, revisited

Schizophrenia in less developed nations not as much of a problem and An article by the author whose book, guns, germs, and steel, hated without having read. 😉

Since I’m about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through Collapse, by Jared Diamond (the aforementioned author); it was interesting to read the summary article up above.

Note, I’m not denying the frequency of infant mortality among hunters and gatherers, or their other medical deficits. I’m not saying that modern technology does not directly enhance quality of life. I’m asking about the costs.

We’re working longer hours than hunters and gatherers did. We’re less socially connected, and only recently (say, past 100 years?) have any but the absolute most advantaged in the world had a more varied diet, and even that is debatable, given the vast numbers of species humans have destroyed or displaced over the millenia.

And just what do you think quality of life is for the median human on the planet? Consider India, Africa, and Asia. Think about the folks ekeing out a living on pennies per day so that we can have cheap clothes. If I had a choice between being a median hunter-gatherer (who made it to 20) and a median human alive today (in terms of quality of life), I’d probably go with the h-g. This is not a choice I have.

Despite this, I am an optimist. While I don’t believe we’re currently in a situation where the average or median individual is better off, I do believe it is possible for us to produce such a situation, but we can’t trust in universal forces, like “the invisible hand of the market” to take us there. It requires great effort and care to improve QoL on an aggregate basis. I only hope we consciously adopt that goal at some point, and hopefully some point soon.

Regardless, I find Diamond’s closing point with the article very interesting:Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and logest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a 24-hour clock on which one hour represents 100,000 years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset. Finally, at 11:54 p. m. we adopted agriculture. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? Or will we somehow achieve those seductive blessings that we imagine behind agriculture’s glittering façade, and that have so far eluded us?

eminent domain

I’m not as bothered as I probably should be by the recent supreme court ruling on the subject of eminent domain. It will, of course, be used predominantly against the people who are disadvantaged, and strongly attached to their property. I sincerely doubt it will burn me especially badly, as I won’t be owning for several years, and I have a pretty mobile lifestyle as is. I think I’m less sympathetic because I don’t get the mindset. Give me 5-10 and I’ll share the outrage, most likely.

Though I still think the right thing to do is to develop and implement city plans that allow people to know what to expect when buying a home.

Consumption

Thomas Jefferson said “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance”. We’re behind on our payments.

We’ve let our attention be distracted by the lies of advertising, promising happiness in return for our money. Little white lies that corporations tell us so that we’ll give them money. Money which they use to buy more capabilities for production, more advertising, or firmer holds on major political parties.

But maybe things are changing. We have a bill before the president, disallowing soft money, a major source of corporate power to reward political parties for working towards their political interests. And the republicans stands to benefit more from this than the democrats. (democrats raise more soft money, surprised? I was).

I have my doubts that this will be all it takes, but I think this may be just the tip of the iceberg.