Predators and Princes: From Kinship To Kingship

Over the past few decades I have come to understand that the gradual transition to a pastoral and agriculturally-based economy, and thus the move to domestication and urbanization, was accompanied by a profound shift in our experience of being in the world, including our self-conception, our relation to other creatures, and our sense of community. On an interpersonal level we can get a sense of this transformation through the eyes of biblical myth in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis. Here, even the consanguinity of brother to brother is betrayed by the newly competitive economic relations of farmer and shepherd.

On the societal level, this shift was most clearly evidenced by a move away from predominantly kinship-based, egalitarian relations, towards kingship and the articulation of hierarchically-based stratified social structures. Recall, as well, Yaweh of the Old Testament is a jealous god, the King of Kings, the Holiest of Holies, who commands that his people have no other god(s) before Him.

Various scholars have noted in band-egalitarian, pre-civilized hunter-gatherer societies the presence of a mute principle of trust that grounds predation — the relationship obtaining between the nomadic hunter and his animal prey. It has been further argued that this primal condition of trust was constituted by a unique combination of autonomy and dependency between hunter and hunted (Ingold, 2011). Such trust moreover was apparently destroyed with the transition from hunter-gatherer bands  to pastoralism, domestication, and finally the civilized hierarchies of the late Neolithic.  It was in this context that trust was replaced by the principle of domination… whereby now sedentary populations sought to bring under greater control the forces of nature, other animals, as well as their domesticated fellow citizens.

I would suggest that the feral bonds of kinship and affinity found in band-egalitarian social groups were based precisely upon such primal trust – again constituted on a mutual experience of autonomy and dependency between and among individuals within the band. This is what made basic kinship and affine relations so strong and resilient for so many millennia during human prehistory.  But, as Ingold notes:

any qualitative transformation in environmental relations is likely to be manifested similarly both in the relationships that humans extend towards animals and in those that obtain among themselves in society.

If this is the case, it may provide us with a conceptual anchor for understanding our current predicament, and perhaps offer us a way of reconstituting a form of primitive anarchy within our own closely-knit communities; not as pure license to do as one pleases, but as a state of affairs whereby human beings relearn to live in concert, not under the thumb of princes or legislators, but with a trust grounded in a vestigial respect for one another’s natural autonomy and dependency.

It was, I wager, the loss of such primeval trust (in nature, in our prey, and in our fellow men and women) that came to define the world we now inhabit. That ancient move from nomadic hunter-gatherer lifeways to the sedentary life of the shepherd and farmer, and the subsequent birth of civilized hierarchies, turned us away from trust and towards a strategy of domination, along with its basic tools of suppression and subjugation – the construction of social laws and the “discovery” of natural laws.

We have replaced our feral awareness and primal openness to trust with an increasingly objectivizing posture of manipulation and control.  And we live now with a form of hyper-domination resulting from the estrangement created by a rationalist separation of mind and body, self and world, an arrangement that fully emerged in the early modern period, evidenced now in the disembodied march of modern scientific and technological innovation.  All of this has led to the thoughtless abuse and subsequent destruction of our natural habitat, along with the abnegation of our own physical embodiment in favor of a virtual, almost disembodied life. But this is perhaps understandable in a world where trust is replaced with domination, and estranged anonymity has become the life-blood of everyday existence. Our alienation from the physical world, and our own self-estrangement has become profoundly debilitating in a world racing on a clear and present trajectory toward global collapse.

As pastoralism heralded the end of the sacred game of predation and led to the domestication of wild animals, and agriculture, the domination of the earth’s generative capacity, so the social, political, and religious hierarchies of civilization have guaranteed our own domestication and domination in a world now bereft of trust.  It was then and there that kinship gave way to kingship, and kingship, to the erection of legal and other proscriptive systems of social, political, and religious control. Further, it is easy to see how the possibility of trust has become increasingly problematic in a world of cities populated by isolated urban strangers, dominated by the commodification of economic relations and individual acquisitiveness, where the ‘other’ stands to profit personally from my decisions. Global capitalism itself has spelled the end of trust in a world where all economic and political activities have become (by necessity) self-regarding in the extreme.

But where, in a world governed by hierarchy, dominated by princes and presidents, characterized by control and subjugation, can there be any talk of freedom, of trust, of mutual dependency and respect. The world we now inhabit is one constituted not by personal autonomy; rather, it is one managed through restriction, prohibition, proscription, regulation, and legislation. Legislators and kings create the laws that govern; whether acquiesced to by a silent majority or dictated by the high and mighty.  And in the civilized world we now inhabit those laws themselves are always paid for by the power of the purse.

This is why power and wealth have typically resided together, in the same hands, after the birth of hierarchy and the sundry institutions of control that continue to service and feed the machine of civil society.  But machinations are all it really provides — machinations and the laws that bind us.  So this kabuki dance you are currently watching play out in your nation’s capitol over something called the debt limit; this is just another, more contemporary version of that ancient myth demonstrating the same bad-faith, now exercised by billionaire economic shepherds, that we witnessed in the Genesis story between the newly minted sheep rancher and his brother the farmer.  It highlights the reasons trust is dead along with autonomy and mutual dependency in the empire.  In brief, we have become the sacrificial lamb, people, so that these gods of State may live until the last drop of blood is extracted from us and from mother earth! The only question that remains is: who will pass judgment on the legislators, princes, and kings?

89 Responses to Predators and Princes: From Kinship To Kingship

  1. Disaffected says:

    Unfortunately, our current domination mindset is reinforced by a very real physical aspect that won’t allow us (in the developed world at least) to retreat from it: overpopulation. There simply aren’t enough resources remaining to support current population levels into the future (I was going to add “at our current lifestyle,” but our current lifestyle is the only thing that’s enabled current population levels in the first place), never mind the exponential growth that global capitalism demands. Therefore, it’s fair to predict that a global population collapse of some magnitude (very likely catastrophic) is “baked into the cake,” during which time the domination impulse will be stronger than ever.

    I think we’re already seeing this played out for all to see on the US national and world stage, where the GOP and T-Baggers are literally pulling out all stops to assert dominance in all things all of the time. Assuming the predicted collapse leaves a few remaining survivors, possibly they might be the ones to hit the reset button (and here’s hoping they’ll finally be smart enough to do so!); but until then, I see us accelerating full-bore down the current path until the inevitable cliff finally appears.

    Right now, I’m guessing that we’ll be airborne and in free-fall with no hope at all remaining for a soft landing by sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. But of course that’s just a guess. Could well be much sooner than that. Something like Israel attacking Iran this fall, just for instance, might set the dominoes falling.

    The domination mentality is a powerful elixir. Just watch the intro to any pro or major college football game to see first hand the power of the mob aligned behind mindless patriotic rhetoric and symbolism (And just wait for the 9-11 (9-11-11) 10’th Anniversary festivities coming up! I predicted a few months back that the NFL strike would be settled just in time to avoid spoiling that day, if nothing else.). A clearer link to Wiemar Germany during the rise of the little Charlie Chaplin looking dude, one could not hope to see.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Of course Wiemar is just one example of countless others over the history of civilization. However, the difference today is that with free-range, industrial-strength capitalist domination we have pushed the ecology of living organisms too far and the pending destruction on every level is surely going to be cataclysmic.

      • StrayCat says:

        It may very well be cataclysmic in some places, while in places like Afghanistan and othe tribal areas, life may go on quite, or even more, peacefully, with the required withdrawal of the Empire troops. As things fall apart those of us at the top of the artificial food chain will be stricken heavily by the loss of the long chain of material and socio-economic systems that provide food, medicine, security and employment. On the other hand, the reduction in resource demand will ease the military and control pressures in places closer to the production of food, short supply lines and local tribal authority. While this may be bad news for women, children and individualists, at least a modicum of humanity will survive. Again, I submit that local, non institutional action to forge bonds of the kind Sandy has been speaking of here may be the only way to avoid the worst of the effects of changes. Government at all levels has lost the respect, and even more profoundly, the allegiance, of a large portion of the citizenry here in the U.S. Our governments latest foray into Constitutional absurdity is the creation of a committee of 12 legislators to craft a budget that must either be accepted, or automatic spending cuts of unspecified kinds will automatically occur. While this is abandonment at the most fundamental level of the duties and responsibilities of Congress and the president, the damage is multiplied by the rejection of constitutional mandates, unmentioned in the press or elsewhere, that spending and revenue must be made by Congress, with appropriations originating in the House. This “Supercongress” of selected senators and representatives is the most unconstitutional body imaginable. This is the crossing of the Rubicon for the United States, and passes into being under the impulse of a ginned up crisis. Madison warned us of the dangers of governing by crisis and the argument from necessity as a basis of governing. Further damaging is the fact, as mentioned above, that the allegiance and trust of large segments of the population of the U. S. has been eroded away. They do not any longer pay the attention needed to protect themselves from the tyrants and aristocrats of the possible new feudalism. This leave the corporations and military predators along with banks, wall street and the Chamber of Commerce types in full control of those who will be chosen for this infamous committee. The humans who control the purse control the country. In Rome, the Senate ceded its power to legislate to a small group and the majority of them retired to the country or to the colonies. In Germany, the legislature committed hari kari in the face of economic dislocation. In the U.S. the entirety of the Res Publica is being sold to the lowest or most connected bidder. In Michigan, elected legislatures are being forcibly replaced by state appointed administrators who strip the citizens of their rights to effectively vote for their government, and from which there is no repeal or other recourse. In the face of these obvious signs of decay and corruption, local action based on respect, affinity and consanguinity as Sandy says, is the only way left to survive.

        • kulturcritic says:

          SC and DA – I think, like both of you, many folks have had too much faith in the Constitution and the democracy. It has been a kabuki play of the wealthy and powerful since its institution after the Revolutionary War. I stand by my wager that trust and freedom to be went out the door with the institution of hierarchy more than 6,000 years ago. Each succeeding generation has built upon the foibles of the past kings and princes, in order to establish a more perfect dictatorship through innovation, mass hypnosis, hysteria, marketing, as well as direct strong arm tactics as we now see emerging. I’m afraid my friends and commentators, the end may be closer than we anticipated.

    • Anarchrist says:

      Absolutely goddamn right DA. There is simply no way back from here, we’re already in too deep and TPTB simply MUST know this, and all they can think to do about it is to further tighten the grip. I left a last post in response to you on last week’s entry, basically a list of documentaries you may find interesting after Gasland seemed to hit the mark for you. It seemed to me that they all (sometimes unwittingly) demonstrate the same point, albeit from widely varying perspectives, which is that we are fucked. Fucked are we. It is as you say; that it’s is likely up to the people lucky enough to remain not dead after all has crumbled into disarray to reset the model and start with different equations. However, there isn’t even a great deal of hope for that if the people in question do not understand what exactly went wrong in the first place, I suppose that’s why we find ourselves here isn’t it? To figure out exactly where we are at and how we came to be here, in the hope that that we can stop the cycle this time around.

      • StrayCat says:

        You are right. I would submit that the polities of today are far too large, and therefore inhibit any real connection between and among the people involved. The disitnegration of the institutions of the megastates and regional administrative units gives rise, does it not, to new groupings of people bases on other, and older premises. Can this bee done while preserving the rights recognized by the constitution? Or will new groupings of humans that constitute different forms of cooperation and resource distribution become like the tribes of Afghanistan where there are only a narrow set of ideas allowed to be expressed, where women and children are chattel, fit only for use and abuse, where freedom of thought or action is subject to stoning or burning? In the absence of places to move, voting with your feet will become difficult. Is there a way to address these issues while the great unravelling continues?

        • kulturcritic says:

          I think you must look at the Afghan tribal issues as a complex, including both pre-civilized and early civilized models of social organization and religious institutionalization. I think that in the modern world the outside influences on cultures becomes so preponderant, it is difficult to sort through what was original versus reactionary. I think the same case can be made for the persecution and intolerance that was par for the course in much of the history of the Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin. Many policies can be seen as reactionary to the onslaught of external forces. If competition is seen as a threat to cooperative social cohesiveness (as surely it would have been viewed by the soviets) then certainly the stron arm of persecution might be a reactive response (in some cases) to that threat. But, I am just ruminating now, nothing too reflective.

  2. capt rick says:

    Same old stuff, different words for an age old pattern. Never any solutions always steeped in the
    historical antecedents./problems. ..What about spirituality in modern life? How can we disembodied exurbanites rediscover our individuality through meditation and contemplation instead escaping again into those hierarchical organized , religious & institutions that dominate most public life.Those dammed stultifying jobs etc.
    We continue to isolate the problems outside of ourselves like may of these posts often do.
    Each of us must go deep inside of our hearts and investigate through our own wisdom and insight to seek answers to the question:Is the demise of our ecosystems worth continuing to be rampant consumers and escapees from reality worth it? Is the death of our lungs from polluted air worth It? How can we be more altruistic andmore compassionate .?

    • Disaffected says:

      Spiritualism has been replaced by its cheap imitation knock off: religion, aka the politicization of faith. Which suits both TPTB and it’s practitioners fine. The rich and powerful get a time-proven means for social control, and the followers get a “color by numbers” road map to eternal salvation, which requires little or no cognitive function on their parts whatsoever. What’s not to love?

      True, spiritualism might well be our final personal refuge in an age of complete implosion. But it’s not going to be nearly enough to affect any meaningful change with regard to saving the current system or even minimizing the impact of its demise (climate change alone, among many other factors, is most likely already locked in due to past and present emissions). Thank GOD for that!

      It’s important to acknowledge the few things that might actually give us some personal spiritual comfort during the coming age, but it’s equally important to acknowledge the true scope and impact of the changes we’re about to face. And I for one no longer believe the changes are even negotiable in the least. That time appears to be 20 years in our rear view mirror now, probably occurring immediately after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, when the US faced an existential fork in the road that has defined our every action since. We chose imperialism and military, environmental, economic, and cultural hegemony to the detriment of the many; and global shock-doctrine casino capitalism for the immense benefit of the few; and the rest, as they say, is history.

      • kulturcritic says:

        DA – I agree… much toooo late! But, I also believe 1991 was too late as well. Quite frankly, I do not know when would have been optimal, since it was urban life that really laid down the foundations of our crisis. But, you are correct, the USA could have don much to change its domineering role in the world. But, as you say, shock-doctrine, casino capitalism would have none of that…

      • StrayCat says:

        You are right, of course, as is Sandy. Is the spirit, as part of the mind, which is the function of the entire body, individual and separate for each person, or is there a set of common threads inherent in the human mind that will support a general understanding of that spiritual adventure, and from which a commonly accepted ethic and morals can be attained? Stripping away the demands of the hierarchical control systems, and producing in concert with mutual respect and support, can humans develop a sound generally accepted ethical and moral structure that will both improve on the unspoken tribal mores and apply the psychological and physiological knowledge that has been acquired over the last 6000 years. John Dewey had some useful thoughts on this matter, which rejected the religious basis for ethics. It will be hard to forge new relationships and common understandings without some thought to these matters. Autonomy and interdependence is a goal. The way there and a way to preserve such in the face of statist and economic pressures requires some thought and a details exchange of views.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Capt Rick

      You have no real disagreement from me on this point of individual effort, if you will. However, the systems that have been locked into place, on autopilot, so to speak, cannot be dislodged or stopped in midcourse by the best intentions of even millions of enlightened souls. This is not an American, nor even a panEuropean problem. The entire “third world” has now been brought into the cake-mix, and they want to party like those of us in the good ole USA did for 50 years. They will keep using resources, buying cars and other toys, and pushing the envelope until it all explodes. And you are not going to tell those in Siberia, Mumbai, Shanghai, SE China, MENA, etc… “shit we made a fucking mistake; please don’t follow in our path…” They will just smile and say, “fuck you, we want it all…”

      Having said my cynical piece. I would agree that we can go inside ourselves, individually, and recover a sense of the feral core that has always, and still does, connect us to nature. But, a complete turn around is impossible for civilization at this juncture. Too much voluntary ignorance, greed, self-indulgence, and acculturation over 6,000 years of urban life to change now.

      • Disaffected says:

        KC,
        That’s the best point of all. The third world will push us over the edge now, regardless of what we in the first world decide to do from here on out. Their population numbers dwarf ours, the technologies they adopt will necessarily be cheap and dirty, and they really have no choice in the matter anyway, other than mass starvation and poverty. I think there’s a line in the bible about “Having sown the wind, they will reap the whirlwind” that probably applies here. Maybe the Whore of Babylon too. Proof yet again that myth speaks to much larger truths when it’s not taken literally.

      • StrayCat says:

        I fully agree that a turn around is impossible for “society at large” Communities have been shredded by TV, Facebook and the demands of the state. Until now, I have always held the the fight for the Constitution was a core value, and withdrawing was not a useful project. As the Constitution has been eroded through assertions of necessity, beginning with Carrol v. U.S in the thirties, and has now been put on its deathbed by the creation of “Supercongress”, one must now consider whether there is any real value left in the American experiment and whether liberal values and self preservation require more radical action. So, in face of the fact that “the voluntary ignorance, greed, self indulgence, and acculturation over 6000 years of urban life” prohibits widespread change, then we must make smaller, more local but interconnected changes for ourselves. We must seek and find like-minded, self respecting individuals, families and groups and prepare for the worst, forge mutually agreeable communications, economic agreements, and methods of discourse and action. This may, at its best, call for withdrawing all of our financial and social support from the corporatocracy and while creating the basis for food, shelter, security and community within but apart from the institutions of hierarchy.

        • kulturcritic says:

          > “We must seek and find like-minded, self respecting individuals, families and groups and prepare for the worst, forge mutually agreeable communications, economic agreements, and methods of discourse and action.”

          That is, my friend SC, the core issue. Accomplishing it is the challenge. I personally have opted to place my trust with my wife’s family far away from this maddening crowd. On your other note. More radical action is needed. But Americans, save for the Minutemen of old, are not prone to that kind of political action. We do see examples in the curent field, from Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and now even Israel. Who would a thunk!!

          • StrayCat says:

            Yes, I was so moved by the self respectful, solid and intransigent protest carried out by the people of Cairo. Days and days facing many assaults betrayals and hardships, yet they never wavered and never disintegrated into warring factions. Even today, after the crisis has abated for the time, the citizens of Cairo stand strong, renewing their demand for liberty. Would that the people of the U.S. had the foundation and humanity for such bravery.

  3. pixelwhiplash says:

    Community, in the broadest sense of the word, was always based on trust of the people you resided among. That was what your society was predicated upon. Not the hierarchical system we slog through these days. Societies were the people, not the rules of society thrown from the mount. The schism began when we lost touch with how we were related to all things and our surroundings. Trust has been supplanted by lust, in all it’s disguises.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Pixel – I would say trust was supplanted by the desire to dominate; but perhaps lust is one of the many manifestations of domination.

    • StrayCat says:

      While I agree in general, the community was also based on knowing who was trustworthy always, who was so under most conditions, and who could not be trusted. The general trust is based on general knowledge of the community by the largest part of the community. In this context, size matters. At what point does this community knowledge break down. 2000 people in a village? 5000? At this point, wherever it is, the general knowledge about the individuals breaks down, and knowledge becomes specialized in the hands of police, religious figures and travelers. This knowledge then becomes secret, and the basis for both profit and corruption.

  4. rockpicker says:

    Gobekli Tepe

    Even before we quit the tents and herds,
    we carved into stone the faces of beasts
    already missed from an earlier world
    and placed the traces of times lost in rings
    on a grain- gold hill. We agreed to split
    the shared night fire into ritual and need.
    We took the open flame into private

    stones. In the morning, we cast seed
    where the old ones sleep and saw how
    wild earth could be forced to yield
    and feed. Smug, in warm stones,
    beyond the heartbeat of drums and
    the drumbeat of bones, we settled
    for an earth we could cultivate and own.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Yes, Rockpicker, Gobёkli Tepe, the archeological mystery. The civilization before civilization. Or was it a religious centre where our HG ancestors gathered for some kind of celebration of the hunt… the sacred game of predation.!! Thanks for the post, hope you join in regularly. sandy

  5. At the peak of Mayan civilization, the pyramids still under construction on the Yucatan peninsula, when ecological collapse drove the people back into the remaining forest, where bigger, more gaudy and elaborate than their predecessors. The Nouveau Riche trying to out do the classical period in ostentation. The same phenomenon is now playing out on the global stage.

  6. Anarchrist says:

    A particularly fine main post if I may be so bold Sandy, perhaps it’s because I’ve not read any of your published work, but this is the clearest and most digestible form I’ve seen your message conveyed in to date. In light of the incisive dissertation above nobody could credibly deny that our fundamental makeup changed entirely some millennia back when we ‘settled down’. That we soon became separated from nature, and that with settlement came wealth and therefore poverty and all the struggle that this imbalance implies. We have been merrily butchering our way down that Cain vs. Abel route with increasing gusto ever since. Whether it be a bronze-age feudal lord obliterating his competitors or a sprawling empire sending men to war for oil, the vested interests of the power and the purse outweigh the needs and the influence of the weak and poor.

    I also have to agree with the point you make above, that the system is now effectively antonymous and that we humans are helplessly locked in. Indeed I feel the collective consensus has, in essence, a ‘mind’ or agenda of its own that is measurably greater than the sum of its parts. The system has grown into an uncontested power, a multi-layered networked greed-based collective, and this festival of human weakness is as close to a tangible ‘Satan’ as anyone need ever suppose possible. I for one do not fear the demise of the system, this grotesque mechanism, truly I only fear its continued survival.

    I’m also doing a lot of asking ‘what happens next?’ because after the behemoth dies I believe that we thoughtful few, and our companions/offspring, are the best hope for the future of this beautiful green and blue sphere. So thanks to all who contribute here, and special thanks to you KC, for helping me to understand where we are at and how we got here. As for your final question; “who will pass judgment…” I’d suggest not who but what – circumstance, reality, that’s what. When the inescapably messy reality of the struggle for life on earth truly makes its presence felt once more, there is unlikely to be any place for us meatbags (rich or poor) to hide from it. We’ll embrace it and get back outdoors and back into our communities and back into nature, or we’ll die. John S observes, sadly very accurately, that mankind in general is still frantically building great ‘pyramids’ of excess even as the whole crazy enterprise comes apart, and DA pointed out somewhere that while we are still in an uncertain state of free-fall (mostly only dimly aware of the nausea this is inducing) we are certainly about to hit something solid. Reap the whirlwind, woe for Babylon has fallen and so on and so forth – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with friends like these who needs the apocalypse?

    • Disaffected says:

      AC,

      Here’s an oldy but a goody back at you. Don’t know if I’ve posted this link here before, but this one’s almost out of video production. I had to buy it on VHS and buy a VHS/DVD recorder to convert it. But you can do the installment plan on YouTube just as easily.

      Cadillac Desert

      I found the whole series to be absolutely fascinating. Not surprisingly, it all started in SoCal with LA, the original abomination of abominations. And of course Las Vegas and Phoenix had to out do them. Typical American “conquer everything standing” mentality.

      DA

      • kulturcritic says:

        Good video reminder DA

      • Anarchrist says:

        Yes, I’ve been meaning to say thanks for this DA, I’m about half way through the series now and it is indeed fascinating. I’ve spent a bit of time in SoCal and LA in particular, and it really struck me how mind-blowingly unnatural the place is, standing on the hill by the Getty and looking back towards LA proper at the smog and the snake of traffic on I405 gave me a sickly sensation I shall never forget.

        • Disaffected says:

          Quite amazing, ain’t it AC?

          Lived in LA and vicinity on and off from ’85-95. Quite a fascinating place regardless.

          DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      AC

      I am pleased you found this piece on point. Contestual behavior has certainly played a significant part in our current demise. And the acquisitiveness that came with private property certainly was a big catalyst. As Rousseau said centuries ago: whoever first encircled a plot of land and said, ‘this is mine,’ that man should have been killed by his fellow travelers. It has only escalated from that point forward. We now await nature’s judgment. And I guess it is she who will finally judge. As to what we do next, I am not sure there is a clear answer to that question. Collectively our fate is sealed, I am afraid, particularly in light of the self-directed nature of the systems that are now in play. Industrial civilization is like a run away train just waiting, and in most cases, partying until it hits the end of the line.

      It is amazing to watch the activity here in central Siberia, in Altai Krai, at the foot of the Altai Mountains. The cities (like Barnaul) keep expanding, along with new infrastructure, much like the USA did in the 50’and 60’s. Development of roads, housing tracts, airports, resorts, keeps apace, while the continued destruction of the forests and environment is as expected. And every man and woman feels the need to have a new SUV or Mercedes along with their other newly acquired toys, just to keep up with the curriculum that has been spread eastward from America. We surely have planted our flag, and it is the flag of death to mother earth, and its diverse and delicate inhabitants. We still enjoy our simple dacha (in its community) on the forest’s edge, 50 km from the city, the river is here, the forest, the banya and the peacefulness of nature.

      But,still, the signs of progress and sought after prosperity (ala the American Dream) are everywhere apparent. And no matter how much you explain or suggest that this new path is the wrong one, they refuse to hear it. They want it all; even if it hurries collapse… they want their share before it is gone. A familiar signage here is “Все будит Coca Cola”… meaning “All will be Coca Cola” It is a play on a typical Russian expression, “Все будит хорошо” (All will be fine). Go figure!!

      In brief, it seems as though the stupidity and blind ambition of the West is rubbing off quickly on my Siberian brethren. They taste the promise of the spectacle, and they are mesmerized by its elusive appeal. It is not just blue jeans they want… they want it all: the lights, the noise, the smells, the toys! But, in spite of this there is much to be gleamed still from the more traditional lifeways of the people here that lives even today in the heart of Siberia.

      • Anarchrist says:

        Yes I witnessed something similar happening in Slovenia as the western money poured what was a tiny and relatively ‘backward’ post-Yugoslavian nation, when I had occasion I to I did warn against the dangers of industrial agriculture letting and its business interests rape the shit out of their still very fertile soil.

        I can’t argue that the ‘train’ is still accelerating into an inevitable collision with reality, the fact is I am counting on it as the last hope for the environment much as I said above, all any of us can do is attempt to move to the rearmost carriage, hang on, and prepare to deal calmly with whatever disaster sends our way afterward. My main message is this: “be strong, and don’t let it fuck you up”.

  7. Disaffected says:

    Oops! Missed the close link tag again. Oh well, it still works.

  8. Disaffected says:

    Just a note, funny how the latest (of many future) debt crisis(es) was solved yet again(!) on the backs of the working poor, with no concession whatsoever(!) given to raising taxes on the idle (idol?) rich, who allegedly pay too much in taxes, thus hindering “the economy,” which allegedly serves to “trickle down” its many benefits to those of us should be glad to receive its many “benefits.” And this from a nominally “Democratic” executive branch (conceal the smirk) and Senate. And we’re somehow supposed to be “happy” for the privilege of what amounts to eating shit yet again? Umm… I’ve had my fill, thanks.

    Word to NoBama and his clones: you might get re-elected on the backs of your new constituency on the Republican right, but you can DAMN SURE count on not getting any support from what remains of the bonafide liberal wing of what remains of such. It figures that the first nominally “black” president would be a minority in name only. Certain terms come to mind, which I won’t repeat here.

    DA

    • Disaffected says:

      Equally ironic that visions of torches carried into the night against some imagined (or otherwise) enemy begin to be renewed. Indeed. Ask NOT for whom the bell tolls privileged America, it tolls FOR THEE. Looks like we’re all in for a lesson in classic literature soon enough. No doubt it will do us ALL some good.
      DA

    • kulturcritic says:

      Told you, DA… a big kabuki play to make all of us feel beholden1

    • Frank Kling says:

      “Disaffected,” as a member of the liberal wing, I do not consider supporting the Republican presidential candidate or a third party nominee a viable option. While I am not thrilled with the debt ceiling compromise, I do not see what other choice existed short of immediate financial collapse. I shudder to contemplate a Republican president and house of representatives and possibly senate. The Republican house has proposed 39 pieces of anti-environmental amendments. For example, just last week the Tea Party proposed legislation that would have prevented the government from listing additional species as endanger of extinction and opened public lands for private purchase was defeated, thankfully so. Is this the kind of future you would like to see?

      • Disaffected says:

        Frank,

        I take it you have not yet reached “the end of your rope?” Take hope my friend. There’s great liberation when you finally arrive.

        DA

      • Disaffected says:

        By the by Frank, the future I’D like to see is one where politics isn’t defined as inherently liberal OR conservative, but merely as intelligent or not. But of course that’s to much to ask for now, isn’t it?

        DA

  9. StrayCat says:

    Hi, KC, wishing you well back in your digs. I have for a long time thought that the story of Cain and Abel was a commentary on the difference between the herdsman and the farmer. God, or in some versions, Adam, rejected the gift of Cain and accepted that of Abel because of the tradition of nomadic herding of the Israelites during the wandering period before the invasion of Canaan. I took it to be a story about hewing to a certain ethic concerning ways of living and eating. Cain’s having killed Abel was, in my truly humble opinion on this subject, was a commentary on the change from hunter/gatherer to agriculture. It is also a commentary on the change from nomadic lifestyle to urban, fixed, life. Whatever the gloss of morals about incest or wealth added later, it appears to me that Cain’s sins were those of fixed abode and field agriculture, versus those of herding, hunting and gathering of the seeds and berries that grew without cultivation. Back in the early eighties when I was thinking about these matters in the context of social dislocations and their consequences in legal matters, I had not come to any conclusions generally, but your essay this week recalled these discussions with a colleague. It is interesting that the story always takes place in a world filled with merchants and other elements of a diversified economy, thus reflecting the distance in time from the biblical genesis that the story took its final form.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Perhaps it does suggest approval of the nomadic ways of the shepherd; but, I think additionally it highlights the issue of domination in the twin figures of Cain and Abel, agriculture and animal husbandry. Subduing the herd or the soil, and the competition between their interests is a viewpoint we should not overlook. IMHO

      • StrayCat says:

        Well said. The notion of violence as a means of domination in place of cooperation and interconnection among all of the animals, including Homo Sapiens does unite all of the versions.

  10. Brutus says:

    Good post and some awfully smart commentary here. Man’s flight from his original state of nature to an unnatural world of his own creation is told repeatedly in many different story guises. It’s very interesting, and yet it feels somehow hypothetical, not yet clearly rooted in experience but an intellectual’s baroque projection onto several millennia of human history. Three things need a little further clarification, IMO.

    (1) It’s extremely tempting to anthropomorphize forces at work in the world, especially those that arise out of human institutions via aggregation. However, there is no mind wanting anything or directing the course of events. The same mistake is made with evolution and the age-old philosophical question of being (why something, not nothing?), where anthropomorphizing comes in the form of creation myths, the creator always resembling us. A better understanding might be analogous to the flow of water. Clearly, several fundamental principles govern its course, which can in some measure be channelled and/or stopped, but in the long haul, water is going to do what it’s going to do, and there is no wanting or directing from high above involved. It’s a blind process, though not without governing parameters. It’s also liquid (in both senses), not whole or solid as we might prefer to conceptualize it.

    (2) Who will judge? is the question at the end of the post, which is another extremely seductive projection of yet some other being, entity, or pluralistic body residing even higher up the hierarchy than either TPTB or mankind. But as noted above, there is no mind up there, only here on the floor, individually amongst us surface dwellers. There is no judgment to be made except of ourselves, and most of us lack the capacity to wrap our heads around the issues. Those of us who do have that capacity are mostly irrelevant.

    (3) Who is our best hope for the future? was a question posed in the comments. It’s flattering to think that a few knowers, those with even partial understanding of what is proving to be a comprehensive set of problems, will be valuable in charting a new way forward (but to where, I might wonder?). I find that to be wishful thinking. Even if knowledge survives what I expect will be a protracted phase of collapse, long historical evidence demonstrates that brutality, force, stupidity, and destruction (probably motivated by sheer survival pressure) hold much greater sway than more restrained, uplifting values. And besides, born and bred within the cultural context of modernity, those of us now contemplating such futures are already ruined men (and women), fundamentally unable to adjust or alter our thinking beyond the current paradigm. We’re trapped here, though we may like to image we’re not, unable to sense the “feral awareness and primal openness to trust [replaced] with an increasingly objectivizing posture of manipulation and control” as Sandy wrote above. We can see it over there (or back then, really), but we can’t approach it. The cultural and ecological conditions that predicate it are gone, lost, and unlikely to be regained.

    • Anarchrist says:

      Hey Brutus I feel I should respond to you, although I’m not being addressed directly I’m seeing elements of my missives referred to in yours.

      Firstly I have to address the question of anthropomorphizing, being as I’m the one who likes to compare the ‘system’ with a biblical devil, I feel I could be clearer. The consensus reality to which we subscribe is indeed directed from the ground up, despite the pretentions of power among a select few they are simply riding the tiger like the rest of us (though I’ll some may have better ‘seats’ than others). I’m drawing a comparison between an often referenced horned mythical ‘baddie’ and a basic function of human behaviour, and to be clear I’m not referring ‘evil’ in fact, but simply flocking or shoaling.

      In a naturally ‘swarming’ community (bees, starlings, mackerel) there is a simple set of rules that govern the behaviour of the aggregate entity, namely each individual marinating a given distance/speed/direction of travel relative to its immediate neighbours. Scale this up, increase the complexity a little and change the parameters, and I think there is plenty of evidence that the bulk of humanity reverts to this vestigial behaviour most of the time. The point is made above about community size however (being naturally VERY small), and much of the gist of Sandy’s KulturCriticism is about cultural conditioning and instruments of top down dominance, so it’s pretty easy to see how disorder and dysfunction has bled by osmosis into our natural ‘mob consciousness’ and made it into a beast of unparalleled girth and reckless power. Human weakness as I see it is not about good and evil per se, more just a recognition of the natural tendency to fall into line with one’s peers without question (as per Very old, possibly even genetic imperatives), and in belonging to an ever larger flock but still only truly responding to the behaviour to which we are immediately exposed (plus a witches brew of influence from ‘fake’ peers via advertising, celebrity, Facebook etc.) does indeed mean that we are riding on a vehicle of ever greater momentum with no single ‘mind’ at the helm. I believe the obvious knee-jerk of TPTB is to attempt to grab the reins by any means at their disposal, and that this can only end badly.

      Secondly as a response to your third point and as an extension of what I have already said, I do believe free thinkers have a responsibility to think outside the box in times to come, and rather more critically to act accordingly because hypothesis and bluster will only take us so far. Personally I’m very much a layman in all this, a casual philosopher and certainly not terribly educated or cultured, I’ve worked with my hands for most of my life and more than anything I enjoy building things. I’m one of life’s generalists – a jack of all trades and master of none. This puts me in a useful position however, in that I am able to think just enough before I act decisicely, that way I can minimise necessary force and avoid unnecessary waste and damage in all things that I am likely to undertake. Case in point; I am currently training as an on-call fire-fighter for the area I live in, mainly to acquire a new skillset I don’t already possess (including trauma care), but I will also to provide cover for my community, and helpfully this also puts me on good working terms with several of the other able-bodied community-minded family men in my area. If and when the government folds and the cheques stop coming I will still know the people and still have the skills.

      My attitude is that if you want to see a certain type of behaviour around you, start with yourself, speak the truth as you see it and you will be surprised how quickly others will follow suit (flocking again). This cuts both ways of course; because I grew up in a rough area I must admit I’ve witnessed and participated in some truly stupid acts simply because that’s just what I believed ‘people did’. I’ve been beaten and kicked unconscious on more than one occasion, but at least I can say I’ve learned to read what people are capable of, and what they are fixing to do almost before they know it themselves, and brother I can smell trouble smouldering long before it catches fire. Having known my share of thugs and gang members I would stress that you really have to know how to communicate with some of these people because it can be a knife-edge with some mistakes carrying seriously painful consequences. This is why I say that reality will judge TPTB in time, as they are just people after all, and when circumstances conspire to to put us all truly ‘in the same boat’ they will be so out of touch reality and lacking in real life skills that they will be unable to survive without help, and who will want to help them?

      • Anarchrist says:

        I have no idea how ‘marinating’ got in there, probably started as moving? Damn spellchecker, where were you on ‘decisicely’?

      • Brutus says:

        Thanks for your thoughtful response. We aren’t really in disagreement except perhaps in approach to collapse. Yours in apparently more hands on. I’m still stuck in my head, practically frozen by paralysis into inaction.

        I don’t suspect it matters whether we call it the flow of water; mob consciousness; the headless beast; or flocking, swarming, herding, schooling, and shoaling. The mistake is to project thought, purpose, or mind onto an emergent property simply because it arises out of behavior. (Some would say the same about human consciousness, but I think that’s too reductive.) That was my main point.

        My predictions of the future matter little, as only time will tell, but some possibilities make more sense to me than others. Unlike others who can see the coming storm and postulate its subsidence, I can’t see past the blackness.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Brutus – I respectfully must disagree. The loss of animism (our patronizing name for understanding the volition of our living ecological relations) is at the heart of our modern trajectory and its problems. To segregate mankind from the rest of nature, to remove the organism from its environment (philosophically, psychologically…), is to create an abstraction (a pure object and subject) that really does not exist. And to then carp about revitalizing the reality of that intertwining of man and world, through an acknowledgement that volition and sentience is not ours ALONE, but that it exists in the “chiasm” – the connection – (my flesh… the flesh of the world); that, I believe is myopic, and is precisely what led us into this objectivizing, dominating, manipulating and alienating position in the first place.

          Having said all this, I agree that we are so conditioned to this “privileged position” we hold, that, while we can see the trajectory of our faults, we cannot get back there over the hump. As you say the ecological and cultural conditions that predicate it are gone.

          • Brutus says:

            We can disagree, of course, without animus but with respect. I hadn’t thought we were discussing animism, but maybe we are. I’m blocked from knowing the true depth of that style of mind, but it seems to me that it is still an exclusive faculty of homo sapiens, not something experienced by all of creation. Awareness of the interconnectivity and immanence of all things requires a mind, but that’s not the same thing as saying everything has a mind or contributes to a collective consciousness. I could be wrong.

            • kulturcritic says:

              I did not think using the word myopic was expressive of ‘animus’, but if it seemed so, my apologies for using it. It still seems to me Brutus that you are attributing to me a belief in some sort of universal mind or Godhead who is controlling or directing things from above. I am not suggesting anything like that. Although I do not thereby presume that nature is mute or without purpose. As a matter of discussion, I am hesitant to speak of nature as something separate from me or the rest of the human world. And that brings me to next question: are you reducing the non-human world (or perhaps just the non animal world) to dead matter? I presume not.

              • StrayCat says:

                To add a note from personal experience, my cats have taught me that have and exhibit sentience, reason over time and engage in vocal and body language that seek and finds communication with each other and with my wife and I. I won’t go into all of the details here, but I have no question that we live in a completely interconnected family of living beings that we have barely begun to understand. This lack of knowledge is a consequence of our creation of god, and man in his image.

              • Brutus says:

                Please accept my apology. I meant to reinforce the idea that we are in fact disagreeing without animus, as reasonable adults do, not to accuse you of mistreating me or my comments. Because I expressed myself poorly, my comment could be read either way.

                As to misattribution of ideas or concepts, I’m clearly against the idea of projecting a mind onto something incapable of possessing one. It’s a common error. That’s essentially the point I’ve been trying to make.

                Your ongoing discussion of our place within the natural world and our mischaracterization of that place through the Curriculum of the West is very much compatible with my own thinking. I have perhaps concentrated too much on our current limitations, whereas you’re attempting to describe more fully where we came from to understand who we are.

                Reduction of the nonhuman world to dead matter? It’s a complicated question, actually. I recognize differences between things that live and die and things that don’t, but I also recognize that, from a certain perspective (which I can’t fully share or inhabit), that distinction is arbitrary. I certainly do not raise human beings above other living beings in most respects. We all participate in what one might call the dance of life, which has interrelatedness and mutual reliance we’ve lost sight of. Yet it’s clear that we don’t participate evenly and don’t all possess the same characteristics.

                Please correct me if I’m wrong. It’s not false humility on my part to admit I could be wrong. I frequently am.

                • kulturcritic says:

                  Brutus – apology unnecessary. Although sometimes I do feel as though this is like a debate club exercise for you. Now, to your clarifications…

                  1. “I’m clearly against the idea of projecting a mind onto something incapable of possessing one.”

                  You would assume we can all agree on the meaning of the term ‘mind,’ yes? I am not sure we can. And I am not certain that the neurobiologists can either. Nor am I certain that they know where this ‘mind’ we seem to possess is located. I am not thereby suggesting that there is some universal mind in which we all participate, but if there is, then maybe all of this interrelatedness takes on a different sense and flavor. If this is the case perhaps your use of the word participation makes more sense than you originally intended, when you spoke of “participating in the dance of life.”

                  2. “Yet it’s clear that we don’t participate evenly and don’t all possess the same characteristics.”

                  From what perspective is it “clear”? From the perspective of post-Cartesian objectivistic rationality? Or from the perspective of a paleolithic hunter-gatherer? Help me on this one, Brutus, I am not sure what presuppositions are guiding your statement in this instance. I assume, you are not speaking of the HG perspective because you have already admitted that you cannot “fully share or inhabit” that frame of reference. Let me hypothesize that the HG perspective already inhabits you, for our current genetic (genus) makeup developed there in the Pleistocene world. So, let us suppose that the HG POV is already something in which you participate, naturally; but that its functioning has been truncated due to generations of indoctrination to the Curriculum. Perhaps we all participate equally in this ‘reality’ but that human kind’s capacity has been curtailed due to extenuating circumstances.

                  So finally, I agree with your conclusion about our current limitations; and true, I am trying to discern where we came from. But, in light of your mission, perhaps you might acquiesce to the suggestion that we may indeed participate equally with the rest of nature in that reality, and that we try not to talk about ‘mind’ so much as a possession as a condition of being, but that we are unable, by and large, to appreciate the nature of our participation or nature’s participation in that condition of being. Just a thought.

        • Anarchrist says:

          I can see why you would feel that way, and for what it’s worth I can empathise. I read somewhere once about the five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance – and there is for sure some truth to it. The world at large is moving steadily along this progression as I trend I feel (denial subsiding a little, plenty of lot of anger and bargaining at work as we all can see), but with constant fluctuation and swing occurring along the way in individuals and the amorphous whole. I know myself well enough to see each of these mind-states at work in me from moment to moment, I like to think I’m generally able to accept my grief about the world and my place in it, though I’ve probably loitered between anger, bargaining and depression for most of my life. Depression usually leads to helpless apathy in me, postponement and procrastination abound.

          Don’t really want to postulate too much here on the storm subsiding, I just really want to encourage what I can see are very smart people to take whatever action they think necessary to weather the storm, and not just to survive at some animal level either, but to preserve whatever you all can of your talents and not let the potential trauma you may face rob you of your sharp intellect and accompanying capacity for creative thinking. I suppose I’m here to learn a little more about what makes human society tick and expand and prepare my own mind in the process. It feels necessary and prudent for me to be doing this now in advance of future challenges, and also a good idea to encourage and embolden others to do same. My MO is to assist anyone and everyone in whatever small way that I am in a position to, to always offer people the benefit of the doubt except where there is none. It’s worth pointing out however if circumstances were to conspire to leave those same people dead, I’d likely be the one stepping respectfully but without a shred of sentimentality over their corpses on my way to whatever comes next.

    • StrayCat says:

      Hi, Brutus, thanks for your comments here. It has given food for thought and introduced me to your blog. Your language posts are excellent. I would like to explore your position that we are irretrievably trapped in the present situation because we cannot alter our dispositions. However, I would posit that the fact we discuss these matters and have a set of overlapping, shared ideas, demonstrates the freedom to grow beyond our present context. Additionally, I posit that though we can not go back to some state of nature, if such existed, we can go forward to a state of horizontal relations that require cooperation and mutual respect. If we are trapped, then it is by the extravagant luxury enabled by the wage slave and hierarchical control system that enslaves us while gilding the cages. A vast majority of the people of this planet are willing to exchange the cars and nightlife for an authentic life of happiness and contented peace. But not all of us.

      • Anarchrist says:

        I’m with you there Straycat, if there is a point to the whole Adam & Eve/tree of knowledge story then surely that is it, for better or worse we made the changes we made as a species a long time back and there is no way back to from here, but perhaps we can progress sideways by branching into some other untested modes of existence. This is the idea that gets me carping somewhat about evolution; it’s mental image of people’s behaviour branching off, probably in many different directions at once, in an effort to change (each one’s own experience) into something that works better.

      • Brutus says:

        Thanks for your kind remarks. I’m always in the process of figuring things out. Exchanging ideas brings me only slightly closer to closure, but I never get there.

        The hope for moving forward to something other than a hierarchical (vertical) control system is common among idealists, who believe egalitarian, democratic, distributed social systems deliver the best blend of attributes to the most people. I’m sympathetic to that view, frankly, but as a realist, I don’t anticipate that happening. I read a comment recently (somewhere else, can’t remember where) observing that control systems become more refined over time. They currently masquerade as freedom in the first world, where consumer options are mistaken as the best vehicle to achieve personal satisfaction. A few of us repudiate that approach, but it’s so much a part of our culture now, like hierarchy, that it can withstand a few nonparticipants without loss of effect. Further, while control systems become ever more refined (some might even say mechanistic), human values (especially erudition) are eroding and becoming more base. So the capacity to resist the onslaught of, for example, the sales pitch in favor of something else is diminishing.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Indeed, Chris Hedges has spoken of inverse totalitarianism, and the effects of social control through marketing, etc. I also, has spoken here on several occasions on the illusion of freedom under which we labor in the West, being taken in by the spectacle of virtually infinite consumer choice. I agree with you in the realism that there is no institutional political system that can provide egalitarian relations in a socially cohesive unit. I also hold no hope (or very little) for some miraculous cure to our political turmoil. In short, I do not believe in institutional cures; but returning to tribal, band-egalitarianism is also very unlikely. For, this reason, I might believe that the last men standing will be the tribes in Afghanistan, South America, Africa, and elsewhere when all is said and done.

          • Anarchrist says:

            KC, While I don’t believe you are necessarily wrong about this, it’s a fairly fatalistic view isn’t it? I don’t see anything in the medium or even fairly long-term (except perhaps an ice-age) that precludes the successful establishment of smallish new settlements of very different peoples in all kinds of places, your own relatively quiet corner included. Of course there would likely be a great deal of difference in modes of being from one place or group to the next, such is the nature of tribes, so perhaps there is some capacity for conflict between micro-cultures as they rapidly evolve along potentially divergent trajectories. I suppose what I’m saying is that there are simply too many permutations to calculate at this point, too many rolls of the dice, so it serves no purpose to fall into either apathetic resignation or confident complacency.

            To be clear though, this is not an accusation and I’m not suggesting that you personally are indulging in either mind-set, however I do think your comments could be perceived as almost despondent and that’s a condition I’d be very wary of encouraging in anyone. Make no mistake, I completely understand the seriousness of the situation the people of the world now face and that many, many of us are going to die because of it. What I’m getting at, all the time it seems, is that the future consensus will be comprised of those people participating in it, and as such I’d rather that smart and decent human beings didn’t see their situation as hopeless and elect to simply slog on until it’s time for them to lay down and die.

            I mean, who can say who will be the ‘last men standing’? If I go by personal experience of those most motivated to ‘do whatever it takes’ to survive I’d have to say there’d be some really unsavoury types doing some thoroughly unacceptable things until such time as somebody punches their cards for them, so I’d really like to see as many good people as possible utilise some brains and balls in equal measure before the game is up. Come to that, at what point can we say that “all is said and done” anyway? Something always comes next, in some shape or form, and I’d be grateful if you could all find some way to contribute something real to whatever new form you see fit.

            • kulturcritic says:

              AC – I don’t think it is pessimistic to assume that those pre-civilized tribes who have survived for millennia will find a way to continue after the First World collapses.

              • Anarchrist says:

                I didn’t say it was pessimistic, I said it could be construed as despondent that you don’t see room for anyone else, that is to say (it could appear) that you yourself feel you have no place in the future and nothing to contribute to it. I implied that your readers may be susceptible to comments that reinforce negative thinking about their own potential contributions to a different world, and that for all the important discussion and learning that goes on here, it will amount to fuck all if when things get difficult the sensitive and thoughtful people just give up on living and leave the world to the ruthless and brutal.

                • kulturcritic says:

                  Promise, I won’t leave it to the ruthless and the brutal (LOL). But, I am not sure I will still be here when things get to the bitter end. After all, we cannot live forever. (LOL)!!

  11. Greg Knepp says:

    Your post is quite informative as always. However, you’ve given pen to some widely accepted notions that I would like to flesh out a bit. As you are undoubtedly aware, the Old Testament is an anthology of byzantine complexity, yet a few themes are constant.
    One that predominates is that God is not at all impressed by civilizations and their attendant hierarchal organizations. In fact, his favorite people are either wild men – Adam, Eve, Esau, Sampson, John (though he is New Testament) and Elijah, just to name a few. Or nomads – Joshua, Moses, David (in his youth) Abram (the Big Cheese of the OT) and Abel, again, just to name a few. Please note that these here named are not, on the whole, portrayed as better people than their civilized brethren – rather they are simply more favored by God…cut more slack, if you will.
    In the OT, civilizations – kingdoms, city-states, empires and the like – are depicted as universally corrupt and ultimately dysfunctional. God destroys a number of them seemingly at will. [a notable exception would be Nineveh of the Assyrian Empire in the Book of Jonah – easily one of the most elegant short works of prose in all of recorded literature].
    As for Cain and Abel; God preferred Abel not so much for his sacrifice of blood, but for his way of life as a nomadic herdsman (or hebrew – translation ‘wanderer’ in Sumerian). Conversely, God knew that Cain, as a farmer, would by necessity spawn civilization through the need to ‘settle’ land via the artifice of ‘specific personal ownership’, and therefor be moved to maximize the returns on his investment by manipulating the natural environment in ways that would eventually lead to ruin.
    God thus rejected Cain’s sacrifice of farm produce, and drove his point home by turning Cain into a wild man to “wander the earth”. Cain’s ultimate rebellion was to eventually mate, raise a family and build the first city. It is well documented in the OT that God has despised cities, kingdoms and empires ever since.

    • kulturcritic says:

      There are a few question I have in your analysis, Greg, nothing major, but still. Why did God turn Cain into a wild man to wander the earth if God liked wildmen? How do we know that God knew that Cain and his agriculture would spawn cities? Is there are biblical reference for this? I am not an OT scholar, nor any type of scholar any more, but so much for personal history. However, I do agree that God of the OT was not a fan of empires or emperors. Also, recall that the Israelites never had a king (in the early books), but always were led to action by judges or prophets who would arise among them. But, the hierarchy implicit is the supremacy of God and his Law. And as Paul Shepard has noted:
      “History is not a chronicle but a Hebrew invention about the way the cosmos works.”

      • Greg Knepp says:

        Yes, God displays a preference for the more natural man over the landed, civilized type. But Cain wanted no part of the Eden model. So what had been God’s ideal state of being became Cain’s punishment. One might almost speculate that God was attempting to reform Cain rather than merely punish him. In any event, the ploy backfired. Cain went from farmer to wanderer to family man to city slicker – all in short order. He then had the effrontery to name his newly built city after his son, Enoch, thereby establishing the institution of Royalty based on birthright.
        If we can agree that our species emerged on the east-central African savanna some 180 thousand years ago, and finally achieved civilization through the artifice of agriculture by ten thousand years BCE, then we must also agree that the portion of the OT that chronicles the first three generations of humankind (starting with, say, verse four of chapter two of Genesis and ending with verse seventeen of chapter four of the same book) has achieved something quite remarkable. It has encapsulated some 170 thousand years of human development in an account that is at once brief, accurate and compelling. Such is the power of myth…not to mention hellasciously good editing!
        As to what God knew and when he knew it: God could have surmised that some of the excess food production created by farming would find its way into the mouths of non-farmers – builders to construct permanent dwellings and food storage facilities, smiths,
        tanners, carpenters and the like. But he also knew that farming would be arduous work: “cursed is the ground for thy sake, thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shall eat of the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the dust of the ground.” Life down on the farm! What God obviously did not know was how well humans would take to such a hard life; so much so that men would
        resort to murder to protect it.
        A word about the Paul Shephard quote: it seems somewhat harsh and constricting. I suspect that it reflects a personal agenda or perhaps an ideation common to his peers (tribe). Pastor John Hagee’s view is that “The Bible is God’s uncompromising word, perfect in every respect”. – equally narrow in my view. The Bible is too big to be easily summarized or dismissed by the pithy utterances of mere men.

        • kulturcritic says:

          “God’s ideal state of being became Cain’s punishment. One might almost speculate that God was attempting to reform Cain rather than merely punish him.”

          Great – God the first ‘jailer’!!

          “As to what God knew and when he knew it: God could have surmised…”

          So, he is not omniscient, in your view.

          “Paul Shephard quote: it seems somewhat harsh and constricting…”

          I don’t see it as harsh or constricting. I think Shepard was highlighting the fact that the Hebrew conception of Yahweh, a God with a purpose and a design plan, laid the foundations for historical thinking; together with the encapsulated history of the world that you point to in the OT, Shepard was simply stating fact… that history was a Hebrew invention to justify their arduous faith, and to create a linear historical perception where beforehand there was none.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Also Greg, just to round out my thoughts on the previous reply. Shepard’s remarks are intended to denote that historical consciousness, the perception of time moving from a beginning (genesis) through a middle and towards an end (eschaton) was a uniquely Hebrew apperception of temporality, breaking away from the generally cyclical (and mythical) apperception of the eternal return of archetypal models reconstituting the present moment, with almost no sense of a future direction. This was the beginning of history, and the OT was in large measure one of the first (if not the first) historical document. We can continue this as we go.

            • Greg Knepp says:

              I apologize if I’ve taken Shepard’s quote out of context. It’s fine, as far as it goes. Certainly the OT presents a history that is comprehensive, detailed, linear (in the order of events, though not always in the order of their writing) and astonishingly accurate. But the OT is also full of poetry, philosophy, prophesy, theology, myth, law (civil and criminal) and allegory. And while these elements are vital in giving us insights into the mindsets and cultural priorities of the ancients, they were not typically written as history. In the same way, we can learn a great deal about the 1800’s by reading Poe, though his work is largely fictional. Complicating matters, the above listed non-historical elements are often blended into the historical portions in a way that makes the final product maddeningly complex as well as aesthetically compelling – even otherworldly. I see the Bible as a grand work of art, and I define it as ‘The Anthology of God’s People’. I’m a big fan!
              As for God’s omniscience, this is a characteristic attributed TO God rather than one he claims himself (there are, as always in the OT, exceptions). For example: “I am the God of thy fathers; I have seen the affliction of my children in Egypt by reason of their taskmasters” is a claim to knowledge and authority that, while considerable, is hardly unlimited. God had to ASK Adam and Eve if they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, and he likely could not have predicted the murder of Abel, much less the final rebellion of Cain.
              Developments in the city of Babel totally freaked him out, and he failed to read Noah as a drunk or Lot as incestuous. In later books, God seems to take on greater power, but general readings of the future remained the vocation of prophets, while specific readings of future events were verbotten. Mankind’s free will seems to have hindered God’s ability
              to predict much less direct the course of human affairs.

    • Disaffected says:

      “God.” Please define. Stop assuming the word “God” is assumed. It’s not.

      Ignorant Jewish/Christian fucks, go back to the drawing board! Shit heads!

      DA

  12. Frank Kling says:

    For a playbook for how modern civilization will collapse, read Jared Diamond’s documentary about Easter Island. When Pacific Islanders arrived at the despoiled sub-tropical paradise known as Easter Island, they discovered pristine forests teeming with wildlife, the largest wax palm trees to have ever existed on Earth, rich volcanic soil, and plentiful fresh water supplies. As a consequence the human population exploded and the island’s tremendous fertility allowed for free time to build the ghostly stone heads that are found toppled over today. Over time, the inhabitants rendered extinct much of the wildlife, agricultural generated soil erosion eliminated the land’s productivity, and every single tree was cut down thereby preventing the people from cultivating the ocean’s protein bounty. In response the population crashed, and when the English discovered the island they found a small number of people living in absolute squalor while engaging in cannibalism in order to survive.

    What were they thinking when the last tree on the island was cut down?

    I also suggest that everyone watch the movie Soylent Green for a prescient understanding of our future.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Frank – correct, the Easter Island story is incredible, were it not true.

    • Disaffected says:

      Frank,

      It’s actually a very intuitive concept which is currently in play: once “everyone” (a significant majority) realizes what’s going on, it’s every man for himself. I.E.; everyone believes the bullshit – until they don’t. EXACTLY what is about to happen.

      So simple, even a CAVE MAN could see it.

      DA

  13. rockpicker says:

    Fukushima, Passamari, Spring

    Bow-legged two-legged, leaning on his hoe
    peers for garlic, late beneath the plum.
    Cuffs unbuttoned cut the wind like wings.
    He veers a stretch of sky between limbs
    and bed, tallying spears as if eagle
    gauging hares. Planes his friends insist
    don’t spray poison for many good reasons
    and returning geese persist against
    the pelt of fronts. A neighbor’s tom
    deserves his adulation. Clouds decay
    to cumulus and haze when no fields burn.
    Fat Mouse dies without a kick in yellow grass.
    Orach cotyledons pool in paths like blood.

    Early spinach vernal under hog fence hoops
    and plastic from the dump needs safe water
    from the county’s deepest well. Still, rain
    threatens, at a hundred counts per minute,
    not him so much but kids who play next door.
    When did the world’s backup generators seize?
    The missing witness, shoeless on the tape,
    muttering, stumbled- on by mistake
    in a landfill heap. And this newest war,
    when were there debates? He leans on stone
    to sort intrusive roots from wanted stock.
    One wind whips the town’s flags all directions.

    Doves weight air a gray he shoulders
    like a bar. Admitting defeat so late and far
    from sanctuary waves, snow geese argue
    security measures all the way to straw. Truth
    is north and hurts worse faced head on.
    Land a million peasants hoed subsides
    while dying aspens turn silver he can’t save
    and nations crash in gardens like the sea.
    Aerosol merges dark as news in sky
    when sun unwinds in tongues that peel his ears.
    Teetering worlds lose bearings like bickering geese.
    He takes the dog whose eyes beg for a walk.
    She shows him when you turn you’re halfway home.

  14. Brutus says:

    I am replying outside the threaded discussion as the column is becoming awfully narrow.

    Sandy’s point about the nebulous nature of mind is well taken. I have nothing to add.

    My frame of reference on uneven participation in the dance of life is biology. Sharks and elephants are both described as being architects of their environments, the former because it’s a top predator and the latter because of its immense size and appetite. The same is true of humanity, which is arguably the top predator also having an immense appetite. I don’t mean to discount everything else, as biodiversity is necessary to make it all work, but importance is unevenly distributed. Maybe that perspective is a huge mistake, as our reliance on the honeybee for its work as pollinator demonstrates.

    Nothing else to say/write at this point, and I do now feel chastened since I apparently come across like a debater out to score points in some futile grasp for gamesmanship.

    • Anarchrist says:

      I wouldn’t say that at all Brutus, you seem very earnest and focused on detail, though by your own admission a bit ‘stuck’ as to what any of this exploration means for you, but certainly not as though you are playing at this. I’ve made some half-assed attempts to encourage hope in my posts here, as much for my own consumption as anyone else’s, but in any case reading and thinking will only ever take a body so far, sooner or later we all have to physically engage with the world in some way if only to allow us go on living, and in that event why not go a little further and put theory into practice somehow. On bees, the pollinators do indeed demonstrate the significance of the ‘small things’ in the web of interdependence. On putting this awareness into practice, I’m thinking a few wild bee boxes around the place are in order, a small but nonetheless worthwhile step…

  15. kulturcritic says:

    Modern biology is a post-Cartesian POV, Brutus. I think your footnote about the honeybee speaks volumes about relative value! BTW, I did not mean to chasten you, just tell you how it made me feel… like I was in a debate contest. Please don’t hesitate to say whatever is on your mind, Brutus. As Straycat pointed out, your articulation is extremely valuable. I am glad you are here with us. sandy

    • Brutus says:

      I suspect you meant a Cartesian POV, not post-Cartesian. We’re still working/thinking from within the Cartesian Paradigm (Morris Berman’s term) and have yet to transition to something else, though some movement appears to be already underway.

      And thanks for the encouragement on my contributions (Anarchrist, too). I don’t generally relate how twisted I’m getting about the whole end-of-the-world thing, but it slips through in moments of weakness and vulnerability. I’ll continue to check in and add my thoughts.

  16. Greg Knepp says:

    I read Paul Shepard’s book ‘Coming home to the Pleistocene’ and am now prepared to comment on the opening line “History is not a chronicle but a Hebrew invention about the way the cosmos works…” Your quote cuts the second clause from Shepard’s original but I’ll let that be for now.
    Shepard suggests that Hebrew written history is somehow different in premise than that which preceded it. But the major texts of the Hittites, Sumerians and Egyptians were all written either before or during the time when the Hebrews began collecting and recording the important works of the various tribes of nomadic and semi-nomadic monotheists of old Philistia. And the histories of these civilizations are equally as linear as the Hebrew texts, and just as inclined to mix myth, poetry, law and even accounting as the OT. True, Sumerian records are more highly mythologized, and the Egyptian works display a heavy-handed tendency to propagandize, but the linearity and mind-set that characterize most civilized histories (and written works in general) are fully evidenced in these early efforts.
    Shepard then suggests that prehistoric humans were “autochthonous” and incapable of forming linear histories in the conventional way – even on a cognitive level! Shepard doesn’t bother support this Jaynesian viewpoint, outside of quoting a few of his fellow tribal wizards. Indeed evidence from existing pre-literate tribes shows that, though usually orally transmitted, pre-civilized tribal histories were most likely quite comprehensive and detailed; tribal survival often depended on access to accurate technical and historical data.
    In his book ‘Adam’s Tongue’ Derek Bickerton postulates that the ability to grunt or gesture basic information about then-ness (history) and not-here-ness (geography) were so advantageous to early hominids that those who could communicate such notions, even on the most primitive level, were heavily favored by natural selection. Evolution rapidly propelled those born with slightly larger frontal lobes (to understand abstractions) and more dexterous larynxes (to communicate same) to the top of the human family. Longevity was favored as well; older tribe members – otherwise useless in terms of productivity or reproductively – had deep memories and acted as the tribe’s ‘Books’ carrying history, geography, and other critical technical information, as well as mythology, which added meaning, cohesion and aesthetic fulfillment to the otherwise drab tribal drone.
    Bickerton’s hypothesis – though not explicitly stated – seems to be that intelligent humans did not, in fact, invent history at all, rather history invented intelligent humans. Perhaps Shepard may be confusing ‘History’ with ‘the Historic era‘. In any event, the ability and even the desire to transmit history is a survival tool that transends culture, and is as human as bipedalism…and damn near as old!

  17. kulturcritic says:

    Gregg

    Perhaps you did not get Shepard’s focus with respect to that opening statement. He wasn’t suggesting that there is NO past for the preliterate/pre-civilized hunter-gatherer, but rather that the past is itself a deep past – it is a primal (sacred) past of the founding ancestors. Every piece of the current landscape: every stone, river, tree, valley, etc. – the geography of everyday life, if you will – has its place in this founding and repeatable event. The present (and the recent past… of daily memory) is itself constituted by participation in a primal set of founding events. There is a real sense in which the eternal return of these origins in the present moment is how the meaning of daily existence is constituted for many pre-civilized tribes. For this mythological consciousness time is always reversible, and the deep past can be reconstituted in the present (as we see in all natural cycles).

    On the other hand, there appears to be little if any evidence in ethnology, ethnography on pre-civilized tribes, or research in the history of religions, for the irreversibility of unidirectional time leading inexorably to an anticipated future, be it a personal goal or an apocalyptic moment. There is no eschatology, per se, in that worldview. The idea of the future, linked causally to a past series of events, appears not to be a relevant category for them. As Shepard summarizes: the Hebrew demythologizers – with the Old Testament as their historical record – crafted a reality outside of and separate from the rhythmic cosmos of those tribes that surrounded them. They took the primitive commitment to nature and its cyclical rhythms to be idolatry, and they banished it in the name of a future directed historical consciousness (salvation); a history guided by a remote God orchestrating a unidirectional and linear timeline, in which each event is novel and unique, leading to an eschaton (a final dramatic conclusion).

    In fact as you note, written history, bookkeeping (accounting), and a focus on the future are the hallmark of this new mode of thinking that emerged from the ancient Near East. The prior, preliterate view of “time” is a cyclical experience, tied to the cycles of nature, reflected in the myths, and ritually reenacted within the present. As well, there is no hard and fast line as to how and when this experience of time transitioned, but certainly it emerged with the building of cities, like Sumer and the transition to kingship. I do not think Shepard is denying this. And certainly Sumer is the apparent cradle of writing, with some of the clay tablets recording what appear to be past historical events. What Shepard is focused on is the unique contribution of the Hebrew mindset with its commitment to the future, the Promised Land, the realization of some yet unrealized salvific event, based upon faith emerging from a strictly linear causality and leading them onward to that future. Indeed, what he is suggesting is that our focus today on progress, and a future that is better than yesterday, is one of the legacies of this mindset.

    Gregg, if you are interested in learning more about this, let me suggest some additional works. Jack Goody, The Domestication Of The Savage Mind, Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism Of Evil, Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History: The Myth Of The Eternal Return, Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, and my own work, Recollective Resolve: A Phenomenological Understanding Of Time and Myth.

    sandy

  18. Greg Knepp says:

    No, I understand Shepard’s premise entirely (despite his rather dense prose). I simply believe that, throughout the book, his tendency is to downplay the obvious, in favor of the elaborate.
    For example, the reason that the sky god became dominant could be quite simple. By his very nature, the sky god (El in the Mesopotamian Pantheon, Ra among the Egyptians) lent himself to portability, and thus fit easily into the mobile lifestyles of those nomadic herdsmen who used him as the focus of their faith. Compared to the scavengers and hunters that preceded them, these nomads traveled far and wide in order to pasture increasingly larger herds. Under such circumstances, assigning deity to individual trees, mountains, animals and rivers must have become cumbersome from the standpoint of liturgy, and hauling idols from campsite to campsite calorically inefficient. But the sky was ever-present, and so then was the sky god. A mix of svelte but powerful religions developed – easy to remember and easy to communicate, freeing up memory to devote to history, geography and technology, and bereft of clunky religious paraphernalia. This gave monotheists an advantage over their more religiously burdened polytheistic competitors, especially where the harsh demands of nomadic herding were concerned.
    Consider, if you will, the humble Bedouin of 600 AD and the spare requirements of Islam – a simple and successful response to the complex competing faiths of traditional tribal Arab religions of the time, and Christianity, which, under the influence of Greco-Roman culture. had become markedly polytheistic.
    Could natural selection – carried out on a socio-cultural level – provide the answer to the sky god riddle? Could certain Hebrews have simply borrowed a deity already in use and adapted it to their own meager mode? Is it as basic as that?… most likely. The story of Abram pretty much confirms it. And, while the author/s of Genesis were neither ‘pure’ historians nor cultural anthropologists, they were certainly a lot closer to the action than we are today.
    In my view, Shepard also misses the mark with his takes on the Stone Age Venus statuettes and the origins of blood sacrifice. The actual explanations of these phenomena are quite simple, though (unlike the sky god adaptation) rather deeply rooted in human evolution. But I’ll not burden you with them at this point. Instead, I’m going to secure a copy of your book and get back to you at some point, after I‘ve had time to read it.
    Additionally, I agree that the characteristic of living in a consciousness that is at once past, present and future oriented is natural to humans, and vital to our success as a species. And while civilization may not have extended our awareness of history by much, it has certainly caused us to obsess on the future – to little avail. The loss of ‘locality’ both in time and place has caused us much stress; this much is certain, but it is the price we pay for mega culture. Still, I feel certain that stress – perhaps great stress – was a part of pre-civilized life as well, and that the differences we are addressing between civil and savage mindsets may be more a matter of degree than of kind.
    As to Myths – both ancient and modern – John Michael Greer has some interesting views on modern belief systems and contemporary myths. He’s on the web, and his recent book ‘The Long Descent’ is a great read.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Greg – I don’t know where the evidence is you suggest the (nomadic) herdsmen used the sky god as the focus of any faith. Certainly with have evidence in the early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, as you point out. But those were extremely developed, sedentary cultures already. As well, H/Gs did as much or more travelling around than early herdsmen; after all they moved with the seasons and the availability of food on the hoof or in the forest.

      Further, your simple account of the Hebrew reliance on the Sky God, does not explain the new significance of history and the future in the OT mindset. I also do not buy into your economics of belief as a strategy for freeing up memory to become more technologically savvy. In fact, the sky-god phenomenon became more relevant with the growth of the agricultural life of a more sedentary population, when dependence upon the rains and the sun (ie., the storms, storm-gods) were more critical to having food or not.

      Obsession with the future is a consequence of civilization; that much i believe we can agree on (if I am understanding you).

      Also, I like Greer, but have not read his book. I should try to acquire it.

      sandy

  19. Greg Knepp says:

    You’re right, the Sky God was a contrivance of the settled peoples of the Fertile Crescent. – only one of many deities, though. Abram was a fully civilized man when we first encounter him in the OT. He left Ur (perhaps because that city was in steep decline and its surrounding land depleted to the point where it could no longer support his herds) for the smaller city of Haran. He soon tired of civilization altogether, and abandoned himself and his small band of kinsmen to the hinterland for a life of nomadic herding, never again to return to town. He was not so much a nomad as what I would call a neo-nomad. In other words, his people did not evolve ‘up’ from herd-following hunters, rather they evolved ‘down’ from landed livestock farmers. This social devolution represents a transitional process that has occurred often throughout the ages as civilizations grew, then decayed and died. Populations that didn’t die-off completely often reorganized around more primitive modes.

    Anyway, Abram , through the process of epiphany, cherry-picked the Sky God type from the pantheon of his civilized cultural background. I doubt that economy played a part in his decision; rather, over time, monotheism proved to be an economical way for a nomadic tribe to conduct its spiritual life, and so this form of religion prospered. Natural selection, my good man – not acquired characteristics!

    The Sky God’s designation ‘El’ does not appear much until the Mosaic and post- Mosaic periods where we see it reflected in Emanu-El, Jo-El, No-El, El-ohim, El-shadi, and Ba-El: literally, Son of El – considered evil by the Hebrews due to its polytheistic implications…not a good portend for Jesus! On the other hand, they didn‘t seem to object to being called The Children of Isis-Ra-El. A designation referencing their mixed Egyptian and Fertile Crescent origins. But then, cultural origins are seldom cut and dry. This is why, I believe, that there is little room for the GRAND STATEMENT in Cultural Anthropology.

    But I digress. In fact, Abram’s people did not give God a name at all, for as to do so would have been taboo; instead they reproduced a chocking or gagging sound when indicating god. [if you give Him a name you will choke to death] Due to his various successes, Abram was eventually regarded as a blessed person and became known as Abra-GAG-m and his wife Sari known as Sar-GAG. This gag sound is sometimes spelled a ‘CH’ in our writing (CHanuka) however, we English speakers have no background in representing this sound in letters much less accurately articulating it in speech, so our Bible represents it as an ‘H’: hence Abram becomes AbraHam and Sari becomes SaraH – ‘Abram of God’ and ‘Sari of God’ would have been better translations, but when they met to produce the NIV some decades ago they failed to consult me – can you imagine?

    Oh, with regards to the HG peoples, your point about herd followers is well taken. They did travel great distances. However, herd followers represent only one model of pre- civilized (and pre-nomadic herding) tribes.

    You’re right, the Sky God was a contrivance of the settled peoples of the Fertile Crescent. – only one of many deities, though. Abram was a fully civilized man when we first encounter him in the OT. He left Ur (perhaps because that city was in steep decline and its surrounding land depleted to the point where it could no longer support his herds) for the smaller city of Haran. He soon tired of civilization altogether, and abandoned himself and his small band of kinsmen to the hinterland for a life of nomadic herding, never again to return to town. He was not so much a nomad as what I would call a neo-nomad. In other words, his people did not evolve ‘up’ from herd-following hunters, rather they evolved ‘down’ from landed livestock farmers. This social devolution represents a transitional process that has occurred often throughout the ages as civilizations grew, then decayed and died. Populations that didn’t die-off completely often reorganized around more primitive modes.

    Anyway, Abram , through the process of epiphany, cherry-picked the Sky God type from the pantheon of his civilized cultural background. I doubt that economy played a part in his decision; rather, over time, monotheism proved to be an economical way for a nomadic tribe to conduct its spiritual life, and so this form of religion prospered. Natural selection, my good man – not acquired characteristics!

    The Sky God’s designation ‘El’ does not appear much until the Mosaic and post- Mosaic periods where we see it reflected in Emanu-El, Jo-El, No-El, El-ohim, El-shadi, and Ba-El: literally, Son of El – considered evil by the Hebrews due to its polytheistic implications…not a good portend for Jesus! On the other hand, they didn‘t seem to object to being called The Children of Isis-Ra-El. A designation referencing their mixed Egyptian and Fertile Crescent origins. But then, cultural origins are seldom cut and dry. This is why, I believe, that there is little room for the GRAND STATEMENT in Cultural Anthropology.

    But I digress. In fact, Abram’s people did not give God a name at all, for as to do so would have been taboo; instead they reproduced a chocking or gagging sound when indicating god. [if you give Him a name you will choke to death] Due to his various successes, Abram was eventually regarded as a blessed person and became known as Abra-GAG-m and his wife Sari known as Sar-GAG. This gag sound is sometimes spelled a ‘CH’ in our writing (CHanuka) however, we English speakers have no background in representing this sound in letters much less accurately articulating it in speech, so our Bible represents it as an ‘H’: hence Abram becomes AbraHam and Sari becomes SaraH – ‘Abram of God’ and ‘Sari of God’ would have been better translations, but when they met to produce the NIV some decades ago they failed to consult me – can you imagine?

    Oh, with regards to the HG peoples, your point about herd followers is well taken. They did travel great distances. However, herd followers represent only one model of pre- civilized (and pre-nomadic herding) tribes.
    You’re right, the Sky God was a contrivance of the settled peoples of the Fertile Crescent. – only one of many deities, though. Abram was a fully civilized man when we first encounter him in the OT. He left Ur (perhaps because that city was in steep decline and its surrounding land depleted to the point where it could no longer support his herds) for the smaller city of Haran. He soon tired of civilization altogether, and abandoned himself and his small band of kinsmen to the hinterland for a life of nomadic herding, never again to return to town. He was not so much a nomad as what I would call a neo-nomad. In other words, his people did not evolve ‘up’ from herd-following hunters, rather they evolved ‘down’ from landed livestock farmers. This social devolution represents a transitional process that has occurred often throughout the ages as civilizations grew, then decayed and died. Populations that didn’t die-off completely often reorganized around more primitive modes.

    Anyway, Abram , through the process of epiphany, cherry-picked the Sky God type from the pantheon of his civilized cultural background. I doubt that economy played a part in his decision; rather, over time, monotheism proved to be an economical way for a nomadic tribe to conduct its spiritual life, and so this form of religion prospered. Natural selection, my good man – not acquired characteristics!

    The Sky God’s designation ‘El’ does not appear much until the Mosaic and post- Mosaic periods where we see it reflected in Emanu-El, Jo-El, No-El, El-ohim, El-shadi, and Ba-El: literally, Son of El – considered evil by the Hebrews due to its polytheistic implications…not a good portend for Jesus! On the other hand, they didn‘t seem to object to being called The Children of Isis-Ra-El. A designation referencing their mixed Egyptian and Fertile Crescent origins. But then, cultural origins are seldom cut and dry. This is why, I believe, that there is little room for the GRAND STATEMENT in Cultural Anthropology.

    But I digress. In fact, Abram’s people did not give God a name at all, for as to do so would have been taboo; instead they reproduced a chocking or gagging sound when indicating god. [if you give Him a name you will choke to death] Due to his various successes, Abram was eventually regarded as a blessed person and became known as Abra-GAG-m and his wife Sari known as Sar-GAG. This gag sound is sometimes spelled a ‘CH’ in our writing (CHanuka) however, we English speakers have no background in representing this sound in letters much less accurately articulating it in speech, so our Bible represents it as an ‘H’: hence Abram becomes AbraHam and Sari becomes SaraH – ‘Abram of God’ and ‘Sari of God’ would have been better translations, but when they met to produce the NIV some decades ago they failed to consult me – can you imagine?

    Oh, with regards to the HG peoples, your point about herd followers is well taken. They did travel great distances. However, herd followers represent only one model of pre- civilized (and pre-nomadic herding) tribes.

  20. kulturcritic says:

    Some interesting analysis Greg! What happened to your duplicator function… it went wild here. LOL

    Do you have any evidence for the isis-Ra-El claim… I never encountered that explanation of Israel’s name.

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