Class Warfare Blog

October 22, 2017

I Thought Things Were Coming Together … And Then the Other Shoe Dropped (OMG!)

I have been posting quite a bit about the revelations I have been getting reading the book Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott. It has been slow going because so much in the book has real consequences regarding how I view the world.

If you don’t recall, the book addresses a simple fact. Cities became somewhat sustainable 3500-3000 BCE, so we became “civilized” about 5000-5500 years ago. Yet it is now clear that agriculture started to be exhibited 8000-10,000 years ago (at least). The standard narrative is that the development of agriculture, specifically with regard to grains, caused the idea of a city to flourish. Grain could be harvested, dried, and stored for a long time and so could be taxed easily. The simple fact came in the form of a question: why the three millennium time lag? Why did “civilization” take so long to happen after we had the technology to produce sizable surpluses of grain? The author argues that civilization could only happen when enough labor could be coerced to do the “farming.” It seems an established fact that hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, etc. who were free people, never created food surpluses and food surpluses were what were needed for cities to develop. Food surpluses required excess labor to create and yet were just a big set of problems: how to preserve the food without most it spoiling; if you were still non-sedentary or only occasionally sedentary, you would have to carry those surpluses around with you; you would have to protect the stored food from pests, predators, etc.

Food surpluses only happen when people are coerced to create them.

I have stated this premise before. The minor nuclear warhead explosion came when the author commented that the most productive form of coerced labor is slavery and … as late as 1800 CE, as much as three fourths of the world’s population could be described as being in some sort of state of slavery.

“Now, that just couldn’t be true” was my first reaction to this claim. My second reaction was that students of history are taught that they should not impose “modern values” onto earlier times as it will lead to misunderstanding. I realized that I was coming from a frame of reference in which all people were “free,” as we claim we are, but I immediately realized that might not be true, then. My third reaction was: serfs.

Remember what you learned about serfs in school? Serfs were medieval peasants who worked the land for the local lord in Europe. The picture painted for school children was kind of bucolic and idealized, but think about it. The serf worked as a farmer (mostly) of land they didn’t own. The owner of the land (“from the Manor born”) confiscated the serf’s “surplus” food production. The local lord decided exactly and arbitrarily what the surplus was to be and it always seemed to be “enough to keep the serf in a perpetual state of poverty.” The “lords” used force of arms and religious support to legally tie the serf to the land. Even if the serf got the idea to get the hell out of this awful situation, where would he go? What about his family? There were no “jobs” per se he could get were he to relocate. He was trapped. He worked doing work not of his choice to benefit not himself but others and he had no choice in the matter. (How do you spell slave, boys and girls? S-E-R-F!)

It didn’t take over three thousand years to figure out how to use agriculture. It took three thousand years to figure out how to efficiently coerce large amounts of labor.

Back in 3000 BCE, all slaves had a viable option. Wait until nightfall and walk that way. Didn’t much matter which direction one walked. After a few days, one would be so far away from coerced labor as to be upon another planet. And there was enough food to be foraged that one could go back to being a “hunter-gatherer” quite easily as one still possessed the skills required. In early civilizations, one had options and one was to walk away from a bad situation. This apparently happened quite often. Slavery was a construct that prevented that (or attempted to). Available records showed that slaves were a common factor in all of those early civilizations. They were not treated well; they apparently were commonly beaten into submission. (If you saw a representation of an elite wielding a flail, it wasn’t for threshing grain.) The accounting records (the earliest form of writing were stimulated by such) from the earliest cities showed slaves counted in the same way as domesticated animals, using the same cuneiform in Mesopotamia, for example. The Code of Hammurabi, the first written legal code, is chock-a-block full of codes regarding the treatment of slaves, the recovery of escaped slaves, the punishments for helping another slave to escape, etc. Ditto for all of the other legal codes around the world. “Wars” were wars of capture not killing as slaves were not easily held and replacements were needed for those who escaped or died from maltreatment.

If this were true, if as late as the year 1800, three quarters of all human beings were in some sort of slavery … but it couldn’t be true … could it? Let’s think about it. Slavery was not abandoned in the U.S. until 1865, in England, Canada, and the rest of the British Empire until 1833. Heck, if news reports are correct, slavery still exists all over the world now: sex slaves, enforced labor camps, etc. Yeah, that three fourths slaves estimate could well be true

If we think back to the defenders of slavery in this country, the energy behind it was entirely economic. For those that think our Civil War was a war over “state’s rights to secede,” you have fallen for a bit of historical spin. All of the articles of secession of the Southern states were published and they all focused upon slavery and its abolition being anathema to their way of life. If you think slavery is uneconomic, think again. I will make the point that slavery is the most economic form of labor for the elites (obviously not for the slaves).

Slavery comes in many forms, the worst kind (from my viewpoint) is chattel slavery. Slaves could be beaten, killed, threatened, whatever. Their children were born as slaves. There was no way out. Other forms were more humane if I can even use that word.

My mind immediately jumped to a Bible story. (I’m sorry, my mind does jump about and I do not seem to control it.) I first read of it through Mark Twain’s writings. As the story goes: (Numbers 31:15-18) After Moses’ soldiers had killed all of the men among the Midianites, Moses ordered his army officers to kill all of the male children, kill all of the non-virgin females but to save alive all of the virgin girls for his troops. Prior to this, the Israelites had taken all of the animals and goods of the Midianites and then burned all of their towns. Of course, Moses said Yahweh ordered him to do this. When I first heard of this story, I was impressed mostly with what a dick Yahweh was, but that, I think missed the point. The Old Testament is an unrelenting series of actions of Yahweh against the Israelites (Hebrews, whatever). The Israelites were stubborn and just wouldn’t accept Yahweh as the only god. In the Bible, the Israelites are described as being “stiff necked” and unable to “accept the yoke.” Both of these terms refer to oxen that are difficult to harness up to pull plows and wagons and the like. Slaves were also yoked. Yahweh wanted slaves to worship Him … slavishly. And if the Israelites did what they were told to do, when they were told to do it, they would become rich and have slaves, too. (Pop Quiz: Translate “Islam” into English and what word do you get? Answer: submission. All religions are coercive.)

When Yahweh, through Moses, told them to kill off all of those defenseless people, he was enforcing his will by making the Israelites destroy their own wealth. All of those non-virgin women and boy children were destined to become slaves and slaves were wealth, big-time wealth. The exception made for fuckable girls was probably made to keep the rough and tough soldiers from rebelling completely. Now, if you think this story is horrific, think about this in two ways. If Moses were real, but just deluded, that is one thing. (I believe in God if it is defined as “the most powerful fictional character ever created by mankind” but not in the supernatural.) If the story is entirely fictional, made up as a literary caution against disobedience, it is even more horrific.

Atheists are fond of pointing out that the Bible is pro-slavery, not anti-slavery. Think about the consequences had Christianity reframed Judaism and banned slavery, went so far as to state that slavery was anathema and that their god would avenge all acts of slavery in the afterlife. Christianity was a minor cult rescued from oblivion by a Roman emperor (Constantine). The Roman Empire at the time consisted of quite a small number of citizens, a somewhat larger number of freemen, and a vast number of slaves. What do you think would have happened to Christianity had it been anti-slavery at the time? It sure as Hell would have had no chance of getting adopted as the state religion of Rome. Of course Christianity was pro-slavery, every religion was (and still is?).

My mind next jumped to an American History story. Remember the story of how some Euros “bought” Manhattan Island for $24 in beads and trinkets? (As an aside, I first heard this story about 60 years ago and $24 then would be worth $210.81 now … and they never seem to update the story.) This story was told, I believe now, to show that the Native Americans had no idea of the value of land and were rather clueless and we were doing them a favor in “civilizing them” (also known as genocide). I prefer to think that the Native Americans so paid went back to their fellows with this story about how the stupid Euros gave them “all of this,” because they think they can “own the land!” (Insert uproarious laughter here.) As far as they were concerned, the gods owned the land and they could claim rights to hunt and fish and harvest a spot as long as they could defend it from other Native Americans. Their hunting grounds were not something they considered they or anyone else could own.

What this story points out was that slavery enforced by physical force (or threats against family members) made a transition to control of the land. (“The only true wealth is land” is a saying.) Think about that serf. His “master” owned the land. Just what does that mean? It might have been “given” to him by his master (Turtles all the way down.): “Ye shall have all of the land from the river to the hills, bounded by the sea, for you to do as you wish.” Often, this was like a gift from Yahweh. There might already be people living there, but your “royal patent” allows you to now go and enslave all of those people and get them working for you or kill them all, your choice.

No one “owned” the land in the first place, so it could not be bought, so all land ownership is like the Native American’s hunting grounds. It was theirs to use as long as they could hold it. Same is largely true today. Once the land is controlled, there is no place for a coerced labor force to run to. Consider the Fugitive Slave Act in the U.S. Slaves who “ran away” to states in which slavery was illegal were forced to be returned by the legal system back then. So, the runaway slaves often kept going to Canada to escape that “legal” system. (And that is a long walk from Georgia.) There was nowhere for a serf to run to, so the lord of the manor didn’t need to keep soldiers in the field to make sure they kept working. If they didn’t work, they didn’t eat. (This saying is still amongst us.)

So, civilization (there’s that word again) wasn’t built upon agriculture, which was a necessary but not sufficient condition for its creation. Civilization was built on coerced labor. Consequently “we” didn’t created civilization, the elites did. It was created as a system to serve their needs, where the many fed the few, whether they wanted to or not.

“Consequently ‘we’ didn’t created civilization, the elites did.
It was created as a system to serve their needs, where the many fed the few, whether they wanted to or not.”

This seems to me to be like those movies made by Andy Rooney and Judy Garland. They made ten movies together and they all seemed to have the same story line: a bunch of spunky youths, faced with a financial difficulty (to save a theatre, or a school, or a farm, whatever) always ended up with Andy Rooney saying “I’ve got an idea, gang, let’s put on a show!” Then he would convince the others that they “could do it” and they would then set about creating an entire musical production, which raised enough money to save the day. With a minor suspension of disbelief, you can almost feel that the ideas were those of the characters in the movie (Andy and Judy were so earnest!). But really, the movies were created by the studios who controlled everything because they had the money to make the movie (and reaped the “surplus” money from the movie after the peons got paid).

“We” didn’t created civilization, the elites did, for the elites. Think about that. We just supplied the labor.

So, for 4800-5300 of the 5000-5500 years of our most history, civilization was supported, actually made possible) mostly by slave labor (three out of four … in 1800 CE). But, of course, all of that is in the past … isn’t it?

Let me take a moment and lay out what the life of a prosperous “free” American looks like. We are born and then do what our parents tell us to do until we are of school age. We are then sent to school. Can we, as children, choose not to go? No, it is compulsory. Can we choose what to study? No, the curriculum is created by the state. We learn to do as we are told and if we do well in school then we go “to college.” Can we not go? Yes, but don’t count on getting a good job. So, we go. Can we choose what to study? Yes, but from a prescribed list of “programs” so basically we are as free as the voters in the last presidential election (who could vote for anybody, but one of “these two” will win). So we go, study hard, and do well and graduate. We are roughly 25 years old. We get a “good job,” save our surplus money (if there is any … of course there is, this is a “good job”) and by the time we are 30 we have a down payment and buy a house and the land it sits upon. Well, actually a bank owned by the elites buys the house and we arrange to make payments for 30 years and then it becomes ours. So, now we are 60 and we own a house and a 50 by 100 foot lot. Is this enough land (aka wealth) to plant food to support one’s family? A nice vegetable garden, some fruit trees and nut trees, a wheat field, uh … no. So we own land but not enough land to opt out of the system. And to make sure we do not, you must pay property taxes on your owned property, so you need some income to prevent your property from being confiscated, so you are still tied to “a job.”

And we say we are “free” people. I now understand better when conservatives complain that their freedoms are being eroded by government. Since the government, which is supposed to be us acting collectively, has been captured by the elites. This is actually true. Unfortunately the ordinary conservatives have been led to a position that their complaints about government can only cause changes that make the elites even more prosperous and more powerful.

Our “pay-as-you-go” culture is a manifestation of the coerced labor foundation of civilization. If you are dubious, consider that according to federal surveys 80% of working Americans basically hate their jobs. A truly free person would be someone who went where they wanted and did what they wanted to do. I suggest that even the 20% who do not hate their jobs wouldn’t have picked that work as something to do had they been truly free to do whatever they wished.

So, what does it take to be actually free? In my mind, freedom now comes from “not needing a job” and living as we want. I am not thinking about the young person who still lives at home and is well into their twenties and doesn’t have a job. I am talking of being on one’s own. The commonest way to do this is to have, I believe the term is, “fuck you money.” You have enough money to live well without needing a job or a boss, who you can tell to “fuck off.” This amount of money makes you one of the elite and not a coerced laborer. If you are resisting this scenario, consider the sayings “You won’t get rich working for wages,” “I am just a ‘wage slave’,” “I have to go to work.” I could go on.

Imagine what you would do if you had “fuck you money.” The closest thing we have as a large segment of the population is senior citizens who retire well. These folks do what they want when they want: they travel, they participate in social events (plays, sporting events, etc.), and they volunteer scads of hours, that is they work for free, but doing things they feel have value. This is how free people behave. Coerced laborers are constantly limited by how much money they make and how much time they “must” work to earn it. They have “a job” which means they labor for someone else (who, as Marx says, “owns the means of production”) who benefits from the surplus created by their labor. If they do not produce a surplus, they get fired. From what they are left with (aka paid), they pay for shelter (rent, mortgage), food, transportation, etc. and if there is anything left, they save for the future. But what they can do and where they can go is constrained by the need for “a job.”

So, is “civilization” still built on a foundation of coerced labor? I think so: if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Hunter-gatherers did not experience this.

Let me end with another scenario. Large numbers of workers in the U.S. worked for companies which made handsome profits. This means they created surplus wealth that the business owners reaped. Their work was of high quality, there were no problems. The next thing they know, however, is the owner of the business has shipped the production capacity overseas to a state with lower wages. If the current workers want a “severance package,” they must train their replacements, then they can go suck eggs. The business owners, collectively having pressed for the commercial markets around the world to be “free” meaning that there are no charges when their goods are imported into a country (no tariffs), thus created this “option:” move my productive capacity overseas and then “import” my products into the U.S. This has happened to the tune of millions of jobs lost per year for the last twenty years. This situation allows businesses to seek out the lowest possible labor costs for their businesses, no matter where they are, because if they have to pay their workers less, then the surplus wealth they create, which they claim, is greater. The accumulated wealth from this process is used to make sure the political systems represent the interests of the elites and not the interests of the workers. (The most recent trade deal we just barely scotched was of this ilk. It was a massive plan to protect the business interests of the elite. Nothing for ordinary folks was in it.)

Now you know why slavery was so popular and why other systems cannot compete with it; it is far too economical to not have to pay your workers (just paying them less is often enough incentive to pack up a factory and ship it out of country).

A news story I heard just yesterday was of a U.S. DEA agent (Drug Enforcement Agency) who was busting drug distributors for selling massive quantities of oxycodone (e.g. Oxycontin, Hillbilly Heroin, etc.) illegally. This had gotten so bad that people were dying in large numbers from overdoses (still are). Just as the agent was about to bust a major illegal distributor for a second time, his investigation slowed to molasses in January speed. Why? Well the drug manufacturers, who were making fortunes off of the illegal sales, got to the Justice Department of the Obama administration and the case pipeline got squeezed to a trickle. Cases were sent back for corroboration, more review, etc. To top it off, Congress actually passed a “drug enforcement enhancement law” which basically cut the DEA enforcement division off at the knees so they couldn’t pursue such cases. (Note: the Obama administration, not the Trump administration. Also note: Congress could cooperate and pass legislation, if it were important enough.)

Are we free? Only in so much as the elites are making money.

You will take note that the elites have recently made substantial efforts to “reform” our public education system. And if you think the likes of Bill Gates, Betsy DeVos, and Eli Broad have our children’s best interests at heart, you have been drinking their Kool-Aid. They are focused on schools making students “college and job ready!” Yep, they want to make sure that all of our children fit acceptable positions in the coerced labor scheme that is known as modern civilization.

So, how can we be free in this current “civilized” context? The only way to get close to anything like freedom for all, we must use the coercive power of the state against the elites. Estate taxes have to be large so fortunes cannot be inherited. Income taxes on very high incomes have to be so high as to discourage very high incomes. That would be a start. We basically need to reign in all elites.

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34 Comments »

  1. Long, but very good read.

    My mind was drawn to the point that the aboriginies in Australia (800-900 ‘nations’ actually) had no word for ownership. It’s hard, if not impossible, to comprehend. A stroke of genius, really. And years ago, I stumbled upon a dreaming story from the north, which I now can’t find anywhere, but it tells the tale of two ancient brothers during the Wet (north Australia’s monsoon). One brother was getting sick and tired of being wet so he built a shelter. Seeing this, the other brother prompty tore it down. The next day, in the rain, the first brother built another shelter. Again, the second brother tore it down. On the third day the first brother buit yet another shelter to keep the rain off. The second brother killed him, saying, “We do not do this.” To me, it was a story warning of the dangers of a sedentary life.

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by john zande — October 22, 2017 @ 9:44 am | Reply

    • Quite possibly. Some interpret the story of Cain and Able the same way.

      In this long view of history I am following (I am not half way through that book as it is very disturbing in that I cannot stop adding 2 + 2.) it seems that this conclusion (that elites created civilization for elites) is inescapable. It sure explains a lot. It explains “organized” religions (at least the driving forces behind them), It explains the Divine Rights of Kings (guarantees the religious elites will be #2 at the minimum). It explains the forces at play in American politics right now. (It is not the fucking Russians! If they meddled, well we have meddled in every free election that have had, so it is just tit for tat. The big meddlers are the elites. And they do not mind the Russian distraction as it obscures what they are doing.)

      The U.S> elites have captured the courts, the Congress and many of the state houses, the political parties, of course, let’s see … the media. The first estate seems to own all of the others and is now in the driver’s seat (and owns all of the gas stations, rest stops, highways …).

      Sorry for the length of the post, kept me up all night, writing itself in my head. There was a fair amount I left out.

      On Sun, Oct 22, 2017 at 9:44 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 3 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 22, 2017 @ 10:21 am | Reply

      • elites created civilization for elites

        That’s too much of a conspiracy. We’re just not that bright. Mores the case that the greed of the ‘elites’ of the day bumbled us all into this grove… which just so happened to prove fortuitous for some.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by john zande — October 22, 2017 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

        • There needed to be no conspiracy. The greed for wealth and power exists in all of us, but most of us temper that greed with other recognitions. The elites do not and they were very, very competitive with one another, not cooperative, which is what one would need to support a conspiracy.

          My point is that “civilization” benefits the elites with the costs accruing to us serfs (we work for them). The U.S. elites today, working through their minions, the Republicans, are looking to fashion a large tax cut benefiting the elites and costing the plebes. Sound familiar? Sounds to me as nothing has changed. This seems to be the driving force behind “civilization.”

          On Sun, Oct 22, 2017 at 2:22 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 9:56 am | Reply

          • In principle, I completely agree. And if there ever were an actual conspiracy going on, then today is it. Just look at Devos and Pruitt and Sessions.

            As to the tax “cuts”:

            If I give 10 apples to one person and no apples to nine people, the average person has one apple.

            Why are nine people mad at me?

            Like

            Comment by john zande — October 23, 2017 @ 10:12 am | Reply

            • OMG, you’ve discovered the intellectual foundation for Republican math!

              Do you have anything like the Republican party elites in Brazil?

              On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 10:12 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:25 am | Reply

              • Politcially? We simply have a gigantic pool of shit.

                Like

                Comment by john zande — October 23, 2017 @ 10:26 am | Reply

                • Swimming, we are swimming … yes it is a cesspool but we want to keep out heads about the surface!

                  On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 10:26 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Liked by 1 person

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:30 am | Reply

                • That was “above” not “about” … sheesh!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:35 am | Reply

              • Fareed said yesterday a number of generals are beginning to openly talk about a coup to sort the mess out.

                Like

                Comment by john zande — October 23, 2017 @ 10:26 am | Reply

                • Just what we need … shoot them now, please and save our courts the job.

                  On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 10:26 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Liked by 1 person

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:29 am | Reply

          • The greed for wealth and power exists in all of us — not sure I agree with the “all of us” part of that sentence. Wealth? Yes. Power? Definitely for some, but I don’t think everyone is power-driven. JMO

            Like

            Comment by Nan — October 23, 2017 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

            • Realize I do not mean “power to suppress others.” I feel helpless when a loved one is experiencing pain and I long for the magical power to heal (by the laying on of hands, for example). I wish I had the power to prevent injustices (like the current open hunting season of Black Americans). I feel a frisson of greed for wealth when I see the trappings of wealth displayed.

              That I can feel these things doesn’t mean I would get up off my chair or walk across the street to acquire such things. I am also suspicious of claims of magical this or that or rapid ways to become wealthy (Just buy my plan! … apparently his plan to get wealthy involves you buying it).

              Have you never felt an intense desire for something you didn’t have? Isn’t greed giving into those desires to some extent? Maybe I am just not using my words well.

              On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 1:30 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

              • Greed is defined as “excessive desire to acquire or possess …” Also, “insatiable desire for wealth.” So, I’d have to say “no” to your question. As you suggested, one might has a strong/intense “desire” for something, but that doesn’t necessarily make it greed.

                Of course, when we’re talking about politicians, “greed, wealth, power” all fit very well. 😉

                Like

                Comment by Nan — October 23, 2017 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

                • So a “strong/intense desire” has no Bell curve, and never laps over into “excessive desire”? (Oh, I so want to win a hair splitting contest! But at the same time, not at your expense, Nan!)

                  Maybe what I was trying to say is that we all seem to have the seeds of greed built into us.

                  On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 1:51 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Liked by 1 person

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

    • The Aborigines are also, I believe, one of the only (if not the only) known people who didn’t graduate from a throw stick as a weapon to a bow and arrow. I’m not sure the wet throw stick road is one I want to go down 😀

      Like

      Comment by The Pink Agendist — October 22, 2017 @ 10:45 am | Reply

      • Yeah, the only reason they didn’t develop bows is there are no suitable materials to make bows or arrows in Australia. Everywhere there is, the weapons exist.

        On Sun, Oct 22, 2017 at 10:45 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by Steve Ruis — October 22, 2017 @ 10:56 am | Reply

        • How interesting. What were they missing?

          Like

          Comment by The Pink Agendist — October 22, 2017 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

          • Suitable woods, reeds to make bows and arrows. The key is resilience. A brittle wood makes a poor bow. A supple wood, e.g. willow wands, makes a poor bow and poor arrows. In places where the materials are weak, but still somewhat suitable, you will see small bows of little power, often accompanied by poisons that make them effective weapons. The English war bow was very powerful, but the wood was in short supply, so later in the period in which the English longbow was preeminent, ships traveling to Spain and other points were required by the crown to bring home shipments of bow wood (e.g. Spanish yew).

            Ack, you should not have got me started!

            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:00 am | Reply

            • That’s fascinating. I thought Australia was sort of the mother-load where nature was concerned. Is the same true of New Zealand?

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              Comment by The Pink Agendist — October 23, 2017 @ 2:16 pm | Reply

              • Now, that I do not know. My mental image of Australia is that it is quite an arid place, but New Zealand (higher elevation?) seems more like Ireland, lush and green. You need trees for bow woods although bundled grasses have been used (bamboo, and other stiff grasses have been used to make successful bows and arrows) and I don’t know what New Zealand’s forests are like … wait a minute … didn’t they shoot.Lord of the Rings there? There be trees there, Mr. Frodo. I don’t know if NZ had indigenous peoples before the Maoris and I don’t know if even they had bows and arrows.

                Total ignorance here! :o) Where’s Zande when you need him?

                On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 2:16 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                Liked by 1 person

                Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

        • Never thought of that. And you’re right. Gums are horrid trees to work with.

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          Comment by john zande — October 23, 2017 @ 10:14 am | Reply

          • In California (a recipient of a gift of your “gum” trees which then thrived) we called them acacias. I cannot smell an acacia tree without being transported back to my high school days, a high school with a lovely campus, beautiful architecture and a bevy of gum trees that when it turned warm exuded a delightful somewhat musty scent. They do make a mess as they shed their bark voluminously, though.

            I can’t imagine trying to fashion even a crude bow from acacia wood, little if any resilience (ability to snap back to shape when bent) and brittle to boot.

            On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 10:14 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:29 am | Reply

      • Perhaps on purpose.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by john zande — October 22, 2017 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  2. That was attempted (not entirely successfully) in the revolutionary period of 1775-1917, wasn’t it? 🙂 Then the wars evened the playing field, and now we see a re-conquest of power by the elites steadily building.
    Interestingly, ever since I was very little I was taught we should tie ourselves to land. Both my grandfathers repeated it to me ad nauseum: Buy land! My family’s been doing it for many generations and it definitely seems to work as a survival strategy (for the most part.) I never considered not fencing off my part of the world a possibility.

    Like

    Comment by The Pink Agendist — October 22, 2017 @ 10:42 am | Reply

    • Your grandfathers were smart. You need enough land to support you and your family. It may be with an olive orchard that produces enough oil to sell and buy all else you need, it might be through subsistence farming. This is what the elites do and they ahve set up the legal system to protect their property rights, which you can also do.

      The only way forward that I can see is for everyone to be coerced about the same. if we do it to ourselves, for everyone’s benefit, we are more free than the alternatives.

      On Sun, Oct 22, 2017 at 10:42 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 22, 2017 @ 10:55 am | Reply

  3. The one thing about these elites is their absolute greed. I swear, IF they ever owned everything on this planet, they would still want more. That I put down to this damn foolish crap we call religion. Some god gave this to them. Oh man, I have to stop now, I’m laughing so hard I don’t think I can type. Some god gave it to them? LOLMAO!!!
    They STOLE it.

    Like

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — October 22, 2017 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  4. I am going to have to read this book. I usually take ‘over-arching reinterpretations’ with grains of salt – there are benefits to wide overviews but often the author relies on particularity as opposed to finding genuine trends. The flaws in Jared Diamond’s ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ come to kind (he over-emphasised geographical determinism). But they are always fascinating to read and, always, create new thoughts. Thanks for the heads-up.

    Like

    Comment by Matthew Wright — October 22, 2017 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

    • The author claims no special expertise and is taking the work of other researchers at face value, which may lead to the discovery of flaws as were in Guns, Germs, and Steel. Still, I have read a fair amount (took a course in Ancient Near Eastern History back in undergrad school and read widely ever since) and everything the author has posited so far seems well within normal interpretations. His basic question: why the 3000 year gap is a very good one no one else has ever explored in depth (although it seems to have been noted). The standard narrative has a lot of inertia and challenging it is a long drawn out process. Biblical archeology began in the very late 1800’s for example, and was lead by a group expecting to corroborate all of the “history” in the early books of the OT. Early on their wishful thinking made many tenuous at best connections between what they found and the Bible’s accounts, but those eventually were explained more simply and over a hundred years later, most serious archaeologists have found Biblical archeology a bust. Still, Christian spin doctors are still grinding away as if the findings of the last 120 years confirmed everything in the Bible, when they confirm almost nothing. When there is an axe to grind, it is not hard to find grinders.

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:08 am | Reply

  5. Just a thought I had after my last comment… How about violence? Doesn’t the risk of violence play an important role in motivating the formation of early centralised dwellings? Because of course plundering is easier and cheaper than growing.

    Like

    Comment by The Pink Agendist — October 22, 2017 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

    • Think about it. A hunter-gatherer culture has no surplus of anything worth stealing. I suspect that the occasions of violence were centered on finding mates. Acquiring slaves was on little value as “slave labor” only became viable with large scale agriculture and took more people to guard the slaves than the slave’s labor was worth. Before there were organized armies, the city-states organized what were more like slave raids than anything else. The idea of killing a lot of people was unreasonable, but going to a village a short distance away and coming back with a covey of slaves was real booty. The records kept in Mesopotamia and China seem to support this “slaves as wealth” viewpoint. The system then becomes self-reinforcing.

      “Wars” with armies, small or large, only become feasible when the potential gain outweighs the cost. If you had fields requiring 100 laborers and you had 100 laborers, you would be unlikely to arm them all with spears and march over to the next city to force some kind of exchange if you lost 10 men in an effort to capture 10 new men. Not worth the risk. So early in this development, with cities being few and far between (far = a few days walk), it was more likely that armed men would be sent to “harvest” workers from a small tribe or village, in which the casualties would be minimal and the slaves gained maximal. Only the other cities had “surpluses” that could be plundered, the villages did not, so to “plunder” would involve risk. City walls seem to have been built by slave labor in almost all instances researched (certainly coerced labor). The walls had the benefits of dissuading casual, even well-organized, raiders and served to pen the slaves in when they were not working the fields. City to city “wars” did not happen until a great deal of wealth was amassed (and elite egos inflated I am sure).

      Note that the only ones to benefit significantly in all of these schemes are the elites.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 23, 2017 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  6. I still don’t buy the argument that grain surpluses were created by coersion for a simple reason: a farmer who farms for himself and no one else would have an interest in creating this surplus for his own personal needs, either as an insurance against a low harvest next year or to trade some of it for something else.

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    Comment by List of X — October 27, 2017 @ 11:37 am | Reply

    • These aren’t hypothetical studies he is reporting on. These came from direct studies of hunter-gatherer peoples. And where does the motivation come from? When the grain is ripe, they harvest it. when the fruit is ripe, they harvest it. When the fish are running, their build weirs. When the antelope are migrating, they go hunting. None of the excess food they have lasts; either it is eaten or spoils. So, they somehow figure out that if they harvest extra grain, spread it out in the sun to dry and then pour the dried grain in a hole the ground, where it won’t get rained upon, and they can protect it from mice and thieving humans there might something there when they need it. I think it is more likely that the religious elites who started the whole thing, used their power to have others fed them (the surplus get eaten right away). But then a harvest fails or a migration shifts location of the salmon don’t run as before and the elite gets a little hungry and then they figure out they need something that can be put away for when there is a problem. So, the answer is “grain” but you are left with the people doing the work still not getting a tangible benefit, so they are reluctant to do it, so it becomes a religious requirement or whatever … the work is coerced. The fact that slavery, which was known to exist before but wasn’t a large volume operation, becomes a large scale operation with the advent of cities. The locals resented the extra work, so let slaves do it.

      On Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 11:37 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 27, 2017 @ 11:49 am | Reply


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