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the great forgetting by daniel quinn  RSS feed

 
leila hamaya
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This excerpt really made me want to read The Story Of B. I read Ishmael quite a while back, but i think i would get more from it at this time.

anywho i agree 110% with all of his ideas, and i have struggled in my own little way to explain the same kinds of things. I believe the things he speaks of here, are the root of the major problems we now face, and comes closer to addressing and unraveling the underlying assumptions and destructive ideas of dominator cultures than most everyone else who attempts to address these issues.

i particularly like the point he makes about not all agriculture being the same, and that what we think of as agriculture, from our culture, is only one form and a particularly damaging one at that. especially in response to other things i have been reading lately which seem to point the finger at ANY kind of agriculture as being the source of THE PROBLEM, i feel this is more accurate in that it is a certain form of agriculture that was part of the problem. i also like how he points out the tendancy of the dominant and dominating cultures to only think of themselves and their own culture as being the way it always was, or the only way, etc.
in these underlying ideas we really miss the perspectives which would enable us to see more clearly the issues we now face. in my perspective the culture we live in is more of an anomaly than "the norm".

ah without any more ramblings...here is an excerpt of an excerpt...read the rest here:
The Great Forgetting

What was forgotten in the Great Forgetting was not that humans had evolved from other species. There isn’t the slightest reason to think that Paleolithic humans or Mesolithic humans guessed that they had evolved. What was forgotten in the Great Forgetting was the fact that, before the advent of agriculture and village life, humans had lived in a profoundly different way.

This explains why the Great Forgetting was not exposed by the development of evolutionary theory. Evolution in fact had nothing to do with it. It was paleontology that exposed the Great Forgetting (and would have done so even if no theory of evolution had ever been proposed). It did so by making it unarguably clear that humans had been around long, long, long before any conceivable date for the planting of the first crop and the beginning of civilization.

Paleontology made untenable the idea that humanity, agriculture, and civilization all began at roughly the same time. History and archaeology had put it beyond doubt that agriculture and civilization were just a few thousand years old, but paleontology put it beyond doubt that humanity was millions of years old. Paleontology made it impossible to believe that Man had been born an agriculturalist and a civilization-builder. Paleontology forced us to conclude that Man had been born something else entirely - a forager and a homeless nomad - and this is what had been forgotten in the Great Forgetting.

It staggers the imagination to wonder what the foundation thinkers of our culture would have written if they’d known that humans had lived perfectly well on this planet for millions of years without agriculture or civilization, if they’d known that agriculture and civilization are not remotely innate to humans. I can only conclude that the entire course of our intellectual history would have been unthinkably different from what we find in our libraries today.

But here is one of the most amazing occurrences in all of human history. When the thinkers of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries were finally compelled to admit that the entire structure of thought in our culture had been built on a profoundly important error, absolutely nothing happened.

It’s hard to notice nothing happening. Everyone knows that. Readers of Sherlock Holmes will remember that the remarkable thing the dog did in the night was … nothing. And this is the remarkable thing that these thinkers did: nothing. Obviously they didn’t care to do anything. They didn’t care to go back to all the foundation thinkers of our culture and ask how their work would have changed if they’d known the truth about our origins. I fear the truth is that they wanted to leave things as they were. They wanted to go on forgetting … and that’s exactly what they did.

Of course they were forced to make some concessions. They couldn’t go on teaching that humans had been born farming. They had to deal with the fact that farming was a very recent development. They said to themselves, “Well, let’s call it a revolution - the Agricultural Revolution.” This was slovenly thinking at its worst, but who was going to argue about it? The whole thing was an embarrassment, and they were glad to dismiss it with a label. So it became the Agricultural Revolution, a new lie to be perpetuated down through the ages.

Historians were sickened to learn the true extent of the human story. Their whole discipline, their whole worldview, had been shaped by people who thought that everything had begun just a few thousand years ago when people appeared on the earth and started immediately to farm and to build civilization. This was history, this story of farmers turning up just a few thousand years ago, turning farming communes into villages, villages into towns, towns into kingdoms. This was the stuff, it seemed to them. This was what counted, and the millions of years that came before deserved to be forgotten.

Historians wouldn’t touch this other stuff, and here’s the excuse they fashioned for themselves. They didn’t have to touch it … because it wasn’t history. It was some newfangled thing called prehistory. That was the ticket. Let some inferior breed handle it - not real historians, but rather prehistorians. In this way, modern historians put their stamp of approval on the Great Forgetting. What was forgotten in the Great Forgetting was not something important, it was just prehistory. Something not worth looking at. A huge, long period of nothing happening.

The Great Remembering was in this way turned into a nonevent. The intellectual guardians of our culture - the historians, the philosophers, the theologians - didn’t want to hear about it. The foundations of all their disciplines had been laid during the Great Forgetting, and they didn’t want to reexamine those foundations. They were perfectly content to have the Great Forgetting go on - and, for all practical purposes, it did exactly that. The worldview we transmit to our children today is fundamentally the same as the worldview transmitted to children four hundred years ago. The differences are superficial. Instead of teaching our children that humanity began just a few thousand years ago (and didn’t exist before that), we teach them that human history began just a few thousand years ago (and didn’t exist before that). Instead of teaching our children that civilization is what humanity is all about, we teach them that civilization is what history is all about. But everyone knows that it comes to the same thing.

In this way human history is reduced to the period exactly corresponding to the history of our culture, with the other ninety-nine point-seven percent of the human story discarded as a mere prelude.

The myth of the Agricultural Revolution


That the earth is the motionless center of the universe was an idea that people accepted for thousands of years. In itself, it seems harmless enough, but it spawned a thousand errors and put a limit on what we could understand about the universe. The idea of the Agricultural Revolution that we learn in school and teach our children in school seems similarly harmless, but it too has spawned a thousand errors and puts a limit on what we can understand about ourselves and what has happened on this planet.

In a nutshell, the central idea of the Agricultural Revolution is this, that about ten thousand years ago, people began to abandon the foraging life in favor of agriculture. This statement misleads in two profoundly important ways: first, by implying that agriculture is basically just one thing (the way that foraging is basically just one thing), and second, by implying that this one thing was embraced by people everywhere at more or less the same time. There is so little truth in this statement that it isn’t worth bothering with, so I’ll just issue another one:

Many different styles of agriculture were in use all over the world ten thousand years ago, when our particular style of agriculture emerged in the Near East. This style, our style, is one I call totalitarian agriculture, in order to stress the way it subordinates all life-forms to the relentless, single-minded production of human food. Fueled by the enormous food surpluses generated uniquely by this style of agriculture, a rapid population growth occurred among its practitioners, followed by an equally rapid geographical expansion that obliterated all other lifestyles in its path (including those based on other styles of agriculture). This expansion and obliteration of lifestyles continued without a pause in the millennia that followed, eventually reaching the New World in the fifteenth century and continuing to the present moment in remote areas of Africa, Australia, New Guinea, and South America.

The foundation thinkers of our culture imagined that what we do is what people everywhere have done from the beginning of time. And when the thinkers of the nineteenth century were forced to acknowledge that this wasn’t the case, they imagined instead that what we do is what people everywhere have done for the past ten thousand years. They could easily have availed themselves of better information, but they obviously didn’t think it was worth bothering with.

East and West

It’s become a solid part of our cultural mythology that a profound gulf separates East from West, “and never the twain shall meet,” and this causes people to be disconcerted when I speak of East and West as a single culture. East and West are twins, with a common mother and father, but when these twins look at each other, they’re struck by the differences they see, not the similarities, just the way biological twins are. It takes an outsider like me to be struck by the fundamental cultural identity that exists between them.

Nothing could be more fundamental to any people than the way they get the wherewithal to live. The people of our culture, East and West, do this by means of totalitarian agriculture, and have done so from the beginning - the same beginning; for the past ten thousand years the people of both East and West have built squarely, solidly, and exclusively on totalitarian agriculture as their base. There’s not a single thing to chose between them in this regard.

Totalitarian agriculture is more than a means of getting what you need to live, it’s the foundation for the most laborious lifestyle ever developed on this planet. This comes as a shock to many listeners, but there isn’t any question about it: No one works harder to stay alive than the people of our culture do. This has been so thoroughly documented in the past forty years that I doubt if you could find an anthropologist anywhere who would argue about it.

It’s my notion that the laboriousness of their lifestyle has given rise to another fundamental similarity between the peoples of East and West, and this is the similarity in their spiritual outlook. Again, it’s commonplace to imagine that an enormous gulf separates East and West in this regard, but the two of them look like twins to me, because they’re both obsessed by the strange idea that people need to be saved. In recent decades, the salvationist coloration of Eastern religions has been toned down for export to Beat, hippie, and New Age markets, but it’s unmistakable when seen in the originals, in native habitats.

It’s certainly true that the ends and means of salvation differ between East and West, but then the ends and means of salvation differ among all the salvationist religions of the world - this is precisely how you tell them apart. The essential fact remains that, anywhere in the world, East or West, you can walk up to a stranger and say, “Let me show you how to be saved,” and you’ll be understood....


 
Mike Sved
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Thanks very much for introducing me to Daniel Quinn. I just finished reading 'Beyond Civilization' and feel like it filled in a lot of potholes in my path forward. Or sideways.
 
leila hamaya
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yes agreed, daniel quinn has some important answers.
i feel like he articulates many things i have stewed on in my mind, but been unable to vocalize so clearly.
i appreciate his straight forward and clear way of speaking/writing. i love it when i feel really blown away with so of the points he makes, so simply. the answers are much simpler than we let them be.....

the only way this piece here could be stronger (imo) is if it touched upon the many people "forgotten", who tried to prevent the current situation, and what seems to me as a highjacking of the collective...by this one anomalous weird culture.
and especially those of the spiritual groups who opposed these damaging lifeways and all the self fufilling prophecies of salvationist religions...the pagans, the animists, even the atheists and naturalists of so many different "forgotten" cultures...who were willing to stick their necks out and stand their ground - but (unfortunately for us now) lost.....

but guessing he might get into similar things in some of his other books, and the story of b, as it talks a lot about religions
 
Mike Sved
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He theorizes that civilizations such as the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, etc, etc didn't end the way we were taught. According to him, their agricultural lifestyle couldn't be sustained and the hierarchical structure was unacceptable so the people abandoned their society and stepped back into the jungle to live tribally and forage for their food. If this is correct, then it would seem as though we currently are just collectively too lazy and complacent to abandon a system that is oppressive, miserable, selfish and destructive.
 
leila hamaya
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thats interesting, it certainly seems possible.
in a conversation i had with one of the Karuk, who live in the mountains here in northern california, he was saying that even though the Karuk say they have been here "since the beginning"...a lot of them think they were originally from the area of the Mayans and Aztecs and they migrated up here..... perhaps that is true...if it is tho the karuk did not exclusively forage, they did a lot of horticulture...

idk tho if people are too lazy to abandon this system, there are many obstacles for people, even if they are completely determined to do something different with their lives.
 
Mike Sved
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One of the biggest obstacles for people who are completely determined to do something different with their lives is the consternation of their friends, family and neighbours. We police ourselves and each other more oppressively than any governmental agency.
I do, however, see an increasing trend of people experiencing a subconscious yearning for true freedom and simpler living but they seem reluctant to express it and afraid to act on it.
 
leila hamaya
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now that i am over 40, my parents and extended family have figured out it is certainly not "a phase" or whatever they may have thought and tried to talk me into in my twenties.
i have always had the same very simple dream and knew what i wanted to do with my life, and always had people trying to talk me out of it! even tho its not a bad thing, i just want to live in a simple shack, grow food and make art. build something simple to live in, find a nice boy man to share with and call it good. i have done that to the best of ability.

my biggest obstacle has been money, if some even small lump sum of money had ever come my way it wouldve been easier, but never happened. it is not like i really need money, or so i thought (!) but land is not exactly open and free, as i feel it should be. i really feel that i should be able to pick out a good spot, say this must be the place,and go about making some simple shelter and grow food, just be there because i am there.
so i lived in multiple communities, but there was a lot of drama and lack of stability...

but i agree with you, a lot of it is in our heads and the ideas and assumptions we are fed growing up in such a strange dysfunctional culture. i think theres a lot of unravelling of these kinds of base assumptions, that may not even be very noticeable because of how insidious they are, that needs to happen before someone can get their head straight. in the amplifying microcosm of community, this becomes very important, just how much work on oneself a person has done, trying to get rid of the damaging ideologies. many people do not even see this at all, and do not do "the work" that it takes...to get through all that and be good at living in community.

it should, it could, be as easy as breathing, to live in community peacefully, to get through the damaging ideologies we are taught...but in actuality i have found very few who are able to get their heads straight...most people dont ever see the need to do this...they think they are fine or whatever, without self examination they fall into the stupid traps that are always there.... and all the ways we isolate and hurt each other....
 
leila hamaya
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Mike Sved wrote:He theorizes that civilizations such as the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, etc, etc didn't end the way we were taught. According to him, their agricultural lifestyle couldn't be sustained and the hierarchical structure was unacceptable so the people abandoned their society and stepped back into the jungle to live tribally and forage for their food. If this is correct, then it would seem as though we currently are just collectively too lazy and complacent to abandon a system that is oppressive, miserable, selfish and destructive.


anywho i like the implications of this, regardless of whether this is completely true or whatever, but just that it contradicts the general assumption people can have (that is part of what daniel quinn is referring to here and elsewhere)...that there is like a linear progression from being a forager ---->to doing simpler form of horticulture----> industrial agriculture... and that is like the only way it can go...as opposed to seeing the simpler form of non technological horticulture (mixed with foraging) as being the peak, the ideal.

ah or at least , thats my take on it...that a lot of the horticultural cultures, with some foraging, who still had a deep connection to the land, had the best ways of going about getting what one's needs...and industrial agriculture, done in this "totalitarian agriculture" style he very appropriately describes it as, is a mistake, is unsustainable and destructive.
but not that ALL agriculture, horticulture, not all planting of seeds and growing food is the same...it may not seem as practical but it is in part about theideas and attitudes one has while doing it. growing food for only human needs and continuing on with an extractive model, of taking as much as you can and giving as little as possible...is never going to work out in the long term. using a regenerative model which continues to create more abundance perpetually, is the way to go....
 
leila hamaya
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well since i seem to be in a rambling mood, i will lay out what i think are the biggest obstacles...and agreed the pressure of other peoples expectations and ideas, the flack you get when trying to actualize different lifestyles is one big one...but i truly dont give a frack what people think of my lifestyle and that has never been my obstacle, nor is it laziness...besides the fact that living in these simpler ways takes a lot less time and energy, so laziness should actually be one of the benefit of a simple lifestyle...lots of time to enjoy oneself.

but even bigger....i think its the illusion of (so called) "real" estate, distorted understandings of private property = exploitation, the inequities and lack of justice and fairness of the current economy, that it is so nearly impossible to be able to buy land unless you have assistance from others, an inheritance or are in the small privileged group of people that can make more than peanuts instead of wage slaving.
then theres the dysfunctional dynamics in most "communities" that seem to be the norm and dont even get seen as being as dysfunctional as they are, the objectification of other lifeforms as "re" sources rather than interrelated beings worthy of respect, that exploitative and objectifying behaivoir is the surest means to "success" ..... that bullying judgement and agression are more highly prized than kindness, respect, and compassion...and oooo i could go on (and i have!!!) but thats enough for now....its much more complicated though...than just we are too lazy to change....
 
Mike Sved
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There is a very well-developed infrastructure in place to perpetuate the current state of society. Reclaiming one's sanity requires disconnecting from a wide array of subtle and not so subtle tethers that reduce our ability to think independently, logically and creatively. Television, music, newspapers, magazines, billboards, interwebs, packaging, etc, all bombard us with thought programming messages.

While we struggle to free ourselves, the majority of people are scrambling to sign up for newer, better, stronger tethers, thinking that they have to do so or risk being 'left behind', regardless of what lies 'ahead'. These people are then programmed to shun and/or attack anyone not with the program. It's a brilliant system for those benefitting from it and I feel sad for those being manipulated by it. To some extent, I'm still one of them.

I'm weary of lamenting and want to just get on with the things that I feel are worthwhile, responsible and enjoyable. I don't look forward to the obstacles ahead but I'd rather face them than glide down the freeway toward oblivion.

 
leila hamaya
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Mike Sved wrote:There is a very well-developed infrastructure in place to perpetuate the current state of society. Reclaiming one's sanity requires disconnecting from a wide array of subtle and not so subtle tethers that reduce our ability to think independently, logically and creatively. Television, music, newspapers, magazines, billboards, interwebs, packaging, etc, all bombard us with thought programming messages.

While we struggle to free ourselves, the majority of people are scrambling to sign up for newer, better, stronger tethers, thinking that they have to do so or risk being 'left behind', regardless of what lies 'ahead'. These people are then programmed to shun and/or attack anyone not with the program. It's a brilliant system for those benefitting from it and I feel sad for those being manipulated by it. To some extent, I'm still one of them.

I'm weary of lamenting and want to just get on with the things that I feel are worthwhile, responsible and enjoyable. I don't look forward to the obstacles ahead but I'd rather face them than glide down the freeway toward oblivion.



agreed, totally.

especially "i feel sad for those being manipulated by it", but those who SEEM to be benefitting from it are also being manipulated by it....and what can seem like a benefit in the short term can be anything but a true benefit. i will be on their side too, everyones side, even if people like that wont be on my side!
theres really only one side to be on, everyones side.
those who cause a lot of damage without realizing, those who have little understanding for others, and who reject, judge and exclude continually, those who cause the most pain are those who are in the most pain, i am on their side too.

and totally its a bit of a taboo to whine and "lament" too much, focus on the problems, and it can get people too down and/or apathetic/helpless/paralyzed.....and i can agree that we have to make the best of WHAT IS, AS IS...without getting too wrapped up in negativity. but i also dont think we cant just ignore the negativity...and that most people are truly being VICTIMIZED, while simultaneously not allowed to be victimized. victimized by each other in part, but mostly victimized by ideas and assumptions, or actions of people long dead who set certain things in motion. and by the illusions of normalcy, trying to fit in, trying to measure up....as well as a system of exploitation that actively seeks to exploit anyone and everyone, as well as the natural world.

so not to say that i encourage people to get wrapped up in their victimization, or the problems they have...for sure i would never say this to anyone (or especially myself)...and especially not take responsibility when it is needed. but not acknowledging some of these more negative things, the way most everyone is f****d over by the system, the pain and the shame and the frustration, and of course that they are supposedly "not good enough"...i dont think the answer is to ignore this. at least things make more sense and its easier to have compassion for people when you see how we are all in this unhealthy crazy soup together and mostly just treading barely, but struggling. even those few who seem to have it made, its impossible to know what their struggles are to them....and that theres a lot they are not seeing as to how they are affecting others, and even ultimately themselves in the long run...

i think atm, our problems are so huge and overwhelming, and on a scale where we as individuals cannot address them, large systemic interconnected problems that amplify each other. instead of acknowledge and attempt to address these things, really look at the negative and attempt to deal with it, theres a lot of gloss over, or to ignore that it has anything to do with oneself...shift the blame onto others, or the reverse and act as though it is all one's own fault in self depreciation. in this way we take it out on each other and ourselves, when really it is much larger and more all encompassing, and not because one isnt "good enough" or "too lazy", or not taking responsibility, or etc....whatever flack from the unreasonable inner drill sargeant we all have inside, telling us how we should be able to do better, without acknowledging the crazy soup we are all caught in.
much as its difficult in the day to day, i think it is best to assume people are doing the best they can, even when it totally sucks!

well here now we have wandered pretty far from the OP, or maybe we are still in the ballpark...but i will get off my little soapbox now, perhaps i am just channeling my inner B ! having a good rant might be a good thing every now and again =).
 
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