This phrase was gifted to me the other day whilst out experiencing my usual “walking trance”. It wasn’t difficult for me to realise where this had originated from. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reading the books of Daniel Quinn, namely “Ishmael” and “The Story of B”. To some of you reading this, these books may be old hat, seeing as they were originally published in the early to mid 1990’s (and I understand Ishmael was originally penned in 1977). However, I hadn’t heard of them myself and was alerted to them by a “not unheard of” series of synchronous events that have a regular habit of impacting on me from time to time.
The basic premise of the books deals with the possible reasons for the collective cultural amnesia we seem to have regarding what is now termed as “prehistory”. Quinn suggests, then goes on to articulate, why this may be. Through the books suggestions and conclusions, Quinn goes on to call for the re-establishment of tribal practices through the premise that tribalism better represents evolution because of its inherent compliance with the natural prerogative of diversity.
This has connected with me, I suspect, because of the tribal histories of the UK that I have studied and experienced in many forms in various landscapes within the UK. Reading these books has now shone a new light on those understandings and interactions.
His astute appraisal of our post ice-age culture which he terms as “totalitarian agriculture” matches with some of my own experiences. Understanding the mechanisms and some of the consequent behavioural patterns that formed through the totalitarian agriculture model approach has now given me much to ponder on (including the re-appraisal of some “givens”, always a good thing in my opinion). And one unexpected consequence was that my understanding of my connection with and through my own Druidry has been strengthened through these new understandings.
I have now come to realise that my inability to connect with and through a monotheistic framework was, in part, based in my incompatibility with the basic premise of a “one” way that appears to be a direct result of the totalitarian agricultural cultural model. A culture whose successful implementation provided excesses in food that were unknown and unexperienced before and which led to fundamental departures from earlier social, religious and work practices through its total assimilation into the post ice age cultures.
Quinn clarifies the fact that the ancestors of the modern human has been around for around 3 million years and that for them to have survived, their survival strategy must have worked well before the totalitarian agriculture model came in. It’s an obvious statement on the face of it, but the reality behind the strategy is something you don’t really give too much time to consider and our mindset isn’t encouraged to because of the obvious lack of evidence.
It has been “relegated” to prehistory. But it’s the length of time that prehistory actually spans that we forget and through our cultural amnesia, our current models only refer back as far as the ending of the last ice age. And that’s because totalitarian agricultural practices have so utterly removed us from our previous models.
What we can deduct however, is that it wasn’t the same culture as the post ice-age one. Again, on the face of it, an obvious statement. But the reality that the vast majority of the history that “modern humans” have been on the earth, the strategy that worked was one that resulted in diverse cultures that were numerically restricted through their intimate relationship with and through their environment.
The agricultural model went on to place humanity outside of that model and consequently largely outside of nature, because the normal limiting natural processes that would act upon the populations were largely removed because of the over-riding directive of land appropriation for food production.
Quinn places this time of divergence as the time when humanity went from a largely “giving” culture to a “taking” culture (the terminology of such, Quinn through his characters, confirmed only represented a base understanding and a coarse representation). The pre-agricultural societies representing a “giver” society and the later agricultural one, a “taking” society.
I would be dis-ingenuous if I were to try to imply I would prefer to live in a tribal culture on the strength of reading these books. As with most other things, these books don’t represent “the answer”, but point out some of the things that we may have forgotten or just taken as granted in our modern world, though Quinn points out why it has been so easy for us to forget the realities through assumptions or even coercion fostered in the post ice-age cultural model.
I am left with the seeds of new connections in my hands. How I utilise them is something not yet clear, though use them, I feel, I must.