This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
I've tangled with a lot of opinionated folks since I started this blog. But I never expected the response I got to my post on Lierre Keith. It reminds me that as much as vegans and animal rights activists irk me, we are all trying to make civilization a better place, even if our ultimate visions are different. Wasn't there a movie about this?
Anti-civilization ideologues see the injustices of the world and can only envision tearing everything down, which is sadly based on a vision of pre-civilization humans that is doubtful and the idea that the earth is dying, which is also doubtful. If we are to tear down civilization, I'd think we'd want our tenets to be based on ideas that are true beyond a reasonable doubt. Besides that, the overwhelming evidence is that places that descend into anarchy see resource degradation accelerate. For accounts of this, see Jared Diamond's Collapse.
Overwhelmingly, my regular readers were supportive, but apparently my post was posted on an anti-civilization forum and they sicced their cult on me (not an isolated event, certainly, as can be seen on any blog post critical of Jensen & co.) there were several very disturbing comments and I had to turn on moderation. At some point I became so busy that the moderation queue got out of hand and so I closed comments. At that point I started receiving some disturbing emails. My mother said I should pull the post, arguing that even though it may be true it wasn't worth antagonizing people who embrace violence. I felt a little like The Voracious Vegan. Like her, I absolutely refuse to delete my post, despite being threatened and called a corporate shill (and worse). Don't feel sorry for me: I welcome this. It only confirms my desire to see the paleo/ancestral health community educated about Lierre's agenda. That said, this is a blog about paleo/ancestral health and from now on I will delete comments unless they are constructive. Their forum is kept under lock and key (possibly because they are advocating violence and terrorism) and Jensen's "reading club" brokers no criticism, I have no obligation to keep mine open. Yes, I kind of let the comments on the last post go to hell. Having moderated many online communities, I am aware that no one benefits from anarchy within a small community. And there is no use arguing with people who have their minds made up that civilization must be destroyed at any cost.
So my new comment policy is that I will not publish your comment at all if there is any evidence you are here just to troll. If you are a regular commenter here I will put you on a whitelist so your comments don't have to be moderated.
I suppose this is what happens when your evidence for your absolute convinction that civilization is evil and much be destroyed consists of a pitiably small sample set of bones, tiny groups of surviving foraging people who have been influenced by civilizations, and great apes, who are also impacted by modernity. There are more controversies than sureties. If great apes are any indication, life in the paleolithic was probably quite varied. Some tribes were probably warlike, others peaceful. In the meantime, anthropologists will continue to argue about the the significance bones with arrow wounds from 50,000 years ago, totally unaware that anti-civ activists have taken some isolated pop-sci fiction anthropology works and turned them into terroristic manifestos. That's not to say that I reject the idea that civilization has been a devil's bargain, but there is no way to know what we have lost and whether or not going back would make things better.
As for the book recs, I'm working on it :)
What purpose in these deeds
Oh fox confessor, please
Who married me to these orphaned blues
"It's not for you to know, but for you to weep and wonder
When the death of your civilization precedes you,"- Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
I've been reading Tyler Cowan's The Great Stagnation, which is what he calls the period we are in. I believe it. Maybe it's just the fact I graduated college in this period, but it does feel like stagnation is a very palpable part of my life. I sometimes imagine I am part of a new sort of people- the nouveau poor. We make much less money than our parents did at our ages and don't have many career advancement opportunities. We aren't impoverished, but some of us linger below the federal poverty line, as I did for the year or so after I graduated.
But we grew up in the middle or upper middle class and went to college, so we don't fit the "poor" stereotypes. We are used to a certain standard of living and maintain it somewhat, even if it means scrimping by to do it or approaching it in a novel way. We live in pretty nice areas, but share our tiny apartments with an inordinate amount of roommates. We eat good food, but save money on it through buying clubs, community gardens, and DIY processing. We shop in thrift stores and scavenge furniture from the trash. Time consuming things like canning or backyard chickens don't have a high opportunity cost for us because there isn't much work to go around. Most of us are "creatives," but almost all of us have college degrees that aren't easily convertible to work skills such as those in English or History. A lot of us pay the bills in unrelated fields as baristas or waiters.
If we can afford to have families, many of us chose to spend more time with the children realizing it doesn't make sense to work 40 hours of a job that has nothing to do with what you like so you can give 80% of your income to paying someone else to raise your children and quite a bit of the rest to a government that seems like a dying dinosaur. In fact, there is a general return to homemaking and a greater value placed on quality of life. More time is spent on things like cooking and gardening. The paradox is while we might make less money than our parents did, we might be much healthier since many of us have more time for good food, family, and exercise. The idea that housekeeping might be banal has fallen in the face of the fact that most of us will never posses the fulfilling careers our college counselors promised.
Other nouveau poors might be more stressed because they still have dreams about their creative career and are trying to balance it with bartending. But most of us have given up on that sort of thing. It's not that there is no innovation or ambition, we're just learning we shouldn't base our lives on our careers.
The downsides are real of course. There is a worry that men aren't "manning up", but in reality many men and women seem stuck in adolescence because they cannot afford to start households. Another problem is that some people spend an exorbitant amount of money on education that may not have much of a payoff, such as graduate school in British Literature or expensive private colleges. As a result, many of us have large amounts of debt and no hope of ever paying it off.*
*I've been lucky in this respect since I went to a state school