Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

October 30, 2007

Real Time: New Rules 10/26/07

Filed under: environment, history, politics — Tags: — codesmithy @ 8:14 am

Bill Maher had an excellent “New Rules” segment last Friday. It is good to watch in its entirety.

It is important to remember that the development of agriculture, civilization and the state were almost unquestionably praised. Hobbes summed up life in the state of nature thusly in “The Leviathan.”

In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

This view of the state of nature went unchallenged for centuries, despite the fact that there was little evidence to support the claims.  In Hobbes’ view, the state was justified to exist, no matter how tyrannical or unjust because any state was certainly better than the horrific state of nature.  A funny thing happened when archaeologists went looking for the evidence to support this largely unquestioned view.  They found it largely unsupported.

Agriculture did not improve the quality of life, it actually made quality of life go down.  What it did allow was greater population density and growth.  100 unhealthy farmers could defeat 1 hunter-gatherer, no matter how healthy.  This essentially allowed the farmers to push the hunter-gatherers to the land they didn’t want, and set mankind along this tumultuous path.  The question is: can we, as a species, survive on the course we have chosen?  One, whose true legacy does not rest on the foundation of rational, enlightened betterment, but rather ruthless, resource efficiency.

One aspect is clear, we cannot continue to treat this world as an infinite resource and infinite trashcan.  Additionally, in this increasingly nuclear age, aggression and conflict can literally result in an epic calamity that would throw our very survival into doubt.  Events and consequences can rapidly spiral out of control.  The question is, what will we do about it?  Will we face the challenge and rise above it, or sit back as the world burns?

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