Monday, 4 January 2016

tonic and toil

Archaeologists and ethnographers trying to reconstruct the inaccessible past (though there are plenty of cultural references to curse and toil—like in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden) have questioned why humanity moved from a hunter-gatherer society to agriculture and division of labour and have puzzled over this apparently rash decision, as a sustenance way of life is far less taxing and obligates far less of an individual’s free-time to earn one’s daily bread, as it were.
Giving into such incursions—alienation from labour that’s unfolded down intractable paths as civilisation, does seem to be quite a harsh punishment and we’re given to wonder for what award. Such advance is certainly not something to be taken for granted in the march of progress—other models are possible and farming and herding can be as capricious as scrounging for nuts and berries and game. One does not see other primates rushing towards cultivation—and not just despoiled wheat and grapes, and deferring one’s harvest to some unknown date. Some think, however, that the compulsion and motivation, perhaps the toxic knowledge, lie in fermentation. Humans would have never entered into such a social-contract without the accidental discovery of beer and wine (succour, according to other traditions)—or however one might name the libation. This does seem like a rather thunderous, not to invoke later protestations after that support structure was already well-established, revelation that can’t be unseen like the knowledge of Good and Evil, Drunk and Sober, and demarcating that free time sacrificed. That’s a little bit of magic, with primacy over bread, manna and other crops, that could elevate one from dull cares for a little while at least, even if that comes at a very high cost with equally high returns.