“Eating is an agricultural act”*…
… at least in these post-hunter-gatherer days, it is… and therein lies the problem?
To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.
At first, the evidence against this revisionist interpretation will strike twentieth century Americans as irrefutable…
Read Jared Diamond’s (1987) refutation in “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.”
* Wendel Berry
As we hunt and gather, we might spare a celebratory thought for “the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”– it’s Guy Fawkes Day.
On the eve of a general parliamentary session scheduled for November 5, 1605, Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking in a cellar of the Parliament building, and ordered the premises thoroughly searched. Nearly two tons of gunpowder were found hidden within the cellar. The authorities determine that the suspect was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy, largely organized by Robert Catesby, to annihilate England’s entire Protestant government including King James I. Over the next few months, English authorities killed or captured all of the conspirators in the “Gunpowder Plot,” and also arrested, tortured, or killed dozens of innocent English Catholics. Fawkes himself was executed on January 31, 1606.
The day after Fawkes arrest, November 5, 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, “always provided that ‘this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder'”; an Act of Parliament later that year designated November 5th as an official day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance”, and remained in force until 1859.
But as historian Lewis Call has observed, Fawkes is now “a major icon in modern political culture.” The image of Fawkes’s face has become “a potentially powerful instrument for the articulation of postmodern anarchism” during the late 20th century, exemplified by the mask worn by V in the comic book series V for Vendetta, who fights against a fictional fascist English state, and by activists who were part of the Occupy Movement.