Monday, June 20, 2011

400. A Word with the Readers

Bogie: Assistant Editor
The last Our Place in the World post (no. 399) is a report about recent research on the dawn of “civilization,” the so-called “agricultural revolution.”  Researchers at Emory University have concluded: “When populations around the globe started turning to agriculture around 10,000 years ago, regardless of their locations and type of crops, a similar trend occurred: The height and health of the people declined.” 

It has commonly been accepted until fairly recently that the dawn of agriculture was a hugely progressive moment when some hunter-gatherer societies gave up their more difficult life for the comfort of a stable and more nutritious diet.  During the past three decades a consensus is forming that the change occurred under circumstances prompted by climate change and mediated by a growing tendency to domesticate species and the beginning of a rise in stratification within and between some hunter-gatherer societies. 

Still, the idea of civilization is held in great esteem.  Art, philosophy, culture, science and medicine, and technological change are all attributed to it.  Much less is said about what has been lurking in the background: the rise of patriarchy, private property, class and state, institutions that have facilitated appropriation of social surplus product by ruling classes. 

If the “agricultural revolution” was based on “domestication,” that is, the process of domination, control and exploitation of other species and the natural environment that made for and later supported socially stratified human societies, the rise of civilization was marked by wholesale domestication of human beings themselves.  If hunter-gatherer societies were relatively egalitarian and cooperative groups that lived largely by adaptation to their natural environment, “civilized” societies from antiquity to present have been based on increasing domination of nature and other human beings by the ruling classes and increased differentiation and alienation of humans from the rest of nature and other species.

Despite the riches of the ruling classes and their ideological props, some of which remain as historical sites and objects of awe for us to this day, the shorter and sicker stature of humans remained for centuries.  

A reversal has occurred more recently, beginning with the elite. The report reminds us that major gain in human stature came “in the developed world during the past 75 years, following the industrialization of food systems.”  The industrial food system refers to a massive increase in the number and misery of farm animals hundreds of billions of whom are slaughtered each year to feed a fast growing world human population that is increasingly urban.

Meanwhile, industrial capitalism has combined malignant growth for accumulation sake with an entire culture of mass consumption based on fossil fuel.  Capitalist crises in their full manifestation include ecological crisis that has been in the works even (or perhaps especially) during the Golden Age of capitalism.  With each day's news it appears as if the world is coming apart at its seams. The future of life on Earth and our own very existence is in balance. 

The only rational and ethnical response to this crisis is to replace the capitalist ecosocial relations with an ecological socialist relations.  Ecosocialist relations presuppose a return to an ecocentric view of the world.  What this process entails is the subject of discussion among ecosocialists.  Like all creative processes it will benefit from diversity of views, and individual and collective praxis.  Our Place in the World is dedicated to this process. 
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Since my last “A Word with the Readers”, there has been 99 posts (no. 301 to no. 399 inclusive).  A large number of posts are about ecological crisis and environmental degradation: 18 posts about climate change and global warming, 13 posts about ecocide and environmental destructive policies such as building giant dams and deforestation, six posts are about Japan’s nuclear disaster and its aftermath, and two posts about resistance to such policies.  There are three posts about alternative energy options.

There is one post about the recent revised UN upward estimate of world population growth to more than 10 billion by 2050.  There are also seven posts on resources shortage such as water and food, scarcities partly related to climate change. There are five posts on issues of human welfare.  Four posts remember comrades and others who fought for human dignity and radical social or ecosocialist change. 

There are seven posts about evolution and five post on evolution of our own species, two posts about nature, four posts on non-human animals, one each dealing with philosophy and  science.  There is one post about animal rights and animal liberation—in my view a central topic to ecological socialism. 

There are two posts about capitalism, three on imperialism, four about repression, and two about health hazard caused by such system.  Two posts deal with religion. 

There are 15 posts on Cuba, three on Latin America, and two on the Middle East.

I should like to restate a standard journalistic policy: all signed articles represent the views of their author(s).  They are posted here because they relate to a subject of our interest and some from mass media can even represent current bourgeois thought.  Only unsigned articles are the points of view of Our Place in the World.

Our Place in the World has been in existence for a little over two years. It has become a resource for a number of people and communities across the world. Please help us to improve it by commenting on the posts, by sending articles, and by sharing ideas and criticism by writing to If you like a post, please share it with others.

--Kamran Nayeri
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