Agriculture, the indispensable basis of civilization, was originally encountered as time, language, number and art won out. As the materialization of alienation, agriculture is the triumph of estrangement and the definite divide between culture and nature and humans from each other.
Agriculture is the birth of production, complete with its essential features and deformation of life and consciousness. The land itself becomes an instrument of production and the planet’s species its objects. Wild or tame, weeds or crops speak of that duality that cripples the soul of our being, ushering in, relatively quickly, the despotism, war and impoverishment of high civilization over the great length of that earlier oneness with nature. The forced march of civilization, which Adorno recognized in the “assumption of an irrational catastrophe at the beginning of history,” which Freud felt as “something imposed on a resisting majority,” of which Stanley Diamond found only “conscripts, not volunteers,” was dictated by agriculture. And Mircea Eliade was correct to assess its coming as having “provoked upheavals and spiritual breakdowns” whose magnitude the modern mind cannot imagine.
“To level off, to standardize the human landscape, to efface its irregularities and banish its surprises,” these words of E.M. Cioran apply perfectly to the logic of agriculture, the end of life as mainly sensuous activity, the embodiment and generator of separated life. Artificiality and work have steadily increased since its inception and are known as culture: in domesticating animals and plants man necessarily domesticated himself.
That’s the beginning of a lengthy, thoughtful piece on agriculture and its faults or potential faults. I have to say that I resonate with the author’s message and points. Of course, agriculture has been theorized as the beginning of environmental destruction many times by now, but this author goes quite deep into the issue, and in a very eloquent way. To check out the full piece by John Zerzan, head on over to The Anthropik Network: Agriculture: Demon Engine of Civilization
What do you think, is agriculture the “demon engine of civilization” or is it something a little more positive?..
Photo Credit: Jim Moran