Richard Manning, author of Against the Grain (2004), frames civilization as a human zoo that makes us all psychotic. Hunter-gatherers who observe domesticated humans literally think we’re crazy.
A few important snippets:
“Think of an animal in the zoo. It’s deprived of things that keep that animal going — the smells, the sights, the sounds, the instincts… the hunting. And they become psychotic. Literally psychotic. Their behavior is gone. They’re social animals and we can understand their behavior so the term “psychotic” makes sense… In wolves for instance… dogs certainly. There are more psychotic dogs around us than any other kind.
I think we have done something to ourselves that is exactly analogous to that. We put ourselves in a cage. This cage of civilization and cities, and in a way it has made us psychotic.”
More important snippets:
If you would have a group of hunter-gatherers — and this has happened a lot — hunter-gatherers watch behavior of people in our society, they would think we were crazy because of the way we behave… because we are. And we have become crazy because we have lost that physical contact with what goes on around us. We are sensual beings.
We try to replace it a gillion different ways… but it’s a substitute for what was there all along — that opening that can occur from being out there…
…and it’s difficult to explain it to someone who’s never experienced it. But when you’ve experienced it it’s not some great magical mystical thing so much as it’s just very real. It’s just a sensual thing to simply go back and live the way we evolved to live.
We can think of this also in terms of ethics. I’ve finally come to decide to define ethics as being true to your genetic heritage… We try to say that we are not that way, that we are not animal, and therefore we suppress those things within us.
…a proper system would examine as deeply as we can, and as rationally as we can, what we are, and what we’re meant to be. Then you can allow your life to somehow mirror that — mirror your genetic heritage.”
I highly recommend Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization. I’d say it’s one of the Top 5 most important books of our time. I suspect Manning’s most recent book, Rewilding the West: Restoration in a Prairie Landscape is equally great and important, but I haven’t read it at the time of this writing.
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