Sunday, October 27, 2013

Part II: Polytheistic Hunter-Gatherers Give Way to Monoculture

the ancient pictograph-petroglyph:
the resident guardian of aboriginal spirit on the Columbia River
Horsethief Lake State Park, WA

In my last blog post on Polytheism, I wrote about how it is high time for us as citizens of the world to reject the arid scientific paradigm we suffer under – a monoculture – a single viewpoint of bloodless rationality that separates us from our our instinctual energies and our souls; and separates us from our bodies, sense of place, and mother earth.

We need to make a paradigm shift from pretending that we are inhabited by only one way of being, one viewpoint, one god, to imagine the world as it really is, inhabited by many viewpoints, many ways of being, many gods. I tried to show that this shift is not as  as earth shattering as it seems: we are merely  reverting back to the worldview of our forebears who practiced  polytheistic psychology.

In this, Part II on the subject, I want to establish the connection showing how monocultures control our agriculture in the same way our monotheistic scientific myth controls society. And that this connection is no accident, but just two sides of the same coin. 

Craig Chalquist has written extensively about this connection: about how the rich tapestry of polytheistic psychology practiced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors first began to fray with the advent of agriculture.

“It could be argued that the first systematic psychological splits between self and world, inner and outer, conscious self and unconscious Other widened during the Agricultural Revolution, when the land was first thought of as a resource to exploit. Most of what we know as “civilization,” including centralized power, hierarchical management, urbanization and sprawl, institutionalized religion, organized warfare, and masculinist control sprouted along with those early mono-cropped fields.”⁠1

Mark Bittman has written an illuminating piece on the dangers of mono-crops recently in the New York Times.⁠2 He quotes Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute: “The plow has destroyed more options for future generations than the sword.”

Giant agribusiness corporations, using the latest science, have pushed hard to expand monoculture agriculture. It’s easier to make a profit growing vast fields of a single crop, each totally reliant, of course, on the latest technology to thwart enemy insects with pesticides and increase yields with more potent fertilizers and genetically modified seeds.

Wes Jackson exposes the folly of monocultures just as James Hillman (in my last blog post) exposes the folly of monotheism.  A single pest or disease can, out-of-the-blue, destroy an undiversified, single crop – leading, in some cases, to mass starvation as when the Irish potato blight struck. This susceptibility of monocultures to sudden wipe out is analogous, to my way of thinking, to the boom and bust cycles of the stock market.

Not only that, like unrestrained capitalism, monocultures are disastrous for the environment, causing massive soil erosion, depletion of vital microorganisms in the soil,  pollution of our water from overuse of fertilizers, and the poisoning of our entire ecosystem by overuse of pesticides and herbicides, to say nothing of the long term damage that will result from playing god by genetically modifying the seeds essential to our continued existence on earth.

Just as monotheism causes psychological splits – between self and world, inner and out, conscious self and unconscious – resulting in the psyche manifesting its shadow side in unintended dysfunctional behavior like violence and war, so does our over reliance on mono-crops lead to an unintended  war on nature – a fight to the death.


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