2344. Stories from the deep past.

Cattle, law, grain, capitalism, equal distribution, resistance to settlement.

Society has never taken up the challenge of managing the whole, though I just learned that the Chinese , jing li, for economics came from the Japanese and meant — long ago — managing for the benefit of all. This amazingly parallels the greek economy where the nomos, meant, in early Greek, “equal distribution”. This seemingly trivial detail is important because, as the church lands gave way to state or private ownership, it kept the idea of an intact eco, home, and its management, nomo. The idea of economy as a realm within but not equivalent to, society, has its roots here.

The history of the nomos part of “economy” is amazing in its implications and very important for Gardenworld. The key implication is that there are different ways society can be organized. Gardenworld needs this opening so we don’t fall into just trying to repeat the kind of society we have with its exploitation and misuse of land and people.

Plato’s book  The Laws as man made, is actually preceded by  a more powerful idea. Start with the idea that Cattle was the first kind of wealth. The new calf  (head of cattle, hence cap, “head” as in new head of cattle and on to capitalism, arising from the dynamics of cattle raising) increases the size of the herd, at first community responsibility. As the herd grew, conflicts arose about grazing rights and the focus of wealth shifted to land and how to measure it. But the culture, coming out of shared hunter gathering, wanted to maintain the culture of sharing and so looked to divide the land equally among families. But of course there is no equal land, swamp, dry rocky hillsides. The word used, nomia meant equal distribution. This tension exists in modern and probably all law. No need for a law if there isn’t a problem to be corrected, and the early use of nomia was thus an intent to maintain equality while underlying forces were leading to inequality.

This and other histories are important to understand because they encourage us to consider alternatives to a capital/labor divide which has been quite destructive. We need choices if we are to put together a regenerative start.

This requires some deep rethinking as we move toward a different future. 

James C. Scott’s Against the Grain: a deep history of early states tells the history of the resistance for 100,000 years or more that early humans avoided settlement. Settlement meant an elite and slave labor. The wall wasn’t to keep intruders out – a rare event – but to keep slaves in. Diet was reduced, health deteriorated, the easy work of hunter gatherers meandering four hours a day gave way to dawn to night labor. 

Jeremy McInerney’a The Cattle of the Sun_ Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks shows that the ancient empires were really cattle ranches. Recall your reading of The Odyssey and the dependence of Odysseues’s crew on beef. on cattle.

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