G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Chris Ware: "Being a cartoonist means you don’t consider yourself too fancy."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Were we Bean Counters even before Wheat Domesticated us?

Wheat prices have been on the boil for a while now. Since March 31 this year, they are up by almost 52% in international markets.

Business Standard (August 28, 2007) has a headline: “Wheat prices jump to all-time high”. A day later it changed to: “Wheat may rise 15% by Diwali” with a subtext “India has to pay a heavy price as govt bungles on imports”.

Wheat is reigning supreme. Thanks to both shortages and rampant speculation. Much like crude oil.

Richard Manning wrote “Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization” in year 2004.

Manning claims (Atlantic Unbound | April 1, 2004) : “… tribes—particularly hunter-gatherer tribes—live in a way that is fundamentally sustainable, whereas the social system that developed with the advent of agriculture has spawned inequality and famine, and has had an immense environmental impact in a period of time (about 10,000 years) that pales in comparison to the history of human life on the planet (about 4 million years)…

One view is to say that all the damage we see on the planet is the result of our numbers, and of human nature—and that agriculture is the worst symptom of the human condition, because it has the greatest impact on the planet. In this analysis, we don't blame agriculture—we blame humans.

But I don't think that's the full explanation. This gets a lot richer when you look at co-evolution: it's not just human genes at work here. It's wheat genes and corn genes—and how they have an influence on us. They took advantage of our ability to travel, our inventiveness, our ability to use tools, to live in a broad number of environments, and our huge need for carbohydrates. Because of our brains' ability, we were able to spread not only our genes, but wheat's genes as well. That's why I make the argument that you have to look at this in terms of wheat domesticating us, too. That co-evolutionary process between humans and our primary food crops is what created the agriculture we see today….

The biggest problem with agriculture—and civilization—seems to be the surplus it creates....

Since civilization began, surplus has been with us. A kind of "blind need for excess" has been driving our culture in exactly the wrong direction. It creates stratified societies. The CEO of a corporation makes a thousand times more than one of his workers. That kind of disparity doesn't exist in any other type of species. And that would suggest that we haven't gotten any better at handling surplus—in fact we've gotten worse at it.

Dealing with surplus is a difficult task…”

Yes indeed and that’s why we need bean counters, accountants.

But the question before us is: Did all this start even before agriculture?


Artist: Sam Gross The New Yorker January 11, 1993