What do the movies Vertigo and Mulholland Drive have in common? How do you make Nuoc mam? Does the term “totalitarian agriculture” bother you? Or do you prefer “dominant economy”? We read a letter from a listener and we contemplate the contemplative life. All that and ice cream!
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“Totalitarian agriculture dictates that we make radically more food than what we immediately need. Quinn (1996) coined the term “in order to stress the way it subordinates all life forms to the relentless, single-minded production of human food” (p. 247). The central imperative is to expand food production, nothing else. Succeeding other, more sustainable forms of food production 10,000 years ago, totalitarian agriculture quickly became the prevailing method of feeding ourselves. It continues to displace obscure holdouts of former food production methods — Afghanistan’s Kochi nomads or the Sentinelese hunter-gatherers of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, for instance. These cultures are fading away. Totalitarian agriculture transcends political ideologies and geographic boundaries, uniformly occupying East and West, Left and Right. Human wellbeing and general social progress are sometimes happy byproducts of this system and are used to justify it. But improvement of the human condition has nothing to do with totalitarian agriculture’s animating tenet of perpetual growth. We know wellbeing is not a goal of totalitarian agriculture because perpetual food expansion also inflicts tragic human suffering on a global scale, stripping most of us of leisure time, health, social contact, and dignity.
It’s important to note that agriculture is not inherently totalitarian; tribal societies have practiced sustainable forms of agriculture for millennia. These models can yield humble stores, but they do not care about growing the population or expanding into new territory. Only the modern strain of agriculture — shaped, accelerated, and purveyed to every corner of the earth over the last ten millennia — is totalitarian (Quinn, 1996, p. 253–255).” from 'A Cosmic Tragedy' by Aaron Hedge.