Taken from 'The Final Empire', by William Kotke, Arrow Point Press, USA, 1993
In order to retain our sense of reality, it is necessary for us to look briefly at where we are in our understanding of food producing, so that we can appreciate the tremendously valuable advice of the elders, even if we and the anthropologists can only glimpse the larger outlines of it. Civilised agriculture is a war with the spirit of life and war with the cosmos. Agriculture is an effort to force the simplicity and unbalance of the "ten world food plants" on the cosmos.
When the climax ecosystem is cleared for agriculture, the earth seeks by all means at its disposal to heal the wound. It sends in the first aid crew to revegetate the area and cover the poor oxidizing and eroding, bare soil. If life finds some unnatural abundance of exotic plants there, like soybeans or designer flowers, it calls in all the species of fungus, micro-organism and insects that can eat up that sickly or unnatural life and reconvert it back into the life stream.
What this means is, that it takes energy to fight life which is making an effort to rebalance itself. To do this requires fertilisers, poisons, petroleum, steel mills, agricultural universities, polluted waters, dead seas and so on and on. When technicians look at a swidden plot in the rainforest and compare its productivity to a farm field and talk of how the "natives" might increase the productivity of the swidden plot to "help" them achieve some surpluses to sell so that they can exist on the margins of the money economy, what we are really looking at is trying to help them get some money so that they too can help poison and kill.
Native cultures are organic formations on the earth, they are not intellectual/ideological groups. We cannot expect that they understand the moral history of the steel axe and we cannot fault them for their "absurd truthfulness" and inability to refuse the invaders statement that there is a better way than the one they have always used. The historical corruption of natural culture has not been a contest of force between two groups but simply injury to the organic cultural form, the same as a climax ecosystem is deformed by a bulldozer.
A system whose purpose is to extort surpluses from the soil requires a fight against nature, usually in the form of monocropping, and that all important pattern of empire- simplification and control. Our interest is in an entirely different perspective, an inverse perspective. Complexity, not immediate explosions of production is desired. Stability, fertility, and diversity should constantly increase. When people are released from the extortion/profit motive in agriculture then the latitude for creative abilities are released and the scope of possibilities increases tremendously.
Some hints from the elders about an inverse method of producing food will be gained. Producing food by adaptation to the balance of life is the inverse of modern agriculture.
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