Rebuilding Civilization: The Hunter-Gatherer

Thanks to Audre Myers of Nebraska Energy Observer I have a new commenter on the blog, 39 Pontiac Dream, a proper English gent of the old school (or so I gather).  He very kindly shared some links with me from The Conservative Woman (or TWC as it is styled on its website), a site both Audre and Neo have recommended to me many times.  One of those links was to an intriguing piece by Stuart Wavell, “The next civilisation.”

Our culture has an obsession with apocalyptic scenarios:  massive plagues (a bit too relevant at the moment); zombie uprisings (always a popular one); massive meteor impacts (a bit retro—a favorite of the 1990s).  Perhaps it’s a sign of a moribund and decadent culture that we fantasize about most of human life ending and starting the whole thing over from scratch.

When we indulge in these celluloid and literary fantasies, I suspect the inherent assumption is similar to those who want to restore absolute monarchies:  we assume that we will survive the collapse, just as the would-be monarchists assume they will be king (or at least some important member of the nobility).

Chances are, most of us (yours portly included) would die quite quickly, either from the cataclysm itself, or from the bands of marauding raiders that would inevitably rise up in the wake of such a collapse.  If those didn’t get us, it would be starvation, disease, or our own inability to assess danger that would do us in.

Wavell makes a similar point, with an interesting caveat:  while those of us softened and doughy by the abundance of civilization would find ourselves in the pickle brine, the isolated, self-sufficient hunter-gatherers of the world—and they are still out there!—would be just fine, as they have been for millennia.

The piece gives a look into the life and mentality of the hunter-gatherer, a mentality that is quite different from that of us living in the gilded luxury of the modern world.  The split all began, Wavell writes, with the plough, and “it all went downhill” after that, according to the hunter-gatherers.

The life of the hunting-gathering society is tough, but filled with a respect for Creation—and a surprising amount of leisure, especially compared to our workaholic lives.  As Wavell writes:

No one is impartial enough to say which of the two lifestyles is best. Neither side would swap their lives for the other’s. But during the recent lockdowns, furloughed workers had a taste of hunter-gatherers’ leisurely existence. This consists of putting in on average four hours a day for hunting, gathering and cultivation, the rest of the time devoted to song and dance, eating, sex, stories and games.

During the glorious summer months I lived like a hunter-gatherer (minus the butchering of narwhal blubber for sustenance, as the Inuit do), putting in about four hours of work (and often less) each day on lessons, writing, or gardening, and otherwise relaxing (there wasn’t dancing or naughtiness, but plenty of song, stories, and games).  I can attest that it’s pretty amazing operating on such a time frame.  But living completely off the land at a subsistence level, hunting squirrels and rabbits to survive, would seem impossible to me—just as my indolent lifestyle would seem impossible to the hunter-gatherer.

Still, there is a certain quiet nobility to the hunter-gatherer that Wavell captures.  The stories and legends of various tribes across vastly different biomes contain common threads:  a respect for Nature, and a rejection of empty materialism:

A sobering tale for our times is recounted by Pygmies of the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As they tell it, the world once teemed with technically advanced humans who, after abusing nature, were virtually wiped out on three occasions by cataclysms. The Pygmies, the only survivors, thereupon renounced material riches and set about repopulating the planet.

Perhaps their time will come again.

Perhaps, indeed.

23 thoughts on “Rebuilding Civilization: The Hunter-Gatherer

  1. Love this article.

    I read somewhere that the collective mind of a population, the zeitgeist, can be determined by their distractions – the exploded fascination with death and the dead (zombies, for instance – The Walking Dead, Z Nation, etc), increased ‘awareness’ of ghosts and the paranormal (more YouTube channels than can be counted), expanded interest into cryptids, all reflect the collective idea that we are not only on the brink – we have several toes hanging over the ledge.

    In support of that premise, look at the consumption of MREs (meals ready to eat) and all the companies that market foodstuffs that will last ’25 years’ that the preppers buy. The demand is so great now, many of the companies who sell this type of food are beyond their capacities to provide for the deluge of orders. Additionally, companies that make ammunition are hard pressed to meet the demands of their customers – and their customer bases are growing exponentially.

    Add to that what historians tell us about ‘great civilizations’ and how long they last. That’s some pretty frightening information right there. What is it? Something like 300 years, isn’t it? How old is America?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, it feels like we are living in the Roman Empire in maybe the third century—the ultimate collapse is looming, but still a ways off. Meanwhile, society is indulging in decadent mystery cults and becoming fascinated with the darker corners of the spiritual realm. Some of us are stocking up for the apocalypse, or the collapse—whatever form that might take.

      The three-hundred-or-so-years lifespan for civilizations/empires concerns me, too. The bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan feels like the first act of an empire in serious decline.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Apologies for the lateness of my reply. We’ve been out all day, the main impetus being step one in fixing the car. Today, they cluster has been replaced (dashboard to our American cousins) – I’ve been driving blind on and off for a bit. Tomorrow, MOT and car tax and then it’s done – hooray!

    Anyway, to the article. Thanks for your introduction, Tyler (or would you prefer me to stick to PP?). I’m very much enjoying this site and the disparate articles. Makes a nice change from the lunacy of modern times where I feel very much like I’m scrambling around Wonderland with the Mad Hatter without a care in the world. That place would feel a damn site more sane than this one.

    In terms of the apocalypse, being a massive horror fan, the zombie apocalypse is right up my street. Those on the periphery of society would have a better chance of surviving than those in the towns and cities but to be honest, the majority of the West – which has relied so much on technology and automation – would die out anyway. Those who have lived close to the land and know it well would be perfectly fine, as long as they were careful about strangers accepted onto their land. Some people could adapt quickly to the savagery of this sort of society and people, as we know, can be cruel and evil.

    Lastly, I spotted your comment, Tyler, on the previous post. The link below will take you to the last article I wrote on identity politics in gaming. Some of the language is a little blue so you’ve been pre-warned. 🙂

    https://going-postal.com/2020/08/hopefully-the-last-of-identity-politics-in-gaming/

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Pontiac! No worries; I’m well aware that people live lives and work jobs. That’s why MY reply is so delayed. Thank you for explaining that “cluster” is the British word for “dashboard.”

      I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying the site! Please, feel free to call me either Tyler or TPP, whichever you prefer in the moment. I used to write about the news and politics more frequently, but I got so burned out on it after the 2020 election, I’ve tried to shift the focus more towards the arts, history, culture, music, and the like, with the occasional smattering of fiery political rhetoric to keep the base well-fed with red meat.

      I suspect there would be a great deal of cruelty going on in such a collapse. I was talking to a friend tonight who has been slowly stocking up for the better part of a decade, and one the concerns is that if something DID go down, he’d have to defend his land and stockpile (and family, of course). That’s why he tries to keep it hush-hush (so I probably shouldn’t be posting it to the Internet—oops!).

      Looking forward to reading your post! Identity politics are so corrosive—and cringe. Bad enough in films and television, but in games? Come on! Know your target demographic, games publishers! We’re not the kind of people that want a differently-abled transgender polyamorous lesbian Muslim in a wheelchair in our games.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hmm….I think 39PD might be shooting you a line here, Tyler- I’m as Brit as he is and I’ve never called a dashboard a “cluster”! To this Brit, a dashboard’s exactly what you wild colonial boys call a dashboard, and a cluster is the assembly of sidelights at each corner, as it were, of the car. Then again, 39PD lives in East Anglia, where they, er, do things a little differently…..his profile photo looks suspiciously flattering too

        Liked by 2 people

      • Is this how you reply to a reply? Good to make yr. acquaintance, Tyler; 39PD knows me from TCW and recommended your site to me. The group of Puritans who became known as the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Boston, which is in Lincolnshire, just north of East Anglia- which is the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. East Anglia has- entirely unfairly, of course!- a bit of an Okie from Muskogee reputation in certain parts of England, hence my “doing things a little differently” line, but I’m sure that 39PD will soon demonstrate in his contributions to your site that this slur is completely unfounded. I know and greatly respect Audre’s contributions to TCW as well, if I might be allowed to indulge in a little low-grade British disingenuous toadying. (Is the check in the post, Audre?)

        Is it not possible to edit a comment once it’s been posted, BTW?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for clarifying the regional differences in Britain for me, Hugh. It sounds like I would like East Anglia.

        Please, toady away!

        As far as editing comments, there must be a way—I think I can edit mine via my WordPress dashboard (or is it a cluster?)—but I’m not sure about guests. I’ll have to look into it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Pontiac,

      I just read your review of _The Last of Us 2_. It’s quite good, and it echoes some of the major complaints I heard about the game.

      I never played the first installment, though it sounds like I really should. I did hear a LOT about how the sequel was an abysmal foray into extreme identity politics.

      What is the fascination with everyone being gay? The game developers could create a compelling homosexual character without making EVERY character homoerotic. I think the ham-handedness of the wokesters is almost as appalling as their degenerate lifestyle choices.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not too dissimilar to the TV series, The Walking Dead. A tiny smattering of survivors in a huge country and yet there always seems to be more gay characters than you might expect in a post apocalyptic world. Bizarre.

        There were a lot of things wrong with The Last of Us 2. Not only the plethora of gay characters (seen and unseen) but it was the destruction of the father figure and the alteration of the characters that bothered me. The father-daughter bond created in the first game was dispatched in favour of the gay family unit and we, as the players, were supposed to feel sorry for the transgender character, Abby, who kills Joel. When you play the game in full, the ending will leave you scratching your head. In light of the story, it makes absolutely no sense. As a result, I won’t be touching anything Naughty Dog make in the future. What a way to ruin a perfectly good first game. That being said, the first is a masterpiece.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, it sounds like they sacrificed character development and story on the altar of Gender Studies and Identity Politics. I really want to play the first one, but I wouldn’t touch the second, based on your analysis.

        It’s always bonkers to me the number of homosexuals in these post-apocalyptic worlds. I imagine that in such straitened conditions, the remnants of society wouldn’t have the luxury of homosexuality. Sure, I could picture two sex-starved females going at it out of emotional and sexual desperation, but I don’t think many gay men would survive for long—or, quite frankly, stay gay. Homosexuality seems like a luxury form of sexuality when resources are scarce and the world needs populating.

        Liked by 1 person

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