Not a joke: humans have been around in some shape or form for 200,000 years. We’ve been farming for about five percent of that time. So it could just be a phase we’re going through—maybe we’ll grow out of it. But in case we don’t, let’s make it clear: agriculture was a mistake.
Before agriculture, we humans were lithe, muscular, confident, sexy creatures (brow ridges and massive jaws notwithstanding). We had to be; we spent all our time cruising the savannah or jungle or whatever looking for fresh meat and good plants to eat—basically, exercising and eating paleo, but without acting all superior about it. And we had to be quick and sharp-witted in order to avoid falling prey to cave bears and giant sloths and saber-toothed cats and whatnot. And guess what: if you reached puberty and were still alive? It was because YOU KNEW HOW TO HANDLE THAT SHIT.
And what were we doing during the considerable amount of time during which we weren’t hunting or gathering or making tools? Straight chillin’. Dancing, exploring caves, making art, hanging out, shootin’ the breeze, having sex. WHATEVS.
Then some genius invented agriculture and we all turned into anxious nerds.
For one thing, as soon as agriculture began, all the predators high-fived each other because now they knew where to find us EVERY SINGLE DAY. You know, the place with all the free food that stays still? This is how agriculture originally divided the world into “us”—people, here, behind this fence with our special food: our plants we don’t have to travel to and prey that can’t run away—and “them”—all the freeloading animals who are trying to get at our special food.
We basically turned to the other animals and said “OKAY GUYS THIS IS MY STUFF DON’T ANYBODY TOUCH MY STUFF.” The other animals were like WTF? and naturally commenced to raiding our lovingly curated crops and cattle. We were like, “Seriously?” and put up fences and laid traps and invented possibly the stupidest invention of all time, the scarecrow (“Pffft. Not scary. No stars. Would raid again.” –crows) and said “GUYS WE’RE SAVING THIS TO EAT LATER! NO TOUCHY!” And the animals were like “Dude, that’s not how it works!” and we were like “Well, that’s how it’s gonna work from now on. [Adjusts glasses and turns back to chalkboard with complex equations on it.] Let’s see now, if I plant this many acres with soybeans . . .”
And so humans and the rest of the animals drifted apart and now when we see each other at the zoo or whatever, it’s all awkward.
I believe it was the anonymous author of “Wikipedia” who put it so succinctly when she wrote
Agriculture allowed for the support of an increased population, leading to larger societies and eventually the development of cities. It also created the need for greater organization of political power (and the creation of social stratification), as decisions had to be made regarding labor and harvest allocation and access rights to water and land. Agriculture bred immobility, as populations settled down for long periods of time, which led to the accumulation of material goods.
Ugh, right? Within this paragraph, I can count the following universally despised things for the existence of which we can blame agriculture:
- Large groups of other people
- Cities, including Fort Lauderdale (and, by extension, traffic, traffic cops, and urban sprawl)
- Rich people
- “Couch potato” syndrome (and, by extension, “exercise”)
The invention of agriculture was such a colossal, traumatic mistake, it made it into the Bible, as the ORIGINAL SIN. It’s the story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden to toil and sweat and till the earth. It’s the primal fuck-up that sent us from enjoying an Earthly paradise of innocence and ease to a life of hard work, pain, and shame.
It was such a harsh consequence that, later, God looked down at humanity and said, “Jesus Christ, look at those poor neurotic farming bastards. I feel sorry for them. Maybe I was too harsh kicking them out of Eden.”
And Jesus Christ said, “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll go down and sort them out.”
So Jesus came down and told everybody to chill out and get rid of their belongings and not worry so much about clothes and food and stuff and live in the moment be like a lily in the field—basically be more like a hunter-gatherer.
But it was too late, humanity was too far gone. As soon as Jesus left, they turned around and said, “Alright, you heard Jesus, NO MORE GAY SEX! Now back to your farming!” and that was that.
But, like I said, in the history of humanity, agriculture is still just a blip. In fact, it could have a built-in time limit, as more and more of the things that agriculture has made possible turn out to be ecologically unsustainable. When civilization collapses, we’ll be too busy fighting off roving gangs of cannibals and running from warlord-led militias to tend to our chickens and kale. But on the other hand, we’ll probably get some sweet abs out of it.