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‘The Yoke of Grain’
Against the Grain: a look At the Criticism of James Scott's Book
This is right up your alley:
-Bryce Sharper

I quite enjoyed the book review and would certainly enjoy the book and must look up James Scott. Below is a brief quote from the extensive review to satisfy the marginally curious, before I get on to what seems most significant about the post.
BOOK REVIEW: AGAINST THE GRAIN
POSTED ON OCTOBER 14, 2019 BY SCOTT ALEXANDER
“Someone on SSC Discord summarized James Scott’s Against The Grain as “basically 300 pages of calling wheat a fascist”. I have only two qualms with this description. First, the book is more like 250 pages; the rest is just endnotes. Second, “fascist” isn’t quite the right aspersion to use here.
“The book ends with a chapter on “barbarians”. Scott reminds us that until about 1600, the majority of human population lived outside state control; histories that focus on states and forget barbarians are forgetting about most humans alive. In keeping with his thesis, Scott reviews some ancient sources that talk about barbarians in the context of people who did not farm or eat grain. Also in keeping with his thesis, he warns against thinking of barbarians as somehow worse or more primitive. Many barbarians were former state citizens who had escaped state control to a freer and happier lifestyle. Barbarian tribes could control vast trading empires, form complex confederations, and enter in various symbiotic relationships with the states around them. Scott wants us to think of these not as primitive people vs. advanced people, but as two different interacting lifestyles, of which the barbarian one was superior for most people up until a few centuries ago.”
As demonstrated in The 1654 Revolt of the Peasantry and the various enclosure acts, the European ruling class was still pushing grain eating farmers off the land to make room for livestock into the modern age. These days high tech vegetarian elites are agitating for removal of grain cultivation and livestock farming in favor of nature preserves.
Through the ages of slavery, by which the scions of barbarian nomads oppressed farmers from horseback, sold them like livestock and shipped them off to fertilize plantations with their own suffering flesh, might we be privy to an ages old infliction of despair upon the farmer who ruined hunting grounds by the herders who conquered the scared tillage where wild herds once roamed? Is the grain-based slavery that made civilization possible a built-in punishment for the sin of playing God with the grasses that feed the herd animals, men becoming cattle in their turn?
There is definitive evidence of malnutrition, chronic joint damage and reduced stature among the common man of the ancient world, even as the leading men, who ate meat, often lived into old age.
In Brian Fagan’s Little Ice Age, he cites a life expectancy of 24 years for a medieval peasant of the Medieval Warm Period—the good, fat times—if that peasant first survived early childhood!
Such facts are well known to readers of history, even as the lives of leading men make it clear that the oligarchs and other elites of the ancient and medieval world could expect to live a modern life span.
This makes the response to the review of Scott’s book that much more instructive. The majority and by far the most passionate responses extolled grain eating, toil, small stature, poor health and overall misery as necessary prices to be paid for the investment in the glories of our civilization and the ease of the modern internet reader. I got the impression tat these soft, sedentary readers were glad that hundreds of generations of their ancestors had suffered miserably in the mud and dust so that they could polish vinyl seat covers with their eunuch-like posteriors.
No wonder that the modern reader and the academic always seems to side with the slave master and so rarely the slave. Perhaps there is an internalized knowledge among the modern, lazy, sedentary, sissy that he wallows in his air-conditioned feed-pen and whines with such profound moral authority, only because millions of miserable, malnourished runts suffered for ages to bring about his glorious deification.
The prominent pro-slavery comments indicate that a certain proportion of sedentary people just want to be owned. Is that an adaptation to civilization?
How much has our dependence on grain to build massive populations of low quality people warped our souls?
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Bryce SharperDecember 23, 2019 1:15 PM UTC

The problem now is that you can't just go wack buffalo to provide food for the upcoming winter. Game cannot support our population. Small-scale farmers who might grow other things besides grain have been pushed off their land in favor of industrial grain-based agribusiness conglomerates. How similar this is to the end of the Roman republic when large landowners had depopulated Italy of its patchwork of small farms in favor of plantations worked with slaves!

One response is to try at least some small-scale agriculture, no matter how small - it could be just raising rabbits in your backyard or growing potatoes in a bucket. Something is better than nothing - anything that gets us thinking outside the current paradigm.
responds:December 24, 2019 7:37 AM UTC

What you suggest is what the Irish were doing when we are told the were just monocropping taters. The English removed every pig, chicken and cow.