On Agrarianism and Slavery – Complete

Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

04.30.2016

 

The Division of Labor in the Ancient World

The Rise of Agrarianism and the Onset of Slavery

 

Part I – Introduction

 

Everything eats. There is no life without food; without nourishment there is only death.

 

The abundance of food, or its scarcity, determine the quality of human life. The more time, and energy (in terms of human labor) we spend acquiring, or producing food, the more food we need; conversely, the less time we spend at rest, in a mode of being that allows us to reflect on life, in a qualitative state of living that brings us both joy and satisfaction.

 

This essay will examine the role that agrarianism (social and cultural development in conjunction with agricultural advancement) played in the ancient world; in the concentration of wealth, in the sustenance of large populations, and in the institution of classism – or slavery.

 

This essay will examine those themes through primary sources, from the perspective of writers from the ancient world; in their poetry, philosophy, mythology, and legal codes. It will explore themes of life and death, work and leisure, wealth and poverty, servitude and governance.

 

Finally, in this essay I will show how the social values that I explore in those writings, and social structures, entered society (roughly five thousand years ago), through the rise of agrarianism; the commodification of grain, and the division of labor – into classes of laborers, and how those structures and values continue to influence our society today in ways that are largely unchanged.

 

Part II

It would be difficult to press an argument that the advent of farming has been bad for human culture, and so I will not try to do that. It would be nearly impossible to argue that advances in agriculture lead to an increase in human misery. The more that human beings have advanced their skill at farming, the more human beings those advanced societies have been able to support; agriculture supports larger populations, with longer life spans, and greater immunity to disease. I am not arguing that the rise of agrarianism has been harmful to humanity, but I will show that some of the social structures which emerged together with agrarian culture were fundamentally unjust, and that these social structures, like slavery, and classism, leading to the concentration of wealth, have perpetuated injustice throughout the centuries and across the millennium. These structures were not planned. They evolved over centuries; along with the legal codes that supported them, and it will require insight, and planning if we are to deconstruct them; if, in the interest of a more just society we should choose to do so.

 

We must understand the roots of our social order, in particular, the root causes of the injustices that permeate it. The greater our understanding; the more empowered we will be to change it.

 

Human beings are not static creatures. We are dynamic; as such, we do not have to live with static social systems. We are free to change them. If we are to exemplify the principles of justice, if we are to broaden its franchise to everyone living within the aegis of our social system; we must.

 

This essay looks into the earliest commentaries and myths regarding the rise of city-states, and agrarian societies, to the instantiation of the economic and social forces which separated people into classes, the forces that established the institutions of slavery and provided for the mass concentration of wealth. The essay will also explore the earliest warnings human beings sounded regarding those corrupting forces given in the most ancient commentaries, texts, and myths regarding the dangers of these systems to the future well-being of humanity.

 

Part III

In the fourth century B.C.E. the philosopher Plato wrote a treatise titled On Justice, in which he seeks to present his understanding of how the qualities of justice and virtue emerge in a human being. This treatise became his most famous piece of writing and is popularly known as The Republic.[i] Plato probes the notion of how the qualities of justice and virtue, and of goodness itself emerge in a human being. To do so he thought it would be good to make the rhetorical shift of first looking at how those qualities emerge in a city-state; in a republic (hence the popular title). Plato famously employs this shift in focus; from the individual human being to the city-state, asserting that a human being and a city state, are analogs of one another. He asserts that a city-state is like an individual entity; only larger, and that a human being is really a society of values and desires; only smaller. Plato tells us; to look at the city-state as a representation of a human being is like seeing the human being with all of her or his desires and ambitions under a magnifying glass.[ii] It is to see them writ large.

 

Plato discusses of the origin of the city-state. He does this, not as a historian, but as a philosopher. The emergence of city-states is something that begun to take place nearly two-thousand five-hundred years earlier; in a time we think of as pre-historical (because there are no written records).[iii] Even though Plato is not a historian he has something to say about how human society became organized into cities. His insight comes from his synthesis of all of the data available to him; data which for him was historical, mythological and rooted in practical knowledge, drawn from direct observation[iv].

 

Plato  says that: “a city comes to be because none of us is self sufficient, but we all need many things…our first and greatest need is to provide food to sustain life…our second is for shelter, and our third for clothes.[v]” He then goes on to suggest that a city-state must be able to meet each of these needs, and that at a minimum it would have about five people: a farmer, a builder, a weaver, a cobbler and a doctor.[vi] A little further into the discussion he submits the idea that these four trades are not enough to sustain a city-state; because each trade requires tools that are unique to itself and that the production of these tools is a special skill unto itself, and so carpenters and metal workers, cowherds and shepherds, other craftsmen and other herders will also be needed,[vii] to form the city-state.

 

Plato delineates the notion that different people have different natures, that these natures are fixed, and that each person should be placed in a trade according to that nature. He reduces this to the idea that; just as a person is a single being, so should they have a singular occupation,[viii] a specialization. It is on the idea of specialization that the division of labor is based.

 

Plato elaborates on this model. In the dialog he begs agreement from his audience, and receives it; that no city-state could possibly have all the materials they need to live a quality life, and for this reason it would be necessary not only to have craftsmen, farmers, and herders, but to have people who specialize in importing and exporting goods from other city-states; whom he calls merchants, those engaged in the specialized labor of trading. He then argues for the necessity of having people in the marketplace to buy and sell the goods that the craftsmen, farmers and herders produce, and which the merchants have brought to the city-state through trade. Plato asserts that these people are those who specialize in handling money. He calls them retailers, and he asserts that “they’ll usually be people whose bodies are weakest and aren’t fit to do any other work. They’ll stand around the market exchanging money for the goods of those who have something and then exchanging those goods for the money of those who want them.”[ix]

 

Plato explains the necessity of having people in the city who have no skills at all; who are merely strong, “other servants (he says) whose minds alone wouldn’t qualify them for membership in our society but whose bodies are strong enough for labor. These sell the use of their strength for a price called a wage and hence are themselves called wage earners.”[x]

 

In this way Plato continues to describe the various components of the social organism that is the city-state. In the dialog, he and his audience agree that the organism they have described to this point would be a healthy city, but not a particularly large or luxuriant one. It would be small and ordinary, uninspiring and nothing at all like Athens, the city-state in which this discussion is taking place, and the closest to their ideal. So in order to get to the issue of justice, what it is and where it lies (which is the point of the dialog), they agree that they must enlarge the city-state even further, and add to it a long list of other professions, other goods, and other services than we have already enumerated, which must also be available in the city-state.[xi]

 

Plato continues to build the model city-state into a place which has so much wealth that it must be protected, and that the defenders of the city-state, a “guardian-class” as he calls them, must specialize in warfare. Protectors, defenders, guardians; by whatever name you call them, they are a warrior-class.

 

Plato says that; like farmers who farm, and weavers who weave, like cobblers and herders who are engaged in their respective trades, soldiers must be engaged in soldiery.[xii] He enters into a lengthy discussion of how a soldier must be educated; in order to ensure that they be fair minded people, not given to greed, neither lustful nor hot-tempered.[xiii] Plato asserts that the process of educating the guardians, and then testing them through years of service, will ultimately reveal the final class of people who should rule the city-sate; a “golden-class” of people whom he calls the philosopher-kings.[xiv] Through this analysis Plato asserts that there are essentially three classes of people: the rulers of the city-state belong to the golden-class, the guardians of the city-state, its warriors; belong to the silver-class. Farmers and other craftsmen belong to the class of bronze and, or iron. He asserts that these classes would by nature be hereditary, but that on occasion a golden-child will be born to another class and vice versa. In which case; the golden-child, who is born to an iron-craftsmen, should be lifted up and honored, while the bronze child born to a golden-parent should be cast out without pity. It is in the lives of these golden-people that he believes true justice will be found, and through whom it will flow.

 

Part IV

Even though Plato was living in the fourth century B.C.E.; Plato could have been describing the human components of a modern city, from farmers and tradesmen, to financiers. It appears that not a lot has changed. He describes a society in which the classes of law-givers, law-enforcers and all others are governed primarily by heredity, with some exception being made for the outstanding merit (or de-merits) of specific individuals. There are many ways in which this remains true today. There is much more freedom of movement in the modern United States of America than there was in ancient Athens, but true mobility; the freedom to move between the classes remains almost as impenetrable today as it did in 400 B.C.E. There is significantly greater freedom in the choice of occupations, the son of a farmer is not bound to be a farmer, neither is the daughter of a weaver bound to remain a weaver, but nevertheless the daughters and sons of working class people in the United States are statistically unlikely to change their economic status in a significant way.

 

A Pew Research Survey, titled Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics[xv] written by, By Paul Taylor, Richard Fry, and Rakesh Kochhar; shows that household wealth has dropped among poor and middle income whites, blacks and Hispanics. At the same time that the average household wealth has been going down for all three of these (working-class) demographic groups; the difference between the white demographic (the most privileged group in our society), and the two largest minority groups has grown even faster. At the same time that the wealth of working class citizens is shrinking. The wealth concentrated in the top one percent of earners is growing at an ever increasing rate.

 

I am not suggesting that we apply the Platonic categories of gold, silver and bronze to the demographic groups of white, black and Hispanic. Those kinds of evaluations are unjust, and unseemly and belong to that ancient world. Nevertheless, this study looks at status of working-class people, who Plato would classify as bronze or iron. In that Platonic context we can say that; though we have a professional military, we have no silver class in the United States, because the military and the police force, our modern day guardians, are made up of the sons and daughters of working-class people, and rank among the poorest groups. The ruling-class (such as we have it), our golden-class is comprised of that top one percent of income earners.

 

A Wall Street Journal blog post, titled Income Growth of Top 1% Over 30 Years Outpaced Rest of U.S.,[xvi] written by Corey Boles, shows how the income of the top one percent of American households has grown by two-hundred and seventy-five percent over the past thirty years; while the average income of every other group has shrunk during the same period of time. This illustrates my point regarding the relative lack of freedom the average person has today to move between classes. Statistically speaking you are most likely to remain in the class you were born to. A person is free to change occupations; several times in their life if they should desire, but they will find it exceedingly difficult to move between classes. That is how the division of labor works in the United States today. That is how the division of labor has worked for the past two-thousand five-hundred years since Plato, and from the dim reaches of history before him. Most people accept this as natural, or do not question it at all. The unquestioning stance we take toward it is at the root of social injustice

 

To be fair to Plato, he envisioned a ruling-class that would never touch money. He did not believe in a Plutocracy (governance by the wealthy). In his ideal state, philosopher-kings would not hold private property, but would be supported by the people. It would be unlawful for them to even touch gold or silver, “they mustn’t be under the same roof as it (gold), wear it as jewelry, or drink from gold or silver goblets.” However, his idealism was just that; idealism. The ruling-class of his day, and from that day forward, adopted what they wanted from his politics and policies, and they left behind what they did not want. They used his authority to justify their hold on wealth and power rather than to modify it in the interest of justice.

 

In his discussion on how to build a city, Plato was correct to state that the first need that had to be fulfilled was food. Without food there is no society whatsoever. With an abundance of food comes the means to support a large and diverse population, to support a population of sufficient diversity to organize a luxuriant city-state as Plato described.

 

Plato believed that a society had to grow to a sufficient degree of complexity, and diversity; it had to possess a sufficient degree of wealth, in order for it to be able to support institutions of wisdom and justice. What is axiomatic to this growth paradigm is the availability of food. The wealth that makes all other wealth possible is food wealth.

 

In the United States today, the largest privately held corporation, a corporation owned by one family, is Minnesota based Cargil, an international agriculture conglomerate; with over one-hundred billion dollars in revenue per year. Four of the top ten wealthiest and most profitable privately held corporations are either food growers, food processors, or food sellers; comprised of Cargil, Mars, Publix Supermarkets, and C & S Wholesale Grocers.[xvii] Agricultural wealth, wealth in food – is bigger than oil, bigger than bombs, bigger than anything and everything else. Remembering Plato, it is interesting to note that it is not the farmers (the growers) themselves who control this wealth. Plato’s model is still in place. The growers of food do not profit nearly as much as the brokers, merchants, and retailers.

 

Here are some facts; most farmers live in a perpetual cycle of debt, either that or they till the soil as wage earners for corporations like Cargil. The market forces that keep this pattern in place are not immutable, but they are regularly reinforced through the laws that govern private property, through contract law, intellectual property law, and other judicial powers; juridical powers that are far easier for those who are already posses wealth to manipulate, than they are for those who are living on the margins.

 

Part V

In a period of time between one-hundred and fifty and five-hundred and fifty years before Plato, the Jewish writers of the Hebrew Scriptures; in their mythology, passed on to us some of their insight into the rise of agrarianism and the onset of slavery. The book of Genesis[xviii] offers a significant and telling narrative about the rise of these social institutions. Genesis 9:20 tells us that Noah was a tiller of soil; “Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard.” Shortly after this (in the span of five lines of text), Genesis 9:26-27, Noah also gives us the institution of slavery. Cannan, the son of Noah; becomes the slave of his two brothers, Shem and Japheth. The first farmer becomes the first slave holder.

 

Genesis 11:1-9 gives us the story of the Tower of Babel. It tells of how the descendants of Noah determined to build a tower, and a city, so that they would be unified as a people.

 

1 The whole world had the same language and the same words…3 They said to one another…4 “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky,* and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.” 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. 6 Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another. 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel,* because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there the LORD scattered them over all the earth.

 

On the surface this narrative is a simple etiological myth (a myth of origins) explaining the reason why human beings speak different languages. In addition, this narrative is often presented as a cautionary tale; warning the reader, or listener, not to plan too far in advance; because God may have something else in mind for us than we have for ourselves. God may decide to frustrate our purposes and reverse our intentions at any time. In the narrative the people set out to build something that would give them unity, and hold them together, but instead they became unable to communicate with each other, and were scattered over the earth. The narrative is unclear about whether God’s intentions are to punish the people for hubris, whether God is acting out of fear, or whether God’s motive is pure caprice. Nevertheless, this myth reveals something of historical significance.

 

The Tower of Babel is a type of ziggurat, like the Babylonian temple-tower of Etemenaki.[xix] Ziggurats served many purposes, they were often located in the center of a city. They were among the most heavily fortified structures within the city walls. A large amount of a city’s wealth would be stored there, not only wealth in gold and silver; the treasury, but also including granaries for the storage of the wealth in foodstuffs that a city would have saved up to support itself in times of scarcity,[xx] or siege. Without such granaries there would be no cities. And so, the Tower of Babel myth, following as it does the story of the first farmer, and as a continuation of that theme, is a story about the building of the first granary, the first city (after the flood) and the advent of an agrarian society. It is a prime example of the model that Plato would illustrate a few centuries later.

 

When God confuses the tongues of men, this appears on the surface to be an act of divine judgment, as if they were being punished for their pride, even though the text does not state that this is being done as punishment, it is nevertheless a fairly common interpretation is; “The narrative…suggests that civilization, which seeks to bring order out of cultural, economic and political chaos, can become an end in itself thus amounting to rebellion against God, and resulting in self defeat.”[xxi] The confusion of languages is an onerous development, whether or not it is the result of divine judgment, it amounts self-defeat.

 

The biblical narrative tells us that the builders of this mythological temple, the first of its kind, and the first city, sought to derive unity from the process, but ended up confused and at odds with each other. I contend that trope is not meant to depict when human language suddenly became confused, but that this is a reference to the changes in the social order which manifested themselves out of the process of building the mythological city. This myth recalls the transition in human culture from one that was basically egalitarian and nomadic, into one that was hierarchical, and governed by class; one in which the institution of slavery became a present reality. Plato synthesized this history in The Republic, his dialog On Justice; the building of the city necessitates the building of a social order. Workers become fixed into hereditary occupations, ranging from slave to king, with priests, warriors, merchants, and craftsmen occupying all of the stations in between. It was agrarianism and the securitization of grain which made this possible.

 

Further evidence exists for this sequence of developments in Hammurabi’s Code, given in the year 1726 B.C.E., by Hammurabi, a king of the Amorite dynasty of Old Babylon in Mesopotamia. This law code treats grain as a commodity, establishes standard values in gold and silver for it, rates of interests for the lending of it, which are different from the rates of interests attached to the lending of coin. Hammurabi’s Code recognizes a class system with state officials, priests, warriors, middle class people, lower class people, merchants, money lenders, wage earners and slaves. The Hebrew Scriptures reference Hammurabi’s Code thirty-two times, in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Ruth.[xxii] The code became a template for all other legal systems in the ancient world of the Near East.

 

In or around the year 1500 B.C.E., the Code of Manu[xxiii] was given to the people of India. Like Hammurabi’s Code, it also establishes a cast system:

 

  1. To Brahmanas he assigned teaching and studying (the Veda), sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms).
  2. The Kshatriya he commanded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures;
  3. The Vaisya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land.
  4. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Sudra, to serve meekly even these (other) three castes.

 

The slave, the farmer, the money lender, the merchant, the warrior, and the priest; they are all present. The religious observance of the Code of Manu would remain the effective law of India; into the twentieth century C.E., at which point most of the unjust aspects of the system it prescribes; such as the virtual slavery of the Sudra caste, were abolished by Mohatma Gandhi, through the ratification of India’s Constitution in 1950 C.E..

 

Hammurabi’s Code, and the Code of Manu were merely written in this time frame. It is almost certain that when these codes were written they were only codifying what was already the standard way of life for these peoples; a way of life which probably began with the rise of agrarianism, occurring nearly simultaneously in Mesopotamia, India, and Egypt; around the year three-thousand B.C.E.. Human beings had been practicing agriculture long before then, but major agrarian societies emerged at this point, in the third millennium B.C.E., and with it major changes in human culture on a scale that humanity would not see again until the twentieth century.

 

Part VI

In the twentieth century major advances in medical technology came, immunizations and sanitation provided much of what was necessary for a vast expansion in the human population. But, what was needed most were changes in agronomy, in the production and distribution of food. When that happened, human population exploded.

 

In the year 1000 C.E. it is estimated that there were two-hundred and sixty-five million people living on Earth. The entire population of the world dis little more than double by the time Plato is writing six-hundred years later.

 

In 1900 C.E. the world population was approximately 1.6 billion people. The population had risen by a factor of three over the course of nine-hundred years.

 

Between 1900 C.E. and 1950 C.E. we added about nine-hundred million more people. Many societies, in the non-industrialized world were experiencing famine, and then, a radical change in the science of agronomy took place, facilitated by an American named Norman Borlaug. Genetic engineering of crops, and chemical fertilization began to rapidly improve crop yields. The population of the world grew to a staggering seven billion people; nearly tripling in the space of fifty years[xxiv], between 1950 and 2000 C.E.

 

Norman Borlaug was given the Nobel Peace prize in 1970, for teaching the world to feed itself.   ‘“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,”’ ‘the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize.’ ‘“We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”’[xxv] Nevertheless, it remains true that food scarcity is the easiest way to move a city, a state, or a nation from progress to chaos, from restfulness to unease the abundance of food has not brought peace to the world, just more people. As Plato said, food is the first of our needs, with it the state will grow, without it there is nothing.

 

In the same time frame that Norman Borlaug’s contribution to agriculture, agronomy,and the world’s food supply, was making an impact on the global population, those same advances were making a significant impact on corporate profits.

 

For instance, in 1950, Minnesota’s Cargil corporation had annual revenues of four-hundred and twenty-three million dollars.[xxvi] In the period of time that we are talking about; 1950 – 2000, when the world’s population tripled, Cargil’s revenues grew by two-hundred and fifty times, and all of the machinery of the world governments turned around it.

 

There is an ancient saying:

 

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”[xxvii]

 

Plato imagined philosopher-kings and queens, a golden-class who did not own private property, and did not taint their virtue by coming into contact with coin; idealism. However, he did not have the tools to imagine how we could actually arrive at the place where wisdom and justice do in fact govern, not wealth. Even the most innocent and the best intentions, like those held by men such as Norman Borlaug; to feed the hungry, are milled into profits for the power brokers, the food financiers and the keepers of grain.

 

Everything eats. There is no life without food. Its abundance, or its scarcity directly determine the quality of human life. There is great competition for it; not only for basic foodstuffs but for the luxuriant foods as well. There are many of us who are comfortable with the idea that farm hands go hungry so they can pick coffee beans for the breakfast table in American and European homes. This is not the justice that Plato envisioned, though it is perhaps what he expected.

 

The question remains to be answered, and I cannot do it here. How do we change the cycle of commerce when the pattern for it was set in our culture so many thousands of years ago, and when the pressure to continue to produce, to keep the machinery humming, is so great; when, if the gears grind even a little bit, entire nations starve, not because we don’t have the food, but because we cannot get it to where it is needed most?

 

How can we ensure that everyone we are able to feed can also have clean water, medicine, electricity, heat, and education?

 

Part VII – Conclusion

Just as we saw with our examination of Plato, and the ancient law codes, which described the social classes, occupations, and roles that human cultures continue to foster today; there is also wisdom to be gleaned from the ancient myths, and more understanding of the social forces that were shaping their cultures than may at first appear on the surface.

 

Consider the tale of Hades (Pluto) and Persephone; it recalls a state of paradise when human beings lived in the care of Demeter, goddess of grain and the harvest. That time was a time of endless summer, idyllic, perfect; there was a super-abundance of food. There was no want.

 

Now, Persephone was Demeter’s daughter, and one day she was walking alone in the fields when Pluto, lord of the underworld, saw her. Upon seeing her he was filled with desire. He harnessed his team of horses and rode his chariot from his kingdom in the underworld to the fields wherein Persephone wandered. There he took her. He carried her away with him, back beneath the ground.

When Demeter realized that her daughter was missing she searched for her, looking over the face of the whole earth. When she could not find Persephone, she mourned for her as if she were dead. Indeed Death had taken Persephone.

 

Through the sorrow of Demeter, winter entered the world. The harvest came to an end. Fields that were once full of grain; froze, and the human race, which had never known want, and had never prepared for a time of need; grew hungry and starved. The hand of Death, which had seized Persephone, now spread its shadow over the face of the earth.

 

Zeus, king of the gods, saw what was transpiring, and he grieved for the fate of the human race. He called Demeter to court, and he ordered her to restore the harvest, Demeter was inconsolable, and she refused on account of her grief. For she loved her daughter. Zeus therefore, sent Hermes, his herald, to search for Persephone. Hermes found her enthroned, as queen of the underworld; the bride of Pluto.

 

When Hermes reported his discovery to Zeus; Zeus called Pluto and Persephone to court, where, in the presence of Demeter, Zeus ordered that Persephone be restored to her mother. Pluto refused, and Zeus, as great as he was, was powerless to compel what he had ordered; for Persephone had dined with Pluto, and the meal she shared with him, consummated their marriage, it bound her to him as at a wedding feast.

 

It seemed to Zeus that there was no hope. Demeter was mad with despair, and the human race would starving for it.

 

Zeus sought a compromise.

 

The king of the god’s asked Pluto to relent, to allow Persephone to spend half of the year with her mother, and return to the underworld to spend the other half of the year with him. Demeter’s heart would warm in the presence of her daughter, in that warming life would return to world. In that time Human beings would work hard to grow, harvest, and store grain, for the winter months; when Demeter’s heart would turn cold in her loneliness, and the fruit of the field would wither and die.

 

Demeter begged Pluto to agree, and though he acted as if he was being put upon, and that his rights were being circumscribed, in fact he was only too happy to make the deal; this is because Pluto is more than lord of the underworld, he is also god of the Earth’s fertility. Pluto had no desire to leave the fields sterile, that would infringe on his fecundity, though more important than this may be that Pluto is also the god of wealth. By limiting the harvest, by forcing human beings to work for their food, he took possession of the entire growing cycle, and with it the cycles of human labor. Through the principle of scarcity, Pluto commodified food, and monetized work; transforming sweat into silver and grain into gold.[xxviii]

 

The human race, human culture has come a long way since Noah sentenced his son to slavery, since Hammurabi and Manu wrote their law codes, and since Plato offered his reflections on justice, in the Republic. In our day; “We have warehouses of butter, and oceans of wine; we have famine when we need it, and designer crime.”[xxix] The commodification of grain, its over-production, has allowed for the birth of more human beings, generated more ergs of labor, and produced more wealth than the original authors of the myth of Pluto and Persephone could have possibly imagines. But the warnings that were embedded in their myth, through their archetypes, holds true. The warning is for the seven billion people now living in the world, which our means of industrial food production has provided for; The myth warns that we should be concerned with how much sway the lord of the underworld has gained over the real world, cycles of labor, cycles of harvest, cycles of life and death. The laws of scarcity, and the laws of supply and demand ensure that the more mouths there are to feed the more valuable food resources become; while at the same time guaranteeing that there are more sales to be made, and so creating an incentive to push the population beyond sustainable limits. The earth itself is threatened by the numbers of people living on it, all the more so if we have the desire to distribute the good things of modern life in such a way that everyone has, heat, electricity, clean water and the other things…like time and leisure, which make of life something more than a state of drudgery.

 

Plato, Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson, trans. by G.M.A. Grube and C.D.C. Reeve, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis, 1997.

 

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.

 

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 11th edition, vol. II, edited by High Chisholm, 1910.

 

Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., Cargil, Trading the World’s Grain, University Press of New England, Hanover, 1992.

 

The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, edited by Charles M. Laymon, Abingdon Press, 1971.

 

The Ancient Near East, Vol. I, edited by James B. Pritchard, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1958.

[i] Plato, Complete Works, The Republic, edited by John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson, trans. by G.M.A. Grube and C.D.C. Reeve, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis, 1997.

[ii] Ibid., p. 1008.

[iii] It occurs to me that on a time line that stretches from the origins of the earliest agricultural city-states; through the present day, Plato is at the mid-way point of that delineation. It has been roughly two thousand five hundred years since he lived and wrote.

[iv] The Greeks of his day were a colonial power. They had been for several hundred years; establishing colonies all throughout the Mediterranean region. Plato would have had knowledge of all of the things and people that would be necessary to establish a city from the ground up.

[v] Plato, Complete Works, The Republic, p. 1008.

[vi] Ibid., p. 1009.

[vii] Ibid., p. 1009-1010.

[viii] Ibid., p. 1009.

[ix] Ibid., p. 1010.

[x] Ibid., p. 1011.

[xi] Ibid., pp. 1011 – 1013.

[xii] Ibid., p. 1013.

[xiii] Ibid., p. 1013 – 1050.

[xiv] Ibid., p. 1100, “Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men philosophize, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide …cities will have no rest from evils…nor, I think will the human race.”

[xv] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/

[xvi] http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/10/25/income-growth-of-top-1-over-30-years-outpaced-rest-of-u-s/

[xvii] http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/01/largest-private-companies-business-private-companies-10-intro.html

[xviii] http://www.usccb.org/bible, All Scripture references come from the NAB online.

[xix] The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, p. 141, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.

[xx] The Encyclopaedia Brittanica,  11th edition, vol. II, edited by High Chisholm, p. 374, 1910.

[xxi] The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, edited by Charles M. Laymon, The Book of Genesis, John H. Marks, Abingdon Press, 1971.

[xxii] The Ancient Near East, Vol. I, edited by James B. Pritchard, pp. 138-167, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1958.

[xxiii] Indian History Sourcebook, The Laws of Manu, c. 1500 BCE, translated by G. Buhler,

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/india/manu-full.asp

[xxiv] http://worldhistorysite.com/population.html

[xxv] Norman Borlaug, Plant Scientist Who Fought Famine, Dies at 95, By Justin Gillis, Published: September 13, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/business/energy-environment/14borlaug.html?pagewanted=all

[xxvi] Cargil, Trading the World’s Grain, by Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., p. 740, University Press of New England, Hanover, 1992.

[xxvii] Anonymous.

[xxviii] My rendition of the myth.

[xxix] Roger Waters, Amused to Death, 1991.

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