The Structure Of Happiness II : The Unintended Consequence Of Agriculture



We have been homo erectus for 1.8 mn years, of which we have been homo sapiens for just 200,000 years, i.e. about 11% of the time. Of the last period we have been homo sapiens, agriculture has been around just 10,000 years, or 5% of the time. So civilization as we know it has been around some 0.5% of the time that humans (as we know them) have been around on this planet.

Disclaimer: This article was written originally in July 2017, so some data points may be outdated

We took 1.6 mn years to evolve from homo erectus to homo sapiens, i.e. increase brain size from 800 ccs to the current 1300 cc (the last 20,000 years, of which half the period agriculture has been around, has seen a shrinkage of 150 ccs).

The point is that it is unlikely that our brains have had time to evolve well enough to prepare for the smartphone society that we live in today. So our antediluvian brain must be as lost (and defective) as Alice in Wonderland, unable to grasp reality. For sure, Alice couldn’t have been happy with the Mad Hatter or the Queen of Hearts! Our brain must be feeling the same way, trying to survive in a reality that is derived from its creations.  If we have a brain (the autonomic nervous system) that is connected to our body, we have a mind (consciousness, the frontal cortex) that is connected to our soul. Both need to be fed, food takes care of the former while emotions take care of the latter. Sex, however, feeds both, meeting both a physiological and an emotional need.

The turning point was the advent of agriculture, held out by many anthropologists to be the inflection point of ‘progress’. Physically, maybe yes, but from the point of view of human happiness, it was the start of a long trajectory of decline, until it reached the point at which unhappiness is a disease that could finally lead to the demise of the human race.

Anthropologists now aver that the early hunter-gatherer societies were less hunter and more scavenger, with the homo erectus collecting fallen fruit, seeds, seafood, and shrub vegetation, which is why most of our healthy foods come from there, while red meat is unhealthy and cancerous. But the advent of agriculture greatly reduced the variety of foods in our diet, creating the first and most primary, root cause of unhappiness….poor health.

Hunter-gatherer societies were small, around 150-170 to a ‘village’, who shared everything. There was no concept of ‘storage’, as food, shelter, and security had to be shared, they were all transient assets. Sex was commonly available, a community resource that held the village together. This kept people relaxed, amiable, and cooperative. In communal sex, with everyone sleeping with everyone else, the winners were those men who took care of the women, focusing on their sexual fulfillment. Neurology now knows how this created love and bonding. The hormone ‘oxytocin’, also known as the love/trust hormone, is secreted during sex and childbirth and creates ownership among women of the object of their affections (or the trigger of their secretions). ‘And may the best man win’ refers to this, the ability to get to a woman’s oxytocin, the basis of social bonding and harmony. In its absence, you get the viragos that modern marriages are known to produce.

Agriculture had this other unintended consequence. Produce could be stored, which created this new idea called wealth. Wealth could be owned, which created this idea of selfish endeavor, the basis of latter-day Capitalism. This created envy, jealousy, and greed, some of the 7 deadly sins, but which became the basis of social behavior in contemporary society. This is antithetical to the values of a hunter-gatherer society, which the human brain is adapted for. Consider that today’s ‘competitive’ individual would have been ostracised in the hunter-gatherer society he came from, but is rewarded in contemporary society with money, power, and therefore, sex. The very behavior that would have destroyed his genes in the hunter-gatherer societies of yore is driving out the ‘communal gene’…..think of it as Donald Trump’s taking over the world.

Wealth created power, the ability to drive and control other humans. The advent of money made this power fungible and all-encompassing, creating a hierarchy among societies that had hitherto lived on group endeavor. A distinction appeared between the rich and the poor, a concept that was impossible to comprehend for the hunter-gatherer brain of yore.

One of the fundamental sources of irrationality in Economics, is the human brain’s inability to process power, both to wield it or to suffer it. Power has linked itself to the ego, creating limbic triggers that are sexual and predatory. All power behavior is relative, focused on clawing out someone else’s sperm to push your own, which is the only thing the hunter-gatherer brain understands, an expression of the Selfish Gene. The whole concept of “relative wealth” is identical to the struggle of the competitive sperm….I, ME & MINE!!!

A result of this was the deterioration in the status of women, who became ‘property’. Anthropologists have long been puzzled about the existence of secret ‘erogenous zones’ in the woman’s body, which are hard to reconcile with the ‘orgasm gap’, the fact that in almost all post-agrarian societies, these zones are not ‘serviced’. In feminist literature, the ‘orgasm gap’ ranks along with the ‘wage gap’….in the US, it runs at 3:1.

If the principle of Nature is “Use it or lose it”, then how are women endowed with far more erogenous zones than men, with far greater sensitivity regarding measurable nerve endings? Nature meant that women choose a man based on the quality of the orgasm he gives her, not the size of the house he was born in. This creates a schism in her motivations, which is at the root of the stresses in her marriage.

This sexual repression was perpetuated by social pressure, the idea of virginity and sexual fidelity, packed into the idea of Marriage. Imagine the wealthy farmer, giving effect to the idea of the Selfish Gene, not through sexual performance and the quality of orgasm he offered, but the idea of ownership expressed through marriage. He had to be sure that the children were his, even if his fat paunch prevented effective sex. That’s when the idea of ‘sexual favors’ was born…held up by public shaming, brute force, and the institution of marriage!

The advent of agriculture rendered women’s skills as gatherers, further reducing them to the role of looking after children. This gave rise to the modern idea that women have weaker libido than men, and are focused on the functional role of sex as (a means of) procreation rather than any intrinsic interest in the act itself. This is factually untrue….women’s libido is, if anything, stronger than men’s. They are just socially primed to pretend that ‘it doesn’t matter’. The number of women who go through an entire life, staring up at the ceiling fan, is now a national shame.

Humans are genetically similar to chimps and bonobos, sharing 98.4% of our DNA.

Both species have very active and promiscuous sex lives and live in small, tight-knit communities, held together through casual sex. The females have high status, using sexual choice to bring together fraternity among the males. In bonobos, in particular, societies are dominated by females, controlled by sexual favors. Orgasms, oral sex, and kissing are part of their mating rituals. Sound familiar?

To find monogamous behavior in primates, we have to go back further into evolutionary history to the gibbon, which lives a secluded life in a monogamous relationship. But gibbon males and females are the same size, something that differentiates them from chimps, bonobos, and humans. The latter see males as slightly taller than the females, a phenomenon called body size dimorphism. Females tend to choose taller mating partners.

There are other behavioral similarities that we share with chimps and bonobos: the fact that women take much longer to come to orgasm, suggesting that it would take multiple men to reach her climax, while a single male carries the baton for part of the way, exhausts himself and goes to sleep, another unique chimp/bonobo pattern. And the moaning of the woman calls out to other chimps/ bonobos to ‘help out’ a female in heat. All this suggests that we come from a very promiscuous past, which has now been throttled by social mores and religious restrictions.

To summarise, marriage is an artificial institution, not rooted in nature. It takes its roots from ‘property rights’, a civilizational development that is an offshoot of the development of agriculture. The monopoly on sexual fulfillment that it provides to a male, is an artificial construct, and like all monopolies, creates artificial boundaries between the provider and the consumer, which reduces ‘utility’.



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