Monday, December 29, 2008
The world is still
Motion is in the mind
If you don't believe me
Ask Julian Barbour
The world is still
I just finished watching Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, one of my all time favourites, for the second time. The movie is set in a Mayan village of hunter gatherers in the 16th century. The jungle that surrounds the village forms a beautiful backdrop to the movie throughout, and it is almost as if the jungle were a character itself. The dialogue is entirely in Yucatec Mayan, and adds to the authenticity (this tough choice not to have the characters speak English shouldn't come as a surprise, once you realize that it was a Mel Gibson movie - his earlier Passion of the Christ after all, was also entirely in Semitic languages. For all of Mel Gibson's wackiness, you still gotta hand it to the guy for being an awesome, tenacious filmmaker.) In other words, the movie is a period piece. But it's also a superb action movie, with almost the entire second half of the movie consisting of an adrenaline-pumping extended chase scene. Except for some cliches - like the little girl who foretells the future in portentous tones, and the important
Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunter-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5'9" for men, 5'5" for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B.C. had reached a low of 5'3" for men ,5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors. (link)The reason was that turning to agriculture deprived our diet of the diversity that hunting-gathering provided it with, and turned it into a diet excessively dependent on a few carbohydrate-rich cereals. Besides, diseases was rife in the dense populations that became possible only with the advent of farming.
Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources like orchards or herds of cows. Instead, they live off the wild plants and animals that they obtain each day. Everybody except for infants, the sick, and the old join in the search for food. Thus there can be no kings, no full-time professionals, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others.This is not to say that there would have been no conception of social status at all among hunter-gatherers. For sure, the more skilled hunters in a hunter-gatherer group would have got more respect, but the scale of inequality would have been nowhere near that between a pharoah and a Jewish slave in ancient Egypt - to take an example from a society made possible only by agriculture.
Only in a farming population could contrasts between the disease-ridden masses and a healthy, non-producing elite develop. (from the book, no online link)
One answer boils down to the adage "Might makes right." Farming could supportAnd so the process has continued, so that we now live in a world with hardly any communities that practise hunting gathering.
many more people than hunting, albeit with a poorer quality of life. (Population densities of hunter gatherers are rarely over one person per ten square miles, while farmers average 100 time that.) [..]
As population densities of hunter-gatherers slowly rose at the end of the ice ages,
bands had to choose between feeding more mouths by taking the first steps toward
agriculture, or else finding ways to limit growth. Some bands chose the former solution, unable to anticipate the evils of farming, and seduced by the transient abundance they enjoyed until population growth caught up with increased food production. Such bands outbred and then drove off or killed the bands that chose to remain hunter-gatherers, because a hundred malnourished farmers can still outfight one healthy hunter. (link)
(Enthu is slang for enthusiasm.)
I wasn't too sure of how Slumdog Millionaire would turn out. It got rave reviews, won awards, but the premise of the movie seemed a little cheesy to me. But then again, it was a movie by Danny Boyle - the same Danny Boyle who made Trainspotting, the genre-bending classic of the 90s. But then again, the movie is wholly set in Bombay, and who knows if Danny Boyle won't make a few blunders in his portrayal of India? I was looking forward to seeing the movie, but I was also preparing myself for a letdown.