Unscholarly reactions to The Parable of the Tares

I was in a church the other day and there was a reading that jumped out at me. It was The Parable of the Tares from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13. Here it is in the King James version, with an engraving by Crispijn de Passe the elder for your viewing pleasure:

tares(‘Parabolarum: The parable of the Tares’, 1604 – source)

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying […]

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

[…]

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.

He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13)

Now, this is my first attempt at biblical commentary so you’ll have to bear with me. Where shall we start?…

It strikes me as a rich metaphor, placing the Christian philosophy deeply in the context of an agricultural society, along with the parables of the Sower, the Mustard Seed and the Leaven which were all supposedly aired at the same seaside event, all related in the same chapter. Naturally, as one who identifies with the plant and animal species maligned as ‘weeds’ and ‘pests’, I get all hot under the collar when people dismiss them as worthless, evil (the work of the devil, no less!) and deserving of total destruction. For me this points immediately to the pathology of monoculture – the farmer’s problem based on his insistence that the land produce only one species of his choosing and nothing else. Consulting the footnotes of the Wikipedia page, I see that Jesus knew his audience and deliberately spoke in terms they would understand:

[…] while the color is local, the protagonist of the story is not a peasant like many of Jesus’ hearers; he is a wealthy landowner, whereas the farmer in the parable of the sower could easily have been a tenant farmer, a fellow peasant. Against some interpreters, peasants would not necessarily resent the figure, although they would not fully identify with him; they might recognize in the protagonist a benevolent local patron on whom they might be dependent. Peasants might even prefer to identify with characters of status greater than their own if those characters were benevolent; we often tall stories as a means of escaping and reflecting on our own social reality.

The protagonist’s authority suits him as an analogy for God. A well-to-do man would easily be a “head of household”, which figured as an illustration in rabbinic parables, and even Greek philosophers could employ a householder as an analogy for God. Given the agrarian character of much of ancient life, it should not surprise us that fields figure prominently as settings in rabbinic parables, but that their meaning is entirely ad hoc rather than standard. (Craig S. Keener, ‘The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary‘ pp.385-6)

There is general agreement that [the parable] describes a large estate run by slave labour. We need not presume that the owner is a foreigner. Jewish landlords too were quite capable of acquiring and running large estates. The intimate relationship portrayed here between the slaves and the owner, with the slaves concerned for their masters, perhaps makes Jewish slavery more likely.

‘A Jewish slave had an interest in his master’s affair, if for no other reason, because he himself was affected by the prosperity or otherwise of his master’s business. But quite apart from that, owing to the enactments of the Jewish Law and the tradition of centuries, the relations between a Jewish master and his bond servants was generally speaking, more than merely tolerable.’ (Ramesh Khatry, ‘The Authenticity of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and Its Interpretation‘, p.387)

The ‘tares’ are thought to refer to a plant called darnel, which closely resembles wheat until past the point where you could weed it out without damaging the roots of the crop plants. According to Keener:

Despite their willingness to try – workers regularly uprooted weeds before their roots were entangled with those of the wheat – it would be difficult for the workers to root out so many tares without damaging the wheat at this stage. They had grown enough that their roots were already intertwined with those of the wheat but not far enough that it would be easy to distinguish them from the wheat; uprooting thus might endanger the wheat. After the wheat and the darnel were grown, they were easily distinguished and reapers could gather the darnel, which did have one use: given the scarcity of fuel, it would be burned. Wheat was normally gathered and bound in sheaves, then transported, probably on donkeys, to the village (or, in this case, the large estate’s own) threshing floor, then stored. (Keener, p.387)

This growth habit earns darnel predictable abuse from those ensconced in the monocultural society, such as ‘pestilent enemy among the corn’ (Culpepper), ‘a bastard – a degenerate form of wheat’ (rabbis paraphrased by Khatry, p.37, footnoting Kingsbury: ‘This view of the Rabbis is best reflected in haggadic etymology, according to which the Aramaic word for darnel, zunin… is derived from the verb zanah, which means to “commit fornication”.’) and these lines spoken by Cordelia in Shakespeare’s King Lear:

“He was met even now
As mad as the vex’d sea—singing aloud;
Crown’d with rank fumiter and furrow weeds,
With burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn.” (link)

::Shudder:: We know about this: in order to destroy something outside yourself you first have to destroy that part of yourself which relates most strongly to it. Disavowal and denial of responsibility: “This plant has nothing to do with me; nothing to show me or teach me. It has imposed itself upon my designs totally without provocation, and my actions of cultivating the soil to favour its close cousin do not indicate any responsibility on my part or suggest any alternative course of action that I might take to procure my food. It is an evil, worthless plant and it is my duty to destroy it to the best of my abilities.” Terms of abuse of course facilitate the process of eradicating something that is seen as fundamentally Other…

Darnel hindered the growth of crops and made them fruitless. Darnel seeds ground up with wheat made the flour bitter and spoiled bread. Fungus in the darnel could cause poisoning, giddiness and vomiting. If too much of the darnel existed in flour, death could follow. It took up valuable space; but hardly had any use at all, being used mainly as chicken and pigeon fodder. Even this was not recommended. Since forests do not abound in Palestine, fuel was scarce. The darnel could be used for fuel, but it made less heat than noise! So, economically, the landowner had nothing to gain; but much to lose. The darnel-adulterated wheat would sell with difficulty. (Khatry, pp.33-4)

So, in agreement with Keener’s interpretation, when the master in the parable casts them into the fire he’s not doing it necessarily to destroy them out of spite, but potentially getting some use out of them as fuel. I’m not sure if that makes me feel any better – for the darnel or for myself on the other end of the metaphor… Is God using the burning bodies of the Damned to heat the many mansions of his house? The Problem is the Solution! Khatry continues:

Why do the servants ask about their master’s ‘good’ seed? Does not every farmer sow the best seed anyway?

The servants most probably had a hand in ensuring that the seed the master sowed was free of darnel-grains. The fact that darnel abounded in Palestine made good seed hard to come by. The following observation valid for Syrian scabious applies also to the darnel.

‘…the grains are similar to those of certain wheat varieties, and since they are reaped, threshed, and sieved together they continued to be sown together year after year, producing bitter flour and bitter bread. Sometimes the weed overwhelms the wheat, so that the farmer is forced to harvest it instead of the sown plant. This is a classic example of the conversion of a weed into a crop…’

Sieving was the most obvious way of making sure that the wheat seed was as pure as possible. The servants could have probably done it repeatedly for the sake of their master because bad seed was usually the result of insufficiently cleaned wheat grains. […] To servants who had probably sieved the seed themselves or bought the best they could find and had prepared the soil by careful ploughing (which would normally bury and kill the weeds), the emergence of the darnel would naturally surprise them and cause the to question the ‘good’ seed their master had sown. (pp.33-4)

And what of the master’s certainty that ‘an enemy hath done this’, ie: sown the darnel seeds in his pure wheat field? Is this more disavowal and denial of responsibility? By analogy does the Christian God wash his hands of the behaviour of sinful humanity even though he created us that way? I’m sure I must be missing something… Anyhow it seems in Jesus’ time this was known to happen at least in the literal sense:

[A]lthough sowing darnel is not something very common in modern, western farming, such sabotage does belong to the local Palestinian colour in which the parable abounds. We have in mind the usual village quarrels when ‘it is not uncommon for a man to have his private enemy, and for trees to be cut down and crops burnt as a result of such feuds.’ Almost as a proof of this, a man of antiquity has described how he took revenge against his neighbour.

‘I went to Abu Jassin’s kitchen garden. It was freshly ploughed. There I scattered the kusseb-seeds. The new year had scarcely come before the garden was thick with kusseb. From that day to this – it is now some twenty years – he could not plough a single furrow in it for the mass of kusseb. The olive-trees withered away…’

Sowing tares was also done elsewhere, as Oesterley reminds us, ‘Even at the present day in India one of the most terrible threats that a man can make is: ‘I will sow bad seed in your field…’ However, the most striking evidence lies in the existence of a Roman law dealing with such incidents. This law clearly assumes that sowing tares could happen ‘secretly’, possibly through a nocturnal act, as in our parable; and was not infrequent.

So, how does the master know an enemy has done it? Answer, simply because sowing darnel was a common act of revenge in his culture. It was an educated guess conditioned by the environment the master dwelt in. Although it is true that the enemy is later allegorically identified as the devil, the fact of an enemy sowing darnel is historically plausible and need not be seen as a secondary accretion to the parable. (Khatry, p.35)

tares2(Detail from Abraham Bloemaert – ‘Parable of the Wheat and the Tares‘)

It reminds me of my half-serious, slightly silly suggestion that seed bombs might be used in clandestine operations on arable fields in order to ‘diversify the monocrop’ – not something I’ve yet attempted, for revenge or any other reason(!) That would make me The Enemy, for sure. But would it be such a bad thing to have a farmer denounce you in that way? If it interrupted or even sabotaged his operation wouldn’t that create the space for some of the nondomesticated plants & animals to start coming back in? You know, the ones whose global population has halved in the last 40 years, mainly through the direct & indirect effects of agriculture? Sounds more heroic than spiteful in those terms, but I don’t know if darnel or other resourceful arable weeds particularly need any help from wild-minded humans to do their work. The farmers have already created perfectly adequate conditions for that.

Does this analogise further into Christian morality and restrictive notions of ‘sinful’ behaviour? What seeds might The Enemy be sowing in the moral fabric (tattered though it may be) of the civilised societies? Or has the attempt to banish these behaviours and attitudes created the same perfectly adequate conditions for them to thrive and multiply? I’ll leave it there and let you think about it. Feel free to leave your tuppence in the comment section. I’ll just say that I am burdened and saddened by the knowledge that the society I was born into does not view me or the things I create with the best parts of me as a worthy ‘crop’, but rather (when expressions of this come to light) as a pernicious weed which must be attacked on sight for the threat it poses to the careful, ongoing cultivation of the social field*. I must ask, though, that even if you don’t make use of these fruits at least refrain from hacking the whole growth down and casting it into the furnace. That’s my life you’re talking about.

To finish with here are a few stories from Maude Grieve’s Darnel entry in the ‘Modern Herbal’ of 1931:

[I]t may be of interest to relate an experiment made by a friend of the writer. She procured some ears of Palestine wheat and also some of Palestine ‘Darnel’ (‘tares’), for the purpose of illustrating the truth of the Parable of the Tares to her Bible-class. After sowing both kinds in a patch of ground she asked her scholars to watch the appearance of the respective ‘blades’ as they appeared. They attached small strands of wool to distinguish each. In many cases wheat grew from the tare seeds, and tares from the wheat.

[…]

a quotation from an old newspaper: ‘The Country of Ill-Will is the by-name of a district hard by St. Arnaud, in the north of France. There tenants, when ejected by a landlord, or when they have ended their tenancy on uncomfortable terms, have been in the habit of spoiling the crop to come by vindictively sowing tares, and other coarse strangling weeds, among the wheat, whence has been derived the sinister name of the district. The practice has been made penal, and any man proved to have tampered with any other man’s harvest will be dealt with as a criminal.’

What’s that Fukuoka quote about those who cultivate the soil literally sowing the seeds of their own misfortune†? The question becomes: What has the landowner and slavemaster of the parable (or by extension, God) done to earn himself such a dedicated Enemy? Sorry Christians but evil deeds don’t exist in a vacuum. Either he did something to piss off the people working for him (and what self-respecting slave wouldn’t get annoyed at their master, no matter how benevolent he was?), had a row with a neighbour, or simply mistreated the land (as monocrop farming does by definition) and reaped the consequences of his own actions.

*** Addendum the morning after ***

Second thoughts on ‘that’s my life you’re talking about’: I seem to be taking this rather personally, don’t I? It’s a bit rich coming from someone who earns his living by fostering monocultures of grass and removing unwanted plants in peoples’ gardens. Nevertheless it’s the weeds I identify with, and I have undergone something of the same experience (though not resulting in death obviously) at the hands of parents, educators, bosses, clergy, policemen and even just random acquaintances who perceived Unacceptable thoughts or behaviours in me and stepped in, unasked to weed them out. This can happen in a more gentle way, with permission granted  (someone at a Charles Eisenstein seminar I went to described the empathic listening he was trying to encourage as ‘being gardened’), but most often it comes as a violent intervention, leading to trauma and a long, slow recovery. Like a dandelion yanked out and having to regrow from a segment of root left in the ground.

Referring this back to Christianity, I see there has been an attempt to stress the interpretation of this parable as one where God is left to judge and condemn sinners, with the implication that humans shouldn’t appoint themselves reapers, gathering the tares and ‘bind[ing] them in bundles to burn them’, (as one might expect from people whose entire subsistence depends on a take-no-prisoners attitude to food production coupled with the outgrowth of cut-throat competition in the market economy) but rather allow dissenters and heretics to live alongside the True Christians. For example here’s a passage from a sermon Martin Luther preached on the parable:

Again this Gospel teaches how we should conduct ourselves toward these heretics and false teachers. We are not to uproot nor destroy them. Here he says publicly let both grow together. We have to do here with God’s Word alone; for in this matter he who errs today may find the truth tomorrow. Who knows when the Word of God may touch his heart? But if he be burned at the stake, or otherwise destroyed, it is thereby assured that he can never find the truth; and thus the Word of God is snatched from him, and he must be lost, who otherwise might have been saved. Hence the Lord says here, that the wheat also will be uprooted if we weed out the tares. That is something awful in the eyes of God and never to be justified.

From this observe what raging and furious people we have been these many years, in that we desired to force others to believe; the Turks with the sword, heretics with fire, the Jews with death, and thus outroot the tares by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God’s Word alone must do. But by murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them and we bring thus, with one stroke a double murder upon ourselves, as far as it lies in our power, namely, in that we murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions, and wish to merit something special in heaven.

Therefore this passage should in all reason terrify the grand inquisitors and murderers of the people, where they are not brazened faced, even if they have to deal with true heretics. But at present they burn the true saints and are themselves heretics. What is that but uprooting the wheat, and pretending to exterminate the tares, like insane people? (link)

I suppose I should be grateful – instead of getting burned as a heretic in this life I get to wait until the angels do it after I die… (!) There’s still no recognition of the ‘tares’ as valuable plants in their own right. A few sentences later there’s an interesting description of how ‘the field of itself yields nothing but tares, which the cattle eat, although the field receives them and they make the field green as if they were wheat’. He’s talking about the ‘false Christians’ he perceived as predominating in the established church of his time, but I like the idea of the field ‘receiving’ the tares, even if the farmer doesn’t. It reminds us that we’re not the only ones permitted to exist on this planet, that other creatures might make good use of the plants we consider undesirable; that people left to their own devices might create beautiful things – in service of the living world, not the Monoculture.

Okay, we’ll finish the sermon with a song by George Brassens, ‘La Mauvaise Herbe’. Go here for a decent translation & interpretation.

“Je suis d’la mauvaise herbe,
Braves gens, braves gens,
C’est pas moi qu’on rumine
Et c’est pas moi qu’on met en gerbe…

La mort faucha les autres
Braves gens, braves gens,
Et me fit grâce à moi,
C’est immoral et c’est comm’ ça !
La la la la la la la la

Et je m’ demand’
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange
Que j’ vive un peu…”

————-

* – For a description of how this happens in latter-day secular societies see Media Lens’ brilliant two-part ‘Anatomy of a Propaganda Blitz‘ which shows how dissenting figures and official state enemies are attacked, ridiculed and marginalised in the major media outlets, the purpose being to delegitimise criticism of – and opposition to – the corporate, neoliberal hegemony dominating the western so-called ‘democracies’.

† – ‘[W]hen you cultivate, seeds lying deep in the soil, which would never have germinated otherwise, are stirred up and given a chance to sprout. Furthermore, the quick sprouting, fast-glowing varieties are given the advantage under these conditions. So you might say that the farmer who tries to control weeds by cultivating the soil is, quite literally, sowing the seeds of his own misfortune.’ (One-Straw Revolution, p.38 – pdf)

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10 Responses to “Unscholarly reactions to The Parable of the Tares”

  1. Kitchen-Counter-Culture Says:

    There is so absolutely much to respond to in this piece I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll let my thoughts sit and come back. Such a brilliant way to imagine some of the cultural roots of monocultural agriculture, but that’s only the beginning.

  2. Ian M Says:

    Thanks KCC, take your time – I’ve been sitting on this one for a while myself!

    On the question of ‘has the attempt to banish these behaviours and attitudes created the same perfectly adequate conditions for them to thrive and multiply?’ I’m thinking about religious taboos around sexuality would be one example where suppression of natural impulses leads to re-emergence in different, more disturbed ways. There’s still a remarkable emotional charge behind ‘dirty’ jokes, innuendo, use of genitals as terms of abuse etc. which must derive its vehemence from the unstated agreement that such things are not to be spoken about and only done in secret because they’re shameful and disgusting. Tribal societies talk about these things much more frankly, honestly and with a lighter humour.

    A more practical example of this happening in the ‘modern’ world would be the escalating use of antibiotics to kill off harmful (and harmless) bacteria. The medical industry in this area is actually providing the evolutionary selection pressure for the development of higher antibiotic resistance in strains of bacteria like MRSA etc. Declare them sinful and attempt to wipe them out and they’re like: “Right, let’s show them what REAL sinful behaviour is like!” Of course this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the industry, which makes a good deal of money by providing treatments for illnesses it has caused (in this case at least).

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts 🙂

    I

  3. wildcucumber Says:

    Are you more interested in what Jesus actually meant by this parable or by what you can read back into it from your own experiences? Both are valid of course, I just can’t tell from this piece which you are aiming for.

  4. Ian M Says:

    Thanks for stopping by Christine – I wondered if you’d have something to say about this!

    ‘Are you more interested in what Jesus actually meant by this parable or by what you can read back into it from your own experiences?’ – Tricky question… I guess, while I’m not disinterested in Jesus’ purpose with this parable, my main focus is on the context it reveals – both historically in the kind of society he was brought up in, and in what it says about the modern social context which has been heavily influenced by that past, due to the spread of Christianity around the globe. My own experiences also help to illuminate those contexts, for me at least! For example the description of Jewish slavery, whereby:

    ‘A Jewish slave had an interest in his master’s affair, if for no other reason, because he himself was affected by the prosperity or otherwise of his master’s business. But quite apart from that, owing to the enactments of the Jewish Law and the tradition of centuries, the relations between a Jewish master and his bond servants was generally speaking, more than merely tolerable.’

    rings several bells in my current work situation. Not intolerable, but still slavery at the end of the day. I can see where they’re coming from and imagine the kind of psychological management they would undergo from their master, leading to the persuasion to all pull in the same direction, even though the only reason they’re working for him is because of coercion (no land = no control over subsistence needs = terminal insecurity = need for rent = dependence on wages and access to a market economy etc etc). Whether this translates metaphorically to a relationship with a deity, as Jesus does in the parable, is another question…

    Is that as clear as mud??

    best,
    I

    • wildcucumber Says:

      “Whether this translates metaphorically to a relationship with a deity, as Jesus does in the parable, is another question…”

      I like the way my pastor describes this; we have a few choices when it comes to our relationship with God. As is typical of the the times, God is seen as an Eastern sheik, with a large household for whom He is responsible.

      No relationship at all – we can ignore Him (and He will ignore us – Free Will.)

      We can be slaves – belonging to Him but mostly avoiding contact Him and associating with the other slaves.

      We can be Servants – in this case the rank is just a little higher. We serve Him willingly, not simply because we’re born into it, but out of love and a sense that there is a moral duty. The prosperity of the sheik means the prosperity of his entire household. Servants would have His ear, too, because we have earned His trust.

      We can become Family – adopted sons and daughters, with all the privilege this might entail. Forgiveness, a degree of indulgence of our foibles as we learn, and .. more than I can go into here.

      As to the tares?

      One of my personal take-aways from that (because I, like you, often see myself as a tare) is if you’re going to *be* a tare, then just stay out of the wheat field!

  5. Ian M Says:

    It’s a weird one: did God create Man in his own image (as Genesis has it) or was it actually the other way round? I tend to go for the second interpretation. Just watched a surprisingly good discussion on the matter on the BBC’s ‘Big Questions’ programme:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07dyvzh/the-big-questions-series-9-episode-18

    Hopefully you’ll be able to view it outside of the UK, but I’ll try to find it elsewhere on the web if not. I found myself basically in agreement with Tim Whitmarsh’s position (from 11:30) about religions being ‘socially responsive’ to the societal structures they emerge from, doing (in the most public expressions) what people in those situations want them to do. If an empire, God will be an Emperor; if a people suffering persecution, a Protector; if an agrarian society, a Farmer etc. All things considered, though, I would rather not live in these kinds of hierarchal societies, and am making an effort to move away from the behaviours they foster. What kind of deity/deities would emerge from an egalitarian, even (God forbid!) a matriarchal society based on foraging & minimal horticulture? Did we once have those gods here where we lived before they were overrun or usurped by deities espousing conquest and genocide? Can we reconnect with them, or does this happen spontaneously as we move towards different subsistence practices and ways of organising our social relationships? Those are the questions that animate me anyway; I don’t know how they relate to your search, but if you see value in your ‘sheikdom’ I trust there must be good reasons for it even if I don’t personally understand the attraction.

    ‘if you’re going to *be* a tare, then just stay out of the wheat field!’

    Wow, lots of reactions to that one! Could be sound careers advice for one thing 😉 I’m tempted to respond that the whole world has become a wheat field so where is there left to go? Or that the wheat field is where darnels are most needed, and incidentally where they find the growing conditions best suited to them. Aren’t plants there to teach us lessons? Who will teach the farmers a lesson if the darnels just give up and go live on a cliff somewhere?

    Hmmm, all this talk in metaphors is starting to give me a headache! I’ll leave it there for now.

    best,
    I

    • wildcucumber Says:

      I’v always been fascinated by the human attempt to understand the Divine. The God of the Bible as a sheik made sense in its time.

      So many changes in the faces of God(s)/the Goddess(es) throughout history – or indeed herstory. Change = stability after all.

  6. Ian M Says:

    ‘The God of the Bible as a sheik made sense in its time.’ – I don’t doubt it, maybe like the atheist ‘scientism’ makes sense to so many in our time – because it fits with the prevailing orthodoxy beloved of those in power (the world as essentially dead matter, ‘resources’ to be exploited, and no need for a deity because humans have taken control of all that work and basically become gods themselves, or so they see it…) But I’m sure that’s not the whole story. Teresa Morgan’s bit (34:00) made sense to me too, that many religious traditions actually go against the grain of the social setup they find themselves in. The rational Enlightenment probably started out that way, as an exciting countercultural movement giving common people the tools to challenge the accepted wisdom of the day. Jesus is another example obviously. That these movements can be corrupted and twisted against their original intentions doesn’t invalidate the attempt, and shouldn’t IMO invalidate the beliefs or actions of those still trying to adhere to that vision within the tradition that has since turned into something else.

    So it goes…

  7. Ian M Says:

    Had a few discussions about this topic on the message boards that I frequent which I thought I’d save here for posterity and/or more grist to the mill (if you’ll pardon the wheat-based metaphor!), abridging any lengthy direct quotes and bolding the main ‘essay questions’.

    #1 in the rewild forums:

    http://discuss.rewild.com/t/in-defense-of-tares/2005

    I: Here’s something I wrote the other day in response to the Parable of the Tares in Matthew 13, which might be of interest: [url]

    It explores the relation of Christianity to the agricultural practices of the day and suggests that notions of sin and heresy (and what to do about them) might have stemmed from the agrarian attitudes and policies towards weeds and other unwanted species:

    “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” […]

    Would it even be possible for concepts like sin & heresy to emerge in societies not based on monocultures of grain plants, and with no shoot-on-sight policy towards any other plant competing with these crops? Do nonagricultural societies have words coming close to the meaning of ‘weed’, defined as:

    “a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.

    any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted: The vacant lot was covered with weeds.”

    I’m guessing there’s an understanding, largely absent from western civilised cultures, that just because humans have no use for a plant, doesn’t make it ‘valueless’ to other creatures in the web of life.

    There’s also some Sympathy for the Devil towards the end. It turns out sowing tares (thought to refer to a wheat-like plant called darnel) might have been a relatively common practice in 0th century Palestine as an escalation of neighbourly disputes or a parting gift from disgruntled slaves or tenant farm workers. There was even a Roman law prohibiting it. Anyway what interested me was the supposed innocence of the master in the parable. What had he (or God) done to ‘to earn himself such a dedicated Enemy?’

    “It reminds me of my half-serious, slightly silly suggestion that seed bombs might be used in clandestine operations on arable fields in order to ‘diversify the monocrop’” […]

    Then there’s some identification with weeds and my usual complaint about being treated in a similar way by various people in my life engaged one way or another in ‘the careful, ongoing cultivation of the social field’. To what extent do agricultural practices and the treatment of domesticated livestock influence the disciplinary actions enacted on the young and pervading the workplace, religious circles, the political culture etc?

    Interested to hear any thoughts.

    cheers,
    Ian

    *****

    F:Sometimes, while these threads interest me, I fell I have little to contribute. Then something comes to me days later. While staying a few nights at my mate’s mother’s house last week, she asked us if we could pull the weeds for her. My response: which ones are the weeds? All these plants she referred to as “weeds”, brush growing along the side of the house where her lawnmower wouldn’t reach, were valuable herbs and dear cousins in my eyes. Wild strawberries behind the broken air conditioner, grasses with sweet seeds big as oats, loads of bright healthy dandelions and clovers surrounded by lush green….The neighbor has a mulberry bush on the fence-line that she wants cut down too.

    Who exactly do these “weeds”, these native plants growing wild together, steal nutrients and water from? The neatly-trimmed usually-foreign lawns humans try to maintain for some odd reason? Give me my neck-high prairie grass gone to full golden seed like fields of wild wheat, dandelions (free detox coffee you modern fools!) all over my yard, and wild strawberries allowed to grow as big as those mulberries! Of course it isn’t my yard though, so she pulled most of the “weeds” herself and left their bodies in a pile. I’m sure more life will spring up soon anyway.

    *****

    I:Thanks for the story, F. Have had similar experiences in the past too, whether it’s trying to persuade a client to keep the cow parsley in their woodland area or showing up at my allotment one day to find that someone has oh-so-helpfully pulled out the self-sown fat hen plants I was leaving to grow in the bean patch (they make a good potherb or spinach substitute). ‘Valueless’, ‘undesirable’ as per the definition… it all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it? And your knowledge or willingness to learn about other possible uses for these ‘tares’. Same goes for people, I think, and the certain behaviours defined in similar terms which are denied the space for expression in the dominant society. Native people and practices, for example: obviously no value in lifeways that have lasted millennia without destroying the land. They have to go. Gypsies: don’t abide by Accepted Notions of property, tax, etc. They must be made to conform or shunted along. Leftist agitators, pacifists, anarchists: they threaten the status quo so must be marginalised, mocked, abused, imprisoned, executed. And so forth…

    “Of course it isn’t my yard though, so she pulled most of the “weeds” herself and left their bodies in a pile.”

    Isn’t it always the way? Those with the inspiration to try things differently do not get the same opportunities as those who have toed the line (and been rewarded for it) for their whole lives. Conservation rewilders have to fight the farmers tooth and nail for even the most marginal land, while the latter continue to wreck the majority of the land they have grabbed in the name of ‘tradition’. Grrr…

    But like you say, it will all spring back up someday. Sooner rather than later IMHO.

    best,
    Ian

    *****

    F: Ah yes, I agree, sooner than later. The times they are a-changin’. Of course I do try to avoid mentioning such changing of the times; as you seem to point out, it’s too easy to be labeled a radical survivalist eco-terrorist security threat nowadays. It really is nice being on a forum where people don’t think I’m just that. 🙂

  8. Ian M Says:

    and #2 on The Lifeboat News:

    http://members5.boardhost.com/xxxxx/thread/1465240438.html
    (link will expire before long)

    I: Unscholarly reactions to The Parable of the Tares

    Loosely relevant to the topics of thought control, ideological discipline etc – something wot I wrote the other day in response to Jesus’ Parable of the Tares as related in Matthew 13: [url]

    “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.” […]

    I’m trying to connect up in my mind primitivist critiques of domestication with the kind of analysis undertaken on these pages, trying to explain why certain ideas rise to prominence while others are doomed to obscurity or an insecure presence on the fringes. The analogy of weeding out unwanted plants from the Master’s wheat field seems like a good one for this purpose. To what extent could parenting, educational establishments, workplace management, the media & wider political culture be seen in terms of intensive cultivation – basically human domestication – with unwanted ideas & behaviours constantly weeded out, pruned off, ‘nipped in the bud’ and any individuals who don’t look like they’re going to produce the right kind of harvest getting hacked down and thrown on the compost heap (or in this case a ‘furnace of fire’)? That certainly fits with my life experience!

    Interested to hear any thoughts.

    cheers,
    I

    *****

    K: Always liked that ” wailing and gnashing of teeth. ” bit. Sounds like the Mainstream media to me…

    *****

    M: Without wishing to be flippant, the modern remedy for ridding the field of ‘tares’ would be to use a selective weedkiller/herbicide.

    Did you know that herbicides such as glyphosate are sprayed on to ripe crops so that the leaves and stems are desiccated, leaving the grain or crop easier and cheaper to collect. Have you noticed the brown fields?

    This is a potato crop awaiting harvest.

    ‘The application of glyphosate differs between countries significantly. It is commonly used in the UK where summers are wet and crops may ripen unevenly. Thus in the UK 78% of oilseed rape is desiccated before harvest, but only 4% in Germany.’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_desiccation

    Imagine how much of the residue is getting into our food and thus our bodies.

    *****

    K: They used to use Sulphuric acid…until banned in 2009. Walk along the side of the field at the wrong time and watch the bottom of your trousers, em…disappear. God knows what it was doing to the fauna.
    The commonest around here now I believe is Diquat: also used for killing potato haulms off. Its pretty toxic too:

    https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/diquat_dibromide#section=Top

    *****

    V: Plenty of change.org petitions about glyphosate:

    https://www.change.org/search?q=Glyphosate

    *****

    I: Thanks all,

    K said: ‘Always liked that ” wailing and gnashing of teeth. ” bit. Sounds like the Mainstream media to me…’

    Guess it does, more gnashing than you find in these quarters anyway. Does that mean hell isn’t actually all that bad and maybe heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be??

    M said: ‘the modern remedy for ridding the field of ‘tares’ would be to use a selective weedkiller/herbicide’ – yeah, I did wonder about that. Also would be interested to hear any permaculture ‘the problem is the solution’-type advice. It might just go straight to: Don’t bother trying to cultivate a monocrop’ though…

    ‘Imagine how much of the residue is getting into our food and thus our bodies’ – indeed, probably that’s why the FoE study found traces of glyphosate in 7/10 brits they tested (these were people who lived in cities and had no immediate contact with the chemical in their day-to-day lives):

    http://www.foeeurope.org/weed-killer-glyphosate-found-human-urine-across-Europe-130613

    Crazy stuff about dessication. Talk about servicing the needs of machines (and capital) at the expense of human & environmental health. People in the future – if any survive – will look back on this as a completely insane time.

    Thanks to K for the info on Diquat. I heard somewhere that harvested potatoes are too toxic to be around in storage until whatever herbicide it was evaporates off. Just what you want on your chips…

    cheers,
    I

    *****

    m:‘Also would be interested to hear any permaculture ‘the problem is the solution’-type advice. It might just go straight to: Don’t bother trying to cultivate a monocrop’ though… ‘

    Crops could be interplanted in single drills – or double/triple, so harvesting is made a little easier. The humble spud is such a fantastic staple though, so you’d certainly want some. Sweet potato is even better – more nutritious and tastier – but it’s a bit tender for these parts (though I think it’s being worked on to develop a hardier strain). Sweets are proper climbers though, so will need canes or screens to grow on.
    As for the ‘waste’ parts –
    http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Solanum_tuberosum.html

    ‘Root and leaf diffusates of growing potato plants possess cardiotonic activity. Dried ethanol extracts of above-ground parts show marked hypotensive and myotropic action and a spasmolytic and soothing effect on intestinal musculature. Ethanol extracts of leaves have antifungal properties, active against Phytophthora infestans. Leaves, seeds, and tuber extracts show antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.’

    ‘Although the foliage is considered poisonous, some African tribes used the tip as a potherb, while others, like Mauritians extract the.green parts as a narcotic.’

    😀

    ‘FoE study found traces of glyphosate in 7/10 brits they tested (these were people who lived in cities and had no immediate contact with the chemical in their day-to-day lives)’

    Yeah, but it’s sold in every garden centre and sprayed about by every lazy sod that can’t get off their arse and hand weed. I imagine the use is pretty heavy in cities.

    ‘I heard somewhere that harvested potatoes are too toxic to be around in storage until whatever herbicide it was evaporates off.’

    If it’s a systemic weedkiller, like glyphosate, then it works by being absorbed into the structure of the plant – root and branch – and as solanum tuberosum is a, er, tuber, that will have taken on a volume of the poison. Monsanto’s ‘great work’ has been to develop ‘Roundup ready’ http://www.roundup.com.au/how-roundup-works
    crops, which are immune to the glyphosate, but again, because it’s a systemic weedkiller, the glyphosate is taken up by the plant but survives because of its genetic modification. As bad as glyphosate is, and it is bad – reduced winter hardiness in many species affected by drift; residues in the soil, despite claims it doesn’t hang around for long and breaks down to harmless in short order; run off is poisonous to many water organisms – including tadpoles – and no doubt more species higher up the chain too; invasive weeds becoming resistant due to over reliance…and so on. BUT it’s not the worst bit, the glyphosate (for which, btw, the patent has expired, so any chemical producer can make their own generic version), it’s the surfactant – the chemical that makes the product stay on the leaf long enough to be absorbed by the plant. That’s the gear that’s most likely carcinogenic to humans, as it’s been shown to be to ‘lower’ mammals. I think they’re called ‘tallowamines’, if I remember right. Are we just soooo clever?

    Have a nice day, if you still can 😉

    *****

    I: Thanks for that info m, most enlightening/troubling!

    ‘Crops could be interplanted in single drills – or double/triple, so harvesting is made a little easier.’ – I’m confused, are we talking about wheat, potatoes or a mix? How would that solve the problem of darnel (tares) growing with the wheat? Just because the plants wouldn’t be so close together? The background from biblical times:

    “Despite their willingness to try � workers regularly uprooted weeds before their roots were entangled with those of the wheat ” […]

    (So burning for fuel counts as one ‘problem = solution, I suppose – bit crass though!) Also:

    “Why do the servants ask about their master�s �good� seed? Does not every farmer sow the best seed anyway?

    The servants most probably had a hand in ensuring that the seed the master sowed was free of darnel-grains.”[…]

    (Sources at above link)

    ‘Yeah, but it’s sold in every garden centre and sprayed about by every lazy sod that can’t get off their arse and hand weed. I imagine the use is pretty heavy in cities.’ – admittedly, but I think FoE asked the participants to make sure they stayed away from it as best as possible, and at any rate it gives the lie to claims that the stuff biodegrades into harmless substances and doesn’t travel.

    I was struck that a lot of the criticism of glyphosate deals with the unintended effects for wildlife, human health etc. But what of the intended effect, namely to kill off any plant not selected for harvest – whether we’re talking about field monocrops or cherished garden plants? The FoE report mentioned how skylark populations plummeted in sprayed beet fields vs non-sprayed, and they reckoned it was partly because no ‘weed’/wildflower plants survived to provide them with seed over the winter. It puts me in mind of genocide, really (or biocide, I guess) but that goes way deeper than chemical usage, going to the root of what you might call the monocultural impulse. Who else but the human beings and their plant & animal domesticates may be permitted to survive?

    Interesting about the tallowamines being the carcinogens, not heard that before. You got a link I can check out?

    cheers,
    I

    *****

    m: Hi

    Yeah, sorry – wasn’t entirely clear there, went a bit off piste. The interplanting was more a response to the monoculture thing – like a version of strip farming done in the middle ages but using, say, three or four drills of one crop, then three or four of another and so on. Including legumes in the mix for nitrogen fixing and other mineral miners/support species too, to keep the soil well. Rotation too/no tilling, just add manure and straw annually also. Masanobu Fukuoka grew rice and wheat together using this method. More labour intensive, ofcourse, than mono, but a better result eco/diversity wise – not all eggs in one basket etc. It’s not a solution to the rye/wheat problem.

    The darnel is an annual, like wheat, so I think they were going at this arse about tit. It was understandably tricky to make sure all the rye seed was separated after harvest, so they kept the cycle going year on year replanting the stuff. If they were putting in all that effort to pull the weed before it got too entangled in root system, then the same or less effort would have been to take a knife to it and hack it down to the ground – ok, it’s gonna come back, so do it again. Once you’ve gone through one season, intensively hacking it back before it bears seed, then you’ve got a totally clean crop of seed for replanting the next year – a few strays would possibly make it through, and maybe some of the original plants might survive till the next season and have another go – so do the same again. If it was such a massive problem, which it appears to have been, then I reckon that would be the way to do it to achieve a clean seed store. It’s only the seed that’s poisonous isn’t it? So maybe the cuttings could be animal feed? Or organic matter for mulching?

    Re: intended/unintended effects – I don’t think they give a #### about any of it except (primarily) their profits, their self regard and their unbridled ‘scientism’ come a close second and third, though. The arrogance and hubris is seriously disturbing, bordering on insane, I think. It seems to me so patently clear that messing with organisms in this way, organisms that have developed alongside everything else over millions of years, is seriously misguided. That there will be ‘unforeseen consequences’ is eminently foreseeable. To refer back to scripture – The love of money really does appear to be the root of all evil.

    Re: glyphosate/tallowamines

    http://sustainablepulse.com/2016/02/15/france-environment-agency-glyphosate-could-be-carcinogenic-to-humans/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/03/21/monsanto-herbicide-dubbed-probably-carcinogenic-by-world-health-organization-are-they-right/#593dcde826e5

    ‘It may be that this new determination mainly regards farm workers, rather than the general public. It could also be that glyphosate itself isn�t the risk, but rather the compounds that glyphosate is combined with to arrive at the final formation. The German research that led to the EU�s decision on glyphosate�s safety concluded that, �the available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animals�..[the research team] believes that there is convincing evidence that the measured toxicity of some glyphosate containing herbicides is the result of the co-formulants in the plant protection products (e.g., tallowamines used as surfactants).�

    http://www.bfr.bund.de/en/the_bfr_has_finalised_its_draft_report_for_the_re_evaluation_of_glyphosate-188632.html

    ‘As a result of the re-assessment for the active substance BfR proposes slight amendments of the reference values. BfR believes that there is convincing evidence that the measured toxicity of some glyphosate containing herbicides is the result of the co-formulants in the plant protection products (e.g., tallowamines used as surfactants). Therefore BfR calls special attention to the co-formulants and incorporated a toxicological assessment of tallowamines in its draft report.’

    Takes a while to unravel these things. Highly recommend a film called The World According to Monsanto, a documentary made by CBC, if I remember right. It’s available full length on youtube, or was a while ago. It’s very good.

    Cheers

    *****

    I: Thanks again m, a few responses:

    ‘The interplanting was more a response to the monoculture thing’ – Oh okay, fair do’s. The intercropping sounds like a good idea. A bit of structural diversity in there, and covering your bases like you say. Crazy that modern wheat farmers think nothing of losing 1/3 to 1/2 of their crop, (or so it appeared from another countryfile episode I watched) – if I had that much failure on my allotment I’d probably quit then & there! I guess there’s also the problem of denial of living space to most wild plants & animals if it’s an exclusively human harvest. Then you get to notions of set-aside, fallowing or beyond that Zone 5 wilderness which remains largely untouched. How do you ensure that there’s enough space for all the others to live? Working with, or alongside the process of succession rather than against it seems like the way to go from where I’m standing. Eg: swidden farming where patches of woodland are burnt and cultivated in rotation with time allowed for regeneration of woodland before the cycle starts again.

    ‘If they were putting in all that effort to pull the weed before it got too entangled in root system, then the same or less effort would have been to take a knife to it and hack it down to the ground ‘ – Well the thing was they couldn’t distinguish it from wheat until the roots +were+ thoroughly entangled. Then, like you say, the only thing would be to hack it down before harvest, as the Master in the parable in fact suggests.

    ‘It’s only the seed that’s poisonous isn’t it? So maybe the cuttings could be animal feed? Or organic matter for mulching?’ Apparently the darnel seed is actually edible, only it’s susceptible to an ergot-like fungus which makes it bitter & toxic. As for other uses, maybe fodder would be a possibility:

    ‘It took up valuable space; but hardly had any use at all, being used mainly as chicken and pigeon fodder. Even this was not recommended. Since forests do not abound in Palestine, fuel was scarce. The darnel could be used for fuel, but it made less heat than noise! So, economically, the landowner had nothing to gain; but much to lose. The darnel-adulterated wheat would sell with difficulty.’

    Or ‘chop & drop’ mulch would probably be okay too, but that doesn’t solve the problem of crowding out crop plant. I should look up if it’s still a common agricultural weed today, and if so what people tend to do about it… Anyway, coming up with these kinds of ‘solutions’ could obscure the main point that monocrop farming itself is the Problem, and that darnel and other weed plants are actually providing a service – not to human farmers admittedly, but to the other plants and animals who depend upon a diversity of living things on the land. How did it happen that we don’t have that same dependency?

    ‘It seems to me so patently clear that messing with organisms in this way, organisms that have developed alongside everything else over millions of years, is seriously misguided. That there will be ‘unforeseen consequences’ is eminently foreseeable.’ – Amen!

    Thanks for the glyphosate links – they’ll go in the folder Think I watched The World According a while ago, but probably due a re-watch as I can’t remember much about it!

    all best,
    I

    *****

    m: Thanks, Ian.

    ‘Working with, or alongside the process of succession rather than against it seems like the way to go’

    Ofcourse it is. The fact of nature’s design – and that we actually understand the process – means that we can design with that in mind – instead of being at war with it. By designing it into our own systems, it can go on indefinitely, self-sustaining and supporting all the necessary diversity and balance needed for a healthy eco system.

    ‘an ergot-like fungus’ – yeah, wouldn’t want to be eating that, particularly. Funny, I wouldn’t have thought it would be such an issue in Palestine or thereabouts; always thought it was a temperate zone storage issue, too damp and the fungus gets onto it. I guess while the grain’s still moist and drying it might be susceptible if not stored well. Though having said that I think ergot forms sclerotia – a hardened mycelial nugget, like a truffle – which infests the grain. Sclerotia are a survival tech for some fungi, much hardier than the ‘normal’ mycelium, by holding water, dna, nutes, in case of fire/drought/excessive rain etc., which might kill off the regular mycelium.

    ‘Or ‘chop & drop’ mulch would probably be okay too, but that doesn’t solve the problem of crowding out crop plant’

    Chop and drop if it’s got some nutes in it that will become available – otherwise I’d say compost it or use as moisture retaining mulch. Yes, the crowding out would still be an issue – but if the rye was prevented from going to seed, then it would only be an issue for one season – after that you’d have a clean seed store and wouldn’t re-sow it the following year.

    ‘Anyway, coming up with these kinds of ‘solutions’ could obscure the main point that monocrop farming itself is the Problem, and that darnel and other weed plants are actually providing a service – not to human farmers admittedly, but to the other plants and animals who depend upon a diversity of living things on the land. How did it happen that we don’t have that same dependency? ‘

    I think we do. We’re just relying on technology to get us by for the moment. Whenever I see the word ‘solution’, I remember something I read years ago – can’t remember if it was a famous quote or not, but it resonates, to paraphrase: The biggest cause of problems is solutions. The example I recall was the Aswan dam. As cities arose along the Nile, it was getting to be a bit of a pain in the arse to get flooded, as the Nile did every year. So they built the dam. Flood problem solved…except that the Nile flooding the delta every year brought nutrient rich water into the farming zones there, depositing it on the land and making it fertile. Not any more. Also, the flow of nutes found its way out into the eastern Med, where there was a rich fishery – was, not any more. To cap it off, the dam is silting up and probably has only a few more decades before it’s useless; dredging, apparently, is not practicable or ‘economic’. Lesson? We better start thinking, because we do depend on that diversity just as much as any other living thing, and on the flows and cycles ultimately governed by the sun. The whole Bio-tech bullshit is yet another symptom of our arrogant belief that we can outmanoeuvre nature. Suckers.

    Cheers

    *****

    I: edible & medicinal uses for darnel

    Plants for a Future page:

    http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lolium+temulentum

    “Edible Parts: Seed.
    Edible Uses:

    Seed – cooked. Used as a pi�ole or ground into a flour and used to make bread etc[213, 257]. It is very nutritious, like oats, but it is not advisable to eat the seed due to the risk of fungal infection[114]. This fungal infection, called ergot, causes hallucinations in small doses but can cause severe damage to the nervous system in larger quantities.

    Medicinal Uses

    Anodyne; Sedative.

    The seed is anodyne and sedative[4]. It is not actually the seed, but a fungus that is often found on the seed that has the medicinal properties[K].”

    Maud Grieve has her usual treasure trove of info on the herbal side of things:

    http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/grasse34.html#dar

    “In the Middle Ages it was sometimes called Cokil, as well as Ray, and in the fourteenth century we hear of it being used against ‘festour and morsowe,’ and of Cokkilmeal being thought good for freckles and to make the face white and soft. Culpepper, after calling it ‘a malicious part of sullen Saturn,’ adds: ‘as it is not without some vices, hath it also many virtues . . . the meal of darnel is very good to stay gangrenes; it also cleanseth the skin of all scurvy, morphews, ringworms, if it be used with salt and reddish (Radish) roots.’ Also: ‘a decoction thereof made with water and honey, and the places bathed therewith cures the sciatica,’ and finally: ‘Darnel meal applied in a poultice draweth forth splinters and broken bones in the flesh.”

    I’m sure other animals find good uses in the plant too…
    I

    *****

    m: Thanks.

    Perhaps of interest: Teleology – the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes – branch of philosophy that deals with ends or final causes.

    I do have a strong inclination towards the idea that everything in nature has a purpose – or ‘end’.

    Cheers

    *****

    I: Thanks again m, cool that it’s possible to have a discussion like this on a forum for media analysis!

    Just a bit left to say on the dependence on diversity topic. You wrote:

    ‘I think we do [depend on diversity]. We’re just relying on technology to get us by for the moment. Whenever I see the word ‘solution’, I remember something I read years ago – can’t remember if it was a famous quote or not, but it resonates, to paraphrase: The biggest cause of problems is solutions.’

    Wasn’t that Fukuoka’s big revelation, that all the world’s problems have stemmed from mankind trying to +do+ something?

    ‘We better start thinking, because we do depend on that diversity just as much as any other living thing, and on the flows and cycles ultimately governed by the sun. The whole Bio-tech bullshit is yet another symptom of our arrogant belief that we can outmanoeuvre nature. Suckers.’

    I wouldn’t deny this, or your Aswan dam example. There seems to be some recognition within the ‘ecosystem services’/’natural capital’ (::spits on the floor::) circles that natural, ie: other-than-human processes can benefit human-only enterprises in often poorly understood ways, like the river Nile floods you point to. Monbiot and others have made the argument that no-catch zones in seas and oceans would actually benefit industrial fishing in the long term because of all the small fry that would subsequently come from those areas. However this for me ignores the fundamentally anti-diversity agenda and practice of the dominant culture, trying to appeal to a better nature that doesn’t exist. Lately I’ve been trying to put it as a devil’s advocate argument: that ‘we’ (ie: civilised societies which get their subsistence almost entirely from field agriculture and animal domesticates) don’t depend on the health of the ‘natural’ world – in fact our success depends on the extent to which we are able to +subdue+, exterminate and supplant these other species and processes:

    http://discuss.rewild.com/t/does-civilisation-depend-upon-healthy-ecosystems/1940

    “There seems to be an unquestioned assumption in mainstream environmentalism and/or rewilding that ‘we’ (ie: members of civilised societies) depend upon the health of ‘nature’ or ‘ecosystem services’ in the same way that any other species does, and that therefore the 6th mass extinction (as well as other environmental calamities) is a tragedy for ‘us’ as much as for the species it actually kills off.

    I think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the civilised society, namely that this culture, based on the domestication of plants and animals, has set itself in direct opposition to the health of the surrounding ecology (basically declared war) and that therefore the health of our food-producing and economic systems requires the impoverishment of the land & wildlife which lives there. Thus I would argue the global extinction rate of 200+ species per day should be honestly viewed as measure of this culture’s success, rather than tragic failure – the underlying goal being to convert as much of the living planet into human (via domesticate) biomass [as possible].”

    I might copy/paste this discussion in the comments on my original blog post if you’re okay with that, just to have it to hand for reference as well as for the interest of my small (but growing!) readership.

    cheers,
    Ian

    PS: ‘I do have a strong inclination towards the idea that everything in nature has a purpose – or ‘end’.’ – yup, that sounds about right to me. There’s a book I read called ‘Invasive Plant Medicine’ that left me with much the same impression. Use of the word ‘weed’ is just a way to shut off your mind and senses, and a failure to openly explore possibilities for interaction and relationship other than “I don’t want you here, therefore you die”. I think this overlaps with the debates on immigration, racism & genocide in several interesting ways!

    http://www.invasiveplantmedicine.com/

    PPS: I guess that was more than ‘just a bit left to say’ 😀

    *****

    m: Thanks, Ian.

    ‘Wasn’t that Fukuoka’s big revelation, that all the world’s problems have stemmed from mankind trying to +do+ something?’

    That would make sense, so probably.

    ‘in fact our success depends on the extent to which we are able to +subdue+, exterminate and supplant these other species and processes’

    Heh. ‘Success’. I see the Hubbert curve – which, ok, relates to the age of oil, but can reasonably be applied here.

    Quite sobering, when you see it in this form, and realise that finite resources set against exponential growth can mean only one thing. That dark spike in the middle, representing about a nanosecond of biological time, also represents the age of oil.

    ‘I might copy/paste this discussion in the comments on my original blog post if you’re okay with that’

    Sure.

    ‘Use of the word ‘weed’ is just a way to shut off your mind and senses, and a failure to openly explore possibilities for interaction and relationship other than “I don’t want you here, therefore you die”. I think this overlaps with the debates on immigration, racism & genocide in several interesting ways!’

    I think yopu put it well. Thanks for the link – hadn’t seen that before. It’s always quite amazing when you see the uses plants have been put to with regard to meds. And, indeed, still are. Fungi are right up there too – bio-remediation and meds. I’d like to think – do, in fact – that nature is intelligent. We need to start learning the lingo. Paul Stamets, mycology don and top man, said something like this: I believe that nature is intelligent; the fact that we cannot communicate with it does not impugn the idea, but speaks more to our inability to speak its language.

    Cheers

    *****

    I: No disagreement there – ‘success’ is more devil’s advocacy in case that wasn’t clear.

    ‘I believe that nature is intelligent; the fact that we cannot communicate with it does not impugn the idea, but speaks more to our inability to speak its language.’ – nice quote / paraphrase, been meaning to get round to stamets. Inability or unwillingness.

    Thanks for the informative chat 🙂

    best,
    I

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