The Watering Hole

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In Nature, animals will always- at some point or another- venture long distances in order to reach a supply of clean and fresh water, often referred to as the Watering Hole. During times of severe draught, herds of elephants with elders have a better chance of surviving than those who do not.

These elderly elephants have lived through similar draughts and thus remember where they could find water that has yet to dry up, the previous watering hole that saved them in their youth. In other words, an elephant never forgets.

Here they drink, rest and replenish their energy. Though often times the watering hole can be more dangerous to potential prey than a desert. Water born predators such as crocodiles and alligators are always lurking. But land based predators such as lions, hyenas and cheetahs are also an issue. Because they too must drink and they rarely seem to hold a truce.

For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings also lived like this. For the vast majority of the hundred and fifty thousand years we have lived on earth, we too have ventured to such watering holes. We were hunters and scavengers, barely more adept than the lion or the antelope.

All of this changed about twelve thousand years ago when humans transitioned from hunter-gatherers into the foundation of civilisation. This transition is often referred to as the Agricultural Revolution, in which humans transformed large portions of the earth into fields to grow crops, make roads and better houses.

The first story in the book of Genesis, regarding Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, is often theorised as being an allegory for the Agricultural Revolution. The couple represent humanity, the snake Human intuition, the Garden represents the Earth and the Apple from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the Agriculture itself.

In Hunter Gatherer societies it’s typical for men to be the hinters and women to be gatherers, that being said it’s most likely that women in turn discovered the means of agriculture. Seeing that dropping some seeds onto the ground and then returning in a few weeks to discover a plant growing from that exact spot the thought occurred to them “Hey, we could cultivate this“.

So during the Revolution large portions of earth were turned into fields- leading to animals being domesticated into livestock and pets alongside the creation of larger villages, towns and cities. The latter part is especially perplexing because for Anthropologists, cities just don’t make any sense.

For starters cities were, for the longest time, unhygienic cesspools meaning that diseases were more easily spread. As a means of sustainability they don’t make much sense either, since large populations require more food and since you’ve literally just discovered agriculture you can barely nourish a village.

That’s why famine was extremely common in this time and why Religion became more influential in communities. Myths not only helped people understand the world around them, but provided basic information on how to keep the peace and how to stay alive. That’s why a good chunk of the Old Testament is dedicated to explaining how to plough a field correctly and what foods not to eat. There are more paragraphs dedicated to settling disputes between farmers than there are in dealing with the calamities of Rape and Murder.

So Religions were essentially used to keep the peace between several groups of Tribes, which in turn would create cities and finally Nation States. The agricultural revolution lead to more people pursuing careers other than food gathering, though the vast majority of people worked as farmers. That meant people could become priests, tax collectors, doctors, soldiers etc.

It also lead to societal structures- such as rigid patriarchies, class systems such as feudalism and the establishment of supreme rulers such as Monarchs and Emperors. As a way of life, agriculture wasn’t particularly good. For starters their hunter and gatherer counterparts were far healthier and worked much fewer hours collecting food- amounting to only twenty hours a week.

Hunter and Gatherers were healthier, more well nourished, less likely to experience famine or pestilence and by in large lived a lot more happier lives. For most of human history, farmers were malnourished, worked to exhaustion and died earlier than they should have.

And while the Agricultural Revolution provided the foundation for society, the distribution of work and allowed for the pursuit of knowledge- it also facilitated a lot of problems, such as the Human Condition. One step forward and one step back. Some cunts are always burning down libraries which leads to valuable information being lost. It’s why the Indus River Valley Civilisation, one of the earliest known societies predating Egypt by 3,000 years, had better sewage treatment services than Victorian London.

And while natural disasters and changing climates hindered the supply of food, it was largely man made problems that facilitated Famine. Food was often taken away from the Farmers in times of great hunger, as can be seen by the Irish Potato Famine. The problem wasn’t necessarily that there was no food, but that the British Empire had effectively removed it all from the country and had increased the prices for what remained- meaning that the poor could not afford to eat.

Many either starved to death or emigrated, the eight million population dwindled down to four million. It was a state sponsored epidemic to kill off as many inhabitants as possible to prevent the potential for rebellion. The same happened in India alongside many other colonies.

So of course the advent of agriculture lead to a surplus of food and the establishment of states alongside the expansion of knowledge. But for the vast majority of the twelve thousand years of civilisation, most modern humans had no access to either this knowledge or power.

All of this changed when the Industrial Revolution came about, leading to machinery being invented that meant fewer people were required for farming. Leading to these people to become miners, factory workers, chimney sweepers etc. Most people moved to larger towns and cities as labour was desperately required.

But of course the Industrial Revolution had a few downfalls. The invention of the steam engine lead to superior boats being produced- which in turn made the Colonisation of Africa, Asia and the Middle East a hell of a lot easier- which of course had lots of serious repercussions such as War, Slavery and institutionalised Racism. It also lead to the mass production of Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur Dioxide, leading to heavy smog in most cities and outbreaks of acid rain.

The Revolution lead to a lot of breakthroughs in regards to intellectual merit, such as the observations of Evolution by Charles Darwin. The expansion of Capital lead to the outlay of Capitalism which in turn created reactionary ideals such Communism and Socialism that was pioneered by Karl Marx. Though of course the former would be bastardised by the invention of Eugenics and the latter would prove less effective in the rise of Communist Dictatorships in the 20th Century.

Probably one of the greatest drawbacks of the Industrial Revolution was the ideals that would later form Fascism and Nazism. Which used scaremongering tactics such as scapegoating and appeals to cultural myths, Racial tension and bigotry to consolidate power, appease big business and exterminate large groups of people. We’d stomped down the rise of Fascism in a brutal war, but it’s a fire that never truly goes out.

Technology expanded, nuclear weapons were developed, a man walked on the moon, America and the USSR played chicken with Armageddon, Islamic Extremism came on the rise, the War on Terror began, Fascists started rising up again and…here we are. That’s the world as it is today.

But throughout the 150,000 years modern humans have roamed the earth, one thing is been consistent; we require food and water to survive.

When we were hunters and gatherers, food was cooked by the campfire. For the vast majority of people during the agricultural revolution, most food was prepared in the home. For people travelling inn’s were created and served food and beverages- most of them being alcohol, as clean water was rare to come by. You can read more about that here.

For some societies there was services that resembled what we’d call restaurants. The earliest examples of this can be seen in Ancient Greece and Rome, with places called Thermopolias. They were these small restaurant-bars that served hot food and drinks to customer.

A typical thermopolium had L-shaped counters in which large storage vessels were sunk, which would contain either hot or cold food. Their popularity was linked to the lack of kitchens in many dwellings and the ease with which people could purchase prepared foods. Furthermore, eating out was considered an important aspect of socialising.

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In China, food catering establishments that may be described as restaurants have been known since the 11th century in Kaifeng, China’s capital during the first half of the Song dynasty (960–1279).

These establishments most likely grew out of the tea houses and taverns that catered to travellers, Kaifeng’s restaurants blossomed into an industry catering to locals as well as people from other regions of China. There is a direct correlation between the growth of the restaurant businesses and theatres, gambling and prostitution which served the burgeoning merchant middle class during the Song dynasty.

Restaurants catered to different styles of cuisine, price brackets, and religious requirements. Even within a single restaurant much choice was available, and people ordered the entree they wanted from written menus.

But the modern understanding of what a restaurant is came from Paris after the French Revolution. The removal of the monarchy meant that Chefs that cooked for the Royal family were suddenly out of work. So to avoid poverty, these chefs opted to create their own businesses. Which offered the merchant class and peasants alike the chance to eat like a king for one day.

In America, it was not until the late 18th century that establishments that provided meals without also providing lodging began to appear in major metropolitan areas in the form of coffee and oyster-houses.

Restaurants were typically located in populous urban areas during the 19th century and grew both in number and sophistication in the mid 1800’s due to a more affluent middle class and to suburbanization. The highest concentration of these restaurants were in the West, followed by industrial cities on the Eastern Seaboard.

With rising populations the need for a larger food surplus became more apparent. That’s why commercialised food became more and more popular. For years people had been buying food from bakeries, creameries and butcher shops. It wasn’t a new phenomenon, as the Aztec people of Central Mexico utilised several convenience foods that required only adding water for preparation, which were used by travellers. But never before had such food been commercialised on a scale such as this.

Canned food was developed in the 19th century, primarily for military use, and became more popular during World War I. The need for more canned food meant that machines had to be developed for mass production of cans, meaning that the skills of a tinsmith had been replaced by an unskilled worker operating a machine.

One of the earliest industrial-scale processed foods was meatpacking. After the invention of a system of refrigerator cars in 1878, meat could be raised, slaughtered, and butchered hundreds (later thousands) of miles away from the consumer.

Experience in World War II contributed to the development of frozen foods and the frozen food industry. Modern convenience food saw its beginnings in the United States during the period that began after the War. Many of these products had their origins in military-developed foods designed for storage longevity and ease of preparation in the battle field. Following the war, several commercial food companies had leftover manufacturing facilities, and some of these companies created new freeze-dried and canned foods for home use.

Like many product introductions, not all were successful—convenience food staples such as fish sticks and canned peaches were counterbalanced by failures such as ham sticks and cheeseburgers-in-a-can. However, this new focus on convenience foods and the use of technology in the kitchen alleviated labor that was traditionally carried out by women, and therefore meals that could be prepared quickly enabled women to exercise more control over their time.

It was during post-WWII American economic boom that Americans began to spend more and buy more as the economy boomed and a culture of consumerism bloomed. As a result of this new desire to have it all, coupled with the strides made by women while the men were away, both members of the household began to work outside the home. Eating out, which had previously been considered a luxury, became a common occurrence, and then a necessity. Workers, and working families, needed quick service and inexpensive food for both lunch and dinner.

The United States has the largest fast food industry in the world, and American fast food restaurants are located in over 100 countries. Approximately 4.7 million U.S. workers are employed in the areas of food preparation and food servicing, including fast food in the USA. Worries of an obesity epidemic and its related illnesses have inspired many local government officials in the United States to propose to limit or regulate fast-food restaurants. Yet, US adults are unwilling to change their fast food consumption even in the face of rising costs and unemployment characterised by the great recession, suggesting an inelastic demand.

However, some areas are more affected than others. In Los Angeles County, for example, about 45% of the restaurants in South Central Los Angeles are fast-food chains or restaurants with minimal seating. By comparison, only 16% of those on the Westside are such restaurants. In the UK almost 900,000 people work Restaurants, while in Ireland only about 25,000 people work in Fast Food.

There’s a lot of factors to consider with the popularity of Fast Food. The most important being immigration. Italian immigrants ventured to America paved the way for the creation of Pizza, same for the Italian immigrants who ventured to the British Isles to create Fish and Chip shops. Chinese Immigrants brought along their own delicacies, as did the Japanese and Korean and various other peoples.

People moving about and experimenting with food paved the way for the Restaurant and Fast Food industries that we see today. The second factor is of course the increase in food production. Never before could you collect so much meat, fruit and vegetables to feed a large population every single day.

Though of course this lifestyle has a lot of issues, namely the abuse of animals who are forced to live their lives in claustrophobic pens, their bodies laced with Anti-Biotics which is only doing more harm than good in the fight against disease.

It also takes a tole on the Environment. It’s bad enough that we produce more Carbon Dioxide than ever. But add to the fact that we cut down a trillion trees a year and our live stock produces so much methane in their farts that it’s literally worse than our own Carbon Emissions, then that’s a problem.

And while it’s true that the Earths Climate has been changing since there was a climate, it’s never really changed like this. Usually the Earth would get a lot colder and force us into an Ice Age. Occasionally it would get warmer due to Volcanic Eruptions sending a lot of Carbon into the air- but that heat would always be counteracted by the sheer amount of plants absorbing that Carbon Dioxide and pumping out Oxygen.

Now with less trees the planet is having a harder time cooling down. Too many Greenhouse Gasses in the atmosphere traps in sunlight, which in turn makes the earth hotter. That leads to more intense storms such as hurricanes and typhoons, more severe droughts and the acidification of the Ocean.

Our entire way of life is killing the planet. In the decades to come many nations will be overwhelmed with Refugees escaping due to their homes being uninhabitable, by the end of the century people will be having wars over Water. But none of this will change because curbing our behaviour is difficult and there is no sense of ease in trying to save the world. Unlike eating at a place that has to specify that the thing you’re eating is 100% definitely chicken.

I, like 900,000 other people, work in a Restaurant or a Fast Food joint. All sorts of people come to this particular watering hole. Exhausted parents, despicable teenagers, half deaf old people- all sorts of pleasant and unpleasant characters. Aristotle was known to refer to man as “the rational animal” but often times I don’t see how we’re rational.

I’ve seen enough drumsticks to feed a village residing in a bin bag. In intervals between serving customers I’m charged with cleaning the bins, and when I do this a thought occurs to me; we have all gathered to this one place to eat and discard dead things.

Does it ever bother you that practically everything we consume is dead? The Animals we eat are often brutally murdered, the plants we eat are torn up and boiled alive, the seeds we collect for grain could have been wheat of by themselves- but we stole that life from them. The things with Life consume the Dead to Survive.

That’s how the Universe operates. The entire thing most likely started with a death, the Big Bang. Each atom and element dies to create another, each star dies to create a planet or a black hole that eats everything else. The only thing that is really immortal in the Universe is a Cancer Cell- and we try to kill the shit out of that.

We’ve come a long way from the time when we used to drink from a Watering Hole, but unless we change our way of life drastically and as soon as possible- we’re in for a world of trouble. The issue isn’t necessarily that the earth is doomed, but that we will not be able to live to see such a doom. Like George Carlin says; “The Planet’s Fine, We’re Fucked.

 

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