Free Yourself from the Afflictions of Civilization

manning“Agriculture is really the dominant system of 8,000 years, and it’s more than a way of growing food. It’s a way of domesticating humans and organising humans. It is ‘the’ system.” So says the environmental author and journalist Richard Manning in the latest podcast from The Eternities.

“And the system that brought us here and made us sick is not going to fix us.”

Manning is the author of Against the Grain: How Agriculture Hijacked Civilization, which argued that major world shaping forces, such as trade, imperialism and disease, were conditioned and driven by agriculture, both for good and ill. But, mostly ill.

Manning has now returned for another tilt at civilization with Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization, co-authored with John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of such titles as A User’s Guide to the Brain. Their new book attempts to show that our human physical evolution is lagging far behind civilization’s socio-cultural advances, significantly affecting health and well-being.

By drawing upon what we understand of our genetic heritage, the authors present strategies to tweak modern lifestyles, aping the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Paleolithic age, for which they argue we remain adapted.

In the podcast, Manning argues that his and Ratey’s work exists within the field of medical inquiry termed “diseases of civilization”.

“[This] began when the imperialists from Europe began looking at primitive cultures around the world. [T]hey found that the people that lived there didn’t suffer the diseases that were killing the Europeans. Things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes [were] virtually absent in those cultures. And it’s because of the way they ate.”

And little has changed since this disparity was noticed. He continues, “Inflammation is now becoming the marker of our diet [which is] excessive in carbohydrates. And we may not see the results of that today, but we will see them. We will see them in our brains. Our diet today will really come back to haunt us twenty years from now.

“We really need to assert ourselves and say we’re not going to live like this, we’re not going to be domesticated by this system to the point that it compromises our health.”

In terms of advice, Manning offers a place to begin. “Eliminate sugars and grain from your diet for a couple of months and see what happens to you. You’re going to lose weight and you’re going to feel a lot better.You’re going to find yourself feeling better in ways that you didn’t quiet imagine. And that’s the almost immediate pay-off to this. You don’t have to believe me, you can go ahead and try it, and you’re going to find out that your life improves dramatically .

The podcast also included discussion of such topics as the hunter-gatherer diet; the origins of agriculture; ways to improve modern agriculture; the rise of autism; and high fruit diets.

Listen to The Eternities podcast interview with Richard Manning.

Martin Higgins

Martin Higgins is a journalist, podcaster and novelist. In 2012 he published Human+, described by as "a science-fiction page-turner inspired by futures studies, psychic spy research, and the transhumanist movement". In 2017 he became a co-Founder and Media Director of Ankorus. He is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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14 Comments on "Free Yourself from the Afflictions of Civilization"

  1. misinformation | Jun 8, 2014 at 5:44 pm |

    Thanks, in advance, for posting this. I’ve never heard of Richard Manning. Hopefully it’s as interesting as it sounds.

  2. erte4wt4etrg | Jun 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm |

    jesus christ there’s sugar in EVERYTHING

    • BuzzCoastin | Jun 8, 2014 at 7:56 pm |

      there’s sugar in everything that’s processed for cyborgs
      the sugar found in natural foods is fine

      • Adam's Shadow | Jun 8, 2014 at 9:45 pm |

        Raw sugar cane is delicious; without all the processing or the synthetic bullshit food companies do to put sugar into their products, it even tastes much better.

        • Jin The Ninja | Jun 8, 2014 at 10:16 pm |

          coconut sugar is far better tasting i think. but nothing trumps maple.

          • Rhoid Rager | Jun 8, 2014 at 10:23 pm |

            I did syruping last year when I was in Ottawa. It took me a whole day to boil down 35 litres into about 1.5, but having the finished product at the end was so gratifying.

        • overdone | Jun 9, 2014 at 7:02 am |

          Stevia is great as well, after eating processed sugar for nearly all of my life, Stevia tasted “funny” at first, but once my taste buds acclimated, it is much better tasting, I use 60% less, it regulates blood sugar, and I grow it in my own garden (I live in Central America). It is even safe for diabetics.

          • I could never get on with the taste of stevia (whilst being happy for those that do) but found that, for myself, just not artificially sweetening anything anymore was easier. It only took a few weeks for my taste buds to acclimatise, to the point where any kind of really artificially sweet thing just makes me gag.

      • Exactly. And yet, the majority of “sugar is evil!” pieces to be found fail to make that distinction, seemingly ignoring that absorbing fructose along with the fibre etc. in natural foods is actually different to eating something artificially sweetened with fructose.

        Instead, it becomes just another excuse for people who don’t want to eat fresh fruit etc.

        Much like the people who seized upon the Atkins diet because it seemed to be a green light to avoiding eating vegetables at all, in exchange for all the hamburger patties they could pull out of a Big McFat bun and scarf down their swollen necks.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Jun 8, 2014 at 8:05 pm |

    there’s a difference between agriculture & horticultural
    most hunter gatherers gathered food they grew by horitcultural methods
    mainly by imitating Nature

    Civilization = agriculture
    free people = horticulture

    Permaculture is a modern horticultural approach to growing food
    unlike agriculture, horticulture/permaculture benefits the land & people
    understanding the difference beteeen the two
    is critical to becoming more detached from the agricultural matrix

    • Rhoid Rager | Jun 8, 2014 at 9:03 pm |

      That’s an important distinction to make. Thank you for presenting it so clearly.

  4. Rhoid Rager | Jun 8, 2014 at 9:14 pm |

    Material conditions don’t determine behaviour. The choices people make in their lives determine behaviour, but that’s a set of variables that’s too complex to encapsulate in an Occam’s razor-reliant theory. Better to just pick a single variable and run with it until your feet fall off–that sells more books.

  5. Ted Heistman | Jun 9, 2014 at 10:54 am |

    This is why so many people need to go to the orthodontist. People eating indigenous diets have straight white teeth.

  6. kowalityjesus | Jun 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm |

    If civilization is so terrible that it causes people to get diseases they would normally not have because of close proximity and abundance, why do people desire so much the products of civilization?
    God designed us to be not just mediocre in civilization-worthiness, and any amount of self-discipline and compassion will bring you very far ahead in the world of today’s global culture. Let the dead bury the dead.

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