Broker Check

The Natural Way of Things: The Problem with Domesticatoion

January 17, 2024

Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, haven't you become domesticated?" Or maybe it was, "he's become so domesticated." Is it a comment intended to be a compliment or a cheeky remark about becoming soft? In human history, the domestication of things is often viewed as the first step towards an agrarian society, a transition point between the wanderings of hunter-gatherers and more permanent settlements. 

When I hear the term domestication, my mind first turns to livestock—the domestication of animals. But domestication and livestock are not synonymous. Domestication is a process. Livestock is just one of the many subjects of the process. The domestication of plants took place before the domestication of animals, aside from probably the dog. For "crops" to be scalable, there was a need to domesticate water - irrigation. Somewhere along this timeline, humans figured out how to domesticate fire.

Domesticating something for me is "To move it from or manipulate its natural state of being, exercising a level of control over something that was once only guided by the hand of Mother Nature." - BGP 2022 

I'm not an anthropologist, archeologist, or even a historian. My interest in domestication lies in understanding its impact on how or why so many humans behave the way they do. My unfiltered and politically incorrect position has led me to conclude that much of our (human) collective behavior results from ignorance and laziness that has been enabled by, among other things, over-domestication. It's just gone too far.

We once lived as hunter-gatherers or foragers. The part of my brain that sees almost everything in this world as a matter of probability questions how often organized hunting was a part of their daily lives. With survival as their number one instinct, I question the "risk tolerance" of these early people to engage in daily hunting activities when the difference between success and failure could be life and death. A hunt would consume a lot of energy, and if they came up short, they couldn't stop at Sheetz for an MTO on the way back to the shelter. 

Think about it! No emergency care facilities were available for painful sabretooth tiger scratches, mammoth collisions, or flint splinters. Many years ago, these hunter-gatherers depended on their environment for EVERYTHING. They moved and migrated, when necessary, with the animals and or with the seasons. They were a part of the landscape, living and moving with the rhythm of nature. The relationship with their natural world began to change with the domestication of plants and animals. There was a need to clear the ground for (domesticated) crops, stand guard to protect (domesticated) flocks, and move water. However, the desire to tame and manipulate their environment puts humans at odds with the natural world. 

The domestication process caused once-mobile people with relatively fluid geographic boundaries to become more localized, forcing them to manipulate or manage their surroundings even further. Domestication is a lot of work. Sound familiar? These struggles gave rise to a sense of being apart from nature rather than a part of nature. Nature became something that is in opposition to this new way of life. That same struggle and that same mindset continues today. 

Here are two quick examples. I want to live in Arizona because the weather is nice. You know, it's a dry heat. It's also a desert where there is little water. No problem, we'll take what we need from a river miles away. We'll build dams and irrigation systems and live happily ever after. I ask: "How's that been working out for that part of the country?" 

Second example: think about the nearly mindless exercise of getting dinner. Once, it was an activity that required planning and possible personal risk. Today, it requires no planning. The only risk is your cell phone. If you're wondering why the cell phone is a risk, I see people scrolling while driving home. I'm assuming they are trying to place a to-go order. Perhaps dinner is a more justifiable excuse for scrolling while doing 75 miles an hour than checking your likes.

Today, we can drive up to some window, buy fabricated food in manufactured packaging, and return to that fascinating Instagram post. The domino effect of the domestication of our environment for the sake of pleasure and ease is incalculable. I'm exaggerating, as I sometimes do, to illustrate a point. I realize I’m competing for your attention.  Much of what is marketed and sold as progress is just the over-domestication of something—a constant effort to manipulate a thing or process to make life easier or seemingly more convenient. 

Over the centuries, our challenges and struggles with the natural world have grown in proportion with our desire to domesticate (control) every aspect of our environment. We live in a world that wants everything to be easier and faster. I’m certain that the next iPhone will improve the quality of our lives. We literally have the world in the palms of our hands. That is everything but peace and happiness. But don't worry. Several apps can help you with that as well. Once populated by self-sustaining hunters and gathers, the earth is now the host to millions of people who can't cook a meal and are ready to riot after two days without electricity. 

We are over-domesticated, and as the gap widens, we lose a little more of what it feels like to be human. What it feels like to live close to the natural way of things. 


Brian Pitell 

BPG Planning