Submitted by Majrelende in Anarchism (edited )

Domination is when the will of two beings is irreparably in conflict. Eventually, one wins out, and the other's nature is violated. I do not think there are very many anarchists who much like domination. Some primitivists equate it with domestication, though, which I consider mistaken.

The civilised assumption is that domestication means breeding other beings to be submissive, and bending them genetically or psychologically to fit into a civilised "production" system. For instance, breeders may breed pigs to grow fatter more quickly, wheat to take chemical fertilisers, or maize to be resistant to glyphosate. The modern concept of domestication is of humans as domesticator, or subject, and non-humans as domesticated objects. In short, humans are the only creatures with agency.

When these people make that assumption, it is understandable, as it is what they have been taught from the day they were born, but it isn't entirely accurate. In the stories of many Algonquian peoples, maize is seen as having once been a human who gave her life to become maize, and feed the rest of the people-- in this case, maize being the agent of "domestication", and both maize and the humans supporting and caring for each other. Genetically, only recently, with the use of radiation and artificial transgenic modification, have humans been able to force genetic changes on other living beings; for most of the past, the traits have already been there, among the plants and animals.

Domestication is just a tight coevolution; defining it in a typical way without resorting to human supremacism or exceptionalism is difficult. Did squash domesticate squash bees, or the other way around? What about monarch butterflies and milkweed, or the innumerable species who have evolved around traditional disturbance patterns by humans for the last however-many-thousand-years? Humans may be generalist eaters, enabling them to enter into almost any terrestrial or terrestrial-aquatic ecosystem and form a viable society there. This is somewhat rare; but as humans, we tend to conceive of it as normal. We can go to an ecosystem that doesn't need us, and survive off of it; but when an ecosystem forms that is dependent on our cultures to function, then these days we consider it something special, some form of "agriculture", even though for most creatures, this kind of tight coevolution is normal. When we plant maize and tend to them, that is a taste of the life of milkweed, when they feed their butterflies: we are giving part of ourselves to another creature so that they can survive, who is in return giving some of themself to us.

When people decide that domestication is domination, though, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When humans prune, fence in, beat, raise their voices, segregate into monocultures for mechanical harvest, exterminate children, fail to keep seeds, and in general, fail to empathise as living beings and break their ancient agreements with their fellow species-- I think this is what these primitivists are describing.

There is also the question of violence against the land. In many cases, the cycles of disturbance are healthy and encourage a diversity of species, but when people forget their responsibilities to the ecosystem and believe themselves masters, then that isn't very pleasant.

Edit: Terrible mistake. I wrote "squash beetles" instead of "squash bees", which is extremely misleading. They ARE bees that I'm describing.



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tension wrote (edited )

There's a difference between spreading seeds and doing nothing else, and genetically altering animals to grow fatter than their bones can support. Sure, you could argue that the former is "evolution" and the latter is "domination" but ... why even bother to defend "domestication" as a concept? The beetle and the squash need not describe their mutually beneficial existence as a form of control over the other, for that is what domestication is, a taming of wild nature, a purposeful dampening of the freedom to simply be, a transformation for the sole benefit of one life over another, a hierarchy in action. Domesticating means exerting control over the behavior of living beings, for generations, until something pliant has been achieved, more often at the expense of the domesticated.

I had a biology professor state that the purpose of life is to make copies of yourself. In that sense, chickens and bananas and puppy-milled pups are doing absolutely amazing. Mutually beneficial, in that there are more of them because of a process of domestication. Nevermind that the chickens are sick and pumped full of antibiotics, or that the bananas are succumbing to plagues that take full advantage of monoculture practices or that the dogs are bred to the point of dying.

When people decide that domestication is domination, though, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I could do without either. I don't need to make a plant do anything other than what it already does. Look around and see the consequences of domestication. Seems to me that trying to control nature has created a situation that is completely out of control.

Perhaps you're right. Domestication is the same as helping out a friend (while they help themselves to you). Nothing but coevolution. Humans are nature. Anything humans do is natural. However, you can't deny that a line has been crossed, and your purposely guided coevolution has led to a ton of suffering. Can't blame people for defining a word in extremes. We are living in extreme times.


tension wrote

When humans prune, fence in, beat, raise their voices, segregate into monocultures for mechanical harvest, exterminate children, fail to keep seeds, and in general, fail to empathise as living beings and break their ancient agreements with their fellow species-- I think this is what these primitivists are describing.

This is domestication. I guess ... I don't see the point in making a distinction between good domestication and bad domestication. Seems all the same to me. and then you equate a decidedly uneven, hierarchical relationship with evolution, a process of adaption. Forcing adaption and causing all sorts of unintended consequences (like pain and sickness) is ... not anarchy? Right? Am I not understanding something here?


fortifiedmischief wrote

Ya I feel like they're trying to equate the idea of domestication with the idea of "home" and sharing a space and in a sense a routine with another creature/species/being. But domestication is inherently authoritative and I don't know if it's worth trying to change the term. Better to keep the term domestication to describe "taming" and coercion so that in our attempts to live more symbiotically we can call domestication what it is when we see it.


Majrelende OP wrote

I think you are right about my intent. I am just using the word as I have heard it, creatures adapting into a relationship where at least one cares for the other, thus sharing a space.


Majrelende OP wrote (edited )

I think it might be easier to understand for those who have an understanding of true natural farming, of the sort practiced by Fukuoka (rather than the similarly named but entirely different one that uses microbial fertilisers). Fukuoka did in fact "keep" chickens running around, but as I understand it they were essentially wild, a barely domesticated form who lived in flocks up in the orchard; he just gathered eggs and left them to do what they would. Another name is "do-nothing" farming, which emphasises that human knowledge is not used, to breed, or to direct the process in any way; the aim isn't to improve upon Nature, because that is impossible, but to heal and fulfill our own nature, and the earth in general. The maize I sowed out amongst the weeds seems to be thriving; an ancient variety from this region, they are as healthy as any other plant around. I am not controlling them, just letting them be, fulfilling a natural, mutual relationship. Yet who would doubt that maize is a "domesticated" plant? Perhaps they aren't, essentially. Although they can't reproduce on their own, neither can the raspberries out in the hedgerows without the assistance of the birds.

A system that breeds and "produces" living beings like factory products is awful, and disgustingly authoritarian. I don't think agriculture that controls or breeds animals can ever really be anarchic.

Humans are nature.

I couldn't agree more. Nature made us, and lives buried within us; it has been violated, beaten down by the socialisation of civilised society, but we are still human, still natural.

Anything humans do is natural.

I couldn't agree less.

There is some kind of plague, an evil spirit if you believe in that kind of thing, that has infected and destroyed the human mind, and distorted their environment. I won't define its actions; I can barely understand them myself, although what I can observe is universal strife and destruction of inner nature. That is where civilisation and authority come from, where everything went wrong.

However, you can't deny that a line has been crossed, and your purposely guided coevolution has led to a ton of suffering.

My purposely guided coevolution? That is rather aggressive. I'm not for purposely guiding or controlling anything. Leave that to the plants themselves; they already enfolded themselves in husks, stopped shattering, had delicious flesh and no one large enough to poop out the seeds (in the case of squash-- they used to be spread by pleistocene megafauna). It was up to us to take the offer to sow the seeds, or not sow them.


roanoke9 wrote

That metaphorical plague you describe is hierarchical organization imo. I don't engage much with natural versus unnatural debate. I prefer relatively adaptive to relatively maladaptive. A species that acts according to a system that causes conditions on the planet to no longer support life for that species is maladaptive.


fortifiedmischief wrote (edited )

I'm curious as to how a more staunch / matured primitivist would respond to this. As a bit of a wavering / baby primitivist myself I think what you're saying is really interesting BUT (edit: changed "and" to "but") reminds me more of mutualism (ecologically not economically... even though I'm sure someone might have fun bringing the two together in this context... the "economy" of the monarch on the milkweed etc etc... ) than domestication.

The main difference between the ecological definition of mutualism and domestication is that domestication implies that one of the species let's say, is more familiar with the relationship they're entering into than the other is.

To simplify it... when a horse is "domesticated" the context is usually that the horse is being made to engage with the human on the human's terms. In other words, it's not the horse and the human meeting in the middle, symbiotically, it's one party being "taught" and the other party "teaching."

In the example of the milkweed and the monarch... neither the milkweed nor the monarch as an advantage or authority over the other.

I guess at this point I'm just talking semantics but I think my concern is with semantics because I worry that most people don't default to the kind of mutual relationship you're talking about when they engaged with the environment. Like... what you're describing takes a lot of knowledge and sensitivity that most people don't come to naturally anymore.


Majrelende OP wrote

I can understand how that is the case with a lot of animals.

It also makes sense that no plant, in human terms, can seem to have agency in being domesticated. According to what we see, the human sows the maize seed in a suitable place with moist, fertile soil, mostly clear of plants that might overgrow them. Instinctually, the seed sends out growth upwards and downwards, and then grows into a reasonably healthy plant, who then makes a few ears, most of whose seeds are eaten and the rest are sown again. Teosinte, the ancestor, has spikes, like wild forms of wheat and rye, that shatter in the wind when they ripen, spreading their seeds, but somehow, maize, the child, keeps all the seeds together inside a husk, meaning they are dependent on animals to open the husk and sow the seeds for them. So, indeed, the humans are familiar with the concept that seeds grow into plants who make seeds, and they probably tended fields of wild teosinte for eating. When they found the first maize plant, they were probably amaized at what they saw-- teosinte in a husk!

Growing plants did change people, or teach people, though; as maize and family spread, people cared for them, and I am sure it made some societies more sedentary. Apparently, people even changed the names of the months for their crops. A plant can't run away, or demand that you come over right this instant and cut back the weeds; they can't tell you that you have to save all my seeds or else I'm not letting you have any. But in their own way, the plants have agency, if we can get past our anthropocentrism.

Maize, in having a husk, taught us to sow seeds; they enlisted us to clear fields or choose suitable places for them, take care of them-- the edges of these fields are also home to a number of species. Trees taught us to coppice them. Meadows taught us to burn them. Parsnips taught us to dig for them, growing their patches. In fact, although I can't find out for certain they are probably older than humans, or have been in their native ranges for longer than humans have been there, and thus more familiar with the relationship of being dug from the ground by pleistocene animals than humans. It is just that in modern civilised times, more common is the image of arrogant humanity as a domineering, super-competitive species, rather than the ancient norm of cooperating in an egalitarian way with the landscape, and enhancing rather than destroying diversity.

From my interpretation of one species being more familiar than the other, that includes a lot of interactions between species, whenever they extend their range. Consider beavers being introduced in the continent presently known as South America-- in cutting down and coppicing the trees there, who are relatively unfamiliar with being chopped down like that, are they domesticating/dominating/one-sidedly teaching the trees? It already is in their nature as hardwood trees to sprout back up; likewise, when there was a little patch of rye that for whatever reason didn't shatter, it wasn't the humans who were saying, "Now, you have to breed yourselves to be non-shattering, or I'll wait until you do." Through their own nature, they were entering into a new relationship neither the humans nor the rye originally expected.


fortifiedmischief wrote

Ok now it's starting to sound like you're trying to justify the elements of domination that are inherent to domestication.

It's really clear that in nature when there is an imbalance between species (from mammals all the way down to single cell organisms), there is suffering (even for species that might not have been initially involved, for example, when a pack of coyotes grows too large and wipes out the rabbit population, the vegetation is affected as a result of certain plants being able to reseed at a significantly increased rate) and often there is a collaborative effort to offset the imbalance and return to a state where predator and prey are in equilibrium again.

So I would say no it is not in our nature to domesticate. We are incapable of maintaining the health of an entire ecosystem ourselves (which is what domestication implies). Our attempts to control an environment will inevitably fail. I believe it is in our "true nature" to undo domestication and live alongside the chaos.


Majrelende OP wrote

I had a response typed, and then deleted it-- because it wouldn't have gotten us anywhere. Now...

are beavers authoritarian? is what they do essentially destructive, does it damage ecosystems, or is it creative change that is following the unknowable nature?

I don't know exactly how to answer myself, but I guess that the answer to this would be important for resolving this discussion, by providing an analogy with the advantage of distance.