Chapter 9: The Historical Line
Footnote: The Noble Estate
The settler fences off the land he cultivates, thus depriving the wanderer of more and more of his hunting ground. This results in conflict between them, in which the wanderers eventually dispossess the settlers of their land and subjugate them to a life of servitude under a single patriarch.
As populations grow, it proves easier to cultivate a crop to get a predictable high yield than to scour the wilderness for a lesser reward. It is less demanding to rear domestic animals within a fenced field than to push relentlessly mile after mile to hunt less meaty wild animals. So more and more of the choicer parts of the planet's productive surface become fenced off. The wanderer's migration routes become blocked. His seasonal transit sites become permanently occupied by permanent dwellers.
The Wanderer's Response
The wanderer's world has changed. He must adapt or perish. One way would be to retire from the wandering life and become a settler too. If you cannot beat them, join them. But settling does not suit everyone's psychology. Some need to travel. They need regular changes of scenery. They need to see both mountains and plains. The forest and the hills. The rivers and sea. To be confined to life in one place would be too claustrophobic.
Moreover, the wanderer's natural aptitudes and the skills they can support do not lend themselves to tilling land, planting crops or rearing animals. They equip him to become neither a craftsman who fashions wood into tables and chairs, nor an engineer to build homes, invent machines or construct irrigation systems. They give him instead the skill to absorb knowledge about his natural environment and to recognise the signs which lead him to sources of food and water. His are the strategic skills needed to journey safely through uncharted territory. Tactical skills to stalk, chase, corner and catch wild animals. They make him a natural geographer, strategist and tactician.
To survive therefore, the wanderer's only option is to find some way of applying his natural aptitudes, and the skills they support, to abstracting his needs of life from this changed environment where all the choicest land and water sources have been fenced in. He adapts his stalking skills to expedite covert reconnaissances of farm settlements in order to gather intelligence on their layouts, defences, resources and provisions. He then applies his hunting skills to raiding those farm settlements for his needs of life and then making off with them into the wilderness.
Were he not to adopt this offensive mode of life the wanderer would be forced to the margins of the wilderness to struggle vainly for a meagre existence in regions for which the land-fencing settlers had no use. So, deprived of the bountiful common heritage he once had, he becomes a marauding pillager who grazes on the produce of the settlers as he once did freely and unhinderedly upon the wild fruits of the Earth.
The wanderer's skills of searching and finding, hunting and gathering, equip him for conflict far better than the settler's skills do him. And being mobile, the wanderer always has the element of surprise. He can appear out of nowhere, then disappear back into the wilderness without trace. Hence the wanderer ultimately stands to gain the upper hand.
Two Opposing Camps
The settler commandeers the choicest land. He fences it. He clears it. He ploughs it. He plants it. He protects it. He harvests his crop. Being deprived of what would have grown naturally on the choicest land, the wanderer is
forced to raid the settler's harvest to gain his needs of life.
The settler is an independent type. He is essentially self-sufficient. His kind remain as a co-existing set of nuclear families each with their own
hides of land through which they each directly transform their labour into their needs. They are not as such a unified force. They are loners. None is above his neighbour. They are peers. They have no hierarchy.
The wanderer is a hunter. Hunting is a team task. It requires that many work together as a
co-ordinated unit. Raiding and pillaging are also far more effective when done by a co-ordinated team. The adult members of a tribe of wanderers who travel together therefore form themselves into co-ordinated teams for the hunting and pillaging of the settlers' farms.
Thus the wanderer becomes the predator and the settler his prey. The wanderer's new environment is far richer than his old one. He can get far more from a raid on a farm than he can from many hunts in the wild. So it is not in the wanderer's interest actually to kill the settler. If he did, he would destroy his source of easy gain. The greatest nomadic empire in history over-pillaged its subjects and thereby finally destroyed itself.
In order to raid a settlement the whole travelling group is divided into small teams. Each team has a commander. Each commander in turn is a member of a team of commanders who are under the control of the tribal patriarch. The tribe's whole
anthropological community of 150 or so adults is thus simply an extension of its patriarch's mind and limbs.
The settlers whom they raid are a community of equal peers. But this is because they are not a team. They operate independently each using his own separate resources. So while each settler has only his own strength and resources, the nomadic patriarch has the strength and resources of his entire tribal group as if it were his own natural mind and body. Thus hierarchy, at least in the beginning, gives the wanderer the upper hand. But the wanderer has to be careful. He has become used to the easier gain from pillaging farms. On the other hand, he does not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. He needs a better way of working.
This perpetual conflict is a disadvantage to both sides. The settler has his produce stolen. He has his fencing smashed, crops trampled, barns broken into. He even suffers personal injury and danger to his family. The wanderer also suffers casualties in his raiding parties. He also has the problem of transporting what he steals very quickly under fire from the scene of a raid to his camp.
So the wanderer makes a proposition to the settler. He agrees not to attack his farm and steal his crop provided that the settler gives him a prescribed amount of produce each harvest. This is much easier. All the wanderer now has to do is to call in on each settler within his territory and collect the produce. All the settler has to do is to set aside some of his harvest for the wanderer. His fences, his crops, his buildings and above all his family are safe. Now they can both live together in peace.
This is the original Protection Racket. The wanderer agrees to protect the settler from pillage in return for a prescribed amount of tribute. The settler agrees to supply the wanderer with his needs of life in return for protection.
The Moral Question
This appears to be an unsavoury alliance in which one party is exploiting the other. But which one is in the right? Is it the settler or the wanderer? The wanderer is unashamedly taking the fruit of the settler's labour. But this is only because the settler first fenced in for himself the land upon which the wanderer once freely hunted.
The human life-form on its own is not a complete functional system. It is only part of a system, the rest of which is its terrestrial environment. To deny any human being the direct use of its natural environment is to deprive the human life-process of a part of itself. This is only one step removed from depriving the human life-form of part of its own body. It is like amputating its legs without which it is unable to move around. Or its arms, without which it cannot feed or clothe itself.
By commandeering land for his own exclusive use, the settler thereby appropriates to himself something which naturally belongs also to the wanderer. In fact, he is claiming exclusive possession of something of which they are both an inextricable part. Yet by extracting part of the settler's produce by overt threat, the wanderer is free-loading upon the settler's hard labour. Again, who is in the right? The first step towards the answer is to recognise that the so-called possession of land is a far more complex notion than is the possession of one's personal effects such as food, clothing, shelter, furnishings, equipment and transport.
Need For Co-ordination
Moral issues aside, this protection racket can only work provided each community of settlers (ie: each
Hundred) is only ever visited by one tribute-demanding tribe of wanderers. Otherwise it would become so over-burdened that its members would not have enough of their harvest left to be able to feed themselves. But inevitably, some communities of settlers find themselves having to pay off several nomadic groups who pass by at different times. Some even find themselves having to pay off one group of wanderers while continuing to be raided by another group.
By operating in this uncoordinated way the wanderers are systematically destroying their very own source of sustenance. Their whole society is due for a shake-out. Its fragmented groups must stop competing. They must learn how to co-operate with each other.
Although the settlers work well together as family teams on their farms, collectively, as a community of egalitarian peers, settlers are not natural team players. They are therefore unable to unite as a co-ordinated force to repel the wanderer. The wanderer on the other hand is most certainly a team player. The social order within his community is hierarchical.
A Nomadic Kingdom
All the separate nomadic tribes have to do to form a single unified force is to take one more step in the same direction. That step is, to organise all their separate tribal groups into one single super-hierarchy. They can still live and travel in separate groups, but their operations of extracting tribute from the farms must now be planned and co-ordinated centrally by one head patriarch who is in command of all the tribes in the region. Amalgamation is difficult. It is bloody. But it is inevitable.
The head patriarch thus becomes a Nomadic King over a multitude of independently mobile anthropological communities of wanderers. Each of these is assigned to one single community of settlers (or 'Hundred') from which they alone collect the tribute. They each then pass a portion of their collected tribute to their King. He thereby becomes very rich.
This more civilised relationship between wanderer and settler allows the settler to be more productive. This, in turn, means that the tribute which the settler has to give to the wanderer is less of a burden to him. It also means that the wanderer does not have to be forever on the run so as not to be vulnerable to retaliatory raids by angry settlers wanting to retrieve what has been stolen from them. The wanderer can therefore himself settle within his assigned 'Hundred' and there establish a home and barns in which to store the tribute he gathers from the settlers.
An Uneasy Co-existence
Thus a hierarchically structured anthropological group of ex-wanderers headed by a patriarch lives in dominant co-existence with an egalitarian community of settlers within the geographic bounds of their 'Hundred'. The settlers distributed among their landshares. The wanderers all together in their permanent camp at some focal location within their 'Hundred'.
So the wanderer, who once endlessly roamed the open range, now lives in a permanent home. But he still does not own land. He still possesses no means of turning his own work into his needs of life. He still gets all he wants simply by taking it from his natural environment - even though his natural environment now comprises productive farms rather than the wilderness. He still adds no value to what his environment provides. He simply takes for himself the consumer-ready fruits of the settlers' work.
In a sense he owns the entire 'Hundred' comprising the farms which he holds in subjection and from which he exacts tribute. But this is indirect ownership. He does not occupy the land itself, nor does he control how and for what it is used. He contributes neither labour nor knowledge to the production of the needs of life.
The wanderer is therefore economically unnecessary to the settler. The settlers would rather that all the wanderers disappeared off the face of the Earth. But failing this the settler could not care less which particular wanderer 'protects' him. If a settler's current protector were attacked, conquered and subjugated by an outsider, what of it? He would simply have to pay his tribute to a different face. This leaves the wanderer very vulnerable. He possesses no direct means of acquiring his needs of life. He is vulnerable to subversion from within and to attack from without.
So in order to sustain his protection racket, the wanderer must maintain an adequate means of enforcing it. Without such means, settlers would simply keep all their produce for themselves and the wanderers would starve. At first, the wanderers' hunting teams had adapted their hunting skills to raiding settlers' farms. However, now that they themselves are settled, their ancient raiding teams have in turn been adapted to form a
police force to uphold their local patriarch's protection racket, and also an army to repel any external attacks launched by an unattached group of wanderers who may be still seeking a group of settlers to 'protect'.
So now it is the settler who is the vulnerable one. He has no power. His protector has forbidden him to bear arms. The settler cannot resist his protector whereas his protector can unhinderedly enforce his will upon him. Originally the wanderer did not over-tax the settler because he did not wish to kill the goose that laid his golden egg. But now that he has complete control, this he does.
The settler rapidly gets to the point where he can no longer pay the oppressive amount of tribute as well as provide for his family. Since his first priority must by instinct always be to provide for his family, he rapidly becomes unable to pay the wanderer tribute in terms of what he produces. Facing overwhelming force he has no choice but to pay by signing over the only asset he has left to pay with, namely his land.
The wanderer therefore steadily raises the amount of tribute he requires in return for his protection. The settler is unable to pay. The settler thus loses his landshare. The wanderer now owns land. He is not able to farm it himself. He does not know how. But he does not really want to. And he does not in fact need to. The settler will do it for him. Without his land, the settler's knowledge, strength and experience are worthless. So he is more than willing to farm what is now the wanderer's land in return for his basic needs of life. He thereby becomes the wanderer's kept slave.
Thus one by one, the ex-nomad patriarch takes possession of the landshares of all the settlers under his 'protection'. He thus becomes the exclusive owner of the entire naturally bounded geographic area of the 'Hundred' which was once home to a distributed egalitarian community of settlers. The settlers' Hundred has thus become the ex-nomad patriarch's Noble Estate.
Land is the only means by which people can transform their labour into their needs of life. So the wanderer now has the power of life and death over the settler. If he wishes for one to work for him, he keeps him. If of another he sees no need, he expels him from his land to starve.
The nomad racketeer has thus become an established nobleman who now possesses and rules his own Noble Estate and all who live within it. He may decide to leave all the settlers in their original homes to farm the land they formerly owned. But they are no longer in control. They have been dispossessed of what was to them their natural inheritance.
But his task is not yet completed. Though he possesses the means of production (the land), and the means of enforcing his will (his police), neither the patriarch nor his noble kinsmen have the skills to gain their needs of life from the land. If the former settlers suddenly made a mass exodus one night and disappeared into the wilderness, the patriarch and his noble kinsmen would be helpless. They have at this stage long since lost their old nomadic skills for living off the wilderness.
The nobleman therefore has to find some way to increase his hold over his settler slaves. He knows well that a settler who has free access and use of his landshare of land is economically independent. His ever-present fear is that his settler slaves may take off into the wilderness one night and carve out for themselves new landshares of land beyond his reach.
To prevent such a thing from happening, the nobility takes possession of the open wilderness through progressive 'acts of enclosure'. They do not necessarily fence it physically. They simply claim ownership of it and have their claims ratified and recognised by their peers. It is not a smooth process. They fight over boundaries. But once it is over, each nobleman is able to stop any escaping settler from freely establishing a new landshare. The nobleman's economic slave has become his prisoner.
In his former state, the settler had commandeered from the wilderness only as much land as he required to produce sufficient of the needs of life to sustain himself and his family. This did not require all his waking hours. It left him time to pursue arts and crafts, build a good home, play music, study the marvels of nature and socialise with his peers. So if he were made to devote all his prime time to farming, he could farm much more land than would be required to produce his own needs. He could farm twice as much land and produce twice his own needs.
In his new state, the settler has no land. He farms the land which once was his, but which now belongs to his master, the nobleman. As long as the nobleman is happy for him to farm that land then he is allowed to do so, and to retain just enough of what he produces to sustain himself and his family. If however the nobleman decides that the land should be farmed by a different settler, the original settler is thrown off the very land that once, by his own toil, he had claimed from the wilderness.
The nobleman observes that the settler, continuing his pre-slavery life-style, has time to pursue arts and crafts, build a good home, play music, study the marvels of nature and socialise with his peers. The nobleman therefore forbids these higher pursuits, throws half the settlers off their land, and forces those that remain each to farm twice as much land. So now, those that are thrown off their land have no means of turning their work into the needs of life. All they can do is forage and scrounge. If they leave the bounds of their present master's estate, they will enter the jurisdiction of another nobleman. They simply have nowhere to go.
A New Labouring Poor
The only assets these dispossessed settlers have left are their skills and their capacity for work. To try to acquire their needs of life, all they can do is offer their labour to the nobleman. All they can do is hope that he will have a need for what they can do for him. They must wait in the wings in the hope that their master may call them to his service. For instance, they still have their knowledge and skills as farmers. They may therefore be called to help meet the peak labour demands during the harvest season.
They also still possess their craft and engineering skills they once used on their farms. For example, a settler may with loving care fashion for his family a table and chairs from a seasoned tree which has grown on his own land. Once made, that table and chairs should last a long time - perhaps for his whole generation. But now, no longer having land, he no longer has a source of wood and other materials through which he can realise his craft skills as useful objects. He must wait patiently until his master has a need for something. Then, and only then, will his master allow him the materials and facilities to make that something. But such demands will - by their very nature - be always intermittent. Consequently, so will be his master's generosity in supplying his needs of life.
They also still possess their intimate knowledge of nature plus their arts and music. These are a resource with which they can educate and entertain their noble masters - again in exchange for their needs of life. Some thus become professional teachers and tutors. But they are still slaves. All they have to sell is their labour. They no longer have direct means of turning that labour into their needs of life. That vital process of conversion now takes place only at the whim and desire of their noble master.
Displaced By Technology
An idle mind always seeks something to occupy it. The dispossessed settler can no longer practice farming. But he can still see it being done by those still lucky enough to remain on the land. So he is able to stand back from the process and work out how to make it easier by the use of improved methods and equipment. He applies his engineering skills to invent new methods and machinery. He persuades his noble master to let him have the means and materials to build his invention in return for enough of his needs to sustain him and his family while he works.
His inventions are brought into use. They make farming easier. With his inventions, each of his peers who is still employed in farming can now manage twice as much land as before. So their noble master sacks half of them. They then join him and the others in the pool of surplus labour. Inventions improve. Less and less people are needed on the land. More and more join the ever-swelling pool of unemployed surplus labour.
Displaced Former Wanderers
When the anthropological community of 100 or so families of wanderers take up permanent camp within their assigned Hundred they number equally with the original settlers. But their community is hierarchical. So when they dispossess the settlers of their landshares, it is the patriarch alone who becomes the new owner. His kinsmen possess nothing.
The nobleman naturally looks after his own immediate family. He also needs some of his former nomadic kinsmen to be his police, assistants and administrators. But there isn't much room at the top. If a nobility is to stay rich it must be kept few in number. The surplus majority of these ex-wanderers cannot therefore share their patriarch's noble inheritance. So they inevitably sink to join the mass of ex-settlers as unemployed labourers.
A New Economic Order
The nobleman now owns and controls the entire economy. He alone is able to choose who shall and who shall not receive the fruit of the land. Naturally, he gives generously to his own. Furthermore, since machines cannot function without fuel, he must feed his slaves. Else they would not have the physical strength to carry out his bidding.
As for the ever-swelling pool of surplus labour, he has no immediate use for them. If he could get away with it, he would therefore give them nothing. However that could trigger insurrection. So to keep the peace, he condescends to give them some form of limited subsistence. Nevertheless, his natural human greed will always cause him to err on the side of misery. These dispossessed unemployed souls will therefore always and inevitably be poor.
A Dispossessed Majority
In the old egalitarian economy, everyone had free access to sufficient of the natural means of turning their labour directly into their needs of life. The majority, at least, could thereby provide adequately for themselves. In this new hierarchical economy the majority are forcibly denied direct access to the natural means of turning their labour into the needs of life. They are allowed to transform their labour into the needs of life only at the whim of their noble master who may condescend to allow them to use his land to turn their labour into his wealth in return for their miserly keep.
Despite this complete metamorphosis of the economy, no more is being produced now than before. If anything it is less. After all, the nobleman is in control. He decides how his own land is used. As long as enough land is under cultivation to feed, clothe and shelter his nobility well, and their slaves adequately, the nobleman could not care less about the rest. Hence, more and more is now consumed by a nobility. Less and less is allowed to those who actually produce it. And even less than this filters slowly down to that ever-swelling class of unemployed poor.
The very mechanics of the old egalitarian economy guarantees that, for the most part, both the generation and consumption of the needs of life are evenly distributed throughout the population. This new hierarchical economy, on the other hand, by its very nature, automatically tends to concentrate wealth into the hands of the few who possess and control the natural means of transforming labour into the needs of life.
The new economic order has not made the nobles rich by creating extra wealth for them while leaving everyone else as they were. It has instead forcibly taken wealth from the labouring many and given it to the noble few. It has changed the distribution of wealth from an equitable sea of tranquillity into a gnarled and convulsed mountainscape of disparity. The rich in their high citadels. The poor in the deep dark valleys below.
Nobles produce nothing. They simply bully, threaten and contain. The rich are rich not by their virtue, but at the expense of the poor. This forcibly imposed inequality creates class. It separates people into:
- the few who have abundance
- the many who have adequacy
- the rest who live in permanent want.
It is an explosive mixture of noble apathy and servile desperation. Tensed almost to its point of fracture. Held in place by force of arms. Insurrection resting menacingly on its hair trigger waiting for an opportunity to happen. Therefore, if the nobleman is to survive, he must devise a more robust vessel in which to contain his subjects.
That more robust vessel is law. Law that is, in the sense of a man-made set of rules. These decree what a subject may or may not do in defined circumstances. They are, in turn, embedded in statutes which specify punishments and remedies for violation.
These man-made rules, of course, bear no relation to the absolute laws which define and uphold the universal links between natural cause and effect. Neither do they bear any relation to man's natural sense of right and wrong. People can live peacefully in natural communities without a
legal infrastructure comprising a legislature, a judiciary and an agency of enforcement. These are only needed by regimes which use law as a means to facilitate the containment, oppression and exploitation of those ruled by those who rule.
In the new social order the nobleman has all power. He alone is able to enforce his will. So he alone is able to make the rules by which society is governed. The former settlers, whom he has enslaved, may formulate all the rules they wish. However, since these former settlers are powerless to enforce their own rules, there is little point in their making them.
To Protect The Rich From The Poor
The only effective rules are those made by the nobleman. Being human he is driven by self-interest. So naturally he devises rules which serve and protect his own interests - his life, his property, his well-being, his kind. Therefore, whatever specific form his rules may take, their sole purpose must inevitably be to
protect the ruling rich from their subservient poor.
Some rules existed from the beginning. For instance, how much tribute each settler must provide and when he must provide it. Now, however, the nobleman sets up a far larger and more formal legal structure. This includes various social protocols regarding how subjects behave in the presence of their masters. It imposes a social discipline. It constructs a moral framework. It creates an omnipresent force of containment which ensures that each stays within his assigned place in the social hierarchy.
By Indoctrinating The Young
At first, these naturally independent free-spirited ex-settlers - together with their new companions-by-default: the displaced ex-wanderers - resist this new social and economic order. The nobleman therefore initially has to contain them by force of arms.
However, he has another weapon in his arsenal which, in the long run, stands to prove far more effective. This is the
force of indoctrination. This may not work on the immediate ex-settlers who have themselves experienced freedom. But it will work on their children who have never known any other life but that of subservience to a noble.
This next generation lives every day from childhood in a society where the nobility is revered and served. They are taught that the established order is right and that their oppressors have been
put there by God for their own good. Thus in the space of a generation the labouring poor grow to accept their place. The threat of insurrection has gone. So with his subjects now enslaved, subdued and contained, the nobleman safely reduces what he gives them for their labour to the minimum required to keep them alive and able to procreate their next generation.
Still a Community
Though now oppressed under noble rule, the settlers are still an anthropological community occupying the contiguous geographic area of their original 'Hundred'. Each knows every other member of his community personally. The economic circumstances of each is fully visible to, and understood by, his peers. Those employed know and understand those who are not. They know that they are poor not because they are lazy, but because they are denied the means of turning their labour into their needs of life. Those with are therefore willingly help those without.
Furthermore, although they are denied use of the nobleman's land, they live within easy reach of it. They are therefore able to glean and gather covertly - perhaps even poach - in order to survive. Nevertheless, it is difficult to survive. To glean and gather from the nobleman's land they must run the gauntlet of being caught and punished by the nobleman's police. On top of this they must fight their own sense of wrong-doing implanted by the nobleman's indoctrinative education of their children. Nevertheless, nature still provides. And the community willingly helps.
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© July 1996 Robert John Morton