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Excerpt from The Myth of Human Supremacy

Can't Question Agriculture (p. 247)

From chapter "Agriculture"

I’ll be clear. Imperialism can be defined as the taking (by force, threat of force, or even “persuasion,” if the power relations between the parties are grossly unequal) of another’s land or other “resources” for use at the center of empire. Using this definition, agriculture is imperialism, both against the land and against (human) people of the land. And if we change a few words in the quote at the beginning of the chapter we could easily hear it coming from the mouth of your standard apologist for empire (which, when it comes to intrahuman empire, Chomsky definitely is not), “If empire is inherently destructive, we might as well say good-bye to each other, because all of our energy and consumer goods come from empire, whether it’s coal from the internal colonies of Appalachia and the High Plains, tin from Bolivia, clothes from sweatshops in Haiti or Vietnam, steel from the slave-based factories in Brazil. Whatever it is. There is no reason to believe that empire and colonialism are inherently destructive.”

What would any reasonable anti-imperialist say to someone who said these same things? I think the analysis would be similar to what I’ve done here.

Empire happens for material reasons. German Reichskanzler Paul von Hindenberg described the relationship perfectly: “Without colonies no security regarding the acquisition of raw materials, without raw materials no industry, without industry no adequate standard of living and wealth. Therefore, Germans, do we need colonies.”You can’t have high speed rail without mines and smelters. You can’t have mines and smelters without empire. The fact that our way of life is dependent upon this empire is no reason we should not discuss it.


I can’t stop thinking about these comments implying that because our way of life is dependent upon agriculture, then somehow we cannot and most importantly must not question agriculture’s inherent destructiveness. And I can’t stop thinking about how much they remind me of that Supreme Court ruling that if this way of life is based on land theft and genocide, then such land theft and genocide “becomes the law of the land, and cannot be questioned.” So, because we have enslaved ourselves to land theft and ecocide through agriculture, then any critique of agriculture must be dismissed by the suggestion that if agriculture is destructive we may as well say goodbye to each other?

No. If agriculture is inherently destructive, we should address this honestly. And if our way of life is based on agriculture, and if agriculture is inherently destructive, that provides all the more urgency to making an honest analysis. It’s like my doctor friend says about the first step toward cure being proper diagnosis. Well, if we’re going to short-circuit diagnosis before it even starts, then there can never be a cure. We are guaranteeing the continued murder of the planet.

I’m not interested in rationalizing the further murder of the planet. We need to face reality, no matter how painful.