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Normal People: The Origins of Agriculture

From Chapter Three of ADD: A Different Perception by Thom Hartmann

When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization.
--Daniel Webster (On Agriculture, January 13, 1840)


Since ADD is a collection of skills and predilections necessary for the success and survival of a good Hunter, we're left with the question, "What about non?ADD people?" Where did their skills evolve from, and why do they represent the majority of the people in our culture?

The answer lies with the second basic type of human culture which primitive man produced: the agricultural society. In this sort of community, farmers were the ones who provided sustenance and survival. And the skills of a good Farmer are quite different from those of a good Hunter.

To go through a list parallel to those of a Hunter, we find that a good Farmer:

* Isn't easily distracted by his or her environment. It may take three or four weeks to plant all the seed or rice shoots necessary for a complete crop, and the window of good weather may be very limited. If the Farmer were to be distracted while planting, and wander off to investigate a noise in the forest, or spend days trying to figure out why one plant was slightly larger than another, the crop wouldn't get planted-<|>and he or she would starve.

* Farmers sustain a slow?and?steady effort for hours every day, days every week, weeks every month. While it could be argued that there are bursts of energy needed during harvest time, most Hunters would say that such bursts are nothing compared to chasing a deer fifteen miles through a forest. And the Farmer's bursts need to last all day, often for days or weeks at a time. Even in high gear, a Farmer's efforts would be characterized as fast?and?steady.

* Farmers see the long?range picture, and stick to it. While subtle or limited experiments are useful for Farmers, to bet the entire crop on a new seed might lead to disaster. A Farmer isn't looking five minutes ahead, or an hour ahead (like a Hunter), but must, instead, look years ahead. How will this crop affect the soil? What impact will it have on erosion? Will it be enough to sustain the family or village through the winter? I've visited terraced hillsides supporting rice paddies or olive trees built by long?sighted farmers in Israel, Greece, and China that are still farmed more than 3,000 years after they were constructed: Farmers have the long view.

* Farmers are not easily bored. They pace themselves when living, the same way they pace themselves when farming. During the summer when things are growing, or during the winter when not much can be done, farmers find constructive tasks to occupy their time such as building furniture, chopping firewood, or weeding the garden. They don't mind repetitive tasks or things that take a long time to accomplish because that's the nature of farming. Given Aesop's model, a farmer would describe him or herself as the tortoise who ultimately wins the race through slow and steady effort.

* Farmers are team players, and often very sensitive to others' needs and feelings. Because Farmers often must live and work together, particularly in primitive farming communities, they must cooperate. Japanese society is perhaps the most exaggerated example of this, evolving from an almost purely agricultural base. They think in terms of abstract notions and feelings, considering the future and the good of the community, and are patient chess players. Teamwork is a powerful asset of a Farmer.

* Farmers attend to the details. A Farmer must make sure all the wheat is threshed, all the cows are milked completely, all the fields are planted, or he or she courts disaster for the entire community. If a cow isn't milked completely it can become infected; a crop put into ground that's too wet or too dry might rot or wither. Einstein's "God is in the details" might be a favorite saying of a farmer.

Farmers are cautious. Farming doesn't often demand that a person face short?term danger. Farmers learn, instead, to face the more long?term dangers. They're often better planners than they are fighters.

Farmers are patient with others. The patience that it takes to watch a plant grow for five months is easily translated into patience with a co?worker who wants to explain a problem or situation.

FARMERS AS NON-ADD INDIVIDUALS

A quick review of the Farmer's characteristics (obviously simplified for purposes of explanation), and a comparison of them with the Hunter's skills, shows that one could easily recharacterize ADD and non?ADD persons as Hunters and Farmers. Although most people don't fit into such neat categories, it's still possible to see the archetypes demonstrated in people we all know.

Individuals who are almost pure Hunters are classified as classic ADD. Individuals who are almost pure Farmers are classified as slow, careful, methodical, and, sometimes, boring. Since Farmer characteristics are less likely to be risky and dangerous (for reasons explained), these extremely non?ADD people are not often classified by psychologists. They don't get into trouble, and tend not to stand out in our society.

Accepting the idea that there's probably a bell curve to these behaviors, though, we can posit a norm which incorporates both Hunter and Farmer behaviors, with swings in both directions on either side of the center line.

An interesting footnote to this hypothesis is the observation that Europeans often view Americans and Australians as "brash and risk?taking." Americans and Australians often view Europeans as "stodgy and conservative." Accepting the notion that ADD is an inherited trait, consider the types of people who would risk life and limb for a journey across the Atlantic in the seventeenth century-<|>they'd have to be either desperate Farmers or normal Hunters. Similarly, Australia's early white population was often descended from prisoners sent there by England; the misfits and malcontents of British society. (I suspect a very large percentage were ADD Hunters who couldn't succeed as the Industrial Revolution "Farmer?ized" the British labor market and culture.)

ADD also appears to be a condition that's relatively rare among Japanese whose ancestors have lived in a purely agricultural society for at least 6,000 years.

A final postscript: Some people have objected to the words Hunter and Farmer. Hunter, some say, has negative connotations: killer, predator, a threat in the night. Farmer is equally negative, in that it implies a boring, passive sort of person, and many Farmers (as described in this book) are far from either.

If it makes you more comfortable, perhaps an alternate set of words would be Lookout and Cultivator. Both are necessary for the common good: Where would the cultivator be without the lookout, and vice versa?

Worse, think what a disaster it would be to put either in the other's job. The Cultivator doesn't catch the little signs of the impending invasion, and the Lookout can't pay attention long enough to weed the garden.

Yet that's precisely what happens to most ADD Lookouts in today's classrooms and offices. If they look out the window (as their instincts demand), they're scolded for not being good, attentive Farmers.

A more successful approach might be to recognize and speak to the skills inherent in the fast?moving Lookout frame of mind. This may require a shift in viewpoint, but it's not difficult once you see the difference between Hunters and Farmers.


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