Have you thought about why very small children put everything in their mouths?  It is not because they think everything can be eaten.  Instead, it is an instinct to teach them the properties of objects as fast as possible.  By putting things in their mouths, they can both feel, smell and taste them.  That we need such an instinct say something about the need to learn.

Now imagine babies being densely packed in fabric.  Not only when they sleep but almost constantly, night and day.  One only takes them out of this “packaging” to change diapers.  Moreover, one change diapers considerably less frequently since the smell is not as noticeable.  This is called swaddling and was invented to make then easy to carry.  Unfortunately, this is still common in some countries today.

In many agrarian and herder societies, virtually all babies were swaddled.  Babies were swaddled from birth to everything from four months to up to a year!  Naturally this stopped these children from learning that much.  Such a practice prevented babies from coming into contact with any larger number of objects.  This also prevented much of their skeletal muscles from developing at their natural pace.  Both were forced to wait to later, making learning less efficient.  Delayed learning also took time from necessary social interactions.  We have to socialise freely with others to develop social capacities.  One can imagine them going to catch up later.  However, in far too many agrarian societies almost no-one got this chance.

The reason children did not get this chance was purely economic.  Today to can be hard to imagine how inefficient production was.  It is estimated that he use of cultivated land was 4 ‒ 5 times higher per person.  Add the marked risk of starvation and the need becomes even higher.  Also, low-tech handicrafts were only a fraction as productive.  In addition, there was a high economical exploitation.  Then you get children which are forced from a far too early age to use almost all their time awake for continuous physical labour.  The only pauses were to eat, drink and relive oneself.  This type of working life stated at the age of 4½ ‒ 6.  Different societies have different ages when one was forced to start working.

Such circumstances prevented children from further developing their social capacities.  They no longer had time and energy to play or socialise.  Imagine people which were swaddled as babies and then exploited as manpower from the age of four and a half.  Not only do they behave as idiots around everything else than they were trained for.  They also have the social capacity of a child of three to four.  Would they even be aware of others lacking knowledge they themselves had?  Then imagine people which were never swaddled but were exploited as manpower from the age of six.  They would of cause have some ignorance of their physical environment.  However, they would before all have got stuck in the social capacity of a six-year-old.  These two examples are of cause extremes.  But I think people in such societies were somewhere on this scale.

It was not until their teens that children got any leisure to speak of.  Not because the economic demands become less but because their need for sleep decreased.  By then they had not had any fun – at least not regularly – for more than half their lives.  So they used what little leisure they had for having as fun as they could.  This situation then continued until people were too worn to work.  By then people were likely quite bitter for everyone who had harmed them over the years.  I would say that others harmed them out of sheer incompetency.

The consequence was people lacking time to learn about each other.  One was of cause aware of the different habits of one’s nearest.  However, one never had time and energy to find out the motivations of others.  If some sort of authority claimed others to do things out of ill will one believed it.  Not due to the authority but out of lack of alternatives.  This way this type of myths spread to the wider population.  Even to people without collective memory of own absolute power.

All this made it hard or impossible to cooperate on equal terms.  People did not know enough about each other to agree on how to do it.  Either they followed a tradition of which group’s members would do what.  This inevitably led to mixed results since human capacities vary.  Or they needed some sort of boss telling others what to do.  Then it was a matter of the boss knowing who could do what.  What if the boss being wrong without considering the possibility?  Then people risked being punished for what they could not help.

Mutual exchange of goods and services was of cause still possible.  But people’s thoughts about who offered what was still based on group affiliation.  If the supply was not as expected this could result in arguments.  Unspoken agreements of the prize of things arouse without people thinking about it.  Instead, both seller and buyer believed that something always had to cost the same.  If someone took a higher prize this was believed to be due to greed.  This afflicted entire ethnic groups which only tried to make a living from the few jobs allowed.

All agrarian state societies have not had these conditions.  The standard of living has varied over time and between different state societies.  It is possible it was particularly low in Europe during the 15th to 17th centuries.  However, the most important thing is to not think wishfully and believing this to never had applied to a certain country.  It is also important in this context not to treat the standard of living as if it was constant. Unawareness of change having taken place is just all too common.


Uploaded on the 13th of June 2023.