Anthropologists seemed shocked last fall when they announced that our Neanderthal cousins saved bones to suck the marrow later or perhaps to cook up a soup.
But, food caches can be found among most living beings, including insects and plants. Bees store honey, ants work (while the grasshopper fiddles a tune for them). Squirrels gather nuts. Bears prepare for hard times by storing their excess as body fat. (Maybe that’s my subconscious ploy.)
The unfortunate logical extension of this storage instinct is over-accumulative greed, where the drive for more, more, more becomes an end itself instead of a means of self-preservation.
(How much excess toilet paper do you have at hand right now?)
Hunter-gatherer nomads migrated with the seasons, following ripening plants and the movement of the herd. They learned techniques for preserving meat. Possessions became burdens, and accumulated wealth impeded their movement.
Herders mimicked the nomads. Travelers, they traveled light to match the limitations of their extended campout. Herd size established their wealth and provided assurance against expected hard times.
Early farmers cultivated their plots with the goal of a surplus for their non-growing seasons. Early crop agriculture was village based. Some form of granary was usually found among the houses. Stored produce assumed value; silos became the first banks.
Leaving their tents behind found farmers able to retain some lesser-prized belongings that they once had to jettison due limited storage. They could now accumulate non-essential niceties. Personal wealth became possible.
Of course, not all pastures are equal, not all farms produce alike. And expanding populations find herders and farmers competing for prime land with each other and, likely, the hunter/gatherers who have benefited from it since time immemorial.
Elbow room becomes the rarest commodity. Without cooperation, conquest is the sole option – which is what we face today.
We have covered the planet. It’s all Terra Cognita. We have no room to expand.
Right-wing nationalistic fascists have been gaining strength throughout Western countries –our own included. The expansionist, dominating aims of China reflects the same narrow-mindedness. A retreat from a cooperative form of globalism can only lead to war, destruction and someone’s subjugation. Of course, all fascists consider their innate (and innately bogus) superiority a guarantor that they will prevail.
But, close quarters with our many cousins means that all we need is within easy reach. Hoarding is a waste of space – best used for celebrations. We have eliminated the necessity for greed. We could trade with each other, share Earth’s bounty and offset each others’ difficulties.
Extravagant consumption becomes a tasteless display of a person’s inner poverty. Hoarding money is even worse. Money is a tool. Unused, it serves no purpose although it does signify an equally worthless life.
The richest one-tenth of one percent of Americans own about as much as the bottom 90 percent. They consider the rest of us (“human capital stock”) expendable, mere collateral damage to the greedy needs of the corporate banditti whose coffers rest on coffins of those they marginalize to build their profit margins.
Consider all of the tools out of circulation – that could rebuild a nation – for the gratification of a “My! Me! Mine!” infant’s whine.
No one has seen a U-Haul trailing the mortician’s hearse to stock the graveyards with the robber baron’s wealth. The Egyptians did try that, but their tombs were quickly robbed, likely by disgruntled heirs looking for a fairer share of their inheritance.
Our socially-sanctioned selfishness (prosperity theology?) combats the natural tribal instinct to take care of one another. And, of course, we now realize we’re all members of the same tribe.