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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is Paleo "Barbarian"?

Are we, as followers of the paleo diet,  more like this dying Gaul below than the civilized Romans?
Let me throw some ideas your way:

From what I've been able to glean, the Gauls were primarily meat and dairy eaters.  They also raised grain, and used a good bit of it to make beer- a beverage that the wine drinking Greeks and Romans found disgusting.  They did also have bread, and porridge made from grains and lentils, but from all indications this was kind of "back burner" food- the preference of these tribal barbarians was for meat, cheese, and butter, of which they had quantities available; both from the widely available hunting, and the herds they kept. They also had vegetable gardens, but of course the white potato was unknown.  The northlands they dwelt in had not been overgrazed, which was the case around the Mediterranean, the erstwhile "Fertile Crescent", which had been overgrazed for centuries since the dawn of civilization there, and was beginning to gradually turn to desert.

The Romans were a largely predatory civilization, and had become rather puny physically over time compared to the barbarian Gauls... they were victorious over the Gauls and others not from physical superiority, but through a specialization of warfare technique that made each soldier function as a cog in a giant machine of disciplined warfare, rather than using individual initiative. 

 Here is a good description of the diet of the Romans around the time, 2nd Century BC, that our gladiator friend above lived (and died) in:

"The lower class Romans (plebeians) might have a dinner of porridge made of vegetables, or, when they could afford it, fish, bread, olives, and wine, and meat on occasion.

Since many of the lower class were citizens, the ancient Romans had a program to help them, somewhat like a welfare program. The welfare program was called the annona.

There was also a separate WIC-type or school-lunch program (the alimenta), just for kids, which was instituted, or at least greatly developed in early 2c CE.

In the regular food welfare system, people were issued welfare stamps, which were little tokens, called tesserae. How these were issued (remember there was no open public postal system), and how Romans identified themselves to the authorities in the first place, we (the authors of this article) do not know. You showed up with your tokens (tesserae) and containers, at large government warehouses. You got wheat flour -- or bread already baked from government bakeries, and other foodstuffs. Meat was distributed on special occasions with special tokens."

This is interesting, not only in the rather Paleo type diet of the Gauls, and the modern, civilized, grain based diet of the Romans, but in the social governmental control being used by the Roman government in its "dole", or Welfare system.

Perhaps it is an inevitable development of civilization to use low quality food as a means to control their populations?

Here is a quote from the seminal science fiction author Philip K. Dick:
"We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."


To me, this sounds like a description of the current state of affairs between Big Government, Big Pharma, and the Big Processed Food manufacturers- manipulating us with sophisticated marketing, selling us fake, non- nutritional foods that
  1. Keep us misinformed 
  2. Keep us sick
  3. keep us addicted to the foods they sell that make us sick
  4. Keep us reliant on expensive drugs that they sell
I've always revered and loved the glory that was Greece and Rome.  But now, I'm starting to think rather often of a quote from the author Robert E. Howard, from his most popular hero Conan the Barbarian-

"Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."

What do you think?  Am I a little paranoid here, or not?

Jay