Way of Life
It had not been a good Stone Age year for hunting.
Og and Zug sat wearily on a boulder. Once again their tribe had failed to slay a single beast, and everyone was hungry.
Far and wide have we wandered, lamented Og. We have traveled from the summer hunting grounds to Eden's winter gardens and back again to the mountains of summer, yet have we found but little prey.
Too many, said Og. Now, to obtain mere pigeons and rabbits for our food, we must compete with the wolves. He nibbled a few berries he had found. A mouse scurried through the fallen leaves, but Og showed no interest.
Suddenly there were strange voices in the distance! The men jumped to their feet and brandished their spears, but these were women's voices. Presently two females came into view.
The four humans stared at each other for a moment. The teenage girl was shy and shrank back, but the older woman's eyes widened. Og? she gasped. Ni wewe? Sijakuona kwa miaka!
Og blinked in confusion, but then he recognized his long-lost sister! Blag? Can it really be you?
She nodded happily and explained, Ninaishi na watu wa Foop sasa.
I beg your forgiveness, said Og, but I cannot understand the words with which you speak.
Oh, forgive me, my brother! Blag answered. I have almost forgotten the language we used to share. What I spoke in my new language may be interpreted thus: I have not seen you in years! I live with the Foop people now.
Yes, I remember the terrible day when those Foop men came. When they seized you and carried you away to their tribe, we were all very sad.
I was also unhappy, as you might well imagine. To be kidnapped is not pleasant. However, I became the wife of a Foopian, and I began a new life with a new language. Our tribe found a plain down in the land of Shinar. We dwell there now.
But today I have encountered you here, in the mountains. For what reason have you returned?
For a picnic! She brought the girl forward. This is my daughter Soo. I desired that she should see the mountains where once I lived. Therefore I packed a basket and brought her here.
Soo didn't understand her mother's words, of course, but she realized she was being introduced. She smiled demurely. Zug called her by name: Soo? Her smile broadened.
We still have food remaining, said Blag, opening her basket. Would you like some? The men eagerly accepted. Og picked out a piece of dried beef and a fruit he didn't recognize.
Zug, choosing some other items, gestured an offer to share them with Soo. She grinned at her mother and quoted a proverb: Milima haikutani, lakini binadamu hukutana. Blag translated: Mountains do not meet, but human beings do. Zug and Soo wandered off, leaving Blag to get reacquainted with her brother.
A Worsening Environment
So, she began, how have you found the hunting this year?
It has been poor, not good at all, Og lamented. That is why I much appreciate the food you have brought. The whole land has become warmer of late. I fear the Age of Ice is vanishing, and with it much of our prey. I have not seen a wooly mammoth all this summer. They once roamed the land of the permanent frost, but now the frost is thawing and clouds are rising.
What of the giant elk?
They also have disappeared. And the giant armadillos.
I remember when you men used to chase the elk. Their shoulders were higher than your heads. When you brought one back to us, it would feed the whole tribe for weeks.
Now it is deer which we chase, little deer that come up only to our waists. This very day we were pursuing a herd of them. They scampered away, and we could not draw near enough to take even a single one.
Why have the giant elk departed? Is it because the glaciers are melting?
Perhaps. Or perhaps it is because we have learned too well how to kill large animals, by herding them with fire and stampeding them over cliffs. Quickly do we kill great numbers, but slowly do they reproduce. Now there are almost none left. We may be unable to sustain our livelihood.
You are simply too skillful, Og. You are wiping out your own food supply.
Is the hunting any better down where you now live?
Oh, we do not hunt.
You do not?
The Foopians used to hunt. However, we encountered the same problems as you. We discovered we could no longer rely on the bounty of nature. Therefore we were required to create a new way of life.
But how is it that I found this beef jerky in your basket? From whence did you obtain it, if not from hunting an aurochs?
Years ago the Foop men captured an entire herd of aurochs but did not kill them at once. They enclosed the animals in a pen, alive. There they continue to breed, protected from predators. Whenever we are hungry it is a simple matter to kill an ochs and butcher and roast it.
Og was aghast. You cannot do that! You must give the animal a sporting chance to escape.
Why? asked Blag.
It is only fair!
Sometimes we do allow an ochs to leave the pen for a time. We tie it to a heavy load and persuade it to walk elsewhere, dragging its burden.
You have made the beasts of the field into your slaves!
The calves are penned in also, with their mothers, and sometimes we butcher a calf. The meat is very tender. The calf's mother continues to give milk, so we take her milk and drink it ourselves.
Humans are consuming the milk of beasts? What depravity!
We no longer find it repulsive. And we have taken dominion over not only the beasts of the earth but even the fowls of the air.
Yes, we have captured poultry and penned them within a cage. There they lay eggs which are very easy to gather, and their necks are very easy to wring. We are well fed.
You avoid the honest labor of hunting and gathering! How lazy! How perverse! To gather hen-fruits, you merely have to reach into the cage and pick them up. Do you have another cage where you can pick up plant-fruits?
As a matter of fact, we do! First, though, we need an empty plot of land.
Is it difficult to find such a place?
We create it. We chop down trees and remove boulders until, behold, a field! We sharpen sticks and harness ochsen to drag them across the field. Once the turf has been turned over, we place seeds into the soil, and in due time plants spring up in great profusion. We enclose the field in a great cage to keep out the deer until the plants bear fruit, ready to be plucked.
Enslaving beasts and birds, destroying the forest how can you live so wickedly, Blag?
It is the modern way. But I must disagree with your earlier assertion that we are lazy. It requires much labor to fell trees and tend livestock. The plants and beasts require water, so we must dig pits and ditches to capture rainfall.
Such dull and tedious tasks. How can people be persuaded to perform them?"
We repay them with tokens called money. When they desire to eat, they exchange their money for food.
You have been required to invent money as well! And magistrates and record-keepers too, no doubt.
Yes, my husband helps keep the records. He makes a charcoal mark upon a slab of stone for each day that a man works. Each ditch-digger has a different mark representing his visage. My husband thinks this method might be used to preserve other information as well.
All of this strikes me as a great deal of trouble.
Yes, but we have found it necessary. We must plant in the spring and hope that the rains will come and the locusts will not. Then we must harvest in the fall and store the surplus to last through the rest of the year. We must always dwell in close proximity to our pens and fields. We cannot wander off wherever we please, as your people do.
If I had to dwell always in the same place, I should become crazy! You and your stockpiles, tied to your land, are like ducks sitting still and inviting raids. You are defenseless against these attacks, for you have laid aside your spears and arrows. And season after season, you shelter within the same lean-tos and tents. Do they not soon fall apart?
Oh, we have much better lodgings now, shelters as permanent as caves. After we have cleared a field for planting, we take the trees we chopped and the boulders we removed and use them to construct houses. If we lack sufficient wood and stone, we use soil.
Plain old dirt and mud?"
No, we bake it first. One day our leader said, Go to, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. Thereafter we had brick to use like stone, and slime for mortar. We built a permanent village. Its paths are covered with brick, lest our footsteps sink into the mud. There we can live forever, gathered in one place.
We do not find it so. Of late it came to pass that we said one to another, Let us build us a city! And a tower, whose top may reach up towards the sky!
I must confess, we do have a problem of immigration. Our city has attracted foreigners who speak another language, confounding our city's growth. We can no longer understand one another's speech.
That serves you right, said Og. For hundreds of thousands of years, we humans have lived in small nomadic bands, keeping to our own tribes, but now you imagine you have found a better way. Attempting to change the world, you have turned your back on Eden. You have paved paradise and put up a pyramid. You shall surely die!
We have survived thus far, Blag remarked. We now number in the many thousands. And our witch doctor has begun to describe a powerful protector. He claims that a giant in the sky will defend us provided we behave ourselves.
How big is this giant?
No one has seen him. No one is allowed to see him. He is said to be invisible.
Ridiculous! Your leaders do not want you to step out of line, so they bribe you with promises of future bliss and threaten you with imagined disasters.
Just then, Soo emerged from the woods. Zug was with her, beaming. Here comes my daughter, observed Blag. Perhaps it is time to depart. We should return to Babel.
Well, then, said Og, goodbye. Perhaps someday again I shall see you. I would not want to be you.
Bahati njema! said Blag. Furaha uwindaji!
What is that?
Good luck! Happy hunting!
Kwaheri! added Soo, waving farewell to Zug.
Og called after the females, It is sad when cultures are forced to change.
Blag looked back and echoed his sentiment in her new tongue: Inasikitisha wakati tamaduni zinalazimishwa kubadilika.