Poetry, Shit, & The Metabolic Rift

For 15 million years or so the role of the Primate/Hominid Genus, of which Homo Sapiens is the latest & possibly last iteration, had one job to do on Planet Earth – to defecate often and widely.

In the interlocking system that is the earthly biosphere, we & ancestors were meant to be a simple source of constant fresh fertiliser. Our shit & piss redistributed nutrients and therefore promoted healthy soil & widespread growth of many plants, & so supporting the feeding of numerous fauna too.

Just as importantly, our shit served as a seed-spreader. Because we moved around constantly, but within climatalogically similar regions, the seeds of the likes of wheat & barley & millet & many other plants both edible and non-edible were sprayed all over by our bowel movements. In return we got everything we needed to live and love. In other words, we got back from nature as much as we gave to it – much more than we gave to it really. That was paradise & we did live in it for most of our time here on Earth.

What takes place to end all this & ultimately lead to the Hell World of 2020 is recorded in many mythological & religious traditions as the fall of man (sic). It is the moment when the gates of Eden are shut behind us & we are left feeling very lost & very alone in a desert where the fruits of the Earth will have to be hacked out of her now by way of back-breaking, life-draining field labour, instead of simply gathered up as the bounty of our bowels good work.

In John Milton’s great poem about the Eden myth, Paradise Lost, the character God put’s humanity’s expulsion into agriculture like this:

But longer in that Paradise to dwell,

The Law I gave to Nature him forbids:

Those pure immortal Elements that know

No gross, no unharmoneous mixture foule,

Eject him tainted now, and purge him off

As a distemper, gross to aire as gross,

And mortal food, as may dispose him best

For dissolution wrought by Sin, that first

Distemperd all things, and of incorrupt


(lines 48-57, Book 11, Paradise Lost)

Our attack on our mother ‘taints’ us and makes us ‘disharmonious’, ‘gross’ (unfit, diseased), & ‘corrupted.’ This is the truth not as history tells it – it all happens before history – but as poetry tells it & poetry is far far wiser and far far older than history.

Marxism calls this greatest of all catastrophes The Metabolic Rift. Agriculture, developed around 10000 years ago – 290000 years into the journey of Homo Sapiens – breaks us away from seamless interflow with nature. Now we must control, enclose, & exploit her, rather than be a friendly extension doing the job she evolved us for.

Agriculture also necessarily involves a new theological attitude towards nature. Now instead of (or as well as) being worshipped, she must be charmed, she must be appeased. Nature is no longer our loving mother, now she is our fearful step-mother – the gods of nature which evolve now are cruel & unpredictable & demand great sacrifices – often human sacrifices – to give crop.

Agriculture causes a general decline in human health in three main ways – a new lack of diet diversity causes malnutrition & associated diseases like rickets & scurvy to become rife.

The villages & then cities which arise due to agricultural surpluses free vast numbers of humans from direct dependence on the land for the first time. This ends up concentrating our collective shit in one, wrong place & leads to the ineradicable & repeated emergence of pandemics & plagues.

Thirdly, backbreaking field work warps & exhausts the bodies of the farmers, often slaves. Life expectancy fell significantly as result of the transition from organic to historical homo sapiens resulting from the metabolic rift.

Agriculture also causes a cultural & intellectual decline. A loss of independence results from the forgetting of hunting & gathering techniques, & this means people know less about survival on Earth & are therefore, in thhe only sense that really matters, stupider.

People in post-rift sicieties also have less time for culture & for the play that is the basis of culture. While song, dance, poetry, music, story play a daily, fundamental role in hunter-gather societies, in the rifted societies of the late-stone age & after all arts are appropriated by institutional religions for ceremonies & ideologies which support the rule of a ‘divine’ elite.

Visual Art reached a high point in the cave art of the middle stone age, long before agricultural & urbanity, & it was at least the renaissance before painting reached such heights again – tho there are many, Picasso among them, who would argue that middle stone age art has yet to be equalled.

There is absolutely no doubt either that the metabolic rift led to a moral disaster. Only chieftains who ruled over cities & vast agricultural surpluses could dream of empires & genocides. On a lesser level, there is no evidence whatsoever of addiction, suicide, or mental illness in hunter-gatherer societies untouched by ‘civilisation’.

We may assume that when James Joyce has his young hero Stephen Dedalus tell us that ‘History is a nightmare I am trying to escape’ that the nightmare of history is what has resulted from the metabolic rift, which not only broke humans from nature but fragmented us class from class, nation from nation, & each from each amongst ourselves as well.

A task of any real revolution then, in my view, will be a dismantling of the nightmare & all it’s machinery, an end to cities, at least as we know them, an end to the exploitation of nature by humans & of humans by humans, & a return, if such a thing is still possible to the bosom of our ever-loving mother.

To end with with some more poetry – the art which is in a way our only antidote to the metabolic rift, here is the unrifted vision of the great Diane Di Prima:

Revolutionary Letter #4 by Diane di Prima

Left to themselves people

grow their hair.

Left to themselves they

take off their shoes.

Left to themselves they make love

sleep easily

share blankets, dope & children

they are not lazy or afraid

they plant seeds, they smile, they

speak to one another. The word

coming into its own: touch of love

on the brain, the ear.

We return with the seas, the tides

we return as often as leaves, as numerous

as grass, gentle, insistent, we remember

the way,

our babes toddle barefoot thru the cities of the universe.