Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel

In the Bible there is a story of two brothers Cain and Abel.

Cain wants to till the soil and guard his field as his personal property. On this land he wants to grow his food by his own labor. He no longer wants to live on the produce of the forest.

Abel wants to continue living in the lap of nature like his ancestors. He likes to roam and gather wild fruit, edible leafs, tubers and vegetables.

Cain tries to persuade Abel to adopt his way of living. One day he takes his brother to his cultivated field and gloats over his dream of plenty and of power over the life of plants and animals. He thinks living in the hands of nature like lowly animals is shameful. Man's destiny is to rule all creation.

Abel disagrees. He says it is better to live on the bounty of Mother Nature for she is powerful, wise and beautiful.

Cain is so angry he kills his brother. On returning home when the elders ask where Abel was, he gives an evasive reply by saying 'am I my brother's keeper?'

This story made no sense to the Christians.

The reason is it was written from the point of view of hunter-gatherers. Cain stands for the cultivators. He had turned into a bigot who tirelessly chased the gatherers, forced them to become cultivators and killed them if they refused. He then confiscated their land. This is what he is doing to this day.

Cain believed that there was only one right way, i.e. his. Therefore he could not say, well, I will cultivate the soil and let the others do what they wish. From his point of view other ways were evil.

The gatherers put a mark on Cain as a dangerous man and warned their children to beware and not to mess with him.

This story made perfect sense to the forest-dwellers.

To read this account in more detail and in better words turn to Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael."

September 8, 2007