Over time, the early populations started to develop special strategies that led to a transformation in the quality of human life. Rather than constantly wandering in search of food, people stayed in one region and exploited the seasonal sources of food, including fish, grain, fruits and game. This also prompted the construction of dwelling spaces that were permanent in context as they had less reason to wander in search of food or security.
The gravitation to agriculture was natural; mankind understood the need to feed and sustain their livelihoods, but there were problems. Specialization in a relatively small number of plants or animals could create disaster during a drought or plague. Some researchers argue that agriculture developed out of an increased population and the development of a political hierarchy. This may have evolved from growing populations and pressure on local food supplies as greater coordination and organisation was needed. Interestingly, some human development indicators showed that infant mortality decreased and life expectancy rose. This change may have occurred since life in a fixed community was less demanding and that children were nurtured into family-operated agricultural activities.
The societal construct that allowed for the farming of plants and livestock separate and apart from where they naturally existed spurred a paradigm in development. Man was no longer a hunter or gatherer but a farmer and partner with nature. This construct also allowed for population growth in fixed areas which increased their complexity and physical infrastructure. This behaviour could have also been replicated, as groups of families moved into different areas, establishing food supply and dwelling. This would have also encouraged early forms of trade.
Interestingly, the history and culture of Mesopotamian civilization is inextricably connected to the ebb and flow of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Available research material explains that the earliest communities developed to the north but since rainfall in that area was so unpredictable, the population had spread south to the rich alluvial plain. The economy of these communities was primarily agricultural and hundreds lived in these permanently established villages. The alluvial plain in southern Mesopotamia (land between the rivers) was far more fertile than the north but because there was little rainfall, irrigation ditches had to be constructed. Furthermore, the river beds of the Tigris and Euphrates rise and fall with the seasons and they change their course unpredictably. Southern Mesopotamia also had its share of flash floods which would destroy crops, livestock and village homes.
Civilization emerged in Mesopotamia because the soil provided a surplus of food. With this surplus, people could settle down to village life and with these new settlements, towns and cities began to make their appearance, a process known as urbanization. With settlements and a surplus of food came an increase in the population, a well-defined division of labour, organization, cooperation and kinship. The emergence of cities involved interaction between people. Most cities evolved from smaller farming villages and with the practice of irrigation, which was necessary for villages distant from the Tigris and Euphrates, a stable food supply was produced. This, in turn, allowed increases in the number of people who inhabited each settlement.
Most importantly, the land closest to the river was the most fertile; there was a variation in terms of the wealth of these early farmers, which led to distinct social classes. At the same time, the construction of canals and local drains essential to irrigation demanded cooperation between different social groups. Decision-making, regulation and control of all food production and farming meant cooperation.
Growing up as a young Hindu girl in Penal, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, was fortunate to experience the depth of appreciation that people had for each other in her community. Whatever the celebration or cause, family members, neighbours, and friends cooperated. The panchayaat system was revered. Her life’s story, among many others, is an example of individual development through village interaction as well as the coincidental impact that geographical location had in this process.
Hers is a story of being a little girl from a rural district who walked barefooted to school; perhaps a little girl who went hungry many a night, a little girl who nevertheless never felt ashamed nor was ever made to feel that poverty was a curse but a lesson in compassion and an inspiration to help.
In 2010, she was literally welcomed into office in flood gear. Traversing the country to empathise and mobilise relief, which the electorate invariably voted for. Billions had been spent on infrastructure throughout the country and it began to collapse, especially the north-west area, which some say possessed home-ground advantage for decades. There is no doubt that prosperity filled the flooded plains, nature through rivers manipulated settlements and aligned their livelihoods hundreds of centuries ago and evidently, still has the power so to do.
Previous administrations had the chance but failed to develop and implement social dispute resolution, sustainable livelihoods and other implements necessary for societal construction in some areas. The urgency remains undoubted. Demonstrated in the socio-economic development of central and south Trinidad, floods has a way of correcting the wrongs.
At the National Day of Prayer in 2012, the prime minister said, “If you plan for one year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years, plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate children.” This education is not necessarily academia, but a mentality that is removed from some of the traditional stigmas and aspersions that keep us stagnated; human and social values. This is a foresight that the upcoming generations will see beyond the traditional strongholds and welcome new thresholds.
Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. The time is at hand to engage, strengthen and lift people even above the floods. History has shown that they have the resilience to withstand any flood, friend or foe; however, former Caroni workers, private cane farmers, cane cutters and their dependents have been left to wander in the fields for too long.
If we cannot take care of our own, how can we take care of others?