Practically everything served at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is heavily domesticated, from roast turkey and mashed potatoes to cranberry sauce and corn on the cob.
But, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one. That is to say, humans are just as much a product of domestication as dogs or cows are. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In this episode, we take a look at domestication in the wake of Thanksgiving. What is it? How did we domesticate animals and plants? And what does this process say about us, humans?
- [03:10] The process of domestication
- [05:07] Four requirements for animals in order for humans to domesticate them
- [10:25] Thanksgiving dinner stapes that are heavily domesticated
- [14:10] Why domestication applies to humans as well
- [17:22] The results of domestication in humans
- [20:17] When the domestication of humans possibly began
- [25:46] Steps for coming to terms with the idea of human domestication
- [28:41] Closing statements
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, as always, on these Friday shows, we’re gonna talk about something that’s in the news, but we’re gonna go one step lower. Although it being the day after Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday, I wanted to actually talk about Thanksgiving. I just kind of figured that that might be a nice break from a lot of the economic news. And there’s no shortage of stuff for me to talk about, from FTX’s collapse, cryptocurrencies, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. And rest assured, we’re gonna get to all of that. But today, we are going to talk about Thanksgiving.
[00:00:50] Thanksgiving is the often-forgotten holiday between Halloween and Christmas. And like with all things, it’s shrouded in commercialism. It’s shrouded in mystery, lore, traditions, most of which we don’t even know why we do them anymore. We just know that we’ve been doing them since we were kids and so, we continue to do it. And I’m thinking very specifically of those jello molds our grandmothers used to make and, for some strange reason, are coming back into fashion. If you make jello molds for Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor and please stop. But every year when I have Thanksgiving dinner, like this is my Super Bowl. Like I absolutely adore cooking. It’s not something I’ve always adored, but I take great pride in my ability to take ingredients, whole ingredients, and turn them into delicious food for my family. And it being Thanksgiving, I’m always very grateful for my ability to live in a place and time in which I can have access to a smorgasbord of options, different things that I can transform using the same ingredients into radically different things. I mean, just stop and think of all the different uses we have from corn, from corn on the cob all the way to corn syrup all the way to corn starch with cornbread and cornmeal, and the list goes on and on.
[00:02:02] But one of the things that strikes me this year, especially given the relaunch of Fiscally Savage, my increase in my coaching activities, both financial and life coaching, one of the things that I’ve been really thinking deeply about is the idea of domestication. I mean, the show is called Fiscally Savage, and if you’ve ever been to my website, which you totally should go and sign up for my email list ’cause there’s lots of cool stuff that’s coming here in the next month or two, the tagline on the site, the idea of Fiscally Savage comes from this idea of breaking free of the bonds of debt and dependency. It’s in the show title. The idea of becoming savage, being outside of civilization, to be able to look at that world and go, “Yeah, I’m not really all that interested. I wish to live as a human, not as an economic unit that society boils me down to. I want to be able to live on my own terms” or, just using the tag of the show, to take control of our financial lives and live free. And I’ve talked previously on this show about one of the things that you must do in order to even start this process is to acknowledge what reality is.
[00:03:10] And so, today, ladies and gentlemen, I’m gonna take my favorite holiday and we’re gonna talk about the table and the people around it. We’re gonna talk about domestication. Because everything at that table and everyone around that table is a product of domestication. Bear with me here for a second. The process of domestication is basically taking something wild and adapting it for human use. So whether that’s plants or animals, the process is fundamentally the same. We capture something and we selectively breed it. Instead of allowing natural selection, we allow selective breeding to actually emphasize the traits that are useful to us, not necessarily to nature. This is a generational process and sometimes it’s intentional and other times it’s not. This is one of the things that I find so fascinating when I am off on some rabbit hole somewhere and I come across how the natural progression of things and all the different happy accidents of history.
[00:04:09] So for any of you that own a dog, we all know that dogs have their origins in wolves. We captured wolves, we selectively bred them, and now we have chihuahuas. For some reason, cats on the other hand, were not captured. It’s all — in all likelihood, cats wandered onto the farm and we found them useful for pest control and then kept them around. And it’s only recently that we’ve actually started selectively breeding cats for traits that we like. And I’m thinking here of that naked mole-rat-looking thing, the Sphynx cat, that’s the cat with no hair. But you can go through all the different varieties of cat and you can start to see this process, everything from Siamese to Scottish Folds. I mean, even the Manx cat, which doesn’t have a tail, or the Maine Coon, which is massive. These are byproducts of selective breeding processes over time that are selecting for attributes that are not necessarily good for the cat or that fit into nature but are really nice for us as humans. Now, it’s worth pointing out here, again, I just gave you two different cases in which we had an intentional thing — the breeding of dogs — and an unintentional thing — the cat just kind of showed up.
[00:05:07] And when you start looking into this, you’ll see it all over the place: different ways and things that we’ve domesticated that were sometimes intentional and other times not. Now, for animals, though, I’m gonna point out, and I’m totally riffing off of a YouTube channel called CGP Grey, I’d highly recommend you go take a look at his Americapox series and his domestication series because I’m gonna be quoting him directly here. But he basically lists out there are four different requirements for animals in order for you to domesticate them. Number one, they have to be friendly. We don’t domesticate bears for a reason because they moonlight in murder — and, again, I’m quoting CGP Grey directly here. But this makes sense. If you have an animal that could kill you, then you’re not necessarily going to want to domesticate it unless it’s really worth it. And dogs are an example of where they’re really worth it because they are a security system that is mobile and really likes you and have inserted themselves into your family.
[00:06:05] We all know the thermodynamic argument that 10 pounds of grass can make one pound of hamburger. But if you have a meat eater, you need 10 pounds of hamburger to make one pound of tiger. So that brings us to the second part. They need to be feedable, so it has to actually work out. Ideally, the animals should be eating something that you can’t. This is why cows are such an amazing species from a human use standpoint. They not only produce hamburgers, but they also produce the milk that we use to create the cheese that we put on the hamburgers when we take them off the grill. Cows have a lot of different uses, but they also eat grass. And if you ever have been out in the American West, chances are good you’ve seen cattle just wandering around, sometimes — I’m looking at you, Arizona — in between the interstates. And why do they do that? Well, because that land is not suitable for much else other than having things graze on it. And we used to graze things like sheep and goats, and we still have those type of herding cultures here in the world. But in the United States, we use it primarily for cattle because it’s the biggest bang for the buck.
[00:07:10] So number one, they gotta be friendly and number two, they gotta be feedable. Number three is they have to be, well, fecund. But what that really means is they have to be eager to breed. This is why we don’t domesticate pandas or really a lot of other different types of animals because getting them to mate can be a challenge. So you want an animal who is so eager to mate that they’re going to get it wrong sometimes. And that, of course, brings into this being a generational process. We have to have animals that mate so frequently so that we can make process over a lifetime. And then lastly, they need to have a family structure, which is not universally true. But this is gonna become really important when I start talking about human domestication. Because family structure means that if I can just capture the lead horse, the rest of the herd will come with me. So I have to capture one animal. This is, of course, as pointed out by CGP Grey, the difference between horses and zebras. Zebras don’t have a family structure, so they don’t care about each other, whereas horses do. And if you ever spent time around horses, you know that there is a lead horse.
[00:08:14] Now, this kind of breaks down because typically, in our current cattle situation, they don’t typically have a lead cow because we’ve removed the bulls, but they will all go in the same direction. This is also kind of true for pigs, too. Pigs don’t necessarily have the same type of hierarchal family structure, but you know who else does? Wolves. That’s right. If you get the lead wolf, the rest of the pack will typically come with you. And plants are no different. Corn, wheat, apples, bananas, just to name a few, are all heavily domesticated, so much so that, like the Holstein cow, they look nothing like their actual natural ancestor. In fact, the Holstein cow, which is a great example of this, but also turkeys and chickens that we use for our Thanksgiving dinners can’t survive in the wild. Corn that you see out there cannot survive without human intervention and most wheat varieties can’t either, never mind apples, bananas. Literally everything at the standard American Thanksgiving meal is domesticated to a level in which it cannot exist without human interaction. So that also includes a lot of the people sitting at the table. Turkeys, for example, are bred to a size that they can’t mate without human help. It’s always blown my mind that “turkey masturbator” is actually a viable job title in the United States because we have so many Turkey farms in which the turkeys can’t get on with it to make more turkeys.
[00:09:36] Potatoes — originally from Peru but also really grew well in Ireland when we got them there — are another great example of this. There are literally thousands of varieties of potatoes, but we’ve limited it to basically three: red potatoes, russet potatoes, and Yukon Gold potatoes, which are the three most common varieties to find in a grocery store. Side note. Fun fact: Frederick the Great of Prussia planted potatoes because he wanted to modernize Prussia when he was king. But the natives or, I’m sorry, the natives, the peasants that he was ruling over didn’t want to eat them because they looked weird. And so, what he ended up doing is he planted a potato patch at the palace and then told the guards to like be lazy and take naps and allow people to steal them to turn them into like this dangerous luxury item. This is a great example of the state manipulating the masses in order to get them to do what they want.
[00:10:25] Okay. So let’s go back to different types of things we find at our Thanksgiving dinner that are heavily domesticated. Everybody loves a cranberry sauce, or at least I hope you do. And if you’re one of those people who’s like, it’s gotta look like the can you took it out of, yeah. I shouldn’t have to explain how domesticated and processed and industrialized that is. But if you’re like my roommate where she insists she’s gonna start with the raw cranberries and make her own sauce, which is absolutely delicious, it’s worth acknowledging that the cranberries she’s getting out of that Ocean Spray bag actually look nothing like natural cranberries. We’ve also bred those. And if you’ve ever seen pictures of the cranberry harvest where they flood the bogs — that’s right, ladies and gentle. They can’t actually get the berries out without human intervention because they’ve been bred into something that they aren’t or they’re bred into something that’s unnatural, at least.
[00:11:15] Corn is probably the most famous of the industrialized grasses. That’s right. Corn is not necessarily a tree. It’s a grass. And originally, it was called maize. Maize still exists in the world, but you wouldn’t recognize it as corn. We have selectively bred corn until it would stand nicely in a row like peons in cubicles just waiting to be harvested and have their production plucked away for somebody else’s benefit. Every time I drive past a corn field, especially when it’s knee-high by the 4th of July, I think of two things. Number one, I cannot wait to have sweet corn on the cob. And number two, what a product of industrialization that is. Corn is not viable in nature in the way that we think about it from the grocery store.
[00:12:02] And then, of course, last but certainly not least, is apple pie. Apples are comical in terms of how domesticated and how much effort goes into continuing the domestication of an apple. Here’s the thing that a lot of people do not know about apples. Apples, when you get Granny Smith apples, say, in Kenosha, Wisconsin versus Denver, Colorado, even if they come from radically different places like Virginia and California, they are exact genetic clones of each other. Why? Because apples suffer from something called extreme heterogeneity, which means that rather than having a mommy apple tree and a daddy apple tree producing a baby apple tree that has characteristics of both, that baby apple tree fucks off and decides I’m going to be absolutely and completely and utterly different than my parents. So when we find an apple variety we like that’s palatable — because the vast majority of apples are not palatable to humans — we have to take cuttings off of that original tree, thus creating clones. And this creates a monoculture that can be destructive to entire apple crops. Without human intervention, Granny Smith apples die when the Granny Smith tree dies. Same with every single apple variety we have out there.
[00:13:26] And ladies and gentlemen, if you’re stopping and thinking about, wow, that seems crazy. Thank God it’s only apples that that happens to. Yeah, we do this with bananas, too, and just about all the rest of the fruits all at the same time. How did you think seedless grapes were a thing? I mean, they don’t have seeds and therefore, can’t reproduce. Also, the bananas you have at the store, they don’t even have seeds in them, but wild bananas have these monster seeds you can’t eat. Literally the apple tree, the banana, the corn, the cranberries, the potatoes, the turkeys have been changed over generations into monstrous forms of their ancient ancestors, so much so that they are now completely dependent on human intervention to continue to exist.
[00:14:10] Now, am I dunking on Thanksgiving and being like, “Oh my God, the food is terrible”? No, the food is incredible. Like, again, I’m grateful that I live in a time and a place of such abundance and such amazement. So you might be asking yourself then, okay, well, then why do I care? You should care because this process applies to you, dear listener, just as much as it applies to the turkeys. Just stay with me here for a second. Domestication is the adaptation of something wild for something else’s use. In this case, we always talk about domestication in terms of us humans taking something wild and turning it into something useful for us. But you could flip this on its head. Corn has adapted itself, so much so that us humans have literally destroyed entire forces and ecosystem just to clear ground so that the grass continues to grow.
[00:15:06] Now, the book Omnivore’s Dilemma does a much better job outlining this than I do, but it’s worth the read from the standpoint of once you start understanding that did we actually domesticate the corn or did the corn domesticate us. And anyone who owns cats have already had this thought. But oftentimes when we are adapted into a system just like the dogs and the cats and the cattle, we’re trading safety and steady meals for our productions. In the case of dogs, dogs are producing companionships and security. Cats are producing a pest-free environment and some companionship when the cat is amenable to it. Cattle, of course, producing both the burger and the cheese that goes on the burger along with milk and leather and all sorts of other stuff.
[00:15:49] You can almost kind of imagine two cows standing out in the field and discussing whether or not it’s a good thing that they have to live in this pen. The one cow, of course, going, “But we’re not supposed to be like this. We’re supposed to be wild and free and running across the planes” and the other cow going, “God. You’re completely idiotic. Why would we want that and have to deal with the puma and the rain and the heat and never know where your food’s coming from?” And so, then the argument continues. And then, of course, they decide, well, we’re gonna break free a little bit. And so, that cow goes over in the corner and the other one stays where he always has been.
[00:16:22] But we have these conversations as humans, too. I don’t think that it’s entirely out of the realm of imagination when you consider it that if you live out in the American suburbs, chances are good you live on a nice rectangular lot with fences around it, which means when you’re not being productive, you are kept in a box and then you go out into another box with wheels that will take you to a third box where somebody’s going to milk you for production. Those boxes are called cubicles. And when you can no longer be productive, you turn around and get back in your mobile box and go back to your suburban box. And if you don’t have a house and you live in an apartment, the same thing applies. If you’re going over to a Seattle-based coffee chain, you go from your box of your apartment into the box that is your car into the box that is the store. You are productive for somebody else, then you get back in your box and you go back to the other box. This is no different than what we do with cows when we milk them. I’ll say that again. This is no different than cows when we milk them.
[00:17:22] The results of domestication, of course, are also kind of obvious to see within humans. The drops of male testosterone over the last 30 years. What happens when you start domesticating dogs? Well, their testosterone starts dropping off. We neuter the dogs to really complete that process, but even if you don’t, the dog that you have today has significantly less testosterone, meaning also significantly less muscle mass, significantly less aggression, thinner bones for the dog, higher accumulations of fat. Oh, hey. Hold on a second. I’m kind of describing humans. We all know that we have an obesity epidemic. We all know that osteoporosis is a thing, so much so that we are constantly adding things into our foo, like enriched wheat. Is a great example of this where we’re putting different things to help fortify our bones because domestication on humans has actually started to make our bones thinner. We’re not nearly as aggressive, and I’m thinking specifically of males, but this is probably true of females as weird.
[00:18:15] Now, when we start talking about human phenotypes standardizing over generations, there’s immediately an entire minefield of different topics we could be discussing and I am unwilling to discuss any of those. Let me just be very frank that I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s something we need to be aware of, and I’ll get to that more here in just a second. But when the humans start to standardize, when cows start to standardize, pigs start to standardize, basically anything with genetic code starts being forced into a monocultural box, and I’m not saying monoculture as in like human culture. I’m talking monoculture as in we all only have red delicious apples, which would be a travesty. So you start to see little weird genetic things that come out. And we’re starting to see that with the human population as well. That is to say, we have a lot of different genetic disorders that are starting to become commonplace within society.
[00:19:11] Now, the counterpoint to that could, of course, be we have better detection methods. I don’t actually know what the answer is to that because, after all, I’m an accountant. But it’s important from my perspective to understand that we exist in a system that is above and on top of human culture, specifically our economic system. That economic system is not free, ladies and gentlemen. It wants something from us. And so, what I’m positing here is that that system that has been referenced in many different books has an agenda all its own that may or may not be intentional. And we’re taught from birth to stay in the box. There are plenty of people who talk about socialization from birth. We also talk about acculturation for birth. We also can talk about epigenetics and different things that occur in us on a genetic level based upon childhood experiences. We are taught different things that help keep us domesticated from day one. Everything from you have to stay in this play mat to don’t put that in your mouth to going to school where we respond to bells and whistles to sit in rows as if we were corn to be harvested later. It takes many generations.
[00:20:17] Process is mostly young, though. And it’s ongoing. If I were to sit here and actually pontificate about when do I think that the human animal started truly becoming domesticated, I would say that it really didn’t ramp up until globalization started getting going after World War II. The process, of course, probably started back with the Industrial Revolution, but I digress. The point that I’m getting to, though, is that we are still in the early stages because it takes generations. So if I am correct in pinpointing saying the globalization that began after World War II, that means we’re about four generations in because we, of course, have the baby boomers, we have Gen X, we have millennials, and Gen Z at this point, and then my children’s generation, the Generation Alpha, founders or whoever the hell’s naming these things, I don’t know what they came up with yet. I’m sure somebody will call them lazy at some point to put them on the front page of TIME magazine.
[00:21:06] It behooves us to understand that cultural norms enforce this process. This is what I’ve talked about before when I say you go to work for somebody that’s not you and that in order to take control of your financial life and live free, it is important for you to start understanding and accept reality quickly and start working for yourself, even if you are a W-2 employee, to start crafting your own goals and crafting your own path to those goals over time and knowing that you’re going to run into cultural barriers along the way. Why? Because we’re just as domesticated as the turkeys who can’t breed.
[00:21:44] The elimination of competing ways of living is also a hallmark of the domesticated process. I don’t think it’s out of balance to point out that industrialized societies destroyed every nomadic tribe or society that they ran into along the way. This, of course, was the entire process of colonization. You can’t sit there and allow, say, we have the best way when there are other humans maybe more human than we are. Sebastian Junger in his book Tribe actually pointed out that the number of colonists who decided “You know what? The hell with this” wandered off to go join the tribes, was embarrassingly high. And we have plenty of recorded cases in which colonists threw down their pose, and decided to just completely depart from the civilized society and go join the savages out there in the woods — their words, not mine. But we have not a single case of somebody in the hunter-gatherer society going, “Yes. I wanna live in that house and grow that corn and muck out that stall.” None of them did that. There’s gotta be a reason why.
[00:22:52] And, of course, if you’re looking at that behavior and you’re one of the people who say, “No. I want to perpetuate this system,” then you need to eliminate that competing way of living. We’ve, of course, done this with wolves. When I go out and I ruck at night around my neighborhood. The last thing on my mind is I might be attacked by wolves. But how many of our children’s stories reference the woods in different neighborhoods at night being these intensely scary places because they might be attacked by wolves? That always seemed weird to me growing up ’cause I never was worried about being attacked by wolves. But then by the time I was growing up, they were already eliminated. Dairy cows are direct descendants from a type of cattle we’ve eliminated, mostly because they were very difficult to domesticate. But our dairy cows, they don’t really think about it anymore than we think about our little boxes that we all live in. And so long as the Netflix is going, we’re mostly content.
[00:23:41] Just stop and think about all the self-apparent things that we have in our lives. Everything from our car dependence, our grocery stores, our suburbs. How many of us have looked at our lawns? A domesticated grass that we plant on land that we could otherwise use for cultivation. And instead, we try to keep it green and devoid of anything resembling natural life just to, what? Flex on our neighbors? When was the last time we had the human thought of, “Man, I wish I had berry bushes out there”? In fact, how many of you even know how to forage for food anymore anyway? If society were to collapse, would we be all standing around like dairy cows going, “Well, crap. I don’t know how to actually forage for stuff. I was reliant on that human to bring me corn.” Which, of course, the corn itself couldn’t continue to perpetuate because it requires human inputs as well.
[00:24:29] So I think I’ve made a case or at least have given you something to think about in terms of the path that humanity’s on. And why Fiscally Savage even started to come into being in the first place. Because when my principal asked me to commit fraud and I realized she had me by the financial testicles and I had to take a stand and get lucky on a lot of different levels when I told her where she could stick that suggestion, that’s a form of domestication. That I need to continue down the path that she sets for me to participate in an educational system that doesn’t actually educate anybody and actually serves itself or be threatened with economic destitution or homelessness. That is one hell of a bad bargain. It’s highly domesticating because it makes me wanna stay in my box, continue to work, and toil for somebody else in a system that does not care about me. And what I’d rather do, ladies and gentlemen, is find the places to be grateful. To not have to rely on someone else to make my pie, to be able to actually make my pie from whole ingredients, to be able to take control of the different things and inputs and choose, not be forced, but choose where I’m willing to participate in the domestication game and where I don’t wish to anymore.
[00:25:46] I don’t wanna leave you with this dark revelation. I wanna leave you with some actionable items. So if you’re looking around and you’re thinking I’m absolutely crazy, hey, man. Good for you. You’re gonna sleep better than I do most nights. But if you’re like me and you’re suddenly looking around going, holy shit, what do I do now? Step one, don’t panic. That’s right. I’m gonna totally quote Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s been great advice for my entire life. Don’t panic. It’s okay. Like I said, domestication is a process that takes generations. And sometimes, it’s intentional, but I don’t think this one is. I think that’s the biggest conspiracy actually that’s out there is that nobody’s actually in control. We’re just a bunch of people making short-term decisions that we think are in our best interest, which oftentimes are not, and therefore, these systems kind of arise out of that because we are influenced by the system and the system is influenced by us. So take a deep breath and don’t panic because it’s gonna be okay.
[00:26:48] Step number two, hey, go move your body. Get outta your house or apartment. Go find a green space. Go lay down on the grass. Yes, I know that it’s November and it’s cold. Good. Get uncomfortable. Get wet. Go stand in the rain. That’s what humans do. Go move your body. There is a reason, ladies and gentlemen, why when you’re feeling down in the dumps, getting out and hitting a workout early in the morning, first thing in the morning, is amazing for your mental health. Being exposed to sunlight early in the morning, going to bed with the sun. These are all things that affect your body, this thing that you live in.
[00:27:25] Which brings us to step number three: go do human things. And while I’m sitting there at Thanksgiving admiring the levels of abundance that I live in and fearing the levels of domestication I see on my table and around it, I also am grateful because one of the most intensely human things that we do that brings us joy, that helps us integrate into society, is to spend time in the company of other humans.
[00:27:51] Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday both because I’m able to prepare copious amounts of food to really show my talents to provide for my family, but it’s also the holiday where everybody comes over, breaks bread, and there’s more laughter around my Thanksgiving table than my table has at any other point in the year, including Christmas, Halloween, 4th of July. Thanksgiving is a time to embrace humanity. And now that the holidays are over, now that we’re in the throes of our commercialism in Black Friday, maybe take a time to stop listening to the podcast. Take some time to turn out the Netflix. And go do some human things with your fellow humans. Go break some bread. Go throw a ball. Go for a hike. Find some green space and just roll around. Do things that are intensely human, ladies and gentlemen.
[00:28:41] That’s all I got for you today. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I enjoyed putting it together. My Friday episodes are just a time where I’m having a lot of fun. But ladies and gentlemen, I’m trying to get my Instagram following up to 200 followers and I’d really appreciate it if you take the time to go over and meet me over there. There’s a lot of cool stuff that’s coming. Get in on the email list at fiscallysavage.com. I got workshops that are gonna be coming up that only people on the email list are going to have access to and a lot of other things that are gonna be rolling out for next year so that we can start continuing this process. We can take a look at the domesticating forces in our lives when we can make conscious, intentional choices and start rejecting our domestication because on a lot of levels, that’s the path so that we can take control of our financial lives and live free.
[00:29:25] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.