View Full Version : VG/AH Theory: Introduction to “Hunter In A Farmer’s World” Metaphor

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004, 09:32 AM
Introduction to “Hunter In A Farmer’s World” Metaphor

For the majority of our existence on this planet, we’ve lived as Hunter/Gatherers. Genetically speaking, humans have changed very little over the last 40,000 years. We were introduced to the concept of the person with ADHD as a Hunter/Gatherer in Thom Hartmann’s books (“Hunter in a Farmer’s World” series). Within a few months of reading Hartmann’s book, we had considered so many possibilities that a few started to coalesce into something more than your average musings.

Thom Hartmann talks about a study tracing the root languages of people in Central Africa - an area once dominated by Hunter/Gatherer tribes. Over the course of several thousand years, however, they were overrun by Bantu speaking farmers. The Hunter/Gatherers were nearly wiped out, and Bantu farmers spread out and dominated the continent.

According to Hartmann, the reasons for farmer dominance are:

1. Agriculture is 10 times more efficient at supporting a population than hunting/gathering, therefore, farming societies have roughly 10 times the population (and armies) of Hunter/Gatherer societies.
2. Farmers are immune to the diseases of their domestic animals, such as chicken pox, influenza, and measles.
3. Putting down roots in one place leads to population explosion and specialization in individual jobs, giving farmers a technological advantage as well.

It struck Hartmann that the qualities which would make an effective Hunter/Gatherer have been grouped together and labeled a disorder.

In the essays that follow, we will develop our thesis that Hunter/Gatherers are alive and well (in numbers far greater than ever imagined), and offer a new perspective which could possibly take Hartmann’s “Hunter in a Farmer’s World” from the status of an interesting metaphor to that of a measurable science.

Description Of The Thalamus

From The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd ed.:

“The thalamus is a relatively large collection of cell body clusters shaped like two small footballs. It is involved in receiving sensory information from the eyes and other sense organs, processing that information, and then transmitting it to primary sensory zones in the cerebral cortex. The thalamus also processes pain signals from the spinal cord as well as information from different parts of the cerebral hemispheres, and relays it to the cerebellum and the medulla. Together with the hypothalamus, the thalamus forms part of the forebrain called the diencephalon.

By registering the sensory properties of food, such as texture and temperature, the thalamus plays a role in appetite. It is also known to be involved in the control of sleep and wakefulness. Cognitive researchers have found that the thalamus activates or integrates language functions, plays a role in memory, and that a portion of the thalamus, called the pulvinar, helps in refocusing attention. Together with the hippocampus and parts of the cortex, it is instrumental in the formation of new memories, which are then thought to be stored in the cerebral cortex.”

One can see how fundamentally important the thalamus is to the basic functioning of the human. It is necessary for proper sensory perception, is involved in appetite, sleep, language, memory and attention. In other words, it is responsible for the way we perceive the world around us. Hartmann compares the thalamus to a faucet which regulates the interaction and information shared between the senses and the brain. This comparison is definitely worthy of further exploration.

Introduction To VG/AH Theory

In his Complete Guide To ADHD, Hartmann introduces the concept of three types of people:

• “Closed-faucet folks... crave stimulation, live for the party, love to perform in front of people, are into skydiving or roller coasters, and consume hot peppers with enthusiasm...

• Open-faucet folks, inundated by sensory input, just want to be left alone, don’t generally speak up, appreciate subtle things such as fine art and classical music, and are quick to dismiss the closed-faucets as boors or egomaniacs.”

• Then there are the “normal“ people, ”...who fall in the middle between these two extremes... They have enough sensory input to satisfy them, so they don’t go out of their way to create more for themselves, yet they’re not so overpowered by it that they feel the need to withdraw.”

Hartmann goes on to say that those with closed faucets (i.e. ADHD) cannot fulfill the basic human need to feel alive because of the low sensory input they receive. Their actions are geared toward allowing them to feel alive through interaction with their surroundings; ADHD, then, is “a starvation for aliveness”.

While Hartmann has been inspirational to us, we disagree with him on this. Clearly, people with closed gates are Hunters, but these people don’t merely need to interact with their surroundings - their surroundings often bore them. The stimulation they crave is for their surroundings to interact with them; anything less simply will not catch - and hold - the attention of the Hunter.

However, we believe that the people who would be “normal” are the Farmers (and, in fact, form a theoretical group), while open gates lead to an entirely different type of person. The open gate type experience their aliveness through the richness of their senses. They do this by tastefully attenuating the input on their senses (in controlled environments). They are the sensualists. They can be HIGHLY DISTRACTIBLE. They are the Gatherers.

The Evolution Of Our Terms

As our theory has progressed, our designations for its elements have also changed. In our opinion, the DSM-IV definition of ADHD is very sloppy, and we must take exception (along with Hartmann) with the characterization of individual traits as “symptoms” which, when taken as a whole, are then identified as a “disorder”. The biggest problem with the DSM-IV definition is that it asserts that there are three “types” - the Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (ADHD-HI), the Primarily Inattentive Type (ADHD-PI), and the Combined Type (ADHD-C) - within this one condition (ADHD). It is the addition of the third type (ADHD-C) that truly muddles the issue. If the line between the two main types is so hard to distinguish that it requires a third type to be added, then that line cannot be the determining factor in how the types are differentiated.

Hartmann’s definition (Hunter/Farmer) is an improvement, but does not draw a distinction between ADHD-HI and ADHD-PI. What one is then left with are diagnoses based on a subjective opinion. Further, a look at the criteria for the types points out traits that all people possess in some form and/or combination. We considered Hartmann’s Hunter and Farmer to be acceptable terms, but still had problems with substantial overlap of traits within the Hunter. We decided that the concept of the Hunter/Gatherer was the root of the problem. Our solution was to separate Hartmann’s Hunter/Gatherer concept and use the terms “Hunter” and “Gatherer” with the Hunters roughly corresponding to those who are typically diagnosed as ADHD-HI (hyperactive, impulsive, “a hand full”), and the Gatherers roughly corresponding to those who often have trouble in school despite obvious intelligence and who are typically diagnosed as ADHD-PI (inattentive, the “daydreamers”). We then used the term “Farmer” as a designation for those who are neither Hunters nor Gatherers.

Using other mammals as guides, we looked at differences in the behavior of hunting and gathering animals. Comparing our Hunters to hunting mammals, there were definite similarities. While lions will often stealthily hunt their prey, they will equally as often randomly head out into the herd to stir something up. This is the same behavior observed in our Hunters trying to flush out their keys/wallet/etc.; the almost frantic gait, impatient scanning of an area, posture that could easily be mistaken for aggression, are behaviors meant to get the prey/keys to bolt away. It works pretty well when the hunter is a lioness hoping to spot her next wildebeest meal, but keys aren’t likely to frighten easily.

Likewise, gathering animals’ behavior similarly compares to the behavior of our Gatherer. Animals such as the meerkat possess a keen awareness of their surroundings and any changes therein, a strong sense of the other members of its group, and a good sense of direction and location of safety. We see examples of these behaviors in our Gatherers in their ability to “picture” a desired item in the last place they saw it (hence, their keys are rarely misplaced), the level of “organization” they are able to maintain in chaos, and the level to which they rely on intuition in unfamiliar situations.

Still, our terms underwent several changes. The “Farmer” became the “Agricultural-Industrialist”, or “AI”. The “Hunter” went from “H” to “AH”, and the “Gatherer” from “G” to “VG”. Thus, we settled upon “AH” and “VG” to distinguish our two very distinct (i.e., you can’t be both) types of human.

Source: http://geocities.com/vg_ah/