Opinion: A tantalising glimpse of how we can live fuller lives with less
There once was a widow named Mary who was milking 10 cows. Her advisor said to her,: "Do you know, Mary, on your acreage, you could be milking 20 cows". After a moment, Mary replied: "Why would I milk 20 cows when I can live off 10?"
This story may well be a rural myth, but it does prompt questions like why we work so hard and how much is enough?
An interesting take on these questions is contained in a book entitled Affluence without Abundance, by James Suzman.
Suzman is an anthropologist and the book is part memoir, part fieldwork report of his time with the Ju/'hoansi bushmen of Namibia.
Bushmen have lived in Namibia for at least 40,000 years and are possibly the genetic ancestors of us all.
Some people moved to other places and modernised in tandem with their changing societies. But the Bushmen remained isolated, so Suzman suggests that they are thus representative of how humans have lived for at least 95pc of our history.
Suzman discovered that the Ju/'hoansi could make a comfortable living by working only 15 hours a week at hunting and/or gathering (which they usually found very enjoyable) plus another 20 hours on domestic chores.
The standard working week in Ireland is 39 hours. Few farmers would get away with the colour of that.