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Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:11 AM

Jared Diamond: Do Hunter-Gatherer Societies Raise Their Children Better Than Americans Do?

http://www.alternet.org/books/jared-diamond-do-hunter-gatherer-societies-raise-their-children-better-americans-do



How much freedom or encouragement do children have to explore their environment? Are children permitted to do dangerous things, with the expectation that they must learn from their mistakes? Or are parents protective of their children’s safety, and do parents curtail exploration and pull kids away if they start to do something that could be dangerous?

The answer to this question varies among societies. However, a tentative generalization is that individual autonomy, even of children, is a more cherished ideal in hunter-gatherer bands than in state societies, where the state considers that it has an interest in its children, does not want children to get hurt by doing as they please, and forbids parents to let a child harm itself.

That theme of autonomy has been emphasized by observers of many hunter-gatherer societies. For example, Aka Pygmy children have access to the same resources as do adults, whereas in the U.S. there are many adults-only resources that are off-limits to kids, such as weapons, alcohol, and breakable objects. Among the Martu people of the Western Australian desert, the worst offense is to impose on a child’s will, even if the child is only 3 years old. The Piraha Indians consider children just as human beings, not in need of coddling or special protection. In Everett’s words, “They are treated fairly and allowance is made for their size and relative physical weakness, but by and large they are not considered qualitatively different from adults ... This style of parenting has the result of producing very tough and resilient adults who do not believe that anyone owes them anything. Citizens of the Piraha nation know that each day’s survival depends on their individual skills and hardiness ... Eventually they learn that it is in their best interests to listen to their parents a bit.”

Some hunter-gatherer and small-scale farming societies don’t intervene when children or even infants are doing dangerous things that may in fact harm them, and that could expose a Western parent to criminal prosecution. I mentioned earlier my surprise, in the New Guinea Highlands, to learn that the fire scars borne by so many adults of Enu’s adoptive tribe were often acquired in infancy, when an infant was playing next to a fire, and its parents considered that child autonomy extended to a baby’s having the right to touch or get close to the fire and to suffer the consequences. Hadza infants are permitted to grasp and suck on sharp knives. Nevertheless, not all small-scale societies permit children to explore freely and do dangerous things.

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Reply Jared Diamond: Do Hunter-Gatherer Societies Raise Their Children Better Than Americans Do? (Original post)
xchrom Jan 2013 OP
cali Jan 2013 #1
tama Jan 2013 #4
cali Jan 2013 #7
ananda Jan 2013 #42
tama Jan 2013 #46
Quantess Jan 2013 #14
galileoreloaded Jan 2013 #49
tama Jan 2013 #2
cali Jan 2013 #3
tama Jan 2013 #6
cali Jan 2013 #8
Bucky Jan 2013 #11
cali Jan 2013 #16
tama Jan 2013 #13
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #15
tama Jan 2013 #19
cali Jan 2013 #20
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #24
tama Jan 2013 #26
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #21
tama Jan 2013 #28
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #31
tama Jan 2013 #33
Chathamization Jan 2013 #40
cali Jan 2013 #17
tama Jan 2013 #22
cali Jan 2013 #25
tama Jan 2013 #30
cali Jan 2013 #41
tama Jan 2013 #44
blueamy66 Jan 2013 #37
blueamy66 Jan 2013 #36
Nuclear Unicorn Jan 2013 #5
tama Jan 2013 #12
cali Jan 2013 #18
tama Jan 2013 #23
XemaSab Jan 2013 #9
LineLineReply !
xchrom Jan 2013 #10
Shankapotomus Jan 2013 #27
Downwinder Jan 2013 #29
demwing Jan 2013 #32
tama Jan 2013 #34
Brickbat Jan 2013 #35
Marrah_G Jan 2013 #38
galileoreloaded Jan 2013 #39
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #43
gollygee Jan 2013 #45
Johonny Jan 2013 #47
Zorra Jan 2013 #48
tama Jan 2013 #51
cthulu2016 Jan 2013 #50

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:22 AM

1. this strikes me as "noble savage" garbage

Yes, childhood itself is a fairly recent advent in the the annals of history- including western history. By and large, the transition from treating children as pint sized adults is a good thing, not a bad one. In any case, it's straight out silly to compare stone age hunter/gatherer societies with complex contemporary ones. I'm not suggesting that Diamond is doing this, but the author of this review certainly is.

dumb.

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Response to cali (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:41 AM

4. By and large

 

"complex contemporary" hierarchic civilization has not grown up into responsible individual and member of community - which includes whole biosphere, of which also human life depends from. Rather, globalized civilization seems to be now suffering from severe teenage phase of suicidal tendencies and existential crisis, as global limits of growth have been met.

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Response to tama (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:48 AM

7. well, aside from the fact that your run on sentence is rather garbled, so what?

Yes, complex contemporary societies host a slew of ills- as do hunter/gatherer societies, but my point is one simply cannot translate the latter's methods of raising children to the former's. Seriously, would you do away with child endangerment laws? Laws against pedophelia? Child labor laws? Mandatory education?

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Response to cali (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:16 AM

42. Exactly what "slew of ills" do h-g societies host ...

... precisely?

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Response to ananda (Reply #42)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:28 AM

46. If you ask top of hierarchy

 

First Nations are all potential terrorists, as authoritarian control freaks generally fear an loath independent peoples who are not controllable.

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Response to cali (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:02 AM

14. "noble savage" meets "indigo child"

How about noble indigo savage child?

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Response to cali (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:39 PM

49. Human behaivior is about 98% predictable

 

once you know what to look for.

We are barely out of the cave, from an evolutionary perspective of course.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:30 AM

2. Freedom and responsibility

 

Hierarchic authoritarian class societies condition children into remaining authoritarian followers, big children who never grow up and follow orders without questioning.

Free and egalitarian societies rely on children growing into responsible individuals and members of community, and responsibility comes with freedom to experience and also to make mistakes and learn from them.

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Response to tama (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:39 AM

3. fuck those child labor laws.

oh, and I think toddlers should be allowed to flex their individuality by playing unchaperoned in busy traffic.

Do you not get that applying the guidelines used in hunter/gatherer societies to raise children, don't translate well to contemporary ones?

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Response to cali (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:46 AM

6. I get very well

 

that what you mean by "contemporary" is authoritarian power pyramid that relies on not letting children grow into responsible individuals, but keeping them forever authoritarian followers that obey without questioning.

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Response to tama (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:50 AM

8. Can you answer my questions? Do you think we should get rid of all laws protecting children?

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Response to cali (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:53 AM

11. I don't think you should ask loaded rhetorical questions and then demand an answer.

oy

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Response to Bucky (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:09 AM

16. oy, nothing rhetorical about the questions I posed.

Given the comments of the poster I addressed said questions to, they're eminently reasonable. And I'm curious. Why on earth would you think those questions are rhetorical?

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Response to cali (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:00 AM

13. Yes

 

I believe we would be better of by getting rid of all hierarchic power pyramids and their laws.

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Response to tama (Reply #13)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:06 AM

15. That's not the way humans organize themselves once a certain population threshold is reached

There will always be those who desire power over others and they will always work to accumulate and consolidate that power.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #15)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:24 AM

19. That's not a valid statement

 

You can't derive a general social "law" of human social organization and potential of cultural evolution based on contemporary globalized civilization and its history of unsustainable agrarian way of life.

A much more plausible general law can be derived from standard material physics and evolutionary population biology: any system that is dependent from continuous growth and from it's environment, cannot grow ad infinitum as part of finite system. If a cancer kills the host organism, cancer cell population dies also.

Pyramid fraud of power hierarchies is not sustainable model of cultural and biological evolution and adaptation.


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Response to tama (Reply #19)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:29 AM

20. ironic. hunter/gatherer societies have hardly been an evolutionary success

either.

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Response to cali (Reply #20)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:44 AM

24. Hunter gatherer societies have a far longer track record than agrarian ones

And how the agrarian experiment is going to wind up is anyone's guess at the moment.

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Response to cali (Reply #20)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:49 AM

26. Of course not

 

they just adapted to nearly every ecosystem on Earth in sustainable way. And gave rise to agrarian societies that turned into empires and global civilization that consumes and destroys ecosystems, humans included, and is destroying itself.

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Response to tama (Reply #19)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:31 AM

21. Your point is not in conflict with my own

If the population stays below the threshold I mentioned then there is not sufficient material of adequate density for the authoritarians to build a rigid hierarchy.



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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #21)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:59 AM

28. Which threshold?

 

You can't put a number on it and claim it is immutable law.

As a matter of fact, multilayered gardens produce much more per acre than monoculture farming and allow greater (sustainable) population density. But such horticultural societies seem much more egalitarian and resistant to formation of power hierarchies than monoculture farming.

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Response to tama (Reply #28)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 07:11 AM

31. Evidently the threshold is below that of the population of every significant nation on the planet

I've lived in a small tightly knit town and I think while it's clearly great for some or even most people it really sucks for a minority, everyone knows everyone and if you don't fit the group you are totally on the outs with no one to turn to.

It's been my experience that those who are least aware of the hierarchy are those who fit the best in it.


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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #31)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 07:46 AM

33. 50 million?

 

Pashtun society and culture is not hierarchically centralized but decentralized network of largely self-reliant smaller communities united most importantly by ancient ethical code preserved by oral tradition called Pashtunwali, which is not limited to native speakers of Pashtun but has been adopted by other neighboring cultures. And they have been at least significant enough to succesfully resist both Soviet Union and US empires.

Our various coevolutionary relations and how they affect our population dynamics and forms of social organization is a complex multivariable issue, but any serious anthropological study will not lead to conclusion that global power hierarchy with bankers on top is the only option with any population number. Or that nation state hierarchies are any more natural form of social organization, or that decentralized bottom up network of communities could not be possible on global scale.

Locally sustainable communities can have very strict (unwritten) social norms, but there is great variety and also individual freedom of movement to stay in community and company that suits individual needs.

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #15)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:46 AM

40. That population threshold being two people. N/T

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Response to tama (Reply #13)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:10 AM

17. thanks for answering.

so if your 4 year old was raped, that would just be a learning experience for the little tyke. Yikers.

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Response to cali (Reply #17)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:32 AM

22. Talking about rape

 

your culture is raping Mother Earth and making it unlivable for all our children. Your "complex" culture. Culture of Oedipal complex.

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Response to tama (Reply #22)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:48 AM

25. so where do you live? And what the fuck do YOU know about my way of life, dear?

by the way, let me tell you a little story about two men I knew when they were boys living on the same commune I lived on. They were about 5 and the mom of one of them had much the same beliefs that you apparently espouse. She was off fucking someone and her son and the other kid were playing with his nifty bow and arrow. Her son shot an arrow into the eye of the other kid, blinding him. Btw, the kid who was blinded grew up to be a wonderful creative man, husband and father. The kid who shot his eye out grew up to a beautiful, extremely fucked up man-child.

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Response to cali (Reply #25)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 07:09 AM

30. Not much

 

In this thread and elsewhere on DU I get the impression that you strongly identify with current hierarchic society and it's unsustainable way of life.

And often engage in personal attacks against those who question the wisdom of authoritarian system fouling up it's own nest and instead of discussing the subject, you turn it into attempts to blame game and guilt trip those who do not agree with your need for authoritarian control.

Not the whole truth about your way of life, dear, just general impressions from my limited point of view, since you asked.

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Response to tama (Reply #30)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:12 AM

41. lol. I live in the rural Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and

have done so for over 30 years living a sustainable way of life. I live about as outside the normal "hierarchic" society as just about anyone. Haven't been in a mall, for instance, in a couple of decades. One thing is true: I have little patience for stupidity or those with ideological blinders tightly affixed to narrow temples.

Oh and clearly your knowledge of my life and lifestyle is as erroneous as everything else you've posted in this thread.

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Response to cali (Reply #41)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:53 AM

44. Somehow

 

you turned the discussion being about You (and how wrong and stupid I am ).

"Your culture" referred to European colonial culture, which I assumed and still assume is your cultural background. Which does not mean that this is about You, personally, how ever interesting your relation with your cultural heritage may be, and if that's what you want to talk about, I'll listen.

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Response to cali (Reply #25)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:17 AM

37. And my brother shot me in the leg and head

 

with a BB gun..... my brother fell off of the roof while "playing" Starsky and Hutch.....I was thrown from my horse into a ditch....I got 7 stitches in my chin while playing football.....neighbor kids were always getting hurt - probably because we were allowed to play outside. Your example may be extreme.....but it's CHILDHOOD!

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Response to cali (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:11 AM

36. How about a happy medium?

 

??

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Response to tama (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:46 AM

5. And I bet they keep their bow and arrows unloaded with trigger locks when not in use.

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Response to Nuclear Unicorn (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:57 AM

12. LOL

 

Children are taught to make and use bows and arrows from very little. My father made me a very lethal crossbow when I was small, it was just lying around in the summer commune and in winter I kept it in my own room. But any time any child would point even a plastic toy weapon towards another human, all adults raised hell and made clear that's not cool, not even when "just" playing.

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Response to tama (Reply #12)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:11 AM

18. hate to break this to you, but that's hierarchical. and you sound approving of it.

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Response to cali (Reply #18)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:41 AM

23. Yeah, whatever

 

and they also constantly embarrassed us children by telling blatant lies that we children believed, as was the traditional way of parenting in my tribe. Felt cruel at the time, but our parents teaching us not to trust their lies taught us to think by ourselves and question and not trust the lies on which the global civilization is built on.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:50 AM

9. So they respect their kids so much

they allow them to wander into the fire?

No, sorry, that's just shitty parenting, whatever your culture.

Under that same logic, a woman who's fucked up on dope and lets her 4-yo cook her own macaroni is just letting the kid do what she wants.

It's especially reprehensible if it leaves legit scars. Like I "burn" myself while cooking about twice a year, and I have 0 burn scars because by the time I started cooking my own food, I was old enough to not put my hand down on the burner, or set my clothes on fire, or put my hand in the boiling water.

Jared Diamond is a toolbag made of other, smaller toolbags.

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:53 AM

10. !

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 06:57 AM

27. I don't think it's the protecting

 

from harm that is the problem. It's the punishments and reactions after the behavior. Even in other mammal species, we can observe animal parents intervening and attempting to control their offspring's reckless behavior. It's usually the lower functioning, reptilian brained animals that don't care about what their children are doing.

When we rescue our children from sticky situations, like these elephants are, we are protecting our investment.



We do the same thing with our farm crops. We don't just leave them entirely to the natural elements. We tend to them and try to protect them.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 07:07 AM

29. It seems to me that each generation in our society

becomes more protective and restrictive.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 07:33 AM

32. American apples v. Hunter Gatherer oranges

Even the best raised American children would not function in a Hunter Gatherer society. The opposite is equally true. Each social structure requires and teaches completely different skill sets.

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Response to demwing (Reply #32)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:03 AM

34. Fruitsalad

 

In fact many Europeans chose to live with natives instead of in colonies, and natives have been forced to learn European ways (children robbed from their parents and communities and treated horribly in the "schools" they were kidnapped to).

But both apples and oranges grow on trees, and global civilization would not be saved even if it destroyed all remaining indigenous peoples and robbed and consumed their ecosystems. "Idle No More" First Nations are not speaking out and demonstrating only for themselves, but as we are all in the same boat, for the whole fruitsalad and the trees and land that give us fruits.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:07 AM

35. "Better"? Jesus Christ.



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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 08:28 AM

38. Better, no. Different, yes

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 09:41 AM

39. I think r/K selection is facinating stuff, and Guns, Grems, and Steel was brilliant n/t

 

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:26 AM

43. I agree with Cali, noble savage BS.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:01 AM

45. I agree with the "noble savage" comments

and it's been done before. http://www.continuum-concept.org/home.html

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:36 AM

47. I kept waiting to hear the better part...

but all I read in that excerpt sounded pretty meh.

Where do kids live in magic land where they do not do dangerous things?

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:32 PM

48. It's impossible to say. Small, traditionally organized quasi-communal tribes are so different

from the impersonal chaos of the industrial world in so many ways that the word better in the OP subject line is inappropriate, IMO.

What's interesting to me is the possibility that some hunter gatherer tribes as small closed societies may understand the effects of constant surveillance on human beings from birth, and are allowing their children to experience life with minimal surveillance conditioning.

Individuals, particularly anthropologists in this context, in industrial societies generally have difficulty comprehending the real individual and collective consciousness/worldview of past and hunter gatherer societies. Anthropologists very often develop theories on very incomplete information and process this information from their own conscious and unconscious processes and value systems based on their experiences as people raised in industrial cultures. They often formulate theories based on observation of material relics or art, with little or no information as to what was going on in the consciousnesses of hunter gatherer individuals and the hunter gatherer culture's respective collective consciousness.

I love this magazine article below, from 1891, and have posted it on DU several times, because it illustrates differences in the worldviews and understandings respective to two very different cultures. Granted, most North American aboriginal cultures had already been tainted by European interference by this time, but, IMO, the differences in intrinsic cultural worldviews are still relevant in the present with respect to present day traditional North American native folks and descendants of European imperialists.

Please keep in mind as you read this that this entire article is Huggins' basically clueless outsider interpretation of what was going on in the minds and hearts of North American native culture(s) of the time. I believe the the excerpt I have chosen to post here is a succinct illustration of the wide and deep chasm in values, consciousness, and understanding between two very different cultures.

E. L. Huggins, Smohalla, The Prophet of Priest Rapids, The Overland Monthly, February 1891
snip---
Huggins: "You say that wisdom comes in dreams, and that they who work cannot dream ; yet the white man, who works, knows many things and can do many things of which the Indian is ignorant."

Smohalla: "His wisdom is that of his own mind and thoughts. Such wisdom is poor and weak."

Huggins: "What is the wisdom of which you speak, that comes in dreams ?"

Smohalla: "Each one must learn for himself the highest wisdom. It cannot be taught in words."


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Response to Zorra (Reply #48)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 05:31 PM

51. Thanks

 

Having given this issue lot of attention, I'm again reminded of the story of two wolves and the choice which one to feed. But first, name of the game is variety and to talk about just hunting and gathering is too limiting and exclusive of horticultural and nomadic indigenous ways of life. Though not unproblematic, I prefer term "indigenous" to "hunter-gatherers", as does UN.

And from what I've seen, read, heard etc., it's clear that many indigenous communities (BTW "closed" does not describe them generally or well) do indeed on communal level actively feed the "good" wolf and starve the "bad" wolf in individual members and community as whole. There are many stories of how indigenous way of "teaching" is practical, result oriented and effective without being active teaching but passive observation and allowing and encouraging to learn from experience, especially mistakes, by heart. For example, a Finnish writer and photographer was traveling in Lapland with his sami friend and guide, and (IIRC) for many nights he felt very cold and uncomfortable in his teepee and finally complained to his friend. Sami guide told him that he hat noticed what he was doing wrong and showed the right way, so he wouldn't feel cold. "Why didn't you tell me this right away and let me feel cold for many nights?", asked the writer. "So that you would learn well and remember", answered guide.

BTW that book was about search for Whooper Swan, which by WWII had been hunted to near extinction in Finland, after long journey they found and photographed one pair and the writer wrote a book about the journey. The story resulted in protecting the swan from hunting, and Whooper Swan has returned and lives now everywhere in Finland. The book also contributed in many ways to healing nations soul traumatized by long and bloody war.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:10 PM

50. I would not call this "noble savage garbage"

On the other hand, it is not a demonstration that primitive societies raise their children "better."

("Primitive" means more like an earlier historical state... same root as primal. Though often used pejoratively, it is supposed to be a value-neutral word.)

I agree with Cali that the headline overstates the case, but the baby need not be thrown out with the headline writer.




Hunter-gatherer societies almost certainly do a better job of raising children for life in a hunter-gatherer society. Our world does a better job preparing our children for the world they will, in fact, live in.

(Keep in mind that primitive societies, even without guns or television, are much more full of homicide than ours. Of course optimal child-rearing will be different. If you have to train your children to fight with a knife then obviously "playing with knives" will be viewed differently.)

But we may (and probably have) gone too far in our modernization of child-rearing, so that in some ways a move in the direction of hunter-gatherer methods might be an improvement.

A full return to hunter-gatherer methods would, however, be disastrous.

And in the publishing world that sort of nuance doesn't sell books, so we get headlines like, "Do Hunter-Gatherer Societies Raise Their Children Better Than Americans Do?" with the implication that the question wouldn't be asked unless the answer was a clear YES.

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