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We of the industrialised countries have a tremendous amount to gain from the tribal peoples of the world, concerning problems of our era.

I spent some time visiting the Turkanas and Digos of Kenya recently -
my experiences have been primarily in Africa
I realised 2 things -

firstly, that our knowledge of ancient societies, and our level of contact with them, are extremely small -
and when they occasionally happen, it is with great cultural bias and a presumption of superiority by the visitor (NGOs, government representatives, corporate staff, churches ..)
secondly, that many of the core topics of today in the industrialised world (environment, conflict and human social connection) are
- in some cases - managed far more successfully by these
ancient societies -

but there are of course many nuances and downsides in this story -
it is not black and white

I propose that we should have friendly, equal interaction with these peoples in a careful way that does not disrupt their lives -
as a way of pursuing our own search for what is right and what we want
in the West

and we should absolutely not allow these societies to disappear
a little a time - we should rather protect them from threats to their way of life, and get to know them better

Pinkers rapid dismissal of the 'myth' of social harmony in tribal societies
is merely a symptom of the fact that 'we' barely know 'them' at all,
and have extremely little reliable information -
for myself, and for 2 of your TED speakers, it is easy to distinguish
between those who have had close contact with tribal peoples,
and those who have not, like Pinker

it is true that for any normal person, a real personal contact with them
is not easy to arrange - there is travel, there is finding a personal introduction, and survival in areas without shops or hotels

I maintain that nothing has ever been more worth the effort -
and that there is no substitute for the real thing -
films, books and talks cannot convey the experience

The nearest I can come is that it changes you permanently,
and as Pinker says "everything you thought before was wrong"

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  • Dec 28 2012: "firstly, that our knowledge of ancient societies, and our level of contact with them, are extremely small -
    and when they occasionally happen, it is with great cultural bias and a presumption of superiority by the visitor (NGOs, government representatives, corporate staff, churches ..)"

    Except for our scientists of course...

    "secondly, that many of the core topics of today in the industrialised world (environment, conflict and human social connection) are
    - in some cases - managed far more successfully by these
    ancient societies -"

    Their communities are far smaller: a council of elders could not run New York City, let alone China.

    There is no doubt that there is a lot they can teach us (and by us I mean the non-scientists among us) about medicinal plants, survival tactics, nutrition and attitude towards life, but that doesn't mean their system of governance is relevant to us.
    • Dec 28 2012: thanks John, and Scott
      the point I'm trying to make is tremendously difficult to put words to -
      so please bear with me
      It turns out that, as far as I can tell, tribal peoples of today - people you can actually meet -
      operate from basis that is so different to ours that ...
      we, who are looking for alternative approaches to life, resources and social connection
      need to look at what they are doing and seeing differently

      not try to adopt their way of life, but ask these questions among others :
      why do the people who own the least appear the happiest in some ways, and the most generous?
      what do such people think of the notion of 'competing against each other'?
      (in my experience, they find it a very puzzling idea .. compared to co-operating)

      and does it make sense to listen to those of a culture and mindset so different to ours,
      at a time when we ourselves need to search 'outside the box' for our own answers -
      bearing in mind their social way of organisation is thousands of years old,
      and ours around 50-100 years old, depending where you count from

      Could it be that these are the most benign and healthy societies on earth today?
      (by measures of ecology, war deaths, drug addiction, social connectedness ...)
      If so, and if they are indeed happy peoples, this surely must have some significance
      for us - indeed it has many implications I believe

      I acknowledge that large urban societies need their own models of functioning -
      but this does not subtract from the value of societies living on earth today,
      apparently, without causing great damage to the environment or each other
      Anyone who can do that, is worth listening to
      • thumb
        Dec 29 2012: Paul, let me try to answer your questions:

        (1) "... Why do the people who own the least appear the happiest in some ways, and the most generous?
        What do such people think of the notion of 'competing against each other'?"
        ANSWER ---- It is because valid happiness is the short-time feeling of things being a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive, No matter how big the size of the step may be.

        (2) "... does it make sense to listen to those ... their social way of organization is thousands of years old, and ours around 50-100 years old ... ?"
        ANSWER ---- Yes, because their social way of organization is just our ancestors’ successful experiences formed 10,000 years ago and saved in our DNA. However, we have tried to change it for “50-100 years”.

        (3) "Could it be that these are the most benign and healthy societies on earth today?
        (... by measures of ecology, war deaths, drug addiction, social connectedness ...)"
        ANSWER ---- Yes, it certainly could because it is well-proven for millions of years


        (For details, see the 1st article, points 1-8, at https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D&id=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D%21283&sc=documents)

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