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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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    Jan 1 2013: I know it sounds ridiculous but I think that one of the greatest lessons that we can learn from these tribes is contentment. We need to get to a point where we are content, where we no longer need to expand or else we will eventually run out of space to expand to and that is when we will run out of resources (as we are now) and destroy ourselves in our restlessness

    I know it sounds ridiculous but more is not always better
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      Jan 1 2013: Does not sound ridiculous to me Joshua....sounds very reasonable, responsible, insightful, and true:>)
    • Jan 3 2013: That scenario will likely lead us to space colonization and development. If we were content, we wouldn't have developed computers or technology as we know it. Think about it, what drives you? Contentment is probably a bad thing for a species.
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        Jan 3 2013: Matt,
        I agree that one may get SO content that s/he may not feel motivated. However, I do not find contentment to be a "bad" thing. When I feel content, I usually feel more calm, creative, ready willing and able to explore more. I think as we evolve as thinking, feeling, human beings, we will always be creating:>)

        It appears that Joshua is talking about expansion in relationship to using resources?
        • Jan 4 2013: Well two things, contentment is a state of being, because no one is ever content all of the time. This hypothetical talk is giving a nod to ignore that very idea, that we need to work towards our human potential or transcendence. We are not discussing whether or not we will be content from one moment to the next, but that we will be content.
          There is no measure of content because you either are or you aren't. I'd be willing to bet that you're talking about something else, closely relate able but who can ever agree on these damn definitions anyway, there's always some subjective quality to anything in the english language.

          Or we're talking about something metaphorical and idealistic, in which case this whole thing is silly, whether or not its fun to talk about, but we're back to being 12 again.

          In any case, those history majors might agree with me, our desire to discover the unknown, which is arguably the basis for all that we are, is the very thing about our nature that has driven us create, to improve and to destroy. Just looking at the natural order for things as evidence for a precursor to some peoples romantic utopian future, content creatures get eaten or fail to adapt. I've always said I'm all for it, but, it's not realistic. Someday, Isaac, someday...
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        Jan 4 2013: I am content all the time Matt:>)
        There are many levels of contentment:>)
        Contentment, according to definition and my experience means: "satisfied".

        And this is the quality I observe in tribal/ancient cultures of our world, which I LOVE connecting with:>)
        • Jan 4 2013: Different definitions :D

          I am happy for you if you're content all of the time andddddddddddd a little envious you super woman you!
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        Jan 4 2013: LOL! Nothing "super" about it in my humble perception. I believe contentment is a choice, and much more enjoyable than the alternative:>)

        As I said, it is what I connect with and admire about people living in remote places with very little materialistically.
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        Jan 5 2013: Is "technological" progress really a good thing if it only solves problems created by other technologies? Consider the state of the earth and humanity pre-agricultural revolution. Today, some people tax themselves tremendously with the rat race of life, hoping to work and work and work (hard) so that someday they can live a calm, balanced, tranquil life. You know, retire to some secluded, rural nook of the world. Today, people struggle to stay healthy and pay top-dollar for "organic" food. They go camping and hunting and fishing to "escape." To escape what? Why is our society built in a way that encourages "escape"? Again, consider pre-agricultural revolution humanity. People built and ate what they could. Men and women lived in communities with nature, built off their own labor. They woke up, hunted, ate, and at night, were merry. What is 'worse' about this life? It is an endless fishing trip, an endless hunting trip, an endless vacation.

        And this way of life is not irrelevant. People still live this way around the world. They did before we were here and if we continue on our course and destroy ourselves, they'll be here when we're gone.
        • Jan 5 2013: Very romantic but ultimately untrue. That society you speak of evolved from or ultimately became this one. Human nature isn't changed when the population is tiny. People wanted more, we always have. Field studies of primates show much of the same behavior and they haven't quite grasped technology like early man did. What is better about this life? A false sense of happiness because you don't know anything?

          Don't romanticize ancient history would be my advice, you've led a privileged life and knowing that is enough but problems are quantitatively comparable. We don't know how much their life sucked, or how great it was, there simply is no written record of those times.
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          Jan 6 2013: LA Hall and Matt,
          You both make some valid points.
          You say that people "tax themselves...hoping to work...so that someday they can live a calm, balanced tranquil life". You also insightfully mention the idea of "escape". It sounds like you are suggesting that often times, in western cultures, people do not live in the present moment? But rather, they are seeking something outside (escape), or peace and calm in the future?

          You say the "society you speak of evolved from" that other "romantic" (peaceful, calm) society? And the reason we evolved as we did was because we wanted more?

          I agree with everything you guys write. Do you suppose it is helpful to seek and experience balance? Can we learn from each other? Western culture is probably NOT going to stop developing technologically. Could it be that there is a possibility that we can use advanced technology to help support poorer people and poorer countries, and at the same time learn more about how THEY often experience more peace and contentment? Could this be the balance we work toward in our global society?
        • Jan 6 2013: To be as vague as possible, yes unfortunately! I don't feel qualified to be entirely specific about it up front. But...Suppose there was one boy in said society that was more curious than anyone else, he wanted to know what was beyond the borders. What was beyond the great sea. Perhaps he runs into another clan, one not so peaceful because they've had neighbors competing for their food sources. Perhaps said peaceful tribe grew to a size where it was in direct competition with another tribe for limited food sources. There's a drought, there's disease, famine, etc. I don't want to get all waxy with more of the same stuff but I hope these scenarios don't seem so far-fetched. As far as I know, we have no idea what really creates the outliers and the unique minds of any population.

          As a veteran and world traveler myself I completely believe in people experiencing other cultures and other activities well out of their usual. For me, I've been all over the world in cities big and small and I see much of the same thing, people live in bubbles, the bigger the city the bigger the bubble apparently. I see this problem with romanticizing ancient history or tribal life and I just can't sympathize with it. I do however, after reading the OP's comment near the top about finding home, completely understand how that feels. In my first trip to Bavaria I was overcome with the same strange feeling and have never had anything near to it in over a decade of exploring.
          As a mental health professional I have come to believe that we can absolutely fix humanity with technology, namely medicine and psychology. If our society could get through industrialization and what became of that horrid mess is this, we're not all together lost and confused. We should be fine if we remain thoughtful and critical.

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