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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 9 2013: I see that people have raised the question of whether we can be in contact with such peoples
    at all without harming them -
    from my experience this is the truest observation and concern - our record on this speaks for itself
    It is calamitous

    I believe, under certain conditions, we can however - and I'd like to exchange more on that

    For us more fundamentally in this thread, what is it, as Carolyn and others ask, that we have to gain ?
    As per the initial idea here ?

    I suggest that anyone who spent time with tribal or ancient societies would learn things
    that they could bring back to the West or industrialised world

    we speak a lot of core human values and shared values, and universal qualities of human life -
    that is those of us with an engaged spirit in our world -
    but we know our societies are overcomplicated and overwhelmed with complication,
    and distant from the basic elements of life, and the natural forces that underly our lives

    we are in a never-ending race, where we are particles moving, or being moved,
    in a direction we do not even know, and may largely disagree with -
    submerged in complication, detail and stress and pressure, we have perhaps
    forgotten what we are aiming for

    I believe tribal communities, and all old closely connected communities that are
    not inhumanly complicated and hurried, and are in a physical relationship with their
    environment remind us of where we all come from, and of the basics, the universals

    It takes us out of and beyond the technical, the intellectual and the competitive rush,
    and back into a sane, peaceful, connected version of ourselves -

    I think only the old civilisations can do this -
    and make us of the high-tech societies remember what really matters,
    and who we really are
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      Jan 14 2013: Paul,
      One thing I have learned, is that we are all more the same than different. Some of the things Carolyn mentions are cognitive ability, depth in child parent connections, enjoyment of surroundings, suffering, death, illness...

      The people I have interacted with in remote areas of our world, in my perception, have equal cognitive ability (in fact, sometimes more than in suposedly "civilized" cultures), they are similar in parenting skills and I think/feel many times, better with child/parent connections. I think the closeness and simplicity of their life styles contributes to some of these connections. Most of the people I have encountered in remote areas seem to be MORE aware of their surroundings and appreciate what they have (although very little materialistically) MORE than people in more advanced cultures.

      As you say Paul, we share many core human values, and universal qualities of the human life experience. We share all the same emotions. Those in western cultures are often stressed by the "never-ending race", and yet people continue to "submerge" themselves into complication. Yes, I believe some folks have forgotten what they are aiming for.

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