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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 26 2013: I agree with you.
    However, I do think it important to note that humans are not yet civilized and there is a great error in speaking as though some are, or are more civilized than peoples of the past.
    It seems to me these "civilized countries", which have people in them, and who "seem the most civilized" are the ones who have done the most plundering of other countries, lands, peoples and their resources.
    I don't see real "civilized people" as ones living and behaving that way, especially when they espouse that they do and that they are.

    What we mistakenly label or call "civilized" is not actual civilization. It is people "acting that way" when they really aren't.
    I really think this is a much more accurate description of who we are.

    And lo and behold, we still refuse to address the causes and get rid of them.
    That is dangerous, evil stubbornness and it certainly isn't civilized.
    Calling oneself civilized is like the insane Moral Majority in the Un-united States, calling themselves moral when they ain't even close. Nor are they anywhere near sanity.

    Look around you at the world. It ain't civilized...................................yet.

    If a mass murderer were caught tomorrow, after serial killing thousands of people, over a long period of time, and it were found out that she had done a lot of good things for others too, would you be inclined to forgive, forget or just wipe the slate clean because of the good she had done in the past? And let her go?

    Well, that's what patriotic American'ts do with America. "We've done a lot of good in the world, blah, blah, blah," and using that to ignore and try and forget all the atrocities America has perpetrated and continues to perpetrate.
    And that civilization, and other rich, Western cultures are considered, "civilized"?

    And it ain't, "compared to what?" Is there really such a thing as a civilized monster?

    No. There is only a monster that "acts that way", be it persons, countries or cultures.

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