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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 27 2013: If tribal communities have so much to offer, why don't they have indoor plumbing?

    Sure, human life is valuable, and stagnant cultures can certainly be interesting, but if we want to solve the problems concerning our era, we are best served by looking within our own civilization. Our society produces real healthcare, advanced agriculture techniques, efficient communication mediums, education, durable housing, roads, bridges, mass transit, and the list goes on and on.
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      Jan 27 2013: and let me add that those communities can't wait to lay a hand of these technologies. the other day i was lending on kiva to a farmer in kenya to buy a "zero grazing unit". i had to look up on google what the hack is zero grazing. kenyan farmers don't give a damn to traditions when it comes to food production. they just want more output, and they use what they can.

      this, until a white man comes along and says "we should absolutely not allow these societies to disappear".

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