Friday, July 08, 2016

The Old Way

What would happen if you spent your youth living with a society of primitive hunter-gatherers? Elizabeth Marshall Thomas found herself infatuated with their society and found it a recent-history utopia. The African Bushman seemed to be peace loving people who just wanted to go about their normal life. They didn't have many of the problems of modern society, nor any of the half-baked (and inconsistently enforced solutions.)

The first part of the book is an interesting analysis of the hunter-gatherers and how many of how man evolved. Men could run down big game, often using their endurance as a benefit. Simple weapons would come later. Lions and men would generally mind their own business. (Hyenas, however, would be willing to jump on the feeble.) The society was regularly on the move, and did not have time for many of the "trappings of society" (or their problems.)

Alas, the infatuation with the way of life seems to go overboard. Luckily, at the conclusion, the author acknowledges that the way of life does not exist anymore. The hunter gatherers have had huge problems adjusting to modern life and have been extremely susceptible to alcohol. The "old way" that she saw in her youth was likely not scalable to a larger society. With a small group of people, isolated in a life-or-death environment, the rule of law is fairly simple. You must share to survive. You can't worry yourself about stupid things. Once in greater contact and a part of society, this breaks down. For agriculturalists, property rights are extremely important. Managing herds is much different than hunting wild animals. Adapting to the new society is a huge challenge, especially when others all around are in a more advanced state. Living the "old way" in the modern world becomes impossible.

Now the Bushman are left as an underclass and a museum piece in their own land. Fences and regulations drove them from their life style. Few of those remaining want to return. (It is hard work after all.) Progress has led us to lose many of the cultures and ways of living in favor of our new "mono-culture". We have "diversity" but only within a limited range. Life is now the "new way".

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