Monday, October 5, 2009

Who is ahead? Anybody?

Sometimes my great grandchildren are so cute and so funny.  They do things or say things that break me up.  Then, I realize that with a few adjustments for age, height, and other individual variables, I do the same thing.  I have learned to be cautious in feeling too amused or too superior because I sometimes find out it’s only funny when I am not the actor and I am not all that superior.
I am listening to a Teaching Company audio course on peoples and cultures of the world.  As I listen to an explanation of how the Trobiand Islanders use yams and gift-giving customs to establish honor and prestige, I find the practices complex and basically pointless in the great scheme of things.  Oops!  Same thing again!  When I picture myself explaining how money in the bank is important but yams in the yam hut aren’t, I realize that with a few adjustments, I do lots of things that are complex but basically pointless, temporary and without real profit.
In this time of questioning whether we have ruined the planet, obliterated the rainfall, dirtied the air and killed life around us, we are in a period of wondering who is the unenlightened ‘primitive’ and who lives a balanced, sustainable life.  It comes a shock to find the evidence pointing to hunter-gatherers having more leisure time than we do and less hunger among their people.  As I think about what I have heard of the Kalahari bushmen and their lives, I know I would miss my access to books, computers, tv, worldwide harvests and fruits and many other aspects of my current life.  I like having a car and roads that will take me across the country.  I like the medical care I get and the education we have. 
But I think I am open to the idea that my life may a kind that is too rich and too wasteful for people to live for very long.  I do believe that people all over the world are thinking carefully about ways to sustain and improve our lives.  I guess, like many other questions, we will just have to do our best and wait and see how things turn out.  Maybe we should be using sharpened stones and open fires instead of stainless steel knives and microwaves.  Maybe we weren’t so smart after all.
It is interesting that many cultures decide that the Western or ‘developed’ way of life is worth adopting when they learn about it.  We heard last year of original tribes in Australia where many children are ruining themselves by sniffing gasoline which quickly and permanently  injures their brains.  I have heard of other sorts of disasters when people adopt or try to adopt ‘developed’ ways of life.  I am curious about some sort of final tally of gains and losses.

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