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How Uncivilized
by Robert Soloway

I watched a travelogue last night. I know that doesn’t sound thrilling and I could think of many things I would have rather been doing, but anyway, there I was.

This team was going to visit a primitive tribe and apparently it is still a very challenging trip to where they live in the jungle. Even once you get there, there is no guarantee they will be friendly, although they have brought a guide who is fairly confident they won’t be killed immediately.

I wasn’t really into the drama of the adventure, but I was really curious to see what primitive looks like today. I mean in some sense this is what would be “natural” for man if man hadn’t culturally advanced.

So they pull up to this tribe via river canoes and the first people from the tribe who spot the canoes run away but in a short while a gathering has formed on the edge of the village overlooking the river. There are some guys standing in the front of the mob who look very serious, at least as serious as you can look naked.

There is a tense moment or two, but in a short while the guide arranges everything, and everyone is welcome.

Then we get a look at their village and the lifestyle of these people. As expected, many are homeless; they wander the streets of the village begging for food and offering to work in exchange for a place to stay. The leaders flaunt their wealth and have hired protection to keep the down trodden away.

Did you recognize that as untrue?

There were no homeless people; in fact, there weren’t even any rental properties. In fact, there wasn’t anyone you could consider poor, or poorer. Everyone was a homeowner. The chief was only distinguishable by the number of rings around his penis, and his wife by the rings around her neck. They had the biggest hut, but they had the biggest family. They had the most of these little pig like things but they had the most mouths to feed.

Everything was shared. At the party that night, did the chief get the piece of the goat that he prefers? I’ll bet he did, but everyone ate. All the guests were absolutely welcome.

There was a conflict while the visitors were there. A male tribe member had acted jealous during some kind of activity in which apparently his only girlfriend was going to have sex with another guy, who has sex with several women already. They are not monogamous in either direction. When he complains, he is kept from the activities and the next day there is a meeting to put the issue to rest. The joint counsel reaches a decision and the jealous boyfriend is asked to pay to the insulted tribe member a certain number of arrows and arrowheads and some other object, for being a jerk.

Then the jealous guy tells a story that involves a dead spouse or dead old girlfriend, whom everyone knew and he tells them that his heart had been cold since her death and that this flower of a woman has awakened his spirit.

The counsel reconsiders their decision and lightens his fine by several arrows and the other things and all are happy. He doesn’t have to pay immediately, in fact, he doesn’t presently own them. He has to make them, but no one expects him to run off. Where would he go?

This question of “where would he go?” seems to eliminate a lot of crime.

There is no theft. If someone were to steal something, everyone would know the first time they saw it. If you stole another guy’s bow, where would you use it?

I didn’t see one person go to anything one could easily identify as, “the office”. They collect wood, they climb trees, they hunt, cook and weave, but all is done in groups. The kids run around and seem happy.

So anyway, the explorers collect what they came for, and leave, to go back to civilization. And as they get in their boats I wonder if they hadn’t just left the more civilized place.

I had been reminded that sharing is the natural order, not competition. And you have to wonder how it got so out of whack.

Published: Jul 15,2008 22:02
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