I'm taking a little break from my series on "The Human Nature of Teaching" in order to respond to questions about hunter-gatherer life in general, which were raised by my last post.As regular readers of this blog know, I have in previous posts commented on hunter-gatherers' playfulness; their playful religious practices; their playful approach toward productive work; their non-directive childrearing methods; and their children's playful ways of educating themselves.
Their core value, which underlay all of the rest, was that of the equality of individuals.We citizens of a modern democracy claim to believe in equality, but our sense of equality is not even close that of hunter-gatherers.But many anthropologists, of all political stripes, regarding many different hunter-gatherer cultures, have told the same general story.There are some variations from culture to culture, of course, and not all of the cultures are quite as peaceful and fully egalitarian as others, but the generalities are the same.First, before I get to the three theories, I must address this question: Is it true that hunter-gatherers were peaceful egalitarians? During the twentieth century, anthropologists discovered and studied dozens of different hunter-gatherer societies, in various remote parts of the world, who had been nearly untouched by modern influences.
Wherever they were found--in Africa, Asia, South America, or elsewhere; in deserts or in jungles--these societies had many characteristics in common.
In all of those posts I emphasized the egalitarian, non-hierarchical nature of hunter-gatherer society.
In today's post I present three theories as to how hunter-gatherers maintained the egalitarian ethos for which they are justly famous. They are complementary theories, not competing ones; and they are all theories about culture, not about genes.
If he failed to do that (which happened rarely), others would do it for him and make fun of him in the process.
When Lee asked one of the elders of the group about this practice, the response he received was the following: "When a young man kills much meat, he comes to think of himself as a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his inferiors. We refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. In this way we cool his heart and make him gentle..
According to Boehm, hunter-gatherers are continuously vigilant to transgressions against the egalitarian ethos.