affluence w/o abundance
by James Suzman
recently James founded antrhopos (greek for human) – a think tank that applies anthropological methods to solving contemporary social/econ problems..
part 1 – old times
1 – the rewards of hard work
but i work to live. this is what i learned from the whites
i thought //eng’s characterization of her neighbors was unfair. not all sat around waiting indigently (poor/needy) for the govt to deliver emergency food rations.. there were few opportunities for them. they had little option but to sit and wait
on hold ness
//eng would have scolded me for thinking it, but i also had a diff view of why her ‘lazy’ neighbors were seemingly content to sit and wait while their stomachs rumbled. to me their apparent indigence was neither a consequence of laziness nor even entirely a consequence of their ill fortunes. instead i saw in their behavior a trace of how their parents and grandparents had lived before the white settlers came, a way of life that shines a new light on a never more urgent and perplexing problem that was first raised by .. john maynard keynes at height of great depression.. a time when in this part of the kalahari manketti nuts still fell from the trees and kudu bearing their giant spiral horns walked gamely into hungers’ paths
keynes – 1930- writing an essay – ‘the economic possibilities for our grandchildren… not present/near future, but to disembarrass myself of short views and take wings into the future….’
in which we are liberated to focus on more profound joys than money and wealth accumulation. things like art, philosophy, music,religion, and family.
while keynes was uncertain as to whether humanity would be able to easily adjust to a life of leisure, he was convinced that, save for war or cataclysm, this reality would come to pass in the time of his grandchildren..
leisure et al
he anticipated there would be a lag between improvements in productivity and tech and its translation into fewer working hrs.. for him, the biggest obstacle to overcome was our instinct to work hard and to create new wealth..
work ness (started deck just before getting book)
he also underestimated quite how far people would go to create work when – in material terms, at least – there was none to do..t
he took the view that, save the odd aberration it form of a few ‘purposeful money-makers’ we would ‘be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.. keynes was also unable to predict the environmental costs of humankind’s obsession with work or, for that matter, his own inadvertent role in ensuring the ascendance of a global economic model focused myopically on capital growth and the ever-quickening cycle of production, consumption, and disposal that it spawned..
perhaps keynes would have had a better sense of the scale of this problem – and if its genesis – had he realize that hunter gatherers, the least economically developed of all the world’s peoples, had already found the economic promised land that he dreamed of and that a the fifteen hour working week was probably the norm for most of the estimated two-hundred-thousand-year history of biologically modern homo sapiens….. to him, the idea that primitive people w no interest whatsoever in labor productivity or capital accumulation and w only simple techs at their disposal had already solved the ‘econ problem’ would have seemed preposterous
from conf in chicago 1966
they (richard borshay lee’s findings) challenged the view that our species had progressively elevated itself from its base origins thru ingenuity, innovation, and hard work.
his (marshall sahlins) thoughts were ultimately to crystallize around the notion that hunter-gatherers were ‘affluent’ in their own terms and the obvious question it raised: if hunter-gatherers were affluent by their own standards, what did this mean for those who believed that affluence could only be achieved thru industry, effort, and innovation?
a good case can be made that h g’s work less than we do.. sahlins explained, and that rather than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep i the daytime per capita per year than in any other condition of society
sahlins was particularly interested in the fact that the hunter-gatherers appeared to be content – in fact, to thrive – on mere nutritional adequacy and with a limited material culture..t
their approach to well-being, he noted was based on having few material wants, and those few wants were easily met with limited techs and not too much effort.. he reasoned that h g’s were content by the simple expedient of not desiring more than they already had.. content because they did not hold themselves hostage to unattainable aspirations
the fact that h g’s were understood to form the base of the human evolutionary tree was also important, for it meant that they represented something essentially human..t
if hunting and gathering societies pursued ‘a way of life that was until 10 000 years ago, a human universal, as richard b lee reasoned, then there must be something of a hunter-gatherer in all of us..
the story of southern africa’s bushmen encapsulates the history of modern homo sapiens from our species’ first emergence in sub saharan africa thru to the agricultural revolution and beyond. it is and incomplete story, one pieced together from fragments of archaeology, anthropology, and most recently genomics. taken together, these fragments offer a sense of how hunter gatherers came to exemplify elements of keynes’s utopia and how,
since the invention of agriculture,our destiny has been shaped by our preoccupation with solving the ‘economic problem’..t
the glue that holds these fragments together.. the ju/’hoansi of namibia.. meaning.. real people.. between 8 and 10 thousand alive today.. i focus mostly on them in the book.. best documented of all bushman peoples.. and of all 20th cent foraging peoples..
the nyae nyae ju/’hoansi are almost unique among namibian bushmen in that they have retained meaningful control over at least a decent proportion of lands they traditionally occupied. as a result.. among the few bushman communities.. still able to hunt and gather even if not all of them do anymore..
the speed of the ju/’hoansi’s transformation from an isolated group of closely related hunting/gathering bands to a marginalized minority struggling to survive .. is almost without parallel in modern history
perhaps most importantly it (double perspective of being in one world yet of another – that came from rapid transition from h g’s to marginalized) reveals how much of our contemporary economic and cultural behavior – including the conviction that work give structure and meaning to our lives, defines who we are, and ultimately empowers us to master our own destinies – is a legacy from our transition from hunting and gathering to farming..
my association with the kalahari began in 1992..
over following two decades i worked w almost every major bushman language group in botswana and namibia…
2 – the mother hill
in may ways he secret of their success, and the endurance of their way of life, was based on their having reached a form of dynamic equilibrium w the broader environment, a balance between its relative stability and harshness. the evolutionary success of khoisan, in other words, was based not on their ability to continuously colonize new lands, expand and grow into new spaces, or develop new techs, but on the fact that they mastered the art of making a living where they were
n/s america, australia all witnessed the disappearance of nearly 80% of their large mammal species in the period following the arrival of modern homo sapiens… sub saharan arica, by contrast, only saw the extinction of two out of forty four large mammal genera..
whereas the reintro of wolves in yellowstone helped restore some balance to a declining ecosystem, the sudden arrival of hunter gatherers in a stable environment would have had a much more transformative impact..t
not long after lakes in n kalahari dried up, humans in levant and elsewhere discovered agriculture and began to domesticate animals..
by becoming farmers, our ancestors changed from foragers to producers and from hunters to makers, a process that ultimately paved the way for our transition from being the cleverest mammal to the most dominant species of any kind at any point in our planet’s history..t
agri was much more productive than h & g and enable populations to grow rapidly.. also created surpluses..
and w surpluses came hierarchies and systems of tribute and hierarchies and tributes, in turn, nurtured an urge to gather more resources, to expand and conquer..t
3 – a beachside brawl
1488 – in that moment s african flesh encountered european steel for the first time as one of the natives fell to the ground
now with most of the kalahari having been settled by others none of southern africa’s 100 000 strong remnant bushman population survives by h and g alone.
1988 findings… bushmen by far worst off of any population group.. caught in a death spiral of poverty and marginalization
articulating a view that would be reaffirmed by man others, adam smith, the ‘father of econ’ declared da gama’s voyage and columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the americas to be ‘the two greatest and most important event s recorded in the history of mankind’
defining historical trajectory – perhaps most important.. transitioned from h g’s to farmers.. gave birth to ‘econ problem’ that has preoccupied us ever since
as profound as h/g to farming was, important to remember that more than 9/10s of the 200 000 yr history of modern homo sapiens was shaped neither by mercantile capitalism nor by agri.. rather.. by h g.. if ultimate measure of sustainability is endurance over time..
h g is by far the most sustainable.. econ approach developed in all of human history and the khoisan are the most accomplished exponents of this approach.. the success of h and g as an econ system cannot be doubted
4 – the settlers
physical violence was normalized here.. the casual slap or more formalized beating had simply become part of the everyday grammar of social interaction between many white farmers and ju/’hoansi workers
animal fat as a skin lotion.. unmolested by insects
despite the natives’ abject poverty, they were nevertheless ‘always gay, always dancing and singing’ and appeared to enjoy a life ‘w/o occupation or toil’
showed no interest in stealing the settlers’ stuff.. do not steal among themselves.. their contempt for riches is in reality nothing but their hatred of work..
european ambitions for land and labor could not tolerate the presence of people disinterested in trade or formalized labor exchange…
other farmers.. found it far simpler to take bushman children hostage to ensure their parents would not abscond. even if farmers sometimes questioned the bushmen’s humanity, they did not for moment doubt their dedication to their children
farmers and state admins shared the view that school would be wasted on the eternally ‘childlike’ bushmen
as a young man .. noted that whenever he started work at any new farm, his name would be entered into a n employment ledger, documents that over the decades had assumed great mystical power among ju/’hansi on the farms. the secrets held by these ledgers evidently had the power to give or withhold pay, issue rations, and determine an individual’s right to stay on any particular farm.
those ledgers.. loo, the farmer can write that he has paid you a thousand rand for the month but you know he has only paid you ninety rand … but you cannot complain.. and you will put just your thumbprint there or make a cross even though you do not know what it is saying. and you cannot go to the magistrate. the book doesn’t lie. no. even when it does not tell the truth, the book doesn’t lie
not to mention the inhumane ness of any book.. measuring transactions.. validating people..
the employment ledger was a form of magic.. !a/ae was determined to unlock. the key to doing so was to learn to read and write. literacy had further appeal to !a/ae because it might reveal to him the contents of another powerful book whose words and stories he embraced enthusiastically: the bible..
like w other ju/’hansi at skoonheid, the fact that !a/ae was considered a ‘settler’ in a land that his ancestors had lived for tens of thousands of years often fille him with despair
5 – living in the moment
the reason (on paying bushmen in food instead of cash so they don’t squander it), he explained was that the bushmen’s sense of time was ‘similar to small children’s’ because they cared only about immediate gratification, never thought of future, had little appreciation of past..
they complained in particular how the bushmen’s tendency ‘to live in the moment’ was ill-suited to wage labor and farming in particular.. t
because almost every job on the farm was future-oriented and the rewards for labor were only ever harvested long after the hard work was done
ie: will i get pera.. dang
farmers conceded that bushmen had some desirable qualities .. ‘technically gifted’ .. ‘an almost supernatural affinity for mechanics’.. ‘inventive.. imaginative.. intelligent.. loyal.. likeable..’ .. but perhaps quality farmers liked most was that they could get away with paying bushmen little or nothing for their labor..
it was easy to dismiss the farmers’ views of the bushmen as no more than part of the toxic edifice of racist mythology that underpinned apartheid. at the time i did. it seemed to me that after half cent of being beaten/punished for tardiness/unreliability, ju/’hoan laborers were mostly diligent, competent, hardworking and punctual..
but had someone other than a farmer wriggling out of his legal obligation to pay his impoverished employees their due.. asserted that some cultures experience something as apparently fundamental as time differently from others, it may well have come across as both insightful and intellectually provocative..
nobody sought to define themselves according to who their ancestors were, or reckoned their id or entitlement in terms of ancient lineages stretching back in time. there was no need to. like the other animals they shared the world with, their presence was entitlement enough
like lee, he was surprised at quite how good a living the hadza (hg) made. but what interested him most was the fact that hadza undertook very little economic planning, even in the short term.. ie: went out h g ing when needed to.. no effort to store.. didn’t exploit abundance .. even in seasons.. ie: would not hunt again till all meat was consumed.. among foraging ju/’hoansi, the idea of killing more tan could be reasonably eaten before it rotted meant risking social/spiritual sanctions
woodburn coined the term ‘immediate return econ’.. a society in which almost all labor effort is focused on meeting an immediate need, like next meal or shelter to sleep that night..
in delayed return econ’s labor effort is focused on meeting future rewards. ie: paycheck at end of month…
woodburn intended the distinction between immediate and delayed return econs to be explanatory rather than prescriptive.. meant to evoke a general set of ideas about how people thought about the relationship between work and time rather than offer a hypothesis that had to be tested rigorously to be accepted.. (then explains the blur of the two)
it raises an obvious questions… if h g’s like the hadza and the bushmen worked almost exclusively to satisfy only their immediate needs what enabled them to have the confidence to do this.. surely they would have had to have tremendous faith in both the providence of their environments and their own abilities go get what they wanted from it whenever they needed it..t
what if i trust you jerry..
6 – tsumkwe road
even after several decades of engagement w outside world and sometimes intense flirtation w the world of labor exchange and commerce, nyae nyae has stubbornly refused to surrender itself completely to he cash econ
(after telling of the extravagance of the marshall expedition – 50s ish).. in process.. 8 or so expeditions.. they documented the ju/’hoansi’s lives w empathy, affection, , and an eye for detail. between them they produced arguably the richest and most compelling account of any document hunting and gathering people.. the marshal expeditions were instrument in changing how bushmen were perceived in the world beyond the kalahari..
showed.. ju/’hoansi were a people who were both ordinary in their behavior and yet extraordinary in the way they lived..
while rest of family moved on to other things after last shared expedition in 61… john marshall rebuilt his relationships w the nyae nyae ju/’hoansi in the 80s and continued to visit and work with them until his death in 2005. over this period he would play a pivotal role in helping the ju/’hoansi to protect their land rights as namibian independence approached. but… as much as his loyalty.. was a sincere expression.. his continued involvement .. over next few decades was motivated in part by a sense that the marshall expeditions were instrumental in bringing nyae nyae and its people to he attention of the colonial state. for in demystifying the last of the ‘wild’ ju/’hoansi and carving a route to nyae nyae, the unintentionally persuaded the sw africa admin that it was time to extend teh rule of law into this last ‘wild’ outpost of namibia
mcintyre (sw africa’s first bushman affairs commissioner).. locates in nyae nyae – 59.. viljoen (most sr govt official in sw africa) visits tsumkwe soon after mcintrye had set up cam there.. and took opp to address small assembly of ju/’hoansi: ‘the govt takes great interest in you as one of its peoples and wants to give you a chance to become civilized and lead normal and happy lives‘.. before explaining tha tin order to do this they must become ‘self-supporting’ like ‘other people’
few in audience would have had much sense of what a ‘govt’ was and none would ever have had good reason to doubt either the ‘normality’ or ‘happiness’ of their lives.. and the idea that they were not self-sufficient would have made even less sense..
as bizarre as they would have found this idea, it was the administrator’s other key message that would have caused the greatest alarm: ‘europeans and natives could soon turn this wild uninhabited land into an area to support many people’ the administrator warned..’they would achieve this by their knowledge and hard work.
these two factors – knowledge and hard work – are the essentials for any people to survive in the world today.
w/o them any people must eventually starve and die’
they may also have understood that as far as ‘europeans’ and ‘natives’ were concerned, for land to be ‘owned’ or ‘inhabited’ in a meaningful way meant that it had to be worked, transformed, and rendered productive.
but it is unlikely they would have grasped the full sense of what the administrator meant, for the ju/’hoansi’s own relationship w their environment was based on a very diff reality
mcintyre did not share the ju/’hoansi’s confusion about the administrators’ words. he had been in influential voice in the recently dissolved commission for the preservation of the bushmen..as much as the work of the bushman commission was steeped in the racist doctrine of apartheid, the commissioners’ motives for establishing a reserve for the bushmen in nyae nyae were compassionate. they worried that if steps were not taken to protect the bushmen and their lands, the bushmen would become extinct..
in private.. chairman of commission.. was of view that they ‘seem to lack something.. some inner spiritual quality’ that would enable them to adapt to modern life.. but the commission had concluded that establishing a reserve was the only way to prevent them from ‘exterminating all the big game’ and becoming a ‘continual nuisance to natives and the european farmers’.. so set aside area of 6770 sq miles.. as reserve
bushmen were not nomadic. as much as they were mobile w/in their traditional territories and did not build permanent dwellings, they wer arguably the least mobile of all namibia’s peoples, w individual groups maintaining historical associations w sam places for potentially tens of thousands of years. they also did not think of land as some form of alienable property..rather, the conceptualized ownership in terms of specific social rights to use their resources w/o asking others for permission to do so..
set up church .. never shied away from opps to demo to less fortunate souls the path to salvation.. and with religion came commerce..
but this neither drew ju/’hoansi into the world of labor exchange nor locked them into the cash econ.. mcintyre and his successors despaired at how unreliable the ju/’hoansi proved as laborers.
they came and went as they pleased, were prone to disappearing for long periods of time, and seemed immune to any form of systematic material incentivization..t
rewards made them work less..
the most substantial and sustained incursion of the cash econ into tsumkwe would not come as a result of govt development initiatives or the efforts fo missionaries. rather, it came about because of war
part 2 – the provident environment
7 – the hollow tree
whereas a h g finds something, a farmer must produce it. to the hunter gatherer, an environment is autonomously productive. it will produce whether the hg is there or not. for a farmer, however, a landscape left to its own devices is only potentially productive.. to become fully productive, it requires the farmer’s agency. where the hg engages skillfully if opportunistically w his environment, the farmer repurposes his environment according to his intentions
sounds like what we’ve done to people.. saying they need to be.. managed/productive.. in order to have value
but here’s the catch. all farmers… must strike bargains w their environments if they are to be coaxed into yielding harvests..
yup.. humans.. school.. work for pay.. et al..
the principal currency of the transaction is work.. and when a farmer ceases to work the land, the bargain inevitably collapses: weeds grow and harvests fail..
for many thousands of years there was no litter in nyae nyae
while ju/’hoansi consider the litter to be an irritation, few see it as pollution.. everything in world is natural..
8 – strong food
why did white men not eat moderately.. because of alcohol they consumed.. a few ju/’hoansi reached the conclusion that it was a cultural matter and that greed was something that was taught in ‘cities’
the study showed that although modern hadza walk on average around 8 miles a day, they nevertheless burn up no more energy than comparatively sedentary westerners. this led the researchers to two conclusions. 1\ our level of activity doesn not play massive role in regulating our weight. they noted that most of our energy is burned by the background tasks our body does to stay alive, like digesting food and powering our brains. 2\ obesity is on rise no because expending too little energy but rather ‘because people are eating too much’
sugar.. most cost effective way to get energy.. over course of a day, an in absence of other food, ju/hoansi will often drink several mugs of strong black tea containing as many as 7 or 8 tbsps of sugar in each. a survey … revealed that sugar accounted for roughly half of most ju/’hoansi’s total caloric intake. it also revealed that average ju/’hoansi body weights in nyae nyae had dropped by some 10% over the period their diet transitions from being based largely on hunting and gathering to being based largely on refined carbs.. to the tea.. as a result.. type 2 diabetes i s now a minor epidemic in a community where almost everybody is thin and many are malnourished.
9 – an elephant hunt
as counterintuitive as it seems to those of us who interpret the world around us primarily thru the prism of grammar/words, language is neither the primary medium of culture nor is it a universal tool capable of translating everything from one culture into another. it also reminds us of the limits to understanding that come from only asking questions.
around 5 000 trophy hunters visit namibia every year…killing on e of these animals costs more than the average annual take-home ay of an adult in the world’s richest countries..
10 – pinnacle point
the only time i eer saw an adult ju/’hoan raise his hand to a child was when his infant son startled him while he was giving me a demo on how to apply poison to an arrow. no one chided this man for hitting that child, even though ju/’hoan toddlers were generally free to play with all sorts of dangerous things – like axes, knives, and machetes – that would send most parents in other countries into a state of panic. bu there is not antidote for diamphidia poison.. (arrows carefully stored in boughs of a tree or on the roof of a hut – anywhere far out of reach of curious children)
11 – a gift from god
the inability of most ju/’hoansi on the farms to freely hunt larger game left a chasm in their lives, one for which there was no obvious substitute if they didn’t have a job. many filled the vacuum w alcohol, which at least provided them an opp to vent their frustrations. hunting was much more than a means of providing nutrition among foraging ju/’hoansi. it animated men’s relationships with the world around them, gave them purpose, and imbued the cosmos w a sensate touch of the real. the meat it provided not only filled th ju/’hoansi’s bellies and gave them strength, it created a visceral sense of pleasure so profound that they insisted it was the glue that bound men and women together in love. for where the farmers sanctified their marriages w rings and promises of fidelity, ju/’hoansi sanctified their unions w meat
across the border in newly independent botswana, new laws enacted in the 1970s didn’t recognize hunting and gathering as a legit form of land use, and so cattle farmer quickly moved into areas where they could access groundwater.. at the same time a govt program there to move bushmen into permanent settlements helped foster a culture of dependency.
to a large extent the joy of eating came from the extraordinary internal celebrations their bodies made when supplied w nutrients they craved –
12 – hunting and empathy
most pet owners claim that the love they ‘share’ with their pets is based on an empathetic relationship w them built on traits our two species have in common: in the case of dogs, their sociability, their loyalty, their affection, and their gratitude. but this is a diff understanding of empathy from that which h g ‘s like the ju’hoansi had for their animal neighbors. for them, empathy with animals was not a question of focusing on an animal’s humanlike characteristics but on assuming the whole perspective of the animal. to empathize w an animal , you couldn’t think like a human and project your thoughts and emotions onto it; rather, you had to adopt the animal’s perspective..
to be a good tracker requires engaging in a constant physical dialogue w the environment and ultimately an ability to project oneself into the animals that left the tracks. like poetry, tracks have a grammar, a meter, and a vocab.. but also like poetry, interpreting them is far more complex than simply reading sequences of letters and following them where they go..
but if i gained no particular skills from /i!ae’s lessons, they revealed that as much as hunting in the kalahari is all about tracking, tracking is not all about hunting..
to those who could read tracks well, nothing at skoonheid was secret. every movement a person made left a legible trace in the sand..not long before almost everyone there recognized everyone else’s footprints so well that unfamiliar ones would be immediately remarked on and inquired about.. know to steal other’s shoes.. et al..
/i!ae would talk at length about the idiosyncrasies of individual species and would group species together according to habit, … anything that was meaningful
/i!ae’s difficulties in describing how other animals saw the world were not only because he was a man of action but also because his sense of an animal’s view of the world was experiential. it was something that was felt and so could not be easily translated into words.
13 – insulting the meat
insulting the meat was one of many tricks ju/’hoansi used to cool hearts, discourage arrogance, and tear down any potential hierarchies before they formed.. (ie: when big catch et al)
if insults prevented hunters from getting too big for their leather sandals, it also created an atmosphere in which sharing was second nature..
a sudden surplus of the most valued of all foods tested the cohesion of communities otherwise bound together by the common experience of having just enough. for in surpluses, as ju/’hoansi understood all too well, lay the roots of power and control..t
if people did not own things and others did not covet them, where would the joy be in giving or receiving? and w/o the joy of giving and receiving gifts, how would one demo friendship, respect, or love..?
? i don’t see/believe that..
part 3 – new times
14 – when lions become dangerous
lothar von trotha.. 1903.. wanted sw africa cleansed.. so he initiated what is widely regarded as the first systematic program of ethnic genocide of the 20th cent
15 – fear and farming
confronting the problem of scarcity in a once benevolent environment also would have challenged the h g’s sense of cosmic order..
confidence in environment’s providence severely dented.. a far greater emphasis on food storage
this practical measure alone would have started to transform the way h g’s experienced and understood time, because in storing surplus foods their economic efforts became increasingly focused on meeting future as much as present needs..
where h g’s considered themselves to be part of their environments, farming societies saw their environments – or at least parts of them – as something separate from themselves, something manipulable..t
once humans conceptually separated themselves from their environments in this way, it made sense that they started to reorganize and reclassify the world around them in terms of their ability to exert their control over it. to them, all the world was a ‘wild/natural’ and often dangerous space when left to its own devices. and while farmers recognized that they depended on their ability to harness natural forces, they also took the view that where nature intruded unbidden into domesticated spaces, it became a pest. unwanted plants ..became weeds.. unwanted animals.. declared vermin.. the conceptual separation farming communities made between the natural/wild and the human cultural worlds was so widespread that ora long period social anthropologists believe it was a human universal..
modifying, constraining and controlling an environment requires a lot of work – far more so than hunting and gathering..t
there are few societies on earth where work is not considered as fundamental a part of our humanity as our desire to reproduce or our need for companionship..in many societies it defines who we are and almost everywhere it dominates politics.. . invoking virtues of ‘strivers and working families’ and decrying the laziness of ‘shirkers/freeloaders
keynes… just failed to recognize that economics became a problem only with the transition to agriculture and that our preoccupation w solving this problem was a consequence of our ancestors’ having created it in the first place.
econ model inspired.. ongoing preoccupation w productivity and trade. it did so by making hard work in to a virtue and transforming time into a commodity, objects into assets, and systems of exchange into commerce..t
16 – cattle country
surpluses were transformed into debt, wealth, and money, and, for those who controlled their distribution and circulation, power..
marriage generally lasted.. because gender was neutral.. et al.. divorce not frowned upon
intro of farmers needing heavy lifting men to work.. women’s work role went from gathering to domesticating.. led to being bought and sold et al
starred in – the gods must be crazy
17 – crazy gods
i asked him whether it was true that he was paid only 2000 usd for his role in the original movie…. it was closer to 10 000.. and considerably more than that if the monthly ‘pension’ he received from uys’s co.. was taken into account.. but did he feel ripped off by uys? .. gods made millions of dollars for uys and his partners.. he shrugged.. the only thing he had to say about money was that having more than others meant that everybody was always accusing him of selfishness and demanded food, blankets, alcohol, and sweets from him all the time..
(on whole.. people coming from all over world to see them, even if it means that they have to parody themselves..).. and they do it because their recent history as h g’s is their only real ‘asset’ in a world where brands often exert greater power than the things they represent.
as a result, the sound of a camera’s shutter anywhere w/in earshot is now likely to generate demands for cash and much scowling if it is not paid..
g/au (actor in gods) was like most other ju/’hoansi in nyae nyae at the time: they may not have understood a great deal about money, but they had no doubts about the fact that it was valuable and that it was capable of exerting tremendous power over people. they also knew that this power was far from straightforward, and – like the coke bottle in the movie – every benefit that money brought carried in its shadow some kind of cost..
in a little over six months tsumkewe went from being largely moneyless to being swamped w cash (following recruitment of males 18-35 into s african army)
likened to military pay of 2000 usd (2015 value) per month.. plus… only a few soldiers saved their money
even though there was plenty of money coming in its impact confounded th economic principle that states that the scarcer something is, the more valuable it becomes.. because in nyae nyae the more money people made, the more valuable it seemed to become.. unlike other objects/gifts that circulated among ju/’hoansi, money claimed a power that existed independently of the giver/receiver..
raised questions among the ju/’hoansi… should money be shared like meat or food or private property?
accusations of selfishness, profligacy, and theft flew everywhere, and almost everyone in nyae nyae ended up being offended by or upset with someone else..
source of misery in tsumkwe for the duration of the decade that the military ran things there..
when this happened (military packed up and left).. was a retrenchment on a scale that would have been lamented as an econ disaster in other parts of the world. yet in nyae nyae it was greeted w more relief than anxiety.
18 – the promised land
during 90s.. //eng and others poured aeons of accumulated creative energy and artistry into the hats, producing multicolored designs of great beauty, complexity and symmetry.
their skills baffled and awed others who could not imagine how such complex designs could be created w/o the rudimentary math skills needed to count stitches or the literacy needed to map designs on paper beforehand.
when i asked //eng how they managed it, she explained simply that..
the hats created themselves and that the patterns do the counting for them..
while some have managed to *complete school and make a go at life.. they collectively remain the worst off of s africa’s people by an eye-watering margin
the gobabis town council has done its best to impose a semblance of order on it by demarcating individual plots and using a bulldozer to cut a grid of sandy thorough fares..
despite their worries about the shopkeepers’ sorcery (getting to buy things they didn’t intend to), most of epako’s residents think of these businesses as crucible of aspiration. but to most of kanaan’s ju/’hoan population they are symbols of a universe from which they remain largely excluded.
unlike in the resettlement camps, there is a sense of disquiet among ju/’hoansi in kanaan. for although kanaan may be marginal, it is not remote, and no one here ever falls prey to the illusion tha their hunger has anthying to do with a scarcity of food.
w/in walking distance.. nearly half a dozen shops w shelving that groans under the weight of food. et al..
this small-town environment is much more abundance than the bush ever was, but if you don’t have money, it is far from provident.
and the ju/’hoansi here wonder why it is that they must continue to live on the edge of starvation when there is so much food nearby..t
for the first time since the neolithic revolution we live in an era where more than enough food is produced for everyone on the planet to eat well.. so much that around 440 pounds of food per person currently alive ends up in landfills every year.. enough again to adequately nourish another 5 bn or so of us for a a year..
keynes viewed capitalism as an ugly means to an ultimately beneficial end.. he believe that w/o it *the ‘econ problem’ could never be solved..
to vinay – hoping to clean up capitalism.. if anyone can it would be him.. but *the problem we need to solve is not the econ problem.. we have to go deeper.. get to the energy of people that we’re missing..
keynes differentiated between absolute and relative needs.. absolute: food, water, housing, utilities, health care, transportation, etc.. relative: those that ‘satisfy the desire for superiority’
keynes believed.. that when our absolute needs are all so comfortably met – via tech et al.. our sense of what is truly important would change organically and we would learn to recognize that ‘avarice (extreme greed) is a vice, exaction of usury (lending money at high rates) is a misdemeanour, and love of money is detestable’
for most of us living in the world’s riches countries, our *absolute needs are almost universally met, and if resources were more evenly distributed among the population, they could arguably be met several times over..
*not really.. on average.. yeah.. but in reality.. much poverty
this.. with one in ten of us who are employed in agri or manufacturing. the rest of us expend our productive and creative energies in the ever more expansive services sector, leaving some to wonder whether there is any point at all to what they do..
too much law .. inspectors of inspectors..
as much as it is easier for some to blame globalization immigration, or any number of fantastical conspiracies for the decline in manufacturing jobs, the truth is that increased productivity and tech advancement are the real culprits.
automating/eliminating many jobs.. yet.. even so we still seem a very long way away from embracing keynes’s utopia. mainstream economists and govts alike – on both left and right – remain preoccupied w maintaining growth on the one hand and reducing unemployment on the other while debating about how much or our hard earned wealth should be put tot he common good and how much we should be able to squirrel away for ourselves. few politician seem willing to engage w the real challenge: the need for us to adjust to the reality of living in a post work world.
post money (measuring transactions) world..
keynes was of the view that our innate desire to solve what he referred to as our ‘real problems – the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion’ would be enough to distract us from any residual instinct to work
let’s focus rather on just 2 ..ie: mate needs – a and a – and not so that they will distract.. they’ll fill us enough to not seek distraction.. and in so doing.. render work/money/busyness/et-al irrelevant
ie.. from 245 –
the hats create selves and patterns do the counting ..
keynes was unusual among economists in his view.. marx.. like generation of economists before and since, believed .. urge to produce was essence of humanity.. and that capitalism robbed people of that fulfillment. marx’s communist utopia, in contrast to keyne’s post labor utopia was one in which everyone continued to work but was liberated to see a more profound fulfilment.. by owning the ‘means of production’
the evidence of h and g societies suggests that both marx and neoliberal economists were wrong about human nature:
we are more than capable of leading fulfilled lives that are not defined by our labor..t
for h g model of primitive affluence was not simply based on having few needs easily satisfied; it also depended on no one being substantially richer or more powerful than anyone else. if this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us tot embrace a post labor world, the i suspect it may prove to be a very hard nut to crack
or not.. if we disengage from ie: money – and measuring of transactions.. validation of people..
even among the few ju’/hoansi .. whose absolute needs are met .. there is still a broader sense of dissatisfaction.. not only that they continue to endure paternalism of others and are straightjacketed by their prejudices about bushmen. it is because they consider the distribution of resources.. mos significantly land – to be grossly iniquitous.. the jealousy…that once regulated band life has now been projected onto a broader canvas..
i don’t know.. i think it’s less to do w unequal material things.. and more to do with.. unfulfilled basic needs – meaning.. authenticity and attachment.. if we all had those.. measuring who has more/less would become irrelevant.. we wouldn’t be measuring/valuing those things in the first place.. if we were each whole.. everyday.. as the day..
there is a pervasive sense that these gadgets (cell phones) are now an essential part of life. despite the fact that most adult ju/’hoansi have no schooling, .. don’t affect use of phone.. but do affect choice of phone
working a whole lot less might well be a good place to start. and it may well be that millennials – a group in the first world who have known nothing but abundance and who seem increasingly inclined to seek out work that they love rather than persuade themselves to learn to love the work they find – will lead the way in doing this
they are bound much more than we want to believe.. we all need a jump start.. let’s try this..
Did our hunter-gatherer ancestors have a better life? newyorker.com/magazine/2017/…
The modern world of global commerce, technologies and countless things has not delivered on the leisure and personal satisfaction once promised. Which may be why we moderns continue to look with fascination at those cultures that have persisted over millennia, who thrive on a different sense of time, connection with the Earth, and social relatedness.
The history is not told as a didactic lesson, but merely as a fascinating account of how humans have organized their lives in different, more stable, and arguably happier, ways..t
The fate of one band of San, the Ju/’hoansi, is remarkable, writes Suzman, because the speed of their transformation “from an isolated group of closely related hunting and gathering bands to a marginalized minority struggling to survive in a rapidly changing polyglot modern state is almost without parallel in modern history.”
History barely matters, and the future is defined by market-based aspirations — a job, a car, a home. The modern world has few places to carry on meaningful traditions and sacred relationships.
I was pleased to see that James Suzman has founded a group, Anthropos, https://www.anthropos.org.uk/about to “apply anthropological methods to solving contemporary social economic and development problems.” A timely and important mission.
james suzman (@anthrowittering) tweeted at 2:25 AM on Mon, Oct 02, 2017:
A Picture Gallery this time…..The changing world of the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen https://t.co/DYHn2VezSs
detox us [puerto rico, barcelona, las vegas, .. just a few reasons in last couple of days]
Irish Times Culture (@IrishTimesCultr) tweeted at 11:39 PM – 13 Oct 2017 :
Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen by James Suzman https://t.co/LYN7ijqsN9(http://twitter.com/IrishTimesCultr/status/919075242420584450?s=17)
In 1969, writing about the Woodstock festival, Joni Mitchell concluded: “We are star dust, billion year old carbon. We are golden, caught in a devil’s bargain. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
What if they were, in human terms, better off than their first colonisers?
the Ju’/hoansi, though highly intelligent, exhibited an obliviousness to linear time, an unconcern for the past and the future that would seem, to us children of the agricultural revolution, feckless and fatalistic.
tweet right before:
James Rhodes (@JRhodesPianist) tweeted at 5:30 AM – 14 Oct 2017 :
it’s amazing how much quieter and more peaceful life becomes when you only think/speak in the present tense. even if only for an hour or two… (http://twitter.com/JRhodesPianist/status/919163415712722944?s=17)
150,000 years or more of almost unchanging existence in their native environment had taught the bushmen – thought to be ancestors of all modern human beings – that the land would usually provide enough food for them, from one source or another. There was little point in worrying about the future or clinging to the past.
Deprived of their traditional territories..most bushmen are no longer permitted to hunt. Few of the young know how to hunt anyway. And the game fences ..erected to protect cattle herds from wild diseases, have blocked ancient migration routes, killing off most of the game.
There is, it seems, no way back to that garden.
i’m betting on.. there is..
Simon Springer (@AnarchistGeog) tweeted at 1:18 AM – 14 Oct 2017 :
The real roots of early city states may rip up the textbooks https://t.co/vEhTSx8UR9 (http://twitter.com/AnarchistGeog/status/919100081399242752?s=17)
what happened when pastoralists, encouraged by governments, enclosed the San’s lands and took away their hunter-gatherer way of life.
there is little reason to imagine foragers would have adopted this way of life unless they were hungry, afraid or coerced.
the annual grain harvest creates two problems: storage, which requires protection; and vulnerability to thieving supervisors or outside raiders. It also ties producers to their store in time and space – no wandering off with a bow and arrow.
By 3000 BC, we have the first definitive evidence of city states, with kings, bureaucracies, compulsory labour, taxation and punishment for non-compliance.
Tied together in this tense relationship, roaming pastoralists and urban states (Scott’s “dark twins” of history) slowly captured or wiped out foragers and their way of life.
Under these new conditions, the forager mindset, its distaste for authority, expectation of natural providence, and code of sharing and honour, is often utterly broken. Some turn to drink or give in to the inevitable by taking up low-paid menial work.
In this fashion, through neglect, abuse and misunderstanding, an ancient way of life is being finally extinguished by the imperatives of local agriculture and its state support, reducing biodiversity to dusty waste. Yet, Suzman argues, even now the Bushmen have much to teach us about a social order that, in many ways, offered a freer, fairer existence and a non-invasive adaptation to ecology.
18 min – notre dame: conditions for child development that h g societies provided for children.. which are the are optimal conditions for development.. and no longer present for kids..t
study led by Darcia Narvaez
from sapiens jun 2018
Adnan (@Adnan1943) tweeted at 12:51 AM – 28 Sep 2018 :
Brilliant insight https://t.co/uJu0LLUYAx (http://twitter.com/Adnan1943/status/1045566579289853952?s=17)
..envy served an important, if surprising, evolutionary purpose—one that helps us to reconcile this most selfish of traits with the sociability that was so critical to the extraordinary success of our species. If the behavior of 20th-century hunter-gather societies is anything to go by, over and above its obvious selective benefits for individuals, envy formed part of the cocktail of traits that ultimately assisted Homo sapiens to form and maintain strong social group
This research also revealed that the Ju/’hoansi were able to make a good living from a sparse environment because they cared little for private property and, above all, were “fiercely egalitarian,” as Lee put it. It showed that the Ju/’hoansi had no formalized leadership institutions, no formal hierarchies; men and women enjoyed equal decision-making powers; children played largely noncompetitive games in mixed age groups; and the elderly, while treated with great affection, were not afforded any special status or privileges. This research also demonstrated how the Ju/’hoansi’s “fierce egalitarianism” underwrote their affluence. For it was their egalitarianism that ensured that no one bothered accumulating wealth and simultaneously enabled limited resources to flow organically through communities, helping to ensure that even in times of episodic scarcity everyone got more or less enough.
Ju/’hoansi egalitarianism was not born of the ideological dogmatism that we associate with 20th-century Marxism or the starry-eyed idealism of New Age “communalism.”
There was no manifesto of “primitive communism.” Rather, it was the organic outcome of interactions between people acting explicitly in their own self-interest in a highly individualistic society..t
meadows undisturbed ecosystem
This was because, among foraging Ju/’hoansi, self-interest was always policed by its shadow, envy—which, in turn, ensured that everyone always got a fair share, and that those with the natural charisma and authority to “lead” exercised it with great circumspection. This was best exemplified in the customary “insulting” of the hunter’s meat.
Skilled Ju/’hoansi hunters needed a thick skin. For while a particularly spectacular kill was always cause for celebration, the hunter responsible was insulted rather than flattered.
Every time I asked, the mockery was ascribed simply to feelings of “envy,” just as the humility shown by good hunters and others with something to brag about was ascribed to “embarrassment.”
Insults and mockery weren’t the only tools that hunter-gatherers had in their bags to maintain egalitarianism. Another that was explicitly linked to the expression of envy was “demand sharing.” Where we usually consider it rude for others to ask unashamedly for something that we own or to just expect to receive it, the Ju/’hoansi considered this normal. More so, as far as they were concerned, denying someone’s request ran the risk of being sanctioned for selfishness. Demand sharing did not lead to a free-for-all that ended up undermining any sense of private ownership. Instead, demands for things were usually—though not always—carefully considered. The net result of this was that, while private property was respected—after all, if there is no private property, how could you enjoy giving or receiving a gift?
But, ironically, how envy functioned in societies such as the Ju/’hoansi suggests that, even if Smith’s hidden hand does not apply particularly well to late capitalism, his belief that the sum of individual self-interests can ensure the fairest distribution of the “necessaries of life” was right, albeit in small-scale band societies. For hunter-gatherers, the sum of individual self-interest ultimately ensured the most equitable “distribution of the necessaries of life” because it discouraged profitable exchange, hierarchy, wealth-accumulation, and significant material inequality..t
And while, to be sure, the Ju/’hoansi do not reward people for being egalitarian, they are conscious of the positive emotional and social dividends that sharing, cooperation, and harmony bring. ..there is a strong case that the emotional benefits of the affective bonds that tied people together both within and between bands was arguably a more important consideration (than material benefits).
Perhaps most importantly, it helps us to understand why inequality has proved time and time again to be a far more potent spur for political action than absolute poverty, why gaudy displays of wealth are capable of persuading nominally content middle classes to froth with rage, and why demagogues do so well when they position themselves as the enemies of “elites”—both real and imagined.
while the large-scale “communist” experiment in egalitarianism was a failure, it is possible that technology might well provide an organic spur to creating the kind of envy-attuned self-awareness that sustained the fierce egalitarianism typical of hunter-gatherer societies,..t and that in turn ensured that they thrived for such an extraordinarily long period of time.
tech as it could be..
[envy still not resonating as a means..]