Thursday, October 18, 2007
I'm on the side of the cavemen on this one. I think the average hunter-gatherer is certainly happier than the average peasant farmer and probably happier than the average salary worker. On a trip I took with my family unit to the Amazon, I was impressed by how happy and content, even to the point of arrogance, the local Indians were, or seemed to be, as colonial and all that as this sounds. They spent most of their time fishing, and seemed to like to fish. A very large river ran through it. I'm sure their life expectancy was less than ours, but they did not seem overly stressed. By contrast life among the very poor, especially the poor children, of Lima, seemed to be a veritable hell on earth. If I were behind the veil of ignorance and could choose hunter in a rich environment like the Amazon, or associate at a big law firm, I would go with the hunter gig. OTOH there is this downside.
WELCOME Instapunditeers. Here is some background if you're interested. The original "Zen affluence" argument among H-G's appeared (as far as I know) in Marshall Sahlins's book Stone Age Economics. It seems pretty crunchy-granola now and perhaps somewhat dated, but I think it has had a considerable influence on anthropologists. A more recent book, very nicely written, of special interest to carnivores among you is The Hunting Apes. I think everything by Craig Stanford is worth reading (based on my sample) and he writes unusually well for a scientist. Here is the classic study of the fierce Yanomamo people. They kill their enemies for fun, find mates via kidnapping and rape, and blow their minds with powerful hallucinogens. It's a heckovva life-style. See also this book. (On the other end of the planet, those darn Eskimos cannot be beat. The Book of the Eskimos is fascinating and an absolute hoot, written pre-PC. Little travel tip: when visiting the Inuit or other iceland H-G's, bring your own food, or a very open mind.) H-G's seem to spend as much of their time stoned as they can, and the rain forest is a veritable cornucopia of vines, leaves, berries and bark that will fry your squash. If wandering through the forest with a blow-gun looking for monkeys to shoot while baked on plant-acid sounds like fun, have I got a jungle for you. Substitute rifle, coon and moonshine, and you have a fair bit of the American Southland. And just for the heck of it, let me provide this link to the magazine published by my best friend from grade school. That's him with the dead water buffalo (or big mean bull-like thing anyway). I don't mean to imply that modern, responsible hunters drink and shoot -- a very stupid idea, obviously.