Anthropology

I recognize the fact that cultures are subject to a form of natural selection, in which unlivable practices are abandoned or changed by the members of a tribal society over time. However, what I do not understand is how one can look at a tribal society today and make assumptions about their past.

Members of a tribe may say, “We have done this since the beginning of time,” but the oral tradition changes along with everything else, and it isn’t really reliable.

In several answered questions, you have replied to a person’s inquiry about an unpleasant cultural practice with a response along the lines of, that culture has been proceeding for thousands of years, anything unsustainable to its people would have been eliminated by now.

But how can we know whether they will be eliminated in the future? If a practice is eliminated in a tribe, does that render our previous criticism of it “correct” from an evolutionary perspective? Destructive practices must exist for a short time before they are abandoned, so how can we tell if the last few hundred years out of thousands in a tribe’s history aren’t the most internally destructive, or a radical change from what enabled them to survive before?

Has anyone discussed the fact that the Leaver/Taker conflict is also a battle that rages in our psyches? For me this has been THE epiphany of reading Ishmael.

I have personally suffered a lifetime of anxiety because the Taker culture in my mind (e.g. how to think and behave “correctly” in this world, and raise “well-adjusted” children) has made every effort to destroy Leaver cultures (spontaneous emotional expression, sexual passion, empathy for “abnormal” people like me, childish joy).

Once I gave up conquering myself, I found that there is room in my life for all my thoughts and emotions to “make a living.” I have experienced more peace, more integrity, more mental health, in the year since I read Ishmael, than in the previous 41 years of my life.

Anyone who asks “what to do” might pursue this path. To save the world “out there” is it not just as important to preserve our own diversity and dignity “in here”? Are we intellectual Takers, striving to dominate our emotional, spiritual, and physical Leavers?

I recently read The Holy and found on this website that part of it was inspired by a similar event in your childhood. A young child being confronted by a not-quite-human entity is something I’m pretty familiar with: I too had an encounter with a mythical being at a young age.

When I was 10, the summer of 1995, I went camping with my family at a lake in Oregon’s Cascade mountain range. We spent a day at another nearby lake and when we headed back in the afternoon I asked my parents if I could hike back.

Pretty soon, I found myself walking down a ridge with the sun already setting, and the trail winding down this dry creek bed, with a 10-foot embankment towering over the left side of the path. Then I heard something moving in the bushes up there, and I smelled something terrible.

And there it was: a goddamn Sasquatch. It just stood there, on the embankment and stared at me silently. And I just stood there and stared back, I didn’t know what else to do.

After an undeterminable period of time, it just walked back into the bushes. Even then I knew it was a “Bigfoot,” and I really feared for my life until it went away.

I never really told anyone beyond a few friends (who thought I was making it up). But then I read The Holy and I’m now wondering if what I and others who claim to have seen a Sasquatch encountered what was really a “yoo-hoo.”

So is The Holy really a work of fiction? Are there false gods living among and around us? It might sound bizarre, but suddenly all these reports of Sasquatches and Yetis and UFOs and monsters in Loch Ness make a lot of sense.

But now that I’m fairly certain about what exactly I ran into 8 years ago, what am I supposed to do about it? Go run around the mountains looking for a sasquatch? Any kind of advice would be good right now.

I have a question about the World Health Organization and their policy on world population growth. Every time I discuss population growth and solutions with other people, I meet the same argument over and over again, which goes approximately like this: “The WHO estimates the population growth to rise to around 12 billion people and then stabilize there in 2050-60. (The numbers flux a bit.)

This is “proof” that family planning works, the problem is under control, and all talk about collapse is just silly cultism.” Well, they are right.

The WHO really DO think the world population will stabilize at 12 billion. They probably have heaps of scientific reports to prove this right, and a crowd of experts that assure us of this fact, and therefore there is no cause for alarm. The collapse of mankind will NOT come.

My question is, therefore, What is your view on the WHO policy on population growth, and what do you answer when you get hit over your head with all that expert-talk?

I have recently come across a culture known as the Aleut, who inhabit the Aleutian chain of islands in the north pacific (between Siberia and Alaska, under the Bering Straight) and who mostly subsist of hunting the various sea life which (before the Russians in the 18th century) was rather abundant.

What struck me as odd was that their social organization was termed by various authors as “hierarchical”; indeed, they exhibited feautures of hierarchies, such as a “nobility” class and a “common” class.

Though the Aleutians did not (as far as historians and anthropologists know) have one section of society toil incessantly to erect massive structures as in other hierarchies, how is it that this particular culture was able to develop a hierarchical social organization without the development of agriculture?

Though I do not expect many people to be familiar with the Aleutians specifically, my question seeks simply to identify how any culture (for others must exist(ed)) can develop a hierarchy, which presumably contains a stratification in power, wealth and power WITHOUT developing agriculture? I was under the impression, after reading a number Quinn’s works, that agriculture (and only agriculture) developed hierarchies.

I’m a loner. I have some friends, but I don’t belong to any groups, besides my family. All I want to do right now is travel, and wander through the world.

Yet you seem to think that tribes are the only time-tested, or best way for people to live, right? And tribes are usually groups.

So where do people like me fit in? I know I’m not alone. What do you see for wandering loners like me? How did tribes treat them?

I have been reading the book My Ishmael and was wondering if/when we save the world, after a while people might forget about this culture and start locking up their food again, starting a whole new “Mother Culture.” This whole saving the world will be essentially pointless if some one messes it up again. Would we have anything to keep us from doing that again?