Please help me understand. My own research tells me that Leaver cultures (generally, of course) divide the fruits of their efforts equally among all members (some going so far as to reward choice pieces via the whim of the tribe, but not much more than that).

I cannot understand how such equal division can work in an organization that is made up of multiple members, who (for the sake of argument) contribute the same amount of work, but have differing levels of education that prepared them for the skills needed to give their part.

How can I pay a Master in Business who works just as hard as the Bachelor in Business the same amount? The thought is so awkward it’s painful! Wouldn’t the Master be out all those years of education-investment? And if not, how can “working together as equals” truly be maintained under different socio-economic statuses?

This might seem like a silly question, but I must attempt to have it answered anyway. When Mr. Quinn speaks of living tribally as helping people get “more of what [they] want (as opposed to just getting more)” (Beyond Civilization, p.115), is he simply referencing that tribal organizations FUNCTION to get people what they want (or need) whereas hierarchical organizations FUNCTION to benefit those in the upper echelon?

Or are there innate “needs” that can be fulfilled simply by BEING in a tribal social organization? (i.e., A tribal business can FUNCTION to give its members with children a free daycare service, but simply being IN a tribe fulfills needs of security, involvement, and “being a part of something” that all human beings seem to be attracted to.)

In your books, you seem to draw a very definite line between the structure between tribal life, and that of “civilized” people, but I’ve encountered many tribes, that even before their contact with the civilized world, have had things in common with civilized society.

As an example, the Potomac tribes had a vast stretch of land they controlled, had many branching tribes, and a complex system of trading, with their chieftain getting a cut of the action. There were tribes in the western parts of California and Washington that had slaves, people that did agricultural work, and kept them in seperate huts from the rest of the tribe.

There were tribes that Spanish conquerors came across in America that had vast storehouses (guarded storehouses) that contained pearls, and gold.

My question is, since these “tribes” don’t seem to fit under your qualifications for tribal life, are they still bona fide? Since they have been around for so long, and they seem to be working, are they in line with natural laws of conduct?

I did some research on a group of people that live in a remote mountain valley in Switzerland. They call their valley “Loetschental” and have been living there sufficiently and sustainably for about 1,250 years, and they still do.

This society performs a special form of agriculture that is not totalitarian, yet has been a sustainable kind. And this small civilization runs very differently from ours.

They raise three livestock animals—cattle, goats, and sheep (for wool, meat, and dairy) on the same pasture, hence no need to change the contents of the diversity of the pasture. Also, pasture is only around during the growing season—about 4 months a year—so hay grown there is used to feed the cattle the rest of the year, and food is stored for winter feeding.

They plant salad greens in gardens together, NOT on monocropped fields, and although they have single rye fields, they rotate their crops. Since the valley is about 7,000 feet above sea level, they have a very short growing season. Where they plant rye and hay one year they do not plant rye the next year.

They do not attempt to invade and conquer any neighboring villages, and do not try to make more of anything. They have a complete sense of limit. They grow the same amount every year—the amount needed to sustain their fixed population of 2,000—and no more.

Also, the wooden buildings in their valley never are torn down. The ones that exist now have existed since the dawn of the settlement. They also use no pesticides or hormones to raise productivity. They let Nature take its course to feed their livestock, and they feed whatever the pastures offer.

They may water their crops, but they do not try to control Nature—hence they “live in the hands of the gods” to a certain extent. They have made no attempts to hunt down the competitors or wage war on their animals. They may try to defend their livestock if attacked, but do not try to kill off the attackers.

They have no health problems or diseases of civilization, no depression, and have no hierarchical systems. Everyone shares the good times and the bad times together in the village. Yet they have all the good artifices of civilization—a culture, recorded history, an annual holiday celebration, and the ability to communicate ideas to the whole village. Would you call this a Leaver society?

I have a question about religion. In Mother Culture it appears that religion and the state have been tied up together since the dawn of civilization. Even though in the United States they claim there is a separation, it appears that many of the state (“state” as in government) laws appear to originate from our deeply held Christian belief system.

Religion’s place in Mother Culture mainly appears to inflict rules of behavior and conduct. My question is regarding indigenous tribal religion. I want to have a better understanding of the purpose religion serves in an indigenous tribal culture.

Are tribal laws and religion one and the same? Or does religion serve only to help them understand their spiritual place in the world? Or is it neither?

I recently spent a few days at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. It was truly refreshing to witness tribalism in action.

While giving an Indian friend a ride, he commented favorably on My Ishmael that was lying on the dashboard. He also told me that your books are several of his relatives’ favorites.

I was wondering how big is your Native American following and how much of your knowledge of tribalism come from Native Americans.

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 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?

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