Thought for the Day: Progress?
Is it really progress for indigenous peoples around the world to change to mainstream ways and values? In Panamá, some Ngäbe-Buglé walk eight hours or more from their villages so they can earn money picking coffee. I heard a student lounging in a café say that the Ngäbe-Buglé are lazy. Really?
In “The Hadza,” about one of the world’s oldest surviving hunter-gatherer groups who live in what’s now Tanzania, Michael Finkel notes:
“They grow no food, raise no livestock, and live without rules or calendars. They are living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago. What do they know that we’ve forgotten? . . .
The Hadza do not engage in warfare . . . The Hadza diet remains even today more stable and varied than that of most of the world’s citizens (56) . . .
The school-age [Hadza] kids . . . all said they had no interest in sitting in a classroom. If they went to school, many told me, they’d never master the skills needed for survival. They’d be outcasts among their own people.
And if they tried their luck in the modern world – what then? The women, perhaps, could become maids; the men, menial laborers. It’s far better, they said, to be free and fed in the bush than destitute and hungry in the city . . .
Among the Hadza of Mangola [those going into the towns] there has also been a surge of alcoholism, an outbreak of tuberculosis, and a distressing rise in domestic violence, including at least one report of a Hadza man who beat his wife to death” (62).
Only about 1,000 Hadza now survive. They live completely by hunting and gathering as their ancestors have done for more than 50,000 years. Must the Hadza now go live in towns and cities and get regular jobs? Would that really be progress?
Think about it. Aloha, Renée
Published in The Best American Travel Writing 2010, Bill Buford, ed.- originally in the National Geographic magazine.
For the full “Hadza” article, go to <http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/12/hadza/finkel-text>