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.



Images from: <>  and

For the full “Hadza” article, go to <>







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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

3 responses to “Thought for the Day: Progress?”

  1. Rosita says :

    Renée, my friend, is really hard to think that our world is progressing, with all those horrendous wars, social inequality, misery & strange illnesses who’re appearing from nothing

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: I agree. We should be following the Hadza model of gathering some foods by foraging and of not warring – not making them be like the rest of us. We could learn much from each other. Aloha,

      • Rosita says :

        Yes, you’re so true! 🙂 so there’s any hope about progress without violence. Sincerely, I think that all the violence in undeveloped countries is due to centuries of colonialism and exploitation, who causes an eternal oppression, even when it’s though that people’s free. And they’re free, but only metaphorically talking, because colonialism & exploitation still there, on the indirect form of misery, insalubrity, banal illnesses who still killing people, such as rabies, ebola and dengue, famines, as those who’ve can see in Ethiopia and Somalia… but it depends on the form that the country was colonized, because when some countries suffered (and still suffering) a lot in the hands of colonialists, other, as USA and Australia, won their oppressive heritage. It all depends on the form as the country was colonized. USA and Australia, for example, were colonies of population, while Brazil and Puerto Rico were colonies of exploitation. All in all, even in countries who were so much massacred in the past, there’s no reason for unnecessary violence. We should win our colonial heritages, by not using violence and being better people 🙂 India is the best example of how a country can be independent without the use of violence. Gandhi changed world’s mind, by not using violence against British during all the process of decolonization. How a great man! We should follow his example for never utilizing violence. I dream with a world without guns, famines or lethal diseases. It can look like impossible, I know, but it’s better than losing all our hope in humanity. But all of us should cooperate, if we really want to make this planet a better place to live. What to say about people who do bombs, nuclear & biological weapons? Well, I don’t know, but I personally believe that those are bad people, who know what’re doing and they have none compassion by the rest of us who inhabits dreaded Planet Earth 😦 I hope that world peace will be true one day. I really hope. It can be nothing more than a distant utopia, but is better to idealize a fracased utopia rather than losing all trust in humanity while there’s still good people, such as the members of Hadza tribe, who teach us what’s better to do 😉

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